Note: This article is based on the video "Topping DX1 - the new Budget DAC/AMP King!" made by Mr Ayrist on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with MrAyrit. The review was originally posted on January 4th, 2023. Edits have been made for clarity and length. You can purchase the TOPPING DX1 on Apos Audio.
Welcome back to the channel, Mr. Ayrit here with a DAC/amp shootout for you today. Specifically, we're looking at under $100 desktop DAC/amps.
The reason why this all came about is because Apos sent me the TOPPING DX1, which is a fairly new and nice compact DAC/amp. Now, if you know anything about me, you know I'm not usually crazy about TOPPING products; however, this one is a little bit different. As I was testing this thing, I thought it sounded pretty darn good, and I like the form factor and all that.
DX1 vs Aune T1 SE vs Micca Origen G2 vs Lake People G103
So, I've had several cheaper DAC/amps on hand for a while now. Specifically, the Aune T1 SE, which is a hybrid tube DAC/amp, and then the Micca Origen G2 as well.
So, I thought what a great time to finally bust these things out and decide if the DX1 is really as good as I'm thinking it is. Can I compare it to these other two? Maybe these other two are better, maybe I just haven't listened to them in a long enough while and I don't really remember what they sound like. So, I kind of just wanted to run them through the gamut.
Now, the other thing that's not a cap that's in here is the Lake People G103. I bought this a while back. I hadn't heard much about this, but I got a good deal on it. It was about $100 just by itself. So again, I thought maybe I can just compare the DX1 amplifier portion, is it good, better, worse? Is the G103? How does it stack up? So, that's what this video is going to be about.
So, let's just real quick go through each of the devices, inputs, outputs, that type of stuff, build quality, and then we'll jump right into sound. We'll try not to make this too terribly long.
TOPPING DX1 - Build and Power
So, we'll start with the DX1. Now, this is just a cute little guy, but the build quality is extremely nice. I mean, it's a Topping product, so it's got, you know, just all that really precision machining and everything like that. I love the way this device is built. I think it's a great little size.
You can see it is not very big at all and it's even smaller than a Modi or Magni or anything like that. It has a full size quarter inch, which I appreciate, and a 3.5, which I also appreciate, and just a little light for a power button, and then a really, really nice smooth volume knob.
Out of any of the cheap deck amps or any cheap amps that I've used, this has the best volume knob on it. I just love this thing, it's so smooth, it feels great. Way better knob feel than a hundred-dollar, you know, multi-function device has any right to feel.
On the back, you've got RCA outs, USB in, and then a little high-low gain switch on the back there.
So this guy's not super powerful, it's maybe about three or 350 milliwatts. But at the same time, I didn't really find it lacking. I've been listening to the 8xx on it, I've been listening to the older Utopias on it as well as trying some IEMs and things out on it and I thought it handled all those really well.
If you had something that needed a lot of power, obviously, this isn't what you're going to be looking for, but that's probably not really the niche that this device is going for right? I do appreciate that we've got those RCA outs because you can use this as a source for something else, but there is no volume control on it, so these are just like a standard. There's just like a set output for it, but it's relatively low, which I appreciate. So, I found it to work well with any other amps that I tried it with. I didn't have any problem with it being like too high of levels coming out of there.
Micca Origen G2 - Build
Next up, let's look at the Micca Origen G2. I've had this thing for quite a while. It's pretty long in the tooth at this point, but I still like the form factor. It has pretty good knob feel too. You can see it's got an array of LEDs on the top that tell you bitrate and things like that.
On the front, what's kind of nice about this guy is you've got a high-low gain switch, a quarter inch of 3.5 again like that, and then you've got a headphone and switch to a speaker output.
You've got USB in, and that will power it, just like the DX1 Pro is just powered by USB. But it does have the option for a 5-volt external. I never got to test that out because I just didn't have one that would fit. But this also has Optical in, which is nice, and then this is a 3.5 out, so this can be used as a preamp as well.
But for this one, the volume knob does control that output, so you can use it with a pair of active monitors or something like that. All in all, a pretty nice functional little device with pretty good build quality too.
