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Topping D90SE Review (Balanced DAC)

G-rig

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So at the moment I'm using a 5V/3A (Pixel PD 'fast' charger), which meets the requirements as far as I know to power just he RPi4. How clean the signal is, who knows. Running through off a surge power board with plenty of other stuff plugged in.

Happy to not worry about the Pi2AES (being discontinued and US$200 is a bit rich + case + psu). Rather stick to USB as you are, my old DAC has USB input and sounds pretty good already. So if anything would consider adding necessary filters for the power and/or USB connection if it makes a difference (not sure if something like those iFi power x adapters are a waste of money or not - could be made for countries with less than good power supply).

ps. Already got a DAC with USB but looking at upgrading that.

Thanks,
 
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kchap

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So at the moment I'm using a 5V/3A (Pixel PD 'fast' charger), which meets the requirements as far as I know to power just he RPi4. How clean the signal is, who knows. Running through off a surge power board with plenty of other stuff plugged in.

Happy to not worry about the Pi2AES (being discontinued and US$200 is a bit rich + case + psu). Rather stick to USB as you are, my old DAC has USB input and sounds pretty good already. So if anything would consider adding necessary filters for the power and/or USB connection if it makes a difference (not sure if something like those iFi power x adapters are a waste of money or not - could be made for countries with less than good power supply).

Thanks,
Your DAC magic is getting a bit old so I'm not sure if noise/interference will be a problem. Try it before you buy a new PSU. All the DACs that have been reviewed and recommended in ASR this year seem to work brilliantly with the bog standard PSU.

I'll throw a question back at you. Will the RPI4 have extras like an OLED display or external HDD/SSD?
 

G-rig

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Your DAC magic is getting a bit old so I'm not sure if noise/interference will be a problem. Try it before you buy a new PSU. All the DACs that have been reviewed and recommended in ASR this year seem to work brilliantly with the bog standard PSU.

I'll throw a question back at you. Will the RPI4 have extras like an OLED display or external HDD/SSD?
Agreed, which is why it's time for an upgrade - main goals being:
- Hi res playback from Tidal over 44.1kHz, >= 192kHz using other sources (Qobuz etc)
- DAC with a volume control (was using a nano-patch gain control between DAC & Active monitors, so one set of XLR is better)
- Gapless playback (solved with RPi)

I currently have the RPi4 connected with USB to the DAC magic and it's sounding good (similar or better than CCA via Optical, although that still sounds great at 96kHz trialling Qobuz). There is the usual monitor hiss but nothing obvious I'd worry about - before reading on all the gizmos and jitter.

A 7" touch screen would be fun but I don't think I'll bother when can control via phone & Volumio web interface (and the player app of choice)
I had the pi connected to the tv via HDMI adapter+cable and there was a horrid ground loop. Luckily went away after unplugging and to be honest don't need it plugged in anyway. I'd like to get my Flac library on a ssd/hdd plugged into the pi, to act as a media streamer as it's sitting there.

FWIW I agree that you shouldn't need all the other stuff with a decent DAC as they should be capable of managing noise and jitter from inputs like USB/digital. I tested an SMSL Su-9 which sounded better than my old DAC, couldn't test MQA at the time with only CCA. There was a small pop powering on/off and drivers didn't work with win 10 at all so sent it back to Amazon (heard about the third harmony distortion issue and was obviously old stock). Waiting for a refund but keen on the smsl VMV D1se, Topping D70SE/D90SE or X16. Apparently the D1SE is very nice sound and musical.

Just keen to sort this out :)
ps. Probably pay for Volumio however noticed there is no support for Qobuz Connect for the RPi, won't bother getting that but it does sound good.
 
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kchap

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Agreed, which is why it's time for an upgrade - main goals being:
- Hi res playback from Tidal over 44.1kHz, >= 192kHz using other sources (Qobuz etc)
- DAC with a volume control (was using a nano-patch gain control between DAC & Active monitors, so one set of XLR is better)
- Gapless playback (solved with RPi)

I currently have the RPi4 connected with USB to the DAC magic and it's sounding good (similar or better than CCA via Optical, although that still sounds great at 96kHz trialling Qobuz). There is the usual monitor hiss but nothing obvious I'd worry about - before reading on all the gizmos and jitter.

