Pros: There's all sorts of inputs & outputs to this DAC/Amp. In it's own class too for its price
Cons: Learning curve to the UI, SQ although probably one of the best in it's price range has room for improvement (for extra $$)
Oppo Digital has had experience in making SACD players and in releasing it first headphone, the PM-1, also released a matching HA-1 DAC/Amp that comes packed with features taking in miscellaneous ranging fro USB, Toslink, AES, Coax, iDevice, & even Bluetooth. It can also be used as a amp only taking balanced or unbalanced line in. As for it's output, it can output balanced and unbalanced line out, in addition to its XLR balanced headphone out or 1/4" single ended headphone out. The HA-1 also supports up to DSD256.
Now I have to admit, prior to getting the loan from Oppo Digital Japan (thank you to them by the way!!), I was looking forward to the PM-1 but after receiving the set, I think I'm left by being more impressed with the HA-1 DAC/Amp.
The HA-1 DAC/Amp Features
As mentioned previously this DAC/Amp is jammed packed with features for inputs, outputs, and soft format support. It takes in unbalanced in, balanced in, digital optical toslink, USB, AES/EBU, even Bluetooth with a little antenna. It also has balanced line out, unbalanced line out, single ended headphone out, balanced XLR headphone out in the front.
On top of that, it has this large LCD panel in front with all these fancy display of information that makes the whole DAC/Amp just cool.
The UI is a little confusing for me though as the interaction is primarily though the source dial/button. At times I dial when I should press, etc. But that's just silly me. There is one other cool feature worthy of mentioning and that's the auto volume down when changing from low to high gain. That's saved my ears a few times.
But How Does It Sound?
Most of the tests were done via the USB Audio feeding in from my iMac. The software player used is the Audirvana Plus v1.5.12. Forcing on to DoP v1.0 the HA-1 is capable of playing DSD natively up to DSD128 (at least in Audirvana Plus, as the HA-1 itself is capable up to DSD256). All my DSD are up to DSD64 only. Trying out from the iPad with Onkyo HF Player into the HA-1's mobile USB input in the front however, the Onkyo HF Player can't play DSD natively on the HA-1. It's Bluetooth supports SBC and AptX although AptX was not tried.
Coming from my Invicta v1.0, I found the HA-1 DAC/Amp to be more treble focused for my other headphones straight from the headphone out. Now one may say that with the Invicta 1.0's headphone out has as different DAC (ES9016) from than from it's line out (ES9018) to explain the difference, however even comparing line out of both the Invicta 1.0 (ES9018) with the HA-1's line out (also ES9018) into my Zana Deux SE, the HA-1 still sounds a little more treble focused than the Invicta. This to me showed that despite both having the same DAC chips, implementation around it still could yield different results. The treble focus wasn't an issue for most of my headphones, however just not what I'm personally used to. On my Alpha Dogs (which hasn't been Doggie Treated), it can be a little hot for my tastes but fine for the TH-900's and for the SR-007/SR-009 (via the Eddie Current Electra).
With the PM-1 though, and this is where the Oppo HA-1 is perfectly matched with the PM-1 headphone, it strikes a balance, since the PM-1 is more lush warm.
Aside from the treble (and headphone matching), the rest of the HA-1 performs well. It's detailed & smooth, quite transparent in the overall signature. Although compared to the Invicta, it is a tad smaller in soundstage and slightly flatter in depth imaging.
As mentioned in the introduction, I think overall between the Oppo Digital PM-1 headphone and HA-1 DAC/Amp, I think I feel more impressed with the HA-1 primarily from the number of features it supports. In addition, for it's price of $1200, it's very good value for money. I think I'm walking away being more impressed with the HA-1 than with my formerly owned HP-A8. Having said that, now that I've experienced something like the Invicta, if I had owned the HA-1, it'll probably be stepping stone until I'm ready for the next upgrade.