Oppo HA-2 amp and PM-3 headphones - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 54 Old 02-20-2015, 01:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Oppo HA-2 amp and PM-3 headphones

Oppo has updated their website for the HA-2 which is now shipping! The HA-2 is available for $299 (plus shipping). Their PM-3 (closed back) is due in about a month from what I've read.

From press release
Quote:
The HA-2 is an elegant yet sophisticated portable headphone amplifier with built-in rechargeable battery. It is engineered to enhance music playback from mobile phones and portable music players. Aesthetically, the HA-2 does not look like a typical or generic electronic device. Its genuine leather casing with contrast stitching and beveled aluminum edges are eye-catching and cannot be confused with any other product. Its fit and finish will instill a sense of pride when using the product.

Featuring hybrid class AB amplification and a USB DAC, the HA-2 offers high performance digital-to-analog conversion for Apple's iPhone/iPod products, a wide range of Android devices, PC and Mac computers. The HA-2 may be conveniently used to charge mobile devices on-the-go and itself can be efficiently charged in 30 minutes. Headphones, from very sensitive In-Ear Monitors to the most power-hungry Over-the-Ears, can all benefit from the HA-2's excellent performance and powerful amplification.

Key features of the HA-2 include:

Ultra-slim Design - Stacking the HA-2 on top of some smartphone models is often still thinner than other portable headphone amplifier models alone.
ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC - ES9018-K2M DAC chip delivers high-resolution performance with extremely low noise and distortion.
High-Resolution Audio - The HA-2 supports PCM audio up to 384 kHz / 32-bit, DSD audio up to 12 MHz (DSD256 or DSD4x). No Camera Connection Kit required for high-resolution playback from iOS devices.
Multiple Devices Support -The HA-2 supports multiple device types for digital-to-analog conversion via USB: iPod / iPhone / iPad, smartphones with USB OTG feature, PC and Mac computers.
Rapid Charging - The HA-2's internal battery can be quickly charged in about 30 minutes with the patented rapid charger.
Mobile Power Bank - The HA-2 functions as an external battery pack to charge mobile devices.

With smartphone use increasing all the time, users are often carrying a device that is capable of storing high quality audio files. The HA-2 is a very mobile-centric portable headphone amplifier and DAC that pairs exceptionally well with iOS and Android devices, and it can offer a significant improvement in sound quality over the amplification and DAC available in the mobile device itself, without adding excessive bulk and weight so as to make the combination inconvenient.

The HA-2 offers two USB DAC input ports -- one for Apple's iPhone/iPod, and the other for Android devices, PC and Mac computers. A 3.5 mm input works with the remaining portable music players that do not have a USB-compatible digital output. There are two gain level settings. The High Gain mode is capable of driving large power-hungry headphones, delivering up to 300 mW into 16-Ohm headphones. The Low Gain mode is intended for sensitive In-Ear Monitor type earphones. For users who like a bit more punch and impact with their music, the HA-2 offers a Bass Boost function that is implemented purely with analog audio circuits.





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Last edited by JohnAV; 02-21-2015 at 05:33 PM.
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post #2 of 54 Old 02-21-2015, 12:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Some more images


 

 

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post #3 of 54 Old 02-26-2015, 05:44 PM
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OK, I took the plunge so expect some comments on the new entry in the portable DAC market in a few days. I had been saving up for a HA-1, but then my wife's car needed $1000 worth of work and this new portable DAC may be good enough to hold me over for a while. I can take it with me on business trips, and when I'm home, I can insert it into my two-channel listening rig. Since I already have a tube pre-amp and class A amp, many of the functions of the HA-1 as a pre-pro aren't needed in my setup (many, but not all).
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post #4 of 54 Old 02-26-2015, 08:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenfeet View Post
OK, I took the plunge so expect some comments on the new entry in the portable DAC market in a few days. I had been saving up for a HA-1, but then my wife's car needed $1000 worth of work and this new portable DAC may be good enough to hold me over for a while. I can take it with me on business trips, and when I'm home, I can insert it into my two-channel listening rig. Since I already have a tube pre-amp and class A amp, many of the functions of the HA-1 as a pre-pro aren't needed in my setup (many, but not all).
Let me know how it works!

