Topping D30 review: a quality hi-res DAC at an affordable price

Topping D30 review

The Topping D30 is a DAC with plenty of connections and support for hi-res formats – including DSD. It comes in a nice package, too! The company recommends using it in conjunction with the Topping A30 headphones amplifier, but it can be used with a plethora of devices – both in input and output. It also supports hi-res content up to DSD128.

Disclaimer: I received a sample directly from Topping and I won’t have to return it. You can check out the manufacturer’s website for additional information.

TL;DR: recap

Pros
Cons
Simple, modern design

Solid build, high-quality materials

Switches and connectors are placed conveniently

Support for 24 bit / 192 kHz content and up to DSD128

Transparent sound

Clean output

No real cons for the price

Rating: 8.8/10

Packaging & Accessories

The Topping D30 comes in a simple cardboard box, which holds the DAC, the power supply, a USB drive with Windows drivers and manuals, a USB cable plus a warranty card. No other cables are included.

Design

Topping D30

The Topping D30 has the same overall design as the Topping A30: it is a solid-looking chunk of brushed aluminium, with front and back sides that are slightly larger than the body and which show the nuts that hold it all together. The device appears to be rather solid and well-built. The writing is obtained through laser etching, so it should stand well the passing of time. There are four rubber feet under the shell that help keep it in place.

The combination of brushed aluminium and solid, almost sharp lines contributes to making the Topping D30 look unmistakably modern, yet classic. It can blend in with other devices (i.e. Schiit Magni 2, O2 amplifier) with no effort, while also keeping its own identity.

The front side only hosts the power switch, the input selector (USB/coax/optical) and two LEDs, contributing to maintaining a polished look, while the back is full of connectors: besides the power connector, there are a USB port (type B) and SPDIF via coaxial or optical for input and two RCA connectors (left and right) for output. More exotic connections are left out, but those three means should be more than enough for most users.

Features & Specs

The Topping D30 uses the Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chip, which is still a great chip even though it’s a bit dated (it was first launched in 2010, if what I read is correct).

Topping D30

Input range
USB: 16 – 24 bit/44.1 – 192 kHz, DSD64, DSD128

Optical: 16 – 24 bit/32 – 192 kHz

Coaxial: 16 – 24 bit/32 – 192 kHz

Frequency response 10 – 20 kHz ± 0.03 dB
Maximum output
2.1 Vrms @1 kHz
THD+N (@1 kHz) USB: 0.00062%

Optical: 0.00063%

Coaxial: 0.00065%

Crosstalk
USB: -117.7 dB

Optical: -117.6 dB

Coaxial: -117.6 dB

Note: all of the information above comes from the manufacturer’s site.

The wide amount of connectors on the back leaves ample choice to the user, and in addition to that one can achieve 24-bit/192 kHz content playback independent of the chosen input. The Topping D30 not only sports support for files up to 24-bit/192 kHz, but it also supports DSD64 and DSD128 – although support for DSD is only provided through USB and using DoP (DSD over PCM) or ASIO. While the most discerning users may complain about the lack of support for higher resolution content, there’s little doubt that what is provided already exceeds what most listeners require.

As I previously wrote, output is only provided via two RCA connectors on the back. The Topping D30 is meant to be used together with an amplifier – be it a headphones amplifier or a speaker amplifier – and cannot be used on its own. While this may be disappointing for those who look for a one-stop all-in-one device, the separation of DAC and amplifier also leaves room for improvements in the amplification section without the need to replace the DAC.

The left LED on the front indicates the device’s power status, while the second informs of whether the D30 can lock the input signal – if it can’t, it will light up in red. In my experience, it only did so before I installed the drivers.

Talking about drivers, the Topping D30 is supported by Linux out-of-the-box – there is no action required on the user’s part to make it work. I tested it under Linux Mint 18.1 with Linux kernel 4.10. Windows, on the other side, does not recognize the device and requires drivers to be installed.