A 7" touch screen would be fun but I don't think I'll bother when can control via phone & Volumio web interface (and the player app of choice)
I had the pi connected to the tv via HDMI adapter+cable and there was a horrid ground loop. Luckily went away after unplugging and to be honest don't need it plugged in anyway. I'd like to get my Flac library on a ssd/hdd plugged into the pi, to act as a media streamer as it's sitting there.

FWIW I agree that you shouldn't need all the other stuff with a decent DAC as they should be capable of managing noise and jitter from inputs like USB/digital. I tested an SMSL Su-9 which sounded better than my old DAC, couldn't test MQA at the time with only CCA. There was a small pop powering on/off and drivers didn't work with win 10 at all so sent it back to Amazon (heard about the third harmony distortion issue and was obviously old stock). Waiting for a refund but keen on the smsl VMV D1se, Topping D70SE/D90SE or X16. Apparently the D1SE is very nice sound and musical.

Just keen to sort this out :)
As the RPi will be using Linux, the drivers should not be an issue. The pop on powering up/down is usually down to the designer muting outputs. My D10B does a nice job of muting the output. The Khadas does not.

The only issue is power consumption. Is you have an eternal SSD/HDD it might be safer to stick with DACs that have external power or and an SSD USB hub combo that has external power. I'm not saying you will have problems but you need to aware. If weird things start happening with your RPi, it could be a power problem.

Any USB DAC that got a thumbs up in the last year should be okay from a noise and distortion perspective. Some will be better than others but you will not hear the difference. The only decision is features, looks and usability. In the main it will be your taste.

  • Do you need MQA?
    Balanced or un-balanced out? Do not worry TRS versus XLR, it will not change the sound.
  • Do you need a headphone output?
  • Volume control?
  • Do you need a display?
  • Remote control?
  • When you read the review thread were there a lot of complaints about the remote being unreliable, the channels not being matched at low volume settings or the menu being fiddly? Things like that might not show till a week or so after review.
  • Be suspicious of people that mention 'sound stage' or more 'musical'. DACs these day will tend to sound the same. They are all getting too good.
  • Do you like the colour?
  • Do you like the knobs.
  • Do you like the price.
  • R2R DACs tend to be more expensive and have less performance than Oversampling DACs. However it's your money
Some people like RME some like Gustard, some like SMSL, some like Loxjie etc. I have been happy with Topping. The 4 models you mentioned should do the job. Take your pick.
 

G-rig

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As the RPi will be using Linux, the drivers should not be an issue. The pop on powering up/down is usually down to the designer muting outputs. My D10B does a nice job of muting the output. The Khadas does not.

The only issue is power consumption. Is you have an eternal SSD/HDD it might be safer to stick with DACs that have external power or and an SSD USB hub combo that has external power. I'm not saying you will have problems but you need to aware. If weird things start happening with your RPi, it could be a power problem.

Any USB DAC that got a thumbs up in the last year should be okay from a noise and distortion perspective. Some will be better than others but you will not hear the difference. The only decision is features, looks and usability. In the main it will be your taste.