I have Prima Luna Dialog Premium Integrated tube and I need a good DAC
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post #5 of 54 Old 02-26-2015, 08:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wse View Post
Let me know how it works!

I have Prima Luna Dialog Premium Integrated tube and I need a good DAC
All my stuff is 20 years old

Audible Illusions Modulus 3 tube pre-amp
Parasound HCA-2200 Class A amp
SoundWave Grand Soliloquy loudspeakers

Oh and an Oppo 970H (to play SACDs and DVD-Audio) and an Apple Airport for streaming.

I'll insert the Oppo HA-2 between my Mac server and the Modulus 3 and see what happens. Should be fun although the line out circuitry I doubt is a match for the big brother HA-1. Still, it should be far better than the DAC in the Airport.
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post #6 of 54 Old 02-27-2015, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Per Oppo
Quote:
I have some good news for you all - the PM-3 is now available for purchase on our website. We anticipate shipping orders out starting March 5th.

http://www.oppodigital.com/headphones-pm-3/

Thank you all for your interest!

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post #7 of 54 Old 02-28-2015, 01:06 PM
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Ha-2 is not an amp OP... but you probably already know that by now.

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post #8 of 54 Old 02-28-2015, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by MSchu18 View Post
Ha-2 is not an amp OP... but you probably already know that by now.
Huh?!? The HA-2 is a portable headphone AMP and DAC.
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post #9 of 54 Old 02-28-2015, 04:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSchu18 View Post
Ha-2 is not an amp OP... but you probably already know that by now.
The thread is 2 channel audio which relates to all aspects of 2-channel stereo audio. Setups, concepts, likes, needs, etc..

What part concerning mobile headphone amp/DAC's is not represented as 2 channel audio? This is just the mobile version of the desktop HA-1. It’s capable of PCM decoding CD-quality tracks (44.1 kHz/16-bit) up to 384 kHz at 24-bit (and lower sampling rates up to 32-bits), and everywhere in between. It can even decode DSD64, DSD128, and even DSD256. So if i have content stored using various computer audiophile solution I can use the HA-2 to drive headphones or use the line output to drive a analog system.

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post #10 of 54 Old 02-28-2015, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSchu18 View Post
Ha-2 is not an amp OP... but you probably already know that by now.

I have the HA-2 and it seems to power my headphones just fine

It most certainly is an amp.

Anyway, i have been using it to power my 200ohm McIntosh MHP 1000 headphones, B&O H6s and couple of various IEMs (mainly B&O H3) its I can confirm this amp is very capable, and huge upgrade my iphone and imac.

Ill mainly be using it when using my ipad for movies etc on long flights.
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post #11 of 54 Old 03-01-2015, 08:02 AM
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ah yes... I can see you guys are correct. I stand corrected, I thought is was only a DAC.

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post #12 of 54 Old 03-01-2015, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vancouver View Post
I have the HA-2 and it seems to power my headphones just fine

It most certainly is an amp.

Anyway, i have been using it to power my 200ohm McIntosh MHP 1000 headphones, B&O H6s and couple of various IEMs (mainly B&O H3) its I can confirm this amp is very capable, and huge upgrade my iphone and imac.

Ill mainly be using it when using my ipad for movies etc on long flights.
Any more comments on the device? Mine is being shipped and won't arrive until Thursday or so.
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post #13 of 54 Old 03-01-2015, 03:47 PM
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Can you plug it to a computer and then plug it into a Stereo?
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post #14 of 54 Old 03-01-2015, 06:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wse View Post
Can you plug it to a computer and then plug it into a Stereo?
Yes, from the specs, it can take USB input from both a Mac or PC and output as line out to a pre-amp/receiver.
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post #15 of 54 Old 03-01-2015, 07:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenfeet View Post
Any more comments on the device? Mine is being shipped and won't arrive until Thursday or so.
Well it's my first portable DAC, so can't compare, but it's everything wanted it to be. Provides a serious upgrade over what my phone or iPad could deliver even with just IEMs. The difference it makes when using headphones is significant.

Build quality is top notch. I also have the HA-1 and while it's not as powerful (obviously) it's the same flavour of quality.

