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SMSL SA300, Topping MX3, NFJ & FX-Audio D502BT, and SMSL Q5 Pro: First Impressions

joseph011

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#1
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This isn't gonna be a technical review with distortion and frequency response graphs, or anything, so keep that in mind. I'm just sharing some of my thoughts on the products based on casual use.

All of these amps are used to power my Bowers and Wilkins 607 speakers while also connected to my Klipsch R112SW. Source audio is from Spotify on my Macbook Pro connected via aux or usb.

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Topping MX3:
Build quality is superb, i'd say its the best of the bunch. The chassis is sturdy and has weight, all the buttons and knobs are tight and tactile. The sound quality is fantastic in my opinion. From low to high notes, everything is there. Music is very detailed. There's no audible hiss at all even at max volume. The issue with this amp is that the subwoofer output is poorly designed, the volume is very low compared to other amps and it sends out a pulse to the subwoofer whenever you turn off the amp. The bluetooth works well. Also i really like the display on this unit.

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SMSL Q5 Pro:
Feels very cheap. Volume knob feels loose and the display looks tacky. Sound quality not as good as the Topping but it's good overall. Treble and voices don't sound as vibrant and bass doesn't get that deep. Subwoofer output works well. A bit of white noise hiss when you turn up the volume past 50. Not sure if it's my unit, but when i'm connected to it via USB to play via the onboard DAC on the amp, i hear the audio clipping and making weird clicking noises, no matter what volume i'm listening to on the mac. For the price of 140, i don't think it's worth it. It's an okay unit and it does the job.

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FX-Audio D502BT:
Feels and looks very similar to the Q5 Pro. Buttons and knobs feel cheap and the display looks tacky. Sound quality is great and almost on par with the Topping. Highs are crisp and bass is deep. Little to no white noise. Provides the most power out of all these amps. It drives my speakers well and it gives a ton of volume. Subwoofer out works as intended. Only real issue i have with this amp is the design of it and the volume knob is kinda finicky. Very good amp for the price.

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SMSL SA-300:
Very high quality build. The chassis is nice and stiff and has weight to it. It seems very well put together. The display is also nice and crisp, you even get to change the color. Sound quality is extremely CLEAN and i might say it sounds the best among these amps. Great frequency response. Bass sounds the deepest and the highs sound crispy. I hear a ton of detail in my music. USB, bluetooth, aux all work perfectly. Absolutely no complaints about its functions. The only thing i dislike about the amp is the odd form factor. Overall it's a great amp and well worth the price.
Final thoughts: If there was only one that I'd keep, it'd be the SMSL SA300. It does everything you need and provides great sound. I really wish the Topping MX3 worked better because it looks great and sounds great, but the subwoofer output issues made me dislike it.

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Beershaun

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#2
Thanks for the comparison. I appreciate the information on real world usage and any functionality issues with using them for a 2.1 setup.
 

Toku

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#3
I think your candid usage report will be useful to many.
Thank you very much.
I am very satisfied with the quality of the SA300, and I am currently using three colors.
 

nas

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#4
Nice review, joseph!
I am struggling with my choice of small amp: it is between MX3 and SA300. 90% of the time it will be listened from my android phone through BT, which is not young and has only Bluetooth v4.2 + I think aptX. And even if I buy newer phone, it will be not the premium one, so only aptX I can expect and maybe Bluetooth v5.0. The other 10% of listening time it will be used with the optical input from TV. But I can live without it...

MX3 has optical in and BT v4.2, no aptX support. SA300 has no optical in but BT v5 (with or without aptX it is supposed to be superior to BT4.2)

So, the question is: is there some difference in sound quality between MX3 vs SA300 when listening through BT?
And another question: can those 2 amps wake up when sensing signal from various inputs? Optical? BT? USB?

Thanx a lot in advance.
p.s. no, I cannot afford to buy all 4 of them... ;)
 

Sahin

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#5
Thank you. I am already using my SMSL SA300 and I echo the same thoughts on it. The detail, clarity and wide sound stage took me by surprise. I didnt experience this amp to sound as good as it does. My current system is based entirely off class D Chinese made amps. In my teens I had used to own nice 80's gear...wish I had held onto my Pioneer, JVC and other hefty amps and gear.

I've owned the SA300 for a few days but listening to stuff all over again I hear new detail and or instruments in old pieces I've listened to so many times before. I was literally smiling away listening to many different genres as the sound was so much better now.

I honestly didnt expect class D to sound as good as it does - you read so much negative reviews and mostly a lot of the cheap Chinese made gear is crap but there are decent products out there.

Glad I picked up the SMSL SA300.
 
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#6
I am struggling with my choice of small amp: it is between MX3 and SA300. [...]

MX3 has optical in and BT v4.2, no aptX support. SA300 has no optical in but BT v5 (with or without aptX it is supposed to be superior to BT4.2)
Have you decided yet? Loxjie A30 has the same Infineon Merus chip as SMSL's SA300, optical input, Bluetooth 5, and it claims to support Apt-X. And it was measured and positively reviewed by amirm. Makes desicion no easier.

So, the question is: is there some difference in sound quality between MX3 vs SA300 when listening through BT?
I don't listen through BT at home, only briefly tested it with Topping MX3.

And another question: can those 2 amps wake up when sensing signal from various inputs? Optical? BT? USB?
In this pick only Topping MX3 has the auto on/off feature with digital inputs (not analogue), but it has a downside. Auto on/off works really good with my second TV connected via S/PDIF optical, but my smartphone with BT-pairing in reach (though music playback turned off) prevented MX3 from going to sleep, and BT-range of MX3 was far above BT-specs. There was periodically noise. Might have been caused by my older phone (Moto G5+). BT-unpairing the phone and I'm fine with MX3 as auto on/off TV-amp.

On the other hand, Infineon Merus driven amps have very low idle consumption below 1 Watt, and you can set the display to auto on/off (proven for Loxjie A30 and SMSL DA-8s, SMSL SA300 I had too short a while to test this). With these devices, auto power isn't a necessary feature to me anymore.
 
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nas

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#7
Thanks for replies.
You are not making my choice easier :)
I pressed on "BUY" button on SMSL SA300 as it looks that it is a next generation thing compared to MX3. Those amazon reviews are so shiny that it feels fake, but there are so many of them, so they may be not fake :D Will update after I get the amp delivered.
 
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