DAC & DAP Review

TOPPING D50S DAC (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

This is an unscheduled follow up to a recent review I did on the desktop DAC from Topping, the D50s

You can see the full Topping D50s review in all its glory here via this link. In short though I liked the DAC a lot during that initial review. The build quality was good with a rather luxurious feel. It had a solid, CNC kinda feel in the hand. Especially for the price which is around £250. It was also fully featured with coax and optical ports sitting next to USB. Bluetooth was also added.

In sound terms I liked the performance a lot. Again, for the overall price and for the amount of facilities on offer.

The only technical issue – well, at that time I didn’t even see it as a real issue – was that the sound sound cut out on one occasion during play. This was while I was connected to the coax socket. 

At that time, I assumed that the problem was me. During the review, I was swopping cables in and out of the hifi chain, changing DACs to do A-B comparisons, moving and shoving things around and the like. I assumed that the cut out occurred because I hadn’t pushed in my coax cable sufficiently onto the D50s socket  This has happened to me before, in a past review of another product,  so there was a precedent.

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

It was after the video review was published that two YouTube channel members contacted me on separate occasions to report a possible issue with that coax socket. One channel member stated that he’d heard of issues occurring from Topping D50s users posting on social media. Another actually owned a D50s and also reported the same problems. A third reported no problems at all but I subsequently found the reason was that he never used the coax port. This third channel member did a quick sound test and, sure enough, triggered sound drop outs via the coax port. 

The reported sonic issue included repeated and regular sound drops during play while in coax mode. 

I then looked around the Internet and found other users reporting similar issues on a host of other forums. 

I hadn’t experienced such persistent behaviour but I did wonder about the coax sound cut out that I had experienced. 

So I hooked the D50s to my hi-fi again and sat down for an extended session. It didn’t take long for the sound drops to occur. I was using a CD from Alison Moyet, her Greatest Hits. A CD I had used within the original review. 

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

More disturbingly, as time progressed, a pattern started to form where each sound drop would occur every few minutes. Once per track. The sound would cut out into silence for a second or two and then the music would continue as normal. The next track would start, two or three minutes would pass and the drop out would occur again. Same thing. A second or two of silence and then the music would continue.

Obviously, this was a problem.

To try to get the the bottom of this issue, rather than approach Topping directly in their HQ within China and possibly hit a brick wall of silence or PR speak, I tried an alternative method. One that I hoped would bring better results. 

In the UK, Topping is distributed by a respected company called Electromod. Electromod has been distributing top brands like Schiit, Dan Clark headphones and more for many years. 

Their Topping account was a fairly recent one.

To be honest, in cases such as this, the protocol is that you approach your local distributor first anyway. It’s polite, shall we say. 

Nevertheless, I also hoped that talking to Electromod would prove useful. Firstly, Electromod would have contacts on the inside of the company. Contacts I’m not aware of. Electromod would also have an open channel of communication. Finally and more critically, both Electromod and Topping have a financial connection and commitment. Hence, any queries from this distributor will probably hold more sway and influence in a company like Topping. Far more than liddle ol’me, at any rate.

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

So I reported the issue to Electromod and it was very concerned indeed. As you might expect. This is a company that’s trying to sell Topping’s D50s DACs, in the UK market, don’t forget. 

Electromod said that it would get on the case, contact Topping and promised to get back to me in a few days with more information and any news of a possible solution.

After a raft of email exchanges with Topping, Electromod has issued this statement based upon information issued to it via Topping itself, 

“As the UK distributor of many brands, we take product issues very seriously. Since Paul alerted us to the Topping DAC issue, we emailed Topping Audio to try and find out more. Unfortunately, Topping has said that that it cannot resolve the issue. Reportedly, the audio problems heard with the D50s DAC are caused by the Cirrus Logic receiver chip. According to Topping, this chip will struggle to work efficiently if faced with an unstable or irregular signals also called Jitter. This audio issue effects all Topping DACS featuring the Cirrus Logic receiver chip which including the D50s, DX7pro, D30Pro and the new batch of the E30 DACs. According to our tests, this audio drop out issue does not affect other inputs, only the coaxial input. If you have purchased a Topping DAC through Electromod and are having any issues, please call/email us to discuss it further.”

