Before we get started, check out Apos Audio. They are a great up and coming distributor with a phenomenal looking website and excellent customer service. They also offer free shipping, the lowest price guarantee, a 2-year warranty, and a now 45-day return!
Also thanks to Apos for sending this unit. I’m not being compensated for this review, but do make a small commission from them should you decide to purchase from any of my links. This is also not a full shootout, but more of a review + sound comparison. The official shootout is coming!
Who is the Topping D50S/A50S stack for? How does it sound? How does it compare with the similarly priced iFi Zen CAN Signature 6XX and the more affordable E30/L30 combo? Is it worth a purchase at around $470?
All of these answers and more, comin’ up…
Greetings bass head and welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music… All over again so… don’t want to read?!
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What’s in the box?
Quick note:You will have to use your own power brick for use with the D50s’ DC cable. To me, this is pretty annoying, but your mileage may vary.
Who is the Topping D50S/A50S stack for?
This incredibly hefty and well-built stack targets the audiophile/gamer demographic with its 32-bit/768kHZ/DSD capability, Bluetooth capability, and plenty of connections including USB Type-B, Coaxial In, Optical In, and RCA Out for the DAC. The Amp section provides a pair of RCA inputs for use with the DAC, as well as RCA outputs for connection to separate powered speakers. Like the E30/L30, you can game with it on console via optical, and the coax allows you to connect to basically anything in a home theater environment.
Easily cycle through your different connections with the remote, or just use the mini-joystick on the front which can also be used for the volume adjustment on the DAC itself. Beginners Guide: What is a USB DAC?
Audiophile snobs will love its less than minuscule 0.00007% Total Harmonic Distortion at a 32 Ohm load (0.00006% into a 300 Ohm load), it’s almost nothing output impedance of less than 0.1 (identical to the E30/L30 combo), and plenty of power. Related:What is Output Impedance?
Peak power numbers indicate 1.4W @ 32 Ohm, and 192mW @ 300 Ohm.
Continuous power (what you will be using) for the unbalanced ¼” jack comes in @ 485mW @ 32 Ohm and 52mW @ 300 Ohm, i.e. plenty. For reference, the HD600 at 300 Ohm requires roughly 20mW from an Amp to get pumping.
For the 4.4mm balanced connection, 1950mW @ 32 Ohm and 208mW @ 300 Ohm.
I didn’t find any of the 10 headphones I have here at the pad (including the K240M 600 Ohm Austrian model) hard to drive, so turn that frown upside down buster!
If you weren’t aware, VRMS (Root mean square) is the actual power that the device is capable of handling for long periods of time. It’s used to control and lower the voltage (V) sent to these components in order to avoid exceeding their maximum voltage capabilities (i.e. it needs to be consistent, steady, and continuous).
From Electronic Design:
Root mean square or simply RMS watts refers to continuous power handling of a speaker or a subwoofer or how much continuous power an amplifier can output. RMS values are usually lower than peak watts ratings, but they represent what a unit is truly capable of handling. Think of RMS power as the average power that a speaker can handle on a daily basis without compromising sound quality or experiencing any distortion. Electronic Design
You want your libido high, but not so high that you’re banging everything in sight like a rabid dog!
Okay, that was a poor analogy but it was funny SO LAY OFF ME!
The only other feature that the A50s/D50s has is the filter modes and some other misc. items. Short press the power button on the D50s to enter in.
There’s a brightness display setting for 30% 60%, 100%, and AUTO, as well as a Bluetooth on/off and an auto shut-off setting. I prefer to keep this OFF, as it’s pretty annoying when the screen goes blank after 10 seconds.
Upon further inspection, it doesn’t seem like the display stays on, regardless of what you do.
But how does it sound?
In a word, cleanli. That’s not a word, but this stack is incredibly similar to the E30/L30 homie. Clean, neutral, and incredibly transparent. There’s not really much else to say with Amps & DACS like this, no matter what some audiophile a**hole says. They present to you the music as is. No coloration, no distortion, no warmth, and NO WARNINGS, BUSTER!
With my K702, I’m at about 1-2 o’clock on 0dB gain.
There are so much dynamism and synergy. I can barely take all the scaling! I feel like an Oompa Loompa scaling larger, and larger, and larger until I pop!
I’m running Tidal Hi-Fi and Spotify Premium, so anything 24-bit/44kHz and up.
Zen CAN Signature 6XX comparison
It’s interesting to note that the Zen CAN Sig takes less volume to reach acceptable levels on 0dB gain with the DAC maxed out (11-12 o’clock on the amp vs. around 1-2 on the A50s), but the sound difference between the 2 is obvious albeit subtle.
The Zen CAN is a more relaxed and laid back presentation of the music. It’s lusher and more inviting. It wants you to kick back and act like a weirdo about it. Scotch, cigars, caviar, the whole 9. Just make sure to hold your pinky out. The A50s/D50s seems more forward, with vocals that stand out a bit more and come across with a bit more clarity and immediacy. Do you like that word salad? Do you want another one?
In all honesty, they sound incredibly similar at the end of the day. I’m going back and forth on Oh Wonder’s 2015 self-titled and it sounds great on both. The difference likely won’t be discernable in a blind test.
I’ve listened to a lot of music with it over the last month or so, but I generally only add songs I really enjoy to the playlist. Check it out! Topping A50s/D50s Playlist.
The Zen Can Sig has a bass boost (they call it “6XX”) *Roll eyes* and a 3 gain stage vs. 2 for the A50s/D50s, but the A50s/D50s has Bluetooth capability whereas the Zen CAN do not. I found it interesting that both have the 4.4mm balanced option.
So, is this stack worth a purchase?
It’s interesting to note that both the Zen CAN Sig and Topping stack here come in at an identical $470 or thereabouts.
Well, if you buy the more expensive stack, I’ll get a higher commission, so that’s the one I’m going to recommend today!
Nah, in all honesty, I’d bypass both of these and just get the E30/L30 stack. No, it doesn’t have Bluetooth functionality or as much power, but I don’t think those 2 things are worth $200 more in this case. The E30/L30 has plenty of power on its own and will drive most headphones without an issue.
The only reason I’d personally buy this A50s/D50s stack is if I planned to drive really demanding headphones like the K240M. If you have headphones like that or anything from the LCD line, then yeah, you may want to go with this over the E30/L30 as you’ll have a much easier time of it.
The problem with the Zen CAN Signature stack is that it’s overpriced. If you want to go that route, the original Zen DAC/Amp paired with the silver Zen CAN is what I’d recommend in order to save money like a normal person. $300 total (Zen CAN Amp/DAC + Zen CAN Silver) vs. $470 (Zen CAN Signature 6XX stack) is a no brainer to me.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.