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Topping D70s MQA Review (DAC)

nimar

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I've both the D70s/D90 and while I haven't done any proper A/B blind testing I can't hear any difference between the two, defiantly not anything I'd write home about saying one sounded warmer than the other.
 

boblo

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Sandu Vitalie says D70s in comparison to D90 is warmer, more musical (similar to best R2R) and has larger soundstage.
That's right. In fact, I read that opinion in THIS review written by him (by the way, a very detailed review, probably the most detailed review on D70s available today).
The tonal characteristic similar to R2R is interesting
Yes, I'm interested in that 'analog sound' too described by him. He claims that D70s is close to the performance of a R2R DAC without breaking the bank (they are not cheap).

I only have one complaint: the design of the housing (for goodness sake, those ugly screws on the sides!) D90 is sleeker than D70s, sure, but D70s is fantastic value for money and don't forget that it has a new feature not present in D90: can automatically turn off the screen when there is no operation after a few seconds (Display Mode 'A'). This avoids the burn-in issue inherent to OLED screens (you can find this out by comparing both manuals).
 
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Veri

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Honestly if those descriptions of the D70s lure you in; it's cheaper than D90 to boot. Win-win :p
I think both AK4499 and AK4497 supplies are drying up though. Soon there won't be either.
 

boblo

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Honestly if those descriptions of the D70s lure you in; it's cheaper than D90 to boot. Win-win :p
I think both AK4499 and AK4497 supplies are drying up though. Soon there won't be either.
Well, I also have another complaint, but it affects many Topping models and I think they are not going to fix it, because @JohnYang1997 already replied to me in a private message that 'there was nothing wrong with that':

- Please TOPPING, remove the MINUS SIGN on the display when DAC is on Preamp mode and volume is set to max. In this case, the display shows '-0.00' (dB). The number MINUS ZERO does not exist!! It should show: '0.00' (or '0') instead. I have sent an email with this petition 3 weeks ago to [email protected] and there is no reply so far.

Hasn't anyone noticed this? I find that hard to believe.
I have to admit that I think I'm preaching in the wilderness... :(
 

MBL'er

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I have a loaned D70S which I am evaluating side by side my Soncoz SGD1.

My system comprises a Macbook Pro running Audirvana as source, the two dac's, MBL pre-power amps and Dynaudio Super 40 speakers. No headphone, as in preliminary tests with my Grado SR60 I was not able to detect any meaningful differences between the two dac's.

I am using the same grade Yamamura cables on both units and determined that the speakers output in db's is in the same ballpark with both units.

The D70s has been provided by a friend of mine who designs and builds hi-end tube amplifiers, and I relied on his comments on the technical side of both units and on his extraordinary ear and "music memory" to track the sonic differences between the D70S and the SGD1. He personally tunes his amps and systems, and I quite often hover on his lab to give my views and exchange opinions.

The D70S has some technical differences compared to the SGD1 (and the D90 as well).

To start with, the SGD1 has two transformers compared to the Toppings' one, but there are more downstream details that differentiate the D70S.

First, both the SGD1 and the D90 have "standard" voltage regulators, old designs maybe dating back to the '80's, whereas the D70S uses "modern" regulators which may, or may not, improve the noise floor. Second difference is that the AK4497 chip does not need, compared to the SGD1's and D90's, the "current/tension" conversion stage. Therefore the D70s does not have the extra op-amps on the signal path which the SGD1 and the D90 need, with potential benefits. Lastly, the D70S uses the same op-amps as the SGD1 in the output stages. How the last difference benefits sound compared to the D90 I cannot comment, but I find the SGD1 "musically pleasing".

Having said that, from the listening sessions so far I got the sensation that the two dac's are so close that it is very difficult to spot marked differences, which probably relate more to music materials.

But, as the devil is in the details, getting picky I found that, compared to the D70S, the SGD1 exhibits a little roll-off on the higher octaves - probably from 3KHz and above.

