T+A HA 200 USB/DAC Headphone Amp £6600 Review

October 20, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“And that’s without recourse to the crossfeed control, which can occasionally just make things a bit confused. Listening to the recently released Oslo Philharmonic/Vasily Petrenko recording of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade [Lawo Classics LWC 1198; DXD], the impression is one of large orchestral forces, persuasively recorded, and a free-breathing, uncompressed and hugely dynamic sound.

I’ve also never heard the Oppo PM-1 headphones driven so convincingly: powered by the HA 200 they take on even greater weight and precision, which serves well a recording such as Snarky Puppy’s Live At The Royal Albert Hall set [Live Here Now; n/a cat no], with its large musical forces, tumbling rhythms and palpable audience presence. Even Ella Fitzgerald’s 1956 Live At Zardi’s set, from Qobuz [Universal/Verve 5798051; 192kHz/24-bit] sweeps the listener up in the atmosphere of the evening, the immediacy of the recording shining through.”

QUESTYLE CMA TWELVE REVIEW

October 16, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“The CMA Twelve also operates as a preamplifier, with both balanced XLR and single-ended RCA outputs. Unlike the CMA600i, the output from the DAC section can be switched to either line-level or variable output, a neat feature that I did find lacking in the earlier model. Another studio-friendly feature is the ability to switch the gain level of the preamp section from 14 dBu to 20 dBu. Questyle really has gone above and beyond with the included remote for the CMA Twelve, which I can honestly say is the best remote I’ve come across on a DAC/desktop device, at any price. Far from being simply a volume control, it allows for input switching as well as playback control when the CMA Twelve is paired with its companion QP2R+Super Hub SHB2 lossless audio player, which can be connected via the CMA Twelve’s inbuilt 5 GHz wifi functionality.

Straight out of the box, the CMA Twelve reeks of high-quality manufacturing, and (like its other family members) is probably the most solid-feeling piece of personal audio equipment I’ve encountered thus far. The black, sand-blasted aluminium casing is 10mm thick and constructed by Foxconn, the manufacturers of the iPhone. It’s a great-looking piece of gear, and the CMA Twelve straddles the line neatly between ‘hifi’ and ‘pro’ in terms of aesthetics.”

DCS BARTOK $17,250 REVIEW

October 7, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“The dCS Bartok is probably the best sounding integrated DAC and headphone amplifier I have reviewed to date in the 10 years we have been operating this website. That is some statement but I will not future proof it because, well, the Bartok is modular, it is firmware upgradeable, and has plenty of legs in it to go on for a few years more and still stay relevant.

The Ring DAC may well be the star of the show but the Class A amp is no slouch either. Right now, the Bartok delivers a rich and powerful sounding component with a smooth delivery and tons of dynamic range with just about every headphone I tested it with.

Where other systems refine and distill to give you that perfect sound, the Bartok opts to give the rawest most realistic sound possible. Throw in all the mod cons of networked streaming, save for BT and built-in WiFi, and a very useable free app, and it is perfectly poised to cope with the digital streaming era.

Yes, the Bartok is huge, weighty, and oh so very expensive. However, it is likely all you could ever need for a high-end headphone setup and honestly, it could well be all downhill from here unless there is a Bartok 2 in the pipeline. Please do not do that dCS, stick to the firmware upgrades and people will appreciate this beautiful example of engineering a lot more in the long run. ”

SCHIIT AUDIO MAGNIUS $199 REVIEW

September 20, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“Schiit is known for providing quality products at reasonable prices, and they have not failed in doing so with the Magnius. They have managed to create an op-amp based balanced amplifier that has lots of power, with a fast and detailed presentation, while remaining fairly neutral.

Despite being neutral, the Magnius manages to have a dynamic low end, texturized midrange, and a smooth and detailed treble. I wish they just moved the power switch to the front though, but that might be asking for too much from Schiit.”

