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Topping RD3 TP Balanced DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 5 2.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 14 6.1%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 89 39.0%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 120 52.6%

  • Total voters
    228
Personally I find the amplifier highly interesting, it's PA5 likely without the design error; XLR and RCA inputs, remote and no channel imbalance. It's also not so bad that the powersupply is already inside the same box. It's much more interesting than PA5 II
 
Room reflections are linear in nature. They cannot by definition create distortion, i.e. new frequencies that did not exist in the source. If you have rattles and buzzes, sure, but not straight reflections.

You will however measure different relative THD due to room modes causing frequency response changes. That would make the ratio different and manifest in a different number, up or down, but not because any distortion is added by the room.

I have measured speakers with SINAD in the 80s which is actually the limit of the measurement system. Mechanical devices if used well below their max playback level can be surprisingly linear. And of course, they have infinite signal to noise ratio since if you remove the signal, they don't play anything.
But the combined signal reaching your ears after multiple reflection paths all over the room (plus the direct path signal itself) will sum with the original source signal frequencies to create a signal probably much closer to the direct signal but the intermodulation between these multiple signals into your ear is bound to create new frequencies, albeit at much lower levels, low enough that either the ear 'magically' ignores or filter them out or processes them in such a way that we never find them offensive at all. After all, it's how instrument location in 3D space is determined by the brain.
 
Agree. Their RA3 is 50wpc into 8 ohms, before the knee, sorry that is not enough power for any professional setting, such as an auditorium. And I am doubtful that this would attract small businesses, unless the business owner is an audiophile.

And while we don't know the reliability of this TP line, that is super important for professional grade as it needs to take a beating. If you look at all the complaints on their LA90, I don't have too much confidence of their reliability for professional settings.

Finally, no one gives 2 pennies for SINAD in the professional setting. (Assuming reasonable SINAD, like crown amps).

The engineering is great for this TP line, so is the price, but the intended market is a bust from what I see.
1. Probably good enough for typical studio recording studios.

2. I've always known for years that professional recording equipment, even from top-notch recording studios, has much poorer SINAD/THD+N/Channel separation specs than consumer-grade DACs, such as the Topping, SMSLs, etc. Imagine a sound control rack with 48+ channels that performs analog gain + filtering for the microphones and instruments, suitable for the first stage ADCs, then performs some DSP involving gain/volume control, filtering, etc, aka 'sweetening the sound'.

By the time the final cut is made, the final noise/distortion levels of that musical track on the CD/DVDA/SACD will be dominated by microphone noise, the weakest link in the signal recording chain. Channel separation between 48+ recording channels is a joke! You get what you get as these consoles are not designed for ultrahigh fidelity. Cram in as many hw channels as one can afford and leave the rest to software and sell the album asap!!! Time is money is king in this business.

Professional studio mics have much inferior SINAD specs when compared to consumer-grade gear. Add that to inferior (compared to consumer-grade) gain/interface sections before their respective multichannel barely 16/18-bit accurate ADCs (though rated as 24-bits)... and we fret about a consumer dac with an 18-20-bit noise floor and -90dB channel separation spec (while professional studio consoles barely make 50 or 60dB multichannel separation!), and demand 21 bits or more noise floor in our DACs, yet these professional studio consoles hover around -80 to -90dB noise floor (at best for the fancy expensive ones):facepalm:.

And yes, let's not forget that the professional monitors/speakers used by the recording engineer in their studios are on the cheesy side from a technical spec-wise point of view. They are designed to produce decent sound. Just go to Sweetwater.com (and others) and read the specs of their professional monitors, microphones, and multichannel consoles. So between the ok monitors, the engineer's ears, the noisier microphones, and the ok recording console ...all that determines what we listen to in our homes.

In summary, what we are truly listening to with our high-quality dacs is the noise and distortion performance of the entire recording chain, whose specs are inferior to the consumer-grade DAC you have in your setup. No need to worry or fret about our DACs having a SINAD of 'only' -100dB. No recording studio will ever pretend to have or exceed these specs with their setup.
 
I think we have to give time to time ... the RA3 is new on the market and we do not know its reliability. Many of us have rushed to the PA5 and several testimonies have confirmed poor reliability in the medium term .... moreover the RA3 does not meet EU standards so I still doubt Topping's strategy....
 
1. Probably good enough for typical studio recording studios.

2. I've always known for years that professional recording equipment, even from top-notch recording studios, has much poorer SINAD/THD+N/Channel separation specs than consumer-grade DACs, such as the Topping, SMSLs, etc. Imagine a sound control rack with 48+ channels that performs analog gain + filtering for the microphones and instruments, suitable for the first stage ADCs, then performs some DSP involving gain/volume control, filtering, etc, aka 'sweetening the sound'.

