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Topping PA3 Review (Stereo Amplifier)

DSJR

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I remember how the first Naim amps were put down at my employers as it was supposedly a glorified Sinclair kit amp run on the verge of ringing/oscillation - I had no idea about the Wireless World article about the RCA? design from many years earlier back then... A pal made a Z60 based Sinclair kit as a teenage fun project and it worked well for the couple of years he used it before moving onwards (and upwards?). He has a couple of now older Topping amps and likes them a lot - that's how I first got to know the name - and they (I think he uses one per channel) 'sounded' fine to me if not pushed too hard :)

I agree we're in a really good place where decent *cheap* amplifier performance is concerned, but the high end still seems stuck in the past and good bench performance as a basis still doesn't seem to matter to many manufacturers for one reason or another - maybe they want 'character' designed in to make their products subjectively stand out (clipping bahaviour is probably one of the key subjective things in a dem situation) and I can think of one niche maker in particular who actively scorned good measurements as promoted here for example. To them it appears, it's irrelevant to good sounding music reproduction...

I did look to see if the Ayima amp linked to above was available in the UK and it looks patchy right now (Brexit documentation and related taxes/duties again?). There's another similar looking one for less money but no idea if it's the Topping D10 inferior-'clone' situation again.
 

PeteL

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Topping's official output power specs for the PA3 appear to overshoot Amir's measured results by a wide margin. In other-words they grossly inflated how much usable power this product can deliver.

View attachment 110634

(Above) is the spec table from Topping's website. 70W is listed for 8 ohms. 80W for 4 ohms.

View attachment 110638
View attachment 110637

(Above) Amir's measurements show 33W for 8 ohms and 51W for 4 ohms. The first measurement is less than half Topping's claim and the second is nearly as bad. Looks like we have a company that aims to deceive customers, hmm...

Now some people will probably argue that "every company juices their specs." Well, lets see about that. Below is a screencap from Schiit's website listing the specs for the Asgard 3 amplifier.

View attachment 110641


(Above) Schiit lists 600mW for 300ohms and 3.5mW for 32ohms. Let's take a look at what Amir measured at these impedances below:

View attachment 110643
View attachment 110644

(Above) Amir's results mirror the official power output specs from Schiit. If anything Schiit low balled their 300 ohms figure. Looks like they take a conservative (and honest) approach unlike Topping. How 'bout that?

After Topping's L30 amp went kamikaze on the world's headphone stock and with spec figures that can't be trusted I won't be purchasing any of their products. Ever.
Yes Topping sets the specifed max power when the amp reach 1% THD, or-20dB. John from Topping mentioned it before in one of these threads. I agree that it should be specified. It's unfortunate that there is no solid standard for this specs, but it is what it is they haven't grossly inflated it, they use a different reference, which is arbitrary.
 

vkvedam

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Thanks for the long awaited review, it's really good on Topping's part to be honest about the specifications. @JohnYang1997 eagerly waiting for the power amp man, I have been holding off getting one of the Hypex ones ;) given the trust I have in you guys.
 

JohnBooty

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Yes Topping sets the specifed max power when the amp reach 1% THD, or-20dB. John from Topping mentioned it before in one of these threads. I agree that it should be specified. It's unfortunate that there is no solid standard for this specs, but it is what it is they haven't grossly inflated it, they use a different reference, which is arbitrary.

I can't blame Topping, or any single company, for doing this.

Many/most people buying these amps don't really understand the numbers.

If a company decides to be honest and rate max power at 0.1% or 0.01%THD they will just look bad compared to folks browsing Amazon listings and trying to figure out how many "watts" they can get for $100 or whatever.

The old FTC power rating standard didn't have a lot of correlation to actual music playback performance, but at least it was a standard.

edit: To be clear.... I don't think anybody should use the old FTC standard.
 
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JohnYang1997

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I can't blame Topping, or any single company, for doing this.

Many/most people buying these amps don't really understand the numbers.

If a company decides to be honest and rate max power at 0.1% or 0.01%THD they will just look bad compared to folks browsing Amazon listings and trying to figure out how many "watts" they can get for $100 or whatever.

The old FTC power rating standard didn't have a lot of correlation to actual music playback performance, but at least it was a standard.
Don't mind me say this. The FTC standard for power measurement is the single most stupid standard of all time. I can play square wave into it, getting twice the power before clipping and still comply to the standard. There are more than half a dozen of actual standards in the EE field for power measurements.
 

okok

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class ab won't do better than -96db thd+n
that's it, even brains out can't change it
 

PeteL

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I can't blame Topping, or any single company, for doing this.

Many/most people buying these amps don't really understand the numbers.

If a company decides to be honest and rate max power at 0.1% or 0.01%THD they will just look bad compared to folks browsing Amazon listings and trying to figure out how many "watts" they can get for $100 or whatever.

The old FTC power rating standard didn't have a lot of correlation to actual music playback performance, but at least it was a standard.

edit: To be clear.... I don't think anybody should use the old FTC standard.
Yes and no, I don't see how it would make a product look bad to someone who don't understand the numbers to write in the specs: Max Power (1%THD) - 80Wx2 (4R) instead of: Max Power - 80Wx2 (4R). And the more manufacturers will do so, even those who don't understand while shopping and compare, will eventually find that some do have this, and some don't so may look a bit more and not take a single number as absolute. I was not suggesting that this is dishonest practice in fact it's the opposite, I just wish there was a standardize way, this would make this "debate" useless and even the people that don't get's it could compare stuff. Not blaming any company neither here.
 

