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Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the new Topping L30 headphone amplifier. It is a companion to their E30 DAC. I don't have official pricing on it but see it on some sites for US $130.

This is a compact unit but with nicely thought out controls:

Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier Audio Review.jpg


There was a plastic cover in the front which had very clear labels on it. But once I pulled it off, I realized the real labels are not as easy to read. So you may want to leave that plastic on it. Then again there is not much to remember here to need the labels. The left switch controls whether the output is the headphone or line out in the back. And there are three useful gain modes: -9, 0 and +9 dB. The first one is super useful for very sensitive IEMs and headphones allowing the volume control to operate in its most accurate range.

The back panel is as you expect but there is a change in how the unit is powered:
Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier Back panel RC Inputs Output AC Transformer Adapter Audio Review.jpg


Yes, it is a rather heavy, 15 volt AC transformer rated at 1 amp. Not a switching power supply. So be careful to get the unit rated for your country. AC transformers have a design benefit in that you can create both positive and negative DC supplies from them which is needed for amplification. With a single voltage switching power supply, you have to create a negative supply using DC to DC switching converters that creates a weak link.

In use, the L30 got a bit warm but nothing to be concerned about.

Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements
As usual, I feed the amp a superbly high quality analog 1 kHz tone at 2 volts, set the volume/gain to output 2 volts ("unity gain") and see how much distortion and noise we get:

Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


Wow, this is incredible. You can barely see a distortion spike at -150 dB, some of which is from the analyzer output. SINAD which is the some of noise and distortion, is now dominated by the noise of L30 and the analyzer itself, producing near limit of 121.4 dB. This lets the the L30 to reach the top of the ladder by a hair:


best headphone amplifier review 2020.png


Quite an accomplishment!

Noise performance by itself is excellent:

Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier SNR Audio Measurements.png


The right side shows that even when we drastically reduce output to just 50 millivolts, we still have the full dynamic range of the CD, placing the L30 again at the top of the class:
Lowest noise IEM headphone amplifier review measurements.png


Frequency response of course is exceptionally flat and wideband:
Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


Multitone test resembling "music" proves how clean this amplifier is:

Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Most important test here is power so let's see what the L30 can do into 300 ohm (high) load:

Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier Power into 300 ohm Audio Measurements.png


Wow! There was a time when we thought the Drop THX AAA was the best we could do and here comes the L30, with so much lower noise and distortion. Note that this test for historical reasons does NOT use the lowest distortion mode of my analyzer. So actual distortion is limited by this test setup. The L30 is likely even better than what is seen.

Same beautiful dance is shown with opposite load of 33 ohm:

Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier Power into 33 ohm Audio Measurements.png


Channel balance was exceptionally good for an amplifier with analog controls:

Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier Channel Balance Audio Measurements.png


If the other samples in the field are this good, this alone differentiates the L30 strongly from the competition for those of you with sensitive IEMs/headphones.

Headphone Amplifier Listening Tests
Measurements predicts that we have tons of absolutely clean power and that is what I heard. Even with my low impedance and very inefficient Ether CX headphone, I had no trouble getting clean sound to the limits of what I could tolerate. Ditto for HD-650 which produced exceptional detail and thundering bass which it can only deliver when pumped with authority.

Conclusions
The race toward perfection and beyond continues in headphone amplifiers at incredibly low prices. The L30 is the latest offering, firmly grabbing the top of the class and holding on to it. Its functionality is excellent and price is very reasonable.

I can't recommend the Topping L30 strongly enough. It is superb engineering in small package and low cost. Get one and thank yourself that you live in this era and not a few years ago.

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

Here it is Sunday evening and I am "working" doing reviews. Least you all can do is pay me well by
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sprellemannen

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Wow. Amazing performance and very low price.
No problem with the volume knob being a little bit close to the headphone jack?
 
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amirm

amirm

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amirm

amirm

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The output power measured is about 50% compared to Topping's spec. Am I missing something here?
View attachment 77403
That's strange. Seems like those are one channel power ratings, not two.

Then again it could be with higher input drive than 2 volts I use with higher distortion to go with it.
 
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amirm

amirm

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#11
There was a plastic cover in the front which had very clear labels on it. But once I pulled it off, I realized the real labels are not as easy to read. So you may want to leave that plastic on it.
I was caught out by this too, I freaked out for a second thinking that it was some plastic that I wasn't supposed to peel off. But after a while I like that it's probably a little more understated letting it blend in. It makes sense since once you get used to it, there isn't really much of a need to have the labelling be so visible anyway.

Great measurements, glad I jumped on this one as my intro to headphone amps!
 

3125b

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#12
In Wolfs test of a pre-production unit it was really bad.
 

Kouioui

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I would have swapped the position of the power LED and output jack but it's really not that big of a deal. Been enjoying this and the E30 since last Wednesday and is a significant upgrade to the FiiO K5 Pro I was using. Bravo @JohnYang1997 and Topping!
 
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amirm

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JohnYang1997

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That's strange. Seems like those are one channel power ratings, not two.

Then again it could be with higher input drive than 2 volts I use with higher distortion to go with it.
Those are dual channel ratings but with higher input voltage. Can we get a supplementary measurement?:D
 
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