It's not as nice as the Topping, but it's still pretty good.
Aune T1 SE - Build
The Aune T1 SE is an interesting device because you don't see very many hybrid tube DAC/amps out there. You can see that this guy does have a little more going on for it in terms of features. You've got power in, and it has this crazy big brick of a power cube.
On the back, USB in, audio in and RCA out on this one. So, a little more functionality in that you can run a different source into this little switch on the top that controls either line in or USB.
And then a pretty crummy feeling volume knob, if I'm being totally honest, but it did function fine and it doesn't have any bad channel imbalances or anything like that at low volumes, even with IEMs, so I thought that was pretty good.
So, I have an adapter in this one to use it. This uses a 6922 tube. I don't know if that was stock or not, it's just what was in there when I bought it used.
You can see there are a few gain switches on the bottom that you can fiddle with if you want to. I never mess with it, it's set on just kind of low gain for me. I didn't find a need for anything more on it. b
The problem is this huge power brick. It weighs a lot and it's got a proprietary plug on it and none of the cables coming out of it are very long. So, you gotta find a spot for this. So, that in itself kind of ruins this thing because it's not like a nice portable little setup like the other two DAC/amps we've looked at.
Lake People G103 - Build
Finally, the Lake People G103. This one's pretty quick.
Two quarter-inch outputs on the front, I like that. Pretty nice feeling volume knob, power button on the front.
On the back, you've got a PC power cable in and right and left going out of it.
Which has the best sound?
Sound-wise, the DX1 is clean, clean, clean. A little more low-end than I would have expected. I wouldn't say it's a neutral amp exactly because I found it to be clean, but I thought it had a little bit more richness and a little more low-end and was very well controlled throughout. It's just a super solid amplifier.
In terms of DAC/amps, I think, honestly, if I'm being perfectly honest, the TOPPING is clearly the winner in my book. I just think this thing is really good and it's a great value at $99. I think this is probably my easy pick if you're looking for a little desktop DAC amp and you don't need any crazy power or anything like that. I would totally recommend this.
You get all that clean TOPPING stuff, but it's got a little fun in the low end, and it's just super well-controlled all around. Decently resolving for the price. It resolves better than anything else that I've got out here right now.
Least favorite: Aune T1 SE
I would say probably my least favorite of the bunch is probably the T1 SE. I found it to be very forward. I didn't find the imaging to be very good on it. I thought the timbre was a little off because I think the top end is so forward on it. It came off just a little like metallicky, tinny to me, and it could be a little bright at some times, which is weird for me to say about an amp, and especially a hybrid tube amplifier.
Micca Origen G2
The Micca Origen G2: I like the sound of this thing, but it just doesn't have the resolution to compete with the other stuff on this table. I mean, it sounds good still, but you can just tell, like you're missing texture, and it's not resolving very well, and the images aren't very well separated and things like that.
So, while for like 50 bucks, which is what I bought this for, I think it's pretty good. I don't think it competes. It shows its age when you're comparing it to the DX1.
Lake People G103
And then finally the Lake People G103. Now, Lake People amps are usually pretty good, but I just wasn't impressed with this thing. When I was going back and forth between it and the Dx1, I always liked the Dx1 better. I thought the Dx1 was better-controlled. This guy, I felt especially on the top end, got a little loose, which made it seem a little shrill to me up top. I mean, it's nothing crazy, but just for me to even notice that, I feel like it says something.
So, yeah, I guess pretty much this video is just me saying how much I like this Dx1. I think again if you're looking to get your first DAC amp, like this is the one that I would recommend, unless you absolutely need a lot more power or if you need something like a microphone input or something for gaming. So I think this is a wonderful device and a great bargain. You can't go wrong with this thing.
Honestly, I think I’m going to ask Apos if I can just buy this from them, because I think it’s that good. In my mind, this is the new gold standard for a basic DAC/amp for getting people into audio. How cool is it that it’s under $100? Very awesome. So, great product, totally recommend it. I’m probably gonna use it just as my default solid state option going forward. If you’re looking for a second setup or something to keep on your desk at work, I say look no further.