• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Topping D90SE Review (Balanced DAC)

BillyKueek

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
6
Likes
2
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Topping D90SE flagship balanced USB DAC. It was sent to me by the company for testing and I believe costs US $899.

The D90SE comes in the same clothes as current class of Topping products which is just fine with me:

View attachment 135755

We have the usual inputs and outputs including Bluetooth:

View attachment 135756

The architecture here is based on ESS ES9038PRO DAC instead of AKM silicon. Hopefully this means better availability of parts and DACs.

Topping D90SE DAC Measurements
Out of box output voltage is our standard 4 volts but there is also a setting to adjust that to 5 volt (see test of that later). Let's start with USB input and balanced XLR output:

View attachment 135757

Oh wow! We have a record breaker here when it comes to SINAD:
View attachment 135759

View attachment 135760

The Audio Precision analyzer puts severe strain on getting such high numbers due to its own self-noise so I was surprised to see 123 dB limit broken. Distortion is down to an incredibly low -140 dB!

Switching to RCA output, we naturally lose some performance:

View attachment 135761

Noise level is kept to absolute minimum producing some of the best dynamic range numbers I have seen:

View attachment 135763

Temporarily switching to 5 volt output we get:

View attachment 135764

So not a major change but if you have an amp that can accept it, you can push your noise floor down a bit more. Remember, while distortions are hard to hear, hiss from speakers or headphones is not.

Intermodulation distortion (really the noise aspect) sets a new benchmark:

View attachment 135765

There was a time when DX3 Pro was the benchmark. See how much the D90SE beats it by. It is almost left in the dust!

Courtesy of resampling in ESS DAC, jitter is a forgotten word with either input:

View attachment 135766

Combined with the ultra noise floor, we can clearly resolve the low order bits of the 250Hz square wave at 24 bits! I had to remove the ASR logo to reveal them!

Linearity locked in and ran so perfectly, I had to scratch my eyes to believe it:

View attachment 135767

You have a choice of 7 filters and I was happy to see thee of them producing the correct filtering for 44.1 kHz sampling:

View attachment 135768

Attenuation was so good that I had to lower the bottom of the scale to show where they bottom out.

The only puzzler was THD+N versus frequency:

View attachment 135769

Seems like there is some kind of ESS signature going on with some filter setting. Getting the best performance required selecting filter #7 which has a bit of roll off in frequency response.

Multitone is nailed so hard that you could almost hear it nail screaming from being hit so hard:
View attachment 135770


Conclusions
It is 3:00am but I had to stay up and post this review. It is not every day that every barrier we have seen in DACs gets shattered to new levels. We are seeing extreme attention to every aspect of this design to squeeze this much performance out of this ESS DAC. Just when we though the race was over, here comes one more over achiever! Those of you who have made it a hobby to upgrade the latest and greatest, here is another one for you! :)

At the risk of stating the very obvious, it is my absolute pleasure to recommend the Topping D90SE.

Note: this is a new product. If you are not an early adopter type of person, you may want others to go before you. My testing is focused on performance only, not reliability or functionality.

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

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Thank you for doing this. I am looking into this being my endgame DAC though still searching for cheaper alternatives. I am not technical but able to understand what you presented. Again, thank you.
 

Powell2199

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
5
Likes
0
Hello everyone.

I became an owner of 90SE two days ago and i'm quite happy with the sound. But there is an issue, it provides pretty evident click at the start of the playback.

This is using USB input and 90SE plugged directly into power amp over RCA. I tried it from my notebook running from battery and it still clicks. Tried different USB/RCA/Power cables and the click is still there. On my other two DACs there is no click in the same setup.

So is this normal or should I return it to the seller?
 

nelamvr6

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 18, 2020
Messages
75
Likes
93
Hello everyone.

I became an owner of 90SE two days ago and i'm quite happy with the sound. But there is an issue, it provides pretty evident click at the start of the playback.

This is using USB input and 90SE plugged directly into power amp over RCA. I tried it from my notebook running from battery and it still clicks. Tried different USB/RCA/Power cables and the click is still there. On my other two DACs there is no click in the same setup.

So is this normal or should I return it to the seller?

I haven't heard any clicks on playback start using RCA or XLR outputs. How loud is this click? Are you afraid it will damage your speakers, or is it just a nuisance?
 

