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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

Jimster480

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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.
I don't think any of the other devices have those features. I could be wrong though.
 

cicquetto

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Is it possible with this DAC to output with XLR to a power amplifier and at the same time output to a powered subwoofer via RCA?
 

theREALdotnet

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Is it possible with this DAC to output with XLR to a power amplifier and at the same time output to a powered subwoofer via RCA?

Yes.
 

raif71

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A = flagship headphone amps
L = headphone amps
D = flagship DACs
E = DACs
DX = DAC+headphone amp combos
P = power amps

But then sometimes the prices don't align like they should, a product in a non-flagship lineup gets an upgrade that puts it above the one in the flagship lineup, and Topping ends up competing with themselves.
Perhaps you're right but what about D10b? No where near flagship dac
 

johny_2000

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Hi all,

Long time reader, first time posting.

Please advise me between these three DACs that will work when paired with their own headphone amplifiers for listening to the Sennheiser HD650 and HD800S:
1. SMSL SU-X + SMSL SP400 or SH-9 h/amp,
2. TOPPING D90 III + TOPPING A90 Discrete h/amp,
3. RME ADI-2 DAC FS (built-in h/amp).

Thank you.
 

Mnyb

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Hi all,

Long time reader, first time posting.

Please advise me between these three DACs that will work when paired with their own headphone amplifiers for listening to the Sennheiser HD650 and HD800S:
1. SMSL SU-X + SMSL SP400 or SH-9 h/amp,
2. TOPPING D90 III + TOPPING A90 Discrete h/amp,
3. RME ADI-2 DAC FS (built-in h/amp).

Thank you.
I vote 3 .
RME has many cool features and the company has a good quality reputation and with the headphones you intend to use , the headphone amp does not need to be the best in the world ( if that days comes when you buy some very hard to drive phones , the budget would allow for external headphone amp and keeping the RME as DAC )
 

Rhamnetin

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Hi all,

Long time reader, first time posting.

Please advise me between these three DACs that will work when paired with their own headphone amplifiers for listening to the Sennheiser HD650 and HD800S:
1. SMSL SU-X + SMSL SP400 or SH-9 h/amp,
2. TOPPING D90 III + TOPPING A90 Discrete h/amp,
3. RME ADI-2 DAC FS (built-in h/amp).

Thank you.

The A90 Discrete is effectively surpassed by the less costly A70 Pro, which is also more powerful. But between just those three options, I'd also get the RME for the same reasons described above. And this is coming from someone who had the SMSL SU-X.
 

johny_2000

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I vote 3 .
RME has many cool features and the company has a good quality reputation and with the headphones you intend to use , the headphone amp does not need to be the best in the world ( if that days comes when you buy some very hard to drive phones , the budget would allow for external headphone amp and keeping the RME as DAC )
Thanks for your vote. I almost settled on RME about 6 months ago, and was preparing a budget for the purchase, but the latest two products from SMSL and TOPPING with two ESS ES9039PRO chips looked very promising. This put me again at a time of choice.
 

johny_2000

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The A90 Discrete is effectively surpassed by the less costly A70 Pro, which is also more powerful. But between just those three options, I'd also get the RME for the same reasons described above. And this is coming from someone who had the SMSL SU-X.
Thank you for your opinion.
I have never owned SMSL and TOPPING products, so I took a suitable headphone amplifier from their suggested advertisement.
65893013850ad51cc52550ac_D90-III--en-13.jpg
 

Mnyb

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It would be a no-brainer if RME switched their DAC of choice to the latest ESS Sabre product. But they are several years behind competitors' products in this regard.
Not really implementation is everything they switched from AKM to ESS when AKM had a factory fire and could not deliver and the product is essentials the same . And performs very well besides not using the top shelf chip

So I would not pay that much attention to exactly what DAC chip they use inside.
All three DAC’s you picked are beyond human hearing to tell apart so they will sound the same .

RME volume control built in EQ and calibrated loudness control is a killer feature set . There is also one variant with analog input of very good quality an ADC and one with ok phono stage .

RME’s real business is professional recording interfaces ,so the ADI-2 version with ADC ( analog in ) can be used to make records.
 

johny_2000

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Not really implementation is everything they switched from AKM to ESS when AKM had a factory fire and could not deliver and the product is essentials the same . And performs very well besides not using the top shelf chip

RME volume control built in EQ and calibrated loudness control is a killer feature set . There is also one variant with analog input of very good quality an ADC and one with ok phono stage .

RME’s real business is professional recording interfaces ,so the ADI-2 version with ADC ( analog in ) can be used to make records.
I agree that RME DAC is an excellent product from a company with a well-known reputation in the audio industry. It’s just that there’s a gnawing feeling that they can make this product even better, even cooler, and outdo these newbie companies in terms of technical specifications. Maybe the audiophile market isn't big enough for them to invest in improving an already good product?
 

