The new portable DAC/Amp from Topping caught my eye when I first saw it on a local shop Don’t Blame Your Ears. The form factor was small, thinner than the Fiio E17 and E7, and when I tested it with a Hifiman HE-400 that happened to be available for a demo, I was surprised to find out how nice the pairing sounded. One is that the Topping seems to have a good synergy with dark sounding headphones like the HE-400, but also it seems to have plenty of power reserves for full size orthodynamics. Afterwards I expressed my interest in reviewing the D1 Mk2 to Topping, and they were kind enough to send me a sample. I spent a few days listening to the Topping though I had just received Fostex’s high end HP-A8, and the Topping had enough qualities in its sound that even next to the HP-A8, it didn’t stop me from having some musical moments with the Topping.
Based on my experience with the HE-400, I passed along the D1 to my friend Aria who happens to be a Mad Dog (by Mr. Speakers) owner. I told him that I have a feeling the D1 would be a good source for the Mad Dog. After a few days, I asked him what his impression of the Topping was, and it was really positive! He was in love with it! He told me he wouldn’t mind writing about it, along with some comparisons to some other DAC/Amps.
Normal text is by Aria. Italics are by Mike.
Audiophile or not, I love music. I take my laptop with me almost everywhere I go, so I need a portable DAC/Amp to get the best out of my headphone. The Topping D1 Mk2 came into the picture and this little device performed beyond my expectation! From the first touch, it looked and felt expensive. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve never thought that the Topping is priced under $100. But enough about appearance, it’s the sound that matters and this is where I found things got even more interesting. Listening to India Arie’s Video and Muse’s Panic Station, my thought was, “DAT BASS!!” Seriously. This little thing delivered a good weighty bass punch to my music. I prefer the D1 to the Headroom Total Bithead or iBasso D-Zero, which both have good bass punch but sounded fatiguing to me. I’ve tried comparing it to the Audinst Hud-Mini and it didn’t even come close. It’s very addictive!
Having listened to the D1 Mk2 , I know what bass Aria is talking about here. This is not a bassy or bass heavy source. The bass quantity is rather normal and well balanced with good clarity as well. What Aria is getting excited about is the bass impact. It hits very hard, even with orthodynamics like the Mad Dog and the Hifiman HE-400. A word about appearance. The black/silver Topping D1 doesn’t look as good as the black/black D1 IMO. I don’t know why that is, the silver finish cheapens the product in my opinion.
I was told that the D1 would have a good synergy with my T50RP Mad Dog and I agree with that. It has a quiet, black background. The sound stage is not wide, but rather into depth. Layering was obviously felt by my ears and it made guitars and others sound lively. The sound was warm, dark, quite fast, but less in your face than the D-Zero. It made the D1 more versatile and great for modern music to acoustic music. Again, that weighty bass punch I won’t soon forget. It was just the right amount and quality and it brought the music even more alive.
I compared the sound stage of the D1 to the Fiio E10 and E17 and the Ibasso D-Zero. The D-Zero is the flattest of the four. The E10 has the best depth but narrowest width. The D1 falls between the E10 and the E17: wider than the E10 and though not as deep it has a good amount of depth. The E17 though the largest in terms of width and depth, yet the Topping D1′s sound stage presentation was more natural (best in this aspect of the four).
I tried listening with the D1 again, after parting with it for some time, to George Benson’s My Cherie Amour (Guitar Man album). I was surprised to found how relaxing the overall sound was. Listening to Jazz at The Pawnshop Vol. 2 was bliss. The recordings were intimate and natural. Then I switched to Will.i.am and Britney Spears’ Scream and Shout and my head was bopping to the music.
However, the D1 also came with some downsides. One, being 16-bit resolution only gave more space for noise which made the music sounds grainy. Maybe it was the recording. Who knows. I wish it had a built in battery like the D-Zero to use as a portable amp. The build quality, though looking fine, was actually prone to dent from accidental fall.
