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TOPPING D90 III Sabre DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 12 3.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 29 7.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 97 25.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 237 63.2%

  • Total voters
    375

JEntwistle

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It really is a no-brainer, isn’t it? Even though the D90 III has dual DAC chips, this added expense doesn’t seem to yield any results. Hence, unless you need IIS input (who needs that?) or fancy the Bluetooth remote control, go with the D70 Pro.

I agree. It seems to be all about whether you need those specific features. I also wonder why they did not upgrade to the fancy display that the D70 Pro Sabre has. Is the IIS input a big thing to implement from an engineering perspective and/or does it preclude being able to add the display?

I'm struggling to understand why the D90 does not really seem like the flagship model, which you would expect to have everything.
 

DLS79

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I agree. It seems to be all about whether you need those specific features. I also wonder why they did not upgrade to the fancy display that the D70 Pro Sabre has. Is the IIS input a big thing to implement from an engineering perspective and/or does it preclude being able to add the display?

I'm struggling to understand why the D90 does not really seem like the flagship model, which you would expect to have everything.

I'd assume they were trying to keep it under the $900 mark, so some things had to be left out!
 

audioje

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SMSL SU-X is out too (and I'm sure it should be just as good as D90 iii). Won't be getting these $$$ DACs but the competition between Topping and SMSL is quite an interesting showdown.
 

Veri

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I have been mulling over this DAC for a couple weeks, and I do not think it is definitively better than the Topping D70 Pro Sabre even from a purely objective sense.

My argument is simple:

While the D90 III's SINAD on its own is a smidge better, 123.8 dB versus 123.4 dB....
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....the D70 Pro Sabre beats it in several other important areas including:

1. The D70 Pro Sabre offers an impressive 23 bits of distortion free range with a 192 Khz 32-tone multitone signal versus the 21.7 bits of the D90 III.
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2. The D70 Pro Sabre offers lower distortion (flat across the audible spectrum) with its default filter, versus the D90 III which has a visible rise above 8 KHz.
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Add to that that the D70 Pro Sabre has a spectrum analyzer and beautiful color display and interface. Subjective, yes, but consider this. Suppose you are presented with these two DACs, one with very, very, very slightly better SINAD while the other has a bit better multitone and filter distortion/noise performance. Then this other has also a modern user interface which is a huge plus over the blatantly 90s digital alarm clock design of the flagship. Suddenly, the D90 III really isn't that compelling and maybe even shouldn't have gotten the flagship pricing treatment.

Indeed, the D90 III has a technically world-class SINAD but Topping really needs to stop playing this one-trick-pony game of SINAD. Otherwise, they will lose sight of other key objective measures and other extremely important features in I/O and UI that users also value. And before they know it, they will get passed up by competitors like up-and-comer EverSolo who has truly upped the ante in integration, I/O, and UI.

As always, feel free to correct me. We are all here to learn and have fun together!
Lol come on. Those multitones are essentially the same, no :)
 

zhgutov

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Maybe a D90 Pro model will be coming in the future with some of the same features and UI enhancements as the D70 Pro?
Personally I would prefer even more simple and direct approach.
Something like each physical button = some setting.
So I hope they will not follow the "Aurora" approach :)
I don't think this is enhancement at all.
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bkdc

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Yep. Stop chasing SINAD and measurements and focus on ergonomics and easy to use simple controls and display.
 

Vinyl Rules!

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If two DACs sound the same, what is the value of buying the one that measures "best"? For most consumers, there will be a strong expectation that "the best there is" will sound better than any other DACs.
I think the value in buying the one that measures best is that as components age, the one that measured best will age better than the ones that measured slightly worse, and it will still measure best ten years in the future even though any differences will still be inaudible. It’s really measurement hedonism
 

BrooklynNick

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I think the value in buying the one that measures best is that as components age, the one that measured best will age better than the ones that measured slightly worse, and it will still measure best ten years in the future even though any differences will still be inaudible. It’s really measurement hedonism

Is there any evidence to back that claim? If parts are degrading with age, there is no reason to think this will be linear or that better measuring DACs would be less susceptible, AFAIK. How a DAC degrades/fails is going to depend on the specific part and the overall architecture, like any complex system.
 

Vinyl Rules!

