There are everyday headphones, and there are headphones. Oppo Digital traffics in the latter — real audiophile-quality stuff. Recently, the company, best known for its reference-quality Blu-ray players, introduced its PM-1 planar magnetic headphones. Today its $1,199 HA-1 headphone amplifier was revealed.
Now you might be asking: What the heck is a headphone amplifier, and why would I need one? Here’s a good explanation. Basically, for the sake of illustration, think of a headphone as a portable Bluetooth speaker. Sure, it sounds pretty good, but does it sound as good as a full-blown stereo system with an AV receiver/amplifier? Now imagine if your headphones had their own amp. According to the audiophile set, a headphone amp will take your headphone listening from “meh” quality to “holy crap, I never heard that instrument in this song before!” quality.
The HA-1 uses the same circuit design of its lauded BDP-95 and BDP-105 audiophile players to deliver what the company says is “an uncompromising analog audio section with the latest technology in digital audio.”
Unadulterated techs and specs for you, via Oppo’s press release:
The analog audio section of the HA-1 is a fully balanced design with an emphasis on keeping the audio signal in the analog domain once it leaves the DAC. The HA-1 is anchored by a hefty toroidal power transformer, and linear power regulators and filters with custom made capacitors ensure that the headphone amplifier has a clean power source with plenty of reserve energy. The fully balanced Class A power amplification section uses hand-picked and paired discrete components to ensure symmetry, and a motor-driven precision volume control knob allows for both manual and remote control volume adjustment while keeping the audio in a pure analog audio path.
The HA-1 is especially suitable for high-resolution digital audio playback. Its digital inputs include coaxial, optical, balanced AES/EBU, and an asynchronous USB DAC. It is easy to connect the HA-1 to digital audio players or to a computer running the listener’s favorite playback software. The USB DAC supports PCM audio up to 384 kHz 32-bit resolution and DSD audio up to 256x the CD sample rate. The same ESS 9018 Sabre32 Reference DAC and output driving stage used in OPPO audiophile Blu-ray players ensure extremely low noise and low distortion performance. The HA-1 is compatible with Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad for use as an external DAC, enabling the listener to directly tap into digital music played from these devices. For additional convenience, the Bluetooth audio transport with high quality aptX CODEC sets music free from your mobile phones with a performance boost.
OPPO designs the HA-1 headphone amplifier with the same versatile approach as the Blu-ray players. The HA-1 is a high performance headphone amplifier, and it doubles as an asynchronous USB DAC, a stereo pre-amplifier, a digital audio dock for mobile devices, and a Bluetooth audio transport. Users have a choice of using the 4-pin balanced XLR or the traditional quarter-inch headphone jack. Line level analog inputs and outputs are provided with both RCA and balanced XLR sockets.
The HA-1 sports a classic design with contemporary elements. It is a desktop component housed in an aluminum chassis, and the familiar volume and source selection knobs are complemented by a 4.3-inch color screen for easy operation. While music is playing, the screen can show a classic VU meter, a modern spectrum display, or detailed technical information about the audio signal. A supplied IR remote and a smartphone app provide complete control and convenience.
Sounds sweet. It’s available in black now, with a silver version coming in June.