Topping Audio is a company renowned for creating affordable and reliable DACs and amplifiers. If you’re anything like me, a good DAC is an integral part of your audio setup. For a long time, Topping’s original DX7 was my daily desktop driver. In this review, I’m checking out the new and improved Topping DX7 Pro DAC and headphone amplifier.
The DX7 Pro features the latest ES9038Pro flagship DAC chip, Bluetooth 5.0 with LDAC, native DSD1024 support and much more. But we’ll get to that in the review. Let’s go!
Disclaimer:This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Topping DX7 Pro Review
Fully balanced headphone and line outputs
Great build quality and understated aesthetic
Neutral and transparent sound
Versatile connectivity options
HiRes Bluetooth receiver
Extremely low noise floor without distortion
Some menu options hard to get to without using the remote
Headphone output impedance a little high
Package and Accessories
The Topping DX7 Pro comes packaged in a sturdy black box that is plain apart from the Topping logo on the top. Everything inside is secured safely in a soft foam insert. Inside are the usual accessories including a power cable, a USB cable, a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter, remote and user manual/warranty.
Design and Build Quality
Build quality of the DX7 Pro is excellent. It’s smaller than the original model despite having more features packed into it. Gone are the ridges on the top of the unit which is now just a smooth matte surface all the way across. The aluminium CNC crafted and anodized chassis feels every bit as good as it looks. This is a unit that could either be used as an all-in-one desktop solution or integrated into a stereo system and would look equally at home in both.
Although this is a non-vented unit it only gets warm to the touch and never uncomfortably hot. Even though it shares a lot in common with the original DX7, the Pro model feels a step up again in terms of physical build quality.
Features and Functionality
On the front panel there are three headphone outputs: 6.35mm single-ended, 4.4mm balanced and an XLR balanced output. To the right of those is the OLED display that shows useful information such as input selection, current bit-rate, volume and gain setting.
On the right side of the front panel is the volume knob which is also a multi-function button: a short press cycles through the digital inputs and a long press turns the standby mode On/Off.
Around the back is a host of input and output options. In terms of digital inputs, there is IIS, optical, coaxial, USB and AES. Then there is also the Bluetooth which supports all the tastiest audio codecs including LDAC, aptX, aptX LL, aptX HD, AAC, and SBC.
In terms of outputs, there is RCA and XLR. The DX7 Pro can be used as a standalone DAC with a fixed-line out or it can be used as a preamp with a variable line out. This means you can send the signal out to an external amplifier or to powered monitors.
One of my favourite features of the DX7 Pro is that it remembers separate volume settings for the headphone and line outputs. This is really handy as you can easily switch between headphones and speakers without needing to readjust the volume or worrying about damaging your equipment or your hearing.
Internally, the Topping DX7 Pro houses an ES9038Pro DAC chip which supports up to PCM 32Bit/768kHz and native DSD1024. USB decoding is handled by the XMOS XU208 with a customized Thesycon driver.
Topping has a special treat in store for anyone who loves OP-amp rolling because both of DX7 Pro’s OP-amps are socketed so you can swap them out for something else if desired.
In terms of output power, the RCA does 2Vrms while the balanced XLR outputs 4Vrms. The single-ended headphone output power is [email protected]Ω while the balanced headphone outputs push [email protected]Ω.
Topping has a reputation for producing very transparent and uncoloured DACs and the DX7 Pro falls right into that description. It’s not surprising that they chose the latest flagship DAC chip from Sabre since they’re known for their neutral and detailed sound.
That’s not to say the DX7 Pro sounds analytical or dry. I would call it an open and honest presentation that passes on a clean signal and lets the headphones or speakers shape the sound. I love this type of signature as it really opens up a lot of options in terms of gear matching.
First of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the headphone out impedance. On paper, it’s a bit high for sensitive IEMs (4.7 Ohm single-ended and 9.4 Ohm for the balanced outputs). However, I didn’t have any problems even with my most sensitive earphone, which we’ll cover in detail below.
I chose the Thieaudio Legacy 3 specifically to test with the DX7 Pro because it’s an extremely sensitive IEM (impedance 8.6 – 9.5 Ohm, sensitivity 108 dB SPL/mW). Even when using the 4.4mm balanced output the background was dead silent. On top of that, the frequency response didn’t seem to be noticeably affected either. I don’t know what Topping did here but they managed to weave some magic into the headphone outputs.
When doing some casual listening with the Legacy 3 on low gain I had the volume of the DX7 Pro sitting around -53dB. The level of detail was fantastic and these fairly neutral-sounding earphones didn’t sound in the least bit cold or dry.
Next up was the Tin Hifi P1 (review here) a notoriously hard to drive planar magnetic in-ear monitor. Even with the 3.5mm single-ended output on low gain, there was ample volume but I found the sound fuller and more satisfying using high gain.
This pairing produced a black background with a natural, rounded stage equal in width and depth. Incredible resolution and instrument separation, fast transients and liquid midrange with moderate but delightful and engaging bass response. Pairing validated!