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Is there any evidence to back that claim? If parts are degrading with age, there is no reason to think this will be linear or that better measuring DACs would be less susceptible, AFAIK. How a DAC degrades/fails is going to depend on the specific part and the overall architecture, like any complex system.
I was using a simple analogy: While it’s likely some DAC manufacturers have stress-tested their own products I this it’s very unlikely they did the same
with competitors’ products.

Yes, you are technically correct, but if you think of DAC’s as tyres or humans, a brand A tyre with a 100Km advertised tread life will generally last longer than a brand B tyre with a 50Km advertised tread life. And a 20 year old professional athlete will generally have a longer (and healthier) life than a 20 year old football punter who smokes, drinks gallons of beer weekly, and weighs over 25 stone.

So, in general, a brand A DAC that measures best on day one vs. a mix of brands B through Z DAC’s will generally measure best 50 years hence when compared to the same mix of brands B through Z DAC’s.

As always, YMMV (Your Measurements May Vary)
 

Chagall

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@BrooklynNick @Vinyl Rules!
Guys, you are overcomplicating the issue. The original question was what's the value of buying a DAC that measures best? There is NO value to it other than the bragging rights AKA the DAC measuring contest.

There will be no audible differences between 118dB DAC and 123dB DAC and in 10 years both of those DACs (if they work at all) will still be as transparent as whatever new DAC will come out then.

Differences or why you would buy one over the other come down to budget, features, inputs, and design. For example: I would rather leave some performance on the table, to have a DAC that has PEQ.
 

zhgutov

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Best measuring DAC may be used as a signal generator to test other gear, or for testing some DSP.
That's why I don't like the worse jitter performance of D90 III compared to D90SE.
And that's why I don't like the D90SE working worse in 192K+ modes.
Actually I found that by my ears checking the DSP which was supposed to sound the same at the different sampling rates.
I want to use it for music listening too, of course :)
 

Amused

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Measurements aside, this DAC is no doubt impressive, Topping should have invested more into its design to really set it apart as its flagship DAC, especially at this higher price point. At a minimum, they should have implemented the screen from the D70 Pro Sabre. At these performance levels (no way my ears can discern the differences) it comes down to industrial design and user experience, and the D90.3 does not impress. IMO, the D70 Pro Sabre and even the E70 Velvet betters it in these areas. A true step up would have been implementing a touch screen and doing away with the knob and buttons…maybe with the D90.4.
 

BrooklynNick

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@BrooklynNick @Vinyl Rules!
Guys, you are overcomplicating the issue. The original question was what's the value of buying a DAC that measures best? There is NO value to it other than the bragging rights AKA the DAC measuring contest.

There will be no audible differences between 118dB DAC and 123dB DAC and in 10 years both of those DACs (if they work at all) will still be as transparent as whatever new DAC will come out then.

Differences or why you would buy one over the other come down to budget, features, inputs, and design. For example: I would rather leave some performance on the table, to have a DAC that has PEQ.

I'm not sure why you are addressing this to me. I'm the one who asked that rhetorical question in response to @amirm who said that there was value for buyers to buy the best measuring DAC. I was disagreeing with him. And I was disagreeing with the idea that a more expensive DAC will have better measurements ten years down the road, which I think is a unsupported claim. @Vinyl Rules! had a clever and amusing analogy, but I don't think the comparison between human health and electronics holds up.
 

Jimster480

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I'm honestly not sure what the purpose of this device is... there are too many of the same devices on the market with the same performance for years now. I feel like they are just making these just to make them. What about adding some new features in some way? Doing inbuilt DSP or something?
 

Pbnmjk

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Just buy a $900 AVR. Apparently nobody can hear the difference.

Seriously, HDMI is mainly for AV and multichannel audio, and this is purist stereo. Most equipment with HDMI output also has toslink or spdif. Doesn't yours?

The other problem is that when HDMI carries audio in the conventional sense (not I2S) the audio is embedded in a video signal. One of the reasons that top-tier DACs perform so well is because they DON'T have any digital video processing. The HF noise and interference always impacts audio quality.
And what about SACD players with HDMI output for stereo DSD?
 

welwynnick

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Use i-Link or Denonlink.
No, that wasn't serious, but SACD and DSD isn't really where we're going.
Too bad IMHO.
 

RitzyBusiness

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Does it offer more audio degradation(fun) modes than the d70 sabre? The d70 sabre has optional faux tube and transistor settings.

Which imo it's the only reason I could ever see spending money on it over the e50 for my use case.
 
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