I don't listen to much music on the go, but as an amp for watching movies on flights is a must have device.
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post #16 of 54 Old 03-01-2015, 07:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenfeet View Post
Any more comments on the device? Mine is being shipped and won't arrive until Thursday or so.
Here's some comments from Headfi.org with one preliminary review.

Kinda interesting comparison of HA-2 to a JDS Labs C5D+DAC ($249) which lacks a lot of capabilities but what about the AQ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by miceblue

Mmk, so in terms of features and battery life, the HA-2 is definitely in a whole other league compared to the C5D. Three features that the C5D has that the HA-2 doesn't are 1) the free custom laser etchings, 2) USB Audio Class 1 which does not require drivers to use and might be more compatible with more devices, and 3) user-programmable digital volume potentiometer, although admittedly no one on Head-Fi probably uses this but me, hahaha.

In terms of sound, I think both have their strong points. I tried my best to volume-match the two devices by ear (both devices on low-gain), so it's not a perfect method. I've been using the Audirvana Plus app on OS X for my listening sessions and I wrote some Apple Scripts to quickly switch DACs on the computer while I unplugged/re-plugged the headphone jack into the other device. Headphones used were a beta PM-3 unit (which was meant to be paired with the HA-2), and the AKG K 701 (which I like with the C5D). Music varied between pop, electronic, folk, soul, classical, and jazz; 16/44.1 to 24/96.

Compared to the C5D, the HA-2 does have a kind of harshness somewhere in the lower-treble area that's typical of ESS's Sabre DACs (some say this is the "Sabre glare"). However, I still find the C5D to be a little bright in the upper-midrange compared to the HA-2. Snare drums may not have the harsh/biting sound from the C5D compared to the HA-2, but some upper-midrange sounds do. Personally I prefer the Sabre glare of the HA-2 over the bright upper-mids of the C5D.

In terms of the sense of space, the HA-2 has a more rounded soundstage having more depth compared to the C5D, and also more height. Center imaging seems better on the HA-2 compared to the C5D, which is something I like to see, and that especially pairs well with the K 701. C5D provides a sense of space similar to that of the ODAC/O2 in that the soundstage seems wide, but not very deep. Switching between the HA-2 and C5D, I definitely prefer the more encompassing "music is being played to you" soundstage and imaging of the HA-2 over the more "music being played between my head" soundstage and imaging of the C5D.

That being said, I think the C5D has better instrument separation compared to the HA-2; instruments are more separated from one another and I can better distinguish the instruments in a music track, or there seems to be more black space between instruments.

Another plus for the C5D is that I think it hits bass notes harder and deeper than the HA-2, similar to the ODAC/O2 vs Geek Out oddly enough (bass boost off).

Speaking of the bass though, the HA-2's bass boost is more similar to the C5D's middle bass boost option, but with a little more rumble. Objectively, indeed the HA-2's bass boost is slightly higher than that of the C5D's middle option. I still love the C5D's maximum bass boost for the K 701 though (not so much for the PM-3). : D
Hm, I don't really understand. You can drag-n-drop music files from your computer into the Onkyo app through iTunes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xuan87 

I listened to the HA-2 yesterday in a local shop in Singapore, comparing it with the O2 amp. The source is my AK100MK2, so I was testing the amp section only. I had to go to another audio shop to collect my customs refit before it closed so I didn't have time to test the dac and amp unit with my iPhone.
 
To use an anology, the O2 amp is like the Nissan GT-R: Lots of power, extremely detailed, it lets you hear all the details in the music. Extended highs and lots of bass. The HA-2 is like a Rolls Royce, it's more comfortable to listen to. Still extremely detailed, but it doesn't throw everything into your face. Mids are more laidback, and unlike other warm amps, it doesn't result in any loss of clarity.
 
Lastly I just want to point out, that the build quality of the HA-2 is INSANELY AWESOME for a $299 audio product. In fact, I will compare it favourably to my iPhone 5S. The aluminium casing is wonderfully done and the gain and bass boost switches are done exactly like the volume/mute switch on my iPhone 5S.
 
