Cheap class D: Topping MX3 vs Alientek D8 vs I.AM.D V200

TrueFaith

Member
2014-08-08 10:37 pm
Hi.
I think to leave my current set (Audiotrak Prodigy Cube and Advance Acoustic MAP-105) for small class D all-in-one. A friend showed me Topping MX3, very good quality, great jack output, but I don't like this design. Alientek D8 interested me - it is beautiful, I.AM.D V200 too, but here I'm worried about the sound quality. I don't know any chip in these devices, so far I have only used A / AB class amplifiers and computer sound cards. What can you tell me about these devices? Are the D8 and V200 as good as Topping MX3? Thank you in advance for your help
 
I had the Alientek D8, SMSL Q5 and SMSL Q5 Pro FDAs.

I have also had a few of the usual TI TPA3118 and 3116 amplifiers (modded and EVM) with a Modi 3 and various other dacs.

However, I recently got the Sabaj A4 and like it a lot, it has a remote, BT, all important digital input, and for this price range it sounds excellent- a clear, focused and uncolored sound. I like it better than the FDAs mentioned above. The TPA3118 & 3116 can sound fantastic as well, but you need a fairly decent dac & pre combo to get the best out of them. It depends on your speakers and space as well, I listen in a small room with some Mark Audio Pluvias.
 
The Alientek sounded ok, but I tired of it quickly. It was a bit dull. The headphone out on the Alientek was not very good. The HP out and general sound of the Sabaj A4 is better, and it costs about the same. I have no idea about the Topping MX3. I see it has a normal Tda7498 amp and ESS DAC combo in one box.
 
But overall, Alientek D8 is good? Doesn't have noise or something? You think that it can be similar quality to Topping? I need only USB input, good speakers&headphones output, i don't care about remote, BT etc.

Bought Fx520Spro earlier, but using Alientek D8, dint cared about using BT, as lossy compression.

D8's USB & Optical is quiet, exceptionally low jitter processor.
Loved it was not just Class-D, as FDA is unadulterated SQ & D8 is Open loop. Feeding with chromecast audio optical & also USB DSD with Xmos processor! Though analog inputs are hissing. Nice solution, amazing SQ.

Fx520Spro SQ slightly brighter lively, opamp could be better. Non friendly as it lack digital inputs, would complicate my audio solution, now as a backup amp in storage. took a look at Sabaj's usb - for me usb-micro-connector is a concern, Sabaj A3 having similar FDA as D8.
 
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linuxfan

Member
2007-12-09 3:09 pm
TrueFaith, I think what you're asking is what's better:
i) good entry-level class D amp + good entry-level DAC
versus
ii) good entry-level full digital amp (FDA)

There was a good forum post on this subject about a year or two ago, sorry, can't find it right now. But the general consensus was that i) slightly beats ii) with current technology offerings ... but full digital amps start to pull ahead once you step up to a higher price-point with products such as the QLS QA100 or even D.Sound D310. Of course that was in 2017/2018.
The Sabaj A4 (as recommended by robert1325) is a new product, and it sounds like it might be the next step up for cheap FDA's.

Regarding a good DAC - I'm suspicious of cheap class D amps with built-in DAC's - so sorry, I'm wary of the Topping MX3.

So if a one-box solution is important to you, go with the Sabaj A4, or investigate even higher-priced FDA's such as QLS QA690, FX-Audio D2160, and SMSL A6.
If you decide to stick with DAC + class D, a good combination would be - Schiit Modi 3 + FX-Audio FX1002A (TDA7498E).
 

jean-paul

diyAudio Moderator Emeritus
2002-09-20 7:20 am
Germany
Just had a look at that Sabaj A4. Looks OK but at that price level it should be OK.

I recently changed my Denon PMA50 for a PMA60. Not exactly cheap but without any issues and sounding excellent. After having tried many FDA buying a PMA60 seems most cost effective :)
 

TrueFaith

Member
2014-08-08 10:37 pm

So what i heard, DAC in Topping is his better side than amp, but i don't know. As i said i don't know about class D, TPA's and other components, i'm looking for best integrated (dac + headphone amp + amp) device under 250$. FX-Audio D2160 is interesting and looks nice, but i can't find any tests, measurements. One review on youtube say that its less cost effective than Topping MX3 and have very weak headphone amp (60mW at 32Ω is seriously nothing)
 

linuxfan

Member
2007-12-09 3:09 pm
So what i heard, DAC in Topping is his better side than amp
There's a very thorough technical review of the MX3 here -
Review and Measurements of Topping MX3 DAC & Amp | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum
The only bright spot in the Topping MX3 performance is its headphone amplifier especially with low impedance headphones. Outside of that, the MX3 disappoints.
...
Is it transparent enough for me to recommend it? No. You are much better off with discrete components.
It seems my suspicions about this product were warranted.

So headphone output is important to you, also? (You didn't mention that in the first post)
On audiosciencereview the best value DAC with inbuilt headphone amp is the Topping NX4 DSD (US$160).
Combine that with the FX-Audio FX1002A $83 and this just keeps you under your $250 budget.
If you don't need to drive inefficient speakers to party-loudness levels, you could save money on the amp and just get a Breeze Audio TPA3116 - US$30 including power supply. I have one of these - it's crazy good.

Of course, that's a 2-box solution. If you really want a 1-box product, robert1325's recommendation of the Sabaj A4 seems good to me.
 
Topping is cheating on you, as it is revealed by users following D30 teardown thread: Hardware Teardown of Topping D30 DAC | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum

My D30 ($130) play dominant tones well, but not music. According to the ASR reviews it is better than any DAC mentioned above. However jitter is high, it is why it plays the best at 96kHz, not a maximum rate 196kHz. The initial presentation is positive, but it is fatiguing after 20 minutes. Complex material like orchestral or choir comes out distorted.

