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Topping L50 Review (Headphone Amp)

Veri

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I wonder how loud you guys listen, I use my HD650 in low gain pretty much exclusively, and that's after pre-gain/digital EQ...
 

hovation

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I use oratory's HD650 preset (with the 105 low shelf filter at 4dB instead of 5, only change I've made so far) and the pre-amp wants -9.3dB. I have an Aune X7s and at medium gain I don't have enough on the volume knob depending on the track. High gain is quite high at 20dB on that amp. The Topping E30 v1 with 2Vrms feeding it has the same issue at the highest gain. That's the amp I'm ultimately looking to replace in the office.

I feel like the L50 will probably be enough, but I'd rather it be "more than enough" and feel like, perhaps, the L30 II might be the way to go. Using balanced with the Aune ups the power significantly, but either that on medium gain or single-ended on high gain definitely introduces some distortion before very high levels. This is why I'm hoping the L50 or L30 II will solve that issue. The E30 v1 is in the living room right now for the times I play games through my PC out there or the very occasional music listening I do out there with headphones instead of the office. No EQ out there so it's barely enough for my needs at high gain.
 

djtetei

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@hovation
As I said earlier, you can drive the Sennheiser HD6xx well with Topping L50.
Also, you mentioned that you intend to buy the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 headphones. Their nominal power capacity is 200 mW at 250 ohms.
With an input level of 2 Vrms, on high gain setting, Topping L50 should be able to deliver 392.75 mW at 250 ohms, which will give you 2.92 dB of headroom (power reserve).
 

Χ Ξ Σ

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This is my setup with L50 and HD6XX. My DAC is set to 4dBu (1.2V) and the volume knob barely passes 2 o'clock on low gain.
 

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hovation

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This is my setup with L50 and HD6XX. My DAC is set to 4dBu (1.2V) and the volume knob barely passes 2 o'clock on low gain.
Awesome! That is good to know, perhaps the L50 will suit my needs just fine then. I have a pre-amp gain of -12dB or so, this is another reason for the concern. But it will be getting 2Vrms from an E30, but good to know the 1.5Vrms from the FiiO D03K in the living room might be enough if I decide to use it out there and get something more powerful for the office.

@djtetei
Thank you, seems like it may be sufficient. It's arriving today and we'll see how it goes!
 

djtetei

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Thank you, seems like it may be sufficient. It's arriving today and we'll see how it goes!
Please, give us your feedback after putting the L50 to its paces with your headphones.
 

hovation

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So the L50 arrived. I love the feel, that volume pot is awesome. Great form factor and fit and finish.

However, there is only a bit more headroom than the original L30 (which I've decided that I will be returning soon enough). I connected them using an RCA splitter out of my E30 DAC and then a 3.5mm passive switcher to A/B back and forth. Both at high gain and maxed, the L50 got a bit louder, but not nearly as much as I was hoping for. Interesting as I believe the L30 v1 hit 117mW in Amir's testing with 2Vrms in. I was expecting the volume (or available loudness, I suppose) of the L50 with 2Vrms in to be quite a bit higher than the L30 v1. It is louder, and that small bit extra is nice. But I need moooooore :)

Now I'm stuck between getting a D10 balanced for this with a pair of 6.35mm cables, or returning the L50 and getting a D10S + L30 II. My plan is to run either D10 off of USB, obviously, from a dedicated laptop that will have EQ applied to it for my HD6XX (and other headphones eventually, gonna set up a remote hotkey switch somehow but that's for a different time and thread). The D10B or D10S analog out will directly feed my main listening amp (either L50 or L30 II, respectively) in the office. The optical out will feed the E30 DAC in the living room (which also has coax from the AVR to grab the feed from whatever active input the TV is on, so this is borrowed right now in the office but will end up back in the living room).

With that setup, assuming no ground loop issues, I'm not sure there is much benefit to the D10B + L50 over the D10S + L30 II. The cost difference (about CAD$50 with cables all in for me) is not a big issue, just don't want to "waste" it.

I'm also wondering if I'm being too luxurious trying to have EQ'd signal available at my couch for headphones just in case. I could just leave the E30 in the office and use an old FiiO D03K in the living room connected to the AVR. Without EQ needed, the L30 v1 is good enough for gaming and "non-music" needs.

