Topping PA5 - I bought one for a laugh

HiFiRuss71

Distinguished Member
@HiFiRuss71 Thank you SOOOOO much for posting this thread. I just created an account here to join your thread. I'm in the market for a small desktop power amp for my bookshelf small/medium sized living room setup. When The review for this popped up on ASR it had my interest. It sounded like the perfect device even if it isn't quite as good as the reviews suggest. I've been scouring the internet for subjective listening test by people that really know high quality hifi. I really value ASR's objective tests, but I find his forum a bit of a cult made up of people without very much experience in anything subjective. There are amps they didn't like that I love like various Cavalli headphone amps or some of ifi's products I find very good.

Anyway, my point is I was looking for the opinion of someone like you Russ. Thank you. What I was especially pleased to see is you use Dirac live and that's exactly what I plan to run in a 2.2 system based on a miniDSP flex prepro/dac/preamp. It being balanced with TRS the topping PA5 looked like the perfect fit. it will have more than enough headroom for my space.

I was curious your thoughts as someone who has built a system using the PA5 and Dirac live. Are you using it in a AV system with dirac bass management or just a regular dirac live setup?
Hello and welcome. 🙂

Just a bit of background on me, because my join date/post count hides some stats. I have been on here since 2009. At one point I was doing all of the speaker and subwoofer reviewing on here - Search 'Kreisel 12012' in the reviews and the very last picture leaning against the stack is (fat) me. I then went off to work for Arendal Sound and was involved in the original 1723 Series speakers & subs, although I can't take too much credit for those. However, if they still send out that glorious 100+ page brochure/user guide; I wrote that.

When the reality of increasing demands in my real job got too much, I stopped that and at that point my by now 'professional' login got deleted along with my connection to 12k+ posts.

Gone are the days where I obsess over measurements and repeated shuffling of boxes only to re-EQ again and again. I do thoroughly believe in measurements as a reference baseline, but if I don't enjoy the resulting sound... So, REW comes out to nail down speaker and subwoofer positioning and once you've done that a few times in any given room (really just to avoid any severe dips in the frequency response) you tend to find that position will pretty much hold for any similar device placed there. Big changes (including things like a new sofa) need remeasuring as far as I am concerned.

After that, I run full phat Dirac (the middle set of measurement positions, not the wide or focused ones) and it EQ it to the Harman target curve - broadly +2.5dB(SPL) @ 20Hz to -2.5dB(SPL) @ 20 kHz with reference to 1kHz being the relative 0dB point. Very rarely does something require me to deviate from that target curve.

'Wisdom' would hold that if everything is near as to that target and performing within its limits, then it should all end up sounding the same, which is broadly true. However, even with the FR nailed down, time domain gripped and sub/speakers time-aligned, most components do sound different at various listening levels.

The euphonic distortion of valve amps impresses the amp's 'character' through the EQ and you can't EQ out power compression, hard or soft clipping, etc. Essentially, EQ reveals the pure character of components and the judgement of that result IS subjective. I won't own something because it is right, if it doesn't entice me to keep playing music. The objective measurements do inform the pool of equipment I would consider buying from, hence my distaste for any speaker that isn't dispersion controlled.

My system is in my signature, but is very much 2.2 stereo. The NAD C658 (I'm eyeballing the MiniDSP SHD but wonder if de-integrating Bluesound is a step backward) streamer/DAC/pre plays Tidal MQA and Spotify for background. This feeds the poweramp(s) into the modified Klipsh Forte IIIs which are crossed at 80Hz into the stereo 15" DIY subs. Much time is spent listening to vinyl, because it sounds fabulous regardless of objectivity.

Russ
Russ
 

HiFiRuss71

Distinguished Member
Small update; now bi-amping, just because I could.
PXL_20220127_184934252.jpg


The doorstops are there simply to stop the PA5s wandering off as the stiff speaker cables continually exert a pressure as they want to straighten.

