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Topping LA90 Review (Integrated Amplifier)

Rate this amplifier:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 27 4.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 42 6.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 154 24.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 408 64.7%

  • Total voters
    631

mocenigo

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Hi Greg, I don't really have a view on this, but wanted to let you know that I'm very happy with my Neurochrome amps (class AB, with clever error correction) driving my high horns (compression drivers, 1-20kHz). The horns are 107dB/[email protected], and with your ear right next to the mouth of the horn, all you hear is the faintest of hiss. And I can't find any fault in the sound (that could be due to the amps, at least).

But I've never compared the Neurochromes directly to any class D amps - never had the inclination, as I'm perfectly happy with the sound I currently have.

Good luck with your search.

Mani.

I believe amps like the Neurochrome MODULUS series, the recent batches of Purifi and NCore modules, and the Benchmark AHB2 are endgame if you want fidelity. Numbers prove this. If someone wants color then it is another matter.
 

Billy Budapest

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I think that a version of this amp with two bridged amplifier units, an internal power supply, and perhaps removing the volume control and source selector would alleviate most of the criticism and satisfy most of the use cases of the LA90. Does this make sense to you, @JohnYang1997 ?
 

peng

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Okay, a specific question.

This amp with a pair of Revel M16s in a room 5m x 3m (that’s 16’5” x 10’).

Comments? Enough Power?

It depends on your listening level too, but Revel recommended 50 to 120 W, so the LA90 may have enough output for you.
 
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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Topping LA90 integrated amplifier. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $800.
View attachment 202305
I must say, this is one interesting industrial design. Everything oozes style despite the diminutive package. This aspect continues in the operation of the unit with the sound of the relays solidly clicking indicating something good is going to happen. :) Here is the side view:

View attachment 202306

While quite solid, you can pick it up with one hand. The small size is aided by a massive external switching power supply:
View attachment 202307

Here are its ratings:
View attachment 202309

Back to the unit, you can see three balanced inputs. Volume control can be bypassed although I did not do so for my testing. You can also operate LA90 in bridged mono mode. There is also 12 volt trigger.

There are to gain settings. One at 10 dB and another at 20 dB (nominal).

Topping LA90 Measurements
These are non-bridged mode measurements. Bridged setup follows this section. Let's start with our dashboard of 5 watts into 4 ohm in low gain mode:


View attachment 202314

I don't need to tell you that this is a stunning level of achievement. We have a power amplifier producing almost the same SINAD as a state of the art DAC! Using this number, LA90 grabs the top spot with ease with a nice gap to boot:

View attachment 202315

Here it is zoomed:
View attachment 202319
You might be thinking that it can only do so with low gain but that is not true. Even in high gain performance is spectacular:

View attachment 202317

It would still achieve top spot in our rankings and achieve full audible transparency.

Not only is distortion vanishingly low, so is noise level:
View attachment 202320

View attachment 202321

Frequency response is flat and wide as expected:
View attachment 202323

Being class AB design, it has no load dependency.

Crosstalk is incredibly good although it loses a tiny bit relative to last champ of amplifiers:

View attachment 202324

Multitone test shows the very low distortion levels:

View attachment 202325

Let's see how much power we have:
View attachment 202326

So power is modest in non-bridged mode. But note how good the high gain mode is so I would feel just fine using that for operation of the unit if you need to. Allowing distortion to rise to 1% naturally gets us more power:

View attachment 202328

Here is 8 ohm:

View attachment 202329

Oops. "High Power" should be "High Gain."

Changing frequencies shows the same excellent performance:
View attachment 202331

Despite being pushed deep into clipping, the amplifier did not complain until I got to 20 Hz where its over temperature shut it down.

Finally, you don't need any warm up:
View attachment 202332

Topping LA90 Bridged Mode Performance
A shorting wire is provided to connect the two negative speaker bindings together allowing bridged mode from the top two posts. Here is our dashboard again:

View attachment 202333

Performance is still exceptional. Here is our SNR:
View attachment 202334

Due to more power available now, we cross the amazing 140 dB SNR threshold. What this says is that even if you play at 140 dB, the noise level will be at or below threshold of hearing! Of course there is not enough power there to do that but basically you know that noise is not part of the equation with LA90 as even 5 watt measurement hits below threshold of hearing.

We want to know the power increase though so here it is (with 8 ohm which is the minimum impedance):
View attachment 202335

Now we get good bit of power at 95 watts with almost no penalty relative to non-bridged mode. Notice the massive gap as far as noise floor relative to Purifi amplifier.

