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[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro
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Old 30th January 2019, 04:16 PM   #1
Cidious is offline Cidious  Netherlands
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Hangzhou
Default [Modding] Topping DX3 Pro

It has been a while since I posted here since I didn't do any relevant audio projects since my LKS ES9018 and Lehman projects.

My tweaked LKS ES9018 project defected last summer because of an overheated ES9018 chip during summer heat in Hangzhou. I didn't bother to fix it for a long time and ran onboard audio (ES9018K2M) which eventually started bothering me. I started looking for a dac with a newer ES9038Q2M chip since I love the sound of my ES9018. When I was looking into the Topping D50 which has dual ES9038K2M in mono mode and excellent measurements on ASR, I ran into the DX3 Pro in their factory Taobao shop that just came out. Dual AKM AK4493 (upgraded AK4490, which is decent already). DSD512, PCM768, BT5.0, remote control AND powerful headphone amp! The measurements on ASR are near D50 but the featureset of the DX3 Pro is far more extensive. The D50 lacks BT, remote and headphone amp.

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So after some consideration I ordered the DX3 Pro at 12.12 for 1085 RMB (140) and inmediately ordered a 15V/1.5A LPS with it for 360 RMB (45). Even though Amir his measurements on ASR showed that an LPS wouldn't improve sound too much compared to the original 1.0A switching brick. Later I found out that many devices had issues suddenly going into standby mode and topping themselves hinted on using another powersupply to see if the problem was solved. So far on all three of my units (later more on why I have three) I've had NO issues with that so far. So I'm glad I bought a solid powersupply anyway.

I hooked it up straight into my QMS Q5s and was really impressed with the amount of detail and imaging the unit produced. But there were some things I didn't like as much. The treble seemed a bit harsh and crisp out of the box and the bass was lacking in the lower frequencies. It was tight but not deep as the LKS ES9018. Also the soundstage is more narrow and it's less holographic. In general I'd say the ES9018 is more sophisticated and musically pleasing. and the AKM is more analytical and a more in your face with vocals. Don't get me wrong. The ES9018 is a highly tuned DAC carrying all kinds of expensive parts and opamps in class A. So I figured there must be more potential in the AKM. A couple more days of burning in smoothened out the edgy treble a bit but didn't bring out the bass in any way. This is when I decided to hook up my Lehman and it helped but I still felt there is more to be squeezed out of this unit.

[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190130235111-jpg
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190130235044-jpg

And this is where I come to the part that I opened it up and planned to modify it.

In the next posts I'll share my modifications and plans to do so. I hope people get interested and join in. In another forum (which I won't call by name) a lot of people were already making modifications and encouraging eachother to try modifications but some elitarial upperclass started moaning about measurements and complaining about audiophile territory. Hostile environment. So I'm here hoping we can share and contribute and keep it nice and positive.
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Old 30th January 2019, 04:54 PM   #2
Cidious is offline Cidious  Netherlands
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Hangzhou
So when I tried to open the device I ran into some trouble not having a long hex key to reach the bolts in the front. Get this:

2mm x 20mm HEX key
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190130221712-jpg

Can reach the two bolts in the front panel from the back. then flip it over and pull out the board with cable.

So, first thing I wanted to try is to upgrade the opamp in the LPF. Replace the OPA1612 with the rediculously pricey Sparkos SS3602 (690 RMB 80). But I would have to convert the SOP8 socket to DIP8 first with limited space.

[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190131002513-jpg

Sparkos SS3602
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SOP8 to DIP8 adapter. Custom built for low profile
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_201901310025133-jpg

21mm. Will just fit with 22mm of space.
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_201901310025131-jpg

Then disaster struck. I had soldered in the new adapter at night after a dinner and a glass of whiskey or two.. and I broke it out of the socket by accident. don't ask me how. But that kind of ruined a good new board.
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_201901310025134-jpg

I contacted the factory and let them send me a new board and a new display. I also ordered a brand new original unit with that. To use as reference device for my modifications.

The new board went more smooth and careful
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_201901310025136-jpg

DIP8 Socket
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_201901310025137-jpg

SS3602 in socket
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_201901310025138-jpg

Barely fits. I put a bit of isolation tape on the case to be sure.
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_201901310025139-jpg

Result: I felt the sound became more smooth and detailed but the Sparkos opamp wasn't burned in yet and also sounded very dark. After a while of burning in the sound settled and the difference between standard OPA1612 and Sparkos were smaller than before. Maybe the Sparkos sounded a bit more organised and more effortless. I rolled back to a dip8 mounted OP1612 and started looking into other mods to compare to my reference DX3 Pro.
Attached Images
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File Type: jpg WeChat Image_201901310025137.jpg (172.3 KB, 420 views)
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File Type: jpg WeChat Image_201901310025139.jpg (49.5 KB, 397 views)

Last edited by Cidious; 30th January 2019 at 05:13 PM.
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Old 30th January 2019, 05:53 PM   #3
Cidious is offline Cidious  Netherlands
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Hangzhou
How about some photos

[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190127173750-jpg
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Attached Images
File Type: jpg WeChat Image_20190127173750.jpg (970.3 KB, 392 views)
File Type: jpg WeChat Image_201901271737501.jpg (632.1 KB, 381 views)
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File Type: jpg WeChat Image_201901271737504.jpg (744.2 KB, 382 views)
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Old 30th January 2019, 07:33 PM   #4
Cidious is offline Cidious  Netherlands
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Hangzhou
I got myself some nice transformers from a Chinese Taobao shop. The shop started cloning jensen transformers but has it's own products now which are considered better!

