Topping NX1 Australian Tour - DJScope
Firstly I'd like to thank @DMax99 for sending this awesome little portable headphone amplifier on a tour of Australia, and @H20Fidelity for helping out organise the event.
First Impressions - Previously Posted (Click to show)
After waiting for almost a week to get this thing, it finally arrived today. It looks much smaller than what I imagined it and feels rock solid in my hand, about the same as the C&C BH.
So me and a mate from where I work sat down and had a musical intermission from doing what we were supposed to be doing, i.e. work. We took some notes on paper as we had our first impressions.
Setup (everything is played at high gain)
- Motorola RAZR HD and Moto G > Topping NX1 > Takstar Pro 80
- Listening to "Sundream" by RUFUS (FLAC 16/44.1), "Desert Night" by RUFUS (FLAC 16/44.1) and "Machines Do Care" by Phonat (24/44.1)
- High Extension/Air
- Punchy bass - can be overwhelming
- Some interference and fuzz
- Volume pot noise
- Crisp and forward highs
- V Shaped
- Punchy lows
- Mids a bit suppressed
After this I went on to listen to the NX1 for the rest of my work day and more when I got home.
Initially I did hear some intermittent interference or short buzzing randomly and noise when turning the volume pot but as the day progressed, the circuit got warm, the volume pot got looser and the buzzing and noise stopped. I haven't experience it since.
This amp most definitely needs a burn in minimum of 1 hour before it starts to sound good. Either that, or my ears needed to adjust to it. It first sounds a bit rough in the highs and floppy in the lows, but after that the lows tighten up and the highs become much smoother. Once you get that out of the way you can actually get to know the amp and it's very transparent. So transparent that I could actually hear the background of the effects of some of RUFUS's samples. High's and lows are very forward and the mid's are not recessed but what it seems like is is that the signature is a tiny bit V shaped, not a lot, maybe 2-3db on both ends. Switching the gain to low setting feels like the frequency response is flattened out but become a little boring. All-in-all the NX1 is a pretty fun amp.
The sound stage is good. It makes it maybe 10% wider than originally. But it suffers a bit from the highs and lows being a bit forward and some of the percussive elements which are put behind you are drowned out. You can hear them, but only if you listen for them specifically. But you cannot hear them at all without an amp. I picked this up by doing an A-B comparison with my Fiio E17 (using only the AUX in, EQ off, 6db gain setting). With the E17 the staging is noticeably wider but the sound signatures a worlds apart, E17 being warm and fun and the NX1 being cold and clear.
This is what I have for now. I'll add more as the journey with the Topping NX1 continues over the next 6 days.
To be continued...
One week later...
Originally I was going to change what is written in my first impressions, but I decided to leave it as is and just expand on my experience.
The review will be based upon using the NX1 as it is designed for, i.e. an extremely affordable portable headphone amplifier, specifically using affordable closed back headphones, though I will also add my impressions from the other gear I tried thanks to @Xtralglactic.
Most of my week with NX1 was spent at work with me using nothing but the NX1 powered by the line-out from my work PC. The PC I have at work is a pretty good setup and is surprisingly well grounded, unlike my PC at home. This made for some prolonged listening sessions totalling to about 50 hours in total. Listening to mostly FLAC and a couple of albums in 320kbps. Because I was at work I did not have the luxury of analysing everything I listened to, but the time spent was enjoyable and not fatiguing at all.
When I got home is where I made most of my analysis. I made a simple input/output switch to test things properly. The circuit below:
This switch made AB'ing much more accurate and the findings were actually quite surprising to me. This is what I found using the AB switch:
- My Moto G actually sounds clearer than the line-out from my PC because of the terrible grounding.
- The NX1 is actually louder than the E17 when used through only the AUX amp section of the E17 on 12db gain and volume maxed out (though the E17 when used as a DAC/amp will blow your ears out)
- The NX1 and E17 sound Identical when you set the E17 treble and bass EQ setting to 2db boost, which actually proved to me that the NX1 is in fact a little bit V-shaped. (just a tad)
- Soundstage on the NX1 is amazing and equals the E17 even through the DAC section.
This little amp is definitely punching above it's weight class, literally. It sounds pretty transparent. Not cold or warm, but truly neutral. The boosted highs and lows gives it a fun and punchy signature with crisp and somewhat airy highs. I wish I could say more about the highs but my ears cannot hear above 15kHz, so my description of highs is mid highs only. This amp greatly compliments other flattish cans but can be a bit too much when paired with dark or bright cans.
Mids are good and clear, and even with the boosted highs and lows they don't feel like they're pushed away.
I love it when you can hear imperfections and background noise from recordings. Some say that this is from bad mastering but I think it makes the recording unique. This amp definitely picks these up and this give me a huge smile on my face.
Comparing it to the E11 which would be it's direct competitor. This comparison is not even close. The E11 has a dark signature, bloated bass and crunchy highs. Listening to Mariah Carey sounds like she's got a sore throat. The NX1 wins in every aspect by a large margin.
The sound stage is just "WOW!". On the Takstar Pro 80s the sound stage is wide and deep, this is the same with the DT770 Pro 250Ohm. But even more surprising is using it with the Senns HD650, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The soundstage goes deeper than normal and somewhat sounds unnatural but truly spectacular. This amp compliments open headphones with lots of imaging more than anything.
Most of the time this is not a problem, but when paired together with a mobile phone you get intermittent buzzing and short static comes on randomly. This is definitely not a deal breaker.
This thing is dead silent when turned all the way up.
As you might have noticed that I mentioned the Beyer DT770 Pro and the Senns HD650. Yes! It can power these somewhat hard to drive cans. The bass is not very controlled though. But it sounds very nice. Two thumbs up from me in terms of power.
Topping states that it has a working time of 100 hours under one charge. I charged it to full on the first day because it died pretty much in the first 10 minutes of me using it because someone didn't charge it before posting it. Not pointing fingers at no one... But after the full charge it has been working this whole time. It's kind of hard to track usage but because it is a class A amplifier, it should be constantly draining energy when on. Battery is good!
This amp impressed me, A LOT. Its size, its power, its signature and its soundstage are outstanding for a $100 portable amplifier, but for ~$40 it's an absolute steal. It just feels like someone forgot to carry a 1 when calculating its cost. It's not without faults, but for the price, who cares!
At the final 3 days of my having it, I didn't use it until today to refresh my memory. The only reason for that is because my E17 has a DAC which makes the sound a lot clearer and the bass more controlled. But this should not take anything away from the NX1. The E17 is $140, $100 more than it.
If you are on a strict budget of under $100 then the NX1 is definitely the way to go. You can pair it with a decent DAC for $60 like the SMSL M2 or the Stoner Acoustic UD110 (if you can find a way to get one) and Bob's your uncle!
Edited by DJScope - 6/26/14 at 1:02am