Topping E50/L50 Stack Review

I recently reviewed the Topping EX5 and came away fairly impressed by the $350 all in one desktop DAC/amp. The E50 which uses an ES9068AS ESS DAC and the L50 amp launched recently which caught my attention. This combo feels like a direct competitor to the S.M.S.L SU/SH-8S “stack” and I was curious to see how the two compare to each other. I normally split the reviews for units that are designed to be a “stack” but since I plan to compare this mostly against the SMSL SU/SH-8S “stack”, I’ll be doing both units as one review. Let's get on with the review.

Looks and Feel

I never know what color I’ll be receiving when I get new gear sent in but I got sent the black color units which I actually like. Both units are fairly smaller than I was expecting. Both units have a nice black matte color and both units are also lighter too. The E50 has the same retro amber display for the sample rate and the PCM/DSD indicator. They have a new white color for the input and output mode which gives it a fresh look. The L50 looks pretty good on the front with the power switch doubling as the input select switch. The gain mode is next to it and I was happy to see a low, medium and high gain option here. The 4pin XLR and quarter inch jacks are nicely separated and the volume knob has a quality and smooth feel when rotating it. I however don't like the wall wart that powers the L50 nor the power source for the E50. I’ll complain a little about those a little later.

Power switch and volume knob 

The L50 power switch is in the front and has a nice firm click when going from the off position to either the balanced or single ended modes. The volume knob is fairly nice but even at low gain at the lowest possible volume setting, I could still hear music coming through slightly. A little louder when using my sensitive IEMs. Not a dealbreaker IMO and I was fine with it. The channel imbalance only happens between 6(lowest volume)-7 o'clock which isn't too bad and fairly standard for most amps using a potentiometer. Power button for the E50 is actually a touch sensitive button which was a neat change of pace. One touch to turn the unit on and holding it down powers off the E50.


These final impressions were done off the E50 attached to the L50 via RCA. This will be what the E50/L50 sounded like with all the headphones I used. Things like headphone pairings will produce different results and impressions vs what my ears hear on my specific gear.

The E50/L50 combo comes off warm sounding and super smooth. Low end has some thump but I would still say this “stack” has a fairly controlled low end overall. The mids come off detailed but have a lush and smooth tone which works well for brighter headphones. The treble is also a little warm but it still has decent detail retrieval with a little sparkle up top. Details still come through but everything has less of an edge and more a relaxed sound. This required me to work a little harder when trying to listen for details I expect to hear on my normal song test list. I really have no complaints as this combo is not another boring clinical sounding set of units but those looking for something super analytical will want to take note.


I usually say staging and Imaging are more headphone dependent. This is very much the case here. I heard no added benefit to the stage or imaging. I usually like when an amp adds a little of its own flavor for staging but I just couldn’t tell a difference like I do with the main competitor from S.M.S.L.

Inputs and outputs

For the E50 we get USB, Coxial and optical inputs. For the E50 outputs, we have RCA out and a TRS dual quarter inch output. The L50 has both RCA and TRS dual quarter inch inputs. It has passthrough RCA and TRS dual outs. I like that we have a passthrough for the L50. 

Personal grips with the E50/L50

The only complaints I personally have with the combo is mainly the power supplies and the balanced connections. The E50 has a USB-A male to pin style plug for power. You can directly connect these into a laptop or even a normal charging block to get the E50 up and running but I would have preferred a standard charging block in the box. The L50 has a giant wall wart which is fine but I would have preferred the L50 to be wider and use a standard PC style power cable.  I also have mixed feelings on the TRS dual quarter inch outputs and inputs. I can’t think of anything current that uses this set of connectors to run a device balanced. This means one would have to buy male to male 6.35mm cables to make the E50 run balanced to the L50. I don’t think I’ll really ding topping for going this route since they wouldn’t be able to fit XLR inputs and outputs on the L50. They could have gotten away with a 4.4mm pentaconn output and input like iFi but I’m hoping Topping doesn’t use the TRS connections for just this one set of products.