Ordered the R3 10k:10K with a little case. Decided to do the wiring myself with some shielded wiring.
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190128130527-jpg
Waiting for some PCB connectors to do it neatly.
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190131021141-jpg

I'll use them as output transformers and bypass the opamp eventually but first I'll try to squeeze everything out this opamp LPF.

If we look at the datasheet of the AK4493 we can see the following recommended schematics for LPF

[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-schematics-png

having 100uf caps on the output instead of the 33uf tantalums that Topping uses. I have replaced them with 100uf Kemet KO-CAP polymers and put two of the 33uf that came free in the 10uf position at the opamp voltage rails.

[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190131022836-jpg
[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190131022850-jpg

I haven't listened to the result yet. I'll be testing it tomorrow against my original reference DX3 Pro with both running OPA1612 to see if it made a positive difference. Direct AB comparisson. I'll try to do it as blind as possible.

[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190131031714-jpg

Further more I'll replace the tantalums around the DAC chips with polymer KO-CAPS and the electrolytes in the USB section with Panasonic 16SVPC100M.

After that I'll have a look at the powersupply and put some polymers in there. 5V and 3.3V.

Making sure ther base of the device is built on good quality components.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg WeChat Image_20190128130527.jpg (132.0 KB, 393 views)
File Type: jpg WeChat Image_20190131021141.jpg (131.8 KB, 385 views)
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File Type: jpg WeChat Image_20190131022836.jpg (156.5 KB, 401 views)
File Type: jpg WeChat Image_20190131022850.jpg (484.6 KB, 377 views)
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Old 31st January 2019, 06:15 AM   #5
Markw4 is offline Markw4  United States
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: California
Too bad you didn't come here a talk to us before you invested so heavily in what you have now. We have learned how to make ES9038Q2M sound exceptionally good. Don't know what else to say except if you have any remaining interest in the little Sabre chip, we have a thread with lots information.
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Old 31st January 2019, 06:40 AM   #6
Cidious is offline Cidious  Netherlands
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Hangzhou
Yeah I can do a sabre project after.

It's just for fun.. Not to reinvent the wheel or find the holy grail.

But just I'd be interested in doing a 9038 project also. If you could recommend me a good base platform that would help.
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Old 31st January 2019, 06:56 AM   #7
Markw4 is offline Markw4  United States
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: California
Well, you can see my test setup as it was a few days ago here: ES9038Q2M Board

We have typically been starting out with a pretty minimal board because there are so many things that need fixing on almost any under $1,000 dac that its just easier to do it that way. A popular board that many people choose is like this: ES9038 Q2M I2S DSD Optical Coaxial Decoder DAC Headphone Output Audio Amplifier | eBay
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Old 31st January 2019, 07:39 AM   #8
Cidious is offline Cidious  Netherlands
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Hangzhou
I have ordered a Khadas Tone board. to compare the ES9038 to my AK4493.

I'll have a listen and see what I find between these two.

And then decide if I'll do another 9038 project. So far I really like the sound signature of the AKM chip. VELVET sound and it performs superb with DSD.
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Old 31st January 2019, 08:44 AM   #9
eljoantonyn is offline eljoantonyn  India
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Jan 2014
Please let us know as the Khadas Tone Board is well tested and liked in the audioscience forum. Would be interesting to get a subjective opinion as the audioscience forum cares for the objective measurements only. Very little on the subjective side.
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Old 31st January 2019, 09:11 AM   #10
Cidious is offline Cidious  Netherlands
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Hangzhou
I just tested the capacitor mods of the AKM output and the 2 small ones at the voltage rails of the opamp.

AB testing OPA1612 against each other. with just thoses caps changed.

Tested with DSD512 and PCM44.1

Conclusion: More bass wider sound stage and a more holographic sound. Meaning depth. Feels like it opened up more.

Definitely recommended!

Then I rolled in Sparkos SS3602 and the whole thing became more effortless and organic. Musical. Less clinical than the clean OPA1612.

Both mods make the device more sophisticated than the original. More controlled and more open and deeper sounding.

It's hard to put sound perception into words.

[Modding] Topping DX3 Pro-wechat-image_20190131163952-jpg
Attached Images
File Type: jpg WeChat Image_20190131163952.jpg (126.2 KB, 344 views)
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