I'd love to be able to reliably test the output power using my E30 as the input for a fairly standard and reliable 2Vrms control. Just not sure it's worth sourcing the required equipment for it. Though not very scientific, I can use a sound meter on my phone to compare levels and get a rough idea. I'll try that tonight between L30 and L50 just for fun.
 
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Synrgy87

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So the L50 arrived. I love the feel, that volume pot is awesome. Great form factor and fit and finish.

However, there is only a bit more headroom than the original L30 (which I've decided that I will be returning soon enough). I connected them using an RCA splitter out of my E30 DAC and then a 3.5mm passive switcher to A/B back and forth. Both at high gain and maxed, the L50 got a bit louder, but not nearly as much as I was hoping for. Interesting as I believe the L30 v1 hit 117mW in Amir's testing with 2Vrms in. I was expecting the volume (or available loudness, I suppose) of the L50 with 2Vrms in to be quite a bit higher than the L30 v1. It is louder, and that small bit extra is nice. But I need moooooore :)

Now I'm stuck between getting a D10 balanced for this with a pair of 6.35mm cables, or returning the L50 and getting a D10S + L30 II. My plan is to run either D10 off of USB, obviously, from a dedicated laptop that will have EQ applied to it for my HD6XX (and other headphones eventually, gonna set up a remote hotkey switch somehow but that's for a different time and thread). The D10B or D10S analog out will directly feed my main listening amp (either L50 or L30 II, respectively) in the office. The optical out will feed the E30 DAC in the living room (which also has coax from the AVR to grab the feed from whatever active input the TV is on, so this is borrowed right now in the office but will end up back in the living room).

With that setup, assuming no ground loop issues, I'm not sure there is much benefit to the D10B + L50 over the D10S + L30 II. The cost difference (about CAD$50 with cables all in for me) is not a big issue, just don't want to "waste" it.

I'm also wondering if I'm being too luxurious trying to have EQ'd signal available at my couch for headphones just in case. I could just leave the E30 in the office and use an old FiiO D03K in the living room connected to the AVR. Without EQ needed, the L30 v1 is good enough for gaming and "non-music" needs.

I'd love to be able to reliably test the output power using my E30 as the input for a fairly standard and reliable 2Vrms control. Just not sure it's worth sourcing the required equipment for it. Though not very scientific, I can use a sound meter on my phone to compare levels and get a rough idea. I'll try that tonight between L30 and L50 just for fun.
The E50 is pretty good DAC wise, not tried the D10 balanced but that should do the job, I've moved on to the A30 pro for my sennheisers after the L50 was a bit of a let down and so far I'm liking it. Doesn't seem to have any issue with any of the gain settings, and the XLR/RCA in and pass through are nice, along with a ground lift switch (handy if you're using a USB DAC from a computer and RCA input to the amp).
 

hovation

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The E50 is pretty good DAC wise, not tried the D10 balanced but that should do the job, I've moved on to the A30 pro for my sennheisers after the L50 was a bit of a let down and so far I'm liking it. Doesn't seem to have any issue with any of the gain settings, and the XLR/RCA in and pass through are nice, along with a ground lift switch (handy if you're using a USB DAC from a computer and RCA input to the amp).
Thanks for the notes about your experience there. Did you find the L50 lacking even when the E50 was feeding it? Were you using balanced connections? I ask because the D10 balanced should output a similar ~4Vrms as the E50 does with balanced connections and with over 600 milliwatts as tested, it seems like it would be very sufficient. But of course everyone uses different levels of EQ and listens at different volumes.

I used the A30 pro for a couple of weeks and didn't need its extra features but I do remember it having a lot of power. It gets quite hot though as it runs in full class A above 250 ohms. If I remember correctly, I may have had even more headroom than my Aune X7s balanced jack (which is just full class A and it heats up quite a bit too). At high gain (+20dB) the Aune has a lot more headroom than the L50 with unbalanced 2Vrms in from even with single-ended never mind using XLR. I just don't like the trade-offs of noise by going up to high gain or even by going to the balanced jack.

