Topping Pre90 line preamplifier Page 2

Moving to a larger ensemble—10 voices and players—L'Escadron Volant de la Reine (The Queen's Flying Squadron) offers a stylish program of music in the French style by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (Il Tedesco, Harmonia Mundi HMM 902645, 16/44.1 PCM download). The opening a cappella of "Lunge da voi ben mio" is lovely and airy with realistically rounded voices spread across the front within a moderately deep acoustical space. The full ensemble soon joins; the instruments fill that space, front to back and side to side, even as all the voices and instruments remain distinct.


Finally, I tested the Pre90 with a full symphony orchestra, the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Michael Stern in Sibelius's Symphony No.7 (One Movement Symphonies, 24/176.4 PCM download, Reference Recordings RR-149). The bass fiddles open, rumbling from the deep, far right, as the upper strings slowly fill in across the front. The woodwinds enter center right between the two tiers of strings. The most remarkable moment occurs with the astonishing Largamente (19:33) as the hushed strings extend over a wide, deep soundstage. The Pre90 offers it up with great depth and detail, approaching what I hear in the multichannel version of this recording.

In order to hear what of the lively, balanced, dynamic sound can be ascribed to the Pre90, I removed it. Without it, I noted marginally less weight and a bit less dynamic impact.

Is the Pass XP-32 a silly comparison?
I don't own a preamp, so I sent out an SOS to other reviewers, hoping that I might borrow an already-reviewed preamp to compare the Topping to.

Among the amplifiers that would make reasonable, logical candidates for comparison to the Topping Pre90 are the two Benchmark preamplifiers—the LA4 line preamplifier ($2599) and the HPA4 headphone amplifier ($2999), which can also be used as a line preamplifier—although both are considerably more expensive than the Topping. Neither was available. Pricewise, the Schiit Freya+ ($949 with tubes) makes an even better match, but it has not yet been reviewed in Stereophile—an omission that will soon be corrected. In any case, its tubed operation (in its active mode: the Freya+ can operate in passive, differential buffer, or differential gain modes, the latter using tubes) makes it a very different creature than the Pre90. In my search for a preamp for comparison, only one turned up: Pass Laboratories' three-chassis, 62.5lb, $17,500 XP-32 line preamplifier.

On its face, it may seem silly to compare a $17,500, three-box preamp with Topping's diminutive, $850 (including the Ext90), 5lb preamp. And yet, they accomplish the same tasks with comparable functionality and, on the test bench, should perform comparably. Besides, I was eager to try out the big, beautiful Pass Labs machine.

The unboxing and setup experience was certainly different: The Pass called on muscles usually reserved for loudspeakers and power amps. The XP-32 has more inputs and outputs, including a dedicated home-theater bypass and a useful balance control. Pass's metal remote control is heavier than Topping's lightweight plastic one and much more dependable. The XP-32's large volume knob is almost too large, just as the Topping's knob is almost too small. The XP-32's volume settings range over 200 0.5dB steps, from 000 to 199 (–99dB to +10dB); 179 is equal to 0dB, or a gain of 1×. The volume chosen applies to all inputs (except the HT bypass). The XP-32 cannot be powered off from the front panel or the remote control. The Pre90's volume settings range over 232 0.5db steps, from –99dB to +16dB, and can be set and remembered for each input; settings are retained through a power recycle. The Pass runs moderately warm.

I inserted the XP-32 into the system by simply pulling the XLR cables from the Pre90 and plugging them into the appropriate jacks on the Pass preamp. Powering up the Pass initiates a warm-up process that takes a few minutes and concludes with a subtle relay click and the display of the volume level: 000. After advancing the level up to "179" (0dB), I could hear a barely discernible soft "ssshh" with my ear within 1–2" of the tweeter—much too quiet to have any effect on listening at any level. The Pre90 was even quieter.


