• Hello and Welcome to HiFiVision.com - an online community for the home entertainment and tech enthusiasts!

    If you would like to ask a question, participate in a discussion and view attachments please Register yourself.

Topping TP20 tripath 2020 amplifier (versus NAD C320BEE)

Wharfedale EVO4.4

psychotropic

New Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2008
Messages
2,815
Points
0
Location
Chennai, India
Please See detailed review with Pictures at Play It Clear

EDIT: Super Value Amplifier for Rs. 4000...yes....Rs. 4000

The amp has landed. The Topping TP20 Mark 2 amp using the Tripath TA2020 chip, that produces a rated 13W maximum per channel into 8 ohms. But since that is with a 10% THD figure, we'll take the 7W per channel figure which is the maximum power into 8 ohms with a THD of 0.01% as the more relevant figure. Here's the datasheet for the geeks.

My review is below. It's going to appear in parts (i'll keep editing the first post), with pictures (now that I have a Fujifilm Finepix F200 EXR, and don't have to rely on my crappy blackberry camera), but do give me a bit of time..thanks.

Packaging and Appearance

The amp comes by air mail from Hong Kong, well packed in a cardboard box with foam lining. No customs duty was applicable, so the cost for my friend was 90 USD including shipping (4195 INR) with a tracking number.

The amp itself is very well constructed. Tiny little fellow. About 5 inches deep, 3 inches wide and an inch and half tall on its four rubber feet. Metal case, machined aluminium faceplate, good looking volume pot and power switch. Gold plated RCAs and binding posts. The binding posts are clear plasic on the outside and are not the easiest things to turn because they're smoooth, a slightly textured and less pretty binding post would have been nicer, but hey, it's a 4000 buck amp, i should be happy they're not spring clips. Looks like it takes banana plugs. I'm using bare (lamp) wire.

The power supply is a fairly robust looking switching supply rated at 12v, 5A. Held it up to my ear and didn't hear any noise, which was encouraging (as opposed to the audioengine's power supply which had a faint hum, pointed out to me by Mr. Ramesh aka hifipal4all).

Sound - Initial Impressions

These are initial impressions, possibly coloured by expectation bias, ownership bias and every other bias that exists, but still, let me pen them down before I do a more rigorous comparison when I get the time.

Okay, I am giving up on sounding measured and mature. Golly gee wiz, this thing kicks ass! Superb detail, excellent soundstaging and imaging. Excellent transients, nice airy extended highs, tight, tuneful bass, and some seriously liquid midrange. I mean Mark Knopfler's guitar never sounded so 'alive' on my NAD. Brothers in arms baby....brothers in arms! Again keep in mind that my exposure to hi fi is pretty limited and my raves are that of a relative newbie, but ya....i love the critter. It's more than sufficient for the Usher S520s (rated at 86 dB sensitivity) in my 10 by 10 room, but would probably run out of steam in a large room. In my room it gives me my optimum listening volume at 12 o'clock to 1 o'clock (on good non-compressed CDs) and it's LOUD by 2 o'clck - beyond which it starts to audibly distort. still very listenable but not as clean as before. More than sufficient for my room and speakers, and probably for a lot of people with slightly larger rooms but speakers rated at 89-90dB or more.

I've listened to Donald Fagen's Morph the Cat and Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms CDs and they sounded sublime. I am fairly sure I am not imagining the fact that my setup has never sounded so good before. I can't stop grinning while listening to it.

Before I go out and make proclamations that this 4k fellow soundly kicks the ass of an NAD amp the equivalent of which would cost about 28k now, I will do rigorous comparisons and post them, but one thing I can say for sure, if you have a small room and/or efficient speakers then this is something that you should just grab for the heck of it.....just to see what 4000 rupees can buy you in the audio sphere and to have your jaw drop when this tiny little thing digs deep to give you those convincing cello notes and percussion, and the crackling, molten, liquid sound of mark knopfler's guitar.

Sound - Further Impressions

It is empirically and without question more detailed in the high frequencies than the NAD. My standard test is the song "heavy fuel" by dire straits (on every street), around 22 seconds or so there are two soft strikes of the ride cymbal emanating from the left channel (ting ting). On the revealing setups I've heard, these cymbal strikes are clear as a bell and well defined as are the guitars at the same time. With my NAD you'd hear them if you looked out for them, but they don't stand clear of the rest of the mix.

