Oppo HA-2 SE Portable Headphone Amp DAC – Review

Oppo HA-2 SE review

Welcome to my review of the Oppo HA-2 SE. The Oppo HA-2 SE is the upgraded version of the legendary Oppo HA-2, that I reviewed back in February 2015. Click HERE to read the original review of the Oppo HA-2.

Since Oppo released the HA-2, the world of personal audio has exploded. However, the improved Oppo HA-2 SE remains in a class of its own. Read on to find out why.

The Basics

– It is a Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC
– High-resolution USB DAC for Apple/Android/PC/Mac
– Two gain settings for optimal headphone matching
– Mobile power bank for charging your phone
– It looks gorgeous and sounds fantastic
– It has Oppo’s VOCC fast charging. Only 90 mins to recharge the HA-2 SE.
– The HA-2 SE is improved by upgrading the DAC from the ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018-K2M chip to the new ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9028-Q2M

Video Review

Oppo HA-2 vs Oppo HA-2 SE – What’s Different? I have a dedicated post highlighting all the differences between these models Click HERE..

The Design

Before I go to discuss the specifications and sound in more depth, lets take a look at the box and its contents. The Oppo packaging is top notch. Everything is neatly organised in the box which includes the Oppo HA-2 SE itself, the VOCC charger, a short lightning cable, a OTG micro USB to micro USB cable, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, 2 rubber bands for securing it to another device and detailed instructions. The Oppo HA-2 SE simply stands out as a solid, well built and gorgeous looking device (see photos and video). It does not need a case as it is bound in leather.

The Specifications

Full specifications –

– Dimensions (W x H x D) 68 x 157 x 12 mm
– Weight 175 grams
– Frequency Response 20 Hz – 200 kHz
– Audio-in Level 1 Vrms
– Line-out Level 1 Vrms
– Recommended Headphone Impedance 16 Ohm – 300 Ohm
– Maximum Headphone Output Power 300 mW into 16 Ohm,220 mW into 32 Ohm, 30 mW into 300 Ohm
– Headphone Amplifier Impedance 0.5 Ohm
– Output Jacks 3.5 mm stereo headphone
– 3.5 mm stereo line-out
– Input Ports Analog: 3.5 mm stereo audio-in
– Digital: USB A for iPod / iPhone / iPad; USB micro-B for smartphones with USB OTG feature and computers.
– DAC Chip ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9028-Q2M
– Input Format Stereo PCM, Stereo DSD (DoP v1.1 or native)
– PCM Sampling Frequencies 44.1 kHz – 384 kHz, 16 / 24 / 32-bit
– DSD Sampling Frequencies 2.8224 MHz (DSD64), 5.6448 MHz (DSD128), 11.2896 MHz (DSD256, native mode only)
– Profile USB 2.0, USB Audio 2.0
– Included Accessories Power Supply Unit (Rapid Charging Charger)
– USB A – USB micro-B data and rapid charging cable
– USB A – Lightning data cable (for Apple devices)
– USB micro-B to micro-B data cable (for Android and other smartphones)
– 3.5 mm – 3.5 mm stereo audio cable
– Silicone rubber band (2 pieces)
– User guide and warranty documents
– Battery Built-in Battery type 3000 mAh lithium polymer rechargeable battery
– Battery Operation Time Approx. 13 hours for analog source via Audio-in; approx. 7 hours for digital sources via USB
– Charging Time Approx. 1 hour 30 minutes

Oppo HA-2 SE review

The Technology in More Detail

Ok, so what makes the device really special. The Oppo HA-2 SE is a Hybrid Class AB Amplifier with integrated circuits and discrete transistors. Oppo uses hand-picked and matched parts for the discrete transistors. The output transistors are biased to operate in their most linear range for the critical small signal, and deliver their full potential when power is required. This was most noticeable for when I was listening to music that scaled up suddenly.

The Oppo HA-2 SE is “MFI” Apple certified and is compatible with the latest iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, iPod, and iPad, meaning it can be use the digital audio output via the supplied lightning cable. The HA-2 SE does not need the Camera Connection Kit. I tested the HA-2 SE with an iPhone 7 Plus and the iPad Air and all worked as advertised. In fact with Apple removing the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, this is the perfect solution for bringing back the use of the 3.5mm headphone jack and at the same time providing an improved audio experience.

Android – The HA-2 SE’s micro-USB input port works with Android devices that support USB OTG (USB On-The-Go) and USB Audio Class. A special USB OTG cable is supplied with the HA-2 SE to facilitate the connection. When used with a compatible Android device, the HA-2 SE can support the device’s built-in music app, tones and notifications. Additionally, a high-resolution music playback app can use the HA-2 SE as its external DAC to play lossless PCM and DSD audio files eg USB Audio Player Pro app for android.

Audio-In and Line-Out – The HA-2 SE has a 3.5 mm Audio-In port to support portable music players that do not have a USB-compatible digital output. While the HA-2 SE is used with one of its USB digital input ports, the 3.5 mm jack acts as Line-Out for the USB DAC.

And now on to the crown jewels of this device. ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC – The DAC is one of the most important components for digital audio playback. The ES9028-Q2M DAC chip used in the HA-2 SE is the latest flagship mobile DAC developed by ESS Technology. With the ESS patented 32-bit Hyperstream™ DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, the SABRE32 Reference DAC delivers an unprecedented performance for mobile applications. The performance and quality of this DAC is outstanding and a noticeable improvement over the DAC used in the original Oppo HA-2.

Asynchronous USB DAC – The HA-2 SE can bypass the smartphone’s built-in DAC and headphone amplification circuit that are often cost-constrained. The asynchronous USB DAC input of the HA-2 SE also works with PC and Mac computers to replace the built-in sound card and support high-resolution audio playback with PCM up to 384 kHz 32-bit (the original HA-2 only supported PCM up to 384 kHz 24-bit) and DSD up to 12 MHz (DSD256).

