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The Topping D90LE DAC Shuns MQA and A lot of Audiophiles Are Perfectly Happy With That

Audiophiles opened their mouths and Topping listened. The new Topping D90LE DAC loses MQA support and is $100 cheaper.

Topping D90LE DAC and A90 Discrete Headphone Amplifier Silver

When Apos Audio sent me the Topping D90SE for review, I spent a couple weeks using it as the DAC in both my home system and in my headphone rigs. I came away quite impressed with it. If you’re looking for a truly excellent DAC that is about as well engineered as anything in the market — the Topping is in very elite company.

The market has generally agreed and the products sell very well; The ASR crowd didn’t love my editorial about the forum but even they agree with me that the Topping is superb kit.

But something weird happened after we published the original review and it touched a nerve with both myself and Topping.

What struck me was the vitriol in the comments section about MQA support. I get it to a degree as I’ve always thought that MQA simply wasn’t necessary, but to go out of your way to avoid a product just because it supports a feature struck me as a bit over the top.

Topping, however, felt that the public reaction to the decision to include MQA was strong enough to take a second look at the product if the feature was that polarizing.

They have now released the D90LE that is pretty much a D90SE minus MQA. This appears to be more push from the measurements crowd as the D90 series has been the darling of ASR as it measures extremely well but MQA is widely disliked among that group. 

In this case, I applaud their efforts as the D90LE is $100 less than the D90SE so removing MQA saves those of us who didn’t use it some cash if that is the only difference. I went through all the specs to confirm that and found one other minor difference. The D90LE’s new chipset only supports DSD512 for the I2s input rather than the DSD1024 limit of the D90SE.  

A quick check of my music collection revealed I have exactly zero DSD1024 files; a reality that I’m sure applies to 99.9% of the market.

Topping D90LE DAC Dimensions
Topping D90LE

Aside from the removal of MQA, and the changes required to the input subsystem as a result,  the D90LE still uses the 9038pro DAC chip with the channels summed for better noise reduction and clarity, it still uses all the same internals that gave the original D90 its fantastic performance when measured, and it still offers all the same great input options of the earlier models (USB, Optical, Coax,I2s via HDMI, as well as Bluetooth with both LDAC and aptX HD support). 

Topping D90LE DAC and A90 Discrete Headphone Amplifier Black Angle
Topping D90LE DAC atop A90 Discrete Headphone Amp

I’ve already sent out a request for a demo unit from Apos to try out this new D90 version as both past iterations I have tried made it tough to justify spending more than the cost of a D90 on a new DAC. With the D90LE coming in at $799, that price just got lower and Topping just made it harder for their competition again.  

I’ll post a full review after spending some time with the D90LE and let you know if deserves to be on your short list like the original D90 and D90SE did.

As a side note, Topping may have inadvertently just defined the cost of MQA support on a per device basis with their pricing structure and if that is true, MQA costs more than most of us suspected to implement. Now I understand the vitriol, if it were there not doing anything and not costing me anything, I didn’t care to simply ignore it. At $100 added cost, maybe the vitriol is deserved.  

Topping D90LE DAC and A90 Discrete Headphone Amplifier Silver Front
Topping D90LE DAC atop A90 Discrete Headphone Amp

Price & Availability

  • Topping A90 Discrete Headphone Amplifier (coming soon)

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. ORT

    May 30, 2022 at 5:02 am

    My friend, the truth is only vitriol to those selling the lie. In our world, the real world outside this little Matrix, only frAudiophiles fear the truth.

    Recall if you will this toadish truth? MQA is not a (Caddyshack ALERT!) Baby Ruth.

    If I did not have my Emotiva XDA-2 feeding my new Schiit Magnius then I would buy a Schiit Modius or give a serious look at this gorgeous Doodie-Free (Caddyshack ALERT!) Topping D90LE. And remember yet another truth.

    Should you buy a FARCE®™ equipped DAC and never use that filthy feature, you will have still inadvertently paid Stuart for MQA. You will have paid a fee to be a fool.

    The FARCE®™ (i.e., MQA) will NEVER be with any DAC I use.

    With that statement I speak the truth and said truth is a result of my being free to choose to whom I will give my hard earned dinero. And the truth is some thing those who would foist The FARCE®™ upon us would rather not allow.

    Nice write up, sir. Huzzah, indeed!