With the XP-32 in the system and Sol & Pat cued up, I clicked "play" and—gosh darn, the Pass XP-32 does sound wonderful! Just as lively, just as dynamic, just as transparent as the Topping, but different. The tambourine sounded the same, but the foot-stomping was deader and quieter. The instruments sounded clear, more rounded, and a foot or two farther back; that gave me the impression of a gentle treble rolloff, although JA's measurements refute that.


I had a surprising experience with a recent recording, Concerti All'Arrabbiata (Aparte AP262 CD, 16/44.1 download) with the Freiburger Barockorchester conducted by Gottfried von der Goltz. It includes spirited, zesty concerti, all employing winds, including horns. With the Pre90, I was startled by the up-front, in-your-face horns and, although the winds remained integrated with the strings, there was little depth to the soundstage. Exciting and delightful as that was, I hoped that the XP-32 would expand the soundstage and restore the brass to their proper place at the rear of the stage. With the XP-32, the lower end of the spectrum (mostly two cellos and a double bass) was full, and the ambient space seemed deep if less detailed. The main ensemble was a bit more distant, but the brass was still up front. When I consulted the booklet, I found a photograph of the ensemble in performance and, lo and behold, the horns were right up front!


On Jane Ira Bloom's "Song Patrol" (Early Americans, Sono Luminus SLE-70005, Blu-ray), the XP-32 sounds louder and richer, especially in the bass, and the instruments fill the space between the speakers. With the Pre90, instruments have marginally less impact but are more distinctly placed within the space. With the above-mentioned Kapsberger recording, the XP-32 offered a more immediate and flattering presentation of voices and instruments than the Topping, at the expense of their disambiguation and a reduction in the sense of place.

Is one preamp more accurate than the other? There's no way to know, since we cannot know exactly what the mastering engineers committed to the recording. That's Floyd Toole's Circle of Confusion. All we can determine by listening is what sounds right or merely more right in our own systems. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." My dominant left hemisphere says that the Pre90 is more literal and therefore more honest; it argues that the XP-32 is adding something. My right hemisphere maintains that the XP-32 simply sounds better, whatever that means, and the resulting enjoyment is what this is really all about. My left and right hemispheres often wrestle over this at night.

Multichannel use
I introduced this review by saying that I needed a multichannel preamp. But the Topping Pre90 is a stereo preamp—not multichannel—and this review has been conducted in stereo. What gives?

I bought three Pre90s. In principle, the volume on all three Pre90s can be controlled with a single carefully aimed remote control and monitored via the numbers on the front-panel display. But I tried that approach with the Benchmark LA4 and found it a less-than-ideal solution. It's not ideal because the volume can easily get out of synch among the three preamps, and we already know that the Pre90's remote control is finicky.

With the Benchmark preamplifiers, I improved things by buying an IR receiver/splitter on the internet for about $20. This little box accepts a tiny, wired IR sensor as input and has four tiny, wired IR transmitters as outputs. I attached one transmitter to the IR sensor on each of the three Benchmark LA4s. It's a bit of a kludge, but it worked. I intend to try the same thing with the Topping preamps.

The Pre90 is a simple, compact, analog stereo preamplifier with a transparent, noise-free sound. Signal selection, power on/off, muting, and volume adjustments are equally noise-free, save for the subtle ticks of the relays that accomplish those tasks.

Although it is small and inexpensive, the Topping preamp (with the Ext90 extension) has all the necessary features, with one exception. It lacks a channel-balance control, which may be critical to some users. Also, the effectiveness of the remote control could be improved.

Some people may summarily reject it because of its low cost, small size, limited warranty, Chinese manufacture, or the fact that it's only sold online. All those parameters must be weighed against its low price and outstanding performance. It fits my needs, and it fits my ears, so for me it's a great bargain.

Guangzhou TOPPING Electronics & Technology Co., Ltd.
Authorized US retailer Apos Inc.
1400 Coleman Ave., #E23
Santa Clara, CA 95050
(510) 858-6585

Bob Loblaw's picture

Topping has been building excellent equipment for a few years now. The technical performance absolutely embarrasses many more expensive manufacturers. If accuracy is the goal then it begs the question why anyone would need to spend more than $599 on their pre-amp.

