General Information


  • ESS ES9038 PRO DAC chip, MQA decoding with USB, coaxial, optical, and AES inputs
  • Get bit-perfect audio playback without distortion or jitter. The XMOS 16-core XU216 microcontroller converts the highest quality digital files to analog voltage without the timing deviations that cause distortion. Plus, Asynchronous USB audio transfer and CPLD ensure jitter lower than -160dB.
  • Ditch the cables, not the quality. Get rich 24-bit Bluetooth 5.0 transmission with support of major lossless codecs: AAC, SBC, APTX, APTX LL, APTX HD, and LDAC.
  • Use the D90SE in “DAC + Preamplifier” mode and connect a power amplifier or monitor speakers. Control the output volume on the front panel or with the remote control.


PCM: 16-32bit / 44.1 - 768kHz
DSD (Native): DSD64 - DSD512
DSD (DoP): DSD64 - DSD256
MQA: Renderer, MQA, MQA Studio
PCM: 16 - 32bit / 44.1kHz - 768kHz
DSD (Native): DSD64 - DSD1024
DSD (DoP): DSD64 - DSD256
MQA: Not supported
Coax/ Opt/ AES IN
PCM: 16 - 24bit / 44.1kHz - 192kHz
DSD (Native): Not supported
DSD (DoP): DSD64
MQA: Renderer, MQA, MQA Studio
Bluetooth: AAC / SBC / APTX / APTX LL / APTX HD / LDAC
Line out RCA decoding parameters (USB IN @96kHz)
THD+N@A-wt: <0.00007% @1kHz
THD@No-wt 90kBw: <0.0008% @20-20kHz
SNR@A-wt: 127dB @1kHz
Dynamic range @A-wt: 127dB @1kHz
Frequency response
20Hz - 20kHz (±0.1dB)
20Hz - 40kHz (±0.3dB)
Output level
2.1Vrms @0dBFS (4V Mode)
2.6Vrms @0dBFS (5V Mode)
Noise @A-wt: <1.3uVrms
Crosstalk: -124dB @1kHz
Channel balance: 0.3dB
Output impedance: 100Ω
Line out XLR decoding parameters (USB IN @96kHz)
THD+N@A-wt: <0.00005% @1kHz
THD@No-wt 90kBw: <0.0003% @20-20kHz
SNR@A-wt: 134dB @1kHz
Dynamic range @A-wt: 134dB @1kHz
Frequency response
20Hz - 20kHz (±0.1dB)
20Hz - 40kHz (±0.3dB)
Noise @A-wt: <1.1uVrms
Crosstalk: -139dB @1kHz
Channel balance: 0.3dB
Output impedance: 100Ω


Latest reviews


500+ Head-Fier
Marginal Revelation
Pros: improved layering, dynamics, and soundstage coherency at high volumes compared to less expensive DACs in Topping's lineup
Cons: S/PDIF / sleep mode issues?

The Topping D90SE is a flagship digital-to-analog converter (DAC) using an ESS SABRE ES9038 PRO DAC chip. The D90SE retails for $899. I had the opportunity to listen to the D90SE as part of a tour organized by The unit was provided by Apos Audio. I was responsible for covering shipping costs to the next reviewer and am not being compensated monetarily or otherwise for writing these impressions.


I used the Topping D90SE in a home theater setup during my evaluation. I used the TOSLINK output of my television to feed the D90SE, and then used the D90SE’s XLR outputs to feed a pair of Kali Audio LP-6 powered monitors.


I tested the Topping D90SE with Spotify Premium and FLAC streamed through Plex. Visit my page to get an idea of what I listen to:

XenosBroodLord’s Library |


The Topping D90SE Pro comes in a large rectangular black box. The lid of the box is embossed with the Topping logo, and a large “Hi-Res Audio” sticker is featured on the bottom left corner of the lid. On the right face of the lid is a sticker which provides the model number, voltage information, and the unit serial number. The top face of the lid is marked with Topping’s corporate contact information. The D90SE includes an AC cable, a USB-A to USB-B cable and an antenna to enable the device’s Bluetooth functionality. The included documentation consists of a manual and a warranty card. The D90SE includes the same remote included with more inexpensive Topping products, such as the D30 Pro and E30.



The Topping logo is printed in white in the top left corner of the front face. “D90SE” is printed in the bottom left corner, and the MQA logo is featured in the top right corner. On the left side of the device’s front face is a small square power / select button, which cycles through inputs by default. On the right side of the front face are similarly shaped and sized plus and minus volume controls.

