Beyerdynamic A 200 p – versatile and genuinely portable

A Review On: Beyerdynamic A200p Portable Mobile DAC Headphone Amp for iPhone and Android Phones, Black/Silver

Beyerdynamic A200p Portable Mobile DAC Headphone Amp for iPhone and Android Phones, Black/Silver

Rated # 15 in Amp/DACs
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Audio Quality
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Quality
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $299.00
Brooko
Posted · 4334 Views · 9 Comments

Pros: Size and form factor, sound quality, versatility, genuine portability

Cons: Limited i-device and Android device support (to modern releases so far), no volume meter, on-off switch could be better implemented

A 200 p next to the iPhone 4 Dimunitive A 200 p

 

INTRODUCTION

 

I’m pretty happy with my current audio chain at the moment (see my sig for set-up).  I have pretty much all bases covered for both portable and desktop listening – but like most Head-fiers, I’m always interested in trying something new.  You never know if it could be the next “must have” device.

 

So I was immediately interested when Esra from Beyerdynamic asked for volunteers on the forums to test their new A 200 p.  Unfortunately I’ve only had the device for around a week (loaner programme).  These are only short term impressions – so please bear this in mind when reading the review.

 

DISCLAIMER

 

I was provided the A 200 p as a loaner for the purpose of trial and reviewing.   There is no financial incentive from Beyerdynamic in writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with Beyerdynamic - and this review is my honest opinion of the A 200 p.  I would like to thank Esra and Margarete for making this opportunity available.  Beyerdynamic have been excellent with their communication and service so far.

 

PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.

(This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review) - click to read.
 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

I'm a 47 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile - just love my music.  Over the last few years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current mid-fi set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (iDevices and Studio V3) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP).  My main headphones at the time of writing are the Senn HD700 and HD600, Beyer DT880, Dunu DN1000 & HAS BA-100 IEMs.  A full list of headphones I’ve owned (past and present) can be found in my profile.

 I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz to grunge and hard-rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, indie, classic rock, and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I tend to like audio chains that are relatively neutral/balanced - with a slight emphasis on the mid-range.  I am neither a bass or treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though).  Current amps = NFB12 and LD MKIV.  I also formerly owned several portable amps - the most notable being an Arrow 4G and GoVibe PortaTube.  I have also in the past owned Fiio’s E7, E9 and E11.

 I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent.  For my portable listening – it has been my preferred format (space vs quality).  For home listening, I use my archived FLAC copies, as space is no issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).

 I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.

 

 

SO WHAT IS THE A 200 p?

 

Size comparison iPhone 4 Size comparison iPhone 4

 

The A 200 p is a very small (about 1.5 times the size of a small box of matches) 24/96 resolution DAC/amp which can successfully take the digital stream from selected Android and Apple devices, and decode and amplify this via its own onboard DAC and amplifier.  It can also be used as a USB DAC/amp in a computer set-up.  Physically it’s about the same size as my uDac-3.

 

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

 

Retail box front Retail box rear Retail box side

 

The unit arrived in a compact but well protected outer retail package.  It’s a nice clean retail box with plenty of information including specifications on the rear.

 

Inner box on removal of retail outer Inner tray and accessory box Accessories

 

Removing the outer carton exposes the inner box (all in black) showing the diminutive A 200 p.  I really like this display style as it puts the focus solely on the A 200 p.  Under the tray which securely houses the A 200 p is another box containing the accessories – a longer 1m USB cable (charging + for PC use), a 15cm Android connector cable, a 15cm i-device lightning cable, a leather form fitting case, spare adhesive dots (to help turn the volume wheel), and an instruction manual.

 

Apple and Android cables USB / charging cable

 

The cables all feel very solid and really well made with solid plugs and strain relief.  The leather case fits snugly, and has a nice loop on the rear for attaching to a belt.  It exposes the necessary controls whilst still protecting the unit.  My only critique so far would be that due to the placement of the blue LED, the case can sometimes obscure this.  A slightly larger opening would help.

The documentation is pretty simple and straightforward – but could use a little more information – such as how long to charge the battery.

 

Carry case A 200 p in case (front)

 

A 200 p in case (side) - player controls A 200 p in case (rear)

 

All in all though – generally high quality accessories and well thought out.  The glaring omission for me is the lack of a 30 pin plug for older i-devices.  This is being worked on though and should be available later from Beyerdynamic.

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

 

The table below lists most of the relevant specifications.  I am very pleased to see that Beyerdynamic list the output impedance of the device and also some information on the rated power output.  Much appreciated!

Type

Portable DAC and amplifier

DAC Chip

Wolfson WM8740

Outputs

3.5 mm

Weight

51 g

Dimensions

55 x 55 x 13 mm

Frequency Response

20 Hz – 20 kHz

T.H.D.

