Last month, I published on the Topping D10s DAC which performed excellently for such a small, USB-powered device. Fantastic price to boot!
Today, let's have a look at the newest sibling in this line of DACs released in July 2021 - the Topping D10 Balanced (I'll just call it D10B for short). As you can see in the image above, the contents in the box are similar to the Topping D10s, with manual (including measurements), pamphlet with various other Topping products listed, generic USB A-B cable, and for this model a couple of TSR-to-XLR male-male adaptors.
At <US$150, this is certainly still inexpensive. And as the name suggests, this baby is capable of balanced analogue output. Balanced transmission provides improved common-mode noise rejection and this should result in quieter analogue output including rejection of potential issues like mains hum in the signal.
I bought this DAC through the usual retail channels; no relationship with the company.
As you can see, I picked the silver model this time. Here in North America, most of our electronics tends to be black in color although companies like Schiit feature quite a bit of silver. I heard that over in Asia and Europe, silver and gold are popular colors as well for hi-fi gear. Notice that the front fascia is less marked up than the D10s; no text about DSD, 384kHz, etc. When turned on, there's a tasteful amber OLED display that's not too bright showing sample rate and whether PCM/DSD being processed.
The build is good. Weight is 335g on my scale without adaptors, about the same as its single-ended siblings. I noticed the enclosure is different from the D10s in that it's a single body piece rather than top-bottom halves. Inside, the DAC chip is the same ESS Tech ES9038Q2M low-power unit as the D10s. I'm not sure if there's still a socketed opamp for folks who care to play with opamp-rolling. The main difference you'll notice is on the back:
Instead of the single-ended RCA output, we now have dual TRS balanced ports. As you can see I'm showing the included TRS-XLR adaptors. Due to the size of these adaptors, it can look a bit funny with both attached:
Looks a bit like the souped-up car in this post from a few years back on audiophile mods. ;-)
Make sure to provide some support (like put something on top) if you have heavy XLR cables so the whole DAC unit doesn't get tipped up. As per the other D10-family DACs, this unit is powered with the single USB input. I measured current usage at <250mA so this should be easily powered by most standard ports (mobile device USB ports probably not enough current). The device remained cool after hours of use. Also like the other D10 devices, there's only S/PDIF coaxial and TosLink outputs.
While not recommended by Topping, and in fact they have a warning:
Here at the Musings, we're not afraid to try :-):
|Topping D10B with typical TS-RCA adaptor - NOT recommended.|
Pictured with some standard mono 1/4" TS-to-RCA adaptors. Obviously, if you're just going to be using single-ended output, don't waste money on the D10B, just get the D10s. And heed Topping's warning above. For now, let's just say that I have not destroyed the DAC by doing this, but I agree with Topping that this is definitely NOT recommended.
Okay then folks, as usual, I listened to the DAC for a few evenings and wrote down some listening impressions before test bench measurements. As a product review, IMO, it's better to get down to the objective measurements first...
A. Objective Performance
Here's the D10B sitting on my test bench. Top left, you can see the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ "Touch" I used as playback device for most of these tests. Since the TRS-XLR adaptors were included, I just used those, however, feel free to get something like the yellow TRS-to-XLR cable to connect the DAC to your pre-amp. This will at least look better than the big dual-exhaust-XLR adaptors sticking out from behind!
As usual, the measurements here will primarily be performed with the RME ADI-2 Pro FS as the ADC used to capture test signals and my Intel NUC computer for data processing. XLR cables will be generic 6' lengths (similar to the Monoprice Stage Right described before).
I. Oscilloscope Tracings and Filter Performance
Since the oscilloscope doesn't accept balanced input, with the unbalanced TS-RCA adaptor, we can see that this DAC provides clean-looking 1kHz sine and bandlimited square wave tracings with excellent stereo channel overlay. We see that the sine wave is around 2.13V. This means that the balanced output is twice this and I measured it at 4.29Vrms (+14.9dBu).
Looking at the bandlimited square wave "ringing" pattern, we can surmise that this device uses a minimum phase filter. Here's the impulse response with a 16/44.1 signal:
Yup, minimum phase setting, and given the length of the ringing we should see a relatively steep filter. Polarity is maintained like the D10s (and unlike the original D10, not that we'd generally hear this beyond test signals). Let's have a look at this using my Digital Filter Composite graph (DFC, as per discussions with Juergen Reis) in the frequency domain:
Interesting how Topping has changed the digital filter setting with each of the D10-family of devices! The original D10 used a linear filter in many ways similar to this one but without the noticeable overloading using the 0dBFS white noise signal. The D10s used a steep linear phase "apodizing"-type filter with attenuation by 20kHz, unfortunately it showed some mild audio band rippling. And now, we see a minimum phase filter with this D10B which could be one of the standard settings on the DAC chip.
While ideally I would have preferred a non-overloading, linear phase filter as a default setting, the way it is currently is subjectively fine.
II. RightMark comparative DAC performance
Okay then, let's line up and compare performances of a few DACs, including each of the Topping D10 family:
As you know, 16/44.1 isn't a particularly challenging performance level these days so most hi-res DACs tend to perform well on these tests.
We see some variations in the frequency response between the DACs but notice the zoomed-in dB scale and just how tiny the differences really are. Furthermore, most of the difference is >10kHz which will be even more difficult to hear.
Let's now step up to hi-res...
For this set of comparisons I've added both the Oppo UDP-205 and RME ADI-2 Pro FS R Black Edition (+24dBu output level, maximum resolution) into the mix; both with balanced outputs. Topping DX3 Pro has RCA single-ended output.
Nice. Basically, this DAC is hitting the limits of my RME ADI-2 Pro FS ADC-based test system around THD+N of -113dB. Audio Science Review's measurements using the Audio Precision APx555 show that the DAC can go down to -118dB which is fantastic!
|For testing, I ran the Topping D10B with a single-ended adaptor for 3 days or so continuously on my desktop system as above. Not great performance compared to a D10s or even D10, but no damage done at least from short-term use like this.|