Topping G5: My Ideal Transport

It’s been a bit since I’ve done a review of a Topping product but I’ve lost some interest in source gear and I’ve been doing more IEM and headphone reviews as of late. While I do enjoy dongles and use them with my iPad Pro on the go, I tend to not use dongles for my phone as I’ve broken enough cables from sitting when connected to my iPhone. The last portable bluetooth review I did was for the AUNE BU2. While I liked it, I didn’t like that the Bluetooth range could be a little iffy at times and it used a 2.5mm balanced jack instead of 4.4mm. I happened to accidentally run into an announcement tweet of the new Topping G5 and going off of specs/pics, it looked and sounded like my dream portable DAC/amp. I was stoked for the G5 so I went in with high expectations and for the most part, the G5 didn’t disappoint! Let's get into it! The Topping G5 uses a ESS ES9068AS DAC and supports High-Res Bluetooth. The G5 comes in at $299.

Quick shoutout to Shenzhenaudio as always for setting me up with a review unit. While I always appreciate stuff being sent in to test and review, It never affects the rating of my review.

Looks and Feel

So I honestly thought that the G5 was gonna be smaller like the BU2 from Aune or even a FiiO Q5. Well I was in for a shock when I opened the box. This unit is the length and width of something like the iFi Gryphon but it's not very thick which makes it feel smaller in the hand than it looks. Being an all metal body, it does have some weight to it but it feels about as heavy as my iPhone 12 Pro. it also happens to be a hair smaller in width and length than my iPhone(non max) so hopefully that helps with sizing. The G5 is extremely well made and I really like the overall design. The bottom has a fake soft leather texture that keeps it from sliding a little or scratching up other things it on top of. The top has a little tinted window to show the circuit layout and next to it are the led indicators for bluetooth and power. They’re not super bright either and that is amazing for night use. The volume knob feels high quality and it is smooth but it has enough resistance that I had no accidental volume adjustments in my pocket which is aided by the bumpers at the end of both sides of the G5 that shield the corner of the volume knob and audio jacks. 

Accessories and unboxing

The G5 comes in a low key black box. Inside you’re greeted with the G5, under that is a box that holds all the accessories. Included are the standard warranty, product catalog and user manuals. While I don’t usually use the manuals I did need it to figure out pairing the G5 to multiple devices(flick the gain switch from low to medium a bunch). They also include a rubber mat for sandwiched protection, 2 USB-C cables, AUX cable and a lightning cable. Some rubber rings as well if you’re into those. I think this is a good amount of accessories for a portable transport.


These final impressions were a mix of Bluetooth and wired via my iPhone 12 Pro and iPad 12.9 Pro. This will be what the G5 sounded like with all the headphones I used. Things like headphone pairings or going wired will produce different results and impressions vs what my ears hear on my specific gear.

The overall sound signature of the G5 is neutral-ish but with a hint of brightness. The bass does however sound fairly dynamic and it doesn’t lack any energy down low. If your headphones call for good bass, the G5 will deliver just fine. This does lack a little warmth and I would say it sounds a little lacking in fullness at times but the G5’s focus is elsewhere. The mids are clean and they pull in good detail overall. They do come in a little sharp and end tones of instruments can feel like they have some bite. Vocals are pretty good if not a little lean depending on how high their voice sounds. The Vocals do bring in good quality and I find them sounding blending well with the background which I prefer. The treble is on the brighter side and there is just a little extra bite up top. It sounds refined though and I think it's done very well here. After listening to the SMSL SU-8s which also makes use of the same DAC, I think it is just a symptom of the DAC being used. The detail retrieval is wonderful and I really feel the G5 leans into the “desktop gear” area in terms of performance. I like this sound overall and I enjoy ESS DAC and the sharpness they provide so this might be a different experience depending on the person.

Filters and fun features

NONE!!!!! I couldn’t find anything in the manual online about DAC filters which is honestly fine. I can’t hear the difference at all and when I had the option, I always went with apodizing or whatever filter claimed to give better bass response. The G5 also lacks a lot of the “fun” features you might find in other units from FiiO or iFi. No bass boost or anything resembling iFi’s xFeatures. While I love iFi’s xBass, I don’t think any other company does bass boost well so I’m ok with the G5 lacking these features.


