Oppo HA-1 Headphone Amplifier, DAC & Pre-Amplifier – review

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Welcome to my review of the Oppo HA-1. The Oppo HA-1 is terrific headphone amplifier, with its own DAC. It can also be used as a pre-amplifier. For the purpose of this review, I used my Oppo PM-2 Planar Magnetic headphones, the special Oppo balanced headphone cable along with the HA-1. The Oppo HA-1 retails for £1,199, the PM-2 headphones £699 and the Oppo Balanced Cable £149.

From the moment you lift the Oppo HA-1 out of its box, you begin to appreciate the quality workmanship of this piece of hardware. Below is a photo of the internal construction. What is striking is just how neat and precise everything is assembled. The front of the HA-1 has connectors for a standard 6.3mm headphone socket, XLR balanced connector, the infra red receiver, power, source and volume controls. It also has a USB input for iOS devices. The HA-1 is approved by Apple in the MFI program. This means that via the lightning cable, it can extract the digital data from your iPhone or iPad and use the Oppo DAC instead.

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The rear panel has you covered for many different types of connections.

Internal Layout

Oppo have designed the HA-1 so that the analog audio section is a fully balanced design with a focus on keeping the audio signal in the analog domain once it leaves the DAC. The HA-1 uses a huge toroidal power transformer, linear power regulators, filters with custom made capacitors that ensure that the headphone amplifier has a clean power source with plenty of reserve energy. The fully balanced Class A power amplification section has hand-picked and paired discrete components to ensure symmetry, with a motor-driven precision volume control knob that allows for both manual and remote control volume adjustment while keeping the audio in a pure analog audio path.

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Official Specifications

The specifications are lengthy, so I have extracted these direct from the manual –

  
  

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Design and Engineering

The HA-1 uses an analog potentiometer (volume knob) to control the volume. This avoids re-digitising the audio signal for volume adjustment. In turn this allows for a clean signal path for the audio. At the same time, Oppo have built this for the 21st Century. A remote-controlled motor turns the volume knob and a 10-bit analog-to-digital converter samples the signal to display a numeric dB level.

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The HA-1 passes Apple’s “MFi” certification and is compatibile with the latest iPod, iPhone and iPad to be used as the digital audio output accessory of these devices. By tapping directly into the digital audio signal of these devices and converting the audio to analog using the high performance SABRE32 Reference DAC, the music sounds spell binding. So so good.

The HA-1 supports Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) with both the standard and aptX® high quality codec. I paired my phone with the HA-1 and listened wirelessly. Again incredible sound quality.

The Oppo HA-1 can bypass the low fidelity, poor quality DACs of your computer sound card. The HA-1 turns any computer into a high performance multi-media source by converting digital audio to analog through the ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC. The asynchronous transfer mode uses the high precision clock inside the HA-1 to drive the audio signal, not relying on the clock quality of the computer. HA-1’s USB DAC input supports PCM up to 384 kHz 24-bit and DSD up to 12 MHz (DSD256).

The headphone power amplifier has an adjustable gain setting. For optimal sound quality and to best match your headphones’ sensitivity, you can choose between Normal and High for the Headphone Gain setting.

The HA-1 is housed in a brushed aluminum chassis. The Class A amplifier is designed with ample ventilation and built with the finest components to ensure long term stability and performance. The photo of the internal components highlights this point.

The HA-1 doubles as a high fidelity stereo pre-amplifier with both RCA and XLR output ports. A special “Home Theater Bypass” mode can be assigned to any input source, making it very easy to integrate the HA-1 as a stereo pre-amplifier into a home theater sound system.

The HA-1 features 12V trigger input and output. When used as a stereo pre-amplifier, the trigger output can turn on your power amplifiers automatically when the HA-1 is turned on. You can also turn on the HA-1 automatically by connecting its trigger input to the trigger output of a source device or a surround sound processor.

The HA-1 comes with a remote control that provides volume control, direct source selection and even playback control for digital audio sources. A remote control app is available for both Apple’s iPhone and Android-based smartphones. The app works over Bluetooth and offers the same functionality as the physical remote control. The supplied remote control is made of aluminium too.

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The Important Part – Sound Quality and Experience

Wow. Simply stunning. Phenomenal.

I hope you get the message by now. In my entire audio experience, I have never heard such an amazing setup. The Oppo HA-1 performs “magic with music.” It oozes musicality, separation, impact, slam, control, finesse and more. You feel the music. I tried as many different genres as possible and nothing phased it. The Oppo PM-2 headphones with the balanced cable are a real gem and work incredible well in partnership.

In previous audio setups, the compromise with high end audio equipment can be the lack of options. This is not the case with the HA-1. The HA-1 has many different connection options. It can be used as a pre-amplifier, connected to via Bluetooth and even comes with a remote control. Or you can use its android or iOS app.

