Oppo HA-2 Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC Review
Oppo HA-2 Headphone Amp / DAC: $299
by Wayne Myers
Introducing the Oppo HA-2 Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC. Last year, Oppo entered the headgear arena with their introduction of the HA-! Headphone Amplifier and the PM-1 Planar Magnetic Headphones. The HA-2 is Oppo's recent portable amplifier and DAC offering for driving headphones. Its big brother HA-1, a Class A powerhouse with virtually unbeatable specs and sonic performance, sets the expectation bar high for the tiny, battery operated HA-2.
The HA-2 is packed with features in an attractive, extremely compact and portable size. Its battery pack can even be used to charge other devices if needed. It has the capability to play tracks via USB fron your computer or laptop, or can reach into the digital guts of your Android or Apple device and grab your music tracks before they have been converted to analog, making high resolution output from a phone or tablet possible. It can handle up to 32 bit, 384 kHz media files, including DSD256 files.
The HA-2 comes with all the adapter cables needed to interface with computer, Android,or Apple device, plus I received an Android phone cable for handling calls while listening to tracks.
Oppo Web Site
The HA-2 is packaged simply but nicely, and comes with a variety of cables for different configurations. It is made to be used in enough ways, given its ability to work with computer or portable device, and its Android / Apple versatility, that the well-written instruction sheet will best be kept handy for regular reference. I caught onto the necessary adapter types and mode switch settings quickly, though.
Its coverage of available formats is simply exhaustive, typical for Oppo, making it one of the most extensible offerings I have seen.
The HA-2 easily matched up with my Android phone and tablet, giving me the best sound I have heard from either. Once plugged into the device with the mode switch properly set, I simply turned on the HA-2, pulled up my media player on the device, selected a song, and hit play. Pristine sound then flowed out of the HA-2 into my 'phones, no settings in the Android device needed to be changed at all.
The Oppo team has given us a really neat design in the HA-2. Its stitched-leather-covered case is SHARP! I like the Oppo fashion statement made by their headphone cases and the HA-2 case, using leather and denim to dress up high performance products, laid-back and top-of-class: Accessible Classy!
I particularly liked the easy-to-use analog volume control / on-off switch. It might be a challenge to keep track of all the cables, but my routine is to use quart-sized zip-closing freezer bags with all the devices I have collected, and that worked great for the HA-2, a good fit for all the included items (including instruction sheet) and an easy way to locate what is needed for the occasion.
For PC operation, the latest version of Oppo's device driver had to be installed, which required de-installation of the previous version and a reboot. The HA-1 and HA-2 can both be connected to your computer at once. Both will show up as active in the Oppo driver control panel. I could easily switch between them using the foobar2000 configuration panel on my test laptop.
The ability to use the battery to run other devices came in handy on a recent trip, although I had not given it enough charge cycles to be able give its capacity a good test. At 3000 mAh rating, it promises to be particularly handy for smartphone users.
I gave the HA-2 a workout alongside its big brother the HA-1. The comparison was not a totally fair one, but the HA-2 did its family proud. Only on the densest of tracks could I detect any difference in the way they handled the soundstage and image clarity and how cleanly they performed. And while not quite as refined as the HA-1 and its handling of those tracks, the HA-2 delivered a stand-up performance. I found the HA-2 to deliver excellent sound throughout my tests, a very clean headphone amp with the ability to easily drive any headphones I used with it.
Into the ultra-revelatory PM-1 phones, Tower of Power, Fanfare! You Know It, I heard crisp highs and flashy horn tones.
Midlake, Roscoe, only occasionally it seemed like the soundstage was not quite sorted out as cleanly as it might have been. This has become a favorite image sharpness test track, with a dense but well-organized mix of vocal harmonies and guitars.
Atoms for Peace, Before Your Very Eyes, it was all there and well represented. Perfect world, Broken Bells, I noted that the HA-2 does a very good job sounding like a big system DAC.
AKG K 701 headphones, Muse, Supermassive Black Hole, the HA-2 held it together for a sizzling delivery. My Sennheiser HD 600 were easily driven to a nice pulsing volume.
Beyerdynamic DT 880 240 Ohm Premium phones, my current faves for fun listening, Nickel Creek, House of Tom Bombadil, the phones and HA-1 were a really great match-up. I have a feeling that they are going to spend some time together on the road.
The Oppo HA-2 is a high-performing Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC with more features and use options than one would think could be fit in such a small package. As always for Oppo, the product is well thought out and is a solid performer in its class while looking and handling in a way that makes it fun to own, work with, and be seen with. You will not find a PCM format it can not handle, probably for many years to come. For the headgear lover on the go who is set on getting high-quality sound, and especially the fan of high-resolution tracks, I recommend it be considered as the one Amp/DAC to serve all those portable needs with ease.