The thing is, I don't need a portable amp and dac (aiming for a DAP instead), but I'm highly tempted to get one.
Oppo HA-2 Portable Headphone and DAC – review - Gavin's Gadgets

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post #17 of 54 Old 03-02-2015, 07:36 AM
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Mine came last week and it was plug n play with the mini-pad3/i6, since no drivers need be installed. It's size and ease of use are great and it has a real quality feel to it and the sound is a real improvement compared to no DAC at all. Last night we compared the Dragonfly (2nd gen) and the Meridian Explorer using my FLAC library via JRivers on Dell XPS. Drivers were downloaded from the Oppo site, and it conflicted somewhat with the HA-1 drivers, so we uninstalled and reinstalled, and the HA-2 appeared. We used the Senn Momentums and the Senn 600 for the ears. On both headphones, but most noticeably the 600s, the Oppo was fantastic (note the other DACS are not powered), with detail, and nuance being the key. The HA-2 really highlighted the difference between the headphones, and now I'm thinking that I should order the PM-3s. The real treat was DSD files, and while not as loud as the FLAC files, the sense of "being there" was more evident particularly on classical material where a single instrument is featured. May take it to the office today
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post #18 of 54 Old 03-02-2015, 09:44 AM - Thread Starter
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^ When the HA-2 first was available there was different version of drivers when comparing HA-1 to HA-2, now both support links show the same windows driver OPPO_USB_Audio_Dac_Driver_release_ver2.24_build16

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post #19 of 54 Old 03-02-2015, 11:47 AM
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/\ Thanks John, and that must explain it, as I thought since the HA-2 DAC was slightly different, being a "mobile version" perhaps the conflict message was generated, but all is good now as I have the set up in the office for some lunch-time fun and it fired right up and showed the HA-2 device- very smooth.
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post #20 of 54 Old 03-02-2015, 04:26 PM
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I placed my order this afternoon and will have my HA-2 Wednesday. Did anyone else notice how quickly the first batch sold out. Went to buy one yesterday and was greeted with "out of stock." Emailed Oppo CS this morning to ask when they would have more back in stock and was told mid to late March. This afternoon they were nice enough to send me an email that they had a limited number of units up for sale - so I jumped. After owning 4 of their blu-ray players (2 currently), I have no doubt this is going to be a great product and a heck of deal. As someone owns a few iPods, iPhone 6, iPad and 3 Mac computers/laptops - having something that is Apple certified is another plus. No doubt the DAC will be a nice step up with those devices. Plan on subscribing to Tidal and using this with my Oppo 103 to listen to my SACDs/DVDs. Thanks Oppo for finding another way to lessen the weight of my wallet.

Now if I can just resist buying some headphones - John please quick posting product updates

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post #21 of 54 Old 03-02-2015, 06:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smurraybhm View Post
I placed my order this afternoon and will have my HA-2 Wednesday. Did anyone else notice how quickly the first batch sold out. Went to buy one yesterday and was greeted with "out of stock." Emailed Oppo CS this morning to ask when they would have more back in stock and was told mid to late March. This afternoon they were nice enough to send me an email that they had a limited number of units up for sale - so I jumped. After owning 4 of their blu-ray players (2 currently), I have no doubt this is going to be a great product and a heck of deal. As someone owns a few iPods, iPhone 6, iPad and 3 Mac computers/laptops - having something that is Apple certified is another plus. No doubt the DAC will be a nice step up with those devices. Plan on subscribing to Tidal and using this with my Oppo 103 to listen to my SACDs/DVDs. Thanks Oppo for finding another way to lessen the weight of my wallet.

Now if I can just resist buying some headphones - John please quick posting product updates

Hi smurraybhm,

Yeah I also noticed the "out of stock" message as of Saturday and have been refreshing my Oppo website hourly in hopes they would sneak them back as available. And as you did this morning, I also sent an email to Oppo inquiring as to when they would have more ready to ship. Well, within a couple of hours (typical, stellar Oppo customer service) I got an email reply stating that they had more available for order. Of course I didn't hesitate, I put my order in immediately.

I also have a house full of Oppo BDP's: 105, 93 and an 83...all still going strong. Recently I was able to score an HA-1 from a cool seller on Audiogon in perfect/like new condition--all original packaging and parts for an insane price and just last week picked up a PM-1 from a nice seller on eBay who also threw in a new 1.2 meter balanced cable with the package...also an insane price
This is such an awesome pairing, it leaves me speechless most of the time.

