Note: This article is based on the video "a VERY GOOD all-in-one DAC AMP! - Topping DX5" made by Joshua Valour on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with Joshua Valour. The review was originally posted on April 18th, 2022. Edits have been made for clarity and length. You can purchase the TOPPING DX5 DAC/Amp on Apos Audio.
Hey! What’s up, guys. I’m Josh. Today we’re talking about the TOPPING DX5. I’m going to keep this review short, sweet, and to the point. I think that this thing performs pretty well. It’s in a really nice chassis, a small, efficient, compact design with good measurements and a fair price.
Regarding the build, I’m quite happy to see something that is not just a standard rectangle, and I do actually quite like the build. Not only does TOPPING fit a lot of features and utility in this, but there are major upsides to this build if you need a small, compact unit. For one, this has an inbuilt power supply that features the same switch design that we saw on the A30 and D30, and, given the weight of this thing, I”m actually surprised that they were able to put a power supply into a chassis of this size, and you just need a standard cable. That’s pretty impressive.
On the back, you have a number of digital inputs featuring coaxial, optical, USB, and Bluetooth, which is a big upside to this. This also comes with RCA and XLR outputs, and the unit does come with a remote.
Now, the DAC output measures really well. The DAC that they use in this is two ES9068as chips, outputting a super-low distortion number. It’s like 0.0002%--some ridiculously low output. Now, on the DAC end, this does make for a pretty well-measuring DAC, but you are kind of purchasing a DAC/Amp when you purchase this.
For the amplification, we see a familiar term which is NFCA, which is a Nested Feedback Composite Amplifier, which is the TOPPING-style of amplification, which is very very clean and something that I personally quite enjoy the sound of.
It doesn’t have a tonality leaning. I think that it leans extremely neutral for its flavor profile. It’s kind of dead even, no frills, just the facts, just the information. It has good dynamic range and that’s something that we’ve seen on the A30 Pro, the A90, basically everything that’s recently come out from TOPPING.
It seems like what TOPPING is doing, which I think is a good thing, is filling every use case and every price point with some form of NFCA amp. So it may start cheaper with the NX7, which is a mobile DAC/Amp that has NFCA tech and then all the way up to their big boy amplifiers like the A90.
Unlike their big boy amplifiers, this doesn’t output a ton of power. I think at most you’re going to be getting about 1.8 watts into 32Ω. Now, this is a weird price to power spec argument. And hear me out here. Now, at this price point, if you just buy an amplifier, you can get better power at this price point. If you just buy a DAC, you can get better specs, but you can’t really get better specs and more power at this price point if you buy a DAC and an amp, especially if you’re limiting yourself to an all-in-one.
Now, if you were to go back a few years, most amplifiers had a decent amount of power but they didn’t really sound good when they were maxed out. The NFCA stuff really doesn’t suffer from that. It sounds the same whether you’re using a minimal amount of it or all of it, and because of that, even if you’re pushing the amplifier to its extremes for capability, you still get really good sound out of it. But 1.8 watts is a number that, to me, sticks out as being kind of right on the edge where you start to not be able to run some things. You’re going to be good for most and probably the majority of what people will buy, but you may have to consider what you’re going to run. So if you’re going to run things like the new HIFIMAN XS or any of the better dynamics, most of the Sennheisers, you’re going to be good with this thing. For those headphones, this thing is going to be clean and have plenty of power with tons of headroom. You’re never going to run into an issue with a lot of those headphones. Where you might run into issues is really high-demanding planar magnetic headphones, things like Dianas, Arya, Susvara. You might face power issues with this particular device.
Now, the reason why I had to make this review short and sweet is because I think that most of these NFCA amps sound the same, it’s just a matter of what headphones they’ll play well with. So you go to something like an A90, which is their top of the line NFCA amplifier, which I use daily. That amplifier can run everything from the most efficient IEMs to the most demanding of headphones. Now this can do really efficient IEMs and that middle range of demanding headphones, but it doesn’t quite have the six watts of total power that the A90 does. However, the sound quality within headphones that it can play is the same.
Now, the sound of the NFCA is extraordinarily clear and concise. And this goes from the top end of treble through the tonality of the mid-range but also the low end of bass. The bass hits strong and clear and NFCA, as an amplification style, just exerts total control over every headphone that you plug it into. It’s just a matter of how much power you’re going to be able to push through that headphone.
Now, the power limitations of this device are really the only reservation that I have about it. I think the sound quality is excellent. I think the use case and features and build are excellent, but I wish it had a little bit more power, mostly due to the competition.
Vs Modius + Magnius stack
So at about $400 you can get this stack which is a Modius and Magnius, and it’s a separate DAC and Amp stack for just about $400 plus tax and shipping. Now, granted, it’s not an all-in-one, so the comparison isn’t exactly apples to apples, but if you’re talking about your dollar per sound quality and power capability, the DX5 might be a little bit better.
Now, I actually think that the sound quality of the TOPPING, if you’re playing on a headphone that plays well with both, I think the TOPPING is a little bit better and cleaner and more neutral. The Magnius tends to run a little bit warmer in tonality and that can be enjoyable, but I don’t think it’s quite dead center like the TOPPING is. However, the Magnius does come with significantly more power than the DX5, and that’s really the only major argument I would have against the DX5.
So that’s my review. I do think that this is a very good unit, and for the right customer I think this is going to be an absolutely baller DAC/Amp to have. Just be aware of what headphones you’re going to be running off of it. I would say anything that’s like super high impedance and below about like 90dB per milliwatt for sensitivity I might stay away from this, but anything higher than that I think you’re going to be just fine.