Audio Science Review "Absolutely" Recommends the TOPPING D90SE

Note: This article is based upon the article "Topping D90SE Review (Balanced DAC)" made by user amirm on the forum Audio Science Review and is printed here in partnership with Audio Science Review. The review was originally posted on June 15th, 2021.

This is a review and detailed measurements of the Topping D90SE flagship balanced USB DAC. It was sent to me by the company for testing and I believe costs US $899.

The D90SE comes in the same clothes as current class of Topping products which is just fine with me:
Topping D90SE Review Balanced USB DAC.jpg
We have the usual inputs and outputs including Bluetooth:

Topping D90SE Review Balanced USB back panel DAC.jpg
The architecture here is based on ESS ES9038PRO DAC instead of AKM silicon. Hopefully this means better availability of parts and DACs.

Topping D90SE DAC Measurements
Out of box output voltage is our standard 4 volts but there is also a setting to adjust that to 5 volt (see test of that later). Let's start with USB input and balanced XLR output:
Topping D90SE Measurements Balanced USB DAC.png
Oh wow! We have a record breaker here when it comes to SINAD:
best balanced USB DAC review.png
best balanced USB DAC review high-end.png
The Audio Precision analyzer puts severe strain on getting such high numbers due to its own self-noise so I was surprised to see 123 dB limit broken. Distortion is down to an incredibly low -140 dB!

Switching to RCA output, we naturally lose some performance:
Topping D90SE Measurements RCA USB DAC.png
Noise level is kept to absolute minimum producing some of the best dynamic range numbers I have seen:
Topping D90SE Dynamic Range Measurements Balanced USB DAC.png
Temporarily switching to 5 volt output we get:
Topping D90SE THD+N vs Level Measurements Balanced USB DAC.png
So not a major change but if you have an amp that can accept it, you can push your noise floor down a bit more. Remember, while distortions are hard to hear, hiss from speakers or headphones is not.

Intermodulation distortion (really the noise aspect) sets a new benchmark:
Topping D90SE IMD Measurements Balanced USB DAC.png
There was a time when DX3 Pro was the benchmark. See how much the D90SE beats it by. It is almost left in the dust!

Courtesy of resampling in ESS DAC, jitter is a forgotten word with either input:
Topping D90SE Jitter Measurements Balanced USB DAC.png
Combined with the ultra noise floor, we can clearly resolve the low order bits of the 250Hz square wave at 24 bits! I had to remove the ASR logo to reveal them!

Linearity locked in and ran so perfectly, I had to scratch my eyes to believe it:
Topping D90SE LInearity Measurements Balanced USB DAC.png
You have a choice of 7 filters and I was happy to see thee of them producing the correct filtering for 44.1 kHz sampling:
Topping D90SE Filter Measurements Balanced USB DAC.png
Attenuation was so good that I had to lower the bottom of the scale to show where they bottom out.

The only puzzler was THD+N versus frequency:
Topping D90SE THD+N vs Frequency Measurements Balanced USB DAC.png
Seems like there is some kind of ESS signature going on with some filter setting. Getting the best performance required selecting filter #7 which has a bit of roll off in frequency response.

Multitone is nailed so hard that you could almost hear it nail screaming from being hit so hard:
Topping D90SE Multitone Measurements Balanced USB DAC.png

It is 3:00am but I had to stay up and post this review. It is not every day that every barrier we have seen in DACs gets shattered to new levels. We are seeing extreme attention to every aspect of this design to squeeze this much performance out of this ESS DAC. Just when we though the race was over, here comes one more over achiever! Those of you who have made it a hobby to upgrade the latest and greatest, here is another one for you!

At the risk of stating the very obvious, it is my absolute pleasure to recommend the Topping D90SE.

Note: this is a new product. If you are not an early adopter type of person, you may want others to go before you. My testing is focused on performance only, not reliability or functionality.