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

Before I go any further, I want to thank Electromod for their efforts in contacting Topping and being so proactive when faced with my queries. They did everything they could to help and I applaud them for being so co-operative.

The fact that Topping “cannot” sort the problem is interesting. Note the term “cannot”. Not “will not” but “cannot”. So maybe Toping has been forced into a corner here? The company didn’t elaborate so we can only speculate. 

It’s possible that the Cirrus Logic chip purchase is a major financial commitment so maybe there is no budget for a replacement. 

Topping has used AKM receiver chips in the past but, since the 2020 fire which partly destroyed and wholly disabled the AKM factory, that option is a no longer available. AKM products are rare right now because they are currently only being produced in limited numbers by licensed third parties and, because of that, can only be had at inflated prices. Inflated due to demand. The sort of prices that car companies, for example, can afford but hifi manufacturers cannot. And car companies are – so I hear – making sure that they get their AKM chip supplies. Which doesn’t leave many left for hi-fi outfits.

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

That situation will remain so for some time while AKM rebuilds. So maybe the choices to replace the Cirrus Logic with an alternative chip are few and far between. I don’t know. Again, I’m speculating.

So, to remind you, the reported issue is with the Cirrus Logic Receiver chip. In this case, the CS8416 which is a sort of digital management chip that does various bits of housekeeping around the DAC, shall we say.

To find out more and to try to find an alternative viewpoint, I called Cirrus Logic itself. I wanted them to make the case for this chip in the sake of balance. 

But I failed to find the right people. I called two of the company’s HQ sites in an effort to find the experts I needed. As I say, I wanted the company to offer their side of the story. But that didn’t happen.

It’s possible that staff are not available right now because of the current world situation. Maybe they’re unavailable because they people I needed to contact are working off site. I wish I could provide a detailed explanation on that.

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

I’m sure, if I persisted over the weeks and months, I’d eventually find the people I needed to talk to but time defeated me and I felt that my priority here was to let as many owners and prospective owners of the D50s DAC know the technical issues before the story itself grew stale and more people bought this seemingly faulty design.

What I did obtain was a design document for the Cirrus Logic CS8416 chip which had a date on it: August 2007. This is not a rare document and can be accessed by anyone who seeks it out. As far as I’m aware – and I’m happy to be corrected here – there may have been tweaks but no major or fundamental redesigns of this chip since this time so it represents a mature technology. 

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

That being the case, I’m not sure why such a mature chip should suddenly decide to fail and become a problem. During my  – admittedly – relatively brief time researching the chip, I couldn’t find other examples where the Cirrus Logic CS8416 chip was causing similar sonic issues within other hi-fi components. Again, I’d be very happy to be corrected on that point if you can provide evidence to the contrary. 

So that part of the statement confuses me. 

Still confused, I went back to the Topping DAC, which was still connected to my hi-fi and decided to do a range of additional tests to try to see if I could find any other answers of my own. 

So I changed other variables around my digital chain to see if that caused problems. 

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

I shut down my hi-fi. I wondered if there was an initial coax locking issue and if powering up each component at different times might have an affect on obtaining a coax lock. So I powered on the DAC first, then my CD transport. But the drop outs still occurred. So I switched it around. I switched on the CD transport first, then the DAC. No change. 

I then swopped around the filters in the DAC itself without any affect. I switched the Bluetooth on and off to see if that was causing interference but no, it wasn’t.

I even swopped the direction of the digital cable I was using but that didn’t alter anything.  

I then changed the cable itself From Cable No.1 to Cable No.2. And you know what? This time there were no sound issues at all. None. Everything worked fine. There were no issues. The DAC worked perfectly.

So was the cable change the answer then? I played more Alison Moyet tracks using Cable No.2 and everything sounded great. Again, no issues. No drop outs. I then played a much older CD from Ryuichi Sakamoto. Again, no issues, no drop outs. Everything was fine.

