Designed for the new world of portable audio on smartphones, this headphone amp will make your music come alive.
The theory is that our regular smartphones lack the best components to manage the digital-to- analogue, or DAC, conversion of audio files before the files are pushed through the headphones and into our ears.
A portable amp like the Oppo HA-2 takes the unconverted digital audio signals from iOS and Android mobile devices, and handles the conversion using better components to deliver "cleaner" music to our ears.
In my real-world tests, I found the theory to be accurate. I paired the HA-2 amp with the super-expensive Oppo PM-2 open-back cans ($999) and the affordable Xiaomi Mi Headphones ($119). First, I plugged the headphones directly into the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge phone and then I tried it again by passing it first through the HA-2 before it reached the headphones.
The improvement in audio clarity was immediate. The song was less muffled and I could push the volume up without any noticeable distortion. The vocals and instruments sounded clearer, and you could differentiate the various instruments and get a better feel of where the different instruments and vocals were coming from, instead of having it all muddled up together.
Investing in a good pair of cans does more for audio quality. The music still sounded crappy when I used a standard pair of earphones that had been lying around in a drawer. Pairing the Mi headphones with the HA-2 produced surpisingly good results, but I could still detect improvements beyond that when I paired the portable amp with the high-end Oppo PM-2.
The HA-2 works with iOS and Android devices as well as with computers. It supports rapid charging - 70 per cent in just 30 minutes. A full charge should last about seven hours. The device doubles as a powerbank for your smartphone, though, at this price, it must surely be the most expensive powerbank in the world.
Housed in a shiny aluminium chassis generously wrapped in a black leather grip, the Oppo HA-2 has the style to complement the svelte curves of today's high-end smartphones.
Just remember that not only will it leave a substantial hole in your pocket, it will also add 175g to the contents of your pocket.
Pricey, but you'll experience aural bliss with the Oppo HA-2 if it is paired with good cans.
DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9018-K2M
Headphone impedance range: 16 to 300 ohms
Connectivity: USB A (for iOS devices), micro USB (for Android phones and computers), 3.5mm line-in and 3.5mm line-out, 3.5mm headphone port
Value for money: 3/5
Battery life: 4/5
This article was first published on May 13, 2015.
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