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Topping PA5 Review (Amplifier)

Stinius

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The power amplifier tests should be much more severe than the set of measurements performed by @amirm . Amplifiers should be tested with continuous sine for longer period of time and at higher power, to disclose thermal design issues that affect the reliability and longevity. Complex load to be used to disclose possible stability issues. Square wave to be used for the same reason. As of the current status of tests, they are close to pointless. They support cheap designs that are oriented to low level 1kHz SINAD, which is not very useful for the user. I do not understand why an experienced engineer like @solderdude is protecting such way of testing. It seems to me that @restorer-john is of very few here who understands amplifier testing. @amirm is not the one.
Hi Pavel
Well said and as you say "As of the current status of tests, they are close to pointless" In my opinion they are not close to pointless, but absulutally pointless. 1kHz SINAD is as meaningless as you can get it when measuring an amplifier.
Let us see some reale measurements.

All the best
Stein
 
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NiagaraPete

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Amir is not the Maytag man and should not be asked, or required to predict "life span" or "reliability" of a product. This site simply tests what is sent in and provides a review based on an accepted procedure.

If you have a problem with your amp I'm sorry but Amir is not to blame.
 

IPunchCholla

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Hi Pavel
Well said and as you say "As of the current status of tests, they are close to pointless" In my opinion they are not close to pointless, but absulutally pointless. 1kHz SINAD is as meaningless as you can get it when measuring an amplifier.
Let us see some reale measurements.

All the best
Stein
Oh, come on. There are just a few more measurements besides 1khz SINAD. Or have you literally stopped reading every review after the first measurement? So besides your dishonest assessment, what particular measurements are “real” and why should Amir do them instead of you?
 

Eldus

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I also run my PA5 at full volume controlling the volume with the pre. I don’t feel my amp getting too hot. Warm, yes. On month 6 with no problems.
I was was using it today with my E50 at max and using the knob to adjust volume today. No louder really than normal and my room temp is the same. It was warmer to the touch. Just kinda warm with my Pre controlling volume to kinda hot today. I use it for hours while working from home.

The only other variable is that I was using Filter 2 which does roll off later than 1 and 3. Just 44.1khz on the DAC though.
 

Rottmannash

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Hi Pavel
Well said and as you say "As of the current status of tests, they are close to pointless" In my opinion they are not close to pointless, but absulutally pointless. 1kHz SINAD is as meaningless as you can get it when measuring an amplifier.
Let us see some reale measurements.

All the best
Stein
"reale" Is that French?
 

tonycollinet

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I don't have hard evidence but I think my PA5 runs cooler when set to max volume and using my E50 in PreAmp mode to control volume vs DAC mode.
There is no technical reason why the method of volume control will impact the operating temperature of the PA5 - whether you do it using the PA5 volume, or the Dac/preamp, all it does is control the voltage level into the power amp stage of the PA5. If the volume is the same, then the heat losses in the PA5 will be the same.
 

solderdude

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As of the current status of tests, they are absulutally pointless

Measurement of gain, THD+N at 5W, dynamic range at 5W and full power, multitone, FR @ 4ohm and 8ohm loads, 1.2MHz spectrum (at least for switching amps), crosstalk, power vs distortion (at 1kHz), max and peak power, distortion vs freq. are all absolutely pointless ?
Sure... clipping recovery behavior, maybe even square waves and specific complex loads, distortion spectrum at various frequencies and levels would be welcome.
Any idea how much time it takes to fully characterize and document this ?
Any idea how many readers fully comprehend those measurements ?

I can go along with wishing more measurements under different loads and circumstances would be preferred. When you have done extensive testing yourself and having to setup various tests that have to comply to rules and then documenting them and pumping out several reviews a week I am sure you understand something has got to give.
Better to have some basic measurements than to have no or even less measurements.

Hate the whole SINAD thing ? Just ignore that number (I do).
I think technical people want way too much additional measurements.

I would say.... when you know and can do better start your own website and post all measurements you can dream off.
 