IMG_20210130_172232~3.jpg


Russ
 
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Gilbers

Active Member
JustDacs.com now have UK stock for £325 delivered:

Topping PA5

Mine arrived at the weekend and I'll post my listening conclusions once I've had a chance to put it through its paces. The one thing I will note is that Topping appear to have an issue with their packaging. The strain relief collar on side of the PSU had punched a hole in the side of the box for mine and when I reported this to JustDacs they reported that all 100 units of their current stock are the same. So if you want a pristine box you may have to wait to see if Topping can sort this out on future shipments.
 

alanaggett

Standard Member
Small update; now bi-amping, just because I could.
View attachment 1644344

The doorstops are there simply to stop the PA5s wandering off as the stuff speaker cables continually exert a pressure as they want to straighten.

View attachment 1644346

Russ
How are you bi amping? And did it make a difference power wise. Ive just bought one to replace a quad 606 but, although the sound is good Im not getting enough volume through my Klipsch Rp8000f speakers , thanks in advance.
 

alanaggett

Standard Member
Generally most energy is in the bass region and as one amp is still handling the same amount of bass - then no.
Oh dear, I have ordered balanced cable to up the output from my dacmagic 200 so it meets the 2.5v required, hopefully that will make some difference.... the quad sure does give them Klipsch some kick and sounds fairly good for their age ... but, was hoping to step up a little without the major investment!
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
It is a 65W p/c amp. Your speakers have sensitivity of 98dB/W. That means you can probably get well over 105dB peak SPL depending on the room size and distance from speakers, speaker distance from walls etc.

If you are not getting enough volume, then I suspect the problem is the input level.

You should be able to get those speakers loud unless the 0dBFS output from the DAC is very low.
 
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alanaggett

Standard Member
It is a 65W p/c amp. Your speakers have sensitivity of 98dB/W. That means you can probably get well over 110dB peak SPL depending on the room size and distance from speakers.

If you are not getting enough volume, then I suspect the problem is the input level.

You should be able to get those speakers loud unless the 0dBFS output from the DAC is very low.
In testing most reviewers have found the klipsch to be nearer 91db sensitivity, but I still think the topping needs a higher input which I will try today… the dac will out put About 4.5 through balanced, so not given up yet😊
 

HiFiRuss71

Distinguished Member
Generally most energy is in the bass region and as one amp is still handling the same amount of bass - then no.
Exactly that.

The advantage (if there is one) is that the channel only handling the mid/tweeter horns will be operating at lower distortion levels as the current hungry, distortion inducing bass is handled by a separate amplifier channel. As the mid/tweet amp will basically be operating soooo far inside it's output/distortion envelope you may find the system appears to play louder due to a cleaner HF signal.

Pondering out loud:

I suppose you could debate the above, because each of the four channels will be receiving and amplifying a full range signal. This after all is not an active setup. That said, the lower half of this signal hitting the midrange high-pass filter is probably a somewhat less reactive load than the bass driver, so I'd wager the mid/treble amp is still getting an easier ride.

I suppose you could also debate whether you should use a PA5 per channel (vertical bi-amping) or one for the mid/treble of both speakers and one for the bass - horizontal bi-amping. I suspect given the vanishingly low cross-talk measured in the PA5, the vastly more complex NAD C658 is the limiting factor, thus rendering this issue moot.

Either way, you don't passive bi-amp to gain a power increase.

Indeed, I don't know if I'd bother given that the whole thing doubles the price for the minimal gains. I only did it in this instance because it was so cheap to do so!
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
The problem with bi-amping that I see is that any potential gains that may be found in running separate amps to bass and treble may well be lost through the slight mismatch of those same amps due to manufacturing tolerances between units.

I have tried it before out of curiosity but after a while of feeling it sounded a little bit off, then that was the discovery that led me to immediately abandon it and never bother again.
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
Some quick calculations on that amp (maybe someone should check them):
65W into 8R suggests output voltage of 22.8V
Quoted 19.1dB gain suggests that can be achieved with an input of 2.53V

Allowing 6dB headroom for inter-sample overs (probably get away with 3dB), then you want 0dBFS to be around 1.3V peak output from the DAC.

At the above 0dBFS point, then I expect a peak SPL of around 100-105dB (ignoring inter sample overs and assuming 3m listening distance).

Even allowing movie mixing peaks of 20dB (alot of audio is mixed with substantially lower peaks), then that still allows for an average SPL of at least 80-85 which is loud or even 90dB for typical modern music streaming.