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)

So I changed the cable again to a third reference example, Cable No.3. I played my selected CDs again and had another listen.

Everything was fine. No drop outs and no issues.

So I went back to the original cable, Cable No.1 – the problem child. The cable that had started all of the problems and possibly triggered all of the drop outs in the first place and you know what? It worked fine! It ran perfectly! There were no drop outs. No cut outs. No problems in any way and I played track after track and swopped CDs and everything was just hunky dory!

So, maybe the cables were not the issue after all, then.

My last test related to time. Maybe the was a warm up issue? Maybe the reason that the DAC was working fine all of the sudden was because it had warmed up? Maybe the problem occurred when the DAC ran cold?

D50S DAC FROM TOPPING (PT.2: THE RECKONING)
 

So I disconnected everything. I switched everything off. I walked away and came back the next day. I came back to a system which, the last time I used it, was working perfectly. I started it up once more and ran it, stone cold.

I turned everything back on, played the same music with the same set of cables and…everything worked fine. 

So – obviously confused – I tried to ‘break’ the DAC signal. I disconnected the coax cable and reattached it again to break the ‘lock’. Everything worked fine. So I moved to USB, then optical, then Bluetooth and back to coax to break that lock again. When I arrived back at the coax connection. Everything worked fine. So I disconnected and connected the RCA sockets, no change. Everything worked fine. 

Once more, I changed the coax, this time back to another cable. Again, everything was fine. I changed CD players, I changed more CDs and then I ran out of ideas.

Does the error work itself out after several hours of constant use? Possibly At a very rough case, 24 hours of constant use in my case.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that if you have a Topping D50s running it in for 24 hours or more will cure the problem. It also doesn’t rule out the problem springing up again later. I’m not saying that this is a cure, let me emphasise that. 

Maybe my so-called solution was a fluke, a quirk and nothing more than that. Having said that, it’s worth a try if you’d like to keep hold of this DAC.

Its also worth changing your coax cable, of course. Try that too.

CONCLUSION

So what do I conclude from this series of tests? 

Well I find the whole operation deeply unsatisfactory. I find it wholly frustrating that I have not managed to find a solid solution. 

Based on the listening tests I have run through and gamut of tweaking and switching around I’ve done here, the DAC appears to work fine after running in for a time. Lets say 24 hours as a rough guesstimate, in my case.

I say “appears”, because I have absolutely no faith at all that the problem has been solved. None. The issue may very well come back again tomorrow, next week or next month. That’s because the issue appeared to correct itself. I nor anyone else did anything to fix – if that’s even the right word – this thing. If the DAC can correct itself then it can also break itself again.   

Of course, I will keep my eyes and ears open to future developments from Topping and will update you if I hear more but let me say this. If you own a D50s and wish to use the coax socket – and not everyone does let me remind you some users don’t touch the coax – I hope that these tests at least helped to dispel a few theories and even offer a measure of optimism that your troublesome D50s can and possibly will be fully functional.

If you don’t own a Topping D50s but were thinking about buying one, would I recommend you hand over your cash for this DAC? No, absolutely not. Not while the underlying issue with the coax socket remains in the air. There are plenty of other options out there. Choose one of those. That, final thought has been reflected in the rating below.


