Judging new products based on specs

Perfect entry level DAC Amp for efficient headphones and iems

Ehh, perhaps. I don’t know that it would be my first recommendation for $100, but if you’re really constrained on space, then sure.

But what else do we have at 100€? Fiio K3 Pro and Zen Air are both inferior to this

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  1. Define inferior
  2. Do you have hands on with all three of these products to do side by side comparisons with?
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Just look at the specs. The topping has more power and lower distortion. That’s enough to decide which one to get in this price range

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the Zen Air has distortion on purpose and is one of the reasons they get bought.

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Who want’s distortion on purpose? It’s like getting a TV where 1% of the pixels are dead

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Some harmonic distortions are pleasurable to the ear, hence the case for tubes.

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100% agree getting back to a analog source sound vs analitacly clean is preferred if tubes sound dirty then thow me in the mud Pitt!

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Can’t say I did hear much differences between any 100 buck amp or DAC as long as it’s a good quality one, simply pick one you like the features and optics and you’re good to go for most of them.

Think you could hear differences with gear that would suffice a much better DAC or amp but till now no one I know has ever claimed to hear a difference between a thd+n of .0 and .000 DAC :stuck_out_tongue: but hey if you want those decimals, more power to you ^^

I still use my zen DAC for laptop use with travel HP or powered speakers and have no problem so far with it

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it’s not always about the measurements. it was but hasn’t been for a long time since almost everything performs to such a level it’s no longer be differentiated audibly.

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I assume my old FIIO E10K (usb micro) measures “worse” than any of those you listed yet it has earned its place on my desk even having other Dac/Amps ranging up to 10x the price I paid for it and likely measure much “better”, with certain gear it just clicks, hopefully I can mod it to a USB-C port later to keep it around longer

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yesss, synergy always trumps measurements.

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Good point. At the surface the thought of “intentional” distortion sounds preposterous. But then… LOL! I’m listening to my TA-20 right now and it’s great. There is just something about this amp that is very fun and engaging. I suspect it’s that little bit of perfect imperfection that the 12AU7 offers that sets it apart from the other amps in the system. It’s a wonderful contrast to the THX powered SH-9.

Anyway, back to your normally scheduled topic… :smile:

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…and the entire existence of hard rock, metal and other genres based on “wrong” sounding guitars

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Now you’ve got me thinking of how if you show someone Apokalyptica, they’d never know it was just a bunch of cellos and a drummer.

Yeah, see if you can audition a Zen DAC against a Topping. You should hear the way the Zen has more fullness and warmth. Whether you like it better is taste and can also depend on what you’re pairing it with, but I’d take the iFi product over the Topping personally.

I lean in the same direction that you do, though I wouldn’t categorically choose iFi over Topping for every comparable product. I think the iFi Zen Can is criminally underrated for what it brings to applification.

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Has it though?

I mean their own product marketing talks about “Sift through the noise, breathe in the Air

They speak about it being “super clean” with the op amp copy reading as “As with many other iFi audio products, we’ve incorporated a custom OV Series operational-amplifier. This top-notch component contributes to the extremely low noise, low distortion (0.0001%) and wide bandwidth.” (For reference the topping DX1 measures at 0.0001% also)

Regarding IC & Caps - “Texas Instruments low-noise ICs offer great unity-gain bandwidth, very low noise and distortion” & “TDK C0G (Class 1 ceramic) capacitors… reduce capacitor-induced distortion to vanishingly low levels.”

Regarding the DAC chip inside: “The Burr-Brown True Native® chipset means file formats remain unchanged or ‘bit-perfect’. This means you are listening to music as the artist intended in the format in which it was recorded”

Hard to see how they can keep the above and add harmonic distortion for shits and giggles. It actually looks like they regard distortion as something to eliminate in optimal design. If you have any evidence contrary to this I would love if you could link to it (always welcome to update my knowledge) as from my own experience in the studio adding harmonic distortion in the digital realm (through VST plugins) is more controlled - but that would require a clean DAC for playback. It’s hard to just add second order or even-order harmonic distorion through analogue circuitry without adding distortion in other areas or seriously reducing the audibility before distortion.

Let’s not attribute to engineering skill what seems to just be luck in matching to preferences - preferences that have been derived for the general population through listening on previous systems that contain distortion. Anyone over the age of 30 is guilty of that sensory mismatch.

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Yes, but there is a difference between playing an instrument to create a sound (does not matter about distortion then as we are creating a soundscape) and playing back a recording that already has that sound included, otherwise your layering distortion onto distortion.

There is a reason professionals use PA systems over instrument amps in venues and it’s the same reason I do not play back recorded music through my Vox amp (my guitar preference and well known for coloured playback) even though it costs well over 3x my headphone amplifier or 2x my power amps.

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