Topping DX5 DAC/AMP

Tiny excellence?

Pros: Price
MQA Unfold

Cons: Couple glitches
Long-term longevity question

DX5 Front.jpg


Imagine my surprise, while shopping for an all-in-one DAC/AMP (small desk space) with 4-pin XLR and MQA unfolding, when I came across the Topping DX5. The number of products that meet all of those requirements is much smaller than you would imagine. My surprise was not that Topping makes one that meets all of these requirements since I owned the EX5, my surprise was that the DX5 has MQA unfolding, but the DX7 does not. Why make your TOTL DAC/AMP without MQA, but your middle-ground DAC/AMP has it? Does it matter a whole lot? No, because Tidal will software unfold. Does hardware unfolding make music sound better? Yeah, at least subjectively, it does – and, as a Tidal subscriber, why would I not want the best possible quality from my music? So, for under $500, and in a really compact package with a powerful amp and solid DAC, how does the DX5 perform? Really well, read below for more details.

Dx5 Back.jpg

Build Quality / Design / Specs (1.75/2):

The build quality of the DX5 is classic Topping. You get a decent-quality aluminum chassis with a nice clicky button on the front. The only real issue with the build quality of this unit is the weight. The DX5 is very lightweight, normally a desirable trait, but for a DAC/AMP, it’s kind of annoying – plugging in anything requires you to hold on to the DX5 so it doesn’t slide off your desk and become a heavy paperweight on the floor. I like the white screen that comes with the DX5 over the orange screen on the EX5. It’s a better aesthetic and it displays useful information, including the MQA wording in the upper right when you’re connected using MQA (more on that later.) This is more convenient than the EX5’s classic color-changing LED with the Magenta color showing MQA connection (also, mine stopped doing MQA after a month or two.) Oh, and the volume knob works when you turn it and doesn’t skip around like the Burson.

The new body shell looks really good unless you have an all-square aesthetic in your listening space. If you have a rounded these, then the DX5 makes perfect sense. Also, due to its size, it will fit just about anywhere, so you don’t really have to worry too much about whether it will fit your setup. The black body with a silver button and white light looks really good. I worry a little bit about the DX5’s longevity as the reliability and quality of their products have been known to have some issues before. Any issues though and you can probably return it or have it swapped out – and at the very least it’s much cheaper than a lot of other options (Burson 3XP for instance.)

As far as power goes, the DX5 can put out 1.8k W at 30 ohms in both balanced XLR4 and unbalanced 6.35mm with 250 mW at 300 ohms. That’s nowhere near as much as the Burson 3X Performance (3XP) puts out in balanced XLR4, so the DX5 may not be your Susvara DAC/AMP (honestly, I’d be surprised if it was.) It does however power the thirsty DCA Ether 2 past an uncomfortable listening level without any issues. The DX5 can connect through Bluetooth for input if you don’t want to use the USB cable to a computer. There are also RCA and 3-pin XLR outs for speakers or connecting it to another amp for more power. There is also optical and coaxial in – so it’s a really good package that can account for most headphone/small powered-speaker setups.

Accessories (2/2):

There are not a lot of accessories that something like this needs. It has a plastic remote (at least it has one), and USB B-A cable, a 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter, a BT antenna, and a power cable with instructions. While this sounds pretty sparse, the $800 Schiit Bifrost cannot do MQA, comes with a power cable, and a metal remote that I never used because it doesn’t really do much besides switch inputs – and that’s it. At least the Topping remote turns it on and off. The Topping also came with a USB cable, which is $20 extra from Schiit (seriously, who has extra USB B cables sitting around anymore?) The Burson comes with a 1.5ft USB cable – tiny. So, overall the DX5 has a good accessory package compared to much more expensive DAC/AMPs.

DX5 Box.jpg

Software / Setup / Ease of Use (1.75/2):

Easy. When I first plugged it in, Windows didn’t recognize it. That’s pretty common. All you have to do is go to Topping’s site, download and install the Topping software, then once it sees the DX5, install the new firmware. That’s it. Could it be easier? Yes. Could it be more specific to the product and require less digging around on the Topping site? Yep, but it is WAY better than the experience from Burson and only slightly worse than Schiit.

After that’s taken care of, open Tidal, select the output device, go to settings and enable Software Decode Disabled and Exclusive Mode and you’re done. That’s it – you should now see the MA symbol in the upper right corner. There is a weird bug that says 44.1 kHz still with MQA active, even after changing the sound settings output to the correct value. It doesn’t seem to impact anything though.

Hit play on Tidal – enjoy the music. There’s not much to it than that. Change your input with the remote if you need to. Or add filters, or turn up the volume with the remote or the knob on the front – something Schiit charges you $300 to do with a separate module. Easy. Cheaper. Nice.

Performance / Sound (1.75/2):

Really good. You can argue all day about how a DAC or amp changes the sound. Nitpicks aside, the Burson sounds really good also. The DX5 sounds great for this price – possibly more “full” than the Burson – warmer. The Burson sounds more neutral with a bigger soundstage and more clarity/detail. The DX5 is More fun. I (barely) prefer the sound of the Burson, but that’s just me – the Burson has more power if you need it and you can op amp roll if that’s your thing. I don’t know if it’s the hardware MQA unfold or just a different sound from the DX5s DACs, but I really like the sound of the DX5 – oh, and it’s 1/3rd the price of the Burson. The Burson and Bifrost sound really similar to each other, but the cheaper DX5 is a different quality of sound that costs a lot less.

Comparisons / Price (2/2):

I’ve already brought up the 3XP and the Bifrost and covered the differences between those and the DX5. The DX5 excels in everything except for weight/build quality/finding the software to install. That’s really good against these competitors. Oh, and it has MQA unfold if that’s your thing (I like it.) The only other DAC/AMP I’ve tried that even comes close to the DX5 at this price is the ifi Micro iDSD Signature. It costs more, but is portable, has a battery, and has a bunch of other features like bass boost and IEM settings in addition to MQA unfold. It’s the only thing I would rate higher than the DX5 in this price range, but it still costs a few hundred more. At this price, I don’t think you can do better, even with other Chinese DAC/AMPs like SMSL, xDuoo, and FIIO (I couldn’t even get the K9 Pro ESS to work.) The next step above this might be from Mytek, Matrix, or Questyle – but they cost a LOT.


Best under $500. I think that pretty much sums it up. If you’re streaming Tidal, use 4-pin XLR, and aren’t trying to power the Vatican: The Topping DX5 is the DAC/AMP for you.

Wolfhawk’s Rating: 9.25/10


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