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Shenzhenaudio Topping EX5 Review (DAC and Headphone Amplifier)

Berwhale

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Why doesn't the DAC operate at 2v maximum output? Same for 4v.

Why should it? There is no standard voltage for either connection. Topping's specs for the EX5 state 2.1v and 4.3v for single ended and balanced respectively, they are not far from the 'accepted' (but also not standard) values.
 
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Apologies if I'm being obtuse, but can you use the EX5's balanced XLR outputs and the RCA outputs at the same time? I have a pair of active studio monitors that accept XLR input and a subwoofer that uses RCA input. I thought of buying an audio interface, but I also use headphones occasionally and have no need for the other inputs on an audio interface. Could I just use these to power my stereo setup and occasional headphone use? Thanks!
 

Berwhale

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Apologies if I'm being obtuse, but can you use the EX5's balanced XLR outputs and the RCA outputs at the same time? I have a pair of active studio monitors that accept XLR input and a subwoofer that uses RCA input. I thought of buying an audio interface, but I also use headphones occasionally and have no need for the other inputs on an audio interface. Could I just use these to power my stereo setup and occasional headphone use? Thanks!

Yes, with line-out setting O-3...

1654557491006.png
 

Bleib

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Why should it? There is no standard voltage for either connection. Topping's specs for the EX5 state 2.1v and 4.3v for single ended and balanced respectively, they are not far from the 'accepted' (but also not standard) values.
It's a fantastic idea to be so consumer friendly that the audio can distort even before it has a chance to reach the headphones or loudspeakers.
 

Berwhale

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It's a fantastic idea to be so consumer friendly that the audio can distort even before it has a chance to reach the headphones or loudspeakers.

The analogue outputs on the EX5 are pre-amplifier outputs designed to work with a power amplifier or active monitors (the display says 'PRE' when you enable the RCA and/or XLR output). You are supposed to use the volume control on the EX5 to control loudness, not volume controls on an amp or active monitors.

If the EX5 did not provide sufficient voltage to drive a power amplifier with low input gain, then you would not be able to use the full power of the amplifier (see discussion of input gain here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...s/help-understanding-gain-on-power-amp.11309/)

You should think of the EX5 as a digital pre-amplifier, rather than a DAC when in PRE mode.
 
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The analogue outputs on the EX5 are pre-amplifier outputs designed to work with a power amplifier or active monitors (the display says 'PRE' when you enable the RCA and/or XLR output). You are supposed to use the volume control on the EX5 to control loudness, not volume controls on an amp or active monitors.

If the EX5 did not provide sufficient voltage to drive a power amplifier with low input gain, then you would not be able to use the full power of the amplifier (see discussion of input gain here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...s/help-understanding-gain-on-power-amp.11309/)

You should think of the EX5 as a digital pre-amplifier, rather than a DAC when in PRE mode.
Just to clarify, while using the EX5 in pre-amp mode, is it still using the built-in DAC or relying on my computer's on-board audio? I'm assuming the former, but I just wanted to clarify. Thanks!
 

Berwhale

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Just to clarify, while using the EX5 in pre-amp mode, is it still using the built-in DAC or relying on my computer's on-board audio? I'm assuming the former, but I just wanted to clarify. Thanks!

The EX5 only has digital inputs. So digital to analogue conversion (i.e. DAC) has to take place within the EX5.
 

James-F

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I think the roll-off filters are mislabeled in the EX5 manual.
Amirs measurements show that the Slow filters are #3 and #5, but in the EX5 manual the Slow filters are F2 and F4, so the manual shifted everything up by one row.

You can also see the correct ones in the ES9038Q2M datasheet on pages 55-56.

Wrong table from manual:
EX5 filters.png



Here is the correct F table:
F-1 Hybrid fast roll-off filter
F-2 Apodizing fast roll-off filter
F-3 Minimum phase slow roll-off filter
F-4 Minimum phase fast roll-off filter
F-5 Linear phase slow roll-off filter
F-6 Linear phase fast roll-off filter
F-7 Brick wall filter


Topping EX5 DAC Filter Measurements XLR USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier.png
 
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Berwhale

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I think the roll-off filters are mislabeled in the EX5 manual.
Amirs measurements show that the Slow filters are #3 and #5, but in the EX5 manual the Slow filters are F2 and F4, so the manual shifted everything up by one row.

