The Topping D1 Mark II

topping_d1_mk2_01


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.

 

More Comparisons

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)
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  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

    By the way the D1 Mk2 should retail under $100 in the US.

    • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ Gorboman

      Yes. I’ve seen it as low as $90 online.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1311550573 Edouard Vi

    Thank you so much for the review, I was wondering when looking at the specs if it would be a deal or not (almost no feedback on the internet) ! sounds like it is :)

    What about the DAC section itself (cs4398), did you try the topping with an external amp using the line out?

    Is the DAC more resolving than the other similary priced DAC? (fiio e10?)

    Thank you

    • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ Gorboman

      I don’t have an E10 to compare to. Sorry. Maybe Mike has one.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      The DAC is more resolving than an E10, yes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ba-Dan/1410232016 Ba Dan

    The Topping D1 Mark II can interwork with an Android-powered smartphone Samsung Galaxy S3:

    stock Galaxy S3 > digital USB audio out >> The Topping D1 Mark II

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=35243592&postcount=1443

    • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ Gorboman

      Thanks for the info, Ba Dan. I’ve met several people who have this concern. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tam-Tmz/100000896575042 Tam Tmz

    how does it sound with ultra low impedance earphones (UM Merlin(12ohm), JH16s(18ohm))

    • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ Gorboman

      I don’t have any of the mentioned IEM, so I can’t comment on those. Sorry.

  • adamct

    The key question with all portable DACs is: will it work with the ipad/iphone using the Apple Camera Connection Kit (CCK)? I wish all portable DAC reviews would answer this question…

    • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ Gorboman

      I’ll try to find someone who has that kit and see how it goes. But no promises, okay.

      • adamct

        No problem. Thanks for looking into it! Best regards, Adam

      • Bread

        Can you add Samsung Note II to the test, no one seems to the answer, though I noted danba has already confirmed it working with Galaxy S3.

  • Markus

    Nice review. I’m enjoying mine a lot these days. Particularly nice when paired with my Sennheiser HD 598. Very affordable and a great combination for an audiophile on budget. Though didn’t find it as nice with my Beyer 770 AE.
    I don’t know if it’s just my brain, but I noticed a clear improvement with burn in.

    Out of curiosity, what would be the next step up amp-wise with similar sound signature? I really cherish the bass punch and the natural character of the sound.

    • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ Gorboman

      Thanks, Markus! :) I’m guessing pairing the D1 with 770AE gave too much colouration. Is it?

      Regarding the next step up amp, it’s not easy to determine within a similar sound signature. I’ve yet to find one with a similar quality of weighty bass punch. But there are many amps that I’ve forgot how they sound and also many newer amps yet to try. So let’s not lose hope yet. :)

      • Markus

        Hi Aria,

        yeah, I guess you were right about the colouration. I guess that was what I didn’t like about the D1 with 770 AE, though it’s hard to explain and I don’t have the 770 AE at home for the time being. But I definitely will give this combination a try again, as I said earlier I can feel significant improvement through burn-in (sound is smoother). I guess it’s now settled, but it could also be my brain of course.

        The combination with my HD 598 is so addictive that I reconsidered my plans to buy an HD 650 + tube amp. It’s hard to justify this kind of expense… I guess my next step will be the HE-500 instead.

        • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ Gorboman

          Yep. Finding the right synergy within the gears we (want to) own. That’s just the thing with this hobby that makes us come back again and again. Wallet sobs in the corner.

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  • Bread

    Does anyone know if the D1-Mark II work with Samsung Note 2?

  • Andre

    Great review guys. Glossed over this last month but I’m now wishing that I would have read it more thoroughly and this may have taken care of my needs a month ago. Two questions, 1st, the SPDIF input on the back means that I can use it with a toslink cable from my Macbook Pro into the D1 correct? And 2nd, comparing this against the e17 it seems like the e17 has a wider sound stage but lacks the initial punch of the D1. To you, which one is the better buy seeing that there is only a $40 difference in the price? Oh, and if there is another amp below or at the $200 range that is like the D1 but with more options and a better DAC please let me know :)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Andre,
      The SPDIF on the back is an S/PDIF out so you can’t connect it to the Macpro.