Allowing for 1% distortion we get:
View attachment 202336

Here is the super wideband spectrum of the amplifier while producing 5 watts:

View attachment 202338

Edit:
Power Tests at 2 Ohm (Stereo) and 4 Ohm (Bridged)

Requests were made to test the amplifier beyond its minimum load impedance specs. Let's start with 2 ohm load while driving one channel in stereo mode. Dashboard still shows superb performance:

View attachment 202703

Let's now sweep the power:
View attachment 202704

You don't get extra power relative to 4 ohm but the amplifier was stable and did not even go into protection.

Now let's switch to Bridged mode (both amplifiers driven in differential mono) and run our power sweep again:
View attachment 202706

Now we see the amplifier "doubling down" producing nearly 200 watts into 4 ohm. Again, the amplifier was well composed and kept driving into clipping region without complaining, or shutting down.

Again, the above tests are beyond the amplifier specifications and tests I never run as such.

Conclusions
It is clear that Topping engineers are bringing their expertise in designing ultra low noise and distortion in headphone amplification to power amplifiers. As such, they have outdone every amplifier I have measured in that regard, getting ahead to capture the #1 position with a large gap to #2 choice.

The amplifier is not for everyone though. Power level is modest as compared to competitors. And you have that large external power supply. My wish is another version of this amp with built-in power supply, motorized volume control with bridge mode standard. For now, we need to celebrate one of the most important development in delivering transparent, high fidelity amplification to audiophiles in a very attractive package.

It is my absolute pleasure to recommend the Topping LA90. History is made on this day folks!

-----------
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/
do you happen to know what the low distortion output power would be bridged into 8ohms ? thinking about using two of these bridged and the d90s into a 15inch full range fane the 15300tc as a way of getting the lowest distortion signal path possible .
thankyou in advance james
 

tonycollinet

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do you happen to know what the low distortion output power would be bridged into 8ohms ? thinking about using two of these bridged and the d90s into a 15inch full range fane the 15300tc as a way of getting the lowest distortion signal path possible .
thankyou in advance james
See the power v distortion bridged chart in the original review.

95Watts at -116db distortion - rising to around 180W at -40db (1%) distortion.
 
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tonycollinet

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think that was bridged into 4ohms I wondered about 8ohms
No, that is 8 ohms (see chart). The 1% figure erroneously states 4ohm (It says the spec is 180 - which is the spec for 8ohm). Tests for 4ohm bridged follow as an addendum, and achieve 192W at the low distortion level of -117dB, and goes well over 300W at -40dB
 
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No, that is 8 ohms (see chart). The 1% figure erroneously states 4ohm (It says the spec is 180 - which is the spec for 8ohm). Tests for 4ohm bridged follow as an addendum, and achieve 192W at the low distortion level of -117dB
re read it now thankyou as you said 95w @-116db cheers
 

kenshone

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I think that a version of this amp with two bridged amplifier units, an internal power supply, and perhaps removing the volume control and source selector would alleviate most of the criticism and satisfy most of the use cases of the LA90. Does this make sense to you, @JohnYang1997 ?

Bridging induces a requirement of 8R or higher on the speaker. That should be addressed in the next version.
 

kenshone

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I think the problem with this product is one of consumer education. People probably tend to vastly overestimate the power needs from their amplifier. If the average consumer understood that 1W is a LOT louder than they think, I think the LA90 would sell a lot faster.

Before I educated myself, I thought the LA90 would be so quiet. As a layperson, I became accustomed to low-quality amplifiers that blast their 100W+ specs for so cheap. By ignorant comparison, it seems like the LA90 is so incapable in the volume department. But I plugged the numbers into some power-dB formulas, confirmed with online calculators, and realized that 38W can get LOUD in the near to mid-field - much louder than I need for music listening, in fact.

I think high-power amps make sense for medium to large rooms and/or when you're watching movies that may have bursts of loudness through SFX (presuming you want the real "HT" experience). Aside from that, the LA90 gives plenty of power.
 

Doodski

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I think the problem with this product is one of consumer education. People probably tend to vastly overestimate the power needs from their amplifier. If the average consumer understood that 38W is a LOT louder than they think, I think the LA90 would sell a lot faster.

Before I educated myself, I thought 38W would be so quiet. As a layperson, I became accustomed to low-quality amplifiers that blast their 100W+ specs for so cheap. By ignorant comparison, it seems like the LA90 is so incapable in the volume department. But 38W can get LOUD in a small room.
Yes, 40W'ish can go kinda loud although one twist of the variable loudness control or the bass control and that power runs out pretty fast. (With average efficiency speakers.)
 

kenshone

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Yes, 40W'ish can go kinda loud although one twist of the variable loudness control or the bass control and that power runs out pretty fast. (With average efficiency speakers.)

