Today we take a look at the $349 USD Shenzhen Audio x Topping EX5 DAC & AMP.
Disclaimer: Shenzhen Audio sent us the Topping EX5 for this review, free of charge. I only covered the customs fees & taxes. All thoughts and experiences with the product are naturally my own. You can find more about it HERE.
Topping Electronics & Technology, known as ‘TOPPING’, is based in Guangzhou, China, and was established in 2008. They build some of the best DACs and AMPs when it comes to the price-to-performance ratio. They have a dedicated R&D team of skilled engineers and audiophiles. Topping also states that they are heavily invested in the latest audio testing machinery such as the APx555 from Audio Precision. Of course, all of this means one thing for us consumers, better devices! I have used many Topping products in the past, the oldest two I remember are the TP30 and the NX1. The year was 2013 I believe. I never had any problems with their products despite using 20+ of them throughout the years. They have a really good track record, performance-wise, in my book.
ShenzhenAudio is one of the world’s biggest e-commerce platforms specializing in high-quality audio products such as amplifiers, decoders, digital players, headphones, cables, and accessories. They are located in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. They offer a really wide product gamut and their customer support is quite thorough. I am glad to say that my experience with them has always been positive.
The Topping EX5 is a mid-tier DAC & AMP combo that was made in collaboration between the Topping and ShenzhenAudio. The EX5 features dual premium-tier ES9038Q2M DACs and NFCA headphone amplifier circuitry. It also comes with a Bluetooth module that fully supports the LDAC codec. It can dish out 1.3w of power and can be used in many scenarios thanks to the wide range of I/Os. Let’s get to the review and take a closer look, together.
Packaging & Accessories
The Topping EX5 comes inside of a medium-sized, white cardboard box. Topping did not include any product details or specifications on the box and aimed for a cleaner look as usual. Only the brand name is present on the outer cover. The unboxing experience is similar to the other Topping products, the device, and the accessories are inside a foam compartment, safe from damage during transportation. As for the accessories, you get a long USB-A to USB-B data cable, a power cable, a couple of manuals, a Bluetooth antenna, a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter plug, and a remote controller.
- Dual ESS ES9038Q2M SABRE HIFI DAC Chips
- Support DSD512 Native and PCM 768kHz
- MQA Full Decoding via USB
- 2nd Generation 16 Core XMOS XU216
- Bluetooth 5.0 LDAC transmission
- THD+N as low as 0.00010%
- 4-PIN-XLR and 6.35mm Headphone Output
- 1300mW Output Power
- Less than 0.1 ohm Output Impedance
- 4 Output Mode Options
- DAC + Pre amp applicaion/ Bluetooth receiver/Tablet and phone DAC application
Design & Build Quality
Measuring at 17.4 x 13.8 x 4.5 centimeters, the Topping EX5 has a medium footprint and it won’t take much space on your desk. It weighs about 750 grams so it is not so heavy either. The build quality is excellent as usual, I can not see any milling defects or imperfections. Everything about the device feels rigid and durable, the volume knob also acts as a button and it is tactile. It does not wobble and the potentiometer feedback feels great. The device can be controlled via the integrated button on the volume knob though it is not very easy to navigate with it. You have to use the controller to use the devices menu to its full extent. We will talk more about that in the ”Controls” section.
The EX5 features a basic, single-color display that shows information about the active input type, sample rate, and amplifier mode. There is a separate LED on the left side of the display that shows information about the MQA playback. Apart from that, we have two outputs on the front. Those are the 6.3mm headphone out and the balanced XLR 4-pin out.
Apart from those, the rest of the inputs and outputs are located at the back of the device. We have balanced 3-pin XLR and unbalanced RCA outputs. As for the inputs, we have COAX, USB, and Optical. The EX5 also comes with a Bluetooth module that fully supports the LDAC codec. There is an antenna socket right next to the inputs on the back of the device.
There are two color options available, black and silver. Topping has been very consistent with the build quality of their devices and we have reviewed quite a lot of products from them. The anodized finish looks nice and is quite resistant to scratches. These devices are surely built to last.
The Topping EX5 is somewhat dependent on the remote controller when it comes to the controls. Yes, you can control some of the settings via the integrated volume knob button but those options are limited to changing the headphone amp output between the RCA, XLR, or HP outs and switching between inputs. However, with the remote, you have full control of the device. You can change the PCM filter type between 1~7, you can control the amplifier output and gain, you can adjust display brightness and configure automatic standby, switch between inputs, control the volume and lastly, mute the device, using the remote.
You can use the device as a PRE by configuring the output channel of the EX5. It also allows you to toggle on XLR + RCA outputs simultaneously if you plan to use it with multiple devices. As for the power, there is plenty of juice available so you should have no problem driving 600-ohm headphones with the EX5. The EX5 can dish out 1.3W into a 32Ω load. (140mw into 300Ω load) Despite being an all-in-one device, the EX5 is quite powerful with a smallish footprint so these numbers are quite nice in my opinion. I must also say that there is no hissing with sensitive IEMs so you’re alone with your music and the black background. The channel balance is also perfect throughout the audible range so that’s another great thing about the Topping EX5. Additionally, the output impedance of the hp outputs is below 0.1 Ω each.
The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.
Page 2: MQA & Bluetooth, Sound, Low, Mid, High, Technical Performance, Comparisons, Last Words, Specifications