I connected my iPad, my wife’s iPhone 5S and my android phone (LG G4) via USB and bluetooth. In all cases, the mind blowing sound and theatrical music performance was off the charts “brilliant”.

The HA-1 will extract information from tracks that you never knew existed. I also discovered a whole new level of performance from my Oppo PM-2 headphones.

Final Words

This is a phenomenal piece of kit from Oppo and priced extremely competitively too. Highly recommended.

More info and deals on the Oppo HA-1 Headphone DAC Amplifier at Amazon UK

Breaking news – Nokia sells HERE maps to AUDI, Mercedes & BMW – details

“Espoo, Finland – Nokia today announced an agreement to sell its HERE digital mapping and location services business to a consortium of leading automotive companies, comprising AUDI AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG (the “Consortium”). The transaction values HERE at an enterprise value of EUR 2.8 billion with a normalized level of working capital and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. Upon closing, Nokia estimates that it will receive net proceeds of slightly above EUR 2.5 billion, as the purchaser would be compensated for certain defined liabilities of HERE currently expected to be slightly below EUR 300 million as part of the transaction. Nokia expects to book a gain on the sale and a related release of cumulative foreign exchange translation differences totaling approximately EUR 1 billion as a result of the transaction.”

And just like that, the HERE maps are sold for nearly EUR 3 billion!

Source – http://company.nokia.com/en/news/press-releases/2015/08/03/nokia-completes-next-stage-of-transformation-with-agreement-to-sell-here-to-automotive-industry-consortium-at-an-enterprise-value-of-eur-28-billion

Editorial – Are Android Phone Manufacturers panicking over the next iPhone?

There is no doubt that Apple is currently selling millions of iPhones all over the world and at the same time making decent profit margins on each phone sold. It is an incredible feat.

The new iPhone(s) due to be announced and released in September have the potential to sell like crazy again, especially if the rumoured improvements are true. For example, iPhones have had a 8mp rear camera for years. Rumours are this will be increased for the better to 12mp. Force Touch – this also might arrive on the next iPhone, along with all the minor bumps in processor and other components.

Normally, smartphone manufacturers wait until IFA to announce their products, but this year we have seen many companies make product announcements already, and some to announce earlier than usual to try and combat the iPhone threat eg Motorola, Samsung, Sony, Honor and more.

How can an android phone manufacturer compete at the luxury end when you can buy for £120 an Elephone P8000. This has a 1080p 5.5 inch screen, Octa Core Processor, Fingerprint sensor, unibody metal design, 3gb ram, 16gb storage, micro sd card to 128gb, less than 9mm thin, 13mp Samsung rear camera and so on. There are plenty of other examples too. Ok, its not a QHD screen with 32gb storage, but the entry level specs will still do a decent job. With the iPhone there is only one or two new iPhones a year. So if you want an iPhone, you have to buy an iPhone. Market cornered!

I do worry how Samsung will fare with the new Note 5. It is all internal memory, no replaceable batteries or micro SD card slot. This will go against the grain of what its customers want but it will be copying the iPhone 6 Plus design of fixed storage and non removable batteries.

The only hope is there is some new feature(s) on the next wave of android phones that truly are the next big thing!

Samsung Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus – Press Shots and Specs

As we get closer to the next Samsung Unpacked even on 13th August, more information about the Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus are getting released.

Evleaks on twitter revealed that Note 5 will will have a 5.66-inch QHD display, 4GB of RAM, and Exynos 7420 SoC (4×2.1GHz+4×1.5GHz). The phone will come with the same 16MP rear-facing camera and 5MP front-facing camera as the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. It will come with Android 5.1.1 pre-loaded and start at 32GB of internal storage. The phone will not include expandable storage.

How much of a deal breaker is this for you?

Below are the press shots revealed by evleaks.

Sony new smartphones leaked – details

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Two new Sony phones have been leaked both of which are mid range devices.

The Xperia C5 Ultra – 6 inch 1080p screen, 2gb ram, 16gb storage. Octa-Core MediaTek MT6752 processor, selling for around $350.

The Xperia M5 – 5 inch 1080p screen, 16gb storage, 3gb ram, MediaTek Helio X10 processor. Selling for around $400.

On Monday, Sony has a big announcement. So stay tuned for details.

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If you would like me to review any of these phones, please let me know.

Sources – H-Tech.Mail.ru/androidpolice.com

Samsung Note 5 – is this it revealed ? Photos from 2 sources

The Samsung Note 5 is due to be officially revealed by Samsung in a few weeks. But Cult of Mac and Urban Armor all seem to have provided enough info to create a good image of what the Note 5 will look like.

