Affordable power supply
Plenty of power, low measured distortion and the affordable price of Topping’s smallest headphone amplifier look promising.
The L30 is the smallest and most affordable headphone amplifier from the Chinese manufacturer Topping. The number in the name of the device suggests that, and the look only confirms that the L30 is designed as an ideal partner with the D / A converter E30. You have already had the opportunity to get acquainted with the mentioned DAC on the pages of one of our previous editions. Stylishly, these two devices look almost identical and very neat when placed next to each other or stacked in a vertical column, which will further save you space. Aluminum dominates in the production again, and the only exception is the front side, which is always made of black Plexiglas, regardless of whether you opt for a black or silver finish. We especially liked the combination of silver aluminum and black panel, because it additionally emphasizes design decisions and breaks the monotony.
The vocals, like all the instruments, are clearly delineated, mutually layered and without noticeable colorations.
On the back of the device we find two pairs of RCA connectors. One of them is reserved for line input, while the other pair represents variable level output, which means that the Topping L30 can also be used as a mini-preamp in case of emergency. On the front we come across an output selector, and at a given point it is possible to use either a headphone output or a variable RCA output, not both at the same time. The second switch offers us three levels of gain: no gain, with nine decibels of gain, or with nine decibels of attenuation. The latter option can be useful in cases of very sensitive headphones, such as certain in-ear models. A 6.35 mm headphone connector was used, with a 3.5 mm connector adapter included in the package.
The heart of the amplifier is made up of the same NFCA (Nested Feedback Composite Amplifier) modules, which Topping also uses in its flagship A90 model. The technical specifications are impressive as a result, and we will only mention that the small L30 has a maximum of 3.5 watts per channel. This power, however, is declared at a three-volt input signal, while with most D / A converters we will find approximately two volts at the output. Regardless of the numbers game, the power will almost never fail, and therefore the ability to run headphones that are power hungry.
For testing purposes, we used affordable Hifiman HE-4xx planar headphones. The first thing we noticed after a few songs was a fast and dynamic sound character. The bass area is able to go quite deep, while still retaining a very satisfactory control and amount of tone texture. Listening to the album “Mettavolution” by the fantastic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela showed that the L30 approaches the rest of the sound spectrum in a similar way. Namely, clean and fast tones dominate the sound impression. The vocals, like all the instruments, are clearly delineated, mutually layered and without noticeable colorations. The highest registers are open and detailed, so the amplifier will successfully transmit moments such as the moment the microphone is turned on and the feeling of air from the recording. When the enviable amount of microdetails and air is joined by fast and sharp transients, we really enjoyed Laura Marling’s freshly released and atmospheric tracks from “The Lockdown Sessions”. Although the list of sound qualities that the Topping L30 provides is extensive, the fullness of the tone is not high on it, which may not appeal to fans of softer and fuller sound. We would simply recommend avoiding pairing with sharper and brighter sources, as well as headphones.
When changing the gain modes, we noticed that the Topping L30 sounds a bit more transparent in position without additional gain. It is perfectly sufficient to power moderately sensitive headphones. Switching to plus nine decibels brings more power, but also very slight warming of tones and softening of transients, which practically gives the possibility to choose two slightly different tonalities. At the same time, we really did not come across a situation in which we would use the last option, that is. attenuation of nine decibels. Even with the most sensitive in-ear headphones we had on hand, there was simply no need for that. Even without attenuation, we had a sufficiently precise control of the volume level, without any background noise and similar negative effects that can occur with certain models of amplifiers. This indiscretion makes it convenient for users who frequently change or rotate the headphones.
Fortunately, the qualities of this amp did not end with its affordable price and tempting specifications. The quality of workmanship and finish is at a high level, when even the most expensive devices would not be ashamed. Sound clarity and transparency are among the leaders in the class, while great power ensures that you will not feel deprived even with more demanding headphones. Because of all of the above, the Topping L30 can be a very healthy heart of a budget-oriented headphone system.
Power: 3.5 W (at 16 ohm load and 3 volts at the input)
SINAD: >125 dB
Gain selection: Low (-9.9 dB), Mid (0 dB), High (9.5 dB)
Output impedance (6.35 mm): ~ 0.1 ohm
Output impedance (RCA): ~ 20 ohms
Dimensions (WxHxD): 134x100x32 mm
Price: $ 140
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