JohnBooty

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Yes and no, I don't see how it would make a product look bad to someone who don't understand the numbers to write in the specs: Max Power (1%THD) - 80Wx2 (4R) instead of: Max Power - 80Wx2 (4R).

I say "yes and no" to your "yes and no" hahaha.

If somebody is knowledgeable enough to look deeply at the numbers they will know enough to look into distortion, and whether the quoted power output is @ 1khz or @ 20hz-20,000hz, etc etc etc etc. So for those people... yes I agree with you.

But in my opinion many/most buyers just know that "more watts is better" and only look at the number of watts. I am basing this opinion on the kinds of questions routinely asked by newcomers at r/budgetaudiophile and r/hometheater. Typically they are just like, "how many watts do I need for this room" or "how many watts for these speakers."
 

PeteL

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I say "yes and no" to your "yes and no" hahaha.

If somebody is knowledgeable enough to look deeply at the numbers they will know enough to look into distortion, and whether the quoted power output is @ 1khz or @ 20hz-20,000hz, etc etc etc etc. So for those people... yes I agree with you.

But in my opinion many/most buyers just know that "more watts is better" and only look at the number of watts. I am basing this opinion on the kinds of questions routinely asked by newcomers at r/budgetaudiophile and r/hometheater. Typically they are just like, "how many watts do I need for this room" or "how many watts for these speakers."
As long as those who want's to know are able to know... And to be fair I see on the Topping website not only this metric published, but also mesurment published for their more recent products, so let's assume they somehow agree...
 

JohnYang1997

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I say "yes and no" to your "yes and no" hahaha.

If somebody is knowledgeable enough to look deeply at the numbers they will know enough to look into distortion, and whether the quoted power output is @ 1khz or @ 20hz-20,000hz, etc etc etc etc. So for those people... yes I agree with you.

But in my opinion many/most buyers just know that "more watts is better" and only look at the number of watts. I am basing this opinion on the kinds of questions routinely asked by newcomers at r/budgetaudiophile and r/hometheater. Typically they are just like, "how many watts do I need for this room" or "how many watts for these speakers."
It would be especially bad when the manufacturer actually mislabels like 2000W, 4000W in the name, 800W 1200W in the spec and then can't pass 100W 1%, 120W clipping.
There's a channel called Williston Audio Labs. The guy measure lots of amplifiers (mostly car amplifiers). Majority of the amps are overrated as shit.
 

beagleman

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Again a very poor product with high noise and high order distortion products of high level. Also not very good PSR. This amplifier is of two class worse than the AIYIMA A07 that was tested by Amir and me. And is more expensive. IMO there is no reason to make a choice of Topping PA3.

View attachment 110690


Not saying this just to argue, but if this is "Very Poor", that may show more than anything, that you have very little experience overall in the entire world of audio ever created. Meaning, calling something out as very poor for just being mediocre leaves nowhere lower to go for all the things I have heard that TRULY were Poor.

This qualifies as Good enough or okay for the price, but VERY POOR? Me thinks you have never truly heard very poor...
 

pma

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A pal made a Z60 based Sinclair kit as a teenage fun project and it worked well for the couple of years he used it before moving onwards (and upwards?). .

They had thermal issues - no Re emitter resistors, no Vbe multiplier to stabilize idle current. However, the basic topology was OK. Dust wiped out and several small but important mods, BTL connection makes a good 100W/4ohm amp

BTL_newZ30_thdamp_4R_R.png


Me thinks you have never truly heard very poor...
I agree.
 

DSJR

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So darned long ago now, but didn't some Sinclair boards have output inductors on them? Apologies folks, I'm thread drifting now and not sure many others would remember them (Frank D and Serge A might though).

I think it all boiled down to the fact of how high does harmonic and intermodulation distortion need to be before it's a, audible and b, nasty! Threshold for thd used to be estimated at -70dB as I recall, but IMD may well need to be much lower than this?

Reading heavily between the lines, this product may not particularly matter to Topping fans before too long ;)
 
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fun

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Not saying this just to argue, but if this is "Very Poor", that may show more than anything, that you have very little experience overall in the entire world of audio ever created. Meaning, calling something out as very poor for just being mediocre leaves nowhere lower to go for all the things I have heard that TRULY were Poor.

This qualifies as Good enough or okay for the price, but VERY POOR? Me thinks you have never truly heard very poor...
I agree. Among other amps I have right now (a Bryston stereo, Rotel receiver, Nakamichi receiver), the PA-3 pales in comparison sonic wise. But it produces ok sound for background music on my desktop driving Energy passive speakers that have been hibernating in the garage. For the price, footprint and build quality, it's good enough and I didn't have high expectations. That say, if I were to do it again (or find another use for the PA3, said at master bedroom), I might go the active monitors path, like JBL 305/306, Adam T5v etc. Seems like those would beat most combos of cheap amps and passive speakers in a desktop setup.
 

holbob

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Hope SMSL send in the SA-98E now for a fair comparison :cool:
 

Steamrolly

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Markings don't mean much. Actual certifications do: https://www.tpdz.net/productinfo/398296.html
I can't fathom how they would have gotten certification of the amp without its supplied power supplies.

I was so focused on a proper power supply for the AIYIMA A07 that I failed to realize that the amp itself doesn't appear to have any certification.
I haven't received mine yet, does anyone have certification information on the A07?
 

PeteL

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I was so focused on a proper power supply for the AIYIMA A07 that I failed to realize that the amp itself doesn't appear to have any certification.
I haven't received mine yet, does anyone have certification information on the A07?
From the website I am surprised to see the marking on some, A2, A5 and not on the a7, weird. Not that the marking is a proof neither but I normally assume good faith. Maybe ask them directly?
 
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