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Fostex HP-A8 DAC/Amp and other Fostex gear - Page 15

post #211 of 457

I got to spend about 5 hours with it, fresh out of the box, using the HD800 out of the headphone output. It's home burning in as we speak. Works fine with a regular US power cable. So this is all subject to change after some burn in.

 

The sound isn't warm or colored, but there is a definite rumble to the low end. The HD800 has high-quality bass, but often it feels basslight on my other amps. Not here, the bass is fast, clean, extended and kind of stands behind the mix (no mud). The mids and highs are essentially uncolored, the HD800 still has the annoying treble spike, but is fine on lower volumes. The mids are glorious and spacious and I don't sense any coloration whatsoever. I loved it with classical music, especially with with the tipped up bass. I feel comfortable using the DAC out to feed my other headphone amps based on what I've heard so far. It is extremely revealing and powerful. I expect it to pair well with my V200. Soundstage is about what I would expect for a DAC in this pricerange, big and spacious and 3D. Comparable to the Burson Conductor in that regard, for reference (I much prefer the Fostex).

 

The remote is low quality, but it gets the job done. I don't think I'll be playing with the settings all too much anyway. I feel like the decay is faster/more involving using "Sharp Rolloff", so I'm pretty sure I'll stick with that. The other setting sounded slower. Upsampling at 1X (regular) sounded clean, then the mix seemed to get busier and more cluttered at 2X and 4X. Pretty sure I won't be using 2X or 4X.

 

For $1500, it's a good deal. $1100 - $1000, it's a no-brainer. I got it for the USB DAC (and the looks, I won't lie) and it's easily my favorite DAC so far, but that headphone amp is extremely good too. Plus I have the option for DSD if they ever release anything in the format that interests me. Only downside is the low quality of the remote.

 

Last thing is I need to install the latest firmware tonight. Hopefully it doesn't alter the sound. Will update with DAC impressions on my other amps.

post #212 of 457

Massive update...A8 + V200 + HD800 = insane! V200 is a warm amp with a small soundstage usually, but I was still feeling the HD800 treble spike with it on the Dac It and Conductor. I also felt it on the A8 internal headphone amp. The spike is GONE with this combination! The sibilance and fatigue I usually get with the HD800 is gone and the soundstage got a massive boost. So now I get the speed of the HD800 with the overall warmth and detail of the A8 and V200 pairing. Works fantastic for rock and metal or any kind of bright pop music. Gives it that effortless, euphonic quality. Vocals are lifelike, not too thick, not too thin, just perfect. It kinda sucks for classical, but oh well. One minor nitpick is the bass doesn't extend as low as I'd like, but what's there is high quality and layered very nicely.

 

I notice the soundstage gets slightly bigger at 4X, but at the expense of a slightly dirtier signal. I do get a bit more bass extension as well on 4X, so maybe that is where the dirtier signal comes from. I can swap the upsampling rates on the fly so I can notice the small differences.

 

One other minor thing, even in DAC only mode, the A8 gets a little warm on top. Not sure I want to put the V200 on top of it.

post #213 of 457

IMPORTANT UPDATE!

 

Not sure if anyone has really looked at this, but the RCA inputs and outputs on the back of the A8 are WRONG! The left side is marked as the right side and vice versa. What a weird oversight. I noticed something was wrong when I was playing Revolution No. 9 and I saw the graphic indicator on J River Media player playing on the wrong side around the 4:10 mark (there is crowd noise in one channel and a very low noise in the other). I swapped the headphone from my Nighthawk amp into the internal A8 amp and sure enough, the sides were correct. So I plugged my RCA cables into the PROPER right and left sides and now everything matches just fine. As you might imagine, the soundstage is much better as well. The placement sounds much more correct. On that note, I much preferred the external amp to the A8's. It's not bad, but the Nighthawk clearly topped it. Much bigger, more refined sound.

 

I put some serious burn on the A8 and it has definitely gotten better. It went through a period where the treble slightly disappeared and had a very dark presentation (out of the box, it was slightly warm but still neutral). It's starting to open up again. Still works wonders with the HD800, not a hint of sibilance with the Nighthawk still and I've been listening to a lot of bright pop and overdriven guitars. That wasn't the case with the Sabre-based DAC's I had used before (tbh, I thought the Nighthawk was crap with them).


