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Shenzhenaudio Topping EX5 Review (DAC and Headphone Amplifier)

wisechoice

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Maybe sugar will work but be careful

I didn't watch the video, but I have the DAC and tried looking at it through a loupe. I can't say for sure, but I think the logo & text are etched into the paint, rather than screen printed or glued on. So painting over with black might have better luck (although you would definitely want to test whatever you used on a less-visible part of the device).
 

maxxevv

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If the casing is anodized aluminium, its always easy to remove silkscreened prints using acetone.

More commonly available as nail polish remover.
 

Valary

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Hello,



I've purchased my EX5 about 5 month ago and at first I was very pleased with the quality and sound.
But I could compare it only to internal sound card on my computer and receiver Denon 3700. So far I was impressed how clean it sounds.
Recently ( about a month ago) I have bought a wonderful amplifier Marantz 15S2 for my front channels in home theatre system and of course I have been listening to music not only through headphones but via DAC + amplifier. It was terrific, and of course I got an opportunity to compare sound through receiver and through DAC and I noticed that the tone of the sound is a bit different. The clarity, sharpness of sound through EX5 is the way better than through Denon - 3700, but the male voices sound quite unnatural. I have not been audiophile before, English in not my native language, so I probably don't know exact terms and the ways how to describe the situation, but I was pretty sure than my Dac has some lack of the middle frequencies or may be upper bass. I borrowed an old Cambridge DAC 3 for a week, and I was surprised that this old DAC has a much better sound than my EX5 ( If we are talking about CD quality). Every CD quality flack file and even stream from Tidal gave more natural and deep sound using this old DAC.


I wonder if I just have a defective exemplar of EX5? I want to replace it now, but of course I want to buy something modern, so I could use Tidal or Qobuz with it, or even may be DSD files. But I’m afraid if I bought another china DAC – It will be the same. And I understand that I probably will be unable to receive a guarantee from Shenzhenaudio where I bought it, because DAC is working…
 

Toku

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Hello,



I've purchased my EX5 about 5 month ago and at first I was very pleased with the quality and sound.
But I could compare it only to internal sound card on my computer and receiver Denon 3700. So far I was impressed how clean it sounds.
Recently ( about a month ago) I have bought a wonderful amplifier Marantz 15S2 for my front channels in home theatre system and of course I have been listening to music not only through headphones but via DAC + amplifier. It was terrific, and of course I got an opportunity to compare sound through receiver and through DAC and I noticed that the tone of the sound is a bit different. The clarity, sharpness of sound through EX5 is the way better than through Denon - 3700, but the male voices sound quite unnatural. I have not been audiophile before, English in not my native language, so I probably don't know exact terms and the ways how to describe the situation, but I was pretty sure than my Dac has some lack of the middle frequencies or may be upper bass. I borrowed an old Cambridge DAC 3 for a week, and I was surprised that this old DAC has a much better sound than my EX5 ( If we are talking about CD quality). Every CD quality flack file and even stream from Tidal gave more natural and deep sound using this old DAC.


I wonder if I just have a defective exemplar of EX5? I want to replace it now, but of course I want to buy something modern, so I could use Tidal or Qobuz with it, or even may be DSD files. But I’m afraid if I bought another china DAC – It will be the same. And I understand that I probably will be unable to receive a guarantee from Shenzhenaudio where I bought it, because DAC is working…
I think it's just that the sound of EX5 didn't suit your taste.
 

Valary

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I think it's just that the sound of EX5 didn't suit your taste.
Thank you for reply, but generally, I don't think so. It's more like if I would use an equalizer. If device have very low level of distortion I think that I should not hear any difference in the tone of sound. Why am I thinking that EX5 gives me a wrong tone? May be because of the fact that three other devices have different tone and despite of their unlikeness to each other – they are more close between them than to EX5.
The devices I am talking about is headphones on my computer, receiver and Cambridge Audio DAC 3. Every of them has different sound generally, but the tone is about the same. On EX5 – sound looks like if I just used an equalizer and decrease the frequencies in some range ( may be from 100 to 400 Hz)

And now I want to buy other DAC, but I am afraid - may be all chines DACs will work the same way?
 

Jimbob54

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And now I want to buy other DAC, but I am afraid - may be all chines DACs will work the same way?
So buy a US made Schiit dac, or a DAC mad elsewhere than China.

Just answer me one thing- In all the permutations youve listed, is the DAC the only thing you have been swapping, or are you comparing the EX5 headphone out to the headphone out of the Marantz, to the sound through speakers etc?