I've been playing a lot of Tidal music out of my MacMini connected by USB with the HA-1 and PM-1 and it sounds phenomenal!!! I've even experimented with music over Airplay and from my iPod connected in the front USB port and even tried using bluetooth from my iPhone 6...they all sound incredible...of course the best being from the MacMini via Asynchronous USB.

I'm very confident that the HA-2 is going to be nothing short of Amazing and I'm sure you will too.

Enjoy!
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post #22 of 54 Old 03-02-2015, 07:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smurraybhm View Post
I placed my order this afternoon and will have my HA-2 Wednesday. Did anyone else notice how quickly the first batch sold out. Went to buy one yesterday and was greeted with "out of stock." Emailed Oppo CS this morning to ask when they would have more back in stock and was told mid to late March. This afternoon they were nice enough to send me an email that they had a limited number of units up for sale - so I jumped. After owning 4 of their blu-ray players (2 currently), I have no doubt this is going to be a great product and a heck of deal. As someone owns a few iPods, iPhone 6, iPad and 3 Mac computers/laptops - having something that is Apple certified is another plus. No doubt the DAC will be a nice step up with those devices. Plan on subscribing to Tidal and using this with my Oppo 103 to listen to my SACDs/DVDs. Thanks Oppo for finding another way to lessen the weight of my wallet.

Now if I can just resist buying some headphones - John please quick posting product updates
You snooze, you lose. Glad to get my order in on Friday. My shipment is now looking like a Wednesday delivery, a day earlier than expected...thank you FedEx.

This is my first Oppo purchase in a very long time. The only other Oppo product I've had is a 970H universal player which was originally the disc player in my rack pre-Blu Ray era and now is in my 2-channel room to do SACD/DVD-A duty. I had wanted an Oppo Blu Ray player but there was always something else to buy in the household budget...same thing with the HA-1 that came out in 2014. The HA-2 was available and the price was right, so i pulled the trigger, purely on Oppo's reputation alone. It will primarily due DAC duty for the time being since I don't have a decent set of headphones yet....

And I recently visited the local high end audio store and did some headphone auditions...now I understand why everyone likes the Sennheiser HD 800s...pretty cool. But I may end up with the Oppo PM-3s for the price alone. We'll see how the reviews look.
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CW - nice post and you've left me with some catching up to do. Look forward to reading your impressions on the HA-2 vs. the mac daddy - HA-1. I have a feeling PMs are not far behind, damn Oppo.

Rick - hope yours arrives Wednesday, we can compare our findings, I do have a few nice sets of headphones, but am learning that you can always pass them on to a family member to justify the next pair.

By the way BDP-83 early adaptor, it is still going strong, can't bring myself to part with my first Oppo. Plus it plays everything I put in it despite its age. Steve

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From Oppo ~ To HA-2 OWNERS...
Free DSD music by David Elias!
https://www.facebook.com/OPPODigital...52615348707136

Quote:
Recording artist David Elias and OPPO Digital are happy to offer HA-2 customers a free download of the David Elias sampler, "Coffeehouse DSD Playlist #1". This sampler contains nine original compositions taken from three of his previous SACD and DSD download releases, all recorded in pure DSD.
To redeem your download, please visit http://davidelias.com/contact.html and send your HA-2 serial number via the "Contact" form to request the download link. Please allow up to 48 hours for the artist to respond.

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post #25 of 54 Old 03-03-2015, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Smarty-pants View Post
From Oppo ~ To HA-2 OWNERS...
Free DSD music by David Elias!
https://www.facebook.com/OPPODigital...52615348707136
Well that's cool

Just got shipping notification this afternoon so I suppose it'll be a couple of days now til my HA-2 arrives. YAY!
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post #26 of 54 Old 03-04-2015, 11:37 AM
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Product Detail


OPPO HA-2 Portable Headphone Amplifier & DAC
Estimated Availability: Mid-March, 2015.
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post #27 of 54 Old 03-04-2015, 11:58 AM
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Received mine a few hours ago via FedEx, nice job on the packing, accessories - first-class. Just finished charging it up and will spend some time with it tonight.

