In the lab now is the Topping E70 dac based on ESS chipset. This will be the first of the Chinese 'giants' I have had in my lab. Topping, SMSL are the two Chinese giants that seem to have taken the market by storm. Lots of marketing jargon and pretty cases. Do they stand up to the hype?
As I have said before, I have little doubt these will have outstanding SINAD and SNR performance. But is SINAD all that makes a good sounding DAC? Does a DAC that costs less than $500 truly outperform some of the traditional world class products that can cost 10 times as much? Even 100 times as much?? Or are these companies doing everything possible to produce very specific measurements for as little investment as possible, knowing there is a market segment who only looks at SINAD and considers nothing else?
Perhaps I am a bit old school, but, I still think you have to listen to the product to form an opinion. My personal opinion is the human ear and auditory system is not well understood. Obviously reproduced sound, even in this advanced day and age, still doesn't sound like the 'real thing'. Not yet. Just speculating, but, perhaps there are metrics we are completely ignoring or have yet to even discover that will take us to the next level of reproduced audio fidelity.
My ADC used for testing has a SNR that exceeds -120db(A) easily. My reference DAC exceeds -116db (A). Even the 'lowly' ifI ZEN DAC V2 has a SNR of -114db (A). Price ranges from $199 to over $3000 and they all have resolution between 19 and 20 bits.
My reference tube head-amp has an outstanding SNR of better than -90db (A). And it sounds so quiet you could seemingly make out a pin drop.
Speaking of tube amps, they will have relatively terrible THD, Noise, and SINAD numbers, but so many of us love their sound. Whether it rings true or not, many believe that even order harmonic distortion is a good thing for better sound.
I am looking forward to finally hearing what Topping (and later this year what SMSL) is all about. I am looking forward to seeing the measurements for myself, but most of all I am looking forward to my subjective evaluation of how they sound, and could I live with them in one of my systems. Even moreso, can I recommend them to YOU, the reader. At Euphonic Review, that is the highest goal. To keep YOU informed, and help you make the best choice.