The center of the front face features a large display. The front display of the unit uses the same familiar font seen on other Topping products but uses white text rather than orange. The selected input and output as well as the current sample rate are shown on the left of the display. The current volume setting is shown in the center of the display, and the playback format, whether PCM or MQA, is shown in the top right corner.


During my initial evaluation of the Topping D90SE, I experienced intermittent popping noises when initiating music playback. This would occur immediately after the television and the D90SE first powered up. This may be related to documented issues with the D90SE’s TOSLINK connection interfacing with some televisions and other devices. In my case, it seemed to be an interaction between the D90SE’s sleep mode and the TV. I have since disabled the D90SE’s sleep mode. I have not noticed the issue during the last several months of my evaluation.


The following impressions were made using the high output (5 Vrms) setting with the RCA outputs disabled and the default digital filter (#3). These impressions should be treated as ephemeral and non-definitive.

Two major benefits of the D90SE were improved layering and dynamics. Following secondary instrumental lines was easier, and I noticed several details, including subtle choral notes in the background of the chorus of Kate Boy’s “Northern Lights,” which I had not before. Percussion benefited the most from the D90SE’s improved dynamics, having a punchier overall delivery than I am used to. Certain midrange instruments also seemed more confident in their attack, such as the lower pitched synth line in Celldweller’s “Unshakeable,” which comes in at 0:53. The improvements to layering and dynamics were frequently mutually reinforcing, such as with respect to the writhing pull and tug dynamics in the bass line in Deadmau5’s “Seeya,” as well as the separation between the simultaneous bass notes and kick drum hits in that song. A third benefit to the D90SE was that it seemed to enable louder listening volumes without the soundstage collapsing in on itself than possible with other devices.


While I attempted to conduct a listening comparison between the Topping D90SE and my personal Topping D30 Pro unit, doing so in a manner I consider valid would have required more precise volume matching than I could reliably produce given the effects of my body’s position and posture on measured SPL in my listening environment. Even if I were able to discern the correct volume settings on my monitors to volume match the D90SE and the D30 Pro, the process of leaving my listening position to go up to the television, unplug the TOSLINK and XLR cables from one device, plug them back into the other, adjust the volume knobs on the rear faces of each monitor precisely, and then return to my exact same previous seated listening position would require a greater delay between impressions than I feel comfortable with given the limits of my auditory memory.



The Topping D90SE is likely overkill for my needs given my modest speaker setup. That said, I have enjoyed my time with the D90SE and was sorry to see it go. If you are looking for absolute transparency and peace of mind with respect to objective measurements, the D90SE is a great option.

The Topping D90SE can be purchased below:

TOPPING D90SE DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) — Apos Audio
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100+ Head-Fier
Topping D90SE: Is it the best DAC under $1k?
Pros: - Great instrument separation
- Tasteful bass punch
- Clean sounding
- Tons of features
- Excellent build quality
Cons: - Flat soundstage and less musical
- Treble sometimes can be ear piercing
- Still has digital glare
Few months ago, Topping discontinued their popular D90 dac and replaced it with D90SE with ES9038PRO chip – instead of AK4499. I have read a lot of good reviews on D90 but I have not had a chance to audition it. So, when @Loquah (Passion for Sound) offered to loan the newer D90SE to Patreon members as part of APOS product tour, I quickly said yes. In particular, I was keen to compare D90SE with other dacs I own: Denafrips Ares 2 and Bifrost 2 – which are also within the same under $1k price bracket.

For this test, my audio chain is:
Source: PC (Qobuz) via USB
Amp: Burson Soloist 3XP, Bottlehead Crack
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800 (SDR), ZMF Verite Closed, ZMF Atticus

Topping D90SE: U$899
Denafrips Ares 2: ~U$815 (SGD 1098)
Schiit Bifrost 2: U$699.

Topping D90SE is rich in features that are not offered by either Ares 2 or Bifrost 2 such as MQA, preamp capability, different filter choices, and Bluetooth receiver.
In my case, preamp is particularly very useful to reduce the voltage signal into my Crack. Without it, it is too loud and I have to set Crack volume pot at around 8-9 o’clock. At this low setting, the volume pot performance is the worst with channel imbalance.
There are 7 choices of filters – however, I only used the Default one (Mode 3).