  • Do you need MQA? YES
    Balanced or un-balanced out? Do not worry TRS versus XLR, it will not change the sound. BALANCED XLR to Yamaha HS80M
  • Do you need a headphone output? NO, DAC only (separate headphone amp is the go, got an iFi Zen DAC+ Matrix M-Stage on PC setup)
  • Volume control? YES, want control given active monitors, and do away with nano patch and TRS cables. Got a longer set of XLR only now)
  • Do you need a display? Not really unless get bored and add one to the RPi4 for a roon endpoint one day. Phone/Web player good enough)
  • Remote control? YES, as above (tested the digital/variable on the SMSL worked ok - Fixed runs the risk of extremely loud)
  • When you read the review thread were there a lot of complaints about the remote being unreliable, the channels not being matched at low volume settings or the menu being fiddly? Things like that might not show till a week or so after review. Yes remote didn't work out of the box, chinese DAC some oddities.
  • Be suspicious of people that mention 'sound stage' or more 'musical'. DACs these day will tend to sound the same. They are all getting too good. Those SMSL filters sounded alright without being a gimmick, can change the sound which may help different setups.
  • Do you like the colour? The SU-9 looked a bit better in blue and could add matching amps but as long as same width Topping/THX/RME etc ok later on.
  • Do you like the knobs. volume knob handy and set at a normal level then regulate with phone/player - don't hink it needs to be pre-out (full up?)
  • Do you like the price.
  • R2R DACs tend to be more expensive and have less performance than Oversampling DACs. However it's your money The yamahas are great so whatever matches up, still prefer something musical than too clinical or harsh etc, instrument separation and not too smooth i guess.
Some people like RME some like Gustard, some like SMSL, some like Loxjie etc. I have been happy with Topping. The 4 models you mentioned should do the job. Take your pick.
Cheers - answers above in bold. Happy with the RPi4 and USB anyway, main thing is balanced out, vol, mqa support, remote, pre-amp mode meant to be good not sure what's best with active monitors (have them down a fair way now that the gain control disconnected, don't want too many different volumes affecting things). Like you say most of those would be good choices. An all in one like the EVO 150 is a bit too expensive, impressed with the RPi stuff for now. Funny there aren't too many all in one streamer/dac combos etc. Don't want to spend too much on Chinese stuff if it feels less than premium. Topping is probably reliable and a favourite of most people (they just look a bit cheap like a set-top box, but most DAC are small now). Don't mind perhaps powering a 2-4Tb HDD separately and connecting to the Pi if necessary, of beef up the supplied power as you mentioned. Last thing is that the recording/remastering quality makes more of a difference than tiny trivial upgrades but think a new DAC is in order :)
 

kchap

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Cheers - answers above in bold. Happy with the RPi4 and USB anyway, main thing is balanced out, vol, mqa support, remote, pre-amp mode meant to be good not sure what's best with active monitors (have them down a fair way now that the gain control disconnected, don't want too many different volumes affecting things). Like you say most of those would be good choices. An all in one like the EVO 150 is a bit too expensive, impressed with the RPi stuff for now. Funny there aren't too many all in one streamer/dac combos etc. Don't want to spend too much on Chinese stuff if it feels less than premium. Topping is probably reliable and a favourite of most people (they just look a bit cheap like a set-top box, but most DAC are small now). Don't mind perhaps powering a 2-4Tb HDD separately and connecting to the Pi if necessary, of beef up the supplied power as you mentioned. Last thing is that the recording/remastering quality makes more of a difference than tiny trivial upgrades but think a new DAC is in order :)
Glad to help. I was joking little about the colour etc. but, I was reinforcing the argument that they have good specs so the look is one of the few remaining differences.
 

amper42

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I enjoy this setup:
Qobuz or ripped CDs -> MacBook Pro 13" -> Audirvana app -> UPnP -> RPi4 (no hat) -> USB-> RME ADI-2 FS DAC -> XLR -> Purifi amp -> Revel F328Be. No pops, dead silent operation, no distortion, nice 13" screen to view CD art and access any song on the planet in high resolution.

I tested connecting the MBP directly to the ADI-2 versus using RPi4 UPnP connection but I'm unable to detect a sound quality difference. No special power supply on the RPi4, just a standard $10 CanaKit 3.5A Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply (USB-C).
 

G-rig

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Nice, may test out Audirvana as well before committing to Volumio, but it's fairly good with the tidal connect (just not free). At least it shows the RPI is a proven performer.

It's still a bit of gear with all these setups, wouldn't mind an Evo 150 and pair of bookshelves and that's it :)
 

kchap

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I enjoy this setup:
Qobuz or ripped CDs -> MacBook Pro 13" -> Audirvana app -> UPnP -> RPi4 (no hat) -> USB-> RME ADI-2 FS DAC -> XLR -> Purifi amp -> Revel F328Be. No pops, dead silent operation, no distortion, nice 13" screen to view CD art and access any song on the planet in high resolution.

I tested connecting the MBP directly to the ADI-2 versus using RPi4 UPnP connection but I'm unable to detect a sound quality difference. No special power supply on the RPi4, just a standard $10 CanaKit 3.5A Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply (USB-C).
I had not heard of Audirvana until I read this message. Do you pay a subscription fee or is there a base free version?
 