MatthewT's picture

The cost-complainers a bit, at least for this review. OTH, "Made in China" is ringing the Pavlov bell. Great review as well, thanks.

tonykaz's picture

Amazing, Mr.KR, it's like comparing a Kia Soul to a Mercedes S Class.

I trust your assessments in these matters.

The headphone people have also been praising Topping lately, they have superb transducers, support gear and high standards.

Still, it's a bit surprising to see the famous multi-channel authority reaching out to dabble in modest gear like this.

If you're impressed with this piece you must also own outstanding everything .

Tony in Florida

Kal Rubinson's picture

Amazing, Mr.KR, it's like comparing a Kia Soul to a Mercedes S Class.

Why would I turn it down? It does represent a full frontal attack on one's perceived biases.


Still, it's a bit surprising to see the famous multi-channel authority reaching out to dabble in modest gear like this.

Yes, so I had to buy 3 of them.


If you're impressed with this piece you must also own outstanding everything.

It is hard to know if this is tongue-in-cheek but, fwiw, the associated equipment is always listed.

tonykaz's picture

and I read every word you write ! You are one of the greats ( like Mr.JA ) and one of pillars that make Stereophile the impressive institution that it is.

Tony in Florida

CG's picture

TI and ADI have both made incredible progress in their opamps suitable for audio. Great example right here.

georgehifi's picture

Incredible measurements, backed by Audio Science Review (ASR)also

Looks to be as good as going direct from dac (with volume) to poweramp/s.
Yet this has adjustable gain settings and anything you could want.

I doffs me hat to this one. And say goodby to highend preamp prices

Cheers George

Glotz's picture


James Romeyn's picture

I enjoyed this review. Kal writes where the rubber meets the road.

I interpret this bold review, comparing ca. $1k to ca. $18k preamps to mean that Stereophile has the guts to risk stepping on the toes of the most highly respected OEMs, even those who pay Stereophile's bills. If I'm correct, then let me make this bold claim in an area where I, a vendor, have absolutely no financial interest.

My friend Luis is a degreed full-time Linux/network system engineer. Luis built my large custom server/streamer computer running the most advanced and refined versions of HQ Player. The main computer parts cost with the best discounts came to ca. $1500; HQ Player costs ca. $165. I don't know Linux from Linus of Peanuts fame; Luis sets up everything remotely. But Luis claims someone versed in Linux could replicate his work.

Two NUCs, both tiny compared to the server/streamer, perform discrete functions: a larger NUC (ca. $250) solely performs Roon library functions (IOW no or as little as possible Roon DSP); the smaller NUC (ca. $150) solely renders with USB output > DAC. Lifetime Roon cost is $500 last I checked.

HQ Player performs extreme filter, up-sampling and demodulator functions in either DSD or PCM. Setup options go on almost to infinity and the author Jussi in Norway constantly upgrades for FREE! The DAC is a Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE, set permanently for true NOS/non-oversampling ("true" means some DACs with "NOS" perform some OS functions.)

Multiple online reports of HQ Player users employing it as described above, including myself, my wife with much better ears than my own, and several friends, prefer this setup over anything else they have heard even cost-no-object. I suspect my server/streamer rig competes with cost no object including dCS rigs in the range of $50k and up.

I suspect, because Herb Reichert is apparently unfamiliar with HQ Player as described (HQ Player on a lesser computer provides commensurately less audio performance) that it would give him a completely new and fresh perspective on the true potential of his Holo Audio May KTE DAC (in NOS mode.)

Compared to the best streaming applications, I suspect spinning silver discs and streaming on consumer laptops/desktops are grossly lacking as professional reviewer tools.

doug s.'s picture

hi james!

now there's a name i haven't run into recently. i hope all's well.

why not replace your holo audio spring 3 kte w/a new topping e70 velvet and report back? ;~)


doug s.

Anton's picture

If I needed a preamp, I would simply jump into this and save loads of cash.

I've read good things about their amplifier, as well.