That has from my point of view two "subjective" effects.

First, that "roll off" makes the D70S look like projecting a wider soundstage given the "extra presence" of high pitched voices, cymbals and such. But getting into the individual instruments signatures, I realize that its soundstage is pretty much in line with the SGD1's, just a couple db's more forward which "expand" the presentation.

The second effect, probably relating to my hearing system (I suffer from tinnitus in my left ear due to reckless scuba diving and clubbing), is a bit of "listening fatigue" I can experience with the D70S with some "higher pitched" instruments and voices. No problems with Patricia Barber, so to speak.

With the SGD1, on the contrary, I can go on for hours, particularly with rythmic materials (the SGD1 excels on bass impact and articulation), but after having listened to the D70S, the SGD1 can sometimes look, in comparison, a bit "compressed".

My friend is enthusiast about the D70S, which considers one of his best "digital product" acquisitions and is using it to by-pass his Bladelius Embla internal dac (I personally consider the Bladelius Embla probably the best sounding player I ever listened to, but every opinion has its merits). He also found that the D70S has better resolving power on complex materials like choirs and orchestra string sessions. As I mainly listen to jazz, vocals, acoustic and sometimes chamber, I cannot comment on that.

In any case, the comparison is still going on also with some friends' help, so I will draw conclusions probably over the next weekend (here in Rome we are under Covid lockdown, so staying inside is easy). Tomorrow I will have a friend coming over for a blind test, and as he never listened to my system nor to the two dac's, maybe he will bring a fresh evaluation angle.
 
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ShiZo

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Anyone else experience a loud popping noise when the D70s has power cut to it (Didn't happen on the d90). I have it on a smart plug, don't see why it should suck 2.7W just sitting there, so turn the power off when not in use. If the amps go off first this is fine, but with HomeKit automations its clever and turns them off at the same time. This is with balanced connections.
Wait what? There is a loud pop when you turn it off? And it doesn't go into standby mode? Makes me wonder what my system uses just sitting there.
 

nimar

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Wait what? There is a loud pop when you turn it off? And it doesn't go into standby mode? Makes me wonder what my system uses just sitting there.

This is when I cut the power, the DAC draws ~ 2.7W in standby, and ~6.8W when on IIRC. I'm a ... power vampire slayer, and I put a smart plugs that draws ~0.4W on devices that don't shut down properly to save energy.

It is entirely possible that on both fronts, the environmental impact of saving power is outweighed by the manufacture of the smart plug, and the cost saving by the cost of the plug but heck, I'm trying to do my part. And in my head a smart plug disconnecting the power acts as added surge protection for when the device is not in use.

The one I find odd is the A90 uses ~0.5W when toggled to off, you'd think a device with a mechanical power switch wouldn't draw power.
 
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Rantenti

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A90/D70s came today, D70s went to the living room, this stack in my office for headphones / active monitors. The D70s being a bit larger is a better fit alongside power amps.

Biggest problem now is keeping the volume down. Going from Medium -> High gain at the same volume just makes it all sound better, far more fun than just turning the volume up.

Its interesting that the D70s actually makes better use of the remote, and has extra features like auto turning the screen off. Would be nice if topping added this to the D90 via a firmware update?
View attachment 117858

Wonderful setup indeed
Do you use active speakers? I am curious whether the A90 is so transparent that it will produce no perceivable change in sound when active speakers are connected directly to the A90 preamp instead of to the D90.

If so, it will be much more convenient to control the volume of the speakers!
 

nimar

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Based on the spec, it very much is "so transparent" that it won't make a difference. But sadly my active speakers that are normally in my office are performing temp duty downstairs with the D70s until my passive speakers arrive. Been almost three months, but supposedly there is light at the end of the tunnel and they are due in April.
 

Rantenti

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Based on the spec, it very much is "so transparent" that it won't make a difference. But sadly my active speakers that are normally in my office are performing temp duty downstairs with the D70s until my passive speakers arrive. Been almost three months, but supposedly there is light at the end of the tunnel and they are due in April.