I suggest cheap $42 DAC that works better for me than D30 and it also has a decent HPA (it works well on my 19 Ohm Sennheiser headphones): Nobsound Mini HiFi Sound Card DAC TDA1387 USB 8X Audio Decoding Headphone Amplifier DTS/AC3 Coaxial Optical Digital Output-in Headphone Amplifier from Consumer Electronics on AliExpress - 11.11_Double 11_Singles' Day

With Nobsound TDA1387 DAC I am re-discovering my old music collection and Topping D30 is gathering dust. It is powered by USB and works with Android phones. It is perfect DAC on the go and quite acceptable on desktop and can be even tweaked for better sound.

Then the amp. As discussed above the FX-Audio FX502SPro is very good amp. It triggered protection on the beginning when I had ground loops, but Amir also has ground loops in his measuring gear (as shown in a Totaldac review), so don't be missled by this ASR review. It may use fake opamps, but with no such devastating effect like on D30.

I also have the more expensive Icepower 125ASX2 amp. Initially it was better but Nobsound DAC and FX502SPro seems to be perfect combination. I admit, I use it with Nobsound DAC more frequent than the Icepower. Not bad for a total $100.
 
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linuxfan

Member
2007-12-09 3:09 pm
My D30 ($130) play dominant tones well, but not music.
The initial presentation is positive, but it is fatiguing after 20 minutes.
It's good to hear a well-explained review such as this. Thanks.
Yes, good measurements don't automatically mean good sound. To be fair to the Topping NX4 DSD, though, it uses different DAC technology to the D30.
sajunky, I would love to hear your impressions of the Khadas Tone Board - I'm considering buying this for my second system.

I suggest cheap $42 DAC that works better for me than D30 and it also has a decent HPA
Nobsound Mini HiFi Sound Card DAC TDA1387
Again, it's good to hear real-world impressions from people who listen to these products.

Regarding the FX-502SPRO, yes this is a slight step up from TDA7498 amps (I have compared these, myself)
but then again, there's a newer Chinese TPA325x amp available - the AIYIMA TPA3251
AIYIMA TPA3251 Digital Audio Amplifier HIFI Power Amplifier 2.0 Home Mini Professional Amp NE5532 175W *2 Super TDA7498E/TPA3116-in Amplifier from Consumer Electronics on AliExpress - 11.11_Double 11_Singles' Day

TrueFaith, this brainstorming has yielded some very good bang-for-buck hifi suggestions. It appears the best value DAC/amp may be:
Nobsound TDA1387 + FX-502SPRO (or AIYIMA TPA3251)
 
Bought Fx520Spro earlier, but using Alientek D8, dint cared about using BT, as lossy compression.

D8's USB & Optical is quiet, exceptionally low jitter processor.
Loved it was not just Class-D, as FDA is unadulterated SQ & D8 is Open loop. Feeding with chromecast audio optical & also USB DSD with Xmos processor! Though analog inputs are hissing. Nice solution, amazing SQ.

Fx520Spro SQ slightly brighter lively, opamp could be better. Non friendly as it lack digital inputs, would complicate my audio solution, now as a backup amp in storage. took a look at Sabaj's usb - for me usb-micro-connector is a concern, Sabaj A3 having similar FDA as D8.

Yep, Fx520Spro SQ would be my favorite, if not for lacking spdif Optical & Xmos USB DSD, which complicates my audio solution :D
 
I have a D8, it is a FDA so you don't need a DAC. You have to feed it a digital source.
The RCA inputs on this amp shouldn't be there, they convert the analog sound to digital then back th analog at the binding posts.
The RCA sound is crappy as hell as the digital inputs can do wonders (if you use USB make sure to install the xmos drivers)
One thing that should be noted (it is badly explained), you have to set the eq management to TONE. Strangely TONE is the most neutral, direct has an eq setting... Anything set apart of tone badly colors the sound.
Fot the price you can't go wrong. I have an SMSL A8, it is of course a little better but 5 times the price. I also have a 300B valve amp, a NAD 325 and the D8 is really a good competitor if you respect the little rules to use it (Ditch the RCA, use Digital input only, xmos drivers and set to TONE)
 
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Regarding the FX-502SPRO, yes this is a slight step up from TDA7498 amps (I have compared these, myself)
but then again, there's a newer Chinese TPA325x amp available - the AIYIMA TPA3251
AIYIMA TPA3251 Digital Audio Amplifier HIFI Power Amplifier 2.0 Home Mini Professional Amp NE5532 175W *2 Super TDA7498E/TPA3116-in Amplifier from Consumer Electronics on AliExpress - 11.11_Double 11_Singles' Day

TrueFaith, this brainstorming has yielded some very good bang-for-buck hifi suggestions. It appears the best value DAC/amp may be:
Nobsound TDA1387 + FX-502SPRO (or AIYIMA TPA3251)

That is very good advice, I'm a fan of the TPA32xx family myself. A lot of value for money.
The Tilear xzd-1752 is new to me, but probably just as good or better than the FX 502.
Perhaps a good power supply would be something like this 32V 6A
Yuan Jing Audio - ON SALE! - AC DC Adapter [Universal Switching Mode Power Supply SMPS] [ 32V / 6A ] - USD $26.50 - AC DC Adapter - Switching Mode

I will order a couple of these amps to try.
 

oxoxbyx

Member
2008-06-22 5:15 am
how about I.AM.D V200 ? i ever read review in somewhere in here that pretty good sound, hows it compare to Sabaj A4, it seems both of them use texas instrument chip, is that sonic different when some chip amp labeling with PurePath technology ? or just marketing label?