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Topping A90 Discrete Review (Headphone Amp & Preamp)

Rate this Headphone Amp/Pre-amp

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 12 3.5%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 12 3.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 58 16.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 261 76.1%

  • Total voters
    343

bearcatsandor

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Nov 11, 2020
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This is the mistery of the life :D
Audiophiles sustain that but any concrete proof about that,i will try to compare them by myself
*That* is the mystery of life? It's not quite the enlightenment I was strifing for.
 

Roland68

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Thanks for the reply,i see many people talk about discrete circuit like a giant step up in terms of quality,but in the meantime i read about people like you who can’t find difference from A90D and A90,i’m so curious about it,i really want to try them both with my Audeze
Like I'm having a deja vu (or two ;o).
In the '90s and especially in the early 2000s there were heated discussions as to whether discrete circuits were better or ICs. Just think of the whole linguistic fuss about HDAM modules and similar excesses.
At that time I was dealing with tuners who unsoldered these assemblies and replaced them with a small BB OPA627 board with its own supply. It definitely sounded cleaner and more detailed to me back then, but to this day HDAM modules (and other discrete modules/circuits) are "legendary".

Nothing really seems to have changed in the last 30 years, but in the end it all comes down to the overall implementation.
 

808lab

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Nov 17, 2022
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Like I'm having a deja vu (or two ;o).
In the '90s and especially in the early 2000s there were heated discussions as to whether discrete circuits were better or ICs. Just think of the whole linguistic fuss about HDAM modules and similar excesses.
At that time I was dealing with tuners who unsoldered these assemblies and replaced them with a small BB OPA627 board with its own supply. It definitely sounded cleaner and more detailed to me back then, but to this day HDAM modules (and other discrete modules/circuits) are "legendary".

Nothing really seems to have changed in the last 30 years, but in the end it all comes down to the overall implementation.
So,after all these years,do you prefer Discrete or ICs? :D
 

Roland68

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So,after all these years,do you prefer Discrete or ICs? :D
As a headphone and pre amplifier I use, among others, a Singxer SA-1, an SMSL SP400 THX, a Violectric V100 and also a Topping L30 and I couldn't tell you which one is better in terms of sound, apart from the different performance and technical characteristics. So 2 x discrete amplifier stage and 2 x chip.
I also tested the expensive and popular discrete OPAmps in the V100 and in preamps. These were definitely not bad, but didn't come close to cleanly implemented OPA627 for me.

So for me it doesn't matter whether IC or discrete, it has to be right for me in terms of sound and measured values.
But it should be clear that building a discrete with a good result is much more difficult and expensive than integrating an IC cleanly and getting its readings. It is also important to remember that the development of an OPAmp or amplifier chip is much more expensive than the development of most of the devices that are tested at ASR.
 

808lab

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As a headphone and pre amplifier I use, among others, a Singxer SA-1, an SMSL SP400 THX, a Violectric V100 and also a Topping L30 and I couldn't tell you which one is better in terms of sound, apart from the different performance and technical characteristics. So 2 x discrete amplifier stage and 2 x chip.
I also tested the expensive and popular discrete OPAmps in the V100 and in preamps. These were definitely not bad, but didn't come close to cleanly implemented OPA627 for me.

So for me it doesn't matter whether IC or discrete, it has to be right for me in terms of sound and measured values.
But it should be clear that building a discrete with a good result is much more difficult and expensive than integrating an IC cleanly and getting its readings. It is also important to remember that the development of an OPAmp or amplifier chip is much more expensive than the development of most of the devices that are tested at ASR.
Thanks for the explanation
 

Veri

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As a headphone and pre amplifier I use, among others, a Singxer SA-1, an SMSL SP400 THX, a Violectric V100 and also a Topping L30 and I couldn't tell you which one is better in terms of sound, apart from the different performance and technical characteristics.
:)
 

tomelex

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A few months ago I purchased the discrete.

I was looking for a headphone amp with some voltage swing and superb SOTA specs. Either unit has great specs and functionality. The ladder volume and looks initially were a plus for the discrete but for me, the ability to repair down the road was the deciding factor. When I say down the road, you are looking at someone who has DH220 hafler amps from the early 80s and to this day these bridged units have all the power and specs and sound that I adore.

The main selling point for me concerning the discrete is simply that with a handful of parts I will purchase as spares I can use this amp to the end if I want to and it will be easier to repair, and since I am skilled in the art of electronics it means more to me to have a bit of an easier repair and better chance of parts availability long term.

There are many reasons that two amps that compare the same into an 8 ohm resistor act differently when on a real world load and so I do not have a problem with folks hearing a difference between the two amps in the real world application vs testing. It has been this way since the tube days, you can get to the same output watts with different circuits and devices on a load resistor but when confronted by a real varying load the two amps circuits will handle things differently and this is audible on certain music or certain power levels etc.

If one were to play both these discussed Topping headphone amps into the same real world headphones and the measurements were identical in the areas that matter then in that particular case with that particular headphone there would be no possibility to hear a difference attributed to the equipment. It really is just understanding measurements need to be in the same real world load to be directly comparable.

There is such a thing as an audibility threshold no matter how good your ears are and being able to hear the difference between two different gears is not any sort of achievement that sets anyone apart from the rest of us. What sets us apart is we have preferences (I call it MY-FI) for how we like things to sound and that is why audio is such an individual sport when it comes down to it.
 
Last edited:

metasharp

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Oct 21, 2022
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Maybe that'll make you laugh but I listen a lot with my setup (see my sig) to keygen musics :

It's super awesome in my opinion. :)
 

Gggggas

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Nov 23, 2018
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Maybe that'll make you laugh but I listen a lot with my setup (see my sig) to keygen musics :

It's super awesome in my opinion. :)
I do the same lol , I am sure that you will love listening to AGST tracks if you don't already do :D
 

escalibur

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Jul 2, 2018
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Topping A90D is on discount at HifiGo in case anyone is interested: https://hifigo.com/products/topping-a90-discrete?rfsn=6954828.aa3ab0&variant=42970704183535

1669277873635.png



I'm trying to resist selling my A90 and getting the D model. :p
 

ObjectiveSubjectivist

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Dec 24, 2018
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Anyone knows how much voltage can A90d take on it's XLR inputs without overloading?
I have dac that can output up to 12V and I'm wondering how much I should use.
 

ObjectiveSubjectivist

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@ObjectiveSubjectivist Topping only spec input sensitivity with the volume control at 100%, so as a function of max output level and gain.
How much voltage the input can take if you reduce the Amp's volume some, is not specified. We'd need someone else to test this.
View attachment 245694
Yes I think so. I saw this infographic but wanted to ask someone who feels more comfortable on that topic.
 

tomelex

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okok

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As a headphone and pre amplifier I use, among others, a Singxer SA-1, an SMSL SP400 THX, a Violectric V100 and also a Topping L30 and I couldn't tell you which one is better in terms of sound

can you tell us why all amps you tested sound the same, out of curiosity, too much EQ?
 
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