TOPPING D50S DAC

Price: £250

Website: www.electromod.co.uk 


GOOD: insightful mids, organic bass, easy to use, build, Bluetooth play

BAD: filters, USB sound output, coax port techie issue

RATING: 5


REFERENCE

Apple MacBook

Apple iPhone

Astell&Kern AK120 (Red Wine Modded) DAP

Audiolab 6000CDT

iFi Zen DAC

Audiolab 6000A amplifier

Spendor A1 speakers

Tellurium Q & QED cabling

Blue Horizon Professional Rack System

Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Ian Barber
    29th June 2021 at 3:30 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Many thanks for trying to get to the bottom of this review, which is much appreciated.
    I am looking to upgrade my Dacmagic Plus, so this D50S would be on my list, as well as the updated version of the DacMagic Plus, which is the 200M. Ok, so the 200M is currently listed as around £450 in price, but there are no stocks,yet,in the UK as far as I am aware. I like the extra connectivity of the 200m, which has coax inputs and outputs as well as balanced etc,etc and I do use a coax output occasionally to go to a recorder. But if the D50S is that good or better than the 200M, in your opinion, that would leave me a quandary. As an aside, I too use the 6000CDT( and I am on my second one) the problem was that the remote would not work with the first unit, whereas the shop I bought it from ( Sevenoaks hi-fi in Hove) tried mine on their demo CDT and it worked fine. Ok, so I decided to get a completely new CDT with remote, from one of their other shops just to make sure. Sadly, the new remote did not work well, either( this was Christmas/New Year holiday period 2019. So, I decided, as everyone was closed for the holiday period, to leave the DAC powered 24/7( which it still is to this day ) and use the CDT/remote nearly every day for background music, using the remote all the time, rather than the on-board controls on the CDT. Remarkably, after doing this ‘running-in’ for some three weeks, the remote started working and still is as I write. So, it must have been a dry joint,or the control buttons needed to be used before they would function properly. So, maybe, this is the problem with the D50S coaxial input. Anyway, full marks to Sevenoaks Hi-Fi and to Audiolab for their help. Cheers Ian

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      29th June 2021 at 3:37 pm

      It’s certainly a thought, Ian and thanks for pitching in. Only issue is that Topping itself acknowledges the problem as does its UK distributor which has also confirmed the problem via its own tests. And Topping is blaming a Cirrus Logic chip and the issue apparently started when it shifted over from AKM chips to Cirrus Logics. But look, it could very well be a factory issue like dry joints or possibly some related issue that’s in the dry joint circle of influence that only the current installation of CL chips has brought to light. Almost by accident. Who knows? That is, the CL chips might not be the actual problem. So your down-and-dirty manufacturing point may very well be valid indeed, even if tangentially 🙂

  • Reply
    Ian Barber
    29th June 2021 at 10:02 pm

    Thanks Paul.
    I suppose the only question is this : Have the UK distributor and Topping themselves had one like yours, where it has,apparently, cured itself through use/swopping cables backwards and forwards etc ? Surely, it would not take much for one of their engineers to take the coaxial socket apart and re-assemble/test which might prove that it was in fact the socket assembly that was to blame ? If they have already done so, no problem, but it does seem very convenient to blame the non-standard chip assembly rather than the socket assembly ? Ok, so the problem, they say, has only appeared since the change to the different chip assembly. However, it might just be that the current chip needs to be assembled in a slightly different way between it and the wiring to the socket ? Sounds to me like they expect a supply of the original chips from the new factory later this year, so they are not going to waste time and money sorting-out the current problems which , in theory, should sort itself out when the assembling uses the newly manufactured original chip design. Or, they may decide to manufacture an improved version of the original which may show up the problem, or make more problems for the assembly team on the production line.
    Meanwhile, customers will have moved-on to other makes/models killing the ‘market’ for the D50S… Hope I am wrong, though.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      30th June 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Agreed, Ian. I have slight issues with the ‘let’s blame the chip’ stance adopted by Topping. As I mentioned in the review. And the fact that the company ‘cannot’ fix this issue also raises all kinds of options and questions. Some of which you’ve asked here. As for the ‘killing’ of the D50s market? Yep, it’s almost as if Topping has fulfilled a legally-binding contract in terms of production numbers, cast the DAC adrift and moved on (again my speculation but that’s how it feels to me).