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Cult of Mac published the above shots, but if you head over to Urban Armor, they have the following photo for the Note 5 case –

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I suppose at this stage the only aspect of the reveal not disclosed is the pricing!

Sources – Cultofmac/ Slashgear/ Urbanarmor

Yahoo announces LiveText – details

“So today, we’re introducing Yahoo Livetext – a new way to communicate that blends the immediacy, simplicity and ease of texting with the expressiveness of video, without the audio. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been testing Yahoo Livetext in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Ireland, and we’re really excited about what we’ve heard from our community so far. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be releasing Yahoo Livetext in five new countries – U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany and France.

Just go to the App Store and Google Play Store tomorrow to check it out, and let us know how you’re using Yahoo Livetext to connect. Livetexting is better together.”

Not sure what to make of this. Doubt it will catch on. But what do you think?

More details and source – http://yahoo.tumblr.com/post/125351474614/yahoo-livetext-a-new-way-to-connect

Meizu announces the Meizu M2 – Just check out the specs for £65

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The Meizu has just announced the M2, that costs around £65. For that you get the following –

– The quad-core Cortex-A53 processor has a clock speed of 1.3GHz, making the MEIZU m2 blazing fast. MediaTek’s CorePilot™, the highly efficient multi-processing technology, allows the CPU and GPU to work together perfectly. The 64-bit processor is powered by the all-new Flyme OS 4.5 based on Android 5.1 to deliver a smooth user experience.

– 2GB RAM • 16gb Samsung eMMC 5.0 high-speed flash memory

– The 5-inch 720p HD screen, which is fully laminated, features a contrast ratio of 1000:1 and an excellent screen-to-body ratio of 75.6%.

– The MEIZU m2 is equipped with a 13 megapixel Samsung CMOS sensor, 5-element lens modules, and an ƒ/2.2 ultra large aperture. The 5 megapixel front camera is leading in this price range. Its brand new FotoNation 2.0 smart selfie enhancement system and precise white balance adjustment helps to produce superior photographs.

– The MEIZU m2 supports dual SIM and dual 4G. Plus memory cards up to 128gb.

– 2500mAh battery • First-class SONY/ATL battery cells

– 131g weight

At this price point and the overall offering how can you justify more expensive phones!

For more info – http://www.meizu.com/en/products/m2/features.html

Motorola Moto X’s – Flagship Killers?

Moto 2015 Family Portrait[1]

Yesterday Motorola announced 3 phones. If you want to read the full specs head over to Motorola.

Following the announcement the inter webs go crazy with news of the flagship killers from Motorola. The same happened following the OnePlus 2 announcement. Well, none of the phones are total flagship killers. However, they are super good phones.

If you look at the new Moto X Play for starters. This has a less powerful processor than the Moto X Style.  This in turn means that despite have identical components for the camera as the X Style, the Style will take better shots. This is because it has a better ISP and also includes Phase Detection. And all of these processors are not top of the league offerings. The Style only has a Snapdragon 808. The more powerful the processor and GPU, the more capable the gaming and camera should be. Plus 4GB ram is flagship status now. Neither of these phones include this amount of ram. 

Why on earth didn’t Motorola have the same large battery in the Style as the Play confounds me. QHD displays eat battery. Next, neither phone includes a fingerprint sensor which would be needed for Android Pay when it arrives. USB C connectors are not provided. 

The display. Gorilla Glass 3 is used instead of Gorilla Glass 4. Sounds like a small difference but all of the differences all reduce the costs of manufacture and in turn the selling price. 

As to the selling price, neither of these phones are dirt cheap. They are reasonably priced for the specification. 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. What you do have is a phone built for a very good price. Components and manufacturing costs have reduced over time. Not only have the component parts reduced in cost, but the quality or what you can get for your money has improved too.

At the end of the day it all depends on what you need your phone to do. If you’re not in to photography or gaming, the Snapdragon 615 processor will be excellent. That also means you can spend less too. 

A positive aspect of the new phones is the customisation options. These should make these phones standout from the competition ,and is also likely a money maker for Motorola as the pricing is at the full retail price. 

We are still waiting for the next tranche of phones to be released along with the new iPhones. Then and only then can we truly decide what is a flagship phone or not. Always remember cracking specs don’t always translate into a good handset!

In my book, a flagship is a phone that has the best of everything. Unfortunately this comes at a premium and I do wonder if it would be better to spend a few hundred pounds on a basic or mid priced phone and use the rest of buy something like a Sony RX100 MK2 or Panasonic TZ70 camera. The final combination will be substantially better !

PS. I wish Motorola had made the Moto X Play with the same processor as the X Style, thereby giving it an equal footing with the camera, along with 4gb of ram. That would be a near perfect smartphone for many people.