Sokel

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Power amps should be a plug-and-forget thing.As long as the requirement of power is adequate and to the liking of the owner everything else should be straightforward.
It's a little crazy to talk about their technology in 2022 when everything about their protection and more importantly our safety and the safety of our speakers is a solved problem for decades.
Sometimes I think about the technology of my mouse,it packs a lot more factions and it costs 50 euros or something.I don't even put smartphones in the equation.
I think it's time to be more demanding about the real use and not some specific numbers (which of course are welcome as a small indicator).
It's time to separate what fits the actual purpose and does it honestly and hustle-free.
 

Kosimo

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It's not at all clear that Topping is aware of the matter. If you know where Topping has acknowledged there is a problem, please point us to it. If you know where they describe what the problem is, please point us to it.

Never said that Topping has ever made a public announcement. I was referring to the post @mdsimon2 linked that means that they are well aware of the issue.
But the process from awareness to reaction is a very unpredictable and not at all obvious.
If they are serious about their customers they should handle it like a high profile manufacturer would. Let's monitor what they will do.
For now the balance is negative. Luckily my Topping PA5 is perfect, since I bought it over 6 months ago. But we sail on sight for this one.
 

restorer-john

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Amir is not the Maytag man and should not be asked, or required to predict "life span" or "reliability" of a product. This site simply tests what is sent in and provides a review based on an accepted procedure.

If you have a problem with your amp I'm sorry but Amir is not to blame.

Rubbish. What a half-assed cop-out.

Absolutely Amir and his 'reviews' should consider the design, construction, usability, longevity and quality of the product. Otherwise the reviews are utterly worthless. It's like saying a car tested at 0-60 in 3 seconds, but neglecting to mention it blew up and caught fire the next day...

Sadly, the guidance from ASR membership is proffered, the predictions come true and the fallout becomes obvious. How hard was it to listen? :facepalm:

Many of us actual experts in the field of high fidelity reliability, design, service, repair and construction have voiced our concerns, predictions and commentary over the years and, to be quite honest, it's pretty amusing to see all the predictions come true over and over again.

I don't care, I have no dog in this fight. But would I line up and buy this Topping stuff based on these facts? No way.
 

tvih

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And how many reviews outside of ASR address all those things? Amir does often comment on construction, usability etc. But for example what is he to do if a company sends him a review sample that he's not allowed to even open up, as can be the case (and was with the PA5, too)? Not measure it? Please. Longevity/reliability outside of any outwardly obviously issues really is beyond the scope of ASR and the vast majority of other reviewers, for that matter, and for obvious reasons.

Don't get me wrong, I'd very much LOVE to get that info myself, but it's not really a realistic expectation. Anyone who thinks it is can just start doing their own reviews where they don't mind disassemblies and potentially blowing stuff up and can handle that financially, I guess?
 

tonycollinet

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Rubbish. What a half-assed cop-out.

Absolutely Amir and his 'reviews' should consider the design, construction, usability, longevity and quality of the product. Otherwise the reviews are utterly worthless. It's like saying a car tested at 0-60 in 3 seconds, but neglecting to mention it blew up and caught fire the next day...

Sadly, the guidance from ASR membership is proffered, the predictions come true and the fallout becomes obvious. How hard was it to listen? :facepalm:

Many of us actual experts in the field of high fidelity reliability, design, service, repair and construction have voiced our concerns, predictions and commentary over the years and, to be quite honest, it's pretty amusing to see all the predictions come true over and over again.

I don't care, I have no dog in this fight. But would I line up and buy this Topping stuff based on these facts? No way.
Testing reliability on a one off sample is meaningless. As is trying to test reliability in a short time.

Commenting on quality of construction is fine - but rarely has a good correlation with reliability. Amir normally comments if a unit under test gets particularly hot (EG The Rega IO tested last year)
 

REK2575

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I agree that testing a product's longer-term reliability is outside the scope of Amir's reviews. However, it seems to me that in the rare cases where Amir strongly endorses a product -- as is clearly the case with the PA5: "It is my absolute pleasure to recommend the Topping PA5.[emphasis Amir's] The dynamics of stereo amplifier market just changed folks!" -- and then, in short order, concerns about the product's reliability start to surface in the forum, it behooves Amir to update his review to acknowledge this.

