Hey everyone, I suspect many of you have already seen or heard of the Topping D10s by now (~US$100-110 at time of writing). It has been out since spring/summer 2020, a DAC released during the early pandemic.
Basically, this is an update of the Topping D10 which I reviewed back in 2019 with change to the DAC chip from the ESS ES9018K2M to the ES9038Q2M with improved specs - lower noise, higher dynamic range, etc.
I bought this through the usual retail channels as I'm planning to give the D10 away to a family member. Let's have a deeper look and consider the implications of this change in the DAC chip to the overall performance.
As you can see, the D10 and D10s look almost identical:
The only difference I see are the 4 front screw heads are of a different size between the two. The rear looks totally interchangeable. There's a slight difference in weight with the newer D10s being slightly heavier by 10g (D10 317g, D10s 328g - could literally just be the 4 larger front screws!).
Size is compact with the enclosure around 4" x 5.5" x 1.25" not counting the RCA plugs jutting out or small soft plastic feet.
Notice in the top picture that the manual contains some measurements like the D10 before. Good to see that the Chi-Fi companies like Topping and SMSL embrace the objective side rather than just vague advertising speak. There is a level of accountability when a company does this since the measurements can be verified by more sophisticated end users. The very competitive prices with high performance literally define superb value.
Feature wise, this is a basic DAC and identical to the D10. USB input only. Maximum samplerates up to 384kHz PCM (the usual family of 44.1 and 48kHz multiples) and DSD256. No separate power input needed. Gold plated analogue outputs, plus both TosLink and S/PDIF outs. No S/PDIF input, no headphone out, no switches to change stuff like filter settings, no remote. Like the D10, the front amber OLED display tells you sample rate and whether PCM or DSD is playing.
One other small difference between this and the D10 is that the opamp on the circuit board can now be replaced. The stock opamp in mine is the TI LME49720; an excellent low noise, low distortion part. I would love to see if any opamp rollers can find measurable improvements; years ago, I tried out the MUSES 02 opamp in the ASUS Xonar Essence One and did not notice much difference despite hoopla. My sense is that there is again a point of diminishing returns; good enough is good enough and putting in "better" parts will not necessary translate to audible improvements.
I opened the D10s for a quick peek one evening, here's the layout:
I. Objective Assessment
Let's have a look at how this puppy runs!
General measurement chain looks like this:
Raspberry Pi 3 B+ "Touch" with Volumio --> 6' shielded USB --> Topping D10s DAC --> 4' AmazonBasics RCA --> RME ADI-2 Pro FS ADC --> USB --> Intel NUC measurement computer
Looks good on the digital oscilloscope. Channel balance excellent with a peak Vrms of 1.95V (+8dBu). This output level is a bit higher than the original D10 of ~1.5Vrms. Like the D10, Topping stayed with a linear phase digital filter:
Steep linear phase "orthodox" filter used. Notice that the impulse maintains "absolute" polarity unlike the D10 which inverted the signal.
This filter should work well in the frequency domain to suppress imaging artifacts as we can see using the "Digital Filter Composite" graph I've been using for years (based on Juergen Reis' suggestions from back in 2013).
Yes, steep filter. In fact, steeper than the D10.
Okay, let's have a look at comparisons between this D10s with the D10 starting with standard CD-resolution a.k.a. 16/44.1:
SMSL M100 Mk II uses the ES9018Q2C DAC and Topping DX3 Pro (V2) is the most expensive of the bunch here, based on its dual AKM AK4493 design.
|Only frequency response and noise level graphs. RightMark needs bug-fixing when displaying crosstalk and IMD+N graphs unfortunately.|
|Left channel shown. I also checked the Right channel which was similar with THD+N -110dB to make sure there was no gross disparity between the sides.|
|What DSD256 (11.2MHz, 1-bit) playback looks like.|
|Aligned spectra from 45 seconds music recordings from two modern, excellent fidelity, DACs of very different price using DeltaWave. Notice one of the DACs (white) has earlier and steeper filter than the other (blue). Nice example of perceptibly perfect match for human listening IMO.|