Nice to see this sort of product get such a focused review, many thanks.

Glotz's picture

Loved this review and your ongoing integrity and honesty in reviewing!

I will NOT China-bash, but please keep in mind this preamp would be much more expensive if made in the U.S.

tonykaz's picture

Schiit builds comparable at comparable prices.

Tony in Florida

georgehifi's picture

Something says to me, they wouldn't measure up like this thing does.

Cheers George

Kal Rubinson's picture

Hold that thought. :-)

tonykaz's picture

What is that something ???

Not just Schiit but all of these Audio Designers have the tools and incentives to build outstanding.

Especially considering that they can sell direct and have direct feedback from their Customer Base.

In the old days of the 1980s, William Z Johnson built to satisfy his Dealer Network .

Now-a-days I can write a note to Paul at PS Audio, Jason at Schiit, Devore, and even Call Manufacturers Direct and get answered by a real person ( maybe even the designer himself )

2020 heading into 2030 seems like a whole new world for us DIY folks, we have much better tools and we don't have to be worshipful to the guys promoting $250,000 record players.

Tony in Florida

Robin Landseadel's picture

If you have been following Amir's reviews at ASR you would be aware that Topping gear always measures great and Schitt gear sometimes measures great and sometimes doesn't.

tonykaz's picture

Measurements vary, I think.

I invest based on listening over a period of time and based on the performance compared to my established standards.

I value Mr.JA's lab bench evaluations and insights.
I also evaluate gear on the Bench and generally agree with Mr.JA's reveals. I'm measuring to confirm proper operation not Sound Quality performance ( which generally bears no relevance to measurements.)

Schiit gear are the best Value for Money products in Home Audio's long History. ( as far as I can tell )

Tony in Florida

Robin Landseadel's picture

Schitt's measurements do vary, depending often on the basic circuit design. And they do offer some of the more unique [and technically dubious] products at unusually low prices, credit where credit is due. Some products, as far as I can tell, are outstanding. Some are underperforming. I have yet to see any measurements of Topping gear at ASR that are not outstanding.

Glotz's picture

The measurements on ASR. The Schiit Modius DAC is a good example. For $200, they compete quite nicely with Topping DACs.

I own it. It is a great placeholder DAC until I can afford something more auspicious.

doug s.'s picture

i've not heard the schiit modius. a few years back, i needed another dac because my modded art di/o (which went toe to to w/a $10k digital get-up and came out at least as good), has only one input, and i needed more inputs. so, i went w/a topping d70. it's very nice.

they now have an e70 velvet; at retail ~$450, i'd recommend it - it might or might not be better than what you already have. but, imo, the only thing auspicious spending more would be for whoever took your money - they would benefit. you benefitting? not very likely. in blind a-b comparisons, i find it extremely unlikely that one could reliably determine any improvements over one dac from another, once the ~$500 threshold has been exceeded. Differences? perhaps. but consistently thinking one sounds better? maybe one in 100 could do that. maybe.

spend your money on things that could actually improve the sound - room treatment, speakers...


doug s.

Glotz's picture

It's either the SMSL SU-10 for $750 ($900 normally) ESS-modded, or the AKM Velvet - SMSL D400EX at $950. The AKM Velvets have more of tendency to sound the same - ie warm and beautiful, versus any other DAC chip out there. I prefer linearity and will most likely be going with the SU-10 on sale this month. I have all of my gear precisely set up as well as my room. My middle name is Tweak-Master.

bhkat's picture

Topping isn't an American or European company that has off-shored manufacturing to China while trying to obscure this fact. It is a Chinese company and therefore is standing on their own. They make great components.

doug s.'s picture

bhkat, you're absolutely correct. chinese companies offer quality w/o jacking up their prices. it's the companies that off-shore their labor and then jack up the prices as if they were still paying the price of developed-world labor, safety and environmental protocols. the rich get richer, the working classes suffer. and the wrong people get blamed.

doug s.

Glotz's picture

Is absolutely silly.

