Topping A50S is a small, full metal, stylish balanced amp that can output a whopping 3500 mW of power. It is priced at $200.
Most of the time when you think about powerful amps that are able to drive your power hungry headphones then all your imagination can create is a picture of some big, heavy chunk of metal that makes your room warmer by few degrees. Fortunately we’re not living in those horrible times anymore, because today you can find an amp that will succeed in driving your most difficult musical output devices but also taking almost no space on your desk whatsoever. Topping is actually known for making such devices. Very small and very powerful.
Inside the box apart from A50S you’ll find just the thing that’ll allow you to use your amp in the first place which is a power supply as well as a bunch of papers such as User’s Manual and Warranty Card.
Build quality & UI
As mentioned before Topping A50S is very small and relatively cheap if we will account for the whole specification of this device but that doesn’t mean it’s made out of low quality materials.
Topping A50S is entirely made out of metal and it has a beautiful minimalistic CNC machined case that apart from looking very stylish also has a purpose of dissipating heat. Perfect solution for all those that have not a lot of space on their desks.
Its size is only 11 x 2.6 x 12.3 cm.
On the top something very common with Topping devices, it contains only their logo and also small Hi-Res Audio sticker which surely adds to overall sound quality and it’s dedicated for all those who wants to be sure, they’re getting the best audio experience possible. That’s a joke of course.
Starting from left side on the front we have a power and gain switch. To change gain you have to tap it, long press will shut off unit completely. That’s pretty much all the functionality aspect that this amp offers. Next to it 2 small LEDs that indicates if we’re in 0 dB or 6 dB gain mode. Then we have single ended 6.3mm Jack socket that can output up to 1400 mW @32 ohms but what’s most important in this device is of course that 4.4mm Balanced output. With this guy you can deliver your headphones up to a whopping 3500 mW @32 ohms. And last but not least, volume knob. It’s small in diameter but it’s sticking out pretty far so using it is not an issue even if you are plugging something to 4.4mm balanced socket. Knob has just a right amount of resistance so it’s not too hard to turn but also not too easy which would be horrifying in this case but I’ll explain why in Sound section.
On the back we have RCA In as well as RCA Out which means you can use A50S as your pre-out and hook it up to another DAC or Active speakers which is a very useful feature in my humble opinion. And last thing I’d like to mention is that bottom has 4 pretty significant rubber feet. When we combine that with weight of A50S, because despite its size it’s not that light as it looks like, there’ll be no issue with it moving accidentally on your desk whatsoever.
Let’s start this section with power aspect. As mentioned previously you’re getting 1400 mW SE and 3500 mW Balanced both at 32 ohms which is… a lot. When you see such a small amp with that amount of power first what comes to mind is:
It’s probably hissy as… you know 🙂
Well here gotta say this. Unfortunately I do not own famous hiss testers called Campfire Audio Andromeda, but every single IEM I’ve plugged to A50S I couldn’t even hear a faint of noise… and I’m not speaking about Single Ended, but that stellar 4.4mm Balanced output. This amp is great for every single person that wants a noise-free experience, but unfortunately not everything here is suited for IEMs. Main problem is the actual knob. With Unique Melody MEST for example, I had to stick to around 8 o’clock where around 7:30 you still have a significant channel imbalance because of analogue volume control. Even for this setting plenty of tracks in my library were still too loud, so I had to drop volume on my PC by about 20%. I’ll say if you use IEMs with relatively standard sensitivity and impedance you should be fine, but everything little more sensitive can expose some issues because of that knob, so keep that in mind. OK then, sure A50S is great from performance stand point, but what about the sound? Glad you asked. I’m going to tell you that right now.
And first up what I’m going to tell you is that Single Ended and Balanced outputs actually sound pretty different from each other so let’s start with Single Ended first.
The bass is punchy but also pretty fast. I feel like on SE it tends to add just a little of that magical oompf just to make your headphones more exciting. With that said it’s not like it’s bloaty or anything. It doesn’t bleed to midrange, it stays in the same spot just making it little more noticeable. It’s certainly isn’t a bass boost, just a touch of new flavour to the sound you know and love.
The midrange, very neutral. It’s not lacking, not boosting any parts of it. Very honest and quite revealing in terms of detail. Cannot really point out any specific characteristic to it, it’s just very transparent and crystal clear section of this amp and that’s all I can say about it.
The treble is something I can actually talk a little more about. Very detailed and crisp.
I will say there’s a little focus on this section, I feel like this amp just adds a little bit of treble from itself just to make things more lively. Sometimes it works pretty well, like you just got a better mastered copy of your favorite song but also sometimes can be just a bit too aggressive. I’ll mention MEST again because here I had most issues. So when I was listening to music tracks on ZX300 I’m not getting as much soundstage as on A50S but certainly I can listen to them for longer periods of time, because sometimes all those peaky instruments like violins for example are calmer, not as fatiguing, where with A50S when you have already treble peaky headphones, this amp can be that little push in the back that will make you fall down the hill full of sharp pine trees.
What about that Balanced though? Well, I cannot really pinpoint anything here. It’s just very detailed, crystal clear, transparent sound. It’s just very true to the source and also is a great device to show you how your headphones really perform. Not going to hide anything, but also won’t amplify issues nor favorite parts. What you’re going to get from it is how the manufacturer tuned your set of headphones/IEMs, you name it. And that’s actually a very nice thing to have, as a benchmark for example.
I can’t recommend this amp enough. It’s cheap, small, powerful and stylish. All of these perks COMBINED. Will drive your power hungry Planars while also being dead silent on your most sensitive IEMs. For tiniest and also the largest desks, you can put it whenever you want and enjoy your headphones to the fullest. I think A50S is just in a class of its own. For its price, footprint and performance you simply cannot beat it.
You can get the Topping A50s here at Apos.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro, Oriolus Finschi, Fir Audio VxV, Unique Melody MEST, Kennerton ODIN
- Sources– Sony ZX300, Earmen TR-Amp, Khadas Tone Board