TOPPING D90 MQA DAC Review - All Around Excellence

This review has been created by Makiah Shenay from Oak Forest Audio especially for the audio community on Apos Audio.


Launched in late 2019, TOPPING's extraordinary D90 made waves among the audiophile community, and now finally the D90's MQA ready counterpart is available. In terms of hardware the only change vs the base model is the upgrade to a XMOS 216 chipset on the MQA variant over the original's 208. It's likely the new chipset is present to aid in the MQA decoding the original does not support. I, for one, appreciate that TOPPING chose to utilize a more powerful XMOS USB interface to aide in the added MQA support, which is available only through USB input.

Priced at $799, the MQA Edition D90 is only an additional $100 over the base model for those who need the added MQA Support. I'd also like to thank Apos Audio for allowing me the chance to spend a week listening to this new product in exchange for my thoughts. It will certainly be missed!


Included packing is clean, simple, and straightforward. Opening up the box there's ample protective foam and included paperwork such as manuals and sales catalogs.


Honestly, I'm impressed with both the heft and overall finish of D90. Its front panel is clean, the buttons and chassis are machined well, and all input/output jacks have a nice solid feel about them.



My only real complaint would be not having full functionality with only the Front Panel controls, the included remote is absolutely necessary for full functionality. The remote itself, plastic, is well put together with a satisfying weight feel and tactility so it was delightful to use.

And I'm happy to say D90's wide array of features all work seamlessly without any fuss. MQA playback was plug and play with the variety of devices I used and setting up Bluetooth was easy and straightforward.

Sound Quality

Overall I find D90 to be lean with a slightly dry/bright tonality, immediate weighty presentation and average staging. The TOPPING D90 MQA includes a variety of digital filters. I performed all of my long impressions with it set to "Mode 3" which is the Short Delay Sharp Roll Off filter.

TOPPING D90 MQA Listening Session

I performed my initial listening with a Koss x Massdrop ESP 95X fed right out from the D90. The track list was a variety of both offline files and MQA played with USB Audio Player Pro with USB out of my Samsung Tab S4 into the D90 including but not limited to:

Adele - Live At Royal Albert Hall: Lovesong
Eagles - Hell Freezes Over: Hotel California
System of a Down - System of a Down: Mind
Rebecca Pidgeon - Spanish Harlem
Matisyahu - Live at Stubbs: Sea to Sea
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue: So What
Goat Rodeo - The Goat Rodeo Sessions: Attaboy


Content with how well the clean, taut and weighty presentation paired with the 95X, I choose to include it alongside my comparative notes with other DACs.


When comparing DACs I run into into a passive pre-amp then into my Amp, I took advantage of D90s digital attenuation to adjust it's output to match the competing DAC. I performed this with each comparison utilizing pink noise in mono measured with my SPL meter coming out of my JBL 305p MkII active monitors.



Maybe an unfair comparison but I feel D10 serves as a good baseline, and overall I felt D90 presented a sharper vivid transient response and dynamic contrast. While the staging on D10 was sufficient in terms of width, moving up to D90 added a sense of both height and depth. Moving up to D90 after spending some time with D10 felt as though there was a haze lifted. D90 presented a clear picture of not only where the musicians and instruments were placed in space but also provided nuance to the point whereby I could get a clear idea of how the musicians were interacting with their instruments beyond the execution of straightforward technique.

Not to say that D10 is a bad product by any means, I just found it disengaging to listen on D10 after hearing the clarity of D90.

Schiit Modi 3 vs TOPPING D90 MQA

TOPPING D90 MQA and Schitt Modi 3
Schiit's Modi 3 was noticeably smoothed over when compared to the D90. Tactility in the lows was a bit heavy handed often lacking nuance and stringed instruments especially lacked texture and came across somewhat one dimensional.

However I will say I did enjoy the tonality of Modi 3 even against D90, though the lack of discernible detail was enough to draw my attention away from that lovely tone.
Now my point here is not to discourage the purchase and enjoyment of these entry level DACs, I feel both are excellent in their own right. I still use my D10 pretty often and have a few entry level DACs throughout my home and even in my car within various systems. However for those of you looking for a higher level of detail and transparency, especially for a more dedicated listening station, D90 is noticeably better thus making it a clear and evident upgrade option.