Previously had somer older DAC+headphone amp a few years back which sounded weaker and muddier when using the preamp stage compared to bypass mode. I will be extremely happy if technology today is giving us much better transparency through the preamp.

I'm buying the D70s and A90 today and will be excited to try them out.

I hope you will receive your speakers soon and enjoy them!
 

nimar

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I had the a90 upstairs in my office for headphone listening, took it down with the d70 / my active speakers and it does a great job as a preamp. And in high gain has enough oomph to power my power amps / passive speakers, when they arrive. Damn this site, guess I'll have to get another a90 so I can use it at a preamp / with headphones in both rooms.
 

DHT 845

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I've just bought d70s. I find it very musical and smooth. Midrange has nice density that makes jazz records sound great. I am listening it with Pre90 via XLR. What a value, simply incredible.
 

boblo

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Well, my quest for the DAC of my dreams ends here. But you'll be surprised by my decision: I have sent the D70s back and I finally have bought and kept the D90 MQA. Why? This is the reason:

After reading Sandu's D70s review, I thought I would like a more analog sound for its warmth, but I was wrong. The fact is that I'm used to the clean, digital sound of the CD and I am not used to the sound of vinyl which I stopped listening to many years ago. Sandu is right: D70s is more analog sounding, it has a sound closer to vinyl, whereas D90 is more digital and transparent to the source.

Please note that I have been able to listen to both DACs one after the other with my gear and, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, but the results were different as I said before. That being said, the difference is small but noticeable with my Vincent SV-236 tube amp. Moreover, when I first listened to the D70s I was displeased by it, it had a sound that was not comfortable for me. Then I plugged in the D90 and the sound was relaxed, airy and engaging. I could listen to the D90 for hours and hours and I didn't stand more than 5 minutes with the D70s. Of course the tests were performed with the same source and the same music (Carlos Santana's 'Abraxas' album available from Qobuz, recorded at 24-bit/176.4kHz), using a Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra as a streamer, so the source was of good quality.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say that the D70s is inferior to the D90. They just don't have exactly the same sound, so it's a matter of preference.

Just my two cents.
 

boblo

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Why are you using a tube amp if you want transparent sound, they are anything but.

I own both the D70s/D90 MQA and can't tell them apart, but I've not had my ears plated yet.
I think the problem is with my tube amplifier. The amp already introduces a little distortion to the sound as you know, but I'm already used to that distortion with a digital source. However, if you pair it with the D70s the distortion is even greater due to its inherent warmth and analog sounding. It is possible that with a solid state amp the D70s would be much more enjoyable for me. So, I didn't say before that the D70s is worse than the D90, just that the D70s is not a good match for my tube amp and my ears. And I insist: they don't sound exactly the same if you have the right equipment to reveal this difference (Sandu is absolutely right with his review).

PS. I forgot to say that both DACs had the same configuration: Preamp mode OFF (pure DAC mode), Bluetooth OFF, PCM Filter Mode 3, and only USB input and XLR output were enabled. So test conditions were exactly the same.
 
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nimar

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if you have the right equipment to reveal this difference

This line is basically a declaration of war around these parts, it's a way to cover up an entirely spurious subjective claim, its invocation brings a conversation quickly to a close. If you are quoting the reviewer, then you should avoid them like the plague.
 

boblo

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This line is basically a declaration of war around these parts, it's a way to cover up an entirely spurious subjective claim, its invocation brings a conversation quickly to a close. If you are quoting the reviewer, then you should avoid them like the plague.
It's just my opinion, and is not subjective at all, I could notice an audible difference. I listened to the same track twice in order to make sure of this.

I was hesitating to post my opinion here because almost everyone on this forum thinks that all DACs that measure well sound the same. This is simply not true, at least with my equipment I have noticed it.

I have no interest in telling any lies, I'm just telling my experience. And you should respect the opinion of others who don't think like you.
 
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