Next in line was the Sennheiser IE800S (review here). I plugged them into the 4.4mm balanced output and suddenly I lost track of time and purpose as I was swept away in the music. Warm, detailed emotive are some of the words that come to mind in regards to this pairing. Again the DX7 Pro’s ability to create depth in the stage was noted, as was the layering and level of engagement this pairing induced. For a warm but technically nimble IEM like the IE800S, a good implementation of a Sabre DAC works wonders.
The Acoustic Research AR-H1 (review here) is a planar magnetic headphone with a clean, detailed sound. Its signature is near neutral with a bump in the upper midrange. I fully expected this to be a bad combination but with the DX7 Pro, they sound very revealing, accurate in timbre, open and airy. The bass is fully present and accounted for when necessary but with clinical control. This is a pairing that squeezes every last detail from the music within an expansive soundstage.
Moving on to the Hifiman Sundara (review here) which is another planar magnetic headphone. Compared to the AR-H1, Sundara is a touch warmer with similar neutrality in the midrange but slightly more subdued highs. I don’t recall these headphones sounding bad with any source but there’s a definite synergy with the Topping DX7 Pro. That wonderful stage depth is present again – something that is somewhat of a hallmark for this DAC. This pairing is something I could listen to all day long and I’ve done so on more than one occasion.
Onto a dynamic driver headphone now with the Meze Audio 99 Classics (review here). This is another example of great synergy between a headphone and DAC. The DX7 exercises tight control over the bass which brings the 99 Classics’ luscious midrange to the forefront. This is a liquid combo that is buttery smooth yet at the same time feels incredibly dynamic.
Thanks to its preamp capabilities, I spent quite a bit of time using the Topping DX7 Pro with powered monitors. When I hooked up the Kali LP-8 speakers, I was very happy with the performance. If you think that a neutral DAC with a reference speaker can’t do bass, I reckon hearing this combo would change your mind. With the transparency of the Sabre ES9038Pro and the accuracy of the LP-8 monitors, this is a perfect setup for a home studio.
Of course, the DX7 Pro can also work as a standalone DAC with a fixed-level line output. I connected the Feliks Audio Echo (review here) tube amplifier via the balanced XLR outputs and as expected, the results were sublime. The cleanliness of the DACs output mixed with a touch of dirty tubes is amazeballs. This is a nice way to add some warmth and soundstage to your headphones, especially the cooler sounding ones.
Next I hooked up the Phatlab Audio Chimera (review here) via the DX7’s RCA output. This is a magic setup for sensitive IEMs with the Chimera’s less than 0.1 Ohm output. With this pairing, you can choose between JFET and Tube output with the flick of a switch. This is a compact and simple setup that can turn anyone’s desktop into an audiophile heaven.
I tested the wireless capabilities using the Sony NW-ZX300 and my Android phone. Pairing was a fast and simple affair with both sources. With the Sony player, I streamed HiRes FLAC files with LDAC and the results were flawless. To all but the most seasoned listeners, it sounds just as good as a wired connection, in my opinion. The connectivity was rock-solid and the sound was exquisite. Using my older smartphone, I had to settle for aptX for some Spotify streaming and it still sounded great.
The original Topping DX7 (review here) had a similar sound signature i.e. one that’s neutral and transparent. That hasn’t changed but rather the technical performance of the Pro has in terms of even less distortion and a lower noise floor. The bigger changes come in the form of extra functionality: things like the extra 4.4mm balanced PO and Bluetooth receiver. The DX7 Pro is also physically smaller and takes up less valuable desk space.
The Singxer SDA-2 (review here), has fewer features than the DX7 Pro. It lacks an auto power-off, AES input and Bluetooth functionality. One thing the SDA-2 does have over the Topping is you can switch between preamp and DAC modes with a single button press on the unit or the remote: to enable pure DAC mode on the DX7 Pro you need to hold down the volume knob while turning on the rear power switch.
In terms of sound, the SDA-2 is slightly warmer and more liquid. It has a wider soundstage but the DX7 Pro has more depth. SDA-2 has an AKM AK4497EQ chip while the DX7 Pro has a Sabre ES9038Pro. Spec-wise the DAC chips don’t differ a whole lot and the main distinctions lie in the implementation of each and the features that are built into each device. While some people might prefer the warmth and smoothness of the AKM’s VELVET SOUND architecture other will prefer the transparency of the Sabre. When it comes to features though, the DX7 Pro definitely comes out in front.
When I reviewed the original DX7 I said it was “Love At First Byte”. Well, now with the Topping DX7 Pro you could say I’ve been twice bitten and doubly smitten. Yes, the sound quality is amazing but for me, the biggest gains come in the extra functionality and smaller physical dimensions of the unit.
The fact it can remember the individual volume levels of the headphone output and line output is a big deal for me because I’m always switching between headphones and speakers. When you add to that the audio performance, 4.4mm balanced PO and HiRes Bluetooth, there’s nothing else at this price range that can match it.