The flip side to this is that with both my speakers and the amp being detailed and revealing (or as detailed and revealing as ultra-budget setups can get), some recordings can sound a touch bright. I've not experienced any listening fatigue as yet, but I can imagine that with a poorly recorded or harsh record, it might get a bit difficult. The NAD did a good job of smoothing over bright recordings, which is the positive side of the 'veil' that NAD seems to put over the sound otherwise.

But with good recordings the lifting of the veil (a small lawyer joke here) is very apparent. So much so that even my wife (who is utterly and totally clueless about audio), said that the Topping sounded more 'crisp' on Vinnaithandi Varuvaya.

The good thing about the Topping is that unlike other transparent amps I've heard (not too many) the mid-range is beautiful (euphonic? i don't know) and not clinical.... voices and guitars, and even some percussion instruments have a tone and timbre that are lifelike and appealing. There is a percussion piece on the Usher demo CD that tests the LFE capabilities of a setup quite well, a series of Chinese(?) drums each (presumably) larger, and therefore lower in frequency, than the previous are struck in an arrangement, going lower bar by bar. While the NAD produced the fundamentals of the drum sound well and went down as low as the Topping, what the Topping does is gives the drum a more natural sound, as if it's doing a better job of producing the harmonics of the drum sound. I am not saying the NAD does "one note bass"....not at all, but it sounds like the Topping goes a little more distance in producing accurate and musical low frequencies.

Someone described the sound of the Topping (and the TA2020 chip in general) as 'beguiling'.....I'm forced to agree!


The negatives - Initial Impressions

  • About 7 clean watts, so not for inefficient speakers and large rooms
  • Only one input, so no multiple sources
  • No remote
  • Smooth binding posts, not easy to turn fully and get a tight fit


Detailed Tests and Comparisons

Yesterday I managed to do a fairly detailed comparison of the NAD and the Topping. Fortunately or unfortunately, nothing revolutionary or different from my observations based on memory were observed.

I tested both with the following tracks

Steely Dan - Aja, Deacon Blues
Dire Straits - Heavy Fuel, Fade to Black
Usher Demo CD - Track 9 (the chinese drums)

The Topping is more detailed and more dynamic. The high frequencies are more clearly separated, and there's a lot more air about the sound. The low frequency performance is in fact very similar. I did observe from memory that the Topping seemed to produce more musical bass, but on this comparison I couldn't really make out that distinction.

The sound of the Topping seemed to have smoothed out a bit, and it's sounding quite brilliant. The high frequencies are rich and detailed without being harsh in any way. The mid-range is lively and beautiful (is it a colouration? or is the NAD simply inferior? I don't know). The bass is deep, musical and authoritative.

I think I will just repeat what I said earlier, this is the steal of a century for Rs. 4000. If you have full-range speakers, or high sensitivity speakers or a small room, this amp will most likely match or exceed any budget amp in the sub Rs. 30,000 category.

Of course now I am looking at whether it is possible to bridge these babies and put together a dual-mono combo of these putting out double the effective power (14 clean watts per channel). We could also assemble a kickass multi-channel setup using these buggers.

Another thought was to put a tube pre, 4 toppings and an active crossover to make a dual mono bi-amped setup putting out 28 clean watts per channel, for the cost of a budget amplifier.

Okay, I am getting a bit carried away, and I don't know if any of the above is feasible, but hey.....this is a totally exciting little device and I am sure there are tons of possibilities, even if the ones I've listed are wrong/infeasible. Usually audiophile components at mass-market prices are the exclusive preserve of DIY-ers, but here's an instance where the DIY-challenged noobs can also get a slice of the action. If you've got moderately sensitive speakers (86-87dB or thereabouts) in a smallish room (under 150 sft) or sensitive speakers (90dB and above) in a larger room, and you've got 4000 bucks to spare, then why don't you just pick up this thing?

Note of Caution: One thing that flanker tells me about the tripath amps is to be super careful about shorting the amp at the speaker terminals, one contact and the amp will fry. These are apparently not as forgiving as other amps to short-circuiting.

Pictures

Sorry for not using imageshack, but I am lazy. So please check out the pics on my Picasa album.
 
