Manufacturer: Some Chinese company called Topping
Price: $138.88 with free shipping from eBay (where else?)
Info: http://www.tpdz.net/produce.asp?id=20 (in Chinese, go figure)
So I bought one of these, in part because I wanted a more flexible set of inputs for my burgeoning desktop system and partly because I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with buying cheap Chinese manufactured T-amps from eBay. I already own a Topping TP31 T-amp with which the D2 is currently mated (not reviewed yet, but I’ll get around to it when the new TP20 MKII I ordered comes in and I can do some kind of comparison).
Anyway, I thought a little review could be helpful for someone out there who might be wondering if this unassuming little box might be somehow useful to them.
What is it?
The Topping D2 is a multi-function digital to analog converter based on an Analog Devices AD1852JRS chip that supports both 16 and 24 bit decoding and sample rates from 44.1 KHz to 96 KHz with a frequency response of 20-20000 Hz ± 0.3 db.It also features a high quality headphone amp based on a Toshiba A1358/C3421 opamp, capable of driving even high-impedance cans of up to 600 ohm. Everything is mounted neatly on a cute little PCB with an army of KOA D2 metal film resistors and two Nichicon MUSE capacitors.
The D2 is all packed into a small (but substantial) machined aluminum enclosure, with three aircraft grade toggle switches for power and source selection, a ¼ inch headphone jack and a very smooth and high quality feeling milled aluminum volume knob filling out the front panel. The rear panel features a pair of RCA terminals for line output, a type B USB port, and provision for both coaxial and optical digital connections as well as one analog source via a second pair of RCA inputs.
What’s it for?
The Topping D2 functions by itself as an external USB soundcard, or as a digital to analog converter for coaxial and optical outputs from either a PC soundcard or other consumer device such as a CD player. It can also be used as a passive pre-amp for analog sources such as the headphone output on an iPhone or other devices by using the RCA input terminals.
How does it work?
In USB mode, the D2 is detected by Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems automatically; as a class 1 USB audio device however, it is limited to 16 bit and 44.1 or 48 KHz operation. It’s also a synchronous USB connection which is subject to a lot of jitter, so to achieve the best potential from the D2 it’s best to connect it by either coax or optical. The analog input section is a straight pass-through to the analog output stage, bypassing the DAC altogether.
How does it sound?
I tested the D2 by hooking it up to a modest PC based desktop system of similarly priced components. The D2 was connected to the PCs soundcard via optical Toslink and connected to the previously mentioned Topping TP31 (a 15 watt/channel T-amp based on the Tripath 2024) with a pair of old Tara Labs Prism 300i interconnects. The speakers used were my rusty-trusty pair of Audio Engine P4s, wired-up with basic Kimber 4PR cables. All the music tested was in Flac format, played back by foobar2000 in WASAPI mode.
The first thing I fired up was Analogue Productions’ 2002 mastering of Moon Beams by The Bill Evans Trio. I was genuinely surprised at what a difference this little box made right away; it had a transformative quality, as of a veil having been lifted. The soundstage was focused and stable, with each instrument clearly located within the sound field. I was also surprised at just how much emotion and nuance the D2 could squeeze through its little brain; I could hear the room Paul Motian’s drums were in, I could hear Chuck Israels’ fingers on the bass, I thought I could hear Evans thinking…
The D2 is equally capable with more raucous material, as I found out when I fired up a rip from my West German RCA of Ziggy Stardust. My desk immediately came to life with an uncanny recreation of the Spiders from Mars c1972; the band rocked though Bowie’s paranoid tale of rock star decadence and excess with dynamics and pacing that set me spinning in my chair.
Truthfully, the highs are a bit strident at loud volumes (this may or may not calm down a bit after the voodoo referred on the ‘net as the burn-in period, I’ll update if there’s an appreciable change in character), but the bass is always even and well-behaved. The mid-range however is where the D2 really shines; it is refined, detailed and balanced, to a degree that’s a bit scary for something this cheap.
Should I get one?
There’s little to complain about and everything to recommend about this little unit; it’s flexible, it’s affordable, it’s attractive and well-built, and has qualities of definition and transparency that sees it reaching well above its station.
If you have a need for a cheap, good sounding DAC with a lot of input choices, or just a good dedicated headphone amp, I don’t think you could do much better without spending quite a bit more money.