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Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC with Bluetooth. It was kindly sent to me by the company. The D90 costs US $699 with free shipping from Amazon. The D90 is one a few DACs using the latest DAC chip from AKM (AK4499).

NOTE: Given some recent comments that manufactures may be sending us "golden samples," Topping has offered that I also purchase a retail DAC to compare to this one at their expense. Actually they have offered that I re-buy everything they have ever sent me at retail at their expense! Personally, I have no concern about Topping's ethics in this manner so I don't want to wast time and expense doing so. If you feel otherwise, comment in the thread and I will decide what to do based on that.

The D90 comes in a premium packaging that despite its rather small size, is very heavy:

Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR  Audio Review.jpg

I am guessing that it is milled from solid chunk of aluminum, much like very high-end audio products. While this doesn't do anything for sound, it does make the unit sit there solidly and not be tugged by cables.

I controlled the D90 with one of my existing Topping remote controls (one comes with it as well). I had not noticed this before so may be a new feature but you can independently control whether the output shows up on RCA, XLR or both. Speaking of that, here is the back panel:
Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR Back Panel Connectors Inputs Audio Review.jpg

It is all the features you expect for a premium DAC in this era including the increasingly standard Bluetooth input.

Power supply is of course included inside the unit which I appreciated. Less clutter on the desk.

For my testing, I focused on XLR outputs only. It sharply reduces the chances of ground loop which can occur more often due to connection to a PC and long chain that creates.

DAC Audio Measurements
As usual, we start with our 1 kHz tone dashboard:
Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR  Audio Measurements.png


Not that it matters audibly but clock accuracy is excellent showing a precise 1 kHz frequency. Output is 4 volts which is what we like to see form XLR output.

The star of the show of course is astonishingly small distortion. It showcases the performances of the AK4499 DAC chip which until now, would lose ever so slightly to offerings from ESS on distortion front. With SINAD of 120.5, the D90 barely misses taking the top spot in our SINAD graph:

Best USB DAC.png


With best case dynamic range of hearing being 116 dB, you are assured that the D90 is provably transparent. What you hear, is what your source has in it. Not distortion and noise from the DAC.

Using 32-tone test track to resemble "music," intermodulation distortion shows incredibly low unwanted distortions:

Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR  Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Someone had asked how my Audio Precision rates in this test. Here it is:

Audio Precision APx555 Multitone Measurements.png


Note however that when I test analog products (e.g. amplifiers and headphone amps), I don't use the built-in DAC in Audio Precision. The companion analog generator actually has less distortion than above.

Anyway, the D90 loses a hair to AP in lower frequencies but bests it in higher frequencies. Either way, the D90 is instrument grade digital to analog convert and can be used to test analog audio gear.

Testing intermodulation again but this time against level we get:
Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR  IMD Audio Measurements.png


We see the improvement in both noise (sloping down part of the graph) and distortion (right side where the graph starts to climb up).

Linearity (precision of level) is nailed as well:

Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR  Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Dynamic range shows the noise level:

Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR  Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Had this been a couple of dBs better, it would have improved the SINAD to take the first place. As it is though, it is exceptional. You can play at 120 dB SPL (live concert levels) and yet have no audible noise from the DAC!

I ran jitter with USB as usual but also added S/PDIF since there has been some concern about its performance:
Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR  Jitter Audio Measurements.png


There are some spikes, especially with S/PDIF so it not as perfect as the rest of the performance from measurement point of view. Audibly though, it is more than perfect with spikes way below threshold of hearing. Note that these are with full amplitude 12 kHz tone. You don't have such thing in music. Jitter is proportional to level of the signal so if you lower the 12 kHz tone, they would go down in level proportionally. So no matter which way we look at it, this is not an audible concern. But a slight visual discomfort.

THD+N versus frequency shows good performance but not as good as I expected:
Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR THD vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


This test uses 90 kHz bandwidth to capture harmonics of 20 kHz (the dashboard uses 22.4 kHz bandwidth). So the question is, are we seeing distortion products or other ultrasonic junk? For that, let's fun a spectrum analysis at 500 Hz where there is a hump above:

Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR  500 Hz FFT Audio Measurements.png


Harmonic products are below 130 dB so that is definitely not a problem. Instead we see a pretty tall spike near the sample rate of the source. That is caused by aliasing due to reconstruction filter not having enough attenuation. Speaking of that, here are the responses for the filter:

Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR  Reconstruction Filter Audio Measurements.png


I was disappointed to not see a very sharp filter. I wonder if there is a firmware bug that is causing two of the settings to be the same? Or AKM doesn't provide it. Back to our previous issue, we see that the two sharpest filters only attenuate 95 dB or so. This means that aliasing components will exist below that level and that is what we saw in the THD+N vs frequency. Fortunately we don't hear 44 kHz and higher and levels are too small to cause issues for speakers/amplifiers. So not an audible issue.