You can also see the correct ones in the ES9038Q2M datasheet on pages 55-56.

Wrong table from manual:
View attachment 213908


Here is the correct F table:



View attachment 213910

It's been mentioned before (all the way back on page 49, how could you miss it! :) )...

 

James-F

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Thanks.
I just wanted to associate the measured filter numbers to the correct naming from the ES9038Q2M datasheet.

I have to say that I find it very strange that F6/F7 don't start rolling off before 22kHz at 44.1kHz sampling rate, that could mean some aliasing in the 18k-20kHz region.
That leaves F-1 as the only 'correct' setting with minimal distortion and no aliasing when using the DAC at 44.1kHz.

If the sampling rate conversion is done in software (like AIMP) which applies it's own high quality brickwall filter according to the source file, then it doesn't matter what filter you choose as long as the DAC is set to a higher sampling rate than what AIMP is set to output.
The filters only matter if you send digital stream like from Toslink or S/PDIF, and probably only at 44.1kHz where aliasing can affect the audible band.
Well, at least that's how I understand things.
 

MRC01

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... I have to say that I find it very strange that F6/F7 don't start rolling off before 22kHz at 44.1kHz sampling rate, that could mean some aliasing in the 18k-20kHz region.
That leaves F-1 as the only 'correct' setting with minimal distortion and no aliasing when using the DAC at 44.1kHz.
...
Because of the way aliasing mirrors around Nyquist, a 44.1 kHz filter that extends the stopband to 24.1 kHz, ensures that all aliases are > 20 kHz. This is a kludge they used to stretch the transition band wider, eliminating passband attenuation and ripple.
More on that here.
 

James-F

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Thank you very much MRC01, very informative!
Apparently it is common engineering practice in DACs at 44.1kHz.
I live, I learn.
 

AnalogSteph

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Because of the way aliasing mirrors around Nyquist, a 44.1 kHz filter that extends the stopband to 24.1 kHz, ensures that all aliases are > 20 kHz.
That's how it would be on the ADC side. (Incidentally, quite a lot of ADCs only reliably manage that at 48 kHz. You generally need a pro / semi-pro level ADC for a filter that's truly "44.1 kHz proof", think the likes of AK5394, AK5397, AK5385, PCM422x or PCM420x.)

On the DAC side, it means that any signal components that can alias at all would be at >20 kHz - and generally there's precious little up there to begin with. What does alias would result in rather low-level components <24.1 kHz, which in turn are very unlikely to bother following electronics.

Such a filter is generally also implemented as a half-band filter (cascade), cutting down on coefficient table size as every other coefficient is zero.

FIR Halfband Filter Design provides a glimpse at what's going on behind the scenes.
 
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My apologies if I'm misunderstanding, but if the filters are mislabeled then which one is the "best" in terms of accuracy or general sound quality. I tried flipping between them and couldn't really notice a difference in my brief listening. Thanks!
 

James-F

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F-6 (Linear phase, Fast roll-off) is the most technically accurate, but you're not going to hear any difference or supposed to anyway if the DAC is well designed.

As always, if your equipment has options, play with them and see what you like. But if you want what is clearly the most technically accurate – that is, high fidelity – output from your DAC, choose fast roll-off or sharp-roll-off, and linear phase (or no named phase) rather than minimal phase.

From here, excellent read:

Regarding the manual, with all due respect;
Topping is a far east company, after the next product rolls out the "old" ones (few months) are history, forget about fixing manuals, PDFs or even bugs.
If it doesn't directly impact sales, forget about it.
 
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F-6 (Linear phase, Fast roll-off) is the most technically accurate, but you're not going to hear any difference or supposed to anyway if the DAC is well designed.



From here, excellent read:

Regarding the manual, with all due respect;
Topping is a far east company, after the next product rolls out the "old" ones (few months) are history, forget about fixing manuals, PDFs or even bugs.
If it doesn't directly impact sales, forget about it.
Great read, I had no idea what the filters on DAC were for or why they couldn't just be "turned off". Thanks for sharing.
 

Fenix84

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I want to clear some desk space. Anyone see any problem mounting this sideways under my desk?
 
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