I assume you have tried to volume match the same chain swapping only the DAC element each time?
 

Valary

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So buy a US made Schiit dac, or a DAC mad elsewhere than China.

Just answer me one thing- In all the permutations youve listed, is the DAC the only thing you have been swapping, or are you comparing the EX5 headphone out to the headphone out of the Marantz, to the sound through speakers etc?

I assume you have tried to volume match the same chain swapping only the DAC element each time?
Yes, I was comparing and headphones ( senheiser 560s with DAC output, with receiver output and with computer output. ) and RCA output to Marantz with receiver output to Marantz and Cambridge output to Marantz. And the character of sound in EX5 was the same via headphones and RCA output. I mean lack of middle range here. The volume on EX5 was 100(maximum) and I made exact the same volume on receiver. I've checked the levels by smartphone application. But in any case increasing/decrising the volume didn't affect the tone of the sound much.
About why I chose China DAC - because it's cheap enough. Be I could not afford to spend more than 500$. And it understand DSD format as c well and I thought I will receive a great quality of sound. Only now I start to understand that everything is not such simple as it seemed before(((
 

maxxevv

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Yes, I was comparing and headphones ( senheiser 560s with DAC output, with receiver output and with computer output. ) and RCA output to Marantz with receiver output to Marantz and Cambridge output to Marantz. And the character of sound in EX5 was the same via headphones and RCA output. I mean lack of middle range here. The volume on EX5 was 100(maximum) and I made exact the same volume on receiver. I've checked the levels by smartphone application. But in any case increasing/decrising the volume didn't affect the tone of the sound much.
About why I chose China DAC - because it's cheap enough. Be I could not afford to spend more than 500$. And it understand DSD format as c well and I thought I will receive a great quality of sound. Only now I start to understand that everything is not such simple as it seemed before(((
Have you heard output from other sources outside of what you cite here ?

What if the EX5 didn't lack a midrange ?

What if your Marantz had an exaggerated midrange ?

What if it was a by-product of distortion from the Marantz ?
 

respice finem

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Generally speaking, if a DAC really produces much audible "sound of its own", it must be broken IMHO.
I have direct comparison between the EX5 and the RME ADI2 DAC, and the differences are in the "it's probably in my head" range.
One exception for headphones, the RME has crossfeed options, which the EX5 has not - these sound very different of course.
 

Valary

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Have you heard output from other sources outside of what you cite here ?

What if the EX5 didn't lack a midrange ?

What if your Marantz had an exaggerated midrange ?

What if it was a by-product of distortion from the Marantz ?
Sorry, English is not my native language, but I wrote that Marantz - is just amplifier. I used it to connect audio speakers there. And Marantz receives signal from EX5 through RCA cables. As well I connected at the same time by the same way another DAC ( Cambridge Audio DAC3) and my Denon 3700 receiver. So it's 3 different DACS participated there: EX5, Denon 3700, Cambridge DAC3. Marantz is the only integral amplifier and it has the same inputs line1 and line2. So I was able to click on the pult and compare the sound imidiately from different sources.

The another comparision I did using headphones. I pluged the phones in 3 differnet sources: EX5, Denon 3700 and my computer.

In all these cases the midrange of EX5 was quite different from others.
I assume that I just have defective DAC, but I am not sure about it, because I have no opportunity right now to compare it with another similar products, like SMSL Su9 or another Topping DACs.
have direct comparison between the EX5 and the RME ADI2 DAC, and the differences are in the "it's probably in my head" range.

So I expected the same behaivour, I assume that differences should be very subtle and probably even not noticable for my setup ( Marantz 15S2 + Polk Audio S55e. But it's very huge.
 

respice finem

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The catch might be: different listening levels. Equalizing those "by ear" is very inaccurate usually.
And then, usually the one playing louder is perceived as being better.
 
Last edited:

Robbo99999

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Hello,



I've purchased my EX5 about 5 month ago and at first I was very pleased with the quality and sound.
But I could compare it only to internal sound card on my computer and receiver Denon 3700. So far I was impressed how clean it sounds.
Recently ( about a month ago) I have bought a wonderful amplifier Marantz 15S2 for my front channels in home theatre system and of course I have been listening to music not only through headphones but via DAC + amplifier. It was terrific, and of course I got an opportunity to compare sound through receiver and through DAC and I noticed that the tone of the sound is a bit different. The clarity, sharpness of sound through EX5 is the way better than through Denon - 3700, but the male voices sound quite unnatural. I have not been audiophile before, English in not my native language, so I probably don't know exact terms and the ways how to describe the situation, but I was pretty sure than my Dac has some lack of the middle frequencies or may be upper bass. I borrowed an old Cambridge DAC 3 for a week, and I was surprised that this old DAC has a much better sound than my EX5 ( If we are talking about CD quality). Every CD quality flack file and even stream from Tidal gave more natural and deep sound using this old DAC.