The D1 is limited to 16/48 over USB. Doesn’t look so good on paper I know, but once I’m listening to music through it I really care about the numbers. Would’ve been nice to have a built in battery like on the D-Zero, true. I didn’t feel any grain in the sound though. I thought it was extremely clean and with a good black background.
Compared to the Total Bithead, I found the D1 similar in warmth but the D1 was darker. Bass punch on the Bithead was good, but the D1 had a bit more weight to the punch though less aggressive. Mid-range was definitely fuller on the D1. Sound stage was wider on the Bithead but the D1 had more depth. The Bithead had more sparkly treble which easily lead to shrillness. I also found that the D1 was more natural sounding than the Bithead.
Compared to the Hud-Mini, the D1 was a bit darker. Bass punch of the Hud-Mini was nowhere near the D1 and was also slower. Mid-ranges were similar in characters, but the D1 had a fuller presentation. Highs were smoother on the Hud-Mini. Sound stage was a bit wider than the D1 and there was a slight “roomy” feeling to it. The D1 was somehow livelier than the Hud-Mini, probably from the better layering. I think the Hud-Mini was intended towards vocal lovers, while the D1 can handle broader genres of music.
Compared to the Fiio E17 “Alpen”, I think the Alpen was quite neutral, but tinkering with the settings gave coloration to match my desired preference. The best setting for me were to add 6 dB gain, +4 to bass, and +8 to treble. I felt the D1 still sounds more natural than the Alpen. The Alpen also can’t match the weighty punch of the D1, but it is much better in speed. Sound stage was a lot more spacious on the Alpen, though it had less depth than the D1. I think mid-ranges were on par on both gears, with a fuller presentation on the Alpen but better layering on the D1.
On the Alpen comparison, one sentence I would write is that the Topping D1 simply sounded more natural, despite losing on the numbers (16/48 vs 24/96). The Alpen has a more lively, more exciting sound, but again the D1 just sounds more natural.
Compared to the iBasso D-Zero, they were similar in warmth. The D1 was darker and I think bass punches were on par on both gears. The D1 punch weight gave a lower heavier feel while the D-Zero was more aggressive. Mid-range was a bit fuller on the D1 than on the D-Zero. Treble on the D-Zero was quite smooth while the D1 was sparkly. Sound stage on the D-Zero was more spacious, yet the D1 again had better depth. I believe the D-Zero is the closest competitor to the D1, especially given the similar price range.
To Sum Everything Up
I think the Topping D1 Mk2 will give you the bang for your buck. It’s currently going head to head with the iBasso D-Zero but I believe both DAC/amp will appeal to different crowd. The sound of the D1 is fun, VERY addictive weighty bass punch, convenient to carry around and it’s very easy to set up. But most important, it will not make your wallet cry. I’m all punched out!
When I listened to the D1 Mk2 for the first time, I was really impressed with how it sounds. I had listened to the bigger Topping D2 previously and though it is a bigger DAC/Amp unit, I was not drawn to its sound as I was to the D1. The D2 has the bigger, smoother, and more refined sound but it lacked impact and PRaT. You guys know how it is with me; I can’t live without impact and PRaT. Based on that initial impression, I wrote to Topping expressing my interest in the D1. I wanted to write an article on the D1 because I think this would be something I could recommend to the readers. I love discovering new gear (especially affordable ones) that I can recommend to other people, and the Topping D1 is the latest one. Aria was instantly hooked and he told me he’s getting a unit soon. I just love that feeling of helping others get satisfaction from their music.
Lastly, just want to add that the D1 Mk2 should retail for less than $100 in the US.
Gear Used For The Review
Topping D1 Mk2 , iBasso D-Zero, Audinst Hud-Mini, Fiio E17, Headroom Total Bithead, HifimeDIY, Fostex T50RP “Mad Dog with Dog Pads”, and PC (Foobar2000 through WASAPI)