0.008%

Maximum Output Voltage

1.7 Vrms

Output Impedance

  1. Ohms

Unweighted SNR

>110 dB

Channel Separation

>106 dB

Maximum Resolution

24 bit, 96 kHz

Battery Life

Up to 11 hours

 

The 1.1 ohm output impedance makes the device compatible with a wide range of headphones.

 

BUILD / DESIGN

 

The build quality is generally very good.

 

A 200 p side view with player controls A 200 p rear of unit


The outer body appears to be a hard plastic and it is pretty solid – yet still very light weight.  Despite the square form factor, the edges are not sharp, and all surfaces are seamlessly joined.  The rotation of the volume wheel is very smooth – and feels very solid.  Beyerdynamic advertise the wheel as having 135 steps.  I calculate a full revolution of the wheel contains 24 noticeable “steps” – so this would mean roughly 5.6 full revolutions from minimum to maximum volume.  I found the wheel easy to turn and manipulate.  The only issue is the lack of volume meter/display (read further on).  I tested the volume with and SPL meter and 1 kHz tone.  With my Beyer DT880s (250 ohm), the volume maxed out at around 102 dB (A 200 p plugged into PC).  Each volume step (with the DT880 appeared to be around 0.5 dB).

 

Bottom of the A 200 p with LED charging indicator Top of A 200 p - 3.5 mm socket and on/off

 

On the bottom of the unit is the slot for the connection plug (to PC or device) and next to this is a green charging light – solid green when fully charged (not explained in documentation).  At the top is the headphone-out (solid with no unwanted looseness or “play”), and also the on-off/hold switch.

 

The on'off switch is actually one of my biggest criticisms of the device.  The hold switch is brilliant – click across, and the device is essentially locked, so you won’t mistakenly jog the wheel. Unfortunately the opposite on/off switch is a slide/release switch, rather than an on or off setting (ie fixed in place for hold, but 'slider' for on/off').  Basically you slide and hold for 2 seconds (until the blue LED goes out) – and it then resumes its middle setting.  So sometimes it’s not that easy to see if you have turned the device off – especially with the cover in place and the LED light obscured by the case.   What I would rather see is the on-off to actually be part of the wheel mechanism – rotate enough left, and you get to a click off, like many volume knobs.  At the moment, the wheel just continues to freely spin (no left or right limits).  This can be pretty daunting if you’ve mistakenly jogged/rotated the wheel, and then you push play – especially suddenly pumping 80+ dB into your ears.  I only did this once – but it was enough for me to realise that what was missing was a volume indicator somewhere on the device.  You soon learn to be careful.

 

On the side are play/pause, previous, and next buttons – they are small – but easy to operate even through the case.  Love these!  They even work when plugged into the PC.

 

Overall – work needed on some sort of volume meter, but otherwise solid build

 

PERFORMANCE – ANDROID

 

I tested the device with my wife’s older Android phone – no joy – not recognised (didn’t really expect it to).  I then tried my daughter’s Asus tablet running Android 4.2.2.  Unfortunately it wasn’t recognised – but I got some great advice from the forum and tried an app called USB Audioplayerpro.  It discovered the A 200 p – and worked well in patches.  But periodically it would emit up to 10 seconds of static interference making it totally unusable.  Pity – as the rest of the time the sound was crystal clear, and appeared to be a step up from the onboard sound.  Clearly you need a compatible device, and sadly mine weren’t.

 

PERFORMANCE iPHONE/iPAD

 

I only have an iPad 2 and an iPhone 4 (both 30 pin) – so neither are on the current compatibility list.  I did get success with the iPhone and a CCK adaptor – but using the volume wheel for control via this method actually raised and lowered the volume control on the iPhone, and there wasn’t a huge amount of additional volume headroom (around 80-85% showing on the iPhone volume control) to achieve a reasonable listening level with the DT880s.  So I’m not sure if I was actually listening to the amp and DAC on the iPhone or the A 200 p.  Sound was crystal clear though – and I certainly didn’t feel anything was missing.  It did drain the iPhone’s battery fast though – so pretty sure something wasn’t right with using the CCK.

The iPad2 simply wouldn’t connect – guess I need to wait for the 30 pin plug, and hope it is supported.

I did very briefly try it with a friend’s iPhone 5, and it worked perfectly.  Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the iPhone5 so it wasn’t wise to try and make any comparisons.

 

PERFORMANCE – USB DEVICE (COMPUTER/LAPTOP)

 

Some of the test set-up (NFB-12 on bottom) Full sized headphones trialed

 

Ah – success.  Immediately recognised, no issues with drivers – just simply plug and play.  At last I can make some comparisons, and get onto what really matters – the sound!

To compare properly – I used a combination of aac256, redbook, and 24/96 files (depending on the device).  I tested with an HD700, HD600, Dunu’s DN-1000 (IEM). But mostly with the DT880 (for it’s neutrality).  When testing – I volume matched the devices being compared with an SPL meter and a 1kHz test tone.  None of the testing was blind – so it is very subjective to my own deficiencies.  Comparisons were to my iPhone, Asus EEE netbook, Audio-gd NFB-12, and Studio V3.

