BEYERDYNAMIC A200P: PORTABLE DIGITAL AMPLIFIER

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 # 14 in Amp/DACs
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Quality
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shotgunshane
Posted · 1053 Views · 6 Comments

Pros: Portable Size; 135 Volume Steps; Low Output Impedance (1.1 Ω); Silent Background

Cons: External Buttons Too Sensitive; Recessed micro USB Port

Disclaimer: I’d like to thank Beyerdynamic for loaning me the A200p for review.  The sample will be returned to Beyerdynamic following evaluation.

Reprinted from: http://cymbacavum.com/2014/06/02/beyerdynamic-a200p-portable-digital-amplifier/

 

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The Beyerdynamic A200p is a very small DAC/Amp combo for portable use with computers, iPads, iPhones, and Android phones.

The device itself is 55×55×13 mm and the included leather case with belt strap adds minimal bulk.  It features and on/off/lock switch, headphone out, play/pause/forward/reverse side buttons, micro USB connection, and a very large rotating volume wheel (more on this later).

While the USB connection is a standard micro-B type, it is recessed and compatibility with generic cables seems improbable, so you may be limited to the included proprietary cables, which includes one long cable for computer use, and two shorter cables for iDevice and Android usage.  Beyerdynamic does sell replacement cables.

Other features include a Wolfson WM8740 DAC chip, volume control of 135 steps, and an estimated 11 hour play time. Output impedance is an importantly small 1.1 Ω and outputs 1.7 Vrms in the USA version.

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Both the USA and EU versions default to being volume limited (to 150 mVrms, in accordance with EU-50332-2) but the USA version allows for volume limit override by holding down the play button for a few seconds. Once the volume limit is removed, the A200prestarts the volume at its lowest setting as protection feature.

MSRP is $299 USD, which makes it one of the more affordable DAC/Amp combos able to play with most portable devices.

Usage

The A200p is very easy to use and it’s small size means you can stick in a pocket and easily take it with you.  The flush volume wheel is the first thing you notice about the design, after all it takes up the entire front side of the device.

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Upon initially receiving the device, I found the volume wheel very frustrating to use.  Sometimes, I could easily get it turning, yet other times I couldn’t get it to move no matter how hard I tried.  Beyerdynamic does include stick-on pads to help with usage problems; the pad gives your thumb some grip to help rotate it.  However, I found that after a week’s use, the volume wheel loosened enough to turn it with every attempt.

For that first week, I do recommend using the stick-on pad — especially with computer use when the default computer volume can be set initially high or when changing between vastly differing sensitivity of earphones.

After finally breaking in and mastering the volume wheel operation, you really come to appreciate the 135 steps of volume control.  So many amps, computers and phones give you quite large increases in volume with each click or turn of their volume controls, making it difficult to find a comfortable but loud enough volume selection. TheA200p is very pleasing in this respect — you have quite a bit of wheel movement before the volume increase becomes much louder- and works excellently for super-sensitive IEMs.

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My only complaint would be that you cannot control volume through a typically slim jeans pant pocket; you will have to remove the A200p from tighter pockets in order to change it but larger pockets, like a jacket or cargos, should have enough room for you to maneuver the volume wheel while still concealed.

The only other design frustration I experienced was over the side buttons for forward/reverse/play/pause- those three buttons are incredibly sensitive to any pressure.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally skipped a song when moving the A200p around or trying to get the volume wheel moving in the early days.

Physical buttons are pretty much a requirement for a completely satisfying mobile audio experience, in order to operate unsighted, but some added resistance to these side buttons would be much appreciated.

Sound Quality

The sound quality of the A200p is very good and the overall presentation is pretty neutral — I didn’t detect any emphasis at any part of the frequency response- with nice linearity and balance.  In fact, besides the Astell&Kern AK100 (with which the A200p shares much internal processing hardware, including its discrete analog circuitry), this is the only other implementation of the Wolfson 8740 I have heard that I actually like and would recommend.

Unlike some other reviewers have reported about the similar Astell&Kern AK10, I do not detect even a hint of added warmth; most other implementations of this particular chip, that I have heard, come across as either dark or overly warm or both.

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While the A200p comes across as neutral and pretty transparent, overall resolution seems about average — it’s not overly smooth and glossing over details, yet neither is it a gamma knife of plankton extraction.  Descriptors that come to mind are: solid and respectable, balanced and clear — there are no sins of commission.

Besides lack of precise volume control, another problem that plagues many portable amps and DACs is the background noise or hiss with sensitive IEMs.  I’m happy to report the background of theA200p is satisfyingly quiet.  I detected no noise or hiss with any of my IEMs; even the extremely sensitive FitEar F111 was pin droppingly quiet.

In usage with my iPhone 5S, iPad mini (with Retina display) and my MacBook Pro (all of which have excellent sound quality already, especially for non-audio specific devices), I didn’t detect any significant differences in sound signature, except perhaps a bit better bass definition — not an increase in quantity, just better perceived definition.

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Conclusion

The Beyerdynamic A200p, with 135 steps of volume control, 1.1 Ω output impedance, neutral sound, and a super quiet background, makes for the perfect companion to owners of super-sensitive balanced armature IEMs looking for ultimate portability.

Pros:
  • Portable Size
  • 135 Volume Steps
  • Low Output Impedance (1.1 Ω)
  • Silent Background
Cons:
  • External Buttons Too Sensitive
  • Recessed micro USB Port

For more information on the Beyerdynamic A200p, please visit:
http://north-america.beyerdynamic.com/shop/a-200-p-us.html

6 Comments:

Great review SGS - love the photos.
" I didn’t detect any significant differences in sound signature, except perhaps a bit better bass definition"
That's as damning as anything I've read; it should blow the opposition away!
I'll stick with the feed straight out of my iPhone 5 and iPod Classic for the time being as this is one of several lukewarm reviews that I've come across. 
People curious about its measured performance can look at this link: http://www.seeko.co.kr/zboard4/zboard.php?id=cool_review&no=384
@SallyMae, I don't consider that a lukewarm statement. The iPhones, since the 4, have been excellent neutral performers. It takes a significantly better amp stage to better it. For instance anything in the Fiio lineup at E17 level and lower is a step backwards but a Leckerton UHA-6s or Meier Quickstep are indeed an improvement in resolution and definition. If you needed to drive some less sensitive headphones or super low impedance iems (like the Shure SE846), the A200p would be an excellent choice, especially if footprint were a priority. The SE846 sounds a bit wooly with the iPhone 5 output impedance.
Shane, thanks for feedback. Interestingly, someone on this site reckons the output from his iPhone worked better with his 846's than the A200p; he returned it!
Don't you think these devices should be markedly superior to justify their existence?
Jamie Lendino from PC Mag was very unimpressed with the AK100. I smell Snake Oil...
The SE846 did not sound good with the iPhone 5 at 3.3 ohms. At the time I had the SE846 in my possession, I did not have the A200p on hand but the 1 ohm amps I had at the time sounded much better, clearer and defined. The SE846 is not an easy one to properly drive due to its 8ohm impedance rating.

The AK100 that I paid for and owned as a modded AK100 from Red Wine Audio. It had less than 1 ohm impedance after the mod. It was a fine sounding player IMO. I just greatly preferred iOS ease of use. AK has since fixed the output impedance issues of that player. I understand people's issues with AK pricing strategy but their products are far from snake oil.

And no I don't expect a very tiny device at $299 to be significantly better than the iPhone 5 or 5s. Everything has compromises.