It looks like Topping will definitely have my answer for an affordable clean high-powered amp. Open to other suggestions, but I feel like the L50 or L30 II will be the answer. Any benefit to running balanced other than the higher input (and higher potential output in some cases like the L50)? If the USB connection is going to cause noise, the balanced connections will not help that noise, is that correct? The ground lift could come in very handy if that's a problem like you mentioned @Synrgy87
 

djtetei

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@hovation
Like I said earlier with Topping L50, because of its lower gain, you have only 2.13 dB of headroom at 300 ohm, with 2 Vrms input level unbalanced, to drive your Sennheiser HD6xx. However, if you use its balanced inputs with 2.56 Vrms input level, the L50 is able to reach its full rated power output of 540 mW at 300 ohms for 4.31 dB of headroom.
The main benefit of balanced connections is rejection of noise.
Topping L30II, however, has more gain and with 2 Vrms input level, unbalanced, is able to deliver 560 mW at 300 ohm, which ensures 4.47 dB of headroom.
Regarding your remark that L50 is only a bit more louder than the L30 v1, take into account the fact that, for the same input level of 2 Vrms, the L50 is 4.42 dB more powerful than L30 v1 and this means the L50 can drive the Sennheiser HD6xx to its maximum power and with fewer distorsions, while the L30 v1 cannot reach the maximum power capacity of your HD6xx and you have to play the L30 v1 at lower levels in order to sound acceptable.
Also, compared to other headphones with higher efficiency, the HD6xx efficiency is 97 dB / 1mW and its maximum loudness level is 120 dB SPL at 200 mW input power.
Both Topping L50 and L30II are capable of driving the HD6xx to their maximum capacity and with room to spare, but, in my opinion, the L50 is the winner if you use it together with its brother, the E50 DAC, and take advantage of the balanced connections.
 
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hovation

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So I borrowed the NuPrime DAC-9 from my dad's setup for some testing and comparisons (he hasn't used it since I got it for him a while back, ended up getting some other mini phono box to a combo DAC/Amp and has been using that exclusively). It outputs up to 4Vrms through RCA and up to 8Vrms through XLR out.

Let me just say: WOW! NOW the L50 is ALIVE! So much more headroom (also woke up the Aune X7s as well, seems like it wants more power for max performance also).

Another noticeable benefit was that the L30 v1 also was much-improved with the extra input.

So this is interesting. The DAC-9 is a bit large and heavy and has some extra features I don't particularly need (right now) but it does the job very well. It even has an optical out port to work with my EQ'd couch setup idea.

Perhaps I will keep the L50 in the office, fed by the NuPrime, then swap the L30 v1 for an L30 II and use that out in the living room setup. If it can output its max power of 560mW with 2Vrms in, then that will be just fine out there (even the FiiO D03K with ~1.5Vrms will probably be just fine).

I'll do some level-matched A/B testing between the L50 and Aune X7s today. Curious to compare, if I don't hear the noise floor or any distortion or clipping (although this may depend more on Vrms from DAC vs. my volume level...right?) out of the Aune, I wonder if I'm just searching for things to buy with this L50. Any recommendation on how to test for things like that, of noise, just from listening and comparison tests? The L50 measures better of course, but if it's not audible and the Aune has the power I need.....I don't want to keep throwing money at the situation of course :D

Also thanks for the awesome info and responses. Been a very long time lurker of ASR and appreciate it all very much.
 
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hovation

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This is my setup with L50 and HD6XX. My DAC is set to 4dBu (1.2V) and the volume knob barely passes 2 o'clock on low gain.
What DAC? And what pads are those? Looking awesome! Maybe I need to get used to lower levels then haha. With 2Vrms RCA in and -9.5dB preamp for EQ, I can max out the L50 in high gain (not for all tracks but some) and still sometimes want a bit more.

Granted, there are some tracks there blast though but I feel like those aren't as well mixed or more common in certain genres like metal or dubstep. But it may just be poorly mixed/mastered tracks generally, even within those genres. Sadly there are several of those types on both Spotify and TIDAL, and even some on published CDs lmao.
 
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Χ Ξ Σ

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What DAC? And what pads are those? Looking awesome! Maybe I need to get used to lower levels then haha. With 2Vrms RCA in and -9.5dB preamp for EQ, I can max out the L50 in high gain (not for all tracks but some) and still sometimes want a bit more.

Granted, there are some tracks there blast though but I feel like those aren't as well mixed or more common in certain genres like metal or dubstep. But it may just be poorly mixed/mastered tracks generally, even within those genres. Sadly there are several of those types on both Spotify and TIDAL, and even some on published CDs lmao.
The DAC is RME Fireface UCX II Audio Interface, output switchable at 4dBu, 13dBu, and 19dBu. I use the 4dBu for headphone amp and 19dBu for subwoofers, and AES out for speakers.

