• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

The Absolute Sound reviews the Topping D90SE

conman

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2022
Messages
19
Likes
38
Obviously I can't quote the entire article here, but presumably it will be posted online for free in the near future. As many of you are no doubt aware, TAS prides itself on never measuring anything objectively and relying virtually entirely on subjective reviews, making it perhaps the most diametrically opposed review outlet to ASR.

Suffice to say two quoted sentences should give you more than you might expect from the review by Steven Stone.

This is the section where I’m sure a number of readers are hop-
ing that I discover that the D90SE, despite its wonderous specifi-
cations, sounds just OK. Sorry, but that was not the case. What I
heard was reference-level digital reproduction without any sonic
bromides. If the absence of coloration, individualistic character,
or “house sound” was the goal, the D90SE has clearly achieved
it.

And the conclusion

I will go on the record that
if a neutral, high-resolution, modern,
well-configured DAC that sounds as
true to source material as any I’ve ever
heard is something you are seeking, the
D90SE could easily qualify as your new
reference DAC.

The telling part was the middle of the review where he went on to talk about the ESS hump and their management of it, which screamed that he's been reading ASR.

Additionally, he went on to try and do a blinded comparison with a Gustard X-16 DAC and concluded he couldn't tell them apart. Honestly I wasn't sure what magazine I was reading by this stage...
 

VintageFlanker

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
Messages
2,997
Likes
9,163
Location
Paris
As many of you are no doubt aware, TAS prides itself on never measuring anything objectively and relying virtually entirely on subjective reviews,
TAS praises absolutely everything that is reviewed. Easy conclusion, then. Whatever measures good or bad has no influence here.
 
OP
C

conman

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2022
Messages
19
Likes
38
TAS praises absolutely everything that is reviewed. Easy conclusion, then. Whatever measures good or bad has no influence here.
True enough but for some differences.
Topping is not an advertiser - all other reviews are effectively paid for in advance.
There was no qualification of "in its price range" or "punches above its weight" or "worth listening if it's in your price range".
They have never called a sub $1000 anything an unqualified reference.
 

flz

Active Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2022
Messages
154
Likes
115
Additionally, he went on to try and do a blinded comparison with a Gustard X-16 DAC and concluded he couldn't tell them apart. Honestly I wasn't sure what magazine I was reading by this stage...
At least that's a bit of honesty. I assume neither Gustard nor Topping advertise on TAS? So it's easy to be honest.

Many will be amused by this statement but for different reasons. For some, it will confirm that the DAC problem has been solved and there are many that offer "fully transparent" sound for well under $1,000 (or much less than that), and they will all sound very similar or the same. For others, it will reenforce the idea that all of these Chinese DACs are boring because they sound the same. Such as a certain Youtube reviewer who recently sold all his Chinese DACs, saying basically that.
 
OP
C

conman

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2022
Messages
19
Likes
38
At least that's a bit of honesty. I assume neither Gustard nor Topping advertise on TAS? So it's easy to be honest.

Many will be amused by this statement but for different reasons. For some, it will confirm that the DAC problem has been solved and there are many that offer "fully transparent" sound for well under $1,000 (or much less than that), and they will all sound very similar or the same. For others, it will reenforce the idea that all of these Chinese DACs are boring because they sound the same. Such as a certain Youtube reviewer who recently sold all his Chinese DACs, saying basically that.
As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't stop them buying audiophile power cables.
 

Vict0r

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Nov 6, 2020
Messages
597
Likes
1,323
Location
The Netherlands
I think it was safer for them to just aknowledge the D90SE's qualities, instead of going all esoterical about it. It's hard to write "This thing doesn't sound magical to me and I don't recommend it." when all the measurements show its basically exactely doing what any DAC should be doing.
 

Human Bass

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 25, 2018
Messages
387
Likes
396
At least that's a bit of honesty. I assume neither Gustard nor Topping advertise on TAS? So it's easy to be honest.

Many will be amused by this statement but for different reasons. For some, it will confirm that the DAC problem has been solved and there are many that offer "fully transparent" sound for well under $1,000 (or much less than that), and they will all sound very similar or the same. For others, it will reenforce the idea that all of these Chinese DACs are boring because they sound the same. Such as a certain Youtube reviewer who recently sold all his Chinese DACs, saying basically that.
People must realize that the music is supposed to sound fun, not the dac.
 

FrantzM

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 12, 2016
Messages
3,062
Likes
4,820
Obviously I can't quote the entire article here, but presumably it will be posted online for free in the near future. As many of you are no doubt aware, TAS prides itself on never measuring anything objectively and relying virtually entirely on subjective reviews, making it perhaps the most diametrically opposed review outlet to ASR.

