• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Topping PA3 Review (Stereo Amplifier)

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
31,626
Likes
101,991
Location
Seattle Area
#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Topping PA3 desktop amplifier. I have had a ton of requests to measure this amplifier so I asked the company to send me one. They said they would do so but cautioned me that it would not measure well. The PA3 costs US $120 on Amazon including free shipping.

I must stay, compared to all the budget amplifiers I have tested, the PA3 looks like luxury goods! It comes in a hefty case and oozes quality:
Topping PA3 Review Amplifier cheap.jpg


There are dual inputs as you see which you can control using the power button. A massive, Topping branded external power supply is provided which even goes as far as having textured design on the back side:

Topping PA3 Review Amplifier high quality power supply.jpg


Most importantly, all the regulatory certifications are there which we know from past examination to be true and certified by third-party labs. This is one budget amplifier I wouldn't hesitate to leave on unattended.

Implementation is based on TDA7498E ST Micro chip amp.

Topping PA3 Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard of 5 watts into 4 ohm using 1 kHz tone:

Topping PA3 Measurements Amplifier.png


As you see I adjusted the volume control to give us the nominal 29 dB gain I usually test at. SINAD is dominated by distortion which at 0.036% which correlates well with ST Micro's 0.05% spec at 1 watt. Alas, this is well below average for all amplifiers we have tested and some of the latest chip amp products:

best cheap amplifier review.png


SNR slots in the same bucket of performance:
Topping PA3 Measurements SNR Amplifier.png


Crosstalk is pretty good showing good attention to isolation:
Topping PA3 Measurements crosstalk Amplifier.png


Frequency response unfortunately is very load dependent:
Topping PA3 Measurements Amplifier frequency response.png


We get about 51 watts into 4 ohm with both channels driven with distortion dominating (hence the reason the graph doesn't slope down):
Topping PA3 Measurements Power into 4 ohm Amplifier.png


Power naturally drops with 8 ohm load but not as much some others I have seen:
Topping PA3 Measurements Power into 8 ohm Amplifier.png


Peak power matches company spec which is a novelty in this space:
Topping PA3 Measurements Max and Peak Power into 4 ohm Amplifier.png


Note that there was a really strong protection circuit that would not allow me to push the amp more than I did for max power so I had to settle for lower distortion of 0.5%. It would shut down if I told it to work harder to hit 1%.

Distortion takes off rather quickly with frequency as we see in multitone test:

Topping PA3 Measurements Multitone Amplifier.png


Same is see in our frequency versus power and distortion+noise:
Topping PA3 Measurements Power into 4 ohm versus frequency Amplifier.png


Fortunately our hearing threshold starts to go up at higher frequencies so audibility is less impacted than our sensibility about good engineering.

Conclusions
It is clear that Topping did what it could to build a reliable, safe and robust desktop platform for this amplifier. Alas, they are held down significantly by the performance of the underlying chip amp which is likely all that was available at the time this product was designed. Being selfish elitist audiophile engineering types that we are, we have no choice but to pass on this amplifier. If you are not picky however and want something that is build safe and well, you could choose otherwise.

So to repeat, I can't recommend the Topping PA3 based on its audio performance. Hopefully there are future products based on a better platform.

------------
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/
 

infinitesymphony

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Nov 21, 2018
Messages
935
Likes
1,469
#3
I've heard rumblings of a new line of speaker amps from Topping. C'mon Topping, deliver the goods! :)

The nearly identical performance of the MX3 makes it a much better value for only $20 more considering it adds DAC functionality via USB, optical & coax digital and Bluetooth, and a headphone output, and all you lose is the second aux input.
 

fun

Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2020
Messages
42
Likes
68
#6
I have this. Based on the measurements of the MX-3, the SINAD measured is within my expectations. Also, nice to see that the wattage is accurate according to spec.

IMO, the design & feature of this amp, such as small footprint, metallic casing, dual-input are decent, but as Amir mentioned, the underlying chip limit what it can do sonic wise.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
31,626
Likes
101,991
Location
Seattle Area
Thread Starter #9

Matias

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
1,990
Likes
2,849
Location
São Paulo, Brazil
#10
Topping has been working on their own new design of class D amplifier. Curious to see what comes next.
 
Joined
Nov 18, 2019
Messages
51
Likes
25
#11
Thanks for reviewing this amp Amir.
I really looked forward to this amp and was disappointed in the hard fatigueing sound even though everything else about it was right on mark.
Shame they used that chip with the nice case, switch, potentiometer and design
 

julian_hughes

Active Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2020
Messages
163
Likes
169
#12
It's fairly horrible and also, by the standards of budget amps on aliexpress, not cheap. I really like some Topping products, I have the D10 and am completely satisfied with it, and the NX1 portable headphone amp which I still sometimes find useful quite a few years after purchasing it. But an amp as poor as the PA3 can undermine the brand. Clearly they know it's poor, not really any better than a $25 Lepai, but still promote it heavily. That's a shame.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
31,626
Likes
101,991
Location
Seattle Area
Thread Starter #13

julian_hughes

Active Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2020
Messages
163
Likes
169
#14
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
31,626
Likes
101,991
Location
Seattle Area
Thread Starter #18
Top Bottom