Photo 5-10-21, 4 40 37 pm.jpg

Sound Presentation:
D90SE is a neutral and clean-sounding dac. The bass is punchy. The vocal is clear and articulated. The treble however sometimes can be “hot”. For a bright headphone like Sennheiser HD800, this can be easily noticeable and make it very fatiguing. However, it’s not that noticeable on a warmer headphone like ZMF Atticus. In general, D90SE still has a slight “digital glare” that is common on delta sigma dac – however, from memory, it is more natural sounding than RME-ADI2.

Bifrost 2 is a more coloured, warmer dac. The sound is more energetic. The bass slams harder and has more body. However, sometimes this slam can be too strong and muddy the vocal. Treble is more rounded and rarely sound hot.

Ares 2 is as warm as BF2 but with opposite sound presentation. It is smooth and laidback. The bass is mellow and not as punchy as the others. Treble is very smooth and has never been offensive.

In term of detail retrieval, D90SE and BF2 are on-par. Instruments can be clearly identified – even during busy music passage. Meanwhile, I find Ares 2 to be less detailed due to smoothness nature of this dac. In a busy and complex passage, often it feels like all instruments are mushed together.

For me, soundstage is the achilles heel of D90SE. It has good width but no depth – which make it spatially sounds flat and hence, makes the music sounds distant.
BF2 has same width but a lot better depth which makes it sound more holographic. It is also more intimate and very engaging.
Ares 2 has a very spacious musical presentation. Excellent width and very good depth.


In summary, D90SE is a very capable DAC. If you want a delta sigma DAC under $1k with plenty of features, clean sounding, analytical, excellent detail with neutral tonality, Topping D90SE should be on the top of your list.

Special Thanks:
Topping D90SE was loaned to me as part of Passion for Sound product tour.
Thank you @Apos Audio , for providing the unit for this tour. Link to this product: Apos Store
Link to Passion for Sound review: Passion for Sound Topping D90SE Review

Sonic Defender
Sonic Defender
Clearly we aren't getting anywhere. I'll thank you for the conversation and move along. For the record I did enjoy the OP's review despite taking exception to one aspect. Cheers.
cheers @lycos and dakanao too for the comment reaffirming “soundstage depth” ;

Whilst a few things about the Topping amaze me- such as: swapping to and from using it, on the fly, with ‘other’ DACs gives a performance that, on some recordings, a listener could think they are listening to the same thing. (presentation is close enough to be ‘all DACs are equal’ type logics..)

I have thought the D90 equal to other units (near equal pricepoints magically) a couple of times,.. but then changing the song and its a whole new story.
Whilst I don’t doubt that some songs may even present ‘better’ (subjective much?) via the D90s rendition of the digital stream, it had caught me out on a few recordings where it did the playback SO differently to every other DAC IN THE HOUSE. (oops capslock, but in hindsight, appropriate)
On some recordings there was no ‘appropriate’ depth positioning.. and when the artist was generally perceived really really far back in the sound stage (and resolvable slightly off to a side), with the Topping they’d be somehow flattened (DS etch perhaps) and the result was ‘in some regards’ clearer or -=ahem=- subjectively more pleasing..
it wasn’t what the recording SHOULD sound like

It is truly amazing how much a D/S DAC chips can be dressed up and made to look ‘beyond amazing’, and that with modern audio one can get a LOT OF BANG for their buck.
(even if that bang goes off a touch too close for comfort sometimes)

postscript:the test track that first showed night day difference was in the opening ten seconds of the song: Inches of Darkness - T J Eckleberg; linked on chewyyoube here- ); although I can only vouch for my subjective listening experience (decades from CD


Headphoneus Supremus
Topping D90Se makes it hard to justify buying any other dac.
Pros: Great build quality, near reference sound, MQA support available on most inputs, 5V output mode
Cons: universal remote not of same quality as main unit, some controls a bit clunky to manipulate.

Disclaimer: Apos Audio sent the D90SE for review as a loaner. I have no financial interest in Apos Audio, or Topping, and received no compensation for this review. I am using an affiliate link here at the request of Apos Audio for tracking purposes, but do not claim proceeds from the use of this link. Increasingly vendors are requesting use of affiliate links so you may see more of them added to my reviews for tracking purposes, rest assured I have no intention of monetizing this site. For more information about the D90SE, see Apos Audio, or Topping’s website.