Powell2199

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
5
Likes
0
I haven't heard any clicks on playback start using RCA or XLR outputs. How loud is this click? Are you afraid it will damage your speakers, or is it just a nuisance?
It's quite loud, I doubt it will damage my speakers, but it annoys the hell out of me.
At first I thought that my PC could be an issue, but as I said a tried it from my notebook disconnected from the AC supply.
 

nelamvr6

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 18, 2020
Messages
75
Likes
93
It's quite loud, I doubt it will damage my speakers, but it annoys the hell out of me.
At first I thought that my PC could be an issue, but as I said a tried it from my notebook disconnected from the AC supply.

That doesn't seem normal to me. Hopefully, others will pipe in soon with their experiences.

Who did you buy it from? Do they have a good reputation for their return policy? Would you just like to swap it for another D90SE?
 

rlwings

Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2020
Messages
76
Likes
45
Hello everyone.

I became an owner of 90SE two days ago and i'm quite happy with the sound. But there is an issue, it provides pretty evident click at the start of the playback.

This is using USB input and 90SE plugged directly into power amp over RCA. I tried it from my notebook running from battery and it still clicks. Tried different USB/RCA/Power cables and the click is still there. On my other two DACs there is no click in the same setup.

So is this normal or should I return it to the seller?
I think John (the designer) said that it 'clicks' in preamp mode but not in DAC mode. I have confirmed this.
 

Mikett

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
7
Likes
3
So I received a D90SE and within 10 minutes and throughout the day, I keep getting random dropouts in the signal as I listen. I use a Windows 10 PC with a Ryzen 3200G processor on an Asus MB. I also downloaded the latest driver. Did anybody solve the dropout problem as some have reported?
I am using it on a Benchmark LA4 and AHB2. My previous DAC did not have any dropouts and I used both an XMOS and an ASM3176 ( Xing) USB interface with that.
BTW, I am also finding like another couple others on the internaet that the D90SE the particular one I am using sounds like it is anemic in the bottom end. My prior DAC was a 9028Pro generic chinese dac with tricked out regulators and also using the OPA1612 and OPA1611 with Crystek clocks and Jung Regulators for Vref and IV section. Transformers were in separate chassis. Even the clock had its own LT3042....It broke down and I was too lazy to fix and troubleshoot. All kinds of resolution on the top end however on the D90SE and certainly I can hear the lower IM as compared to my prior 9028Pro.
 

Powell2199

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
5
Likes
0
A little update.

Switched my power amp into integrated mode. Turned Volume on 90SE to 0db and then tried switching tracks/sources etc and heard no clicks.
As it saddens me to say this it's maybe incomapatible with my old nad 326bee MAIN IN input. Oh well... I planned on changing amp anyway.

Guess I'll try it with a new amp and if it's still clicks i'll return it.
 

rlwings

Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2020
Messages
76
Likes
45
Interesting. I only ever used mine in preamp mode when using XLR outputs...
Maybe I misunderstood what John was saying. But I do remember him saying something about "if you don't mind the clicking" earlier in this thread ... Anyway, I heard clicks using Tidal\PC\USB\ in preamp mode. So I switched back to DAC mode.
 

Mikett

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
7
Likes
3
I continue to have dropouts with the Topping D90SE. I see a similar issue that is being experienced by others. I searched through the posts and I do not see John Yang responding when this issue surfaces by others, is this endemic to certain units or all units in certain cases? I contacted the seller and they said I should try changing cables but I already tried the cable they supplied as well another one I know works properly from my prior DAC. Same problem.
 

MakeMineVinyl

Major Contributor
Manufacturer
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
2,039
Likes
3,035
Location
Santa Fe, NM
I continue to have dropouts with the Topping D90SE. I see a similar issue that is being experienced by others. I searched through the posts and I do not see John Yang responding when this issue surfaces by others, is this endemic to certain units or all units in certain cases? I contacted the seller and they said I should try changing cables but I already tried the cable they supplied as well another one I know works properly from my prior DAC. Same problem.
I have seen a couple instances where a certain USB cable would cause dropouts, but I don't think this is your problem.
 

nelamvr6

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 18, 2020
Messages
75
Likes
93
I continue to have dropouts with the Topping D90SE. I see a similar issue that is being experienced by others. I searched through the posts and I do not see John Yang responding when this issue surfaces by others, is this endemic to certain units or all units in certain cases? I contacted the seller and they said I should try changing cables but I already tried the cable they supplied as well another one I know works properly from my prior DAC. Same problem.

