Back in January 2009 just after having acquired a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 speakers (plus floor stands) I purchased a Temple Audio Bantam XC class T amplifier (prior to using that I used a Technics SU-Z11 that was handed down to me – to this day it remains a very good amplifier, just not ideal for desktop use due to its bulk).
For over three years the Bantam XC has served me very well, delivering brilliant sound for its price and size, and all with high efficiency (by way of explanation I refer you to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_T_amplifier).
I replaced it today with a Topping TP32. Below are some unboxing pictures, followed by a few comparison shots alongside the Bantam XC:
So why have I replaced it with a Topping TP32?
Well, the sound quality of the Bantam XC certainly wasn’t the issue. In fact I specifically sought a replacement based on the same Tripath TA2024 Class T driver IC so I could have some confidence that I wouldn’t be downgrading. In terms of sound the Topping TP32 shouldn’t be significantly different (and doesn’t seem to be).
No, the reason for the change is more one of practicality. The simplest explanation is to list what the TP32 has/does that the XC didn’t:
- IR remote control.
- Auto fade-in on power on.
- Built in Texas Instruments PCM2702 based USB DAC (again ideal because around the same time that I purchased the Bantam XC I built myself an Alien DAC which, yes, you guessed it, is based on the PCM2702 – so again I had an idea of what I would be getting in terms of sound quality) – as well as a theoretical sound quality improvement, the practical gain is that I can plug it into my USB hub thus reducing the number of cables I must connect/disconnect when switching between ‘desktop’ and laptop mode.
- Auto power on/off based on USB host status (i.e. unplug it from your laptop and the amplifier switches off, plug it in and the amplifier switches on).
- Digital volume control – aside from making the remote control and auto fade-in feasible (analog would be possible with a motor driven potentiometer, just not very practical), this is ideal because it won’t:
- Wear out over time (as is really starting to show with the Technics SU-Z11 I referred to earlier)
- Be unbalanced down at low volumes as the Bantam XC was (the right was louder than the left at very low levels)
- Independent speaker/headphone output control – the XC lacked this; with headphones plugged in the speakers were off and I have a pair of headphones (Audio Technica ATH-ES7s with custom cable) that I use primarily for stationary listening that I’d have liked to be able to just leave plugged in all the time and use a separate switch – with the TP32 I can leave the headphones plugged in and switch independently between speakers only, headphones only, and both.
- Dual inputs – as well as the integrated PCM2702 based USB DAC that I mentioned, the TP32 has an RCA input (as the XC had); the gain here being that if I want to listen to music from my phone (which has no fan, unlike my laptop, thus increasing SNR!) I don’t have to first unplug the cable from my laptop since that drives it over USB.
The items above add up to a significant improvement in overall practicality. If I’d had to pay much money for the change I probably wouldn’t have (especially as I’m having to be careful with money right now due to recent events which I may or may not blog about in a later post when the dust has settled). Fortunately I won’t be paying much for this upgrade at all, because i) the Topping TP32 cost me £85 new on eBay and ii) completed eBay listings suggest that my Bantam XC should fetch at least £60 – if it does, £25 feels worth paying for the improvement I’ve got here.
You may have noticed that throughout this whole post I’ve not really used the any terms like ‘warmth’, ‘sharp’, ‘soundstage’, ‘depth’, ‘muddy’ or similar others. Two reasons for this:
- I don’t consider myself to meet the definition of audiophile that seems to be implied by reviews that use such terms. I like listening to music and appreciate quality kit, but I rarely find value in qualitative reviews.
- It only arrived today, and if audiophile lore is true then I need to wait a few days for it to burn in.