TOPPING D50s: $250 DAC Outperforms $5,500 McIntosh - Mark On HiFi

This is a product review of the TOPPING D50s which is available for sale now on Apos.

Note: This article is based upon the video "The Topping D50s Reset My Expectations For “Budget” DACs” made by Mark on HiFi on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with Mark on HiFi. The review was originally posted on May 12th, 2021. The transcript has been edited for clarity and length. 


We sent Mark on HiFi the TOPPING D50s to get his thoughts. 

“I spent four days listening to this DAC basically non-stop and comparing it to the McIntosh MA5300,” he says in his YouTube video. “I was just blown away.”

Check out the video below or scroll on for an abridged written version. 

You know, DACs come in all shapes and sizes. There are DACs in just about every kind of electronic device that produces audio. But there are also really crazy DACs like the MSB Select DAC. I think it’s eighty-five or ninety-thousand dollars. 

This is not that kind of DAC. This is the TOPPING D50s. It’s a relatively compact, budget-minded external DAC. And by compact we’re talking about roughly four inches square by about an inch thick, so it’s really, really tiny. 

But the thing that stands out about this DAC is the build quality. Listen to this ::tap, tap::. It’s like a solid brick of metal. I’m told that this is actually CNC machined from a piece of aluminum. 

This DAC supports both DSD and PCM file types. DSD up to 512 and PCM up to 768kHz 32-bit file type. 

On the back you’ve got your standard connections. You’ve got coax. You’ve got left-right RCA. It has an optical and a USB input. It also supports Bluetooth audio streaming. Now, I didn’t try it because I’m still kind of old school, and I prefer wired connections, but it’s nice to know that it has an option. And then it has just a five volt connection that you just plug into your wall outlet. 

I’ve gotta admit: when I was first approached by Apos Audio, who were friendly enough to reach out to me and supply me with this loaner unit, I was a little skeptical. I mean, the D50s isn’t the lowest model of the line, but it’s one of the lower models that they have, and the price of $250, honestly made me not expect that much. 

All right, let’s talk about how the D50s sounds. Now, I’m gonna cut straight to the chase. I spent four days listening to this DAC basically non-stop and comparing it to the McIntosh MA5300. I was just blown away.

There’s maybe a 5% difference on some tracks between the D50s and the McIntosh in favor of the McIntosh, but the fact that it came so close--and on 90% of tracks they were essentially indistinguishable--just blew my mind. 

It continues to astound me that for $250 you can get close to the performance of what I’m getting with the $5,500 MA5300. So it gives me hope, I think, that the bar for budget DACs has risen so high and the point of diminishing returns is so low that it’s almost like a whole new world. 

Let’s talk about some tracks. The first one I listened to was “Mirror” by Madison Ryan Wood. It sounds like she’s there in the room. It has excellent imaging.

The D50s nailed it exactly as I hear it with the McIntosh. It did everything that the McIntosh did. They were right on par. 

Another song I listened to--”Lonely” by Justin Bieber--has impeccable imaging. You get a sense of his mass by how the vocals are recorded. The D50s captured it really, really nicely. 

Another song I listened to is called “Say Something” by Jessie Cook. I thought that the soundstage on the MA5300 was a little bit wider, and it was a little bit deeper. It got a little bit more on the leading edge of the guitar, but again, I mean, guys, we’re talking just right on the margins--almost to the point where I would need to factor in some of my own cognitive biases. It’s very subjective. You really need to do a blind listening test. 

For $250, this thing is as good as the DAC in the McIntosh. Say that the internal DAC in the McIntosh is $1000. This is a quarter of the price.

I mean, it’s a no-brainer, and I would probably go with this before I upgrade the DAC in my McIntosh. 

The only thing that’s stopping me from buying this DAC right now is that there are a bunch of other DACs that TOPPING makes that are higher-end. I want to try those first. I’ve got another one here sitting behind me, which I’ll get to in another video, so we’re early on in this journey toward finding a replacement DAC. But I tell you what. The D50s has left an indelible impression on me. I will definitely be coming back to it and very likely purchase it. 

If you’re looking for a budget DAC, I highly recommend this one. Again, it just blew me away. It exceeded my expectations. This one’s a keeper.