Sound

I used the Topping D30 in tandem with the Topping A30 desktop headphones amplifier. I used mainly 16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC files, but I also listened to a few 24 bit/192 kHz FLAC files. I also used a few tracks from the 2L Hi-Res evaluation tracks collection in both FLAC and DSD.

There is no noise coming from the unit – the background is black. The output is therefore very clear. There is no “smoothing” of the records, so if they are harsh or bad the D30 won’t mask it – you will very likely hear artifacts, noises and other nasty things. There’s also a noticeable “issue” with low-bitrate MP3s and Youtube videos, which sound very bad – just do your ears a favour and don’t use them at all.

Soundstage seems to be decently wide and deep, with a presentation of instruments that does not shove them in front of you, while instrument separation is at least on par with that of the Zorloo ZuperDAC (which in turn is great for the price and size). Detail is generally very good.

It is widely accepted in most parts of the world that each one is entitled to their own opinion – and this is especially true if we’re talking about preferences and tastes. That’s why I think that I should warn you that what follows is a collection of impressions, inevitably influenced by my personal taste. I like neutral, transparent gear, but you may not. Please consider this fact!

When it comes to sound, the Topping D30 is neutral and presents no colouration at all. That’s what a DAC should do, in the end, and if you want any colouring you can resort to EQ. Mids are not of the in-your-face kind, and sound detailed and smooth. Bass has great control and precision, with no added colour – I could not hear any added warmth listening to the HiFiMAN RE00, whose lows are almost lacking. Treble is precise and airy, without added harshness or sibilance. If the record is harsh or sharp, though, you will hear it! I can hear no significant differences between bass and treble.

Being the Topping D30 an entry-level DAC, its performance is remarkable.

Final Thoughts

The Topping D30 has to clash with other giants in the DAC arena – the first examples that come to my mind are the Schiit Modi 2 or the ODAC. The D30 is well-built, has conveniently placed switches and connectors, features many connections, supports hi-res content up to DSD128 and has a neutral sound signature – all these elements make for a compelling products which can stand up pretty well against competitors.

The Topping D30 retails for $119.99, which makes for an admirable price-performance ratio. It’s definitely worth trying out if you’re looking for a DSD-capable DAC at a reasonable price.

It is available on Amazon.com and AliExpress at ~$119.99.

About Riccardo Robecchi

Living just outside of Milan, Italy, I got the the passion for music listening as a legacy from my father and my grandfather. I am currently studying Computer Science at Università degli Studi di Milano. I also happen to have reported on technology for major Italian publications since 2011.

12 Comments

  1. Hello,
    I am interested in the Topping D30 to integrate it into my home theater system which consists of: a/v receiver, preamplifier, and blu ray player.
    I store my multimedia files in a 2 TB portable hard disk that I connect to my blu ray player.
    But my Blu ray player does not play dsd files, that’s why I want the Topping D30.
    I no use a PC computer.
    Does Topping D30 works for me?
    Thanks in advanced

    1. Hi Eduardo,

      Thanks for writing in! Alas I am afraid I will be the bearer of bad news, as I think the Topping D30 would not work for the intended purpose. In fact it needs the drivers to decode DSD and it can only do that under the Windows operating system. This is because it only decodes DSD when using the USB interface.
      I think that the best bet in your case would be to buy a DSD-enabled media player, either an A/V receiver or a network player.

    2. The TOPPING D30 is simply too old of a design to purchase. I would much rather have you purchase an SMSL SANSKIRT 6th Anno DAC. Its all about the Parts.
      The Cirrus Logic CS4398 is a 2012 technology whereas the SMSL uses the WOLFSON WM8740 CPU (2014) with CM6636 Chipset & Jrc 2114md. And the Shiit Modi II simply lacks the features the SMSL has.