The foreign companies are jacking up their prices just to do so. Warranties, shipping back to and from China, the cost of business in the country they are in, so many other factors are at play.

Rather, doing business direct has it's own sets of issues. Namely warranty support. I saw a dude have an issue with a Gustard DAC, and he is waiting minimum SIX months before gets it back. Only in China does this happen. Because they don't have a robust dealer network... Oh and then price goes up with a dealer network. And with safety protocols, etc. etc. etc. Labor is relative. In China, any and all labor is less than everywhere else. You and other Chinese equipment buyers take advantage of less in place and more on offer to benefit themselves, and they have more freedom with subsidies in place from their Communist government to sell below everyone else.

People think the Chinese are ethically superior because they undercut everyone else. I find that logic completely narrow-minded and short-sighted. They only reason they offer quality is because it took them 20 years to realize that crap wasn't selling. Now they have imitated WESTERN and EUROPEAN mfg firms because they went to China in the first place. China took those practices, otherwise they wouldn't know there heads from their butts without it. Blame is where is needs to be.

Long-time listener's picture

After listening to the NAD M51 DAC for a number of years, I saw the measurements of the Topping D90SE -- their top of the line -- and decided to buy it. At less than half the price, it was a definite upgrade, with an audible difference. I'm extremely happy with it.

The only thing I don't like about the company -- something that actually makes no difference whatsoever -- is that their name sounds kind of goofy to me. I wonder where they got it. Anyway, I'm not complaining. I'll continue to buy their stuff when it suits my needs.

thatguy's picture

With all these references in the comments to China bashing, do people realize that it is entirely possible to think the Chinese people are great and capable of making quality products and still be shocked by the actions of their government to the point of not wanting to help support them and what that government does.

Jack L's picture

...... and still be shocked by the actions of their government." qtd thatguy.


I fully appreciate to you have spoken out the background behind the sentiment of China bashing. Not the great Chinese civilization dated back thousands years, but it is "that government" today !!!!!!!!

But let's stop here now as politics should not be discusssed here.

Jack L

thatguy's picture

Today is what matters because your purchases are funding today. Sure they have a great history but their current leaders are committing atrocities on an epic scale.

doug s.'s picture

most of us americans are so complacent about our perceived "world leader" status that they might be shocked that a large portion of the world looks down on america as do narrow-minded americans look down on china. america is not without its own sins.

the fact is that american (and other western) corporations and their rich stockholders are the ones who created the china as we know it today. simple cause & effect.

doug s.

thatguy's picture

Show me the re-education camps in modern America. Show me the child labor. Show me the slave labor. Show me where in the USA the government takes the father from the home and puts a government employee there to take his place and watch the family? Show me any of that happing now.

No country is perfect but China is seriously messed up. And other parts of the world looking down on the US doesn't change that one bit.

The US made the mistake of thinking that if they brought capitalism to China it would move away from that sort of thing. Instead it just funded them doing it. So, yeah, our mistake was trying to help them modernize.

You can use disliking the US as a reason to make yourself feel better about literally helping fund these atrocities in China, but it is a delusion.
I've read the negative things about the US. I've studied our history and the effects of the things we've done over the centuries but I also read what is going on right now in China. Try reading both sides for a little while.

doug s.'s picture

sorry, it's not me that's not reading both sides.

china exists the way it is now, because countries like america are run by oligarchs that value profit over people. no one was doing this to "help china modernize". they were doing it to make profit hand over fist, decimating the american working class in the process. "helping china modernize" was an unintended consequence.

and today, a majority (or extremely large plurality) of people in this country are supporting people that want to turn this country into one no better/different than china, russia, .

it certainly doesn't make me feel better, and it certainly is no delusion. it's pretty frightening, actually.

"just the facts, ma'am."

doug s.

michelesurdi's picture

a brave review.time to wakeup to realities.if i had the money i'd buy the pass and keep it for a lifetime,but then i'm a hi fi it is i'm buying the topping on the strength of J.A.'s work.

synapse-md's picture

I've been a Stereophile reader since 1992, but this is my first time commenting here. I appreciate the rigor and openness with which this relatively inexpensive preamp has been assessed, in similar vein to the recent reviews of Okto Research's products. Top-flight audio quality certainly has become more accessible.