The pads are ZMF perforated lambskin. I also have the ZMF perforated suede. I chose them over the Dekoni pads because they are angled. Both ZMF pads are good and I prefer the lambskin because it sounds more solid and doesn't have the "dirtiness" in sound that velour and suede pads usually have. Suede is more skin friendly though.
 

hovation

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The DAC is RME Fireface UCX II Audio Interface, output switchable at 4dBu, 13dBu, and 19dBu. I use the 4dBu for headphone amp and 19dBu for subwoofers, and AES out for speakers.

The pads are ZMF perforated lambskin. I also have the ZMF perforated suede. I chose them over the Dekoni pads because they are angled. Both ZMF pads are good and I prefer the lambskin because it sounds more solid and doesn't have the "dirtiness" in sound that velour and suede pads usually have. Suede is more skin friendly though.
Thanks for that info. I wanted to try the suede ones, mine are beginning to show some wear.

That is an awesome DAC! I wonder if there are any budget DACs that have variable RCA output (or fixed at 3-4Vrms). Balanced ones (should) be able to fish 4Vrms but to get 3-4 through RCA would be awesome in something more like the E30 footprint (or a bit larger if necessary).
 

hovation

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So it seems that, with 2Vrms in at least (but I imagine this would not matter), the L50 and L30 v1 have the same or extremely similar power output when both are set to medium/0dB gain (L50 has it marked M and L30 has it marked 0dB but I imagine they represent the same).

Flicking the switch to high and of course the L50 gets louder than L30 since it's 14dB vs 9dB boost up there. But I found it interesting that they're the same at the middle setting. The L30 II will be delivered today, I expect it to have more headroom here for sure as it is at a higher gain from the factory.

I may steal the NuPrime from my dad as it is serving it's purpose well except that I like the idea of something smaller like the D10 Balanced which takes up much less room and does the same thing I need, assuming I get that and keep the L50 with the D10B for the office setup and the L30 II for the couch setup, fed by my E30 out there.
 
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djtetei

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But I found it interesting that they're the same at the middle setting
It is normal that both deliver the same output power at medium gain setting as this means 0 dB attenuation. At 0 dB gain the amplification factor is 1 and, therefore, 2 Vrms input level multiplied by 1 equals 2 Vrms output level.
No matter which amplifier you use, if you set the gain to 0 dB, the output level equals the input level.
Don't automatically assume that using a lower gain setting means better sound quality, because the power requirements of any headphones must be calculated to ensure they are driven optimally and at their maximum input power rating the amplifier has a good power reserve to feed the peaks and to operate with good thermal efficiency.
 
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hovation

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It is normal that both deliver the same output power at medium gain setting as this means 0 dB attenuation. At 0 dB gain the amplification factor is 1 and, therefore, 2 Vrms input level multiplied by 1 equals 2 Vrms output level.
No matter which amplifier you use, if you set the gain to 0 dB, the output level equals the input level.
Ah of course that takes sense! So it's really all about how much gain over and above unity gain the amp provides.
 

djtetei

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So it's really all about how much gain over and above unity gain the amp provides.
Yes, the amplification factor (gain) determine the final power output capability and gain could be both positive or negative.
In professional sound reinforcement systems, we usually work with reference nominal levels of 0 dBU = 0.7745 Vrms, 0 dBV = 1 Vrms or +4 dBU = 1.23 Vrms and with these input levels the amplifiers can deliver thousands of watts of power to the speakers, thanks to the built-in amplifier gain level.
This is actually very helpful and intuitive because we don't have to deal with the "mess" of the home audio industry where every manufacturer can decide for itself what output or input level will adopt for a particular piece of equipment.
 
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Χ Ξ Σ

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Thanks for that info. I wanted to try the suede ones, mine are beginning to show some wear.

That is an awesome DAC! I wonder if there are any budget DACs that have variable RCA output (or fixed at 3-4Vrms). Balanced ones (should) be able to fish 4Vrms but to get 3-4 through RCA would be awesome in something more like the E30 footprint (or a bit larger if necessary).
Topping D10 Balanced is the designer-approved budget option. But I would rather go for the matching look. I have a second L50 paired with E50 at office.
 

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