The soundstage and imaging tend to be headphone specific(at least to me) but DAC/amps can add a little extra on occasion. The G5 does have a full size desktop “effect” and I do feel it’s wider and deeper vs other portable amps and dongles. There is a bigger sense of space when A/B testing but as with most things.

Battery life

Battery life claims range anywhere from 6.5 hours to 13 hours(high gain for both) depending on input and gain setting being used. I used the worst possible figures above as I felt those are very good for a 1.2W portable on high gain. The more realistic use case will get you closer to 9 hours using low or medium gain. Closer to 10 hours with Bluetooth and AUX nets you a max of 25 hours. All good claims IMO. I really only tested bluetooth battery life though. While I never had enough time in the day to test past 10 hours, in low gain running balanced, I never once saw the unit go into a low power “red light” mode. I very much believe that this will meet the claimed battery life times.

Bluetooth/Wired connectivity

I mostly used the G5 with a Bluetooth connection to my iPhone or iPad and mostly at work either at my cube or in my front pocket walking around our giant building. The Bluetooth range is fairly good when walking away from my iPhone to chat with someone else and it doesn’t get angry and break connection when it's in my pocket near my phone while I walk. The sound quality is pretty good but wired does seem to bring out a little more everything. I’m stuck using AAC from my apple devices so LDAC might get closer in terms of performance to wired. Both wired and Bluetooth do suffer from EMI interference so having my iphone next to in the same pocket will result in buzzing and unwanted noise randomly. Almost everything I use that isn’t desktop gear has this problem.

Personal grips with the G5?

I only have two complaints when it comes to the G5. The small, not important one is the finish. I already managed to rub a little of the black finish off since I accidently threw the unit in my front pocket and it rubbed against my pocket knife(I think). Less complaining and more sadness on my end. I would recommend the silver finish if you plan to use it on the go or tend to be rough with gear. Like I said, small and not important. I did cover it up with a sharpie just fine.

The actual thing that bothers me is the charging port. It won’t indicate its charging on anything higher than a 18W changing block. Which may not be a big deal for some people but I would say 95% of my chargers at home are all mostly 45W and above Anker blocks. Even my 20W iPhone chargers don’t work here. I now have a dedicated charger for it at home but I’m bummed it doesn’t have something in place to limit charging. It may actually charge off those higher watt chargers but I wasn’t willing to experiment to find out if it charges without the indicator light on. 

Single ended and balanced power output

So most of the technical info matches between the single ended 3.5mm and 4.4mm jack so I’m gonna call the G5 not truly balanced. Is that a big deal? I don’t think so anymore. It tended to be a big deal a long time ago since truly balanced gear tended to sound better but it doesn’t feel that way anymore(in a good way). Now for the output power! We get a full 1.2W into a 32 ohm load. That is awesome for a portable transport this thin so I was surprised. The gain modes are something I was happy with as well. The low gain is actually pretty low so it’s especially nice for super sensitive and easy to drive IEMs. I think my new “andromeda” for sensitivity is the THIEAUDIO V16 Divinity. Via balanced I got a good volume around 60ish percent. The medium gain is what I think most people will use and it feels like it has a good range for volume. The high gain is nice and strong without any issues and it was able to power some 300ohm ZMF Atriums just fine. I’m very happy with the output power and volume ranges on the gains and I find the G5 a very good all rounder option for those who want a do it all device.

IEM pairing opinions

Moondrop Kato(Blue)

The Kato is still somewhat new to me but I do think it’s Moondrop’s best single DD that they currently make. The bass is fairly strong here with some good thumps and rumbles. The mids are fairly neutral to my ears but I still get a little extra sharpness with the vocals. The treble does get a little bright at times but I wouldn’t call it too much. Staging is about what I expect vs other gear when paired with the Kato. I would say while this wasn’t the most exciting pairing I had, I thought the Kato performed very well on the G5. Very close to performance I got from my desktop stack.

