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Topping D50 III Balanced DAC with EQ Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 4 1.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 8 2.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 44 14.0%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 258 82.2%

  • Total voters
    314

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Topping D50 III balanced stereo DAC with support for parametric equalization. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $229.
Topping D50 III RCA Stereo DAC PEQ Review.jpg

Sorry for the quality of the picture/display. It is quite dim compared to my photography light and when I tried to brighten it, it brought out the chromatic aberrations in my lens. While tiny, it is very sharp and clear white color. Back panel shows the innovation of using 1/4 jacks to bring balanced output in such a small enclosure:
Topping D50 III RCA Stereo DAC PEQ back panel remote control Review.jpg

The remote is bluetooth so you don't have issues with how you point it. If you are using it as a USB DAC, you can plug that cable to the one labeled USB-C and be good to go. That is how I tested it using the hub in my monitor as I do with all DAC tests. There is auxiliary power input as well if you are not using USB but the S/PDIF options. I *think* you can also use that for higher quality power if your USB is not such.

What distinguishes the D50 III is what is inside: support for up to 10 filters of different types. The app, called Topping Tune, even has nice features like overlaying a target curve. Focus is on headphone use though as there is no way to assign separate EQ to each channel as you would need for Room EQ. You could use it to correct speaker flaws but would be harder to do so for room effects. I hope the company adds per channel capability.

If you are not familiar with my DAC measurements, I recommend this video tutorial on how I test audio DACs:


Topping D50III DAC Measurements
As usual we start with our usual dashboard. Max output defaulted to 5 volts so I used -1.5 dB of attenuation to get it down to nominal 4 volts:

Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ Measurements.png


We expect state of the art performance from Topping and that is precisely what we get here, easily landing the D50 III in our silly top 20 DACs as far as noise and distortion:
best DAC with PEQ review.png


Distortion is vanishingly low at -140 dB so we are dominated by noise, which seems to be mostly from my analyzer. Fellow member @Rja4000 measured it with an RME audio interface and managed a SINAD of 124.6. Difference is academic as we are well past point of transparency either way.

RCA performance is a bit worse as usual:
Topping D50 III RCA Stereo DAC PEQ Measurements.png

But still verifiably transparent.

Here is the performance at lower output levels:
Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ THD+N vs Level Measurements.png


Dynamic range even measured with my analyzer is superb:
Topping D50 III Dynamic Range Stereo DAC PEQ Measurements.png


Multitone performance is stunningly good with extremely low and frequency independent distortion:
Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ Multitone Measurements.png


Jitter is super despite "dirty" computer power:
Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ Jitter Measurements.png


Linearity is naturally perfect:
Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ Linearity Measurements.png


IMD distortion is extremely low with tiniest, immaterial hit of "ESS IMD Hump" in one channel:
Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ IMD Measurements.png


For compatibility with stereophile measurements, here is 50 Hz spectra until 600 ohm load:
Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ 50 Hz Measurements.png

Great example of how excellent engineering covers all bases seeing how I recently started to run this test with little opportunity for companies to optimize for it.

Wideband THD+N again lets Topping flex its muscles when it comes to superb engineering:
Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ THD+N vs Frequency Measurements.png


We have the usual filter settings (I have optimized this measurement a bit to make it more clear):
Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ Filter Measurements.png


Mode 3 has the best attenuation without any ringing in out of band noise. Here is the impact on frequency response:
Topping D50 III Balanced Stereo DAC PEQ Frequency Response Measurements.png


Topping D50 III Equalization Measurements
It is difficult to test impact of EQ on our measurements as the mere fact of changing the frequency response impacts the parameters used in the test. As an extreme example, if I put a notch filter at 1 kHz, SINAD test would just show garbage as the main tone is now filtered. To get around this, I programmed two filters in Topping Tune but left them at 0 dB. Here is the outcome:
Topping D50 III RCA Stereo DAC PEQ On Measurements.png


As you see, it made no difference. I then set them to -5 dB with another 5 dB of pre-amp negative gain:
Topping D50 III RCA Stereo DAC PEQ Tune.png


The high frequency filter makes no difference but the low frequency one showed variable noise around the 100 Hz frequency of the first filter:
Topping D50 III RCA Stereo DAC PEQ On Filters On Measurements.png


That part of the graph would change shape and sometimes go down to no noise only to start again. At no time it rose above -120 dB so completely immaterial audibly. I usually would take the time to give this feedback to the company but in the interest of getting the review out, I figured I go ahead and post it.

BTW, I *think* you can't play and change the EQ settings. I had to stop the analyzer from feeding the DAC before changing the settings. This may be wise as changing filters dynamically can cause glitches.

It also took me a bit to realize that making changes in Topping Tune are immediately communicated to D50 III. I kept looking for a "send" or "update" button and by accident discovered that changes are automatic.