By the time the final cut is made, the final noise/distortion levels of that musical track on the CD/DVDA/SACD will be dominated by microphone noise, the weakest link in the signal recording chain. Channel separation between 48+ recording channels is a joke! You get what you get as these consoles are not designed for ultrahigh fidelity. Cram in as many hw channels as one can afford and leave the rest to software and sell the album asap!!! Time is money is king in this business.

Professional studio mics have much inferior SINAD specs when compared to consumer-grade gear. Add that to inferior (compared to consumer-grade) gain/interface sections before their respective multichannel barely 16/18-bit accurate ADCs (though rated as 24-bits)... and we fret about a consumer dac with an 18-20-bit noise floor and -90dB channel separation spec (while professional studio consoles barely make 50 or 60dB multichannel separation!), and demand 21 bits or more noise floor in our DACs, yet these professional studio consoles hover around -80 to -90dB noise floor (at best for the fancy expensive ones):facepalm:.

And yes, let's not forget that the professional monitors/speakers used by the recording engineer in their studios are on the cheesy side from a technical spec-wise point of view. They are designed to produce decent sound. Just go to Sweetwater.com (and others) and read the specs of their professional monitors, microphones, and multichannel consoles. So between the ok monitors, the engineer's ears, the noisier microphones, and the ok recording console ...all that determines what we listen to in our homes.

In summary, what we are truly listening to with our high-quality dacs is the noise and distortion performance of the entire recording chain, whose specs are inferior to the consumer-grade DAC you have in your setup. No need to worry or fret about our DACs having a SINAD of 'only' -100dB. No recording studio will ever pretend to have or exceed these specs with their setup.
Wow, this makes me feel pretty good about my mediocre rack setup.
 
I work on IT where racks are stacked with a combination of full size rack equipment and smaller equipment in trays or adapters. As an example, a fiber to coper single port Ethernet adapter is too small, and many routers and modems are like this. Some brands, like Fortigate sell metal brackets so you can mount your small unit in your rack if that was the customer deciced.

In this particular case it's a dac, that consumes very little power and a power supply, that probably generates most of the heat. If heat management was the issue, they could place the power supply outside.

Regardig if the metal case is waste or not is not so simple. Even when properly disposed at a place that does type of work, the labor to take out the boards and separate the metal exceeds the recoverable value. If the case was made out of aluminum or the PCB had a lot of gold, like in military surplus, the parts would be separated and processed. More than likely this would get chopped into a million pieces without reprocess.

At the end of the day not creating waste is a better option than recycling.

Also this is neither a pro equipment designed for touring or for professional use, so the real need to the rack format is arguable.

I do understand that it looks neat ( it really does )and some people may be interested on the rack format, but it is my opinion that a smaller case and a rack adapter would have been the best engineering solution with the minimal waste of materials
I do not use racks (they do look neat to us but not to my wife [I did not have a wife for 48 years & have never had a rack, so, there is that]) my furniture has a space to put all standard size & slightly larger stuff that has most of it hidden from view or not, if you wish. And plenty of airflow either way.
Smaller/lighter gear is a problem to my setup, as they tip when cables are hooked up (yes, there are solutions like double sided sticky tape or Velcro).
As to waste, I usually just refurbish what I have. That started with cars many years ago (I currently drive a 2000 Nissan Frontier 4 cylinder auto (wish it were standard truck that has 30 % more power than it originally did, meets or beats it's original emissions specs & gets about 20% better fuel economy than it originally did & I expect it to go another 100K miles (bringing it to 300K miles) before it needs to be parted out & recycled. Unfortunately someone totaled my 2012 Lexus ES350 (with only 48,K miles on it) so I am being forced to replace it before it's time. Looks like the 2024 Subaru CrossTrek Wilderness will suit the bill (after I add some Crawford Billet Power blocks to it (they raise the intake manifold a bit), increasing torque horsepower and fuel efficiency, while maintaining or bettering emissions & an oil/air separator (which other boxer style engines, such as Porsche), have. This deceases emissions & increases longevity. Thereby staying out of the recycler yard longer.
I believe in repair, restore, resto-mod, repurpose whenever possible, before creating waste.
Which explains why most of my audio system is from the 70's, 80's & 90's, with a few pieces of gear from the 2010's (with most of it having 95 or so SINAD [turn tables & tape decks excepted]).
 
