This review is posted here in partnership with Steve Guttenberg. It was originally posted by Steve Guttenberg on his YouTube channel on May 11th, 2021. The transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Audiophile reviewer Steve Guttenberg offered his thoughts on the TOPPING A30 Pro and D30 Pro DAC/amp combo over on his YouTube channel. Watch his video below or scroll on for our lightly edited transcript.
Hey, friends. My name is Steve Guttenberg, and this is the Audiophiliac Daily Show. Today is all about Topping.
Back in my CNET days, I reviewed a bunch of TOPPING gear, but since I’ve started this YouTube channel somehow I just never did. So today I’m going to correct that oversight, and I’m going to review not one but two--count them, two--TOPPING components.
There’s the A30 Pro, which is a headphone amp. It’s $349, available in silver or black. And there’s the matching D30 Pro DAC, which is $400, in silver or black.
I think they’re very handsome. Maybe TOPPING could be thought of as the Chinese equivalent of Schiit. As a matter of fact, I compared these two to the Jotunheim amplifier/DAC. Anyway, I’ll get to that later.
I hooked the A30 Pro and D30 Pro with balanced cables. By the way, you can use the DAC as a pre-amplifier, because you can have it either as a fixed output level or use the volume control to adjust the levels, which allows you to use it with active desktop speakers or a power amp driving speakers.
I use this combination strictly as a desktop system, and it worked very well. My source material was TIDAL and Qobuz. I listened to a lot of high-res files. In case you’re a TIDAL person and wondering if the D30 Pro has MQA, the answer is no. It doens’t have MQA. But it does do super high-res 384kHz sampling and 32-bit . If you can find any files like that please let me know.
I just don’t understand this numbers race of having super high resolution formats playback capability when there’s virtually no material available.
It also does DSD256. Again, I’m not really sure that there’s any music available in these super high formats. I mean, there’s not much, and certainly not any that I’m even vaguely interested in. But anyway, just in case it ever comes to pass, the D30 Pro will let you hear the uber uber uber hi-res music.
Me, I mostly listen to essentially CD-quality recordings, but if they are on high-res, I do listen to hi-res.
So my friend turned me on to this album called Bloom. It’s jazzy, it’s ethereal, it’s ambient, it’s a beautiful-sounding recording of jazz new agey--in the good sense of new agey. It’s just a lovely recording, and it just melted over my ears on the LCDs. There’s a tactile quality to it. It’s a really wow type of recording when you’re in the right mood for this kind of music and, you know, I’m not looking for headphones or headphone amplifiers or a DAC that scream resolution. That doesn’t really do it for me. I want to just feel like the music is there. That’s what I was getting here with the TOPPING duo.
I decided to continue with Neil Young. It’s just beautiful. It feels very pure, very real. It sounded so balanced. Everything was clicking, which meant that I could just focus in on Neil’s performance.
So at that point I decided to break the spell and go back to the Jotunheim 2, and things got a little bit more uptight. The stage got smaller. The music got smaller. So I switched over to some electric stuff--rather than acoustic. I listened to a live version of “Cortez the Killer.” I’ve listened to it a million times, but this particular one is so electric, so biting. It has a grab-you-kind-of-sound. Everything about it was coming together. Those LCD2s just let it all through. They don’t hold anything back.
Then I switched over to my Audioquest Nighthawk headphones. I played them through the TOPPING combination. That headphone has a reputation of being a little soft, but not here with the TOPPING combination. I continued with Neil Young’s electric stuff. It had a good sense of energy and bite and rhythm and pace. The music was really exciting, and I was cranking the hell out of it over the Nighthawks. I was in deep. It’s not the kind of detail I was getting out of the Audeze’s, but it just worked, and those headphones are definitely a lot more comfortable than the Audezes.
I then tried the Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro. Now, I have the 600ohm high impedance version. I wanted to see how the TOPPING A30 Pro would hande 600 ohms. I had no problems whatsoever. And I have to say that some people say that the 880s have a kind of an aggression, even a peaky top end. I didn’t find that, not at all, and they sounded great. They had this openness that was just gorgeous.
So I started playing The Replacements’ Pleased to Meet Me. This album puts a smile on my face. It’s the kind of music that I just want to play louder and louder. I had zero complaints when I played it through the DT880s and TOPPING combo.
Then I decided to shake things up a bit and used the D30 Pro just as a DAC, bypassing the Jotunheim’s built-in DAC. You know what? The Jotunheim sounded a lot better that way. So maybe my objection here is to the DAC that’s built into the Jotunheim.
Then I switched over to my Grado Hemp headphones. What a great headphone. They sounded great on the Jotunheim and D30 Pro combo. Just really nice. I had a good time.
To finish up, I went back to the TOPPING combination. I played the Audeze LCDi4 in-ear headphones. It’s my favorite Audeze of all time. It’s just so open and transparent, so pure. The TOPPING duo, paired with it, was firing on all cylinders.
My name is Steve Guttenberg. This is the Audiophiliac Daily Show. If you like what I do here, please consider subscribing to this YouTube channel. You could also give me a thumbs up. I dodn’t usually ask for that, but I guess I should because I think the YouTube algorithm likes when people do that.
Thanks again for watching, and I really do hope to see you back here again very soon. Bye bye!