It depends on how loud you want to go, but the problem is the average consumer doesn't realize how loud 1W can be, let alone 40W. I'm sure they systematically and significantly underestimate the potential dB SPL.

Personally, I put an active crossover in front of my bookshelves and sub, so that my system is capable of even higher max SPL, but it is completely unnecessary. It was more than loud enough driving my bookshelves (which are rated -6dB @58Hz) full range at medium distance.
 
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Doodski

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It depends on how loud you want to go, but the problem is the average consumer doesn't t even realize how loud 40W can be. I'm sure they systematically and significantly underestimate the potential dB SPL.
Yes, all true.
Personally, I put an active crossover in front of my speakers and sub, so that my system is capable of even higher max SPL
That's the good stuff. I like active crossovers too.
 

Sokel

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It depends on how loud you want to go, but the problem is the average consumer doesn't realize how loud 1W can be, let alone 40W. I'm sure they systematically and significantly underestimate the potential dB SPL.

Personally, I put an active crossover in front of my bookshelves and sub, so that my system is capable of even higher max SPL, but it is completely unnecessary. It was more than loud enough driving my bookshelves (which are rated -6dB @58Hz) full range at medium distance.
I don't think it's about how loud you go.

With my true rms multimeter on the (bass) speaker terminals and set to hold the max,I played some bass-heavy content at an average of 85db (with spikes way higher) and the number it had hold was 35 volts.There is a big demand of power in low's with some content (and I don't mean 20Hz,from 30-ish and up,I don't play with subs)
 

tonycollinet

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I don't think it's about how loud you go.

With my true rms multimeter on the (bass) speaker terminals and set to hold the max,I played some bass-heavy content at an average of 85db (with spikes way higher) and the number it had hold was 35 volts.There is a big demand of power in low's with some content (and I don't mean 20Hz,from 30-ish and up,I don't play with subs)
Assuming 4ohm speakers, that is 300+W. If your speakers are 87db sensitivity in that range, then you are looking at SPL crests of around 110dB
 

Sokel

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Assuming 4ohm speakers, that is 300+W. If your speakers are 87db sensitivity in that range, then you are looking at SPL crests of around 110dB
More like 84-85 sensitivity as much as I know,and yes 4 ohm (active set up).
REW was going at 107-108 at the peaks on the RTA window and I had ear plugs and my hands over my ears,I can't stand this kind of content (Pan Sonic)

Edit: Plugs not plus,I only have 2 ears :facepalm:
 
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peng

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I don't think it's about how loud you go.

With my true rms multimeter on the (bass) speaker terminals and set to hold the max,I played some bass-heavy content at an average of 85db (with spikes way higher) and the number it had hold was 35 volts.There is a big demand of power in low's with some content (and I don't mean 20Hz,from 30-ish and up,I don't play with subs)

I suspect 85 dB average with 10-20 dB peak on top could be considered very loud though, for a lot of people.
 

Sokel

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I suspect 85 dB average with 10-20 dB peak on top could be considered very loud though, for a lot of people.
Of course is very loud!

That type of experimental content is mostly for tests,you don't want to know what kind of "music" is in this CD .

Some people may like it,no problem,I'm on the other side you thinks that all of music that should be written has done so centuries ago (with some exceptions of course) and from then on is just remakes :).
 

raest

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I think the problem with this product is one of consumer education. People probably tend to vastly overestimate the power needs from their amplifier. If the average consumer understood that 1W is a LOT louder than they think, I think the LA90 would sell a lot faster.

Before I educated myself, I thought the LA90 would be so quiet. As a layperson, I became accustomed to low-quality amplifiers that blast their 100W+ specs for so cheap. By ignorant comparison, it seems like the LA90 is so incapable in the volume department. But I plugged the numbers into some power-dB formulas, confirmed with online calculators, and realized that 38W can get LOUD in the near to mid-field - much louder than I need for music listening, in fact.

I think high-power amps make sense for medium to large rooms and/or when you're watching movies that may have bursts of loudness through SFX (presuming you want the real "HT" experience). Aside from that, the LA90 gives plenty of power.
if you wanna go that route.. if the average consumer understood how pointless are these super high sinad numbers outside some very niche applications, and that they'd be much happier with an amp with lower sinad but significantly more features, better QC, better warranty and customer support... or just slightly lower sinad for less money... then the LA90 would sell even less

funny how this "consumer education" works, right?
 
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