OPPO HA-1 Headphone Amplifier Review

Oppo HA-1 Review- PREFACE

After publishing the review of the excellent OPPO PM-2 Planar Magnetic Headphones earlier in the week, we now take a look at what has to be one of the best amplifier units I have ever used.  I say amplifier, but the OPPO HA-1 (Headphone Amplifier 1) has so many tricks up its sleeve it’s hard to hold it to that single role.  Yes, it’s an amplifier, one that has been specifically designed for use with high-end headphones. It is still working as a high-end DAC, excellent Stereo Pre-Amp, and a wireless Bluetooth system supporting with supporting Apple and Android apps. Along with RHA and Audeze, Oppo is undoubtedly one of the most exciting players in the headphone game right now, and the HA-1 is a true end game piece of kit.

THE MEAT OF THE REVIEW

Oppo HA-1 – Packaging (7/10)

The amp comes in a huge, well-protected, and hefty cardboard box.  To be honest, you wouldn’t expect more than that when buying a high-end component similar to this, and the level of protection is very welcome indeed, nearly on a par with the tank-like protection of the Kingssound KS-H3 Electrostatic headphones and amplifier set.  Once you open the box, there is a large information sheet beneath which wrapped in Styrofoam, the HA-1 lurks.  Accessories come in a nice little box with the Oppo logo on it, and the amp itself is further wrapped in a protective cloth bag.

Oppo HA-1 – Accessories (8/10)

Amps usually come with nothing other than a power cable, so in this regard, Oppo has thoughtfully included a nicely styled metal remote control, which, just like other Oppo products, is exceptionally well made.  The remote is incredibly easy to use and controls all features of the amp from source, graphic eq, and, as you would expect, volume.  A small Bluetooth receiver that you have to screw on to use the wireless function that supports the higher quality APTx codec is also in the accessories box.  After completing my full evaluation procedure, I found that I would use the Bluetooth function almost non-stop via Vox music player on a Macbook Pro Retina. The sound quality was excellent, and it just added to the ease of use of the amp.  Finally, not included in the box but downloadable from app stores, Oppo has created an excellent smartphone app that allows for further control.  The app works seamlessly and is just another example of how well thought out the Oppo HA-1 is.

Oppo HA-1 – Looks and Build Quality – (10/10)

The Oppo is a beautiful-looking thing that any audiophile would be happy to own. The black brushed metal chassis that mine came in it looks classy and is well finished with laid out, easy-to-understand functional controls.  Use the graphic EQ when playing the amp and really stands out and the vibrant colors bouncing along to the music become mildly hypnotic after a certain amount of time.  Build quality is outstanding and has all the hallmarks of a big company having the resources and procedures to build something spectacular.  The chassis is solid, the dials smooth as butter, it is well vented to deal with the heat emitted through use, and has good sturdy feet and high-quality jack points. Everything about the Oppo HA-1 feels undoubtedly premium.  Size-wise it’s not the biggest component I have used and stacks very nicely, but it’s not quite a desktop unit like the brilliant sounding and more portable Aurender Flow.

Oppo HA-1 Headphone Amp – Features (10/10)

The Oppo HA-1 Amplifier is without a doubt one of the complete pieces of high-end audio gear that I have ever seen.  Audiophiles will be delighted at the sheer range of features on offer here.

Amplifier-  The Oppo HA-1 is rated to pair with headphones in the 32-600Ohm range

Making ideal for most high-end headphones and especially well suited to Oppo’s own PM-1 and PM-2 headphones.   The amp itself is a discrete hand-picked class A unit that will give any top-end Headphone amplifiers a run for their money.  There were absolutely zero hisses (noise floor) during testing, and it powered all of my headphones with ease.

DAC – The Oppo HA-1 amplifier uses the reference-grade Sabre32 DAC (ES9018), one of the world’s best 32 bit DAC’s and one that I have become familiar with recently.  The Sabre32 offers an incredibly dynamic range of 135db and seriously low jitter. More importantly, I feel that the way the Sabre has been implemented (implementation is greater than the sum of the parts) is nigh on perfect when you go by the energetic and clear sound that is output.

Apt-X – Bluetooth is on board here, and it’s happily aptX which manages to allow a higher level of performance than traditional BlueTooth implementation.  I found that it paired instantly, and signal strength remained strong throughout listening sessions.

Stereo Pre-amplification – This is something I found very useful when I connected it up to my Dali Lektor speaker setup as a component. It slipped right in, and the sound quality was by all means excellent. I would still most likely keep the HA-1 as a stand-alone unit specifically for Headphones in the home office, but those buying something that will do both tasks simultaneously should look no further.

Other Features – Other standout features of note on the HA-1 were the ability to bypass your computer’s internal soundcard and use the HA-1’s internal DAC chip instead.  This was easy to set up and offers a far higher audio standard than would be attainable without.  Ipod’s and other I-devices can be used similarly due to the USB connection on the front, allowing users to tap straight into the digital output and have the conversion done again by the brilliant Sabre32.  Finally, it should be mentioned that the HA-1 offers adjustable gain settings which should cover you depending on the requirements of different headphones.

As for inputs and outputs, the Oppo HA-1 most certainly has you covered with almost everything under the sun.  Inputs: Optical, Coaxial, XLR, Bluetooth, USB.  Output: Balanced Jack, XLR, RCA, etc… You get the picture; it’s all very, very impressive. 

Sound from the HA-1, when tested with headphones ranging from OPPO’s own PM-2, Sennheisers HD800, and Final Audio’s Pandora Hope VI, all had the common feature of being extremely clear, detailed, and smooth.  Overall, its presentation was a touch smoother than the 02DAC+Amp combo and Viiolectric V100, which I find overly bright by comparison. It should be mentioned that the synergy between Oppo’s own headphones, the PM-2, and the HA-1 is excellent, providing a setup that on both sound quality and features is right at the top end of the scale.  

Oppo HA-1 Review – CONCLUSION

My position on Amps has always been to only get one if your headphones require it.  Look for one that does exactly what an amplifier should do, provide accurate amplification of the signal to drive your headphones to their maximum potential.  However, it’s tough to look at the OPPO HA-1 as merely an amplifier, as the name would suggest.  The OPPO HA-1 offers so much more, having an integrated Sabre32, Bluetooth aptX, and almost every piece of connectivity under the sun.   Additionally, one must mention just how great and simple the user interface is; it makes the HA-1 a joy to use.  I can say that unless you are going to dive into the world of tube amps, then the HA-1 is ultimately an end game piece of equipment; as an amp and DAC, it’s pretty much perfect, but when you consider all the extras that are thrown in it becomes worth every single bit of the price of entry and one of the best pieces of equipment that have been released by any company so far in 2014.

 

Audiophile Onhttp://www.audiophileon.com
Audiophile On is a website dedicated to high-end audio products. With over 15 years as a reviewer, all articles are hand-written by one person to allow the comparison of products. Headphones, earphones, speakers, amplifiers, or DAC's we cover here.

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