So something seems really wrong (which could be my calculations of course - which may be 3dB out due to RMS vs peak voltage) if you cant get it loud enough.

Even with the way I setup Roon with excessive headroom allowance for DSP, metadata based auto leveling for streaming and only a project-s2 DAC into an 85Wp/c amp (which is not actually that much louder in SPL terms than a 65Wp/c amp) and only 90dB/@1W SPL speakers, then I can easily get that way too loud for in-room comfort without stressing anything @ 3m (and even 5m) in a 6.5m x 5.5m room. The difference is my amp has around 26dB gain instead 19dB which almost accounts for the difference in speaker sensitivity + its extra power.
 
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Gilbers

Active Member
So, first impressions are mostly great. As others have reported, the noise floor is impressive. At idle I can put an ear right up to my speakers and there is absolute silence (LS50 Meta, so fairly insensitive, but this is still a big step up from my Naim amp). No pops or thumps when powering on either. Having listened to variety of music I'd describe the overall sound as exceptionally clean - it really gives the impression of being completely transparent. However, I do have one potential issue which I assume is down to the relatively low gain. I'm using an Anthem AVR as a pre-amp, and when calibrating I've found the test tones through the PA5 are very weak. Indeed, I had to turn the gain down on my sub substantially (it's now around 38% of max) to get a matching volume so the calibration would complete. Following calibration I find the volume control to be far less sensitive than it was previously - based on the display on the AVR it's requiring a full 15dB more to achieve what feels like the same volume level. Aside from the fact that I'll probably struggle to get satisfying movie watching levels out of it (given the low sensitivity of my speakers I'm probably expecting too much here) does this sound like I've got a problem somewhere?
 

alanaggett

Standard Member
Well I’ve tried again with balanced inputs but, something is definitely missing. The dynamics just aren’t there. A great little amp no doubt, but I’m going to return it and look for something with more oomph! Nords look very promising😊
 

HawaiianFeeling

Novice Member
The problem with bi-amping that I see is that any potential gains that may be found in running separate amps to bass and treble may well be lost through the slight mismatch of those same amps due to manufacturing tolerances between units.

I have tried it before out of curiosity but after a while of feeling it sounded a little bit off, then that was the discovery that led me to immediately abandon it and never bother again.
biamping works well with active crossover and PEQ. if you do it with a good calibration mic and REW or a system like Dirac you can make up for small imbalances in amps. You could use two PA5 to a balanced minidsp flex and get amazing results biamping. I would only biamp with precise EQ.
 

umigazumi

Standard Member
@HiFiRuss71 I am hovering over the purchase button for the Arendal 1723 THX bookshelf (89 dB sensitivity) and wondering if the PA5 is still working well for you and the Klipsche Fortes?
 

umigazumi

Standard Member
So, first impressions are mostly great. As others have reported, the noise floor is impressive. At idle I can put an ear right up to my speakers and there is absolute silence (LS50 Meta, so fairly insensitive, but this is still a big step up from my Naim amp). No pops or thumps when powering on either. Having listened to variety of music I'd describe the overall sound as exceptionally clean - it really gives the impression of being completely transparent. However, I do have one potential issue which I assume is down to the relatively low gain. I'm using an Anthem AVR as a pre-amp, and when calibrating I've found the test tones through the PA5 are very weak. Indeed, I had to turn the gain down on my sub substantially (it's now around 38% of max) to get a matching volume so the calibration would complete. Following calibration I find the volume control to be far less sensitive than it was previously - based on the display on the AVR it's requiring a full 15dB more to achieve what feels like the same volume level. Aside from the fact that I'll probably struggle to get satisfying movie watching levels out of it (given the low sensitivity of my speakers I'm probably expecting too much here) does this sound like I've got a problem somewhere?
@Gilbers I cannot given any technical insight to your question, but I am very curious to hear how you got on if you have an update.
 