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I do not use racks (they do look neat to us but not to my wife [I did not have a wife for 48 years & have never had a rack, so, there is that) my furniture has a space to put all standard size & slightly larger stuff that has most of it hidden from view or not, if you wish. And plenty of airflow either way.
Smaller/lighter gear is a problem to my setup, as they tip when cables are hooked up (yes, there are solutions like double sided sticky tape or Velcro).
As to waste, I usually just refurbish what I have. That started with cars many years ago (I currently drive a 2000 Nissan Frontier 4 cylinder auto (wish it were standard truck that has 30 % more power than it originally did, meets or beats it's original emissions specs & gets about 20% better fuel economy than it originally did & I expect it to go another 100K miles (bringing it to 300K miles) before it needs to be parted out & recycled. Unfortunately someone totaled my 2012 Lexus ES350 (with only 48,K miles on it) so I am being forced to replace it before it's time. Looks like the 2024 Subaru CrossTrek Wilderness will suit the bill (after I add some Crawford Billet Power blocks to it (they raise the intake manifold a bit), increasing torque horsepower and fuel efficiency, while maintaining or bettering emissions & an oil/air separator (which other boxer style engines, such as Porsche), have. This deceases emissions & increases longevity. Thereby staying out of the recycler yard longer.
I believe in repair, restore, resto-mod, repurpose whenever possible, before creating waste.
Which explains why most of my audio system is from the 70's, 80's & 90's, with a few pieces of gear from the 2010's (with most of it having 95 or so SINAD [turn tables & tape decks excepted]).
My latest and newest piece of equipment is a 1980s nad1600 connected to a technical sl1200mk2 from 1990s, both refurbished by me. By far reuse is the best.
 
My latest and newest piece of equipment is a 1980s nad1600 connected to a technical sl1200mk2 from 1990s, both refurbished by me. By far reuse is the best.
Repair (maybe even better than it was original, in a resto-mod way [which many of us did as soon as we bought the gear, anyway, changing cartridges, tonearms, tubes, op-amps & more]).
Eventually it may no longer be State of the Art (neither will we, as we age).
On the other hand, it may.
But by doing so, you've managed to keep it out of the landfill for many more years AND have been able to ENJOY it those many years.
And I do that with much of what I own.
Many things I end up finally selling for parts (someone is looking to have a part of mine that is still fine when I am ready to turn mine loose after 30-40 years or more).
Part of the key to that longevity is to not buy the cheapest of an item that you want to begin with. Be sure that it is a quality item from the get-go.
 
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Topping "TP" RD3 balanced stereo USB rackmount DAC with Bluetooth. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $229.
View attachment 306076
The unit sports a gorgeous, white segmented display with highly responsive control. It is a joy to use. A remote control is provided as well. Back panel shows what we expect including the now standard trigger support on Topping products:
View attachment 306078
Power supply is built-in which is very nice as well.

I prefer this form factor to desktop products as it looks more "serious."

Topping RD3 TP Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard:
View attachment 306079
This is excellent performance and just a step below state of the art.
View attachment 306080

View attachment 306081

RCA output gives up just a bit of performance:
View attachment 306082
But still fully transparent as evidenced by superb dynamic range:

View attachment 306084

Linearity is excellent:
View attachment 306085

As is Jitter over USB:
View attachment 306086

There is however good bit of jitter over Coax/Toslink:
View attachment 306087

Fortunately their levels don't reach audibility.

IMD is excellent and just limited by noise:
View attachment 306088

If we eliminate that and just look at distortion floor, we can see superb performance:
View attachment 306089

We have our usual set of filters:
View attachment 306090
View attachment 306091

Even though attenuation is good we still get a bit of degradation in wideband THD+N vs frequency:
View attachment 306092

Conclusions
The performance of RD3 can be summed up as one step below perfection. In exchange for that, you get a very high value DAC with gorgeous display and in my opinion, highly usable rackmount form factor. As I noted in the review, I rather put an RD3 in my main system than a desktop DAC.

I am going to recommend the Topping "TP" RD3 balanced DAC.