Moondrop Variations

I probably use the Variations the most with the G5. The Variations are my go to for use at work as it’s fun sounding and detailed enough that when I’m not using the pair for background sound, I can still enjoy good sound quality on down time. The G5 is a very powerful pairing for the Variations. It still allows the Variations to produce really strong and good bass. Impact and slam are still very strong, though I feel the G5 cleans up a little of the excess bass and in turn the Variations sound very full but without the bloat of some other pairing I’ve tried. The mids are still clear with a hint of warmth. Vocals are still on the warmer side but with a little extra sharpness at the end of vocal notes. The treble still sounds sharp but a little more precise and never too much. I found the detail retrieval I got from the pairing was probably the best of the portable DAC/amps I’ve used recently. Staging was already wonderful on the Variations and it just added that little extra openness to the stage which was wonderful. I like this pairing and it continues to be my favorite pairing for my specific use case.

THIEAUDIO V16 Divinity

The V16 is probably my favorite TOTL at the moment since it's warm sounding but doesn’t lack resolution. It is also my favorite “is listenable volume wise at low gain?” since it’s super sensitive and especially so when run balanced. The V16 works with no issues on low gain at around 60ish percent volume. The bass is still strong when it calls for impact and slam, the mids are smooth still with some added clarity to vocals and the treble warmer but it has just the right amount of sharpness to make details stand out. Staging is still about average sounding width wise but it has the deeper stage I hear on desktop amps.

Over ear pairings

ZMF Atrium.

Gonna be lazy and copy the section from my Atrium review.

The G5 is able to get the Atrium to loud volumes easily on high gain and I thought the pairing sounded fairly good if portability was important. The bass does lack just a bit of meat and it sounds good still but with just less fullness and impact. The mids stay pretty clear with just a little more brightness vs the desktop setup I use. Vocals are still pretty strong and details aren’t lost. The treble is pretty lean sounding off this pairing and while it wasn’t bright at all, it just sounded thinner and lean overall up top. The staging still sounded average, nothing special. I think the thinner sound comes from a mix of the brighter/sharper DAC and less power output from the G5. The G5 sounds wonderful with less demanding gear but I do believe this is a good pairing if you plan to take the Atrium on the go to maybe a hotel or meet.

DAC/Amp comparison

Moondrop Moonriver 2

While I have other dongles, I choose the MR2 since it sounds the closest to the G5. Both do bass and mids about the same but the treble is way more refined on the G5. Both have a brighter signature but the MR2 sounds a little raw and rough at times with how it handles high frequencies. The G5 simply produces better details up top and while it has a sharp edge, it doesn’t go overboard like the MR2 can. The staging is better on the G5 as well. Both wider and deeper. The MR2 is way smaller however and I think that will make a bigger difference. If you want a low profile, the MR2 is a very good alternative that still produces positive results.

Shanling M3X

The M3X comes in about $70 more but you get an android experience as well so I think this a good comparison. Only looking at the audio side of things, I think the G5 does outclass the M3X in sound quality. The M3X has a warmer overall sound where the G5 goes for accuracy with some extra sharpness thrown in. The staging sounds wider and deeper on the G5 as well. If you care only about sound quality then the G5 wins… However!!! The M3X has a full entry level android experience and it allows you to have an all in one device that possibly saves you from having to carry two devices. If you don’t want to burn through your phone battery or maybe don’t want to carry a laptop/ tablet, the M3X becomes a very good option. I like both for my needs. I simply choose to keep a DAP and now the G5 in my backpack and decide on what I want to use depending on how my day looks. 

Overall thoughts

I went into reviewing the G5 with high expectations as it had everything I personally wanted for a portable device. Outside of the G5 being physically bigger than I thought and the charging issue I mentioned above, it performed really well above my initial expectations. I would absolutely recommend the new Topping G5! Though keep in mind it is more of a “transport device” vs a standard smaller portable Bluetooth DAC/amp. For the time being, the G5 will be my new main alternative to a DAP when I’m at work or on the go. Great job to the team at Topping and I look forward to checking out their future releases. Thanks for reading!!

View the product ratings on Antdroid's IEM Ranking List and/or Antdroid's Headphone Ranking List