Though now it's in second generation, I find original EL DAC still holds up nicely in terms of performance relative to its price! I felt this was the first DAC where the technical drawbacks were not so immediately apparent. Price wise the 1st Gen EL DAC can be found second hand around $150 or so.

Tonality is where EL DAC, like Modi 3, takes a slight lead except EL DAC does not come off as "smoothed" over. However there were a few tracks and mixes where EL DAC fell pry to congestion especially with wet or bass heavy mixes, and it consistently fell shy of D90's transient response. Either not resolving micro detail as vividly or simply presenting silence where D90 would resolve some very quiet low-level transients.

Owners of EL DAC can expect D90 to bring a noticeable improvement to clarity, detail, and staging! And honestly while I have not heard all of the new DAC options in this $500-999 price point, I do feel D90 is one of the first I've heard to really distinguish itself in a tier above EL DAC. 


So at this point I find myself both impressed and down right giddy over how well D90 compares to a lot of my favorite strong value DACs at lower price points proving itself to be noticeably better without any real drawbacks! 

Though an equally important question is how D90 compares to a higher priced DAC?



Recently RME launched the ADI 2 FS which replaced the non FS variant, now all of my impressions are with the original "non fs" RME ADI-2 DAC. Price wise I paid $1200 for mine and that price still stands for the current FS variants. While it's technically an "all in one" I found it's onboard amp to be only sufficient. It is by no means reflective of the DACs performance and I would advise against running RME ADI 2 as a dedicated all in one.

In terms of function I have to give props to RME for having full functionality programmed into both the included remote and the built-in display and on board physical interface! Function wise the ADI 2 features a variety of digital filters (which D90 has as well), Parametric EQ, and other digital tweaks alongside a headphone amp. Speaking of filters I also ran the Short Delay Sharp Roll Off filter on my RME ADI 2.


TOPPING's D90 presented sound with more immediacy and weight! It brought a real sense of heft and impact, however the RME ADI 2 proved itself more resolving of micro detail, dynamics and transients while still presenting a wider more precise cohesive stage.


Still it's important to mention the RME ADI 2's more "polite" presentation as some find it disengaging. D90's presentation  is noticeably more tactile, aggressive and immediate. While its staging was not "intimate" it didn't present sound with the same cohesion and sense of space that the RME ADI 2 does.

All in all I found D90's slight "edge" compliments headphones like the Koss x Drop ESP 95X which is itself little dark and "polite."
TOPPING D90 MQA and Sennheiser HD600
For the sake of familiarity I also gave my HD 600 a listen with both D90 MQA and RME ADI 2 fed balanced into the SMSL SP200.

Regarding low frequencies I found the D90 to be;
  • Punchier 
    • Presenting a more immediate sense of slam or force 
Regarding the mid range frequencies I found D90 to be:
  • Drier
    • Less audible reverb or "fullness" 
  • Rougher
    • Having slight emphasis on the tactile interaction of instruments against hands, picks, bows etc. 
Regarding the high frequencies I found D90 MQA to be:
  • Forward
    • Or having some audible emphasis
And I personally feel that HD 600 and EXP 95X are both similar in overall resolve, detail, and fidelity. While neither is perfect I feel both offer a different take on what can be considered a "neutral" frequency response.


I feel however that HD 600 does not benefit from a more aggressive presentation so characteristics that are perceived as "strengths" with ESP 95X pair poorly with HD 600.


Still though we are mincing details here as each of the differences I've heard are not glaring or immediately obvious, and a harder presentation like with what D90 has, can be paired with a "softer" or "fuller"  amp such as the phenomenal Rupert Neve Precision Headphone Amp and Schiit Lyr 3.



While I still feel the RME ADI is overall a higher performing product it's also a full $500 more. Despite costing a little over one and a half times more, around a 58% price increase over D90, this increase in price does not yield an equivalent increase in performance. In fact many of you may be able to build entire DAC/Amp systems with D90 MQA at it's core that will easily outperform the RME ADI 2 functioning as an all in one.

That said I'm happy to give the Topping D90 MQA DAC my full support and recommendation to anyone wanting an excellent clear voiced highly functional balanced DAC with or without MQA. I find the overall sound quality, function, and build/physical interface experience far exceed my expectations and present a real lasting sense of value!