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Topping PA5 II Stereo Amplifier Review

Rate this stereo amplifier:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 14 4.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 18 5.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 96 29.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 198 60.7%

  • Total voters
    326

Julf

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I admit it was not a “properly controlled double blind procedure”. I was more focused on the end result: the satisfaction I get listening to music using both systems.
Not a bad criteria, but to work the testing has to remove other factors - thus double blind. You can still test for the satisfaction you get...
I was just trying to understand what’s really going on. When I see similar frequency response charts and similar multi tone charts and then ear two different things… something must be going on. What can it be? I don’t know. Could/should we do tests running small samples of real audio and try to measure the result? Maybe there are phenomena that we can’t detect measuring the way we do now.
There are, as has been pointed out, two significant phenomena that can explain your perceptions. One is expectation bias, the other is level (volume) difference,
No I didn’t. Not scientifically at least. But the difference between both systems with no EQ is so pronounced that it really is a no brainer. I would happily do a recording with proper level matching but I don’t have a good microphone (the best I have is maybe the iPhone).
As I keep saying, I wish I had $1 for each person who claims differences so clear no blind testing is required, but subsequently fail to hear a difference in a double blind test...
 

cptsantos

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You need to do level matching with a voltmeter at the speaker terminals using a test tone.


That difference can easily be felt from level mismatch - or even from cognitive bias.

Though I'm still guessing you have some DSP going on in the Sonos Amp. Having said that - despite it's excellent measurements I'd not expect the Topping to sound significantly better than the Sonos, which is also a good amp, and the topping has less power. So if you'd just asked the question "would the Topping be a good upgrade to the Sonos?" I'd have answered "Probably not"


EDIT - what happens if you use the same Wiim into the line in of the Sonos? (You don't describe the Wiim as being the source for setup B). And I assume you are not moving the speakers between tests - just changing what is connected to them?

(Also struck out the "more power" comment - was looking at the wrong Sonos Amp)
Ok. I’ve spent the morning doing more proper tests. Tested (and recorded) Sonos Amp vs Topping PA5 with the same source via RCA line in. Source was my iPad playing lossless Apple Music. Microphone was my iPhone. Level matched using pink noise at 70db. Both speakers 110cm away from the microphone.

Recordings here.
 

Julf

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Ok. I’ve spent the morning doing more proper tests. Tested (and recorded) Sonos Amp vs Topping PA5 with the same source via RCA line in. Source was my iPad playing lossless Apple Music. Microphone was my iPhone. Level matched using pink noise at 70db. Both speakers 110cm away from the microphone.

Recordings here.
Recorded by mic from speakers? Even minuscule changes in phone placement or direction will affect the results.
 

Sokel

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Hmm,it seems that something is at play here:


spectra.PNG

Aligned specrum.PNG


Delta of spectra.PNG



It seems that you're right about what you hear @cptsantos .
Check about weird EQ settings,bass boost and stuff.

Edit:for people unfamiliar with Deltawave,there's some 10db difference in favor of Sonos at the low end.
Also PA5 II seems brighter which would also boost the feeling about lifeless lows as it tips the balance even more.
 
Last edited:

Julf

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Sokel

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Definitely looks like bass boost.
Not a traditional one though,this is usually centered at 60Hz or so.
If it is,it's a weird one.
Slope looks like the amp is running out of oomph there which can't be the case according to it's measurements.
Difficult speakers maybe?Don't know.

But there's definitely something functional here,I would argue about mic positions and stuff for the highs but at lows is insignificant,it would be the same even moving it 10cm.

Weird stuff.
 

Sokel

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Out of suspicion that something about this one song was maybe triggering the gear,did the rest of them too:

Consequence of Love.

con spectra.PNGCon delta.PNG

One Kiss.

Kiss spectra.PNGKiss delta.PNG

Power of Equality

Power spectra.PNGPower delta.PNG

Nope,it's consistent and even exaggerated in couple of them at the same areas.

Something,somewhere is broken.
 

cptsantos

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Recorded by mic from speakers? Even minuscule changes in phone placement or direction will affect the results.
Yes. If there was changes it was a placement difference of less than 1cm.
 

cptsantos

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Definitely looks like bass boost.
I checked the EQ settings on Sonos. Bass 0, Treble 0, Loudness off. Pressed the reset button several times :D
 

cptsantos

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You need to do level matching with a voltmeter at the speaker terminals using a test tone.


That difference can easily be felt from level mismatch - or even from cognitive bias.

Though I'm still guessing you have some DSP going on in the Sonos Amp. Having said that - despite it's excellent measurements I'd not expect the Topping to sound significantly better than the Sonos, which is also a good amp, and the topping has less power. So if you'd just asked the question "would the Topping be a good upgrade to the Sonos?" I'd have answered "Probably not"


EDIT - what happens if you use the same Wiim into the line in of the Sonos? (You don't describe the Wiim as being the source for setup B). And I assume you are not moving the speakers between tests - just changing what is connected to them?

Tested this according to your suggestion.
Level matched with pink noise, iPhone 110cm from both speakers. Source were local flac files. Lossless audio recording on the iPhone. 3 different tracks.

WiiM on Sonos Amp vs Sonos Amp internal streamer.
(Pay attention to the names as the PA5 II vs Sonos Amp tests are also there)

(Also struck out the "more power" comment - was looking at the wrong Sonos Amp)

It’s the white Sonos Connect:Amp that came before the black Sonos Amp.
 

cptsantos

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antcollinet

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There’s definitely something amiss, but I think we can say with a good deal of authority from experience that it’s not an “amps all sound different” difference, it’s a “something is broken” difference.
Or a - there is a setting wrong difference.


EDIT - or the Sonos is just designed to boost the bass.
 

cptsantos

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Or a - there is a setting wrong difference.


EDIT - or the Sonos is just designed to boost the bass.
Or … different non linear response in the frequency range with these speakers. Is it possible?
 

Julf

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Or … different non linear response in the frequency range with these speakers. Is it possible?
What do you mean by that? Non-linear response usually implies distortion.
 

antcollinet

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What do you mean by that? Non-linear response usually implies distortion.
I'm assuming he means non flat FR.

It's possible - but unlikely given the similar power specs for the two amps.
 

Sokel

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Thanks for doing this!
Happy to know I'm not completely crazy :)
Can you please pm me one of the songs in it's original form?
I'm curious to see it's original waveform and which amp is closer to it.
 

cptsantos

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Can you please pm me one of the songs in it's original form?
I'm curious to see it's original waveform and which amp is closer to it.
The songs were streamed from Apple Music. I don't think I can have access to the original waveform.
I have 3 of them in FLAC but can’t guarantee that they are the same master as the Apple Music master.
 

Sokel

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The songs were streamed from Apple Music. I don't think I can have access to the original waveform.
I have 3 of them in FLAC but can’t guarantee that they are the same master as the Apple Music master.
Can't be that different as long as it's the same version.
One of them will do.
 
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