D30 Pro Comparisons –
SMSL SU-9 ($459): The SU-9 is a slightly lusher source with a more laid-back top-end. Its bass is slightly cleaner with a more linear sub and mid-bass. Though I characterised it as a lightly warm source too, it does have a more concise note presentation and more deep-bass impact that mean it sounds a bit more separated and a little cleaner altogether. The midrange is slightly lusher on the SU-9 with a smoother articulation. It has better note definition, delivering more texture but the D30 Pro has a slightly more even voicing and better separation. The SU-9 isn’t dry but suffers from the opposite problem and, personally, I find this colouration less irksome – but to each their own. Treble is more laid-back on the SU- but a sharper transient response gives it a more defined note presentation here too. It sounds more detailed and equally textured. In particular, it does have slightly better micro-detail retrieval and headroom. It has a darker, cleaner background, but as it also has better extension, the SU9 provides a noticeably larger and more layered stage.
Topping D70S ($649): A higher model in Topping’s own line-up, the D70s also pursues a clean sound and is more technically accomplished. It has a deeper extending and harder-hitting base with a noticeably more concise note presentation, maximising definition. The midrange is a bit more articulate with slightly higher resolution and similarly strong separation. Being more linear and having none of the bass warmth, it also doesn’t have the slight dryness of the D30 Pro. The top-end comes across as a little brighter, especially in the lower-treble. Alongside a sharper transient response, it is appreciably more detailed in the foreground if also a little brighter. Above is where the D70s really pulls ahead as it has more headroom and resolution of micro-details. These work to provide a more expansive stage with sharper imaging.
A30 Pro Comparisons –
Topping A50s ($199): The first Topping amp with balanced support but lacking balanced input. It has two gain settings and no internal power supply. Though even smaller, it is to the extent it is ergonomically frustrating at times. It is a similarly clean, linear source so tonality shouldn’t weigh into your decision here too much. The A30 Pro has noticeably better bass dynamics and power despite being just as clean and even, it just has more power. The midrange voicing is nigh identical to me. The A30 Pro has a hint more texture and note definition but depending on the pairing, this is not too apparent. The treble is perhaps a touch smoother on the A50s or it could be that the note presentation is more defined on the A30 Pro. The A30 Pro does sound more detailed to me and it is more linear in the foreground. The A30 Pro provides a lick more soundstage width but noticeably more depth and sharper imaging that make it the more nuanced source all around.
THX789 ($249): The THX789 has received another price cut making it a serious value proposition. This comes at the cost of a larger, less refined design and need for external power supply. It has a higher weight note through its bass and midrange and a higher contrast treble. It has less separation in the bass but a heavier slam and better dynamics on complex passages. The midrange is slightly fuller and more articulate but less linear in its voicing. Both are tonally neutral, the A30 Pro has slightly higher note definition and separation. The THX789 has a sharper lower treble that rings a little more. The A30 Pro is more even with better fine detail retrieval but less clarity. The THX789 offers a bit more extension and headroom to me, alongside more air and sparkle at the very top. The A30 Pro is cleaner with a darker background. The THX789 has a wider stage and better layering. The A30 Pro has a deeper stage and sharper localisation.
SMSL SH-9 ($289): The SH-9 is likely the closest competitor to the A30 Pro give its similar size and integrated power supply. It also targets a highly linear sound using THX’s AAA tech. The A30 Pro frankly has a better bass performance, both better dynamics that hold up more on complex passages and a more linear voicing. The SH-9 is a touch warmer in the mid-bass, delivering a fuller note and a bit more punch, but lacking the same depth and power. The midrange is incredibly similar on both, the A30 Pro has slightly more note body and coherence, the SH-9 is drier but has slightly more texture. Both have similarly high note definition. The SH-9 is a little crisper in the foreground, a touch brighter, while the A30 Pro has a slightly sharper leading edge, redeeming slightly better fine detail retrieval, but both are very similar. Above, the SH-9 has just a bit more shimmer and sparkle, the A30 Pro a bit more note body and texture. Soundstage expansion is similar on both as is imaging acuity.
The A30 Pro impressed me especially. While upholding the ultra-clean and linear nature signature to Topping’s NFCA tech, it is also astoundingly dynamic and powerful for its size. The soundstage could be larger and the power supply lags behind a little on complex passages, but I can hardly complain relative to most competitors, most of which are larger too. This is a highly versatile performer with its 3 gain settings, black noise floor and ultra-low output impedance. It also cannot be denied that the A30 Pro looks fantastic and it feels just as great to use day to day, a very strong product.
The D30 Pro is less outstanding. That’s not to say it is bad, it’s simply a fine all-rounder. Them again, so are most options these days. It does differentiate itself with its choice of DAC supplier, but in listening, the differences are not large enough to justify choosing the D30 Pro over its competitors. In the same vein, I also cannot recommend many others much more overall than the D30 Pro. In particular, it is the best complement to the A30 Pro aesthetically and a good matchup sonically too. It is a little more difficult to navigate to some competitors as, with regards to its audio settings, does succumb to form over function.
Altogether, I did enjoy my time with this stack as a whole. It has one of my favourite design languages; there’s novelty in its miniaturised approach to the 90-stack look. You get the benefit of a space-efficient chassis with the integrated power supply further incentivising those with limited desk space. Despite this, neither have any of the ergonomic downfalls of the A50s. The IO and gain settings have also been brought up to speed, making this stack one of the most versatile on the market. However, this does come at the cost of remote operation on the A30 Pro and preamp functionality too. In summary, two very well thought out designs inside and out that complement each other well. While, I am happy to give the A30 Pro my full recommendation, the D30 Pro is best rationalised if one wants to purchase both as a bundle.
The 30 Pro Stack is available from Apos Audio (International) for $759.99 USD at the time of writing. The A30 Pro and D30 Pro are also available independently for $349 and $399 USD respectively. Please see our affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.