Affordable Digital to Analog Conversion: Topping D2 and D20
The Topping D2 made some news a while ago, but it’s not until now that I decided to write a review on it. Along with the D2, Topping has also added a D20 to their line up which is a pure DAC as opposed to a DAC/Amp with the D2.
The D2 DAC/Amp
I’ve listened to a modded D2 a while back. I didn’t take note what the upgrades was, but I would imagine the usual boutique capacitor changes among others. The sound was extremely smooth and refined. The stock D2 I have in my possession right now still have traits of that smooth modded D2, but a bit like a rough unpolished diamond. Yet, as fine as the modded D2 sounded back then, I wasn’t really interested in doing a review on it. One big reason: the sound was too mellow, too laid back, it would be good for a good night and good sleep music. Really is not my type. The stock D2 clearly has traits of that polite-sound of the modded unit, but to a less degree.
The key selling point with these Toppings is that they are extremely affordable ($145 for a full featured desktop DAC with all three popular digital inputs: USB, Coax and Toslink). The sound is good and generally okay. I felt that the sound is a bit constricted and congested, but I tried to lower my expectations, again looking at the price and all the features thrown in the package.
While listening to the D2, a thought comes to my mind: “The readers would definitely want to know how the D2 compares to those tiny USB-powered DAC/Amps I’ve been reviewing”. Obviously *duh*. From what I remembered, I never felt the E10 to sound narrow and constricted the way I am feeling now with the D2. Maybe I just been spending too much time with the mighty Fostex HP-A8 which surely will put any entry level DAC unit sounding narrow and constricted. So I need to reset my expectations and instead take out the E10 for an A-B comparison. You can imagine the shock in my face when I discovered that my memory had served me right! The E10 indeed is more spacious than the D2 (the E10 also supports 24/96 over USB in comparison to the D2′s 16/48). Now what would I tell my readers about this Topping? That it got beat up by the tiny E10? Well let me explain more.
The soundstage on the D2 is actually alright. It’s wider than the E10 and it has a bit more air than the E10. The problem with the D2 is that things got congested in the middle of the soundstage and similarly the midrange also sounds congested. The E10 in contrast had that clear and clean midrange, plenty of space within the instruments and a much superior soundstage depth. It was just a more natural sound out of the E10. Surely I can tell them the fact that the D2 comes in with Coax and Toslink inputs, and you need those for connecting to CD Players and Playstations. Furthermore the D2 is equipped with a 1/4″ headphone out, a much better choice than the 1/8″ found on the Fiio E10 (at least to me. I detest 1/8″ connection). But are those going to be enough to make people go for the Topping? I doubt it.
Next page: The D20 Standalone DAC…