DCS BARTOK $17,250 HEADPHONEAMP REVIEW

September 17, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“The Bartok experience is all about depth and width and more importantly generating excellent power from that depth. The low-end power is incredible, to be honest, and not just right at the lowest reaches but seeping up into the mids it carries that power and density with it if paired to the right headphones.

Despite the Bartok offering excellent headroom and a wonderfully black background, I would not consider this to be an ethereal airy staging experience. Unlike our tested competing amps, the Bartok does not really push the treble that far forward and you can hear that difference side by side. It is less dominant more coherent especially for percussion in recordings.

Cymbals and high hats have tons of texture and weight but its even-harmonic weight as opposed to odd-harmonic overtones that shine brighter so they are pleasing sounding rather than crisp and shimmering in tone.

The office Studio 6 SET actually sounds a little bit airier and a shade brighter from the upper mids onwards on the HeDD Studio HeDDphones but that is not to say the Bartok is relaxed or dark but rather it feels neutral in quantity and positioning.”

Focal Arche Headphone Amplifier/DAC/Preamplifier Review

August 27, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“With the vast majority of headphones and in-ears I attached to the Arche I found no mismatch issues, except with the highly sensitive (119dB) Earsonics EM10 CIEM. With EM10 there was a slight low-level hiss. With my most inefficient headphones, the Beyer Dynamic DT-990 600-ohm version, the Arche had more than adequate drive to produce high volume levels with lots of juice left over.

While not ergonomically perfect, the Focal Arche does most things right, both in terms of sonics and of its built-in headphone profiles and amplifier options, making it an impressive first-time electronic offering.”

Stax SR-Omega headphones $7000 Review

August 17, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“If you want the truth, however—at least as honestly as I’ve heard it in any headphones—you want the Stax SR-Omegas. They’re nothing less than stunning. In fact, short of an inherent headphone inability to render an accurate soundstage or that truly visceral feeling of power and weight through the bass, the SR-Omegas will stack up against any loudspeaker I know of in overall balance, definition, and sheer ability to convince the listener that he or she is indeed hearing exactly what’s on any given recording.”

XDUOO TA-30 REVIEW

August 12, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“– an Xmos XU208 for USB. A multi-core chip, fully compliant with USB 2.0 specification, and advertised as a “major upscale” from the previous U8.

Moreover, the xDuoo TA-30 now gets an FPGA chip, provided by Altera, to reduce the jitter and a dual active low phase noise crystal oscillator. That, and no less than 7 PCM filter + 1 DSD filters to adapt the DAC, to your taste”

SMSL M300 MKII REVIEW

August 10, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“The M300mkII has the AKM4497EQ’s characteristics. It sounds quite balanced across the spectrum. It has this effortless character, where everything happens to fall in its place. Coherency is the real key behind this tuning. Well done. While nailing this, the M300mkII also manages to maintain good control. Sub and bass regions are very tight and punchy. The midrange is very sweet. It has a semi-bold note weight and there’s definitely not lacking any body there. Upper mids are vivid with a pinch of sparkle. The high region however, is gentle. Brilliant clarity and spaciousness helps the dispersion of the high treble very well in the stage. I said gentle but think of it as Astell&Kern kind of gentle, definitely not rolled off kind. PRaT-wise it is also very competent. It can handle fast tracks very well when combined with an equally capable amp. As for the sound stage, you get a wide but not very deep stage. The distinction between the instruments is very clear. There is enough space between them so you can track them with ease. To sum it all up, I really like how the M300mkII is tuned.”

YULONG DA-ART Aquila II $700 Review

July 26, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“The synchronous mode is a little closer to the DA10 tuning with a softer overtone and a bit more bass warmth. Also, the upper mids and treble are a little more liquid soundings and not as aggressive.

That is not to say the async mode is brighter but you will find the mids and treble to have a bit more focus and the instrumental timbre a bit cleaner. It also sounds perceptibly the more articulate for percussion which might suit smoother sounding headphones like the Heddphone.”

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