TOPPING D10 Balanced is, as the name would suggest, a compact fully balanced USB DAC. It has a retail price of $139.
Continuing a furious flurry of product releases, TOPPING recently announced this fully balanced alternative to the popular D10s. The primary difference here is that this new model has a fully balanced TRS output.
Just like the D10s, the D10 Balanced comes equipped with an ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip. It also has the same S/PDIF optical and coaxial digital outputs so it can be used as a USB bridge if desired. Let’s dig deeper.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Linsoul for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Large clear display
Digital USB bridge functionality
Powered by a single USB cable
Extremely clean and neutral measurements
No headphone output
Basic feature set
TOPPING D10 Balanced
Power supply description: DC5V/0.5A (powered by USB)
Total Harmonic Distortion @A- Weighting: <0.0008% at 1kHz
Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz(±0.1dB)
Output amplitude: 2Vrms @0dBFS
Output internal resistance: 10ohms
USB IN: 44.1kHz-384kHz/16Bit-32Bit DSD64-DSD256(Native)
OPT/COAX OUT: 44.1kHz-192kHz/16Bit-24Bit
What’s in the package? -Topping D10 Balanced -6.35mm TRS to XLR adapter -USB cable -User manual -Warranty card
Packaging & Accessories
To keep costs down, TOPPING has kept the packaging utilitarian but functional. The D10 Balanced comes in a white box that is plain but sturdy and only slightly larger than the actual DAC. Inside the box, you get the DAC, a USB cable, 2x 6.35mm TRS to XLR adapters plus a user manual and warranty card.
The D10 Balanced maintains the same basic exterior as its predecessors. It has a small black brushed aluminium chassis with rounded sides and chamfered edges on the front. As is the norm with TOPPING products, the build quality is excellent and the unit feels robust and strong.
Naturally, the most striking visual feature of the device is its large orange LED display that shows the audio format (PCM or DSD) and the current playback sampling rate. The front panel is bare apart from the large display.
On the rear panel are (from left to right): the left and right TRS balanced outputs, the Toslink optical and Coax digital outputs and the USB digital input. At first, I thought I’d have to shell out for some TRS to XLR adapters but thankfully there are two included in the box.
Internally, the DAC chip is the ESS ES9038Q2M. The D10 Balanced supports up to 32-bit, 384kHz and DSD256 native. The distortion levels (0.00012%) are absurdly low, as is the norm with TOPPING DACs.
Another thing I love about the D10 Balanced is its auto power on/off feature. The DAC will fire up and go to sleep synchronously with your PC; something I dearly wish my Burson Funk amp could do because it gets pretty hot when left turned on and unattended.
I did the majority of testing the D10 Balanced using the Feliks Audio Echo and Burson Funk. Similar to the majority of TOPPING DACs, this one has an extremely neutral and transparent character, as can be seen in the measurements on TOPPING’s D10 B product page (near the bottom of the page).
Essentially, what this DAC does is take the ones and zeros and passes them on as an uncoloured, analogue signal. This means that any character added to the music comes from further down the chain i.e. your amplifier and IEMs, headphones or speakers.
But of course, there is always a subjective element when it comes to audio gear which is where the real fun starts. So here I’ll do my best to put into words what I’ve been hearing with this DAC paired with the amplifiers and IEMs/transducers listed above.
Simpler, slower songs are often a good way to hear tonal accuracy and spacing. With that in mind, the D10 Balanced performed brilliantly on The Pineapple Thief’s “That Shore – Live @ Islington Assembly Hall“. This downtempo track has the main electric guitar on the right, a keyboard on the left, vocals centred and the live crowd to the sides and behind the listener. The instrument spacing was superb here, painting a vivid image with both width and depth being well portrayed and easy to visualize.
Similarly, the beginning of Pure Reason Revolution’s “Ghosts and Typhoons” has intimate vocals and ethereal electric guitars in the background. Later in the track, things get much busier and the DAC showed that despite its neutral presentation, it has a great sense of rhythm. There are also both male and female vocals in the song by Jon Courtney and Chloë Alper respectively. This was no challenge whatsoever for the D10 Balanced as both sounded lifelike with no “Sabre glare” or artificial edge to them.
For the obligatory DSD listening test, I chose Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album and as expected, the D10 Balance executed effortlessly. In fact, everything I fed into the DAC from high-resolution DSD files to 192 kbps MP3s sounded great (well, the MP3s sounded as good as could be expected)!
Put simply, the TOPPING D10 Balanced is a simple device that does two things: it converts digital data to an analogue signal and it can act as a digital bridge. Knowing that going in, I really thought testing this device was going to be a little dull. But in the end, I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment spent listening to this unit.
Its technical performance can’t be denied. Along with TOPPING’s own claims, Audio Science Review and Archimago’s Musings came to the same conclusion: the D10 Balanced measurements are as good as it gets. And that’s not just in this price range but in a general sense.
What does that mean exactly? Well, the way I see it, it means that you’re getting incredible performance for what is basically an entry-level sum of money. It also means that I can reclaim some desktop real estate without sacrificing audio quality. In addition, it means that I now have an excellent reference DAC that is perfect for letting me hear the unique qualities of the other components in my audio chain, such as amps and headphones.
The D10 Balanced won’t be for everyone though. Those looking for an all-in-one or integrated solution will need to look elsewhere. Add to those the people who want various digital filters to choose from or additional features because they won’t find that here. But for anyone looking for a straight-up well-built, unobtrusive DAC at a bargain price, this would be my first recommendation.