    ORT

    • Maniac

      May 31, 2022 at 6:11 am

      ORT, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      Imagine being forced pay a $100 tax on a feature that will only screw up the sound… It is perfectly normal to be bitter and pissed about it. The only way to change that is to make your voice heard.

      I disagree with ASR on many things, MANY things. This, I’m 100% with them.

      DSD and FLAC are already lossless, as original as it gets with our current tech. We are not starving for storage or bandwidth, we do not need lossy compression when we are shooting for the best sounds quality. There is no need for their fabled “folding” tech. Their compression are only explained in a non-sensical, wrongly illustrated manner.

      There are no reasonable way to compress data like they mentioned, no way to decompress data like they mentioned. With the excess of processing power we have, there are no reason to not have playback software to process all their imaginary “unfolding”. Yet they require hardware.

      What they are running is just a scam ring. I must say I’ve lost all respect for Meridian as well if they had Stuart as one of their top guy.

    • W. Jennings

      June 1, 2022 at 11:31 am

      I class ‘shooting the messenger’ as vitriol. Mentioning a product has a feature shouldn’t get messages that attack the writer. I have said all along that I see MQA as a solution in search of a problem, and don’t recommend or use it. I certainly was not encouraging its use but accurate reporting requires I list the specs including those people find unnecessary. If I suggest using a controversial technology, feel free to call me out on it, but if I simply mention the fact that a product includes it – call the maker out and leave me out of it please.

  2. mfgillia

    May 31, 2022 at 8:59 am

    I wouldn’t give ASR too much credit for pointing out the fallacies around MQA. After all, they literally banned the guy (Goldensound) who did the most work to prove rather convincingly MQA is simply not what it was originally presented to be – lossless audio.

    • W. Jennings

      June 1, 2022 at 11:34 am

      I didn’t intend to give ASR credit for pointing out the fallacies of MQA, more that the love of Topping gear is strong there due to the rather spectacular THD and SNR numbers their recent products have produced. While I don’t subscribe to numbers telling the whole story of audio, I do think Toppings efforts at continuous improvement of their products could serve as a great model to a lot of other less nimble companies in the space.

  3. James

    May 31, 2022 at 1:52 pm

    I still don’t know why anybody wants to use the lossy MQA format, especially when we have DSD and FLAC…

    May MQA die a quiet unintelligible death.

  4. matt

    May 31, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    I cancelled Tidal and in my comment mentioned I was cancelling solely because I did not want to support MQA.

    We have to fight back against a new fee based compression protocol. As far as my ears can tell, it sounds fine, but it can’t sound better than FLAC, so there is no reason for it to exist. If it gets more traction, we may find ourselves stuck paying for something unnecessary and it could ultimately lead us to a new DRM scenario.

    The sooner we rid ourselves of MQA the better.

  5. W. Jennings

    June 1, 2022 at 11:37 am

    Just to clarify once and for all, here is my stance on MQA. At best MQA is a slightly better compression algorithm in a day where it no longer matters as bandwidth now allows streaming uncompressed files if so desired. At worst, its a lossy codec with a licensing fee. My stance is when they can show how it is truly better in any relevant way, I’ll adopt it. Until then, its just another compression algorithm with a higher cost than other at least equally good alternatives.

  6. ORT

    June 7, 2022 at 4:16 am

    Sir Jennings of Minion, I am NOT attacking the messenger, rather I am stomping on the lie that is MQA (aka, The FARCE©) and it’s MESSenger, Darth Traitor©. Most know him as B(l)ob Stuart, a foul craven indeed.

    You sir, are a writer. NOT a typist. I do not lie, not even to salve mine own ego or that of the pithily pretentious pusillanimous punques of frAudio that whine out when others speak out and eloquently so. Again, you are a fine writer and not a typist. But…

    …If some seem to “attack” be assured that they despise the fallacy of the FARCE© and it’s Pith Lord©, Darth Traitor©.

    Some are passionate about keeping the music as it was meant to be, listened to and not spat upon via a trifling codec, a tarted up piece of poo foisted by the Traitor’s demands that we pay HIM for compressed “crappola quality”. Hmmm…Who knew you could “fold” a turd?

    Me? I loath that codec and it’s idiot creator. He and his bastardized creation can take an airborne intercourse. He is full of him self.

    In all ways and for always, be well sir. Enjoy T.H.E. Show this week end!

    ORT

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