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Topping Pre90 Review (preamplifier)

yyzsb

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My experience is that a preamp ALWAYS makes a DAC sound better. I have a Benchmark LA4, Topping pre90 (selling if anyone wants one), a CODA 07x. Adding the preamp improved the Gustard X26 Pro DAC (now sold) and the Topping D90SE DAC. I also hate digital volume controls. My Benchmark DAC3B does not have a volume control which I attribute as a positive feature.
 

simplywyn

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Today I tried putting the output from my DAC straight into the Amp what I noticed was tremendous:

The top suddenly became tinny, and felt like there was a ton more detail.

The bass suddenly became separated and not integrated, in fact that bass sounded really good.

However I realized this was far sub optimal as i put back the pre90 into the chain, and the sound felt 99% better, it wasn't so boomy bass, and the top end really had weight.
 

redjr

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Maybe there is indeed a break-in period after all
Could it be that this break-in period represents the necessary time for your brain to get accustomed at last, to a sound without distortion that you were used to before?
My thoughts exactly!
 

redjr

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Is that a proprietary cable that is used to mate the two devices? Seems risky, if that cable ever breaks, or wears out. Also why have a multi output device, but require the user to have to toggle through outputs with a single button?

Great review. Too expensive imo though. Also if Topping is jumping into the high end market @$900, please improve the volume selector hand feel amd remote quality. Schiit gets the win for their latest volume knob imo.
I'm with you on a good solid feel to the volume knob. But in the end, I like many people today rely on a remote. I don't how I missed this review. Too bad the main unit only provides 2 inputs. Topping engineered this so most users have to pony up for extender too. Sigh. Oh well, I guess the performance makes up for the cost. :)
 

yyzsb

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If the pre90 is what is going to be reviewed in Stereophile, let me add a few points from my experience.

- The synergy with some amps was not there with the pre90. The following amps I had in my house and tried with the pre90 had volume issues. CODA #8, LSA Voyager 350 GAN, D-Sonic M3a 800s (I am pretty sure, but it was some time ago)

- The following 2 amps worked well with the pre90, Benchmark AHB2 mono and Parasound A21+.

- The pre90 and Benchmark LA4 sound identical on the AHB2. Though the LA4 has better features and works with ALL amps. I ended up buying the LA4 again because of how bad the pre90 worked with the CODA #8 and Voyager. I had sold the Benchmark HPA4 preamp once I got the pre90, a mistake in hindsight.

- The pre90's subwoofer output seems to be much better than the LA4's. I am not a subwoofer expert but my KEF KC63 sound much better via the pre90 than the LA4. I followed the advice of Rory Rail at Benchmark on setting up the LA4 with a sub. My speakers on that system are the KEF LS50's.

BTW - I decided to keep the pre90 because my LA4 was moved to another system. The pre90 is now paired with the AHB2 monos and it is an excellent pairing.
 

Kal Rubinson

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If the pre90 is what is going to be reviewed in Stereophile, let me add a few points from my experience.
Thanks for your notes but (1) I try not to read or incorporate the comments of others when reviewing a product and (2) the copy was finalized a few weeks ago.
- The pre90's subwoofer output seems to be much better than the LA4's.
The Pre90 does not have subwoofer outputs and, although you could choose to use any of the outputs for that purpose, none of the outputs have any HP or LP filters.
 

yyzsb

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Thanks for your notes but (1) I try not to read or incorporate the comments of others when reviewing a product and (2) the copy was finalized a few weeks ago.

The Pre90 does not have subwoofer outputs and, although you could choose to use any of the outputs for that purpose, none of the outputs have any HP or LP filters.
No problem. But those notes are for everyone who is considering this preamp, it is a good preamp under the right circumstances. The LA4 worked for me in every instance.
Could you expand please, are you using the RCA out for sub duties at the same time as XLR>AHB2 ?


I am using the RCA outputs on the pre90 to my KEF KC63 sub and XLR to AHB2 monos. My understanding is that using the RCA outputs on my Benchmark LA4 to the sub works the same way. Rory at Benchmark gave me some other instructions on setting up a sub with the LA4 but I did not do that since this sub system is a temporary system until I get floorstanders and remove the sub. I prefer the pre90 with the sub over the LA4. However, this system is in my son's playroom (our living room) and it is used for background music in this noisy space.
 

Kal Rubinson

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I am using the RCA outputs on the pre90 to my KEF KC63 sub and XLR to AHB2 monos. My understanding is that using the RCA outputs on my Benchmark LA4 to the sub works the same way. Rory at Benchmark gave me some other instructions on setting up a sub with the LA4 but I did not do that since this sub system is a temporary system until I get floorstanders and remove the sub. I prefer the pre90 with the sub over the LA4. However, this system is in my son's playroom (our living room) and it is used for background music in this noisy space.
Sooooo. I guess you have some other device(s) for the HP/LP functions.
 

yyzsb

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Sooooo. I guess you have some other device(s) for the HP/LP functions.
The system where the sub is in in my child's playroom on Ikea bookshelves. The room has close to a 27-foot ceiling with tiny KEF LS50 speakers. This is a bit of a ridiculous system. I am not going to spend any money or time dial in the sub.