Edited by GoldfishX - 2/16/14 at 1:07am
post #214 of 457
^ you mean the rca outputs are reversed while the headphone out isn't? I've heard of this on other gear. The pure i20 dock is reversed for example. I wonder if it's just a simple mistake during the design stage.
If you connect something to the analog-in, does the rca out comeout on the correct side?
Edited by x838nwy - 2/16/14 at 3:36am
post #215 of 457
Quote:
Originally Posted by x838nwy View Post

^ you mean the rca outputs are reversed while the headphone out isn't? I've heard of this on other gear. The pure i20 dock is reversed for example. I wonder if it's just a simple mistake during the design stage.
If you connect something to the analog-in, does the rca out comeout on the correct side?

 

Yeah. The amps I never had a problem with on my other DAC's. And I never tested the Analogue In, I'm just using the USB for input. I thought maybe it was a Japanese thing, since they drive on the opposite side of the road. :p

 

I just wonder how many people tested this thing out with RCA's in the wrong spot. Made a world of difference in the V200 as well.

post #216 of 457
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldfishX View Post

IMPORTANT UPDATE!

Not sure if anyone has really looked at this, but the RCA inputs and outputs on the back of the A8 are WRONG! The left side is marked as the right side and vice versa. What a weird oversight. I noticed something was wrong when I was playing Revolution No. 9 and I saw the graphic indicator on J River Media player playing on the wrong side around the 4:10 mark (there is crowd noise in one channel and a very low noise in the other). I swapped the headphone from my Nighthawk amp into the internal A8 amp and sure enough, the sides were correct. So I plugged my RCA cables into the PROPER right and left sides and now everything matches just fine. As you might imagine, the soundstage is much better as well. The placement sounds much more correct. On that note, I much preferred the external amp to the A8's. It's not bad, but the Nighthawk clearly topped it. Much bigger, more refined sound.

I put some serious burn on the A8 and it has definitely gotten better. It went through a period where the treble slightly disappeared and had a very dark presentation (out of the box, it was slightly warm but still neutral). It's starting to open up again. Still works wonders with the HD800, not a hint of sibilance with the Nighthawk still and I've been listening to a lot of bright pop and overdriven guitars. That wasn't the case with the Sabre-based DAC's I had used before (tbh, I thought the Nighthawk was crap with them).
Tested this with my unit and the right and lef are correct with my fostex.
post #217 of 457

any thoughts on amp gain on the hpa8? I have gone from 3 to 7 to 12 to 15. 

post #218 of 457
It's up to you with the gain settings. I think just set it high enough so your normal listening volume level is between -40 and -50dB. Of course if you are using high ohm headphones then max the gain.
Edited by A_Man_Eating_Duck - 2/22/14 at 7:34pm
post #219 of 457
Thanks for that, I have been building, but just a bit unsure. Some folks in the classicle vain have been posting 0 amp gain to push the sound stage back, I'm now at 15 and 23 db. So I'll push the gain up some more. I know its personal and I'm going to try more gain, seems fuller, more personal, I just wanted some feedback. The hpa8 seems to be able to take tons of gain, just don't know how much. To dial back db. I know its preference thing, good to hear..
post #220 of 457
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldfishX View Post
 

Massive update...A8 + V200 + HD800 = insane! V200 is a warm amp with a small soundstage usually, but I was still feeling the HD800 treble spike with it on the Dac It and Conductor. I also felt it on the A8 internal headphone amp. The spike is GONE with this combination! The sibilance and fatigue I usually get with the HD800 is gone and the soundstage got a massive boost. So now I get the speed of the HD800 with the overall warmth and detail of the A8 and V200 pairing. Works fantastic for rock and metal or any kind of bright pop music. Gives it that effortless, euphonic quality. Vocals are lifelike, not too thick, not too thin, just perfect. It kinda sucks for classical, but oh well. One minor nitpick is the bass doesn't extend as low as I'd like, but what's there is high quality and layered very nicely.