Given the very limited input complement of the Pre90 (Just one set of balanced inputs!), can KR/JA comment on whether there are any subjective or measurable differences when running inputs through the Ext90 vs the Pre90 itself?

The signal paths, to the degree that some audio signals will run through the umbilical alongside power and control, must be at least a little different.

GRBH's picture

Audio Science Review tested this pre amplifier and extension box in December of 2020. One XLR input from the extension box was tested and the results indicated near identical performance to that of an XLR input to the preamplifier itself.

synapse-md's picture

I missed that! I do wish he had tested channel separation, but agree that from what these data show, there’s unlikely to be an audible difference.

Thanks for the link.

GRBH's picture

You may have missed seeing this, but Amir did an alternative measurement to separation, that of crosstalk. Not clear as to whether the measurement was that of the preamp or extension box. The following was his comment to that measurement.

"Crosstalk was more than good enough for what we need but shy of the best that can be done"

Kal Rubinson's picture

Given the very limited input complement of the Pre90 (Just one set of balanced inputs!), can KR/JA comment on whether there are any subjective or measurable differences when running inputs through the Ext90 vs the Pre90 itself?

As far as I can recall, I did not send the Ext90 on to John for testing and I tried the inputs on it only to confirm that they functioned properly.

However, since you asked, I will do a quick test later today and append the results to this message. I do not expect any difference.

synapse-md's picture

Thanks. Appreciate you taking the time to do that.

Kal Rubinson's picture

This was only a brief test. I connected an XLR Y-splitter to the DAC output and its outputs to the main Pre90 XLR input and the #1 XLR input on the Ext90. With a 4-5 musical selections, I did a non-blind A/B comparison between the two inputs, toggling between them, and could not hear any difference in level, tonality or noise. All that was added was the click of the relay at the transition. FWIW.

MatthewT's picture

Very much!

synapse-md's picture

Great to hear. Thanks again for taking the time to do this comparison.

nidaje's picture

Quote: It fits my needs, and it fits my ears, so for me it's a great bargain.
Great review KR.
Although I consider myself to be both experienced and insightful in assessing hi-fi audio equipment, I too have found it hard to believe that equipment in this price range can represent a real and interesting option in the "high end" segment. Thank you for challenging my prejudice on the "right stuff".

georgehifi's picture

"I too have found it hard to believe that equipment in this price range can represent a real and interesting option in the "high end" segment."

The it's just usually the case work that probably tickles your fancy, what's under the skirt "can" be almost the same in monitory/technology/and sound value.

Cheers George

nidaje's picture

I know George and "almost" agree. I am impressed. Given years of trade sanctions the Chinese have no problems producing high performance devices in that pricerange filled with the best components often from the best American/European/Japanese manufacturers. And it seems they are so capable that they can beat the best western electronic designers. No wonder they placed a Rover on Mars too. I am in the market for a new preamp and two of these will probably serve my needs for inputs too.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Great that Stereophile is reviewing Topping gear. I'm a cheapskate, seeking maximum bang for the buck. Have the Topping E30 DAC and the L30 headphone amp that also has limited preamp functions. Very nice, and at less than $300 for the pair, very cheap. Hope you get around to the Topping D90SE DAC. If ASR is right, it's SOTA for $900.

JRT's picture

Again... Thank you for another interesting review of an interesting component.

Seems strange that they would conciously choose to not include some facility to control separate levels of attenuation on each channel, some means of adjusting channel balance.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I agree with you even though I have not had a need to use a balance control for some years now. There are other points in my signal chain where it can be implemented, so I like that the Pre90 is so simple in its functions: Source selection and gain control, that's all.

remlab's picture

..with excellent loudspeaker QC and proper loudspeaker/listener placement, there really isn't much of a need for balance control anymore

remlab's picture

..Stereophile reviews John Yang's latest Topping amplifier design too. Other than total power, it almost reaches EIGENTAKT levels of performance.

tonykaz's picture

It feels like you broke thru the ice as a High Level Enabler for we budget hopefuls.

