Saturday 28 October 2023

Part II: Topping PA5 Mk II Plus (PA5II+) Class D amplifier review. Power, Distortion, the Subjective and on Hi-Res amplification.

I mentioned previously that this is a very unobtrusive amp. With the shipped plastic protector off, notice the low contrast of the lettering with the black front makes it even less obtrusive! This was why I left the plastic protector on to take the photos last time to better show the labels for the switches.

I introduced the Topping PA5 Mk II Plus last time in Part I with some initial measurements. This time let's keep going as we explore the power capabilities of this little audio amplifier, examine playback fidelity, and discuss a bit of the subjective performance.

Unless otherwise specified, these measurements were done with the amplifier connected to standard 4Ω and 8Ω power resistors as load, both channels driven, 20Hz-20kHz bandwidth for distortion measurements, unweighted. The Linear Audio AutoRanger allowed automatic gain/attenuation to keep the signal from getting too "hot". Signal from the AutoRanger is fed to the prototype Cosmos Scaler as a preamp for the E1DA Cosmos ADC operating in mono mode. High resolution signal generator DAC is the SMSL DO100 connected to Intona USB isolator. No special cabling, the 3' female XLR-to-TRS balanced cable was just something decent and generic like this, likewise generic RCA was totally fine. Seriously audiophiles, that's all we need for hi-fi sound quality.

Let's get to it!

Saturday 21 October 2023

Part I: Topping PA5 Mk II Plus (PA5II+) Class D amplifier review. (And RME ADI-2 Remote, "cultural pressure" for subjectivist audiophile reviews to include measurements?)

Over the last few months, I've been exploring the performance of the TI TPA3255 Class D chip amps including the AIYIMA A08 Pro, Fosi Audio TB10D, and AOSHIDA A7. Overall, we've seen very good results from these little amplifiers and I think they represent a level of low-distortion performance at a price point that is very attractive to many hi-fi hobbyists.

Depending on the power supply mated to the amplifier, measurements have been showing low output impedance up to 10kHz typically (<0.2Ω up to 10kHz), something like 80+W into 4Ω with less than 0.1% THD+N, and a -80dB Triple-Tone TD+N result at 1W into 4Ω which is excellent considering the prices of these little amps typically at less than US$150 depending on the features you want like Bluetooth input, VU meter, etc.!

Given the track record of these TI devices so far, this time, let's look at another chip amp which is based on an undisclosed part, not the TPA3255, although I can confirm it is a TI TPA chip. In my discussions with John Yang at Topping, the intent is to allow audiophiles to judge the product based on sound quality merits rather than focus too much on exactly which Class D part was used since the design around the chip is very important. Fair enough, and that's exactly what we aim to do here anyways since even with the previous TPA3255 amps reviewed, there were objective differences to find even if subjectively, differences might not be as noticeable.

I bought this Topping PA5 Mk II Plus (which I'll abbreviate as PA5II+ for simplicity) myself from Amazon, currently around US$325 with the intent to use in my own system. Since I'm interested in "high-fidelity" (not merely "euphonia"), I was interested to see how well this would compete with the DIY Hypex nCore NC252MP we measured a few years back. I like the feature set that it offers. On paper, it should provide the power I need and if the hi-fidelity performance is excellent, it could certainly be a listening "reference" here even though to be honest, I still love the Hypex's capabilities and would have no issue with enjoying the music from the inexpensive TPA3255 devices either.

Sunday 15 October 2023

A Psychoacoustic Rationale for the Subjective Evaluation of Stereophonic Sound Systems by Reviewers and Audiophiles (Ralph Glasgal)

With the discussion of ambiophonics ("ambio") and crosstalk cancellation (XTC) last time, I came across a number of fascinating writings from Ralph Glasgal in the Ambiophonics Facebook group. The one below is one of them I think worth considering that I had not seen before, explicitly written as copyright-free. I've made some mild formatting edits and wording substitutions/additions for clarity as well as emphasis in areas I felt of importance. I trust this mildly edited version retains the full meaning and intent of the original found at the group above. A copy of this has been sent to Mr. Glasgal but I'm not sure if he's reviewing his E-mails or active in audio discussions these days in his 90s.

A Psychoacoustic Rationale for the Subjective Evaluation of Stereophonic Sound Systems by Reviewers and Audiophiles

By Ralph Glasgal, BEP, MSEE, AES, IEEE

The oft repeated assertion that high end components of stereo systems can only be truly evaluated by listening rather than by measurement or blind A/B testing by listening panels has been argued for decades now. The following text will, I believe, provide a psychoacoustic explanation of why this position is largely correct and not a question of practicing voodoo audio.

Very few audiophiles will want to read what follows since it is rather long, too technical, and not what they are used to reading in Stereophile or The Absolute Sound. But this article is for the record, for discussion forums, and to have it available for future debates. Anybody is free to use or forward this text. It is not copyrighted. Supporting technical references by a variety of authors are available at (mirrored).

Sunday 8 October 2023

Stereo Crosstalk Cancellation (XTC): A review by STC. And trying out uBACCH,, and AmbiophonicDSP VST plus Foobar foo_dsp_ambio plugins.

Hey everyone, it has been very busy as expected through September here at the Archimago household. As a result, I haven't been able to spend as much time on the audio hardware hobby (still very much enjoying the music of course!).

Over the years, you might have come across the term "crosstalk cancellation" (XTC) for speaker playback, words like "ambiophonics" or acronyms like "BACCH" may have passed by in your readings (for example great discussion on Reddit). For this blog post, let me ask an outspoken advocate of XTC to join for some guest content to discuss the reasons and techniques, and later on, we'll talk about a few DSPs one could try at home to experiment...

Take it away STC for Part I, I'll be back with STC for Part II, then I'll talk about trying some of the DSP options in Part III:

Part I: An introduction to XTC (by STC)

Crosstalk cancellation is an attempt to deliver stereo sound as it was meant to be played without the interaural crosstalk errors with loudspeakers (see Keele, 1986 for a technical exposition). Many listeners may not realize how much realism their high-end stereo hi-fi system is lacking until they hear a system with crosstalk-cancelled (or XTC for short) playback. It is like comparing a photo of a window with a view to an actual window looking out at the scenery. Or like watching Avatar in 2D versus 3D.