 

I notice the soundstage gets slightly bigger at 4X, but at the expense of a slightly dirtier signal. I do get a bit more bass extension as well on 4X, so maybe that is where the dirtier signal comes from. I can swap the upsampling rates on the fly so I can notice the small differences.

 

One other minor thing, even in DAC only mode, the A8 gets a little warm on top. Not sure I want to put the V200 on top of it.


Nice review.

 

Can you also help make some comparison for V200 and A8's internal AMP for HD800? Is there a significant improvement after adding V200 (I guess some details will not be as good as using internal AMP)?

 

I'm interested in V200 which may add some warmth to HD800, but also appreciate the simplicity of single box :-)

post #221 of 457

Yeah, the details are quite smothered by the V200 from what I've found. After spending some time with that pairing, I feel like it kind of takes away the speed and detail that the HD800 does so well. I'm not quite as enthusiastic as I was a couple weeks ago.

 

The more I listen to the internal amp, the more impressed I am though. Upping the gain settings really seemed to tighten the bass and improve the soundstage for the HD800 and setting the digital filter to "Minimum Delay" gives bassy instruments a much better sense of weight without sacrificing much detail, sounding very "musical". The treble peak is never truly tamed and results in some fatigue, but it's a nice pairing. Also fun to play around with the various settings. That internal amp is no throwaway by any means.

post #222 of 457
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldfishX View Post
 

Yeah, the details are quite smothered by the V200 from what I've found. After spending some time with that pairing, I feel like it kind of takes away the speed and detail that the HD800 does so well. I'm not quite as enthusiastic as I was a couple weeks ago.

 

The more I listen to the internal amp, the more impressed I am though. Upping the gain settings really seemed to tighten the bass and improve the soundstage for the HD800 and setting the digital filter to "Minimum Delay" gives bassy instruments a much better sense of weight without sacrificing much detail, sounding very "musical". The treble peak is never truly tamed and results in some fatigue, but it's a nice pairing. Also fun to play around with the various settings. That internal amp is no throwaway by any means.


Got it, thanks for your sharing!

post #223 of 457

Just a pro-tip:

 

The screwdriver (TP10) can be found on ifixit.com for like 5 dollars.

 

Furthermore, amazon.co.jp almost always sells this below $800. There are currently some on there for $760 from a marketplace seller, too. 

 

Make an account at tenso.com (free signup) and get an address in Japan to send it to.

 

Anyone who pays over $1,000 for this thing is an idiot. Sure, it's worth the money, but it's available for less. The only catch is the HP-A8 Japan domestic model is not compatible with the power saving feature (where it automatically turns off after x number of hours idle) that is forced on the European/US model. (it was required by EU regulators). Who cares, anyway?

 

You're welcome.

 

Edit: Should also note that the power cable that comes with this thing is garbage so get an Oyaide one while you are at it: Amazon sells those too.


Edited by Matvei - 3/5/14 at 8:51am
post #224 of 457
really? You probably have 1 or more kilometres\miles of power cabling to get the power to your house, why does the last 2m somehow matter (unless the cable was physically damaged).
post #225 of 457
Quote:
Originally Posted by A_Man_Eating_Duck View Post

really? You probably have 1 or more kilometres\miles of power cabling to get the power to your house, why does the last 2m somehow matter (unless the cable was physically damaged).

Let me save you the trouble (and this thread a bunch of pages) and say that those who believe it does, will continue to do so. Those who do not, will also continue with their belief. Those who are open to trying things out and finding things out for themselves will learn something when they give it a try. That's all there is to it, and all there will be to it.

In my humble opinion, sometimes power cords (or any other cables for that matter) do make a difference. Do i know why? No. But then just because I cannot explain why i'm allergic to some brands of detergents does not change the fact that i am. What's even stranger is that i totally agree with the view that the power cord makes up for probably <0.0000001% of all the cabling from my local power sub-station and so unless it is absent it cannot possibly have any affect on the sq. But sometimes it does, to these ears. Illogical, strange, and perhaps evidence of placebo effects. Take your pick. Perhaps it is best to leave it at that or try some out for yourself.
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