Topping A30, Burson Audio V5i Opamp Upgrade
Listening to the A30 and comparing it some more with the other great amps I have I will say that the A30's shortcomings do come out at times. I was just listening to Vilvadi's Four Seasons and comparing back and forth with the THX and the THX is much cleaner during busy crescendos and/or when there are dynamic demands placed on the amp. The A30 still does admirably with the Bursons but it definitely compresses a little and the articulation and separation that the THX has is lacking. It's hardly a fair comparison but I thought I would update because my first impressions of the A30 with the mod were so glowing. I still think it's an excellent bargain setup and I'm keeping it in the stable.
I was pretty impressed by the Topping A30/D30 combo. For the price point it sounded pretty good. Very neutral and accurate. It has plenty of power. But it can sound a little veiled in the highs. After reading a lot of other reviews I thought I'd take a stab at swapping out the opamps. The TI OPA 2134's by all accounts are very competent opamps so I wasn't sure if switching them out would make a difference and a lot of people seem to frown on the idea and seem to be of the opinion that they all do the same thing. That may be the case.
On a scope perhaps they all just amplify voltage and the 2134's do this very well with very little distortion. All I can say with absolute certainty is that swapping them out in my Topping A30 made a huge improvement in the sound quality. It pulled away the veil. It sounds cleaner and clearer than previously. Sonically, pushing my HD6xx's and HD58x Jubilees, it's now very very similar to my Emotiva BasX A100 (resistor bypass jumpers installed). Side by side you can tell the Emotiva has more to give. It has more headroom and is trying so much less hard. But, it's close. The Emotiva has more immediacy and is a little cleaner in its delivery (to the point of almost sounding clinical/sterile) but the Topping really gives it a run for its money now. I suppose it should considering that with the Burson opamps the A30 is now about $180.
So if anyone wants a very very nice sounding stack and doesn't have the desktop real estate to dedicate to the Emotiva I highly recommend the Topping A30/D30 combo. Fit and finish of both the A30 and D30 is excellent. I can't compare the Topping to other similar offerings by Schiit, SMSL, JS Audio etc because I have no personal experience with them. What I can say is that, particularly with the Burson opamps installed I am back to listening to the music instead of trying to figure out where the weak link is in my audio chain. I didn't intend to be a headphone hobbyist. I just wanted a pair of headphones that gave me similar enjoyment to my main stereo without breaking the bank. Little did I know how difficult that was going to be.
Caveat: The A30 is perhaps not the best candidate if you need a low output impedance amp. My current collection consists of HD6xx's, HD58x Jubilees, Monolith M560's, and M&O Beryllium driver bluetooth headphones (used wired at 32ohms). Here's what's interesting, the only pair that didn't play nice with the A30, or the Emotiva for that matter, was the M560's. I kind of expected this with the Topping but not the Emotiva.
As a side note, the only amp I have that sounded good with the M560's was the headphone out of my Parasound Zamp v.2. I was so relieved that I got that figured out. I was starting to think that everyone saying how great the M560's sounded were lying or that I got a defective pair.