My statement is that the sub running of the Topping pre90 sounds much better than on the Benchmark LA4. The KEF KC63 sub is set to 80 hz cutoff for the incoming RCA signal from the preamp. That is all I am going to do to integrate this system which is a background music system when my son and I play.

I am not saying the pre90 is better than the LA4 (hardly). Just that my sub sounds better with this simple setup via the pre90.

 

Bork

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Hi everyone, another newb here.
I have a question, and hope someone can and is willing to take the time to help me understand. Got the pre90 and plugged it in my system 3 days ago and have been enjoying it. System as follows:
Okto dac8 stereo with pi module for streaming (volumino) ––> topping pre90 —> McIntosh mc152 power amp —> wharfedale elysian 2.
Before, it was the same but without the pre90, so was using the digital volume control on the dac. Got the pre mainly as a preparation for a vinyl source at some future point…
The sound with the pre is different to my ears - very similar to what simplywyn described in post #922.
So, to my question: strictly from the electrics point of view (voltage, impedance…), is it expected/logical for the pre90 to bring any benefits?

DAC XLR:
- 4.1v rms full-scale
- Output impedance <100 ohm

Pre90 XLR @IN=5vrms, vol=0db:
- Input sensitivity 9.3vrms @0db
- utput impedance 40ohm

McIntosh mc152:
- Input Sensitivity (for rated output) 2.4 Volts Balanced
- Input impedance 22,000 ohm (balanced)

I’ve read lower impedance out into higher impedance is good… and that’s about it :)

Grateful for any help, thanks, and greetings from Munich!
 

ThomasMac

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The Topping pre90 works excellent with my AHB2 stereo and mono. It also works well with my new Parasound A21+, my new headphone only amp. It does not work well with my CODA #8 or my now sold LSA Voyager 350 GAN. These issues I have had with the pre90 and amps does not occur with the LA4 or HPA4. I actually sold the HPA4 thinking the pre90 would be all I needed since it worked great with the AHB2. However, after I switched amps in the office the pre90 fell on it's face.

I am keeping my CODA #8 and my Parasound A21+ in my office connected to a CODA 07x preamp. I was thinking that the Topping pre90 could work here but it does not. So I will be selling my Topping pre90 + Ext90 once my CODA 07x is returned back to me from repairs. Send me a message if you are interested in the pre90.
Id assume the CODA 07X would be all one would need for the #8. But haven't heard their products before but still considering buying their cSib integrated blind.
How do you like the sound of the CODA combo?
Hope you don't i side rail the thread for a moment and make it about CODA :)
 

Matias

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Hi everyone, another newb here.
I have a question, and hope someone can and is willing to take the time to help me understand. Got the pre90 and plugged it in my system 3 days ago and have been enjoying it. System as follows:
Okto dac8 stereo with pi module for streaming (volumino) ––> topping pre90 —> McIntosh mc152 power amp —> wharfedale elysian 2.
Before, it was the same but without the pre90, so was using the digital volume control on the dac. Got the pre mainly as a preparation for a vinyl source at some future point…
The sound with the pre is different to my ears - very similar to what simplywyn described in post #922.
So, to my question: strictly from the electrics point of view (voltage, impedance…), is it expected/logical for the pre90 to bring any benefits?

DAC XLR:
- 4.1v rms full-scale
- Output impedance <100 ohm

Pre90 XLR @IN=5vrms, vol=0db:
- Input sensitivity 9.3vrms @0db
- utput impedance 40ohm

McIntosh mc152:
- Input Sensitivity (for rated output) 2.4 Volts Balanced
- Input impedance 22,000 ohm (balanced)

I’ve read lower impedance out into higher impedance is good… and that’s about it :)

Grateful for any help, thanks, and greetings from Munich!
Welcome to ASR!

If you want you can check what is the effect of the digital volume control of the DAC versus analog stepped volume of the preamp by setting volume to -6dB on the Pre90 (unity gain, what comes in goes out) and use the digital volume on the DAC. Then reverse this by going full volume on the DAC and lowering the volume on the Pre90. Compare both and check the differences between volumes.
 

Bork

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Welcome to ASR!

If you want you can check what is the effect of the digital volume control of the DAC versus analog stepped volume of the preamp by setting volume to -6dB on the Pre90 (unity gain, what comes in goes out) and use the digital volume on the DAC. Then reverse this by going full volume on the DAC and lowering the volume on the Pre90. Compare both and check the differences between volumes.
Thank you Matias!
Indeed I am playing around with the 2 volumes in that manner, and "believe" that the analog volume does a better job in some ways. So subjectively I'm pretty much sold on the volume part. I guess what I'm looking for however is a confirmation from a technical view (I'm no engineer or technician by any means) whether the electric part of the story is a fit. E.g. I have read that lower impedance out into higher impedance in (both from DAC to pre and from pre to amp) are good, but what is the rule there? How much higher impedance in is acceptable? Or, I also got the tip that if the voltage out is higher than the voltage of the receiving device (which is the case in my system both, with and without the pre, amp's input sensitivity is 2.4 volt) I would lose some dinamic range... Is that always true or all other things kept constant, or...?
Cheers!
 
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