Those familiar with topping products will recognize the packaging of the D90SE as it follows the trend with a matte black box with the Topping name on top. Details of what is in the box are provided by a label on the side. Lifting the top reveals the DAC tucked into a foam surround protected by a plastic bag with compartments cut in the foam for the accessories A little more unpacking and you have the USB cable, power cable, Bluetooth antenna, and remote unpacked. The addition of a set of RCA cables or XLR cables so you don’t have to go dig for them would be appreciated but otherwise it is a fairly complete kit.

The chassis anodized aluminum and is available in either matte black or brushed metal finishes. The only visual differences between the D90 versions are the inclusion of the MQA logo on the 2nd gen model at upper right and the D90SE logo at lower left on the newest version. The face of the unit from left to right has the power button, display screen, and a pair of up/down buttons at far right that control selector functions and volume when used in pre-amp mode. The rear face from left to Right, the rear of the unit has a pair of XLR outputs followed by the RCA outs. The next block is the inputs starting with an HDMI style IIS input, then an optical (Toslink) and the blutooth antenna port stacked one on top of the other, coax and USB are similarly stacked next in line followed by single XLR for AES input. The last block is the power input which has a standard C13 female port with fusing built in and the power switch. Here again, you’d be excused for not seeing any difference in previous versions as the D90 MQA sported exactly the same layout externally. Overall heft of the unit is gratifying as well as it feels very solid in hand with no rattle, lose ports, or wobble to any of the sockets. It looks equally at home in my headphone setup or replacing my Bel Canto in my home setup. Props to Topping for looking the part of a high end unit, now about that remote…. (Unfortunately, the same universal remote used with all topping DAC/amps has shipped with all versions of the D90 and is not the quality of the rest of the unit. Its time for an app to replace remotes anyway so how about it topping?)

If one could be forgiven for not noticing the external differences in D90 versions, the same cannot be said for internals. Previous generations of the D90 relied on AKM 4499 DACs while this newest iteration uses the ESS9038 Pro 8 channel DAC chip with 4 channels summed into each output for reduced noise and improved performance. The D90MQA brought the Xmos216 USB processor that allowed for full MQA decode via USB but other inputs were still limited to PCM only for some and PCM/DSD for others. The D90SE improves on that with full MQA decode, unfolding, and MQA studio are now supported via all the inputs except IIS. USB and IIS input support 32/768k PCM. The USB offers DSD512 native support while the IIS offers all the way up to DSD1024. The Coax/Optical/and AES are still limited to 24/192 PCM and DSD64 (DoP) but now do add MQA support. Even Bluetooth has upgrades with a new bypass of its internal DAC circuits and a direct pipe into the ESS9038Pro for improved sound quality. Bluetooth supports AptX Adaptive, and LDAC as well as AptX-HD, and AAC so the full gamut of sources should be compatible. Another new trick in the D90Se’s bag is the addition of a new high-power option that increases RCA output to 2.5V and XLR output to a full 5V. This allows the user to set output to 4V for standard consumer gear or 5V for professional gear and gives the D90SE an even broader range of applications.

For all the added power and new features of the D90SE, Topping has not forgotten what got them here. THD+N is insanely low and pushes the boundaries of what my analyzer is capable of measuring. Others have tested the D90Se and found nearly 135 dB of dynamic range using the XLR outputs and a THD+N of <0.00007% for RCA out both of which are certainly class-leading and quite possibly about as good as it gets regardless of price.

The D90SE, much like its predecessors requires that the power button on front be held in while powering on the unit to enter setup mode. From there options of switching between DAC and Pre-amp mode are available. This prevents accidentally switching modes and destroying your hearing but does seem a bit antiquated and less than intuitive compared to some other models. Another thing to remember is that just changing the setting doesn’t save it. You have to go through the options to option # 13 to save the settings and restart the unit. A 14th option does exist but is rarely used as it is factory reset.

Topping D90SE Settings​

Setting NumberSettingOptions
1Auto Poweron / off
2Screen BrightnessLow/Med/High/Auto (mid with 30second timeout)
3Line out ModePreamp/DAC
4Line out TypeRCA/XLR/Both
5Bluetooth Enabledon/off
6PCM Filters7 filter options
7DSD Filters4 filter options
8IIS Interface PhaseStandard/Reverse
10DSD bit flag (IIS)Pin 15 / Pin 14
11Polarity (IIS)normal / inverted
12maximum output level4V / 5V
13Save and ExitSave and reboot / exit without save
14Factory Resetset to defaults