I wonder if I just have a defective exemplar of EX5? I want to replace it now, but of course I want to buy something modern, so I could use Tidal or Qobuz with it, or even may be DSD files. But I’m afraid if I bought another china DAC – It will be the same. And I understand that I probably will be unable to receive a guarantee from Shenzhenaudio where I bought it, because DAC is working…
I don't think you need to worry about this kind of stuff. That's why Amir measures DACS & amps here on ASR - basically if they measure well here on ASR then you don't need to worry about it......and if you happen to think your measured DAC/amp sounds different to any random equipment you already own that hasn't been measured here on ASR then I think you can assume it's either your mind playing tricks on you (or you're not controlling the variables in your listening tests) or the equipment that hasn't been measured here on ASR is influencing the frequency response/distortion in some negative manner (ie not neutral & transparent). Don't worry about it, buy good gear measured here on ASR and then you know that's the benchmark of transparency - you then tweak your headphones & speakers & room with EQ to whatever target curves work for you.....the main variable in sound is not really gonna be your DACS & amps.

One caveat: if your EX5 sounds "completely wrong" then maybe it is defective, but I can't really imagine how & why it would create the descriptions you refer to.......I don't really see this though as this would be a low probability.....I think it's in your head or your gear you're comparing it against is not transparent, or your listening tests are not controlled well enough. I'd say don't worry about it and focus your efforts elsewhere.
 
Last edited:

wisechoice

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Hello,



I've purchased my EX5 about 5 month ago and at first I was very pleased with the quality and sound.
But I could compare it only to internal sound card on my computer and receiver Denon 3700. So far I was impressed how clean it sounds.
Recently ( about a month ago) I have bought a wonderful amplifier Marantz 15S2 for my front channels in home theatre system and of course I have been listening to music not only through headphones but via DAC + amplifier. It was terrific, and of course I got an opportunity to compare sound through receiver and through DAC and I noticed that the tone of the sound is a bit different. The clarity, sharpness of sound through EX5 is the way better than through Denon - 3700, but the male voices sound quite unnatural. I have not been audiophile before, English in not my native language, so I probably don't know exact terms and the ways how to describe the situation, but I was pretty sure than my Dac has some lack of the middle frequencies or may be upper bass. I borrowed an old Cambridge DAC 3 for a week, and I was surprised that this old DAC has a much better sound than my EX5 ( If we are talking about CD quality). Every CD quality flack file and even stream from Tidal gave more natural and deep sound using this old DAC.


I wonder if I just have a defective exemplar of EX5? I want to replace it now, but of course I want to buy something modern, so I could use Tidal or Qobuz with it, or even may be DSD files. But I’m afraid if I bought another china DAC – It will be the same. And I understand that I probably will be unable to receive a guarantee from Shenzhenaudio where I bought it, because DAC is working…
In my experience, it's worth pursuing DSD. I won't say anything more about it, because it's controversial and only in my experience, not any professional expertise. There is a difference that I think can be heard, however, and I think there is a difference with this DAC, specifically. I, for one, would be curious as to whether and how it affects your perception after what you've described. And that could be the starting point for future investigations by yourself or others about why there is or isn't a perceptible difference.
 

sodosopa

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Hello,



I've purchased my EX5 about 5 month ago and at first I was very pleased with the quality and sound.
But I could compare it only to internal sound card on my computer and receiver Denon 3700. So far I was impressed how clean it sounds.
Recently ( about a month ago) I have bought a wonderful amplifier Marantz 15S2 for my front channels in home theatre system and of course I have been listening to music not only through headphones but via DAC + amplifier. It was terrific, and of course I got an opportunity to compare sound through receiver and through DAC and I noticed that the tone of the sound is a bit different. The clarity, sharpness of sound through EX5 is the way better than through Denon - 3700, but the male voices sound quite unnatural. I have not been audiophile before, English in not my native language, so I probably don't know exact terms and the ways how to describe the situation, but I was pretty sure than my Dac has some lack of the middle frequencies or may be upper bass. I borrowed an old Cambridge DAC 3 for a week, and I was surprised that this old DAC has a much better sound than my EX5 ( If we are talking about CD quality). Every CD quality flack file and even stream from Tidal gave more natural and deep sound using this old DAC.