Last edited:

thevortex

New Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2008
Messages
2,672
Points
0
Location
Chennai
Glad to hear you were delighted, psychotropic! That is what is more important. And if you get to that state without breaking the bank, hey, thats an added bonus :).
 

stevieboy

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 28, 2008
Messages
2,342
Points
113
Location
bangalore
congrats! good to know the blind purchase without a demo (right?) worked out superb for you! waiting for ze pics :)
 

psychotropic

New Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2008
Messages
2,815
Points
0
Location
Chennai, India
My friend and I had bought the Lepai (2000 bucks including power supply!), so I've heard the chip before, but not this amp. This is just a much better constructed version of that.

And thanks vortex....i think another trip this side is due :) I'll do my very best to hand over this amp to someone before the meet which I will unforuntately have to bunk. Of course, in the very large hall of the club, this tripath may not be at its best, but it'll be worth a look I am sure.
 

Asit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 28, 2007
Messages
1,511
Points
113
Location
Kolkata
Hi Psychotropic,

Glad to know that you so far like your new amp and it works with a low-sensitivity speaker in smallish rooms. Looking forward to the pictures, and more detailed reports and comparison with your c320bee. BTW, your new camera the F200EXR is a very good camera with good low light capabilities and superb dynamic range. Expecting to see some great pictures :).

Regards.
 

psychotropic

New Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2008
Messages
2,815
Points
0
Location
Chennai, India
i think it's time for your long overdue visit :) . I've been listening to it ever since. Listened to G3, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaya, the Usher test CD, and so on.....it truly is a mini marvel. It is without question more detailed than the NAD. The impression I get is that it goes lower as well. Haven't yet done the rigorous comparison, but then what are lazy sundays for?

@Asit - I picked the F200EXR for those very reasons. My quest was for the best pocketable camera under 20k and I couldn't find anything better. Of course I have no photographic talent, which is why I wanted a camera that would do as much of the hard work as possible, while still being pocketable. I am quite happy with it so far. And in spite of my incompetence I've managed to take some reasonable looking photographs.

Nice! Would love to hear it sometime! :clapping:
 

kaushik

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2008
Messages
2,556
Points
113
Location
Bangalore
Wow psycho, enjoy this cute amp..waiting for the 1:1 with NAD.

I recommended one topping amp to iaudio a while ago ..

At least for tight budget Topping is a good option.
As per as the internal components in the pictures and buyer reviews other forums ..i knew Topping amps should be value for money .

With a linear low noise power supply..this will be even better.
 
Last edited:

psychotropic

New Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2008
Messages
2,815
Points
0
Location
Chennai, India
I must apologise for not having done the 'shootout' as yet, I just spent most of sunday listening to stuff through the Topping and enjoying it. I listened to the Brandenburg Concertos (Berlin Philharmonic, Deutsche Gramophon, Karajan), Blood Sweat and Tears (Eponymous album), Steely Dan (Aja), Once (OST), On Every Street (Dire Straits) and I do have some further observations.

It is empirically and without question more detailed in the high frequencies than the NAD. My standard test is the song "heavy fuel" by dire straits (on every street), around 22 seconds or so there are two soft strikes of the ride cymbal emanating from the left channel (ting ting). On the revealing setups I've heard, these cymbal strikes are clear as a bell and well defined as are the guitars at the same time. With my NAD you'd hear them if you looked out for them, but they don't stand clear of the rest of the mix.

The flip side to this is that with both my speakers and the amp being detailed and revealing (or as detailed and revealing as ultra-budget setups can get), some recordings can sound a touch bright. I've not experienced any listening fatigue as yet, but I can imagine that with a poorly recorded or harsh record, it might get a bit difficult. The NAD did a good job of smoothing over bright recordings, which is the positive side of the 'veil' that NAD seems to put over the sound otherwise.

But with good recordings the lifting of the veil (a small lawyer joke here) is very apparent. So much so that even my wife (who is utterly and totally clueless about audio), said that the Topping sounded more 'crisp' on Vinnaithandi Varuvaya.

The good thing about the Topping is that unlike other transparent amps I've heard (not too many) the mid-range is beautiful (euphonic? i don't know) and not clinical.... voices and guitars, and even some percussion instruments have a tone and timbre that are lifelike and appealing. There is a percussion piece on the Usher demo CD that tests the LFE capabilities of a setup quite well, a series of Chinese(?) drums each (presumably) larger, and therefore lower in frequency, than the previous are struck in an arrangement, going lower bar by bar. While the NAD produced the fundamentals of the drum sound well and went down as low as the Topping, what the Topping does is gives the drum a more natural sound, as if it's doing a better job of producing the harmonics of the drum sound. I am not saying the NAD does "one note bass"....not at all, but it sounds like the Topping goes a little more distance in producing accurate and musical low frequencies.