In operational mode, the D90Se is designed to be controlled using the remote as the single button on the front of the unit serves as on off and input select, but all other functions require the use of the remote to access. Down the left side of the remote, you have Power, a headphone button that is not used, the FIR Filter select button, and the Auto button which turns on and off automatic standby. Filters available are Sharp, slow, short-delay sharp, short-delay slow, super slow, and low dispersion short-delay when using PCM input and 37kHz or 65kHz when using DSD input. IIS and DSD phase settings can also be adjusted. The Auto-standby feature allows the device to go to sleep when no signal is detected and power back up on signal introduction. For the most part I found this worked well but did occasionally clip the first note while waking up. Down the right side of the remote we have mute at the top, display brightness at the bottom, and two unused buttons between. On the wheel in the remotes center, up and down are volume control in pre-amp mode, while right and left are input selection and the center of the wheel controls output selection. Pairing bluetooth is enabled by holding down the Brightness button until the display indicates pairing. The unit must be in bluetooth mode before holding down the button as it will not initiate bluetooth mode if the unit is not already in it.

While all this is good to know, unless the D90Se sounds at least as good as previous generations it doesn’t matter much. I matched my previous listening tests so I had a solid compare of the earlier model to the current release. I tried the D90 in both my home system as replacement for my Bel Canto 2.7 and in my headphone rigs replacing either my RME ADI-2, the Burson Swing, or a Bifrost MB. As mentioned in the previous review, the Bel Canto and RME units are a good bit more costly and it probably isn’t quite fair to expect the same level of performance out of the D90SE, but it comes closer than it has any right to for half the sticker of the other two.
My home rig hasn’t changed since the last go around except for the Triode TRX-1 that went back after review. My main system is a Bel Canto 2.7 DAC, Bryston Pre-amp, Levinson 23 amp and Magnepan 3.7s. Trading the D90SE into the Bel Canto spot using a fully balanced chain makes a small difference and quite frankly it favors the D90SE. Both are very clean, detailed, and crisp but the D90Se is a bit more authoritative in the lows and has better note weight throughout the range. Previous iterations of the D90 could easily have been mistaken for ESS based DACs with their analytical nature, but the D90SE is unmistakably the mighty 9038Pro as it as clean as anything I’ve heard short of the Chord Dave and might actually be closer to it than I’d like to admit. I had said that I could live happily with the D90 in place of the BelCanto and now I am considering putting the BelCanto 2.7 up for sale and keeping the review sample D90SE in its place.

Likewise, when replacing the ADI-2 in my headphone rig the D90Se showed improvements over the previous generation and was a bit closer to the ADI-2 in clarity and detail. Again the D90Se is a bit fuller compared to the slightly leaner presentation of the ADI-2. Transients are now a draw with both the D90SE and ADI-2 being extremely quick. Honestly if one does not need the recording capability of the big RME, the D90SE is a better spend and leaves you with more to spend on the rest of your system or less to spend overall.

The D90SE likewise replaced the Burson Swing without the noted drop in clarity and transient speed I had noted previously. Again the D90SE has proved to be at least the equal of a modified Swing with SparkOS op-amps throughout. The Bifrost MB presents a thicker, richer tone, but sounds overly smoothed compared to the D90Se with a good bit of attendant detail loss. The Bifrost MB will likely be heard as a touch more musical at the expense of detail but that cost if fairly high as the D90Se delivers a lot better resolution when put side by side with the Bimby. I don’t think the difference in sound here is a knock on either product, just they are designed to satisfy two different consumers with the Bifrost MB being more forgiving of poor source and the D90SE being more technical in its presentation but less forgiving.

Topping has built an enviable reputation for producing products that measure exceedingly well and sound just as good all at price-points that are forcing other makers to rethink their price structures. The D90Se is just such a product. It improves on the already quite successful D90 line with even better measurements, an arguably even more capable DAC chip, and improved functionality and MQA support. Previous generations of the D90 challenged DACs costing double and triple its asking price and now the D90Se not only challenges those same products, it bests some of them. It is getting increasingly difficult to find reasons to spend more on a DAC than the cost of the D90Se and when paired with an A90 amplifier, it represents a viable end-game combo for many at a mid-fi price. At the risk of being redundant, check out the D90Se and if you are in the market for a new DAC/AMP combo, check out Apos Audio’s D90Se/A90 Ensemble that comes with the needed cables included. At $1410 + plus tax, I’m betting you’ll be hard pressed to do better than the value that combo respresents. Highly recommended.
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