Specifications​

  • Dimensions (W x H x D)
    48.3X15.5X5.2cm
    Bluetooth
    Yes
  • D/A Converter
    AK4493S
    Model Number
    RD3
  • Material
    Metal
    DSD Sampling Frequencies
    2.8224 MHz (DSD64),5.6448 MHz (DSD128),11.2896 MHz (DSD256),22.5792 MHz (DSD512)
  • PCM Word Length
    16-bit,24-bit,32-bit
    PCM Sampling Frequencies
    44.1 kHz,48 kHz,88.2 kHz,96 kHz,176.4 kHz,352.8 kHz,384 kHz,705.6 kHz,768 kHz
  • Outputs
    RCA,XLR
    Inputs
    USB Type-B,Optical (SPDIF),Coaxial
  • Type
    Desktop
    Brand Name
    TOPPING
  • Origin
    Mainland China

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Do they offer a rack-mounted headphone amp to pair with this? That would be a cool system! If so, how would you connect the two?
 
For my first post, here is the inside of RD3.
 

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I just received the RD3 today. I got everything plugged in and it has a loud pop at turn on and hiss with the volume 3/4. If I turn the volume down completely and turn it on no pop. I used XLR and RCA same result. Its going into a Yamaha MX-460 amplifier. I'm going to connect it to the SMSL amplifier to see if it has hiss and pop will report back.
 

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i cannot understand why a dac has these kinds of issues??? you dont see it in budget $100 units
 
So the XLR cable I was using was XLR to RCA, but when I switched to RCA the Hiss and pop was still there just much softer to where I didn't feel it was damaging my speakers. I then connected the DAC to a SMSL amplifier using the XLR to RCA cable loud pop and hiss. Switched to RCA and same results much quieter pop and hiss. Another issue happened when using Tidal. While switching songs the pop occurred randomly. Windows/Tidal recognized the RD3 as a speaker in the sound output. I looked in the manual it said to go to topping website for driver, there was no driver for the RD3. Switched back to the E30 II and Windows/Tidal recognized it as a usb dac all is well. I even switched speaker cables and RCA cables. IDK man... driver issue?
 
Wow … not good at all. I was considering RD3 a month back when the review was posted, but decided to go with SMSL do100 instead. I am thankful i did.

I wonder if Amir’s test unit had similar issues or not? Or it’s just one off…
 
Sorry to hear this! Absolutely no issues with mine.

You could take it apart and make certain all ribbon connectors are seated.
I build dacs and I've had mild popping sounds from bad push on connectors where input board connects to the dac
 
I love the case and want to use something similar to build a standalone casing for my Fusion Amps. Does one know where to source similarly plain?
 
if you google "instrument case 1ru" or combinations of that on ebay CL gumtree etc. you get a plethora of options

you will often get engineering diagrams, sizing etc. since its geared towards professionals
 
More metal , bigger packing and a lot of wasted space. With all the millions of tons of ewaste and packaging manufacturers should not sell empty cases for the feel good look. Yes, it provides the same functionality as a rack tray and a desktop DAC. At least that tray will can be used for decades.

It would be awesome that manufacturers would offer upgraded boards to replace what is inside the units. Even my small d50s has some extra space inside the case..

And congrats to topping on another high performance prodicy
I would rather have more interior space to help keep the operating temps down. That is likely why ALL of the gear that I have from the 80's & 90's is not in a landfill right now. And most of it is SOTA or just a step down. If you don't like it, don't buy it. By one whose space is tight & runs warmer & helps fill the landfill quicker, by failing sooner, if you like.
This is the first DAC that I have seen that fits my space requirements (I could do without the tab part for the rack mount) but it's easy enough to make another face plate for it.
I do not like planned obsolescence, which is what occurs when you jam things that make heat together.
You want to keep it out of the landfill but you want to make it difficult to repair by cramming things together AND have what's there fail more quickly due to operating at higher constant temperatures.
You, can't have it all: 1. crammed together (causing shorter longevity an early demise puts it in the landfill sooner) & 2. more difficult to repair (making the cost to repair higher, causing it to be sent to the landfill sooner)
OR
3. larger interior space, allowing it to operate longer due to less heat loading (thereby lasting longer) & 4. Due to it having more interior space, it makes it easier (& less expensive) to repair (thereby making it more likely for it to get repaired) thus staying out of the landfill longer.

Your logic: doesn't jive with the reality.
 
I wonder what is so hard about making rack mounts removable like Motu does?
or simply make a non-rack mount face plate available.
Like APT/Holman Pre-Amplifiers did back in the 1970's. I own 2 of them. The second one I removed the rack mount face plate & installed the non-rack mount face plate.
If something occurs and I sell it, I can keep the rack mount face plate, in case I ever need it for the other one. Or just sell the rack mount face plate, as there has become a high demand for them & the price has gone up substantially for just a rack mount face plate for them (apparently they have become somewhat rare). I'm thinking about buying another one just so that I will have one for each of my Apt/Holman Pre-Amps.
 
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