Review - Topping L30

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 


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IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

The Topping L30 has serious issue in some of its models, see this entry for more information: https://english.achoreviews.com/2021/02/topping-l30-problems-and-their-fixes.html

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Before starting, I would like to point out that this amplifier was offered to me with a 25% discount from the normal price by Shenzen Audio, in exchange for this review. As always, the opinions expressed are my own honest opinions and I have not received anything further in exchange for this review.

The Topping L30 is the latest release from the Chinese audio company Topping. The amplifier is aimed as a match to their DAC, the E30 and costs around 130€ (at the time of writing this), which puts it in direct competition with amplifiers like the JDS Labs Atom and the Schiit Magni or Heresy.

A couple of days ago I posted a short review on the JDS Labs Atom which has formed part of my signal chain practically since its release and has been used to test out all headphones and IEMs that have been through my hands. As I have not yet received the Heresy (yes, I’m still waiting, but it’s only been 6 months since I purchased it), I will use the Atom as a reference point for comparisons in the review.


Presentation…

The amplifier is packaged in a simple white box, with the Topping brand on the top. Inside the box they include the amplifier, a 15VAC power supply, a couple of manuals and, for some reason, a ¼” to 3.5mm TRS adapter.

All in all it is a very simple packaging, with nothing out of the ordinary except for the included adapter, I think this is the first time I have ever received a TRS adapter with an amplifier.

Build and aesthetics…

The unit is a pretty simple black metal box, with a perspex type panel on the front, also black, with two metal toggle switches and a volume control that is plastic but is nicely finished to match the unit. The volume knob has a red accent around it which at least gives it a little touch of colour.

The volume control is located on the right hand side, with the headphone output (¼”) just to the left, with the 2 toggle switches on the left of the front panel.

The letters on the front of the unit are printed in grey, on a black background, and behind the perspex, which makes them rather hard to see. This is not a huge issue as the unit's functionality is rather simple.

Finally, on the front of the unit, there is a small white LED that indicates when the unit is powered on.

On the rear of the unit we find the RCA inputs on the left, the RCA outputs, and then the power socket on the right. These are all clearly labelled with white text, so they are much easier to see than the front panel.

That is it for the unit, except for the 4 rubber feet on the bottom.

The amplifier is quite small and light, with the form factor matching the E30 DAC, as mentioned previously. It is both narrower and slightly shallower than the JDS Labs Atom, while being a little bit heavier due to its metal case.

As always, aesthetics are a very personal thing, but in my own case I like the look of the unit and prefer it to the Atom, although I do find the location of the volume knob and headphone output to be better positioned on the Atom, at least for my personal use scenario.

As far as build quality, here there is no doubt that the Topping L30 is superior to the Atom, the metal case, feeling of the switches, volume knob etc. are all sturdier feeling.


Functionality…

The Topping L30 is a pretty simple unit to operate. As mentioned in the build, there is one unbalanced input and one unbalanced output on the back, with a single headphone output on the front.

What we do get on the L30 is the option to activate the preamp output without having to remove the headphones from the socket. The left toggle switch has 3 positions, off (to power off the unit), HPA (to power the headphones) and PRE (which deactivates the headphone amp and activates the outputs). When in PRE mode, the volume control adjusts the output and can be used for controlling things like desktop monitors or other items that don’t have a (easily accessible) volume control.

The second toggle switch is to control gain. In this case, we get 3 gain levels, -9dB, 0dB and +9dB. This comes in handy when switching between headphones and IEMs with different sensitivities, allowing much more control with the volume knob. I don’t really feel that 3 gain levels were necessary but I am not complaining.

All in all, in comparison to the JDS Labs Atom, the L30 has functions that I prefer but one that I miss., which is the second input. As I noted in my Atom review (you can find it here: Review - JDS Labs Atom), I do find the second input to come in very handy.

In the case of the L30, the second input is not there but they have added a switch for choosing output, something that I miss on the Atom. If a perfect world, I would have liked maybe a fourth position where the headphone amplifier was active and the output was a fixed line out, allowing me to feed it into another headphone amplifier at the same time, but, that is something that is probably only useful for a very small amount of people and not necessarily those that this amp is aimed at.

One thing to keep in mind is that the output is changed with a simple flick of a switch, so be careful with volume levels when doing so. If you are listening to speakers at a high volume and switch to headphones without lowering the volume, this could end up in tears (and vice-versa).

Sound and performance...

Again, as I mentioned in the Atom review, I do not have the equipment to perform measurements of this kind of equipment. For those of you that would like to see the exact measurements, I suggest that you check out Audio Science Review, where they have posted detailed measurements (you can find it here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/topping-l30-headphone-amplifier-review.15226/ ).

As far as my subjective opinion, the Topping L30 is a neutral and transparent amplifier, much the same as the JDS Labs Atom. Personally I cannot tell the difference between the two and any difference I think I do notice in sound, is 99% certain to be inside my head.

In terms of power, the L30 is much more powerful than the Atom, however, I have never really needed to push the Atom to its limits with any headphones I have tried, the max I have run it at is probably around 2 o’clock on high gain, which is more than plenty. That means that the L30 has much more power to spare, so no complaints here.


Conclusions…

As far as measurements, the Topping L30 outperforms anything in its price bracket and those that are above it, such as the THX amps and other very clean amplifiers, at the price of 130€. There is virtually no distortion, no noise, nothing that is not way way below the threshold of human hearing.

As far as my subjective measurements (i.e: my ears), I can’t tell a difference between this and the Atom, as both do incredibly well. If I said I could hear a difference, I would probably be imagining it or just hoping to hear it.

It doesn’t have any fancy things going on, no balanced outputs or inputs, no VU meters, nothing other than simple single ended inputs and outputs, however, what it does do is perform very well.

As I mentioned, I have never found the Atom to be lacking in power but if anyone should need more, the L30 delivers it.

As far as build quality, it is a rather large step up from the Atom in this regard and if stacked with the E30 DAC (which I look forwards to trying), it offers a great little stack that would be more than enough for the majority of people's needs.

I can’t compare it to the Schiit offerings, which is a shame as I think they would be closer in terms of build quality, but I have no doubt that performance wise the Topping would not fall behind.

There are a few good options now for around 200€, such as the Atom Stack, the Schiit Modi+Magni/heresy stack and now this little Topping stack that are all proving that good performance is no longer expensive.

I am very pleased with the purchase of the L30 and it will certainly be sticking around in my system.

SenyorC