Someone described the sound of the Topping (and the TA2020 chip in general) as 'beguiling'.....I'm forced to agree!

The comparison will happen....please be patient. :p
 

iaudio

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2009
Messages
3,187
Points
113
Location
Kuwait/Kochi
Wow psycho, enjoy this cute amp..waiting for the 1:1 with NAD.

I recommended one topping amp to iaudio a while ago ..

At least for tight budget Topping is a good option.
As per as the internal components in the pictures and buyer reviews other forums ..i knew Topping amps should be value for money .

With a linear low noise power supply..this will be even better.
Yes you did and is usually the case it has turned out to be a very good reco. I was waiting for Psycho's impressions.
I will be calling you up soon:D
 

psychotropic

New Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2008
Messages
2,815
Points
0
Location
Chennai, India
I am excerpting below a couple of quotes from 6moons.com just to emphasis my point about how good this Tripath amp sounds, and to allay the concerns of any out there on account of my inexperience or my inexpensive equipment. Both these are from reviews of Tripath amps using the slightly inferior TA2024 chip, but these were two of the pioneering T-amps.

-----------------

The first is from a review of the Sonic Impact T-amp (older, cheaper, and inferior parts and construction, compared to the Topping) by Jeff Day:

"The Gaincard was perhaps my favorite solid-state amplifier of all time, followed by the now discontinued Pass Aleph 3. Both are/were wildly more expensive than the T-amp and also more powerful. I think the T-amp might sound better than both of them but cut me some slack here since I'm going from memory. The T-amp is more detailed and cleaner sounding than the Pass and a touch warmer and more musical than the Gaincard but without the Gaincard's impressive bass abilities."

-------------

Here's second is a Srajan Ebaen quote about the $3,200 Bel Canto eVo 2i, but this quote has been excerpted and reprodcued by Jeff Day and David Kan in their reviews of the Sonic Impact and the Trends T-amps:

"crystalline transparency; a tube-like midrange purity, naturalness of timbre and monster soundstaging without the bloom of valves; wonderful bass; and very extended yet silky treble that's never grating or dull but just right."

Although this quote was with regard to the 3200$ amp, both the reviewers of the cheaper T-amps felt it appropriate to quote this description with regard to their cheap T-amps, and having listened to the Topping TP20, with my limited experience I can say that it is an absolutely spot-on description of the sound.
 

iaudio

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2009
Messages
3,187
Points
113
Location
Kuwait/Kochi
Kaushik had suggested the Topping tp30 amp with dac. Is the tp20 also available with a dac?
 

psychotropic

New Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2008
Messages
2,815
Points
0
Location
Chennai, India
nope, unfortunately they don't have a TA2020 amp with a DAC.

@gruby, will do it ASAP bro.....i am sure i would have gotten it done quicker if i had banana plugs :), but with bare wire there is some labour involved in swapping stuff around, and i am a very lazy person.

Kaushik had suggested the Topping tp30 amp with dac. Is the tp20 also available with a dac?
 

grubyhalo

New Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2008
Messages
2,004
Points
0
Location
Depends...
...
@gruby, will do it ASAP bro.....i am sure i would have gotten it done quicker if i had banana plugs :), but with bare wire there is some labour involved in swapping stuff around, and i am a very lazy person.
Oh no, please take your time. Else, it's going to tempt me to steal some money to order these ASAP! Yes, without the speakers, even! The more worrying part is I'd start questioning my intention of trying to build(ha!) the F5. Regarding the visit, it don't look like it would be anytime this month, however I could check out the Topping if it makes it to the GTG. But let's see what happens...:eek:hyeah:


P.S: Please don't apologize for being lazy, to me atleast! :lol:
 

thevortex

New Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2008
Messages
2,672
Points
0
Location
Chennai
Psychotropic - in those one or two lines I thought you summarized the NAD sound very well. It brings scale but acts like a fist wrapped up in soft muslin in delivery music. It punches you, but the punch is not sharp. It is slightly mushy and soft.

Especially true of the bass department, in my opinion. However I do believe that the BEE editions have this quality in spades as compared to the integrated amps such as C352 or C372. Wonder why.
 
Top