After sharing our initial impressions a few weeks ago, we’re pleased to be sharing our full review of the new Topping E30 Digital to Analogue Converter with Headfonia readers. The E30 is available now for $129 USD at the time of writing.
Note: The E30 was sent to Headfonia by HiFiGo in exchange for sharing our honest impressions with our readers. As always, our thoughts and conclusions are our own, and we’re appreciative of the opportunity.
Preaching to the converted
Often one of the first questions the newly-enlightened personal audio enthusiast will ask is “…do I need a DAC?”. Unless you’re planning on listening solely to vinyl, reel-to-reel or other strictly analogue sources, then the answer is “yes”. The casual hobbyist will be able to tell you that any device capable of turning 1’s and 0’s into something resembling music has a DAC inside – from your laptop to your smartphone. However, those devices are designed to do much more than simply decode music files, and so they don’t (always) employ the best components nor employ the proper power supply or topology needed to give the best quality audio playback. Enter the dedicated digital-to-analogue converter – one of the first stepping-stones that a budding audiophile can take on the route to achieving better sound. The differences between DACs can be marginal, but with the right chain of devices and a keen ear, they can reward with a more realistic, transparent, and ultimately more engaging listen – particularly if your source device has a sub-optimal native converter.
Chinese manufacturer Topping has been on somewhat of a purple patch of late when it comes to bringing an impressive range of both digital and analogue gear to market. In the past couple of years alone, they’ve released a range of DACs, amps, and hybrid units that have impressed both our review team as well as the personal audio community at large with thoroughly well-packaged products that combine performance and thoughtful design with extremely sharp pricing.
Enter the ‘hot-hatch’ DAC
Their newest DAC, the E30 isn’t quite their cheapest offering (their D10 models opens proceedings well-under $100 depending on the outlet), but at $129 it sits firmly within at the ‘budget’ end of the spectrum. This means it’s both worthy of consideration for the first-time DAC-buyer, and also finds itself up against some well-established competition from the likes of Schiit Audio, SMSL and JDS Labs (to name a few). Entry-level DAC performance has improved markedly in recent years, with trickle-down technology allowing more affordable digital-to-analogue converters to outperform high-end DACs from yesteryear from both an objectivist measurement-sense, as well as in terms of features and user experience. Topping has been spruiking the E30 as somewhat of a ‘hot-hatch’, in that it’s a compact desktop unit that packed with features and specifications that Topping is pretty chuffed about including at this price-point:
- DAC chip: AKM AK4493
- S/PDIF receiver: AKM AK4118
- USB interface: XMOS XU208 2nd gen
- Inputs: USB, S/PDIF (optical), S/PDIF (coaxial)
- Output: RCA
- Dimensions: 10 x 3.2 x 12.5 cm
- USB sampling rate:
- PCM: 44.1kHz – 768kHz / 16bit – 32bit
- Native DSD: DSD64 – DSD512
- DoP DSD: DSD64 – DSD256
- Optical / coaxial sampling rate: 44.1kHz – 768kHz / 16bit – 24bit
- Output voltage: 2Vrms@0dBFS
- THD+N: <0.0003% @ 1kHz A-weighting
- Noise:<2uVrms @ A-weighting
- Crosstalk: -130dB @ 1kHz
- SNR: >121dB @ 1kHz
- Dynamic range: 119dB @ 1kHz
- Channel balance: <0.3dB
The E30 is a straight-up DAC – it won’t stream wirelessly, it doesn’t have Bluetooth (unlike its big brother, the D50s), and it can’t power headphones (unlike the more expensive DX3 Pro, or more expensive again DX7 Pro). However, on paper, it presents some compelling features that warrant a closer look. The new AK4493 chip sits at the heart of the E30, allowing it to decode PCM files up to 32-Bit/768kHz, as well as DSD natively up to DSD512. While most listeners won’t have too many (if any) music at that high-end of the resolution spectrum, it’s impressive for a DAC at this price. Those curious about MQA should note that it will not unfold that file-type natively, and while I don’t want to delve into a war of words about the pros and cons of that proprietary file-type, rest assured you’re won’t really be missing out on anything in the enjoyment stakes.
Features and design
Not much larger than a deck of cards, the E30 is svelte enough to nestle onto most desktops and looks sufficiently ‘high end’ to add an understated sense of purposefulness. Available in both black and silver options, the E30’s main chassis is made from a single piece of aluminium and certainly feels hi-fi to the touch – full marks from me on the build-front. As well as a pair of RCA output connectors and the ubiquitous USB connection (the E30 include a type ‘A’ female port) on the rear panel, the E30 also provides optical and coaxial digital connectivity, which are entirely welcome at this price point. The E30 starts to become a more compelling proposition when it comes to inspecting the front panel, which features a rather cool-looking orange and blue LED panel which informs the user of sample rate, volume, input, and file type. The brightness is switchable between three different levels, but I highly recommend opting for the brightest setting – it gives a nice warm glow that evokes an 80’s Knight Rider-esque kind of vibe.
There’s no physical on/off switch on the device – the E30’s front panel features a touch-sensitive switch that powers the unit on and off, switches between the different digital inputs, and allows the user to select pure-DAC or pre-amp mode. Yes, you read that last point correctly – the E30 has controllable volume, allowing it to attenuate a signal upstream of powered monitors, or a power amplifier (among other uses). And how do you control the volume? With a remote, of course! Along with an AC power cord and type-A USB cable, the E30 ships with an extremely premium-feeling remote control that allows you to control the unit from afar as well as selecting a number of other features including muting, display contrast, auto-standby feature, as well as choosing between six different digital filter settings. The remote alone is a standout feature at this budget tier, giving the E30 instantly more utility than other competitors’ DACs.
Head over to Page Two to continue our review, just CLICK HERE.