If you’re new to the hobby of HiFi audio, most enthusiasts will tell you that to achieve the best sounding system, component audio is the way to go. While I agree with this advise, I also acknowledge that all-in one desktop amplifiers are getting so good, it’s hard not to recommend them as a one and done audio solution.
After seeing my Topping MX3 review, the good folks at HiFiGo asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing its successor, the Topping MX5. Given the glowing review I gave the now discontinued MX3, I was very eager to audition the MX5, and right off the top, I can tell you it’s a beast, but it has one potential draw back for some users that I’ll discuss in this review.
Topping is known for making quality audio gear and the MX5 is no exception. This multi-function power amplifier includes a Sabre 9016 DAC, an Infineon Merus class D speaker amplifier and a NFCA headphone amp, which justifies its $300 price point. The MX5 delivers 55 watts per channel @ 4 ohms and 35 watts @ 8 ohms, which is plenty of power for most bookshelf speakers. My Gallo Acoustic Micro speakers are rated at 100 watts at 8 ohms with a sensitivity of 89db, and the MX5 powers them effortlessly.
In the box is a user manual, USB cable to connect the amp to a PC, a remote control, an antenna for Bluetooth connectivity, a ¼ inch to 1/8 inch headphone adapter, a chunky boy power brick and of course the amplifier itself.
The MX5 offers numerous inputs for connecting a source, which includes a USB input, Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC, Aptx, Aptx LL and HD for high-res streaming, Optical and Coax inputs, standard unbalanced RCA inputs, and a balanced TRS input. Speaker wire connects via the 5-way binding posts. This brings me to my only criticism of the MX5, and that is the lack of a dedicated subwoofer output. For most full-sized bookshelf speakers, a dedicated subwoofer is not necessarily required for a high-fidelity listening experience; however, in my case, using my Gallo Micro speakers, a dedicated subwoofer is absolutely required. Luckily for me, my subwoofer is passive, meaning, I plug in my speaker wires from the amp directly to the sub for signal and power, and my speakers connect back to the sub for power. If you don’t need a sub, the MX5 is an easy recommend from me, but if you do, you may want to search out other alternatives.
The review unit I received from HiFiGo is the matt black colorway which is far more handsome in person than in pictures. The MX5 looks and feels like a high-end piece of audio gear. The front facia shares a similar design language of recent Topping’s offerings with its large front display and bright amber font. The volume dial offers a tactile clicking while being turned, which is quite satisfying to interact with.
Pushing the volumes knob will power the unit on and off. Once powered on, additional pushes to the volumes dial will cycle through the input selection. Turning the dial clockwise and counter clockwise will raise and lower the volume. Like its predecessor the MX3, the MX5 relies on its remote control for all of its advanced controls such as mute, treble and bass EQ, high and low gain settings, display brightness, and memory profile buttons. I find having two memory profiles very handy for switch between speaker and headphone listening. You can also access the advance menu via the MX5’s front interface, but this is quite cumbersome to get into. First you need to unplug power the unit, then hold down the volume dial, the re-plugin the power cable. From there you will be granted access to the menu. In the few weeks I’ve had this unit, I only accessed this menu once to see how it was done, so this process shouldn’t be an issue for potential buyers.
When auditioning the MX5, I used the USB input to connect to my PC. For testing, I only used 16 bit or 24 bit lossless high resolution FLAC files.
For the past few months, my desk setup audio solution has been comprised of an ifi Zen Dac V2 and an SMSL AO200 power amplifier, which has been a great pairing providing a smooth and warm sound. In comparison, I’d say the MX5 is on the warm side of analytical – meaning lots of detail in music is very present, but it sounds much warmer and full bodied than typical class D amplifiers to my ears.
When listening to Bubbles by Yosi Horikawa, imagining was spot on with a decently wide sound stage. One of my favorite tracks I like to use for evaluating details and dynamics is DJ Shadow’s Monosylabik, and the MX5 did not disappoint. Percussion felt weighty and punchy. This track is sonically all over the place, and the MX5 provides a very convincing performance. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On feels organic and life like with great vocal presence.
While the MX3 sounded thin and exhibited slight harshness found in all class D amplifiers of its generation, the MX5 provides a very transparent and satisfying sound. It’s very easy to listen to over an extended period of time with out being fatiguing. I found I didn’t need to EQ the highs or lows, and kept my EQ at zero.
Its headphone amp was equally impressive. I’m currently using a set of HIFIMAN HE400se headphones and the MX5 did not break a sweat powering these cans. Although the 400se’s only have an impedance of 25 ohms, they have a sensitivity rating of 91db, meaning, they need a quality amplifier to squeeze out dynamics from their planar drivers.
In comparison to the headphone amp of the Zen Dac V2, the MX5 is not as warm, but still providing a pleasant and satisfying experience. Sound is subjective, so I wouldn’t say one sounds better than the other, but they were different listening experiences, which makes the world of HiFi audio equipment a fun hobby to explore.
After receiving the SMSL AO200 for review, I had my heart set on going down the rabbit hole of component audio, but after listening to the Topping MX5, I’m torn. This all-in-one unit is all you need for a fantastic audio experience. It’s powerful and sounds great, which makes this an easy recommend.