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Topping L50 Review (Headphone Amp)

amper42

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@amirm thank you very much for this review.

@Topping, please enter the Audio & Video Receiver /Audio & Video Processor market!!

Careful what you wish for. If Topping was currently making an AV receiver the CD input wouldn't work and the optical would have drop outs. At least this is what is reported in the new E30 DAC and some new Topping DACs. The company doesn't seem to test for these problems as they learn about them from customers reports.
 

sam_adams

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Don't spread rumors otherwise or I will personally show up and whack you in the back of the head!

If television has taught us one thing, it is that every problem can be solved by a knock on the noggin.

three-stooges-curley2.gif
 

KiyPhi

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I assume you are joking.

The channel balance is 0dB up to -20dB output level. It deviates just -0.5dB at -40dB output level. Below that level any difference will be inaudible.
That is the case on this particular unit though. My current amp is sitting at -50dB so I may run into issues if I were to use one of these depending on my luck. While Topping has been binning their units, there is no guarantee like with volume controls that have inherently perfect balance. I would easily trade a bit of performance for that guarantee. If SMSL didn't have such crap customer service, I'd say stick with their stacks but Topping has shown to have much, much better CS so I await the day they release an amp with a remote and perfect channel balance and similar power to what I have now, then I will buy it so I can ditch SMSL. I know John didn't like the A50 but it had a near perfect feature set for me (only needed a remote for the amp) even if it didn't measure the best. I wish they could make something like it again.
 

tmo

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Oof, just purchased the A 30 Pro a few days ago and wondering if I should return it and purchase the L50 to save $120.
 

BlackTalon

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Got the Shenzhenaudio announcement for this and the DAC about an hour ago.
 
OP
amirm

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respice finem

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the new Topping L50 balanced (input) headphone amplifier. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $229. It will be announced shortly.

The industrial design of the L50 is different than older models with a plexiglass front:

View attachment 150530

While I like the red accent on the volume control knob, the contrast is low on the labels to read them easily. There is a plastic cover that has duplicate labels on it which are more legible. Fortunately there is not a whole lot here to remember as to need the labels.

The back side and power supply show more of a departure:
View attachment 150531

Instead of the usual switching power supply we now have a beefy AC transformer. As I have noted before, AC input makes it easier to generate positive and negative rails for the amplifier so I can see the motivation. Then again, the transformer is inefficient and quite large.

Up on top you see a connector you don't normally see on a pure analog amplifier: the USB-C for firmware upgrades! A supervisory processor handles protection which can be reprogrammed as needed. Indeed, during testing I pushed the unit hard with 12 ohm load well into clipping and it shut down with a sequence of LED lights. Once it cooled a bit, it enabled the device to function again.

The other change which we have seen recently from Topping is use of 1/4 inch input for balanced interconnections. They take up a lot less space than XLR so you can have the same rich set of connectivity including pre-amp in this small enclosure. 1/4 balanced is extremely popular in pro audio so there is plenty of cables and adapters for it if you are not situated currently to use them. And I believe a set of adapters come with the unit.

Topping L50 Measurements
There are many combinations here to test so I limited the input to balanced but measured both balanced and unbalanced headphone output. Let's start with balanced input:

View attachment 150532

And now RCA In:

View attachment 150562

Exceptional performance yet again, almost in the top position of our rankings for SINAD:

View attachment 150563

Here are our noise specs which are stellar:

View attachment 150535

This is what great SINAD does for you at the top of the class: incredibly low noise where you need it with sensitive IEMs:

View attachment 150536

Anyone who says SINAD is not important doesn't understand this dynamic, pun intended.

Frequency response is flat of course to beyond what we need:

View attachment 150537

The main business of a headphone amp is producing power though to drive more difficult headphones. So let's test that with 300 ohm load:
View attachment 150580

My standard for power output is 100 milliwatts and the L50 sails way past that which is great.

Let's switch to other extreme with 32 ohm load, emphasizing current delivery as opposed to voltage:

View attachment 150581

This is a ton of power coming out of this little box.

Sweeping the load and measuring power we get:
View attachment 150542

The main difference here compared to bigger brothers is that it clips with higher impedances whereas they don't. Up to nearly 7 volts there is no load dependency.

Finally here is our channel matching which is excellent for an analog control:
View attachment 150543

As usual your mileage may vary.

Listening Tests
Surprise, surprise, the L50 aces my subjective tests. What can I say. Whether I used the Sennheiser HD650 or Drop Ether CX, there was incredibly clarity, detail, authoritative bass, etc. My ears would scream before the amplifier even got barely unhappy as far as volume.

Conclusions
Hit after hit is the expression that always comes to mind when testing Topping products. Engineering done properly would be another saying. Compare this to many high-end products which barely get verified at all to see if they are what they think they are (transparent and well engineered). We do have some departure in form factor and functionality most of which are positive in my view. You get more choices and more to decide. :)

It is my pleasure to recommend the Topping L50.

Note: I have no commercial connection of any sort of shape with Topping or any other company for that matter. Don't spread rumors otherwise or I will personally show up and whack you in the back of the head! :) Many companies send me products and when they perform this well, they get my accolades.

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

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Wow. Two stellar reviews (L50/E50) at once, and even more so in this price range.
Topping is really becoming a "shooting star" in the hi-fi business.

------------- just humour below this line ------------------

If I were them, since they cannot sponsor ASR, for obvious reasons, I would consider sponsoring golf :cool:
 

Human Bass

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I think this is the superior method. Both outputs have same power and same low noise.
Ahm, so why the flagship A90 has a real bal output? =P

But I agree bal inputs are more important than output. Learned that with the radio interference that plagues my location
 

PhnomPenhPaul

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Bit late to the game, but thanks to @BlackTalon for the heads up on the E50. I was awaiting the release on this, and in between reading your post and getting distracted by the family up comes a notification that the E50 has already been reviewed here. So thanks as ever, also, to @amirm for his review of the same. I was expecting to have to wait a few days at least [sarcasm alert]!
 

JohnYang1997

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Ahm, so why the flagship A90 has a real bal output? =P

But I agree bal inputs are more important than output. Learned that with the radio interference that plagues my location
It takes up more space, has more idle power but to achieve 7.5W at 16Ohm and over 1W at 300ohm.
 

Lupin

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Nice little amp, aesthetically not really my taste but it performas well.
I'm sure this E50/L50 stack is going to cut (deep) into de sales of the D30Pro/A30Pro sales.

Think the Topping lineup of DACs and amps is getting (over)saturated.
Everything they release now will overlap up or down with something in their product stack and cut the sales of them.
 

confucius_zero

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Can we have the SE measurements as well plz? :)
 
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amirm

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f1shb0n3

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Amazing performance and price, but Topping please make a flagship high powered amp like A90 with digital volume control for perfect channel balance and reproducible volume. When I A/B compare A30 Pro with volume at 1-2pm vs RME ADI-2 for example this is the only audible difference I can hear.

Now that you've mastered the SINAD you can focus on features and goodies, we need that not less THD+N.
 
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