  • Reply
    Ian Barber
    30th June 2021 at 2:03 pm

    Yes, very relevant. So, a D60S no doubt, if there is not one already ?
    I would think they would be aiming for a slightly larger model, with room for balanced xlr outputs, as well as coax,optical and RCA, with the usual inputs ? But it could all be a dream( Topping )……

  • Reply
    Thom
    8th August 2021 at 1:49 am

    Hello,
    I have a 2021 Topping E30 with this new CS8416 Chip handling spdif instead of the AKM. I have tried 4 old 90’s CD players (opt and coxaial) A mid 2000’s Pioneer DVD and all have skipping/stutter issue’s. I have an old Sony blu ray deck that works with it via Coaxial.

    I am planning to get a 6000CDT but fear it will have the same skip problem. Topping have now even put notices on forums and Amazon sites about these dac’s not recommended for CD Player’s!

    I am using a 1m Amazon basics Coaxial cable that has no issue with my other stuff.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      9th August 2021 at 11:29 am

      Many thanks for the update, Thom. I wouldn’t use the coax socket at all in the D50, now. It’s fine for the USB port but not coax. I’d look for a different DAC for CD transport use.

  • Reply
    Albert Duetting
    13th August 2021 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Paul, thank you for this great article. I was just thinking about buying a D50S.In my current config i have an old FX-AUDIO DAC X6 (which i just use as a DAC, connected to my PC by coax) and a Musical Fidelity LX2 HPA headphone amp. This week i took an old Sony player, connected it to the FX by coax and played some SACD. Remarkable: While the playback from PC was perfect (Amazon Music HD), i got the same drops you are writing about! Tested some times with same result, no drops from PC signal, one drop during SACD playback for 1-2 seconds. Seems like this problem can be found on more device manufacturers, not only Topping.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      14th August 2021 at 12:48 pm

      Indeed, thanks for that Albert,

  • Reply
    Matthew Parris
    30th August 2021 at 12:16 pm

    “I have a 2021 Topping E30 with this new CS8416 Chip handling spdif instead of the AKM. I have tried 4 old 90’s CD players (opt and coxaial) A mid 2000’s Pioneer DVD and all have skipping/stutter issue’s. I have an old Sony blu ray deck that works with it via Coaxial.”

    Just like this post, I am in the same boat. Coax input only works with an old Sony Blu-ray player. Toslink from an old upmarket Pioneer DVD player doesn’t work; Toslink output from my fanless NUC (Realtek Digital Output) DOES work.

  • Reply
    alan grimshaw
    12th September 2021 at 10:18 pm

    i have just received my e30 yesterday and it too drops out on both optical and coax, using a audiolab cdt6000 and tried with 3 different sets of cables with nojoy, i then tried it on my cambridge cxc cd transport and it was even worse with more dropouts i will leave it switched on for 24 hours and see if there is any change.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      13th September 2021 at 11:31 am

      Thanks for the report, Alan.

  • Reply
    Roberto Salazar
    23rd September 2021 at 3:35 pm

    Compré un e30 ayer, y es mucho sobresalto con mis compacteras Nad y Yamaha. Veremos si mejora hoy dia, sino tendré que devolverlo.

  • Reply
    Alban Hertroys
    24th September 2021 at 11:23 am

    I have a D50S connected to a HDMI audio extractor (some cheap Tohikil) at the COAX connector for PCM audio from my TV. I haven’t noticed any of these sound dropouts. It’s not even connected using a “proper” digital COAX cable, I’m just using one half of an analog stereo CINCH cable at the moment.

    Considering that Topping mentions jitter as a cause, perhaps it could be explained by clock phase differences between the devices at both ends of the cable? I expect that a stream of bits that gets pushed to the DAC out-of-phase with the DAC’s own clock could lead to periods of time where the DAC gets its bits at (or too close to) the up- or down-flank of the square wave form and fails to synchronize. That would be especially problematic if the devices at both ends of the cable run at different clock speeds – in fact, it would be very hard to reproduce if they’d run at exactly the same speeds.

    Then again, I would expect those symptoms to be repeatable regardless of the cable used, unless perhaps my low-quality cable smoothes out the square-waves enough that the timing issue is invisible to the DAC?

    Or perhaps I have a revision where they fixed the problem? I bought mine only a few weeks ago. The barcode at the side reads 2010545271.

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