(Disclaimer: sample Topping A50 provided by HIFI college store)
Topping is perhaps the most famous and respected Chinese company that has been able to enter the world market with products that can compete with well-known global brands not only in terms of build quality and components, but also sound. The Topping A50 headphone amplifier is a representative of the most successful, in our opinion, symbiosis of design, sound and price, the middle model of the A series (there are three models in the line: A30, A50, A90).
The TOPPING A50 produces an output power of 2200mW and has an optional gain settings of 0dB/9dB that can power a wide variety of headphones. It also comes with an ultra-wide frequency response of 20Hz-200kHz that exceeds both CDs and the Hi-Res certification to provide you with a detailed music performance.
The body of A50 is quite small, has a one-piece construction with no visible screws, they can only be seen underneath, so the fit and finish are excellent. It really looks and feels like a high-quality product, many often compare it to Mac mini from Apple, and this really is the case. In general, Topinig’s approach can also be compared to Apple in everything except price, Topping gives the maximum quality for reasonable money.
The A50 is built out of CNC Aluminum with a thermal conductive column to dissipate heat from the power supply and OP-Amp through the entire outer casing. On the front, it is equipped with single-end and balanced headphone outputs – 6.35mm single end, 3.5mm single end, and 2.5mm balanced headphone jacks. On/Off button, long press turns on/off device, a short press with change the gain setting from low (0dB – unity gain) to +9 dB (for more experience using headphones with different sensitivity). There is also a digital volume control wheel on the front panel, and that is it.
On the back, A50 has one RCA input, one RCA output and there is a 15V DC input. By the way, Topping has a special high-quality linear power supply unit P50, which is recommended for use together with A50 amplifier and Topping D50s (DAC), we will tell about P50 in another article, because the device deserves special attention.
Two OP-Amps LME49720 are included with sockets in the A50 for DIYers to switch them up to produce a different kind of sound and the power of A50 is stabilized by TI TPS7A33/47 low-noise linear regulator. To fix the problem of unbalanced small volume and reliability after long-time use, the A50 digitizes the volume knob position and transmits the data to the JRC1195 for precision volume controlling.
Topping took care of the upgrade lovers and installed their lme49720 opamp on the DIP-8 sockets so that you can replace them with something better. In the near future, we will try to test the A50 with one of the top opamps from Burson Audio – V6 Vivid.
Looking ahead let’s say that even in the default setting the device will provide the maximum experience in this price category (169$) and definitely will not leave anyone indifferent.
For the test we took a really serious task for any amplifier, a full-sized Hifiman Sundara which were used through 2.5mm balanced output. We don’t think it’s worth talking about the power of A50, it really is enough to warm up anything (2200mW), especially from the balanced output, we listened Sundar at almost half the power, and it was already very loud.
Probably, many will look at A50 as their first headphone amplifier, or as a transition to the middle level. For example, you listened to the built-in amplifier in your DAC for a long time (usually, built-in DAC amplifiers are below average or middle level, if we talk about the price range up to $300), or you had some inexpensive separate headphone amplifier, for example at a price of up to $100. In this case Topping A50 is something that will make you feel the difference right away, and the quality of this difference will be expressed at least in a faster heart rate. Yes, if you want to understand what the wow effect is, the A50 will perfectly show you what it really is.
In general, A50 sounded linear, without any sound color, such as a good amplifier should have. Here we should talk about the scene, the air and the density of details, and this is where the A50 starts to do something really fantastic. You get direct-feel spaciousness and soundstage, the rare case when this is felt almost physically. Live instruments fall into place while acquiring a high density, the scene is incredibly wide and have truly 3D effect, at the same time thanks to its resolution is well analyzed and readable. An incredible amount of air in the space fills your favorite tracks, instruments acquire a pleasant vibration in the space created by the A50.
One of the main features of the A50 is emotionality. Very subtle and delicate presentation of nuances that are difficult to convey in words. In the track Luis Salinas – Dulce, the A50 seemed to have opened a new facet, and now, thanks to the distinct dynamics and the correct scene, you immediately understand what was “told” in this instrumental track. Yes, A50 really knows how to surprise here.
Topping A50 is really nice amplifier, with an emotional and airy presentation in a small and high quality metal case. He will show you what role quality amplification plays in the audio path for an affordable price.
We can only note one flaw, the A50 does not have a preamp function, the rear outputs are simply through, which means that the input signal is sent directly to the RCA output when the A50 is turned off. Thus, if you do not have any DAC that has a volume control, then you will need to control it using the software on your device. Otherwise, we find the A50 to be one of the best headphone amp choices available today in the under $200 price range.
- Outputs : 6.5mm, 3.5mm, 2.5mm balanced
- Frequency response : 20-40kHz
- SNR : 123dB
- THD+N : 0.0006% (unbalanced) / 0.0004% (balanced)
- Gain : Low (0dB) / High (9dB)
- Output Impedance : 4.7Ω (unbalanced) / 9.4Ω (balanced
- Output power : 1110mW @ 32Ω (unbalanced) / 2200mW @ 64Ω (balanced)