Are these dropouts occurring when using with output from a TV? There have been a few reports I've read here of similar problems.
 

MrEWhite

Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2021
Messages
41
Likes
16
So, I'm having an issue with my new D90SE related to DSD. If I play any file with DSD (all I have at the moment is standard DSD64) through Roon or JRiver with ASIO or WASAPI and switch back to PCM, I have a quite noticeable hiss in the background that keeps going until about ten seconds after sound stops. Then, once I play any other audio, DSD or PCM, I have a hiss in the background until I restart the DAC by flicking the power switch off and on. Any help?
 

Mikett

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
7
Likes
3
Further developments about USB issues. All done on Windows PC using fairly recent Asus MB with a Ryzen processor.
I tried three cables and the last one a very short USB cable from a portable USB HDD helped a lot but the dropouts still remained.
So I reconfigured the USB outlets and found one where the dropout was improved significantly to about once per 30 minutes or so. These dropouts sound like a bad splice on a tape. Also every time there is a dropout, the display looks like the DAC is shut down and then it reconnects. Very brief, but it is visible.

Another oddity with respect to MQA. It appears using the TIDAL PC app, you are unable to turn off MQA. To get proper MQA decode you need to allow passthrough so that the DAC can handle two levels of unfolding. Also I select MQA in the main selection. So my Tidal APP is showing it is MASTER and the DAC is decoding and showing MQA. All is good.

Now suppose I do not want MQA.....It looks I am unable to get that. No matter what setting I used under STREAM setup, allow or not allow MQA pass through and no matter what setting I use in the main screen, HiFi or Master, the D90SE Always displays MQA in the display if the Tidal selection is available in MASTER. So essentially, I am unable to disable MQA. Or is it disabled and the D90SE is in error. I don't know.

Maybe I am doing something wrong here. But this is what I am seeing. Can anyone explain if I am wrong.

With regards to MQA decoding and the SQ on the D90SE, there is a difference between the 4 options in the TIDAL software in terms of SQ. So maybe there is a bug in the firmware as to how the D90SE handles MQA from the TIDAL app or I have it all wrong.
 

rlwings

Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2020
Messages
76
Likes
45
Further developments about USB issues. All done on Windows PC using fairly recent Asus MB with a Ryzen processor.
I tried three cables and the last one a very short USB cable from a portable USB HDD helped a lot but the dropouts still remained.
So I reconfigured the USB outlets and found one where the dropout was improved significantly to about once per 30 minutes or so. These dropouts sound like a bad splice on a tape. Also every time there is a dropout, the display looks like the DAC is shut down and then it reconnects. Very brief, but it is visible.

Another oddity with respect to MQA. It appears using the TIDAL PC app, you are unable to turn off MQA. To get proper MQA decode you need to allow passthrough so that the DAC can handle two levels of unfolding. Also I select MQA in the main selection. So my Tidal APP is showing it is MASTER and the DAC is decoding and showing MQA. All is good.

Now suppose I do not want MQA.....It looks I am unable to get that. No matter what setting I used under STREAM setup, allow or not allow MQA pass through and no matter what setting I use in the main screen, HiFi or Master, the D90SE Always displays MQA in the display if the Tidal selection is available in MASTER. So essentially, I am unable to disable MQA. Or is it disabled and the D90SE is in error. I don't know.

Maybe I am doing something wrong here. But this is what I am seeing. Can anyone explain if I am wrong.

With regards to MQA decoding and the SQ on the D90SE, there is a difference between the 4 options in the TIDAL software in terms of SQ. So maybe there is a bug in the firmware as to how the D90SE handles MQA from the TIDAL app or I have it all wrong.
I've noticed that Tidal can be a bit buggy and can get corrupted easily with too much switching back and forth of settings.... I found a complete uninstall and reinstall of Tidal and all audio drivers made settings in Tidal 'changeable' again.
 

Mikett

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
7
Likes
3
I've noticed that Tidal can be a bit buggy and can get corrupted easily with too much switching back and forth of settings.... I found a complete uninstall and reinstall of Tidal and all audio drivers made settings in Tidal 'changeable' again.
OK about the MQA part, I figured out what is happening but this does not mean what is happening is correct or incorrect. I simply do not know.