Mnyb

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I agree that RME DAC is an excellent product from a company with a well-known reputation in the audio industry. It’s just that there’s a gnawing feeling that they can make this product even better, even cooler, and outdo these newbie companies in terms of technical specifications. Maybe the audiophile market isn't big enough for them to invest in improving an already good product?
It’s more like that a professional company has longer product cycles they can have the same device for a long time.
And have a very meticulous and slow development strategy

Consumer audio wants to give the illusion of progress and comes with new products all the time :)

Beside RME could have changed the name of thier ADI-2 product it has been several revisions of it even one with a different DAC chip ? A consumer audio company might also redesign the box and give it a new name .

So,if topping had been a pro company the D90 had kept it’s name and had quit upgrades now and then ? now we have D90 , D90II and D90III :)

They are just on different markets the European professionals likes familiarity.

The internal Chinese hifi market is allegedly very fast moving and demands new products all the time ?
 

Jimster480

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Hi all,

Long time reader, first time posting.

Please advise me between these three DACs that will work when paired with their own headphone amplifiers for listening to the Sennheiser HD650 and HD800S:
1. SMSL SU-X + SMSL SP400 or SH-9 h/amp,
2. TOPPING D90 III + TOPPING A90 Discrete h/amp,
3. RME ADI-2 DAC FS (built-in h/amp).

Thank you.
I think that all 3 of these are super overkill.
However any of them will work. RME probably best quality. SMSL Best value. Topping in the middle.
 

Null-Test

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I'm inclined to agree with you. Those differences are particularly interesting because both use the same DAC. That rise with frequency appears in Topping's own measurements, but to a lesser degree.

View attachment 345071

The SMSL D400ES (D70 Pro Saber competitor) behaves more like the D70 here too in that it's flatter. SMSL sadly doesn't provide this measurement themselves - I'm curious how their competitor to this, the SU-X, performs here. I would have eventually offered to send mine to Amir to review, but it already kicked the bucket.

- Edit: This would follow the pattern going on with Topping's headphone amps, where the A70 Pro is king.

That graph is for the D90 III Sabre DAC, but it seems you’ve forgotten to also include the same ‘THD vs Frequency’ measurement graph, as performed by Topping, for the D70 Pro Sabre DAC.

In fact, as per Topping’s own measurements the D70 Pro Sabre exhibits, also in that regard, worse measured performance than the D90 III Sabre, where a more pronounced rising with frequency can be seen, reaching 2x the THD @ 20kHz:

1708901999128.jpeg


There’s one caveat however, the declared default PCM filter for each of those DACs is different. The owner’s manual clearly states that, in the case of the D70 Pro Sabre, the default filter is “F-1: Minimum Phase”, whereas for the D90 III Sabre the default filter is “F-3: Linear Phase Fast Roll-off”.

Assuming that this difference is not a typo from Topping, there should be a good reason for using a filter that doesn’t even provide a flat frequency response across the audible spectrum as default, which is the case for “Minimum Phase”.

It’s also reasonable to assume that Topping would choose whatever filter could give the best measured ‘THD vs Frequency’ performance for each DAC, as a way of advertising it!

Finally, from amirm graphs one can realize that what it is considered to be the default, at least stated as such, PCM filter used for both DACs measurements is “F-3: Linear Phase Fast Roll-off”.

Maybe @amirm could clarify this!
 

Jimster480

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That graph is for the D90 III Sabre DAC, but it seems you’ve forgotten to also include the same ‘THD vs Frequency’ measurement graph, as performed by Topping, for the D70 Pro Sabre DAC.

In fact, as per Topping’s own measurements the D70 Pro Sabre exhibits, also in that regard, worse measured performance than the D90 III Sabre, where a more pronounced rising with frequency can be seen, reaching 2x the THD @ 20kHz:

View attachment 352357

There’s one caveat however, the declared default PCM filter for each of those DACs is different. The owner’s manual clearly states that, in the case of the D70 Pro Sabre, the default filter is “F-1: Minimum Phase”, whereas for the D90 III Sabre the default filter is “F-3: Linear Phase Fast Roll-off”.

Assuming that this difference is not a typo from Topping, there should be a good reason for using a filter that doesn’t even provide a flat frequency response across the audible spectrum as default, which is the case for “Minimum Phase”.

It’s also reasonable to assume that Topping would choose whatever filter could give the best measured ‘THD vs Frequency’ performance for each DAC, as a way of advertising it!

Finally, from amirm graphs one can realize that what it is considered to be the default, at least stated as such, PCM filter used for both DACs measurements is “F-3: Linear Phase Fast Roll-off”.

Maybe @amirm could clarify this!
This is part of what I have been talking about for some time now. The Dashboard for SINAD is just at one frequency. Even the Linearity test uses one frequency and looks at a products deviation from that tone. The performance across various tones could paint a whole different picture and THD sweeps like this one showing "average SINAD" would make for an entirely new metric where "technical excellence" is truly measured in a different way.
I believe that with this type of expansion on testing and new ways of ranking things; we might be able to quell some of the "subjective vs objective" fight that has always been such a hot topic.
 
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