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StyleAudio Topaz Amp Eval / Review Thread

post #1 of 101
Thread Starter 
As noted in this thread, Craig (SACD-Man) at Whiplash Audio is StyleAudio's US dealer for their portable headphone amps. CryoParts is the US importer.

Craig has generously agreed to kick off an eval program to 10 or so headfi members, to review the Topaz amp and Whiplash's Spotlight USB cable. Those who are interested in taking part, pm Craig directly and he will select the reviewers.

Rules:
-1 to 2 week auditioning
-Must post comments / reviews in this thread
-The Topaz must be sent to the next person on the list using USPS priority service / UPS / FedEx with delivery confirmation / tracking
-The unit needs to be shipped in the same condition that they received it
-Separate comments should be added on the USB cable itself
-US only

I'm posting this b/c I'll be the first reviewer. The Topaz and Polestar cable are on its way to me now, and I should receive it within the next few days. A review will then be forthcoming in a couple of weeks.
post #2 of 101
A few are signed up to review the Topaz. I'm now looking for someone to start the review process for the Emerald. If you are interested, please let me know!!
post #3 of 101
i would like to know how it compares with big boys like Lavry, Benchmark, Apogee, Aqvox and Stello
If someone could provide me with such an information i will be geatefull
post #4 of 101
Thread Starter 
As mentioned above, Craig from Whiplash audio was kind enough to send me a production Topaz unit, and I've lived with it for just under two weeks.



First and foremost, while the unit is small, and indeed appears portable, it needs to be powered by its AC adapter. From what I understand, StyleAudio took the Ruby and made sizable improvements to it, to where it now requires AC power (over and above USB) to function to its max potential.

As such, it's more of a "desktop" unit as it must remain tethered to a plug and cord.



Given its size, I freely admit that it was a bit discombobulating to hear such tremendous sound emanating from such a tiny box! I've owned in the past: Hornet, Move2, PAV2V, Bithead, and Cobra D10 and if memory serves me right, the Topaz is a good notch above in terms of total power.

But power is nothing without refinement, richness, lushness, etc and the Topaz provides that very nicely as well.

I fed the unit both Redbook and 96/24 audio through USB as well as standard flac through my SqueezeboxV3.

I wouldn't say the unit had any particular flavor all its own besides "quality". I think we all here understand that, even though it's a vague way to describe something. If something sounds dull or lifeless or closed or muddy, we very much know that something's amiss.

The Topaz just projects quality and power. It's up to the headphone, where the rubber meets the road, to convey particular flavor.

First and foremost, the Topaz drove my 701s quite well. Not supremely well, but know that I have the uber strong C2C as well Headroom's balanced desktop, so those are my reference points.

My Senn600's were driven with no issues whatsoever, and the ultimate experience was very very nice. To those who persist on saying that these headphones have "veil" truly need to mate Senns with power, and the inherent liveliness of these cans will shine through.

But the greatest synergy to me came through with my BeyerDT990s. Just phenomenal power and quick slam, these cans just sung rich and true with the Topaz. Amazing to hear.

All in all, though, as robust as its amp is, it's the DAC where this puppy really shines. I was very very impressed at the clarity and sparkle coming out of the Topaz.

This is very weird to say, but the Topaz had nearly all of the shine as my PS Audio DLIII on the top and mid end, but just lacked a bit on the bass end. I now know what people mean when they say that DACs have "bass". Well, the DLIII has balls to spare.

But that's more of a complement to the Topaz than anything else, b/c it just has an amazing DAC section.

In thinking about the price, yes it is a decent chunk of change, but the overall package does make for a rather compelling value equation. This thing betters the Musical Fidelity X-DACV3 that I had as well as a Y2006 Headroom Micro, so it's playing with very well respected competition.

The Topaz is on its way to MoNelly, and he has a Pico Amp/DAC in his grubby hands, so his head to head impressions should be interesting. He also has a very efficient RS1, so the Topaz should rock his socks.

If you're looking for a small form factor desktop amp, say for a bedroom, you should give the Topaz a listen. Also, given that it has preamp outputs, this thing could serve well on a work desk, with RCAs feeding an integrated amp to speakers.

To end, I have to make a comment on the "Spotlight" USB cable that Craig also loaned to me. At first I was skeptical, and in fact couldn't even hear a difference when A/B'ing his vs. a standard old thing that we all have lying around the house.

But... to be fair to Craig, and I'm still wincing trying to believe this is the case, but after using the Spotlight USB cable for 2 weeks, and then going back to the $1 cable, something was amiss.

So the next day after I shipped the amp and cable to MoNelly, I sat down for a listen.

I turned everything on, started listening to things on my balanced amp, DLIII, and my 701s, and I was... "eh?" What's going on here? It didn't actually come together until a few hours later that the only thing different about the system was that I swapped the USB cable.

So obviously, take that for what you will. This is a case where I'm almost distrusting my music memory, but my initial reaction was strong and very weird.
post #5 of 101
Thank you deadie
I thought the same about Topaz, it Really shines with my RS-1
post #6 of 101
Mine should arrive tomorrow. USPS left a message saying no one was home. Funny, I was home.
post #7 of 101
Great review deadie. The small form factor and big sound you talk about is really making me consider this as my "desktop" upgrade when I have the money to move up the chain.
post #8 of 101
Thread Starter 
It's pretty funny - I told Craig that StyleAudio almost does itself a disservice by making this thing so small. People may not take it seriously because of it's tiny form factor vs. a hulking piece of metal that's just gotta be better!

It's similar to those new fangled Pico Projectors. I mean, the technology to engineer those things to the size of a deck of cards is off the charts, but no one's gonna pay buku bucks for a flashlight on steroids.

If the Topaz were the size of a small loaf of bread, had a ginormous volume knob, and big ass heat sink wings on the side, then that'll get your motor running more than just this cute thing.
post #9 of 101
Haha the funny part is you are so right. There just something about "bigger capacitors = more awesomeness" but if you say its got the sound of something 3 times its size I might just be sold.

In terms of actual size how big is it compared to a standard Hammond enclosed portable amp? My UHA-3 has similar dimensions to most Mini3s, the Ibasso D2, or Go-vibe petite so I was wondering how big the Topaz is in comparison.
post #10 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by mookowz13 View Post
Haha the funny part is you are so right. There just something about "bigger capacitors = more awesomeness" but if you say its got the sound of something 3 times its size I might just be sold.

In terms of actual size how big is it compared to a standard Hammond enclosed portable amp? My UHA-3 has similar dimensions to most Mini3s, the Ibasso D2, or Go-vibe petite so I was wondering how big the Topaz is in comparison.
Yea I have been memorized with big capacitors also.
post #11 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by clasam View Post
USPS left a message saying no one was home. Funny, I was home.
I laughed a lot.
post #12 of 101
Can op-amps be rolled in the Topaz?
post #13 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by joewatch View Post
Can op-amps be rolled in the Topaz?
No, they are soldered in and the circuit is voiced for the selected OPAMP's.

Peace,

Lee
post #14 of 101
Nice impressions deadie. I don't see any line level input. So it works only DAC-->Amp way and can't be used straight with analog sources, right?
post #15 of 101
Thread Starter 
Correct - just through USB & Optical, both selectable via front switches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vkvedam View Post
Nice impressions deadie. I don't see any line level input. So it works only DAC-->Amp way and can't be used straight with analog sources, right?
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