After all, we're not talking about a couple of reports of unit failure (such as any product is prone to). We're talking about a sustained and growing list of PA5 failure reports. Might the rate of failure be exaggerated to some extent? Of course. But even fans of Topping products (of which I used to be one) have to admit: Clearly, something is wrong here. There is a problem with the PA5. It's only made worse by the fact that Topping or its rep here, JohnWang, absolutely refuse to acknowledge it. I would think that would get Amir's attention. I would think he'd have some concerns about his credibility. 'Here's a product I strongly recommended. There are many reports from loyal members of ASR of a problem with the PA5. Topping is completely ignoring the issue. Maybe I owe it to my readers to mention this...?'

Here's a clear case in which Amir gave a Topping product an unreservedly glowing review. A no-reservations, "this is a fantastic product, folks, you'll be thrilled with its performance" review. In light of the many reports of PA5 failures, does the PA5 still merit that unreserved, 'this is totally awesome' endorsement? Yes, maybe Amir can't test for unit reliability. But, in the case of the PA5, forum members have established a track record of lack of reliability for him. Shouldn't he at least mention this?
 

Kosimo

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ny idea how much time it takes to fully characterize and document this ?
Any idea how many readers fully comprehend those measurements ?

I agree that testing a product's longer-term reliability is outside the scope of Amir's reviews. However, it seems to me that in the rare cases where Amir strongly endorses a product -- as is clearly the case with the PA5: "It is my absolute pleasure to recommend the Topping PA5.[emphasis Amir's] The dynamics of stereo amplifier market just changed folks!" -- and then, in short order, concerns about the product's reliability start to surface in the forum, it behooves Amir to update his review to acknowledge this.

After all, we're not talking about a couple of reports of unit failure (such as any product is prone to). We're talking about a sustained and growing list of PA5 failure reports. Might the rate of failure be exaggerated to some extent? Of course. But even fans of Topping products (of which I used to be one) have to admit: Clearly, something is wrong here. There is a problem with the PA5. It's only made worse by the fact that Topping or its rep here, JohnWang, absolutely refuse to acknowledge it. I would think that would get Amir's attention. I would think he'd have some concerns about his credibility. 'Here's a product I strongly recommended. There are many reports from loyal members of ASR of a problem with the PA5. Topping is completely ignoring the issue. Maybe I owe it to my readers to mention this...?'

Here's a clear case in which Amir gave a Topping product an unreservedly glowing review. A no-reservations, "this is a fantastic product, folks, you'll be thrilled with its performance" review. In light of the many reports of PA5 failures, does the PA5 still merit that unreserved, 'this is totally awesome' endorsement? Yes, maybe Amir can't test for unit reliability. But, in the case of the PA5, forum members have established a track record of lack of reliability for him. Shouldn't he at least mention this?

I agree with that forum members have shown that there is a yield problem but the reality is much more complex. It could be a limited batch in time and/or space (e.g. a production site could have shipped a batch of defective units). On these kind of thing I think that only discussing with producer requiring transparency can shed light.
If producer still to be no transparent and ignore problems, will pay the consequences.

Concerning the mention, I can be wrong but I think it is more a responsibility of the forum and the discussion that develops among members.
I challenge anyone to read the review with 73 pages of comments without knowing the yield problems encountered by the some forum members.
The forum, I think, is also useful for these kind of aspects not strictly related to performance :)
 

DSJR

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Re: an earlier post by @restorer-john and testing amps full power into a short circuit, I'd sincerely ask users NEVER to attempt this on anything remotely 'audiophile!'

Back in the 80's and 90's, solid amp designs were totally ignored and/or put down by the UK press - one reason I had no idea about the common and well sorted Yamaha integrated amp 'chassis' which is still used today in their sub £/$1k range. A Technics or two came through well but they were here and gone a bit too quickly quite often.. As for the 'better sounding' amps we recommended and sold, REMOVAL of output inductors (Naim, NVA amongst others) and almost total abandonment of output stage protection and barely relying on a fuse (not even that on Naim and NVA) was regarded as a beneficial thing :( Short the speaker outputs at almost any level and the output stage is gone - end of (Audio Analogue Puccini SE with no signal going through it and a Krell KAV 250 stereo power amp which fried half a channel simply by an accidental stroking of the speaker connectors together at very low volume). Naims with iffy output stages (decades back so maybe not today) used to go DC into the speakers and that was that!

