“This Is Going to Be My Benchmark”: GadgetryTech Reviews the TOPPING A30 Pro Headphone Amp

Note: This article is based upon the article "Topping A30 Pro Headphone Amp Review - A Compact Powerhouse7y” made by GadgetryTech on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with GadgetryTech. The review was originally posted on August 8th, 2022. It has been edited for clarity and length. You can purchase the TOPPING A30 Pro on Apos Audio.

Intro

Hey, everyone, it’s Joe from GadgetryTech, and today I’m going to talk about the TOPPING A30 Pro headphone amp. This is a $350 headphone amp, so it’s up there.

It’s not considered an entry-level headphone amp, by any means, and actually starts approaching the higher-end category.

Build Quality

I’m going to start right off with the build quality. This is a pretty small chassis. It’s about six and a half inches wide, and–I believe–five and a half inches deep.

It’s surprisingly heavy. This has a really nice metal construction.

Some headphone amps even in this price range, if they’re metal, can be a thinner gauge metal, and they can feel a little bit flimsy.

This thing, on the other hand, feels like an absolute unit. It is solid, solid, heavy metal.

There are no weird rattles–nothing. I couldn’t believe how thick and strong and robust everything felt.

Switches and potentiometer

I really like these switches. You have your on/off, XLR and RCA–very simple configuration to use–and then your gain.

You have a 28dB swing on the gain sensitivity, which is pretty impressive. The potentiometer feels pretty nice.

My only nitpick with the front is that thee switches have a little bit of left and right movement, which, at $350, I”m not a huge fan of.

Now, I love the feel of these switches. That tactile click is great, and it’s got just the right amount of pressure. It’s consistent. Every single click has the same amount of resistance.

It feels solid. I’m just not a huge fan of the wiggling from left to right. I wish that was a little bit better.

Overall, the potentiometer is really nice.

One thing that stood out to me is that the first few degrees of rotation don’t do anything–it’s like a dead zone.

Now, I think they may have implemented that to help with channel imbalance.

You know, some potentiometers, when you first get into the audio threshold you can hear it favor one driver over the other.

That’s normal and partly why you have a high-low gain setting. On high, even with the volume set to minimum, I can still hear music.

As soon as you hit the threshold where it starts to boost volume, it was extremely minimal, the right driver was just a hair lighter.

I noticed it pushed to the right, and that’s like a half a degree to one degree of rotation.

It took a lot of work to get it just in that spot where it favored the right a little bit. That’s not an issue on lower gain setting because your potentiometers can be lifted a little bit more, but that’s what it is honestly.

Overall, though, it still feels incredibly well-made, and, in fact, compared to other stacks in the price range, it’s still up there. Those are just the things that stood out.

Ground/Lift feature

The ground lift feature is awesome. If you ever have ground loop issues, which some people have dealt with, it’s a pain.

It causes a little bit of a hum or interference. It shouldn’t really happen with the amp; however, if you get any kind of a buzz or a ground loop issue, switching the A30 Pro from ground to lift will actually bypass the internal ground of this amp and use the ground coming in off the signal of your source instead through the RCA or balanced connection–whatever it may be.

I love that feature. Honestly, it’s a big win in my book because it’s really hard to properly eliminate grounding issues after the face.

You usually have to buy a box, and that really hurts your sound quality. So the fact that it’s built into the chassis is awesome.    

Sound quality

I did a lot of A/B testing in the past week. I basically rounded up all of my headphone amps–stuff from iFi, JDS Labs, Schiit, Burson, and the THX-887 from Monoprice.

The A30 Pro stood out in more right ways than not. Out of the box, this was probably the best balance between impact in the sensation of the music and fairly sterile and easy-to-use in a lot of different applications.

When I compared it to the Monoprice 887, I noticed that the TOPPING A30 Pro made headphones like the Aria Stealth and the HE1000SEs sound better. They had a little bit more impact.

That was, to me, the best benefit, because I think the Monoprice lacks impact–just that little extra hit, that little extra energy when the music’s trying to convey it.

It’s subtle. That’s another great thing. Depending on what song I’m listening to–or what headphone–I may want a little bit more bass.

I think that this amp takes the right approach because it can still remain fairly neutral and sterile-sounding–as in, it’s not coloring the sound too much.

But the music just gets a little bit more dynamic and has more impact and presence. I still think it has an incredibly clean soundstage and presentation when you compare it to this or an SMSL.

I think those have a slightly darker background sound. The 887 sounds more isolated, whereas this layers things together a little bit.

It’s a slightly fuller, more layered approach. Overall, I think music sounds better on this than the 887.

When I listen to a busier track by a metal band like Slipknot or Metallica, if you have an amp that gets too bright or detailed or detailed or lively it can actually sound pretty bad.

This was able to play busier tracks and bring a little bit of extra energy and impact without being over-the-top. And it still have a very nice sound stage. It’s not as wide or as open as my Burson Class-A, but those are more expensive amps.

Final thoughts

I feel like this is going to be my benchmark and go-to sound profile, because I still get the clean and fairly neutral sound of a neutral amp but it edges closer to the presentation of a Class-A amp and tube amp.

It’s really a good balance, and it’s powerful, and the price is great. For $350, it’s almost perfect.