Review: Oppo HA-2 (PC/Android/Apple compatible portable DAC/Amp)
Firstly I would like to thank Oppo for lending me this sample to review, I will write as honest a review possible, and this is my subjective opinion. The sample received quite a few hours of burn-in before this review was written, no differences were noted.
iPod Classic 7G > Oppo HA-2 (both via line-in, and USB in) > Inearz IE-P350/German Maestro GMP 400
Dell XPS 15 > Oppo HA-2 > Inearz IE-P350/German Maestro GMP 400
(too many to list, a very detailed description and complete specification sheet)
Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality:
Well the packaging is very nice, a sleek black box with a picture of the amp/DAC on the front and specifications on the back. Some information can be found on the side of the box too. Inside this outer box is an inner box, when you lift the lid off the inner box you are presented with the HA-2 neatly held in a cut out. The packaging uses very high quality card, and underneath this inner tray you will find a quick start guide and also a quick charger and the cables. All very well packaged and safe during shipping, but also a very premium looking packaging.
Accessories are very good, it comes packed with everything you need. First off you get a charger which will quick charge the device (75% in 30 minutes, 100% in 90 minutes) which is a great feature. It also comes with the USB charging cable, a short Apple Lightning to USB cable, a short Android micro USB OTG cable, a short 3.5mm to 3.5mm auxiliary cable and also 2 rubber amp straps. So you have all the cables you need to get started, plus a charger and amp straps, all in all an excellent package.
Build quality is something that really stands out, this device oozes quality. The genuine leather and flawless stitching that covers an aluminium chassis with perfectly machined openings and etched lettering. The volume knob is the on/off switch too, and has silky smooth operation and no wobble (looking at you Astell and Kern), and the knob has red numbers on it to indicate the listening level, a lovely detail to add. All the buttons, switches and sockets feel solid and this device feels like it's built to last.
Well this DAC/Amp has loads of functions, it is not your run of the mill DAC/Amp. First off it works with PC and Mac as a DAC/Amp (the line-in acts as a line-out when using the internal DAC, great feature) and sounds great, but the DAC also works with Android via USB OTG, Apple via the Lightning cable but also its Apple MFI certified so also accepts older iPhones and also iPods. All this for under £300 is amazing, considering other Apple MFI certified DAC's go for over £400 regularly. This also has a great amplifier built in, without making it big and bulky.
Volume can be changed on the HA-2 but also on the device connected to it, without losing fidelity: "By mapping USB volume control commands to the Sabre DAC chip's internal digital volume control, users can adjust the signal volume using the playback app or software without losing audio resolution or causing bit truncation."
Another feature this has is it can charge your USB devices, like a portable power bank. This has a 3000mah battery built in, so it should charge your phone fully from empty and still have a little juice left for listening to your music. Great for when you need that little extra battery power, and this also charges very quickly.
The most important part, and it does not fail to please.
First off I will talk about the gain and bass boost, the gain switch is great and very useful for hard to drive full size headphones, it is rated to 300Ω but tested with the Beyerdynamic T1 it had no problems powering them on high gain. Even my German Maestro GMP 400 which are 300Ω and have low sensitivity are driven on low gain with no distortion, but do sound better on high gain. On low gain my Inearz IE-P350 sounded excellent and there is only a tiny bit of channel imbalance at the lowest volume which is too quiet to listen to even with sensitive headphones. Very good.
The bass boost is all analogue too, no DSP anywhere in this DAC/Amp, and it sure does add some bass, a little too much for my tastes but for those who crave bass it is perfect. It mainly affects the sub bass, and adds a little mid bass punch whilst not affecting the mids too much. I still prefer the bass boost from the JDS Labs C5, but this device does a lot more than the JDS Labs C5. I would have liked to see 2 steps of bass boost, but the one it has helps when you have bright headphones, or when you are listening to bass oriented music, or when gaming and watching films.
Using my iPod with the HA-2 I noticed straight away better separation and air, it now sounded on par with some desktop setups. There was a noticeable difference in the size of the soundstage, but also detail, the highs now sounded very clean and clear whereas without the HA-2 the iPod sounded a little dull up top, but also a little congested and 2D sounding. The HA-2 really works well as an external DAC/Amp for the iPod Classic.
Using it as just an amp from the iPod Classic I noticed better control and transient speed, everything sounded a little more precise and controlled. Also when using full sized headphones it has plenty of power compared to the internal amp of the iPod.
Using it out of my PC again I noticed better soundstage and clarity, it really is quite a big difference. I never experienced any audio drop outs, and I can never hear any distortion. I would class the sound to be clean, clear and precise. It can deliver enough power to make the bass come out on the German Maestro GMP 400, but that is the headphones and not the amp's sound signature. It really delivers another level of detail in your music, but also greatly increases the soundstage without sounding fake.
Conclusion: This is a feature packed, but not gimmick packed, DAC/Amp, all the features really do serve a purpose. The DAC works excellently with all devices and brings an audible difference which greatly enhanced my listening experience. Before listening to this I was quite content with my iPod's line out to an external amp, now after listening how good it sounds with an external DAC I am converted.
It is a clean and clear sound, not adding any extra flavour to the sound, yet it has bass boost to keep the bass heads happy.
Overall for the price, I highly recommend this as it sounds excellent and has Apple MFI certification for under £300.
Sound Perfection Rating: 10/10 (excellent build, excellent functions, excellent sound, low price)