I wonder if I just have a defective exemplar of EX5? I want to replace it now, but of course I want to buy something modern, so I could use Tidal or Qobuz with it, or even may be DSD files. But I’m afraid if I bought another china DAC – It will be the same. And I understand that I probably will be unable to receive a guarantee from Shenzhenaudio where I bought it, because DAC is working…
things you're saying is what many hifier talked about before amir show up, you can either 1)find a way to measure midrange of 'chinese' dac vs other devices 2) find other forums with 'golden ear', you will get more affirmations.
 

Valary

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I don't think you need to worry about this kind of stuff. That's why Amir measures DACS & amps here on ASR - basically if they measure well here on ASR then you don't need to worry about it......and if you happen to think your measured DAC/amp sounds different to any random equipment you already own that hasn't been measured here on ASR then I think you can assume it's either your mind playing tricks on you (or you're not controlling the variables in your listening tests) or the equipment that hasn't been measured here on ASR is influencing the frequency response/distortion in some negative manner (ie not neutral & transparent). Don't worry about it, buy good gear measured here on ASR and then you know that's the benchmark of transparency - you then tweak your headphones & speakers & room with EQ to whatever target curves work for you.....the main variable in sound is not really gonna be your DACS & amps.

One caveat: if your EX5 sounds "completely wrong" then maybe it is defective, but I can't really imagine how & why it would create the descriptions you refer to.......I don't really see this though as this would be a low probability.....I think it's in your head or your gear you're comparing it against is not transparent, or your listening tests are not controlled well enough. I'd say don't worry about it and focus your efforts elsewhere.

I get your point. I will try to make other comparisons when I have a chance.

things you're saying is what many hifier talked about before amir show up, you can either 1)find a way to measure midrange of 'chinese' dac vs other devices 2) find other forums with 'golden ear', you will get more affirmations.

I don't want any "golden ears". I just thought may be someone here has encountered the same issues before and will advice me what to do with it. Or may be I will be advised how I could check it more properly. Unfortunately, I don't have any special equipment, but I have a computer and may be I can connect DAC via USB to computer, then connect headphone output with some computer input ( for mic may be, or line in, I am not sure) and make some measurement using a computer ?

Again - the difference is audible without any doubts. I don't have to strain my ears to hear it. It's just obvious. And I definitely don't have even close what you can name a good hearing. I think it's even below average. And it's another reason why I have some anxiety about the situation.
 

Jimbob54

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I get your point. I will try to make other comparisons when I have a chance.



I don't want any "golden ears". I just thought may be someone here has encountered the same issues before and will advice me what to do with it. Or may be I will be advised how I could check it more properly. Unfortunately, I don't have any special equipment, but I have a computer and may be I can connect DAC via USB to computer, then connect headphone output with some computer input ( for mic may be, or line in, I am not sure) and make some measurement using a computer ?

Again - the difference is audible without any doubts. I don't have to strain my ears to hear it. It's just obvious. And I definitely don't have even close what you can name a good hearing. I think it's even below average. And it's another reason why I have some anxiety about the situation.
If its that obvious (especially out of the rca, used only as a DAC) then its likely broken or not connected properly. Just try unplugging and reconnecting to rule that out, try a different source (phone rather than PC) and if possible try optical or coax inputs as well as USB. If that all yields same result, return it.

I could just about understand headphones sounding different- the speaker amps usually have poor headphone outputs with high output impedance that might colour the sound of headphones , but any of the dacs used should yield audibly very similar results through the same amp and speakers if levels are matched. If you could walk in the room with music playing and identify the Topping is in use as the DAC =broken.
 

naviivan

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just got a used ex5, has there been a mention on how/if possible to change the display on the screen to volume level instead of sampling rate? as i can’t find it in the manual
 

Everett T

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just got a used ex5, has there been a mention on how/if possible to change the display on the screen to volume level instead of sampling rate? as i can’t find it in the manual
Do you just prefer to see one over the other? As mentioned, no, but I am just curious as to why.
 

wisechoice

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It's not possible.
I should modify that, actually. The way you do it is by changing the volume, and only by changing the volume or adjusting the control for volume. Then you will see the volume level in the main part of the display. That's obvious to anyone who has it, but maybe not to someone who is reading this and doesn't (yet) own the device.
 
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