Suffice to say two quoted sentences should give you more than you might expect from the review by Steven Stone.



And the conclusion



The telling part was the middle of the review where he went on to talk about the ESS hump and their management of it, which screamed that he's been reading ASR.

Additionally, he went on to try and do a blinded comparison with a Gustard X-16 DAC and concluded he couldn't tell them apart. Honestly I wasn't sure what magazine I was reading by this stage...
ROTFLMAO
:D :D :D

See what you're doing to them Amir :mad:
 

Gradius

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Aug 17, 2019
Messages
549
Likes
319
Location
Iquique, Chile
The horse...
 

Attachments

  • 1.jpg
    1.jpg
    451.1 KB · Views: 64

formula 977

Active Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2022
Messages
106
Likes
82
“After using the D90SE for over a month in various setups, I experienced only one operational glitch. When the D90SE was grouped via Roon’s grouping feature with a Gustard X-16, the D90SE would emit an occasional low-level “burp.” While not at a level that was more than mildly distracting, something about this combination upset the signal chain periodically. Needless to say, after doing matched level A/Bs with these two DACs grouped, I did not employ that configuration again.

You can, if you try, set up the D90SE so that it will sound bad. The culprits are the 5-volt XLR/2.5-volt RCA outputs. With some preamplifiers or headphone amplifiers, this higher output setting will be too much and overload the inputs, resulting in distortion. Changing the D90SE’s output to 4-volt XLR/2-volt RCA will usually solve the problem.”

You won't find the above on ASR reviews, either.

AS does measurements, they just aren't included as part of the reviews.
 

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
37,940
Likes
161,889
Location
Seattle Area
Great to see traditional audio press taking note and seriously evaluating audio gear. Amazing to see such conviction around audio objectivity from measurements to AB testing in the review. Breath of fresh air on both fronts.
 

firedog

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2016
Messages
334
Likes
520
Yep, along with the Stereophile review of the Topping Pre90, which was similarly favorable. And Steven Stone said the Gustard X16 was just as good.
So, basically, the two reviews together can be interpreted as saying you can get state of the art performance for DAC and Pre for well under $2000.

Interesting turn of events for the mainstream audiophile press.

But lots of people will reject these reviews out of hand, without having heard either unit.
 

57gold

Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2021
Messages
39
Likes
23
Been wondering when these DACs, high value Purifi amps and other like components would get the attention of the traditional audiophile press, even understanding that their manufacturers are not purchasing significant if any advertising.

Of the guys who write for these outlets, Mr Steve Stone is perhaps my favorite; we both play guitar and his musical tastes are similar. He also reviewed the McCormick DNA-500 amp that I have enjoyed for decades.

Was also curious to see him comparing the Topping to a less expensive Gustard model. It seems that primary difference in the over $500 DACs is focused on power supply upgrades, which in my musical instrument amplification experience can have a significant impact. Have experienced these impacts when a circuit with a power supply specced to adequately to drive it is upgraded to a higher than "needed" version. In a real world setting in a circuit that moves speakers one experiences bigger dynamics and higher headroom with an over specced power supply. Not sure if this is analogous to a DAC driving an amp and why many DAC users believe that they need a preamp to get best sonic performance?
 

MMP

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2022
Messages
9
Likes
1
At least that's a bit of honesty. I assume neither Gustard nor Topping advertise on TAS? So it's easy to be honest.

Many will be amused by this statement but for different reasons. For some, it will confirm that the DAC problem has been solved and there are many that offer "fully transparent" sound for well under $1,000 (or much less than that), and they will all sound very similar or the same. For others, it will reenforce the idea that all of these Chinese DACs are boring because they sound the same. Such as a certain Youtube reviewer who recently sold all his Chinese DACs, saying basically that.
I had the X-16 and changed it for the D90SE and there CERTAINLY is a difference. The X-16 is great but a much warmer sound compared the D90SE more neutral and detailed. Comes down to taste. But I assure you there was or is an audible difference.
 
OP
C

conman

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2022
Messages
19
Likes
38
I had the X-16 and changed it for the D90SE and there CERTAINLY is a difference. The X-16 is great but a much warmer sound compared the D90SE more neutral and detailed. Comes down to taste. But I assure you there was or is an audible difference.
You must be new here.
 

Newman

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 6, 2017
Messages
1,553
Likes
1,779
Great to see traditional audio press taking note and seriously evaluating audio gear. Amazing to see such conviction around audio objectivity from measurements to AB testing in the review. Breath of fresh air on both fronts.
But the same writer says his reference speaker cable costs US$3615, link. Do you think he seriously evaluated that? I bet he did "AB testing" with it, too...
 
Top Bottom