There is no perfect display, quit looking for faults and enjoy

LG OLED 65” B7 and 55” C8
Ascend's with RAAL, Love my PSA v1800 and a 7.2.4 speaker config, Oppo 203 and other stuff
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post #28 of 54 Old 03-04-2015, 12:44 PM
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Likewise, mine arrived a few hours ago. I have it with me on the go, and it's very nice. Very high built quality....I don't think I can audition it properly with Apple EarPods, but that's all I have right now. I did briefly hook it up to my two channel rig and it sounded awesome but I haven't had a chance for A/B testing yet.

One problem when using it with the phone...if a call comes in, the iPhone doesn't pipe the phone call audio to the HA-2. Very annoying.

More to come soon.
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post #29 of 54 Old 03-04-2015, 08:56 PM
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1st impressions...and remember, although I have an appreciation for high end audio, I do not have a lot of experience with DACs or headphone amps.

I was running out of the house when the FedEx box came and I took a few minutes out to open it, inspect it and hook it up to my Mac in the two channel listening room to see if I could tell the difference. Since I was in a hurry, I was just happy the thing worked at all, so I unplugged it and took it with me...after all, it's a portable DAC!

Some time later while waiting in a somewhat noisy barber shop, I decided to do a little A/B testing between my iPhone 6+ and the HA-2. I didn't have anything high quality preloaded on it, so I went to Spotify, choose "Extreme" for bandwidth and chose a track I was familiar with...British R&B band Incogito's latest album "Amplified Soul", track 2 "I Couldn't Love You More". Incognito's music features excellent vocals, funky bass and usually lots of horns. The first thing I noticed was that the HA-2 was way more precise playing the same music than the iPhone by itself. In fact I was stunned that it was that obvious. The best analogy I can give is that the iPhone's DAC was almost smearing the music, subtly in some places, more obvious in others. Like droplets of water being accidentally spilled on a watercolor painting.

Since I got home, I paid the in-app upgrade for the Onkyo player so I could load all of my HD music onto it (anything 24 bit in my library). One of the standouts is published by Linn Records, "Toccata in Fuque in A minor" recorded by Pavlo Beznosiuk. Most people have heard this very recognizable classic around Halloween played by a pipe organ, usually keyed in D minor. This time it's all violins, violas and maybe a cello. Nothing I had before could quite reproduce the "scritchy scritchy" nature of bows against strings that this recording demands. The Oppo is there all right, and I'm just listening to this through Apple EarPods. Imagine what happens with real headphones!

And this seems to be the reoccurring theme....compressed music sounds less compressed. Redbook CD rips sound more focused and precise. 24 bit music ups the ante again with some of the music getting into that "3D" soundstage that is hard to reproduce properly, especially with cheap EarPods.

Now the HA-2 can't save every recording. One of my all times favorite performances is Diane Shuur and the Count Basie Orchestra with "Deedles Blues". Diane Shuur is at the height of her powers and the beginning of a long distinguished jazz vocalist career, but a 1987 all digital recording is let down by the recording and mastering equipment of the day. Even with the Oppo, the recording sounds a little too strident, too brassy, and not realistic, which is a shame since the recording all but demands you listen to it at full throttle. Only a pre-amp or amp with a nice set of tubes is going to smooth out the rough edges. Still, the Oppo handles this better that anything I've had before and I'll play it on the tube pre-amp in my house at another time.

The same goes for "The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Part 1", a masterpiece box set of early American jazz, blues and religious music curated by Jack White and Third Man Records. If you're not listening to all 800 (!!) tracks on LP, then the digital versions are all MP3s at 320 kbits. That's ok since all of the original recordings are from 1917-1928, barely past the wax cylinder days in terms of quality and fidelity. The HA-2 does manage to find some clarity I haven't heard before, mainly from the ability to find some extra precision to compressed music lacking in a standard iPhone or Mac/PC DAC.

More notes...the build quality is awesome....a worthy accessory to my iPhone 6+. But it's also the size of a phone so you wind up carrying two devices to do the job, which is inconvenient but its not like we didn't sign up for this. I fear losing the three cables included with the unit...I need to find a small carrying case that makes sense for everything...I don't want most of this disappearing in the wallows of a backpack. The USB used for charging and Mac/PC USB DAC work has a green marking much like the blue markings on USB 3.0 cables. I'm not sure if this cable is special so far as the fast charging of the unit. The HA-2 does heat up a little when operating but nothing uncomfortable.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with this purchase. It would be nice to follow with some real headphones at some point. It would be nice to be able to audition the PM-3s which match the unit at some point...maybe one of these days.
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post #30 of 54 Old 03-04-2015, 09:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenfeet View Post
1st impressions...and remember, although I have an appreciation for high end audio, I do not have a lot of experience with DACs or headphone amps.

