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Class D Switching Power Amplifiers and Power D/A conversion

Cheap class D: Topping MX3 vs Alientek D8 vs I.AM.D V200
Cheap class D: Topping MX3 vs Alientek D8 vs I.AM.D V200
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Old 17th October 2019, 12:46 PM   #1
TrueFaith is offline TrueFaith
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Default Cheap class D: Topping MX3 vs Alientek D8 vs I.AM.D V200

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
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Old 17th October 2019, 06:56 PM   #2
robert1325 is offline robert1325  Netherlands
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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.
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Old 17th October 2019, 07:31 PM   #3
TrueFaith is offline TrueFaith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert1325 View Post
...
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.

Last edited by TrueFaith; 17th October 2019 at 08:00 PM.
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Old 17th October 2019, 09:50 PM   #4
robert1325 is offline robert1325  Netherlands
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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.
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Old 18th October 2019, 02:45 AM   #5
forestsgump is offline forestsgump
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrueFaith View Post
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.

Last edited by forestsgump; 18th October 2019 at 02:53 AM.
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Old 20th October 2019, 04:54 AM   #6
linuxfan is offline linuxfan  Australia
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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).
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Old 20th October 2019, 07:28 AM   #7
jean-paul is offline jean-paul  Netherlands
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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
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Old 20th October 2019, 12:29 PM   #8
TrueFaith is offline TrueFaith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linuxfan View Post
...
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)
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Old 20th October 2019, 02:58 PM   #9
linuxfan is offline linuxfan  Australia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrueFaith View Post
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
Quote:
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.
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Old 20th October 2019, 10:19 PM   #10
sajunky is offline sajunky  South Africa
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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.

Last edited by sajunky; 20th October 2019 at 10:35 PM.
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