I do remember being able to demonstrate what happens when any UK made Audiolab amp and the rather nice for a UK amp Myryad MI-120 had their speaker outputs deliberately shorted - immediate loud 'click' from the relays and attempted re-connection a couple of seconds later. Customers did feel reassured by this. A pal bought a Rega Brio R and didn't have 4mm plugs to connect his speakers, so he used bare ends and *one strand only* fortunately blew an output fuse (the amp was fresh out of the box and Rega replaced immediately with no quibble). An old and very iffy Pioneer 8100? integrated amp had working protection as 'Speaker B' selected, had a short which tripped the protection relays as soon as 'Speakers B' were selected. Could you get output devices for a nigh on 50 year old far eastern amp now? Some of these amps may well last half a century or more (bolstering up the mid market in used gear), so it's good if they can protect themselves as well as the speakers they're connected to.

Just be aware chaps, from my experience you have a properly designed amp market still which all 'sounds the same boring boring same' to audiophiles - and then you have the audiophile (phool) confections which hang out on the edge of the limb and which can be incredibly 'temperamental' as well as adding all manner of distortions or response/power bandwidth errors to tailor a 'nice musical' sound to suit subjective tastes...
 
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Paco De Lucia

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Mines still going strong daily use driving 800w per side speakers. I have driven the thing into protection several times too, and some prolonged very high volume runs. No problems
 

JGeez

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We're talking about a sustained and growing list of PA5 failure reports.
I keep searching the Internet for such a sustained and growing list of PA5 failure reports and the only links I get are to ASR and specifically to this and the poll thread. Amazon reviews are still largely positive. Apos reviews are all positive with one exception, someone who references ASR. Apos' answer was "Based on what we are seeing, there's a very small percentage of PA5 with the issue you described." There is one problem post on the Klipsch community site -- and the poster is an ASR member. There is one person on AV Nirvana's community site who says "There have been quite a few posts about reliability issues with this unit, but I've not had any problems so far." And, he is an ASR member from the poll thread.
 

MAB

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Mines still going strong daily use driving 800w per side speakers. I have driven the thing into protection several times too, and some prolonged very high volume runs. No problems
Oh boy. Those are so intimidating, I can only imagine!!! Fantastic!!!
Most of the PA5 issues discussed here don't seem to be due to high-volume.
My PA5 broke after light use after a few days. I fell asleep with the music on just above audibility, and woke up the next morning thinking I had a water leak.

Back to your speakers, enjoy your music!
 

REK2575

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I keep searching the Internet for such a sustained and growing list of PA5 failure reports and the only links I get are to ASR and specifically to this and the poll thread. Amazon reviews are still largely positive. Apos reviews are all positive with one exception, someone who references ASR. Apos' answer was "Based on what we are seeing, there's a very small percentage of PA5 with the issue you described." There is one problem post on the Klipsch community site -- and the poster is an ASR member. There is one person on AV Nirvana's community site who says "There have been quite a few posts about reliability issues with this unit, but I've not had any problems so far." And, he is an ASR member from the poll thread.

Not sure why the reports made right here in ASR aren't enough for you. There's enough indication in these posts from various forum members to be able to say: there appears to be a problem with the PA5's reliability. There is a non-trivial number of reports of PA5 failure.

The main seller of the PA5 on Amazon (USA), Aoshida HiFi Us, has a whopping total of 34 reviews. Re: the PA5, I doubt very much that Topping sells many thousands of units. The number of purchasers is, I suspect, relatively small, particularly when compared to mainstream amp manufacturers like Yamaha.

So I don't find it that surprising that the internet isn't abuzz with talk of the Topping PA5. It's a niche product for a niche audience.
 
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