Topping is a company that we don’t see too often in the U.S., but it has a strong following in the nerdier corners of the headphone enthusiast community. Topping offers a line of compact and portable DACs and headphone amps, each with clean styling and no-nonsense features. Today we’re taking a look at the Topping NX5, an ultra-compact portable headphone amplifier. There are lots of little boxes out there that make headphones louder — we found that this one is much more.
The NX5 is nicely built, with a sturdy, all-aluminum chassis and knurled volume knob. It’s extremely tiny — at just 60 mm x 13 mm x 108 mm, it’s about the size of a small stack of playing cards and weighs just 138 grams. Its specs are impressive for the size — a maximum output of 292 mW into 16 ohms with extremely low distortion. Most of the NX5’s interior is taken up by a 2400 mAh battery; our unit lasted around the promised 30 hours on a single charge in low gain mode.
In the box is everything you need to pair the NX5 to a mobile device: two rubber bands, a non-slip rubber pad, a short 3.5mm analog cable, a charging cable, and some small Velcro stickers. Operation of the NX5 is straightforward — a volume knob, charge LED, analog input, analog output, a bass boost switch, and a low/high gain switch are all crammed into the NX5’s tiny front panel. Despite their size, all the controls have solid, satisfyingly clicky movement. For its price, the NX5 presents as a high-quality piece of gear.
In our testing, we were impressed by the NX5’s performance. In addition to great battery life, we found that the NX5 was able to cleanly drive 80-ohm dynamic driver headphones and even full-size planars, albeit without the authority of our more powerful desktop amps. We found the NX5’s bass boost a bit unartful; while it does provide a healthy amount of bass boost, the result was more boomy and bloated than that of the iFi iDSD Black Label we tested recently. This wasn’t a dealbreaker for us, since we generally prefer to leave EQ tweaks turned off anyway. All things considered, we have no problem recommending the NX5 as an affordable way to add a good amount of power to your mobile device.
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