May 11 2014, 5:34pm CDT | by Forbes
Oppo built their name (in the US) on the backs of some pretty excellent high-end Blu-ray players, many of which had some serious audiophile hardware inside. So a headphone amp isn’t too much of a stretch.
Here’s a preview of the goods, and the goods look good.
Before we get going, if you’re curious about the value of high-end headphones, or have questions about headphones in general, first check out Are Expensive Headphones Worth It? and What Are The Best Headphones?.
You might be wondering… headphone amp? A speaker of any kind, be it a headphone or a traditional speaker, needs an amplifier to supply power to movie their drivers. In some cases, like the lovely Polk Hampdens desktop speakers, the amp is internal. Most bookshelf speakers and headphones, however, need an external amp. Your Apple iPod, iPhone, or Google Android phone, will have a small headphone amp built in. For most headphones, this is plenty. For more serious hardware, however, it isn’t.
For serious audiophile headphones, you need something a bit beefier. Not only do many headphones (specially planar magnetic headphones like the Oppo and Audeze models) require more power to get any decent volume, a headphone amp will control the drivers of the headphone better, given a more dynamic and natural sound, at any volume.
The hardware inside the HA-1 are some of the beefiest I’ve seen in a headphone amp. It looks like a barely scaled down loudspeaker amp. From a big toroidal power supply, to its fully Class A operation, it has specs like an audiophile monoblock. Oppo rates the maximum output at 0.6 watts into 600 Ohms, and 3.5 watts into 32 Ohms (into a standard 6.5mm connector).
Many headphones, including the HA-1, also include a digital-to-analog converter (DAC). This takes the digital signal, from a computer, say, and converts it into an analog form an amplifier can send to speakers. Here, the specs look good on the Oppo as well: A Sabre ESS 9018, which is the same DAC used in Oppo’s high-end Blu-ray players. Connecting via an asynchronous USB connection, the specs for the DAC stage read like a decent USB DAC.
Well, not “conclusion” as we haven’t heard it yet, but the specs look very interesting. Also, knowing how much Oppo nailed the sound of their first headphone, that bodes well for how this will perform. Looking forward to checking it out.
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