::Disclaimer::
Apos provided the DX7 Pro free of charge for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill

The Topping DX7 Pro sells for $599 MSRP
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www.Topping.com


Once again, I must thank our sponsor, APOS Audio HiFi for this opportunity. They reached out to see if any of our reviewers were interested in taking on the newest Topping DAC/Amp combo. When I checked to see what the hell it was, I became excited. My current all-in-one desktop setup is growing a little long in the tooth. The 2016 Audio-GD NFB-28 was still using the ES9018 SABRE chip, and I’ve been feeling the itch to upgrade. Also, that unit is HUGE!

I wanted the Topping DX7 Pro, if for no other reason than to have an ES9038PRO DAC. But as I read up on it, all its other features jumped out at me, as well.

Specs:

Support
USB in: 44.1-768 kHz/16-32 bit, DSD64-DSD256 (DoP), DSD64-DSD512 (native)
Opt/AES/COAX in: 44.1-192 kHz/16-24 bit, DSD64 (DoP)
IIS in: 44.1-768kHz/16-32bit, DSD64-DSD1024
Bluetooth in: LDAC/AAC/SBC/APTX/APTX LL/APTX HD

Headphone Out, 6.35mm
THD+N, A-weighted: <0.0004% at 1 kHz, 100 mW (32 ohms); <0.0005% at 20-20 kHz, 100 mW (32 ohms); <0.0003% at 1 kHz, 50 mW (300 ohms); <0.0004% at 20020 kHz, 50 mW (300 ohms) SNR, A-weighted: >120 dB at 1 kHz
Dynamic Range, A-weighted: >120 dB at 1 kHz
Frequency response: 20 Hz-20 kHz (+/- 0.1 dB), 20 Hz-40 kHz (+/- 0.3 dB)
Output level: 8.4 Vpp at G=L, 16.8 Vpp at G=H
Output impedance: 4.7 ohms
Output power: 840 mW x 2 at 32 ohms, THD+N <1%; 115 mW x 2 at 300 ohms, THD+N <1% Headphone Out, Balanced
THD+N, A-weighted: <0.0004% at 1 kHz, 300 mW (32 ohms); <0.0005% at 20-20 kHz, 300 mW (32 ohms); <0.0003% at 1 kHz, 200 mW (300 ohms); <0.0004% at 20020 kHz, 200 mW (300 ohms) SNR, A-weighted: >123 dB at 1 kHz
Dynamic Range, A-weighted: >123 dB at 1 kHz
Frequency response: 20 Hz-20 kHz (+/- 0.1 dB), 20 Hz-40 kHz (+/- 0.3 dB)
Output level: 16.8 Vpp at G=L, 33.6 Vpp at G=H
Output impedance: 9.4 ohms
Output power: 1700 mW x 2 at 32 ohms, THD+N <1%; 450 mW x 2 at 300 ohms, THD+N <1% Line Out RCA
THD+N, A-weighted: <0.00014% at 1 kHz, <0.00030% at 20-20 kHz SNR, A-weighted: >122 dB at 1 kHz
Dynamic Range, A-weighted: >122 dB at 1 kHz
Frequency response: 20 Hz-20 kHz (+/- 0.1 dB), 20 Hz-40 kHz (+/- 0.3 dB)
Output level: 2 Vrms at 0 dBFS
Line Out XLR
THD+N, A-weighted: <0.00010% at 1 kHz, <0.00020% at 20-20 kHz SNR, A-weighted: >126 dB at 1 kHz
Dynamic Range, A-weighted: >126 dB at 1 kHz
Frequency response: 20 Hz-20 kHz (+/- 0.1 dB), 20 Hz-40 kHz (+/- 0.3 dB)
Output level: 4 Vrms at 0 dBFS

Physical
Input: USB, OPT, AES, COAX, IIS, Bluetooth 5.0
Line out: XLR, RCA
Headphone out: 6.35 mm, XLR Balanced, 4.4 mm Balanced
Dimensions: 22.2cm x 17.8cm x 4.5cm
Weight: 1.4 kg

I mean, come the f**k on. How does that not look appealing as all hell? It does everything my Audio-GD does, and quite a lot more. It’s significantly smaller, and more attractive! The only downside, is it doesn’t have the same power output. But that’s what amps are for. And now that I have more desk space, there’s finally room to set those up.

The DX7 Pro isn’t tiny, exactly, but it feels ideal for just about any desktop. It possesses a quality aesthetic, with tight tolerances and solid-to-the-touch build and weight. The aluminum chassis inspires confidence every time you handle it. To put it simply, the DX7 Pro is a tidy, well-made device.