 

SONIC COMPARISONS / IMPRESSIONS

 

In the limited time I’ve had with the A 200 p – the best description I could give at the moment would be detailed but smooth, very clear, and quite neutral.  I was surprised at this because I expected a little more “typical” warmth from the WM8740 – but Beyerdynamic have implemented it really well.

 

The amp section is interesting because it’s definitely more powerful than my iPhone4, able to drive the DT880s to a much higher volume – but falls slightly short of the power of the Studio V3.  For all that – from both laptop and desktop, the A 200 p drives the 250 ohm Beyers very well.  With classical it was necessary to run it at close to maximum volume on some quieter pieces – but it still had a little headroom to spare.  It had no problems at all with either the HD600 or HD700, and IEMs were a breeze comparatively.

 

A 200 p vs iPhone4 – sonically both have a very similar signature / tonality – with the A 200 p appearing slightly smoother to my imperfect ears.  In a blind test I think I’d find it difficult to tell the two apart though.  I’ve always regarded the DAC implementation on the iPhone4 as being very good, and in similar vein the A 200 p performs extremely well with a high level of detail.  What surprised me with the DT880 especially is that there is no sense of flat dynamic presentation with either device.  The difference of course with the A 200 p is the added volume headroom – not needed for IEM’s but very handy for full sized cans.

 

A200 p vs Studio V3 – easy to tell apart, despite volume matching with the SPL meter.  The Studio V3 is simply brighter and appears to have more sense of space.  Both very enjoyable though, with just the tonality and sense of space being different.

 

A200p vs NFB-12 – again surprisingly similar when volume matched – but the NFB-12 has a more dynamic and full signature (as it should have).  Saying this though, it did not stop me enjoying the A 200 p.  If it came down to a shootout for a desktop application though – my preference would be for the NFB-12.

 

A200p vs Asus EEE – this was where the A 200 p shone the most.  The EEE, whilst being a very good workhorse, is no match for the A 200 p.  I think aside from its use with more modern i-device or Android tablets/phones, this is where the diminutive A 200 p absolutely shines – as a portable DAC/amp for travel with laptops / netbooks etc.  Dynamics were noticeably different – especially with the DT880 – mainly in the area of bass impact, but also in overall conveyance of detail.  A marked improvement – as it should be.

 

CONCLUSION

 

So how do I feel overall regarding the A 200 p?  I think it shines as a very portable DAC/amp – especially for travel if you have a laptop or netbook for source.  If you have a compatible android or i-device, its form factor is ideal for wearing externally to give easy access to volume, and play controls (attached to a belt).  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test the device sonically against the iPhone5 or compatible android devices to see if there are sonic gains – but against my iPhone4, the advantage is more in volume headroom than anything else.

 

The A 200 p is a very good sounding device in a manageable and diminutive package.  After volume matching carefully, I see it as a match in SQ with my other portable devices (except the laptop – where it is an obvious improvement).  YMMV.  It’s overall advantage for me is in its versatility.  Solid performer.  I'm going to miss it when I return it in a couple of days.  Ideal companion for work or travel.

 

Lovely combination A 200 p + HD600 The A 200 p - versatile and genuinely portable

9 Comments:

Spot on the ak10 IMO gives a big step up for most android devices, as most android devices simply do not have as refined dac and amp stages as the iphone. As for the iphone, you are right that it controls the phone volume slider, im not sure whih stage the volume control is implemented, but i believe it was deliberately made like this to give flexibility in volume control. Sonically, i also feel that the differences were subtle at best sonically, and more in terms of volume control. You are absolutely right there many people just dont realise just how well implemented the dac stage of the iphone is
almost a reproduction of iriver AK10
Nice review, I got one used pretty cheap and I'm happy with it a laptop DAC/AMP.
Yep - overall I was happy enough with the unit to actually buy it from Beyerdynamic, and that should be endorsement enough.  I still can't get over how good it sounds for such a small footprint.  Mine lives mostly at work now - it's brilliant.
Footprint aside, does it justify the price tag? How does it compare to a Fiio E07k for example?
I haven't heard the Fiio E07K - sorry.  I got mine a little cheaper than the RRP.  Value will be different for each individual.  For me it's pocket sized, portable, has a very good dac, and a reasonable amp with very good volume control - and compatible with iOS devices.  So it really ticks all my boxes for my personal uses.  For full price ($299) I'd have to think about it - but if you can pick one up used for about 2/3 of the RRP, then I'd consider it a pretty good deal.  I really like mine and use it every day at work.
Oh - forgot to add - I did end up buying one.
Thing is, $299 means 299 euros ($400) here RRP. It;s a niche product so chances of finding a used one are slim to none