      At about $100.00 EBAY, you get 24bit (16million) 192kHz Coaxel/Optical and up to 32bit on USB plus it handles DSD x64 files if you want to hook it up to your computer. Again, its all about the price point. At sub $100.00 for a DAC ONLY unit, nothing can touch the SMSL

    1. Hi! Since I do not own any iOS device, I had to ask Topping and they confirmed it works with both iOS and Android using the relevant adapters. Android devices must be USB OTG compatible, though, so you may need to check that out. I hope this helps!

  2. I have been listening to my Topping D30 for about a week now and. I lost my tight and controlled bass my system has and also the midrange was less life like on vocals a little thin sounding. The opa2134 OP amp this unit uses is from the mid 90’s and has been surpassed dozens of times. And the Cirrus CS4398 is over ten years old but still a pretty good DAC. So I decided to un-solder the opa2134 and solder in a 8 Pin DIP8 Integrated Circuit IC Sockets Adaptor so I could easily change out and try different op amps.

    I was able to improve the the bass and midrange and the parts i used cost less than dinner and are avalible off E-bay. If you have some cheap desktop amp & headphones and yes all sound bad sorry but it’s true then this DAC might be good for you. But if your using any decent speackers and amp combination then this Dac will definatly show it’s falts very easily even with a better op amp.

    If you are on a budget and need a $100 DAC then buy a SMSL Sankrit M6 it has a great saber DAC chip and great op amp. SMSL have been making DAC’s longer than Topping and many more models to learn from
    and these little DAC’s have quite the following and for good reason they sound good. So skip the Topping D30 and go for the SMSL M6 you won’t be sorry.

  3. Made a huge mistake buying this cheap DAC I don’t know what I was thinking. There is no such thing as a good sounding $100 DAC period.
    This DAC had the worst bass I have ever heard my amps have a damping factor of 1000 incredibly high and after hooking up this DAC it went to 0 the bass was totally uncontrolled muddy and bloated to the point it was unlistenable Bass guitars and kick drums were unrecognizable yea I am dead serious it was that bad.

    I ended up buying a Cambridge Soundworks DACMajic 100 off e-bay for $200 free shipping yea it’s used but higher quality products usually last forever. After hooking up my DACMajic 100 I sat back to listen and I was more than happy my bass sounded real again midrange was back and sounded perfect. The sound stage and overall sound of the DAC were very pleasing, to say the least.

    I would never have thought that a great little chip like the CS4398 could sound so bad but it is not the chips fault it is the output circuit and it is not the dated opamp the op2134 either it is simple this DAC has a bad output circuit design and implementation. These same DAC chip and opamp have been used in many DACs and sound great even have great reviews in Stereophile and other highly respected publications.

    If you can’t afford to spend over $100 wait until you can and buy something nice consider buying used I have saved a ton of money over the years buying used thanks to e-bay.

    1. I’m not sure what you mean… I listened to this setup all day every day for months.
      The only downside to the D30 is that the vocals are recessed a bit, it is indeed behind the other sound on any of the headphones I have tried.

      I noticed that when using it for skype or TV it really is hard to hear voices clearly.
      Otherwise the detail is pretty good and the soundstage is wide and instrument separation is quite good.
      It sounds awesome for Jazz or Classical music without vocals especially.

      So saying that it has no Bass is amazing to me.

  4. Agree with Sean. The stuff is totally a piece of shit. I have give it up and replace by another device.

    1. I’ve tested it side by side with the SMSL M8/M8A, Schiit Modi Multibit / Fulla 2 and its comparable with basically everything I just listed.
      The M8 is indeed a bit better sounding, but its only in the vocals as I explained before. Otherwise it sounds great in everything!

      1. How does it sound compared to the Modi Multibit? Also how are you connecting the D30 – USB, fiber or coax? I bought one and find it sounds better with fiber than USB connected to my Mac mini, wondering if this is typical. I enjoy the sound but I was originally considering the Mimby – curious if I’m missing out.

  5. If yours worked on windows 10 x64, can you email me the driver? The one listed on the website doesn’t have a valid digital signature. Thanks

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