I have the Westone 4r so I will tell you how it sounds tomorrow. If it stinks I'm going to return it and try the Fostex.
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Head-Fi Buying Guide (Portable Amps, DACs, & DAPs)
Last edited: 6/26/15
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Sony PHA-1 portable DAC/amp - Page 24
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Thanks, I'm interested to hear that.
Another thing I really want to know is if someone has compared the SQ of the PHA-1/iPhone 5 combo with the Sony NWZ-F06 or similar later Walkman models? Another issue for me is the size difference:
PHA-1: (W x H x D) 67 x 130 x 26 mm, with a weight of 220 grams
NWZ-F06: (W x H x D) 57.0 x 114.6 x 8.9 mm and 100 grams
The F06 is a fair bit smaller and considerably lighter. If I just need a DAC for my iPhone (I dont need an amp to drive my current set of IEMs) I think I'm much better off going for the F06 as a standalone PMP and saving on iPhone battery life with the added bonus of the F06 having 4-5 times the battery life of the PHA-1 (ie 20-25 h vs 5 h). Plus I can put the F06 in my shirt pocket if I like. With the high output impedance of the PHA-1, I think it's a no-brainer and my mind's almost made up...UNLESS, the SQ of the PHA-1 is considerably better than the F06...
Thanks to everyone from the info on this thread - very useful.
Ok my initial impressions with iPhone 5 music from iTunes that is either 44100/16 Apple Lossless or 44100/16 AAC @ 320kbs is that this unit is NOTICEABLY better sounding than the iPhone 5 alone. The separation, soundstage, and quietness are fantastic. ANd whoever said this thing wont drive Westone 4 IEMs is insane. I have it on the LOW GAIN setting, and i can't even turn it past 3/4 volume or i'll damage my ears. The bass is tight, the volume is more than adequate, and the actual form factor of the device is perfect for an ip5.
More to come as I listen more, but if you have Westone 4r like me don't worry, this thing will push them with room to spare.
Nobody is saying they wont drive the Westone 4R, in fact the 4R is not power hungry at all and doesnt need an amp with the majority of sources. The issue of the PHA-1's high, 10 ohm, output impedance has been mentioned a number of times on this thread and beyond.
Output impedance is an important issue when matching source with headphone - basically, for best EQ you should try and pair the impedance of your headphone with a source that has just 1/8th of that in output impedance. As an example, my Westone 4s have an impedance of 16 ohm and thus, the ideal output impedance of any source used with these will be 2 ohm or lower. Problems arise when the source output impedance breaks this 1/8th rule, with the most common result being a considerable bass roll-off but there can also be issues with frequencies clashing in the treble register. For more info on why this occurs check out these links
And here's a great list of output impedance's for a tonne of sources - http://monoadc.blog64.fc2.com/blog-entry-99.html
Shigzeo also posted a great PHA-1 review with explicit reference to how he found the output impedance negatively effected IEMs below 40 ohm. Check it out here:
Have been able to compare the PHA-1+ iPhone 5 with the SQ from a recent Walkman model...perhaps the F series?
No i haven't NARC unfortunately. And thanks for the OHM lesson! Now I see what the difference is between OHM driving volume and for EQ reasons. I have to say though, the bass is much tighter than with the iP5 alone, so it definitely improves.
NOw as for the Sony walkman, from what I understand, people are still trying to use the PHA-1 in conjunction with the Z series, if they had a great output, it seems people wouldn't want to do that.
Can't say for sure, though.
There are exceptions to this 1/8th rule but from what I've read, it seems to be a general rule of thumb and the negative effects of bad impedance matching can be substantial. I have not experienced it myself as I dont have clashing devices but I've read enough about it to be wary.
If I was going to invest some hard earned money in an AMP/DAC combo then I would want to make sure it would have the flexibility to cater for highly sensitive IEMs in the low ohm range as well as push hard to drive cans so that it would be my go-to device for years to come, as I expand my headphone range. This is why I like the look of the Centrance HiFi M8, which is due out soon. At $699 list price, it is more expensive than the PHA-1 however, there seem to be considerable advantages, one of which is an adjustable output impedance of 1, 2 or 10 ohM, thereby providing compatibility with a much wider range of sensitive IEMs and full-sized cans. There will be two main versions - HiFi-M8 LX has S/PDIF input and USB input, while HiFi-M8 has iDevice input and USB input. Approval is pending on the MFi license so that it can pull digital info straight from an iDevice, thereby bypassing the iDevice DAC, as the PHA-1 does. It looks like being the most complete all-in-one device on the market so far. I intend to wait a few months for impressions before diving in.
Edited by Narc - 6/26/13 at 5:00am
I've spent enough time on this site to realize that some people would gladly buy 3 PHA-1s and stack them together with the Walkman Z-series if it would give them a 1% improvement in SQ! That said, I find Head-fi very corrupting. A year ago I baulked at the idea of spending $700 on a portable AMP/DAC - the fact that I am now even considering such an option is altogether worrying. It's the acoustic version of porn - instantly gratifying and entirely corruptible!
A few years ago I considered the high-end portable chase to be insane, but now that the gear available appears to be vastly better and I have such a rig here, the results are vastly better than I could have imagined.
I totally hear what you guys are saying, and I was about to comment to Narc's response about that. He was saying wait for a 700 dollar device for PORTABLE playing with the iphone, but remember, the best you are going to get passed from the iP5 is 16/48000. I question if it is really worth it to spend 700 dollars for music that wont even go beyond (more or less) CD quality. The PHA-1 sounds great with my Westone 4r, much more so than the original iPhone5. If I was going to go further, I'd spend 700 dollars on a High Res player that actually plays 24/96 and higher. It seems silly to spend it on a DAC for iDevices that wont do more than 16/48.
You know what I mean? I got my PHA shipped from Amazon for 450 with a 6 inch cable. I can't justify spending more than a standalone player for a DAC that only does CD quality when I can get an A&K or something for 600-700.
You guys agree/disagree?
P.S. I love that moniker for our obsession -- you are right, this is DEFINITELY MusicPorn, Fideltitties, SoundSmut, Noterotica, Phonography, Earotica -- whatever you want to call it! :)
Edited by dpmalito - 6/26/13 at 9:00am
I agree that when the situation arises, a standalone AMP/DAC will be necessary but that time is down the road. At the moment though I've a coupe of easy to drive, high quality IEMs (ATH-CK10 and Westone 4R) and when my trusty Sony NWZ-A729 bites the dust, which will be soon by the looks of it, I will just replace it with the latest Walkman, the F-series, which will be smaller, will likely have as good quality sound and will have vastly superior battery life than the expensive PHA-1 or other portable AMP/DAC that I almost convinced myself I needed to buy for my iPhone! This comes as a relief to my wallet as a few days ago I had decided that I was definitely buying the CLAS, until Cypher Labs informed me that it requires pairing with a separate AMP.
I love Head-fi - it's a great resource/sounding board - but sometimes I need to take a deep breath and count to ten before whipping out my credit card around here!
Edited by Narc - 6/26/13 at 2:03pm
Now that I have finished my setup, I have to say the SOny PHA-1 is epic. I switched from the iPhone music player to TuneShell and I converted all my music to full compression FLAC at 24/96 and below. Now that it runs through the Sony PHA-1 it sounds insane in my Westone 4r with Litz cable. In addition to that, it sounds insane when coming through my car stereo! I never in a million years thought I'd be able to have this quality of sound on the go!!
What a great addition, and I recommend to anyone to use TuneShell with FLAC through the Sony PHA-1. It's great!
- Sony PHA-1 portable DAC/amp
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