Topping have garnered quite the following lately for their focus on objective measurement-backed performance. Their designs target ultra-linear sounds, huge driving power and high efficiency, able to achieve a versatile performance in a compact, desk-friendly form factor. While this was exemplified by their flagship 90-stack, the same technology pioneered to top the measurement charts has gradually filtered down to far more affordable models. The 30-Pro stack perhaps exemplifies all of these mantras best. These are compact, handsome devices that draw clear inspiration from the flagship stack in all regards. The D30 Pro benefits from a modern digital screen with matching knob to the A30 for a congruent aesthetic while the A30 Pro feels like a shrunken down A90 with a similar rounded frame, large volume knob and similar switch-based interface. The reason the 30 Pro stack is on everyone’s mind is because it offers similar spec and connectivity to Topping’s TOTL models but at a much cheaper price, where lower-end models relinquish balanced connectivity to hit their price point.
The A30 Pro retails for $349 USD and the D30 Pro retails for $399 USD. You can read all about them including the full specifications on Apos Audio.
I would like to thank John from Apos Audio and the team at Topping very much for reaching out and for providing me with the A30 Pro and D30 Pro for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the stack free of charge, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
- Page 1: Unboxing, Design & Usability
- Page 2: D30 Pro Sound Breakdown
- Page 3: A30 Pro Sound Breakdown
- Page 4: Comparisons & Verdict
Behind the Design –
The D30 Pro utilises a quad Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chip setup alongside XMOS’ latest XU208 USB controller enabling wide codec and balanced support. An Altera FPGA with custom Topping code ensures stable clock and jitter reduction before the DAC stage for cleaner output. The power supply has also been well considered with 8 low dropout regulators ensuring a highly stable, tightly regulated voltage to each circuit within the DAC.
Perhaps more notably, the A30 Pro is the first midrange amp to combined Topping’s legendary NFCA technology with balanced IO. This enables more flexible connectivity and enhanced performance alongside perfect pairing with the D30 Pro. Of course, not all NFCA implementations are created equal, the A30 Pro utilises 10x OPA1656 op-amps augmented by Topping’s ultra-high gain feedback topology. The company reasons this enables an ultra-low noise level in addition to a wide dynamic range up to a whopping 146dB.
The Topping 30-Pro stack offers a congruent aesthetic as one would expect for matching devices. There’s a certain charm to their design which feels like a miniaturised 90-stack with similar rounded faceplates and side walls. This gives them a more modern aesthetic than the more squared off L30 and 50s stack whilst retaining a low desk footprint, most notably with regards to depth. As before, the housings are entirely aluminium with a smooth satin finish. The edges are nicely rounded and there are no visible screws on the front or sides which contributes to their impression of quality and refinement, I was very impressed with the tolerances and finish here.
The larger knobs on both devices are also welcome, being far easier to handle than the A50s. They are well-weighted with a smooth action on the A30 Pro and an affirmative click for each setting on the D30 Pro’s rotary encoder. This impression is reinforced by the D30’s large, bright OLED screen. While it doesn’t offer colour, the screen has an orange backlight that grants the stack a high-performance aesthetic, an impression accentuated by the ventilated top-plate on the A30 Pro. Finally, four large rubber feet offer good grip and vibration reduction in addition to preventing scratches.
In terms of IO, both devices have internal power supplies, only requiring IEC power plugs. This means third party power cables of different lengths and right-angle configurations can be used, great for convenience and optimising the ergonomics of your setup. The D30 Pro offers XLR balanced outputs on its rear and single-ended XLR outputs. It also supports digital input via USB Type-A, optical and COAX.
Speaking of which, the A30 Pro is a clear step up from the lower-end models and almost on par with the A90. It supports balanced XLR and single-ended RCA input in addition to pass-through via another pair of RCA plugs and balanced output via two 6.3mm dual-mono plugs. On the front is are 4-pin XLR and 4.4mm plugs for balanced output in addition to a 6.3mm single-ended output. A smart addition is a ground/lift switch on the rear that changes the ground point of the amp from its chassis to other equipment in the audio chain. This can help with those experiencing added noise over RCA.
The stack was very easy to setup, simply connect your preferred input to the D30 Pro and connect it to the A30 Pro over either single-ended or balanced depending on your use case. While no audio cables are included (unless purchased from Apos’ Ensemble program), USB and power get the user started. I enjoy having physical power switches on the rear for hard resets too.
While the D30 Pro does include a remote, all settings can be accessed using the rotary encoder. In standard use, however, it can only be used to adjust volume, denoted by a handy dB readout, and clicked to cycle between its 3 digital inputs. Accessing the menu without the remote requires powering off the DAC with the rear-facing switch, holding the knob down and powering on reveals the menu. Unfortunately, it does have a steeper learning curve than some devices due to the screen’s limited resolution, showing only one number and letter.
Memorising this system can take some time but is manageable if you reference the user manual. Operation via remote is easier since there are dedicated buttons for each function and no power cycle is required. The menu offers the ability to change filters, adjust the between pre-out and line-out mode and enable/disable particular outputs. In addition, you can set the DAC to auto turn on and off when it detects USB input, and can adjust the screen brightness. Of note, the final brightness setting sets the screen to auto shut-off after 30s (without shutting down the device) which is thoughtful for home-theatre/TV setups where its light may be distracting.
While a case can be made for more comprehensive physical controls, realistically, these will be more set it and forget it options for most users. Usually I am not a form over function guy but do personally enjoy the balance Topping have achieved here if at the cost of a steeper learning curve for those that like to tinker.
The A30 Pro is a far more analogue device, with no remote operation and really, no need for one. Usability is simple and streamlined, making it a pleasure to use day to day. It offers simple switch-based operation. There are two 3-position switches on the front, one toggling power off, XLR and RCA inputs (and in so doing, power on the Amp), the other toggling between its three -14, 0 and 14 dB gain settings. It’s good to see an additional gain setting here as I did find the A50s to lack granularity with sensitive IEMs without a negative gain setting. That said, astute readers will note a lack of preamp functionality.
Powerup takes only a second and is denoted by a white LED next to the switches. I enjoy how Topping have used a diffuser, so it isn’t too bright or distracting, a nice QOL consideration. The amplifier does get noticeably warm over time, understandable given its huge output power and small size. While I was never concerned by the heat, I would recommend putting it on top of the D30 Pro to allow its ventilated housing to breathe. It does function just fine if placed below the D30 Pro which is more ideal for ergonomics as it doesn’t place strain on the ports or cable connectors.
While it still didn’t become hot to the touch in this configuration, perhaps as the sides are also ventilated, this is not ideal for the componentry over long-term use. Besides this, there is not much to complain about when using the A30 Pro. The pot is smooth, of good size wand channel imbalance is minimal unless you’re at the lowest 10 deg of the volume range; unlikely due to the inclusion of a third -14dB gain setting. All of its output can be used simultaneously, handy for comparing gear. I would have liked a 3.5mm output too but it is understandable that Topping would preference the more capable balanced standards.
I try to minimise my biases as much as possible using volume-matched comparisons with an in-line switcher. I hear a difference, however, you are correct, many DACs these days are very good and the differences are not enormous as you would experience between different headphones,etc – I think these points are all made clear in my reviews.
If you do not hear a difference, then it is surely in your best interest not to invest in high-end/boutique DACs and allocate your budget instead where you perceive a greater quality difference.
How much do you want to bet that you would be unable to tell the DACs apart in a blind test?