alanaggett

Standard Member
Well I have taken the plunge and purchased a NAD c298 power amp. I did my research and read all the reviews etc and , really wanted to buy from Nord... like to buy British (kinda?) and support our companies but- NAD have taken the Purifi amps , added their own power supplies to beef up the output specs. So I went and auditioned one at Wetherby Sevenoaks and was blown away! I went in expecting disappointment but, came away with my new purchase and a big smile. It really is the business, sweet, sublime, and can really rock! Even at low levels all the dynamics are there. So another class d convert.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Well I have taken the plunge and purchased a NAD c298 power amp. I did my research and read all the reviews etc and , really wanted to buy from Nord... like to buy British (kinda?) and support our companies but- NAD have taken the Purifi amps , added their own power supplies to beef up the output specs. So I went and auditioned one at Wetherby Sevenoaks and was blown away! I went in expecting disappointment but, came away with my new purchase and a big smile. It really is the business, sweet, sublime, and can really rock! Even at low levels all the dynamics are there. So another class d convert.

Sound like a great purchase, do keep us up to date when you have it installed in your system.

Would love to hear one of these being fed by a Rogue Audio RP1 preamp and compare it to the Pharaoh integrated which has hypex boards in it.
 

stevoknevo

Active Member
Well I have taken the plunge and purchased a NAD c298 power amp. I did my research and read all the reviews etc and , really wanted to buy from Nord... like to buy British (kinda?) and support our companies but- NAD have taken the Purifi amps , added their own power supplies to beef up the output specs. So I went and auditioned one at Wetherby Sevenoaks and was blown away! I went in expecting disappointment but, came away with my new purchase and a big smile. It really is the business, sweet, sublime, and can really rock! Even at low levels all the dynamics are there. So another class d convert.
I was just about to respond to your previous post saying I'd picked up an XTZ A2-300 last month and my Anthem MRX 500 as the pre (it's gone faulty on the front right channel but the pre-outs are perfect)
I'm using it purely for 2.0 music and it's gotta helluva grip of the bass on my old 87db PMC's (I still need to run ARC as it using the previous measurements and can sound a bit off on some tracks)

The NAD C298 is on an entirely different level though, any reviews I've read on it have been gushing with praise for the new Eigentakt modules acting as if it's the pre-amp driving the speakers! Enjoy :smashin:
 

umigazumi

Standard Member
Well I have taken the plunge and purchased a NAD c298 power amp. I did my research and read all the reviews etc and , really wanted to buy from Nord... like to buy British (kinda?) and support our companies but- NAD have taken the Purifi amps , added their own power supplies to beef up the output specs. So I went and auditioned one at Wetherby Sevenoaks and was blown away! I went in expecting disappointment but, came away with my new purchase and a big smile. It really is the business, sweet, sublime, and can really rock! Even at low levels all the dynamics are there. So another class d convert.
@alanaggett apart from power advantages, how would you characterise the sound compared to the Topping PA5 with regard to soundstage width, detail definition?
 

alanaggett

Standard Member
@alanaggett apart from power advantages, how would you characterise the sound compared to the Topping PA5 with regard to soundstage width, detail definition?
It is very similar to the PA5 that infinite level of detail and sweetness is there. The soundstage is a lot bigger and when you move off axis you don't lose any definition. the main difference is that there is somehow an air of authority (for want of a better description) all the way through the listening levels. The dynamic range just seems to be there from whisper quiet to very loud. Hope that helps.
 

umigazumi

Standard Member
It is very similar to the PA5 that infinite level of detail and sweetness is there. The soundstage is a lot bigger and when you move off axis you don't lose any definition. the main difference is that there is somehow an air of authority (for want of a better description) all the way through the listening levels. The dynamic range just seems to be there from whisper quiet to very loud. Hope that helps.
@alanaggett I am not surprised to read that, but now realise that I was desperate for you to describe inconsequential differences. I'll have to buy a PA5 and try some comparisons. My local hifi shop is very understanding. More so than my wife.
Thank you for a real ears assessment.
 

KraftwerkTurbo

Novice Member
I want to bi amp my Infinity Quantum 2 (difficult Watkins, 2 voice coils, each with its own crossover) and are looking for a (low priced) sweet amp for the low/mid to highs (200 Hz crossover, 3 EMIT tweeters above 4 kHz, two 1/5" dome tweeters, 4" low/mid). Thought class A or tube (not sure how much power is needed for 200 Hz and up). Can the PA5 be used as a main amp (after crossover)?
 

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