G-rig

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I had not heard of Audirvana until I read this message. Do you pay a subscription fee or is there a base free version?
Just looked it up , doesn't seem free

If I don't get an MQA DAC then not sure if volumio is worth it, but it's half the price and Tidal is still good anyway. Would be good to get one that supports Qobuz connect (as Volumio doesn't for now) but probably won't buy that either I guess.
 

amper42

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I had not heard of Audirvana until I read this message. Do you pay a subscription fee or is there a base free version?

I bought Audirvana last year. In May, the company changed the sales model to subscription at $6 a month.

You can use other UPnP players as well such as Roon for playing Qobuz and local media. Another interesting option is the Lumin app. https://www.luminmusic.com/lumin-app.html
 
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G-rig

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Roon seems like the best, but isn't it US$700, lifetime subscription?
 

kchap

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Just looked it up , doesn't seem free

If I don't get an MQA DAC then not sure if volumio is worth it, but it's half the price and Tidal is still good anyway. Would be good to get one that supports Qobuz connect (as Volumio doesn't for now) but probably won't buy that either I guess.
I use flac files and listen to web radio so I can use the free version of Volumio. I have played with MoOde - also free.

Now that Volumio is close to the official release of Version 3.xx - I'm using a release candidate - I prefer Volumio over MoOde. In 6 months time there might new release of MoOde which is better than Volumio. A good situation for me.

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G-rig

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Yeah i'm happy with Volumio without testing any others. Just seems to work, the web interface is neat and got the radio stations etc.
just need to plug my music on a drive into the pi4 , use that as a nas/streaming library. Beats leaving pc on and stuff
46$ a year (AUD) is probably worth it for Tidal connect (which is what i use), but no doubt free options for basic streaming.

I wouldn't mind giving Foobar some new attention too, shame they never got the uPNP stuff user friendly (tried it to no end in the past, where Plex just worked)

It looks like a bit of work:
 

hwest

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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/
Looks good, what do you're ears say about it? I have seen great specs that somehow don't translate into great sound, I can't speak to this particular system but do like ESS DAC's that are well implimented.
 

G-rig

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So Topping D90SE or the RME Adi-2 FS?
Could get the RME off a mate for a good price I think. Was keen on something with MQA but may not matter if the base quality and detail is fantastic.

It's a Shame the toppings and similar look like an ugly set top box from the early 90s. Would prefer a volume knob too.

PS be interested to Know what Drop do to enhance the products in general
 
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Gradius

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So Topping D90SE or the RME Adi-2 FS?
Could get the RME off a mate for a good price I think. Was keen on something with MQA but may not matter if the base quality and detail is fantastic.

It's a Shame the toppings and similar look like an ugly set top box from the early 90s. Would prefer a volume knob too.

PS be interested to Know what Drop do to enhance the products in general
Could be Gustard X16 too. Almost half the price and no way to tell you the audio difference.

Forget mqa. Total scam.
 

G-rig

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Could be Gustard X16 too. Almost half the price and no way to tell you the audio difference.

Forget mqa. Total scam.
Gustard looks cheap and probably quirky, but great reviews and spec.

I'll say I'll just grab my mates RME.

So if you don't have MQA decoding Tidal Will default to 48kHz max I believe.
 

G-rig

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Mqa enabled DAC and MQA may sound better but not fussed now. I can see what people are in a huff about if their DAC doesn't support it (and probably never listened to it).

The general Level of quality and detail of the RME I'd be happy with, just like maniacs with cd players, you know it will be just right. (Still got boxes of them I ripped to FLAC). Gustard and others good for the money, SMSL was promising , the su-9 I got had the problem, an little pop turning on/off , drivers not Work at all on PC. Piece of junk.
 

kchap

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Mqa enabled DAC and MQA may sound better but not fussed now. I can see what people are in a huff about if their DAC doesn't support it (and probably never listened to it).

The general Level of quality and detail of the RME I'd be happy with, just like maniacs with cd players, you know it will be just right. (Still got boxes of them I ripped to FLAC). Gustard and others good for the money, SMSL was promising , the su-9 I got had the problem, an little pop turning on/off , drivers not Work at all on PC. Piece of junk.
I can see the the RME with the AKM chip becoming the 'Garrad' of DACs. People will pay over odds to get hold of one. In a handmade Oak case, with Ebony and Rosewood inlay. The case costing10 times the price of the original DAC.
 
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