I suspect that you will now have an enthusiastic range of admiring readership searching for meaningful insights into all things Audio.

I've always seen you as an exploring navigator of hard to reach Worlds.


Tony in Florida

georgehifi's picture

@John Atkinson

Seeing you had the top off this Pre90 did you see what opamps are used? or is the active stage discrete circuitry.

Thanks George

John Atkinson's picture
georgehifi wrote:
Seeing you had the top off this Pre90 did you see what opamps are used? or is the active stage discrete circuitry.

I'm afraid I didn't look inside the Pre90. The internal photo was supplied by Topping.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

David Harper's picture

Not at all like comparing a Kia to a Mercedes. In that case there are real objective differences in build quality and performance. In the case of preamps, not so much

claud's picture

However pleasing this Topping preamp is to ears and budgets, isn't anyone even curious about how it would sound compared to this review of the Parasound JC-2? JA was certainly impressed when he compared it to his Levinson 380S preamp.

Of course, neither of those preamps would work for the 5.1 system I want to build. And unlike the Topping, I certainly couldn't afford to buy two them to make it happen! BUT what if Topping had offered a multichannel preamp that sounded (to both KR and JA) every bit as great as the JC-2 but at HALF the price??

stanzani's picture

Hello Kal
I would have liked to read your opinion when comparing the pass and the topping in situation w/i and w/o preamplifier further taht topping vs pass. And yes, I would have like a bind comparison (but I am asking too much ;) )
It could be embarassing to state that no divverence between the big and the small boy :)

John Atkinson's picture
stanzani wrote:
I would have like a blind comparison (but I am asking too much ;) It could be embarrassing to state that no [divergence] between the big and the small boy :)

When I studied statistics at university 50 years ago, I learned that tests cannot prove a negative. If a test produces statistically insignificant results, that does not mean that the items being compared were identical. Instead, the results mean that if a difference exists, it was not detected under the specific conditions of the test.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

doug s.'s picture

hi john,

agreed - items being compared may or may not be identical, simply because a test produced statistically insignificant results. but it is highly likely that it *does* mean that whatever differences that may exist are not relevant in whatever application/device/etc that is being studied.

if a difference cannot be detected, it's typically not important. this is particularly true regarding listening to audio playback systems.

and, re: audio, frequently when small differences *are* reliably detected, it doesn't follow that there's agreement that one is better than the other - some may disagree as to which is better; others may simply think they're different w/neither one being better.

doug s.

reynolds853's picture

To be clear, your only comment about the impact about adding the Topping was single sentence:

Without it, I noted marginally less weight and a bit less dynamic impact.

"Marginal" and "a bit" suggest that pre-amps do not impact sound much for DACs, I suppose. I can see the case to be made for low gain components, though.

TJ's picture

Kudos to their engineering team for such an impressive product. Customer satisfaction may suffer unfortunately from the frustrating remote (cost-cutting?), Topping's QA and customer support problems, and hidden expenses for warranty service (return shipping to China plus high customs entry fees). Do we know what the failure rates are for Topping products? The user anecdotes on Amazon and the forums are disconcerting. If the failure rates are high as some say, buying one may be a game of chance.

claud's picture

Speaking of which, KR mentions having this surround switcher in his system. Although, that switcher is probably a passive device, I can't help wondering if Pass Labs like sound quality, functionality, reliability-and certainly US based tech support-would be had by have the likes of Coleman Audio or build the 5.1 preamp I need for my MCH DAC. Better quality won't come cheaply but it's hardly otherwise in this game.

NemoNose's picture

I wanted to get more gain from my Decware headphone amp without adding any coloration or noise. I wanted the sonic signature of the amp to stay the same. This Topping pre gave me the exta gain I wanted without degrading the sonics of the Decware.