In my review of the iFi iDSD Pro, I knocked it pretty hard for lacking an XLR headphone out, making the purchase of their iCAN amp practically a necessity. And I knocked it even harder for having a faulty 2.5mm balanced headphone out. On two separate units I tested! Well, I’m pleased to say, Topping’s DX7 Pro rises to the occasion and shows iFi how it’s done. Putting 1/4”, XLR, and 4.4mmTRRRS right on the front of your DAC/Amp combo is truly how a standalone unit ought to be made. That is everything you need for function, ease-of-use, and convenience.

I currently have the DX7 Pro outputting to a switcher box, which allows me to change between three inputs and three outputs. I’m only using one of the inputs, running x2 3-pin XLR out of the DX7, but from the output, I have two more sets of XLR cables running to a Cayin amp and a XDuoo tube amp. Then I have a pair of RCA coax going to my Emotiva powered monitors. I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to safely convert Balanced XLR to RCA, but since the + and – remain separated for L and R, there hasn’t been a problem. In fact, it’s possible my speakers are being fed true balanced in this configuration, though I’m not certain enough of the circuitry to say that for sure.

What’s really nice about this Topping DAC is I can use the remote to switch between many different output configurations, and it remembers which volume you like for each one. So I can use PO to listen to headphones right from the DX7 Pro, then change to P+L (Phone and Line-out) to control my Emotiva monitors from the volume wheel on the DAC. Then I can move over to straight XLR line-out, which I have set to full volume, to feed my other amps. I love being able to alternate between all these settings and not have to remember to readjust the volume each time.

The one thing I don’t like, is to gain access to pure DAC mode, where volume is locked, you must enter a special settings mode. This mode is accessed by powering down the unit, then powering it back on while holding down the volume wheel button. There are a few options which can only be found here, DAC Mode among them. Because this is such a hassle to get to, I never use it. When I want to use the DX7 as a DAC only, I simply use the remote to switch to XLR output with the volume set to max (00.0dB).

Now for the big question: How does it sound, and does it even need a secondary amp? Find out on the next page!

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.

There’s no denying how great the Topping DX7 Pro sounds. No matter what I plug into it, I love what I hear. However, due to the DX7’s extreme neutrality and clarity, I personally find warmer-sounding headphones to vibe the best.

The HIFIMAN Sundara ($349, Review HERE) were my reference monitors for this review. To my ears, they are dead neutral, and awesomely detailed. In other words, the perfect choice to reveal the soul of your source. I am quite fond of this pairing, despite its distance from the ideal I mentioned at the top of the page. Sundara never sounds thin or cold, which is a concern for these headphones. Topping’s hint of warmth and robust notes fill out Sundara in a most pleasing fashion.

One of the very best things you can connect to this DAC is the Audeze LCD-3 Fazor ($2,000). These are so liquid and lush, with the kind of warmth that plays well with high levels of resolution and clarity. Together, the LCD-3 and DX7 Pro strike a glorious balance between warmth and transparency. You forget about nonsensical things like grain, and are utterly swept away by the richness of the reproduction.

Meze’s Empyrean ($3,000) is another prince of darkness. It’s hard to imagine a more splendid marriage. The chocolaty voicing and opulent flourishes help to sweeten the drier characteristic of the DAC, while the impressive performance shines ably through.

To my ears, the Sennheiser HD800 ($1,350) struggles with the DX7 Pro. It’s a famously dry and bright headphone, so it should come as no surprise. That’s why there’s an HD800S, after all. And yet… while it’s a little too dry and a little too thin, I don’t hate it. If the music is acoustic or more laidback, it can be such an immersive experience. You must simply watch out for tracks featuring aggressive, forward-placed drums, or an abundance of treble-oriented instruments. This can become grating. But that is the universal truth for the HD800, isn’t it?

For a more affordable option that is among my very favorites, try the Kennerton Magni (around $750 USD). It delivers much of the same benefits found in the LCD-3 and Empyrean, but for a fraction of the cost. The warm, lush tones help to liquefy the DX7, while Magni’s exquisite clarity showcases the marvelous technicality of this device. Air and transparency, warmth and smoothness. All the pros, and none of the cons. I love it!

To test hiss and potential impedance skew, I used my most sensitive IEMs, the Noble Audio Kaiser Encore ($1,850, Review HERE). On low-gain, which is all you’ll ever need for an IEM, I discerned zero hiss and no obvious tuning change. In fact, I found the volume easy to set to my sweet spot, and the listening experience utterly delightful.

I am ever so pleased to be able to give a positive review for the Topping DX7 Pro. Considering this is my first Topping product, I didn’t know what to expect. I hoped I might like it, but I’m giddy to say just how much I like it. The DX7 Pro is an awesome package, containing a ludicrous number of features, stellar audio performance, and all wrapped up in elegance and pizzazz. I fear it may indeed replace my old setup.

-~::Pinky_Powers::~-

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