I was running out of the house when the FedEx box came and I took a few minutes out to open it, inspect it and hook it up to my Mac in the two channel listening room to see if I could tell the difference. Since I was in a hurry, I was just happy the thing worked at all, so I unplugged it and took it with me...after all, it's a portable DAC!

Some time later while waiting in a somewhat noisy barber shop, I decided to do a little A/B testing between my iPhone 6+ and the HA-2. I didn't have anything high quality preloaded on it, so I went to Spotify, choose "Extreme" for bandwidth and chose a track I was familiar with...British R&B band Incogito's latest album "Amplified Soul", track 2 "I Couldn't Love You More". Incognito's music features excellent vocals, funky bass and usually lots of horns. The first thing I noticed was that the HA-2 was way more precise playing the same music than the iPhone by itself. In fact I was stunned that it was that obvious. The best analogy I can give is that the iPhone's DAC was almost smearing the music, subtly in some places, more obvious in others. Like droplets of water being accidentally spilled on a watercolor painting.

Since I got home, I paid the in-app upgrade for the Onkyo player so I could load all of my HD music onto it (anything 24 bit in my library). One of the standouts is published by Linn Records, "Toccata in Fuque in A minor" recorded by Pavlo Beznosiuk. Most people have heard this very recognizable classic around Halloween played by a pipe organ, usually keyed in D minor. This time it's all violins, violas and maybe a cello. Nothing I had before could quite reproduce the "scritchy scritchy" nature of bows against strings that this recording demands. The Oppo is there all right, and I'm just listening to this through Apple EarPods. Imagine what happens with real headphones!

And this seems to be the reoccurring theme....compressed music sounds less compressed. Redbook CD rips sound more focused and precise. 24 bit music ups the ante again with some of the music getting into that "3D" soundstage that is hard to reproduce properly, especially with cheap EarPods.

Now the HA-2 can't save every recording. One of my all times favorite performances is Diane Shuur and the Count Basie Orchestra with "Deedles Blues". Diane Shuur is at the height of her powers and the beginning of a long distinguished jazz vocalist career, but a 1987 all digital recording is let down by the recording and mastering equipment of the day. Even with the Oppo, the recording sounds a little too strident, too brassy, and not realistic, which is a shame since the recording all but demands you listen to it at full throttle. Only a pre-amp or amp with a nice set of tubes is going to smooth out the rough edges. Still, the Oppo handles this better that anything I've had before and I'll play it on the tube pre-amp in my house at another time.

The same goes for "The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Part 1", a masterpiece box set of early American jazz, blues and religious music curated by Jack White and Third Man Records. If you're not listening to all 800 (!!) tracks on LP, then the digital versions are all MP3s at 320 kbits. That's ok since all of the original recordings are from 1917-1928, barely past the wax cylinder days in terms of quality and fidelity. The HA-2 does manage to find some clarity I haven't heard before, mainly from the ability to find some extra precision to compressed music lacking in a standard iPhone or Mac/PC DAC.

More notes...the build quality is awesome....a worthy accessory to my iPhone 6+. But it's also the size of a phone so you wind up carrying two devices to do the job, which is inconvenient but its not like we didn't sign up for this. I fear losing the three cables included with the unit...I need to find a small carrying case that makes sense for everything...I don't want most of this disappearing in the wallows of a backpack. The USB used for charging and Mac/PC USB DAC work has a green marking much like the blue markings on USB 3.0 cables. I'm not sure if this cable is special so far as the fast charging of the unit. The HA-2 does heat up a little when operating but nothing uncomfortable.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with this purchase. It would be nice to follow with some real headphones at some point. It would be nice to be able to audition the PM-3s which match the unit at some point...maybe one of these days.
Nice write up, 7'

Did you get a chance to try the hi/low gain switch or the bass boost? Would be interested in your impressions if you have.

Congrats on the new toy
can't wait to get mine...tomorrow, I'm hoping.
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