Topping’s new DX7 Pro is an impressive-sounding device. It walks an interesting line between analytical and musical. That dry, sober quality often associated with SABRE is present. Detailing and sharpness stand in the foreground. Yet no one will call this DAC bright. It has a natural, ever so slightly warm tone. With its satisfying body and density, you won’t complain of thinness either.
For a standalone unit meant to please the broadest market, Topping probably succeeded. Though for me, personally, it could do with a smoother, more liquid presentation. The image is so sharp there’s almost a graininess. It could use some fluidity.
One of the things I’ve always loved about my Audio-GD NFB-28 (around $800) is how warm and fluid it sounds. It takes everything good about the SABRE chip and tames everything else. It’s one of the most perfect-sounding devices. Utterly natural. There’s even more body and robustness than the DX7, with a smoother, richer tone. There’s also a lot more power, more power than I ever needed. But it’s nice knowing I have it on tap, just in case. Where Topping easily beats Audio-GD is in features, aesthetics, and form-factor. Topping is like a European Sports car: they make a more professional-looking device, and packs it full of the latest technologies. Audio-GD is like an American Muscle Car: all raw power and sheer performance.
As I mentioned earlier, I currently have on-hand the iFi iDSD Pro. ($2,500, Review HERE) iFi matches Topping for features and professionalism, and perhaps even beats them. Obviously, you’re paying significantly more, so you ought to expect that. The iDSD truly feels like a top-end system, and its use of vacuum tubes is outstanding. With Tube+ and GTO turned On, I’ve never heard anything quite so beautiful as what issues forth from this DAC. It takes liquidity to a whole new level, rendering such gorgeous, smooth notes. And yet, if I honestly had to choose between the two, as a standalone unit, I’d go with the DX7 Pro. The difference in sound quality is not vast, the price-to-performance ratio is heavily in Topping’s favor, and… well, I demand XLR PO, which iFi lacks.
Adding a secondary amp to the chain is a fun way to augment the sound, adding color, vitality, or power.
With the XDuoo TA-20 ($319.99, Review HERE), you don’t get much in the way of power increase. I mean, looking at the specs, it seems like you ought to, but in practice, it doesn’t drive my headphones with much more headroom than the Topping PO. Still, it’s enough for every set of cans in my house. What I like the TA-20 for can be summarized in one word: Tubes! It simply adds that strange magic many of us love. Since the TA-20 is a hybrid design, it only offers the subtlest coloration, sounding very clean and modern overall. A touch of warmth and harmonic overtones helps with the DX7’s dryness. It seems to wet the audio some, a result I quite like.
The Cayin iHA-6 ($699, Review HERE) does not add wetness. At least not with warmth or tube sorcery. The first thing you notice when moving to this amp is a significant increase in stabilization. That’s a weird word to apply to sound, but it’s the most honest description. The sonic image feels stronger, sturdier, and altogether more stable. It’s as if it’s more tangible somehow. Cayin created one of the most colorless amps in the iHA-6, a true audiophile prize. Because of this, the slight grain in the DX7 Pro is untouched here. Yet some of the dryness is solved. The iHA-6 adds smoothness and refinement. Just a bit. Mostly, it’s the stabilization and tremendous power which makes this amp worthwhile.