      The E17 vs Topping… geez I think both are great. The E17 perhaps better due to features like optical IN which you need, and also the tone controls.
      Should wait for the E07K review (coming up maybe next week) which I think does almost everything the E17 does for a lower price. ($89 on Amazon) http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-E07K-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B00A9LHLQ6

      • Andre

        I actually owned the e07k for a short period of time. It was pretty good for the money but still not enough for me. The sound was decent but I didn’t notice much of an improvement and I was hoping for something that stood out a lot more than the e07k. For the money its pretty awesome and the DAC was a surprise too. I outperformed the EF2a from HIFIMAN with great ease but the amp was a little to neutral for my taste. I like warm tube sounding amps that are darker in nature vs natural ones. So if someone wants neutral at a cheap price there you go, the Andes is your amp. The E17 Aspen and new e12 I’ve heard are both great but neutral and don’t add a whole lot to the music.

        That’s why the Toppings interested me so much because of the reaction you guys all had when you tried it out. It has personality and umph which is what I need in my life! UMPH!! So is there anything out there (AMP/DAC) in that price range of under $300usd that has the warmth I’m looking for that is also portable has a optical IN and looks nice? I’ll even take a smaller desktop tube amp if that will get the job done.

        FYI love the tube sound with my D5000′s

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          You can look into the Aune T1. I have no experience with it but it’s supposed to be great and have tube in it but no optical in.
          http://stores.ebay.com/shenzhenAudioStore/Aune-/_i.html?_fsub=2285381010
          Other than that, you can also look at the Matrix Mini Portable. I love the sound of it: full mids and lows though very dark sounding. Comes with optical input and I think it looks great too.
          http://www.headfonia.com/the-320-portable-dacamp-matrix-mini-portable/

          • Andre

            Looked into that one too the Matrix Mini Portable but its a little out of my price range. Seems like the only one that can give me the options I want for under $200 is the e17 but not sure how much better than the e11 (which I already own) it will sound but at least will give me something I don’t currently have in the DAC and optical IN. (Sigh) May just take a look at Aune T1 or Toppings D1

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Sorry the E07K that I suggested doesn’t have Toslink input either like the Topping.

  • ladagadeaquiles

    Hello, I love these reviews, I’m lost and I ask I want to buy a DAC amplifier to listen to music from my laptop?.
    I read that loses less to get the USB sound.
    I will connect a CAL and listen to all kinds of music ITUNES.
    The FiiO E10, was the one I had in mind, because I can buy directly in stores in Madrid Spain. Price 89 euros. I would bought in Germany at 70 euros. It is a good quality product.
    The mini Audinst, say it’s better than the E10, but this should change the OP factory by 2227. Price 105 euros. It could be the best of the three.
    The Topping D1 mark 2, it would have to buy in China ebay. Price 70 euros. 85 euros ebay england. Portability, price is one of the best. I think it is the best for me use.
    Coclusión, I still can not decide. I want to start playing. To connect my CAL, and listen to all kinds of music. It will connect to my laptop.
    Can you help?

  • wittmmann

    Hello, I love these reviews, I’m lost and I
    ask I want to buy a DAC amplifier to listen
    to music from my laptop?.

    I read that loses less to get the USB sound.

    I will connect a CAL
    and listen to all
    kinds of music ITUNES.

    The FiiO E10,
    was the one I had in mind, because I can buy directly
    in stores in Madrid Spain. Price 89 euros.
    I would bought in
    Germany at 70 euros. It is a
    good quality product.

    The mini Audinst,
    say it’s better than the E10, but this should
    change the OP factory
    by 2227. Price
    105 euros. It could be the best of the three.

    The Topping D1
    mark 2, it would
    have to buy in China ebay. Price 70 euros.
    85 euros ebay england.
    Portability, price is one of the best. I think it is the best for my use.

    Coclusión, I still can not decide. I want to
    start playing. To connect my CAL, and listen to
    all kinds of music. It will connect to my
    laptop.

    Can you help? Thank you.

  • Sergey Ektov

    Hi. Now I use Superlux HD668B and am thinking of buying Grado SR225i later.Whether there will be synergy D1 with this headphones?

  • Dean Lu

    I have a pair of shure srh 440s, should i buy these or the e17?

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