So let me explain what is happening now. In Kandace Springs "The Women Who Raised Me". Everything works to plan. When all the appropriate settings are done, we get MQA and a 96Khz sample rate. When we choose HiFi, the sample rate drops and the screen displays PCM as I would expect. The settings of pass through seems to not matter. So fine everything good so far.

Now when we choose the Stacey Kent's" I Know I Dream" which is also listed as Master according to Tidal, With the MQA settings, we get MQA on the D90SE screen but we only get a sample rate of 44.1. Now when we try to switch to PCM by choosing the settings that worked with Kandace Spring's album, the screen retains MQA. Even when we choose choose different Passthrough settings, the same data is listed on the screen of the D90SE.

So what is the deal, is Stacey's Kent's album a fake MQA? Or is it a variation of MQA? If it is the latter why does the not D90SE respond properly. I should get PCM with some setting of the four possible. I don't know if the issue is with Tidal or it is with the Topping D90SE. Until someone else has another MQA decoder that is working properly, I won't know.

Thus far, either Tidal's app ( fully updated Sept 18 2021) is messed up or The D90SE is not responding properly to the MQA or Non MQA instructions. in the stream.

As for the USB issues, I have spent hours trying to decipher what is going on. These are my conclusions so far and still not totally conclusive. It appears that on my particular PC, the quality of the USB output is different. When I use the ports on the MB header, I get more dropouts. I get superior results by using a port through the USB headers and through an extending cable to the rear of the PC. I have had results the opposite on printers before where the most trouble free data transmission was directly from the headers as compared to an extension of expansion card. I cannot conclude but the D90SE I have is exhibiting USB issues where previously my Khadas Tone Board and another DAC using an XMOS and XING adapter had no issues.

For my sample, I am seeing two issues what is causing it, I don't know.
 

rlwings

Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2020
Messages
76
Likes
45
OK about the MQA part, I figured out what is happening but this does not mean what is happening is correct or incorrect. I simply do not know.

So let me explain what is happening now. In Kandace Springs "The Women Who Raised Me". Everything works to plan. When all the appropriate settings are done, we get MQA and a 96Khz sample rate. When we choose HiFi, the sample rate drops and the screen displays PCM as I would expect. The settings of pass through seems to not matter. So fine everything good so far.

Now when we choose the Stacey Kent's" I Know I Dream" which is also listed as Master according to Tidal, With the MQA settings, we get MQA on the D90SE screen but we only get a sample rate of 44.1. Now when we try to switch to PCM by choosing the settings that worked with Kandace Spring's album, the screen retains MQA. Even when we choose choose different Passthrough settings, the same data is listed on the screen of the D90SE.

So what is the deal, is Stacey's Kent's album a fake MQA? Or is it a variation of MQA? If it is the latter why does the not D90SE respond properly. I should get PCM with some setting of the four possible. I don't know if the issue is with Tidal or it is with the Topping D90SE. Until someone else has another MQA decoder that is working properly, I won't know.

Thus far, either Tidal's app ( fully updated Sept 18 2021) is messed up or The D90SE is not responding properly to the MQA or Non MQA instructions. in the stream.

As for the USB issues, I have spent hours trying to decipher what is going on. These are my conclusions so far and still not totally conclusive. It appears that on my particular PC, the quality of the USB output is different. When I use the ports on the MB header, I get more dropouts. I get superior results by using a port through the USB headers and through an extending cable to the rear of the PC. I have had results the opposite on printers before where the most trouble free data transmission was directly from the headers as compared to an extension of expansion card. I cannot conclude but the D90SE I have is exhibiting USB issues where previously my Khadas Tone Board and another DAC using an XMOS and XING adapter had no issues.

For my sample, I am seeing two issues what is causing it, I don't know.
I don't know for sure about your MQA issues, but I think that not all MQA files are 96khz. And as far as USB quality, yes, I had dropouts using a good quality home-built ASUS motherboard. I changed to another ASUS home-built PC and boom! USB issues solved... So probably has to do with USB power routing or varying chipsets of the PC.... Apparently the D90SE is sensitive to minor USB variances.... Weren't cheaper chips chosen for this model? - Bet that's it. :(
 

gvl

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 16, 2018
Messages
2,832
Likes
2,991
Location
SoCal
There’s a simple solution to the MQA issue - don’t use MQA. It’s an ill-conceived flawed format to begin with and many DACs seem to struggle to support it properly. As for USB, did you try to put a powered USB hub between the pc and the DAC?
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom