TOPPING DX1 Headphone Amp Review

Topping DX1 review featured

I’m writing a review today of the Topping DX1 DAC and headphone amplifier. This budget-friendly device has a compact size and is equipped with an AK4493S DAC chip and XMOS XU208 processor. It offers high-quality audio with support for PCM up to 384kHz and DSD256. At just $99, the DX1 is an excellent value for those looking to improve their listening experience.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Apos Audio for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are based on my experience with the product.

TOPPING DX1 Headphone Amp Review
Verdict
The Topping DX1 has excellent audio quality for a budget performer and is one of the simplest ways to improve the sound of your computer.
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Pros
Has a velvety-smooth and rich sound
Compact size
Fixed-level line out
Has good output power
Doesn't require a power adapter (USB powered)
Cons
No balanced circuit
4.5
Our Score
WHERE TO BUY

TOPPING DX1

What’s in the Box
  • Topping DX1
  • USB data cable
  • User manual/warranty

Design

The Topping DX1 DAC and headphone amplifier may be small in size, but it packs a punch when it comes to audio quality. With a volume knob, single-ended 6.35mm and 3.5mm headphone outputs, and a power LED on the front panel, it’s easy to use and looks sleek on any desktop. The volume knob is metal and has a smooth action with just the right amount of resistance.

On the back of the unit, you’ll find RCA outputs, a gain switch, and a USB-B port. One of the standout features of the DX1 is that it uses this USB port for both data transmission and power, so you don’t need a separate power adapter. But how does it avoid the common issue of USB 5V power noise?

Enter the discrete LNRD (Low Noise Reference Driver) circuit, which filters out interference and noise from the USB power supply. As a result, the noise levels from the DAC and headphone amp sections are a minuscule 2.0uV and 1.0uV, respectively. This means you can listen to your music without any distractions, even with sensitive in-ear monitors.

But the DX1 doesn’t just excel in noise reduction – it also delivers impressive output power, reaching 280mW x2 @32Ω from the headphone amplifier. This is more than enough for all in-ear monitors and a wide range of headphones.

The RCA line out has a fixed level, so the DX1 can’t be used as a preamp. The DX1 outputs to the RCA and headphone output simultaneously. However, the fixed-level output is useful because it means you don’t need to worry about damaging your headphones or speakers if you forget to set the correct volume level first.

Topping DX1 on desktop with headphones and keybaord

Sound

The Topping DX1 DAC is like a sonic velvet glove on your ears – smooth, refined, and oh-so luxurious. Its AK4493S (Velvet Sound) DAC chip and LNRD circuit work together to deliver a clean and transparent sound that will leave you wanting more. And at just $99, it’s an absolute steal.

This little guy may not pack the same punch or level of dynamics as Topping’s more expensive models, but it still delivers top-notch audio quality that will make your ears sing. Plus, it has plenty of power to drive even fairly demanding headphones, like the Sennheiser HD650. Switching to high gain – the HD650 can get ear-splittingly loud and there’s ample headroom left.

The only downside (and it’s just nitpicking considering the price) is that the soundstage dimensions are a bit smaller than the higher-end models (like the Topping E70), but the instrument and vocal placements and imaging are spot on. All in all, the Topping DX1 DAC is a budget-friendly gem that will have you grinning from ear to ear.

As I listened to The Pineapple Thief’s “Versions of the Truth (Alt)”, I was struck by the power and extension of the bass. The vocals were rich and full, and I had no doubt that the DX1 created a stable centre image.

But let’s be real here, what really made this song a banger was the way the percussion bounced from left to right like a game of ping pong. And don’t even get me started on the DX1 – sure it’s cheap, but it’s still a top-notch DAC. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it outperforms those dinky dongle DACs any day of the week. It’s more practical than dongles for desktop use and just can’t be beaten when it comes to power and audio quality. Trust me on this one.

Topping DX1 with Thor Mjolnir II

Comparison

FiiO K3

The FiiO K3 (review here) is even smaller than the DX1. It has a lot of extra features like a balanced headphone output, dual USB modes and a bass boost switch. Furthermore, the K3 has line, coaxial and optical outputs.

If you need a balanced headphone output, the KA3 is the obvious choice. But if you don’t need a balanced circuit, the Topping delivers a cleaner sound with more power and a lower noise floor.

To my ears, the K3 sounds thinner and not as resolving as the DX1. The DX1 outperforms the FiiO in resolution and imaging plus it sounds more confident when using harder-to-drive headphones.

Topping DX1 on the desktop

Verdict

In conclusion, the Topping DX1 DAC and headphone amplifier is a compact and budget-friendly option that delivers impressive audio quality and output power. Its discrete LNRD circuit effectively filters out interference and noise, allowing for a clean and transparent sound experience.

The DX1’s AK4493S DAC chip provides a smooth and refined sound, and the headphone amplifier has sufficient power to drive a wide range of headphones and pretty much any IEM.

While the soundstage may be slightly smaller than higher-end models, the instrument and vocal placements and imaging are spot on. Overall, the Topping DX1 is a great value for the price and a reliable choice for any audiophile.

Founder of Prime Audio
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