Single ended(maybe balanced?) power output

So for both single ended and balanced we get 2.8 watts into 32 ohm which is pretty standard but still impressive for such a small device. They claim the E50 and L50 are balanced via the TRS dual 6.35mm connectors but the power output is the same from both the 4pin XLR and quarter inch jack. On other amps, this would indicate a “not truly balanced” design. The specs for the L50 show different specs for both the RCA and TRS inputs so I’m unsure and I didn’t ask to verify whether the L50 was truly balanced or not. It has a good chunk of power and I simply treated the 4pin XLR jack as a convenience vs a possible benefit. 

Volume range on low/medium/high gain

The range is well spaced out between each gain. I didn’t see a real need for the low gain as my sensitive IEMs were fine on medium gain. The high gain is fairly strong and while I only had one full size headphone in, It was fine on high gain and never reached past 12 o’clock.

IEM pairing opinions

Moondrop Blessing 2

The Blessing 2 always came off a little sibilant and at times lifeless for me. While it’s a favorite for a lot of people I have a hard time enjoying the hybrid. The Topping stack does well to add a little life into my pair of the Blessing 2. The Sibilance spikes are better controlled and I had a fondness for this pairing overall. I think the L50 at 2.8watts is overkill for this IEM though.

THIEAUDIO Clairvoyance

The Clairs are my favorite IEM up to this point for under $1k. The Clairs do well with different source gear. I liked the Added warmth from the Topping stack but I tend to enjoy the Clair on more analytical devices. Staging felt a little closed in and the treble felt a little too calm but I did enjoy the relaxing sound signature I got from the pairing.

Moondrop Variations

The recent Variations come in as my second favorite IEM for under $1k as they Sounds like a “Fun” version of the Clair to my ears. The Topping stack added some extra slam to the Variations that gave the IEMs quite the fun sound and the slightly sharp treble was relaxed enough that I had a blast listening to EDM music with this pairing. Soundstage was decently wide and I like this pairing as well.

Over ear pairings

Normally I have a few pairs of full size cans to test but I’ve been on an IEM binge as of late. Future reviews for DAC/amps will have more full size headphone impressions included.

Sennheiser HD560S

I always joke about hating the 560S but I find the headphones boring sound wise and while the Topping “stack” does well at warming up the 560S, I still don’t get much in terms of dynamic sound. The lows still lack any thump or rumble, mids are nice with the added warmth and the treble has some sparkle but still feels mostly veiled with a slight sibilance spike here and there. The only thing I seem to like the 560S with are tube amps and iFi amps.

DAC/Amp comparison

S.M.S.L. SH-8S/SU-8S

There is an obvious sound signature difference between the two stacks. The Topping stack was warmer and more laid back vs the S.M.S.L which had a more analytical sound. Both do detail retrieval well but the SU/SH-8S stack just had more energy and felt better when listening for details. It lacks low end dynamics so I think this is where the E50/L50 shines. The staging was fairly the same between both the SMSL and Topping stacks but the SMSL stack had a little more depth to the staging of the Topping stack. Both are really good for under $600 but for my tastes I’d go with the SU/SH-8S stack. I’m a reviewer though and I prefer a DAC/amp that has a slightly analytical sound. When I want a warm and relaxed sound I’ll usually use a tube amp. Plus the S.M.S.L stack uses XLR inputs and standard PC power cables.

Overall thoughts

I like the looks and warmer signature of the E50/L50 stack. While I would still personally choose the S.M.S.L SU/SH-8S stack over it, I like that there is a warm stack under $600 that still does detail retrieval fairly well. I don’t like the power cable situation nor the TRS inputs/outputs but It’s not the end of the world and this is another good product from Topping IMO. I’ll give the E50 and L50 a recommendation, though I would prefer someone really think about space on their powerstrip for the L50’s wall wart and whether they wanna buy into the TRS dual 6.35mm cables for balanced connections. I’ve been liking Toppings recent releases and I hope they keep up the good work. Thanks for reading!


  1. Looking forward to your review of the new SMSL sh-6, su-6 stack. I'm shopping for a desktop solution to drive phones with preamp function for powered monitors. Many reviewers don't test gear as a preamp but I appreciate when they do.

    Thanks, nil


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