Overall, I was very impressed with fit and finish of the Topping Tune seeing how this is their first attempt at software development. On great addition there would be to be able to update the firmware in the DAC.

Conclusions
Folks, this is a momentous event. The era of state of the art DACs with equalization is upon us! And at incredibly reasonable price. All of your complaining about lack of value add EQ was heard and we are finally there. For those of you not able to perform equalization in the source, you can do that now with nary a cost increase while enjoying the best DAC technology has to offer us. I can imagine the huge R&D costs for Topping to tool up to do all this software development. As the first company whose products impressed me, it is great to see them continue to innovate in not only pure fidelity but also functionality. Today is a happy day for me! :)

It is my pleasure to recommend Topping D50 III balanced stereo DAC.
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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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Seriously. It can't be that much more expensive to get EQ into these DACs.

Bonus points if they can make it an HTML app that the DAC serves up on it's USB interface so we'll never need anything more than a web browser to configure. Someone start a business with me.
 

_thelaughingman

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Hooray!!! I am glad that it's finally been achieved! PEQ within a DAC, thank you, Topping, for making this happen.
 

DLS79

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@amirm is "topping tune" the only way to switch between the configs loaded into the dac?

I've seen multiple people mention that you can store 5 configs in the devise, but I've not seen anyone mention how you can switch between them, nor could I find anything in the manual!
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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@amirm is "topping tune" the only way to switch between the configs loaded into the dac?

I've seen multiple people mention that you can store 5 configs in the devise, but I've not seen anyone mention how you can switch between them, nor could I find anything in the manual!
There is a setting in the menu to select it but I have not confirmed.
 

Mikig

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Topping confirms itself as a solid and concrete producer as usual.
An intelligent catalogue, with well-centred, well-built and top-performing devices. what can I say: digital is now accessible to everyone in its best performance range.
The majority of new devices now bring with them a measurement record: this in addition offers a functionality, EQ, that we have normally seen on much more expensive DACs.
Now it's the turn of the "cousins" who certainly won't be at the window watching: I'm very curious, we'll see some beautiful ones...

thanks Amirm, for the review and for the time you dedicate to ASR!
 

AdamG

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The era of state of the art DACs with equalization is upon us! And at incredibly reasonable price. All of your complaining about lack of value add EQ was heard and we are finally there.
Here here. This is a major step in the right direction by giving users the ability to Eq from the source…Thanks for a great review Amir. Wonderful to witness this progress and dropping of the gauntlet to Competitors to meet or exceed this challenge from Topping. :cool:
 

JW001

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Seriously. It can't be that much more expensive to get EQ into these DACs.

Bonus points if they can make it an HTML app that the DAC serves up on it's USB interface so we'll never need anything more than a web browser to configure. Someone start a business with me.
If it's a web app, not a Windows app, it'd be served over a network interface, not USB :)
 

DLS79

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Bonus points if they can make it an HTML app that the DAC serves up on it's USB interface so we'll never need anything more than a web browser to configure. Someone start a business with me.

as a developer I don't see how that would be super useful, you would still only be able to connect to it form one devise at a time (gadget mode). Not to mention their is still a lot of stuff that will freak out your average consumer.

You could do something no super complicated via BT, but then you have to maintain os specific applications, and the hassles that come with it.

A more generalized solution would be to give it WiFi or ethernet support (dedicated IC required), and a simple cpu to handle acting as a webserver. However, then you run into issue's like does the consumer know how to set up a DHCP Reservation, or even have a router that supports it. Then you will get people who complain about not wanting to remember an ip address, and want a customizable domain name. It's a no win situation for the manufacture at that point!

Getting anything approaching a local web service into the hands of the average consumer is kind of a pain in the butt.
 

DLS79

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Not necessary.

For example, take a look at Wooting and their https://wootility.io/ web tool with which you can configure their keyboard via USB.

I didn't dig super deep into it, but that's looks to be a cloud style app, not a local one! Not to go to far off topic but a none trivial number of people have issues with that as well.
 

Koeitje

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Does it store the EQ settings for the USB input on the device or do you have to keep the software running after setting it?
 

cheapmessiah

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It makes me very happy that we finally have self contained PEQ in afordable dacs now, but I also feel this is the end of the line in R&D for DACs, of course some people will ask to get the PEQ on all inputs, which Im sure will come eventually, but this is it, DACs are now a fully developed product.

This is end game for everyone who like me only uses USB input in dacs.
 

JW001

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@amirm said:
"What distinguishes the D50 III is what is inside: support for up to 10 filters of different types. The app, called Topping Tune, even has nice features like overlaying a target curve. Focus is on headphone use though as there is no way to assign separate EQ to each channel as you would need for Room EQ. You could use it to correct speaker flaws but would be harder to do so for room effects. I hope the company adds per channel capability."

And neither there is a way to integrate and equalize subwoofer(s), like it is possible with minidsp.
 
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