Clean Signal Path – There is no DSP (Digital Signal Processor) in the HA-2 SE. Volume control is operated by a combination of the DAC chip’s internal digital volume control and an analog potentiometer (the volume knob). Bass boost is performed by pure analog audio circuits. By avoiding re-digitising the audio signal for volume adjustment or bass boost, the HA-2 SE provides a clean signal path for the audio. And the difference is noticeable in playback.

Bass Boost – HA-2 SE offers a Bass Boost function. With Bass Boost off, the HA-2 SE delivers a ruler-flat frequency response; with Bass Boost on, the HA-2 SE adds force and impact to the sub-bass region without muddling the important mid- to high-frequency bands. In reality, I found I didn’t need the bass boost, although I can’t deny it wasn’t fun to use at times.

Two Gain Settings – The HA-2 SE offers two gain level settings for optimal headphone matching. The High Gain mode is capable of driving large power-hungry headphones, delivering up to 300 mW into 16-Ohm headphones. The Low Gain mode is intended for sensitive In-Ear Monitor type earphones. With the new DAC in the HA-2 SE this makes a big difference with sensitive IEM headphones, removing the background hiss that did occur with the previously DAC.

Rapid Charging – The HA-2 SE features patented VOOC rapid charging technology from OPPO. Using the supplied rapid charger, the internal battery can be quickly and safely charged to 75% capacity in about 30 minutes. It only takes approximately 90 minutes to fully charge the battery. A quick charge gives the HA-2 SE up to 13 hours of operation time.

Mobile Power Bank – The HA-2 SE functions as an external battery pack to charge your mobile device.

The Sound Quality

So what really matters ultimately is how does the Oppo HA-2 SE sound. For this test I used the following headphones: Sennheiser HD598 SE and Oppo PM-3. Genres used – Jazz, Blues, Pop, Rock, Female Vocal. I used my Apple iPhone 7 Plus and iPad Air as the source. I had zero issues with connectivity. The Oppo HA-2 SE has Apple’s MFI certification and includes a lightning to USB small connector.

Sally Barker – To Love Somebody/Dear Darlin – With both headphones the vocals, guitar and the extra detail extracted by the HA-2 SE was exquisite. Sally Barker’s voice sounded so delicate and emotional. Plus the new ES9028-Q2M DAC seem to extract so much detail. The Oppo PM-3 headphones with the HA-2 SE were such a magical pairing listening to Sally Barker’s voice.

Adele – Rumour Has It/ Lovesong – vocals, drums, instruments and the beat – all so well captured and played. The musicality of the HA-2 SE was present in abundance. Good speed and attack and sound stage. Again comparing the 2 headphones, both sounded excellent but if I had to pick my favourite for these sounds it once again goes to the Oppo PM-3.

Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely on You – punchy, musical and a superb presentation. Plenty of bass but not overkill. The bass boost is nuts and so powerful in the sub bass, I had to turn the volume down. A similar discovery occurred again with the Oppo PM-3 headphones. With this new Sabre DAC and the HA-2 SE the combination is electric. My Sennheiser HD598 SE felt totally outclassed by the Oppo PM-3.

Yolanda B Cool & D Cup – We No Speak Americano – even without the bass boost, the Oppo PM-3 were being phenomenal. Of course, I had to flip the bass boost mode too, and bass freaks will love it in this mode. Again, a detailed musical presentation. Vocals are so good. The timing is astonishing too.

The Louis Lester Band – Downtown Uptempo/ Sweet Mary Jane – such great musicality, beat, bass, vocals, wide soundstage, instruments clearly placed in different positions. If you get this device, you must listen to Sweet Mary Jane – you will be blown away at just how good this track sounds across all headphones. But if you want to be transported in audio nirvana, you need the Oppo PM3 headphones.

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody – what’s not to like. Superb presentation again.

Bastille – Weapon/ the Driver – the electronic sounds and fast beat really well delivered. Great vocals again and tons of attack.

Nicola Benedetti – The Lark Ascending – mesmerising delivery. Frighteningly amazing. Brought my hairs up on my arms. The music scales up as the drama unfolded too.

Sound Quality Takeaway – The new ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9028-Q2M DAC is a musical beast. It provides superb vocals, separation and low floor noise and made me want to listen again to all my music. Each time I listened to the Oppo HA-2 SE I was hearing my songs in a new light.

Final Thoughts

There are many portable headphone amp dacs available now. However, none match the Oppo HA-2 SE for its style, looks, flexibility, portability and sound quality. At £289 its an absolute tremendous recommendation. I totally LOVE IT !!

Useful Links

All my Headphone, DAC and Audio Reviews
Oppo HA-2 Review
Sennheiser HD 598 SE headphone review
Oppo PM-3 Headphone review
Oppo PM-2 Headphone review
Oppo HA-2 SE on Amazon UK

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4 thoughts on “Oppo HA-2 SE Portable Headphone Amp DAC – Review

  1. Thank you for all your reviews. Comparing with Dragonfly Red, for ease of use (mobility and functionality, I favor the Oppo. However I had only the chance to compare the sound of HA-2 with Mojo and still thought I would go with the Mojo for the sound, which I found move me more and would try compromise to the extra cables and cost needed to connect to my iPhone. What are your thoughts on the sound difference HA-2SE vs Mojo? I guess if the adaptor to iPhone is released by Mojo, I would certainly go for Mojo.

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    1. The Mojo sounds better marginally. I wish the Mojo had a bass boost option. However the Mojo is clunky compared to the Oppo for a portable device. Also the Oppo is MFI Certified, so you only need one cable which is supplied by Oppo.

      Like

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