Thermal Stability
D90 performance did not change over the 10 minute test so I got bored and stopped it:
Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC XLR Warm up Audio Measurements.png


Conclusions
The Topping D90 produces lowest noise and distortion than 220 DACs tested so far. It shows that AKM is ready for business to compete with ESS on top of the performance charts. It has excellent build quality and comes from a manufacturer that believes in verification of design with measurement. Its measured performance is nearly flawless. To get rid of last few niggles, would cost you a few hundred dollars more. You decide. :)

I live for such discoveries where a company cares about giving us the maximum performance they possibly can. And at a cost point that is thousands of dollars if not tens of thousands of dollars than high-end DACs.

For me, I am happy to strongly recommend the Topping D90 DAC.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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VintageFlanker

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#3
NOTE: Given some recent comments that manufactures may be sending us "golden samples," Topping has offered that I also purchase a retail DAC to compare to this one at their expense. Actually they have offered that I re-buy everything they have ever sent me at retail at their expense! Personally, I have no concern about Topping's ethics in this manner so I don't want to wast time and expense doing so. If you feel otherwise, comment in the thread and I will decide what to do based on that.
Since Topping itself offers to pay the re-buy, I see no reason to do not re-measure randon units... No reason, apart from your busy schedule! ;)

Anyway, kudos to Topping for this proposal. And for this SOTA performance. Welcome in the top chart, AK4499! :cool:
 
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#6
Thanks for the review
Since Topping itself offers to pay the re-buy, I see no reason to do not re-measure randon units... No reason, apart from your busy schedule! ;)

Anyway, kudos to Topping for this proposal. And for this SOTA performance. Welcome in the top chart, AK4499! :cool:
+1

It's really nice of Topping to propose and I think it would be wise to accept.
Plus, if it influences other brands to do the same, it would be a win-win situation...
ASR is growing and you can never be too careful when you deal with the companies, there's too much risk in my opinion.
 

ElNino

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#7
They've really knocked it out of the park here. That multitone is the cleanest I think you've ever measured (it's cleaner than the X-Sabre Pro multitone).
 
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#8
Slowly but firmly entering ADI-2 DAC price levels, and digging their own grave! Considering D90 has no headphone amp its price is above the RME.
I agree with this, the ADI-2 is not much more expensive but has a lot more to offer. On the other hand, if you go for pure DAC with all possible connections and a top SINAD this is probably the best buy.
 

WolfX-700

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#9
In fact, random sampling can be performed. In China, I have informed any manufacturer who lent me a unit to conduct random sampling. If there is a significant error between the performance and the unit being tested, I will release it.

(A D90 bought by my friend will be delivered to me this week)

I want the performance measurement platform to be a place that spurs manufacturers to make better products, not a place where they advertise by deception.
 

RichB

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#10
@amirm,

Is it possible to test Hi-res BT 5.0 and direct connection to Apple devices?
This might be a nice replacement for my Sonica DAC.

Thanks,

Rich
 

Jimster480

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#11
This is earth shattering! I may have to upgrade my DX7 now!
What a Christmas present Topping has given to us here at ASR!
Now I just wonder if they will follow up with an A70 or A90 Amp now that their work in the DAC department is done haha
 

RichB

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#14
My perfect replacement is a DAC with Roon endpoint, preferably without MQA support.

- Rich
 

ElNino

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#15
I actually hope RME will put the AK450x + amp and still will be lower than D90.
There is no AK450x and probably won't be for another eight years or so. RME did just revise the ADI-2 last month to use the AK4493, but it's still a voltage out part and is unlikely to be able to compete on this level even with perfect engineering. (Not that its performance is poor by any stretch of the imagination, just not likely as phenomenal as the AK4499.)

Where the RME still likely has the edge is if you intend to use it as a preamplifier (or if you need on-board DSP). The integration of multiple analog gain levels and digital attenuation likely will measure slightly better for that scenario.
 

Svperstar

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#17
What about RCA performance?
 
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#18
Thanks Amir for the review.

I was determined to buy a DX7 pro and seeing this review. I had a doubt ¿Which do you think may be the best DAC of these two models? I don't need the headphone amplifier of the DX7 pro. It seems that the D90 has very good values but others not as good as you commented, THD + N versus frequency and 90 kHz bandwidth.

Thank you.
 

imagidominc

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#19
MY GOODNESS! I own the D70 and it is amazing, so I was looking forward to what Topping could improve on with the D90. It looks like they went for the Gold and they pretty much got it! God-tier performance at only $700! Subjectively, there is audibly no difference between the D70 and the D90, but fantastic engineering must be rewarded!

I also believe that companies sending Amir "golden units" is akin to conspiracy theory to me.
 
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