Two cheap mini-amps tested: Pyle vs Topping


I’d try a Schiit Magni instead. $99, great sound, has a matching DAC that is also $99 called the Modi.

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I was making that same decision last year, and ended up getting the Orb Mini T. I bought during the Black Friday sale, but the normal price of $70 isn’t bad. I’ve been very happy with mine. Great sound and power. I’m not an audiophile, so I don’t know enough to do a proper review, but I do really like it, and I like that it has a subwoofer out.

The Schiit Magni would have been my next try had the Topping not been up to snuff. It’s the next level up, price-wise – and is made in the U.S.

I get the feeling that all these products are basically good enough for government work – the ultracheap ones, like the Pyle, are maybe intended to be sold in venues where the retailer performs quality control.

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With names like “Pyle” and “Schiit”, how much sound quality can you expect?


I feel your pain, Rob. I wanted a decent 15W/channel amplifier for my Bike Boom Box stereo system, and I ended up designing and building my own circuit board. I based it on a TI Class D stereo amplifier chip. It’s made in the USA and costs a lot for a bare board, but that’s the price one pays for quality.

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The Lepai 2020 is a class-T amp powered by the Tripath chip, and actually has very good sound quality… until you run out of headroom. It depends on your speakers and preferred listening modes, but basically the amplifier is good for somewhere around 5-7 watts of output power per channel, and things go downhill after that. It was nowhere near enough for me to use with my computer (which is hooked up to rackmount audio gear, so I’m not quite a casual user).

I’m now using the Dayton DTA-120. It’s also a T amp, a bit expensive at $100 without any clever features as such, but has lots of headroom without distortion headaches or other nonsense.

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Schiit is a company ran by some of the biggest names in the audio industry. I have a Schiit Asgard 2 ($249) and a Schiit Bifrost Uber USB ($519) (and are also the next step up from the Magni and Modi), and they sound absolutely fantastic. The Bifrost is often chosen as a reference DAC due to its quality yet not bank breaking price.

I run the Lapai in my modest home studio with a pair of old Polk Monitor 5a’s and the sound quality is great. I don’t have much trouble with headroom, but I am not getting too loud. From the description of the Pyle’s performance I doubt it has the same electronics.

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I’ve not been dissatisfied with the uDac-2, which runs around $99 and also has a solid knob. Definitely an improvement in boost over motherboard onboard audio, and when it’s not driving grado SR60is (now $78), it’s playing poor-man’s preamp for an 18 year old Cambridge Soundworks model 11 (long since discontinued. sadly).

Ultimately, if you like it, you like it. I find the more I’ve listened over the years, the more discerning I get, and not always into pricier territories.

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I’ve had the lepai 2020 for 3 years now and I’ve gotta say, it was good out of the box, great after having swapped out a few internal components. It’s one of the few ‘too good to be true’ products that actually delivers.

With a name that close to Shit, they better be good quality.

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The limiting number of watts of clean power a given amplifier will produce is a function of two things: the power supply voltage and the speaker impedance. Power = Voltage^2/Impedance. Most home component stereo speakers are 8 ohms. Most car speakers are 4 ohms. The wall wart that powers the amplifier will limit the power. Some amplifiers can handle more supply voltage than others.

My latest bike stereo uses a Sure Class D amplifier from Parts Express that’s rated at 100W/channel at 40V and 4 ohms. I feed it 32V and use 6 ohm speakers, so it’s actually only capable of producing 40W/channel in my system. However, the speakers I chose (Dayton PS220-8) are the most efficient available at a reasonable price, so they sound as loud and clean as the typical speaker driven to over 100 watts.

The formerly respected Pyle name has been picked up by some two buck Chinese manufacturer or distributor, ala Packard Bell, Bell+Howell and Westinghouse.

I got a Pyle cable tester from Woot that came in bubble pack card that copied the features from a wire stripper. I’ve been looking for the wire cutters on it ever since. The included instruction sheet was in barely comprehensible Chinglish and was for about dozen model numbers except the one it came with.

Yeah, Pyle is one.


I got a Fiio E11 headphone amp so I could listen to my tablet/phone on my HD650 monitoring headphones (which are like 300ohm or something) and it works a treat. I’d definitely check out their desktop amps.

There are a jillion cheap Class D ‘digital’ (switching) amps out there but only a few circuit boards that make up the guts of them. The Pyle was probably defective if it picked up and rectified radio signals. But that does not surprise me.
For a nice sounding DIY alternative to cheap digital amps Google Squelette (shameless plug) or ‘Gainclone’. You can build a 10W analog amp with power opamps for very little money. And I think they sound superior to a cheap digital rig.

I run a Sonic Impact class-T amp for a bike sound system, and – it might just be the model – with some really efficient outdoor speakers, it cranks some serious volume. Would be deafening on my desk, with no distortion that I’ve heard from other bike sound systems. I believe it claims up to 20 amp speakers, which should be more than enough for a desk sound system. There’s one on Amazon that looks the same, but I’ll have to check the specs.

I had to do a PA system on the cheap for one of my clients. With the budget being the key factor, I had to factor in wireless lapel mics, and at least one output speaker, and a mixing board.

I discovered Pyle, saw the solid 3-star reputation, and expected that it would at least “do what it says on the tin”

In fact it pretty much “is what it says on the tin”

Don’t buy Pyle to save money. At least half of their crap ships broken, and even the working stuff isn’t worth the time to mess with. If you need something that just works, and isn’t broken, or awful, under-performing garbage, spend the extra $20-$30.

The best low end amp I’ve used requires only a screwdriver and some sort of case, I have one in an old wooden silverware case with its power suppy. I don’t want to spam, but here is the easiest way to find it. Search Amazon for:

“4x100W @ 4 Ohm TK2050 Class-T Digital Audio Amplifier Board”

The reviews on Amazon are helpful.

I’m using this power supply, search eBay for:

“400W 30V 13A Switching Power Supply Current Control Charger LED CCTV U30”.

The amplifier board and power supply together ran me about $110, the silverware box was yard sale junk, so maybe 50 cents :smile:

The output wattage ratings assume a 30 volt supply. The board will run on a single ended 10 to 30 volt DC supply, so it would be easy to use in automotive or marine applications. It’s a Tripath chipset and sounds great.

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but with good alternatives only a little more expensive, why bother risking it?

Well, I realize this is taking things to extremes, but a variation on that thinking is what convinces fools with too much money to buy $10K Ethernet cables.

The problem with the Topping, for as nice as it looks (and not to mention performs), is that it fails my cost/utility test. I don’t care if an amp sounds cleaner than freshly fallen snow: a two-channel solid state amp simply shouldn’t ever cost more than… well I’m not sure where my hard cutoff is, but it’s very much south of $50, that’s for sure.

There’s got to be some awesome-sounding option for half this price. Even if it’s DIY.