Topping MX3 via USB


as I`m very new in headphone audio, wanted to reach out and ask your opinion in below case:

iMac (2011)
Topping MX3 (via USB connection)
HE4xx / Grado Sp125
NAS drive with flacs (hardwired network)

El Capitan
VLC player for flac over network
Tidal app (Master - trial account)

So far MX3 was working with PS4/TV for games/netflix through optical (headphones or speakers). No complaints.

Wanted to use MX3 for time being as desktop solution with headphones when I work, before I get something like Zan Dac.
When connected it with USB, big disappointment - all sound below mids was one big distortion. What helped was to lower volume up to:

  • VLC: 2/3rd of app and system volume
  • Tidal: 3/4rs of app and system volume
    and then I got sound which was… well, not distorted, but totally uninvolving. Maybe even the sound was extended to bass and highs, but kind of “empty”. Foot Tapping Factor - ZERO.

After few days of fiddling, I gave up. Just for giggles, today I`ve used bluetooth connection from iPhone 7 - and grabbed my jaw from the floor. Dynamics, extension, involvement - far better than USB.

So, was wondering where the problem is?

  • Topping USB quality is not great - so I`ll get an improvement having Zen Dac in its place?
  • iMac USB is bad because its old (and noisy) so even better dac/amp will suffer?
  • if so, what options would you suggest - keeping this headphone adventure as cost reasonable?

I want to return my MX3 to TV setup.
If Zen Dac (or maybe other??) will suffer via USB - shall I try with signal purification (some magic ifi dongles) or “translation” of USB to eg optical and using doc/amp with optical input - but then, which one?

These still seam more reasonable than buying new comp or phone with better bluetooth AND doc/amp with bluetooth.

Many thanks for your comments!

So, for anyone interested:
it was a fault of MX3.
I`ve treated myself with Zen Dac for my “home office” setup, to keep my ears busy when working.
All problems gone.
And MX3 working properly via optical for my gaming setup.
Case closed :slight_smile:

It’s probably Topping’s Mac os drivers that are the issue, that why most folks that i know prefer optical rather than USB.

but the IFI Zen DAC is way better in my opinion and i have both :smiley:

1 Like

Yup, ZEN delivers… Probably too well for my use case lol. I caught myself rather listening than working this morning :smiley:

Also so interesting to see the difference of ZEN vs AQ Dragonfly RED. With Grados, sounds like proper steak vs vegan patty…

Ya its a great little thing, i love the Xbass button its just a “turbo” button when the right song hits :smiley:
BTW if you like the zen dac and you ever need more power the zen can is pretty awesome, ive got them stacked.

Yup, I know. Now the most important is to see if this step with Zen will have an impact on my work efficiency… If / when I get used to the sound, new cans is the next step - but will probably keep is simple, so rather will go direction of efficient cans.
And when pike season kicks in, I`ll need every penny for new lures… but this is completely other story.

I started out with an MX-3 and I found it to be very good as an all-in-one solution for the desktop. In my case the USB interface worked perfectly. And for me, I think the DAC in this unit sounds fantastic. It may not have a bunch of feaures, but it can do basic tone control and it just sounds great to my ear. Ultimately I went with the SMSL S-8 stack for my speaker setup because the MX-3 as a speaker amp turned out to be a bit under powered for my needs.

So I am currently using the MX-3 as a DAC and Pre-amp to feed a SMSL SP200 for the headphone setup. And at this moment I am not even using the USB interface, I’m using the Bluetooth interface to connect to the source and it sounds great. I’ll get a better DAC eventually but this little MX-3 sounds so good I’m in no rush. I love this thing.