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Amp/DACs item created by Brooko, May 21, 2014
Pros - Size, included OTG cable for android, quality build, design.
Cons - Not the most powerful amp out there, "only" 24 bit/96kHz, maybe that there's no analog in.
Got it today!
First of all I'd like to introduce myself:
I'm 29 years old, working in a high-end Hi-Fi store for some time now and therefore I consider myself being somewhat capable of reviewing this type of equipment honestly and as subjective as possible.
I have gone through a wide variety of DAC's/amps both portable and stationary and spent pretty much a month deciding what device to finally spend my money on, and it hasn't been easy.
My opinions are nonetheless my personal opinions and you might not agree, and at the end of the day you should always trust your own ears and personal taste when it comes to audio.
My first candidate was the Denon DA-10 and my opinons on that device is:
More output power and higher input bit depth and sample rate is supported although to bulky for me personally. Also it had some problems with balance when it came to the volume knob.
My second candidate was Oppo HA-2:
It is indeed a better device than BeyerDynamic A 200 P, but its also pricey and somewhat more bulky too.
I also tried out a bunch of other devices such as (among others) Denon DA-300(stationary, fantastic), NAD D1050(stationary and absolutely amazing favorite stationary <300 dollar dac/amp), Cambridge DacMagic Plus (Stationary and great although a bit too analytic and focused on midrange/treble)
Back to BeyerDynamic A 200 P:
It had some problems with my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 when it came to native playback trough USB from sources like tidal, youtube etc but it's possible to use it nonetheless.
Supplied cables worked great with iPhone as well as Samsung.
Form factor is unparalleled.
Audio character a bit an the bright/hard side for me (and my headphones, but that's a matter of personal taste and headphone audio character).
European volume limiter is easily overridden (thank god, it actually had a lower output volume than my phone as default).
Distorsion might be somewhat noticeable at higher volumes.
Volume is decent but nothing special for this kind of product.
It would benefit from an analog input.
Native 24 bit/192kHz support would have been perfect.
The reason I chose this product though is because:
Form factor, design
It's still an amazing addition to your smartphone audio wise.
Good battery life.
DAC provides a good soundstage.
The leather pouch is actually a nice bonus.
And the price is good for a premium product (which I do consider this being)
Pros - Sound at least as good as 40X larger Sony PHA-1; on-belt operation re-establishes iPod remote transport/volume functions for top headphones
Cons - Proprietary cable; limited to iPod Lightening connector input
This combined DAC and amp, based on the renown Wolfson DAC chip, is 2" x 2" x 3/4" deep, smaller than a roll of Scotch tape. It includes a convenient skin-tight case that snaps it to your belt.
The A 200 p has a large disc volume control (5 revolutions from softest to loudest), best equipped with one of the rubber stick-on nubs included to give your finger purchase to turn the smooth metal surface. It also has touch controls that stop, skip, or repeat selections played on an iPod.
Most importantly, it DIRECTLY reads the Lightening 8-pin connector used by current-generation iPods and iPhones, receiving the digital bits. Unfortunately, this is ALL it reads... no USB or line in for other signal types.
I had become addicted to the power of a portable DAC/amp combination that read iPod signals directly by my earlier purchase of the Sony PHA-1, also using that Wolfson DAC, having a greater variety of inputs, and nearly 40x greater volume, at 4" x 2.5" x 1". When I purchased the Beyerdynamic T 5 p closed headphones, I decided this companion Beyer component would be just the thing.
I have been delighted. Its sound is wonderful, providing a larger soundstage with greater positional resolution than without this device (as was the case for the Sony PHA-1). But this also adds the iPod transport controls in a handy spot, as many top-end headphones, including the Beyer T 5 p and the Grado line, do not include an in-line remote that is so handy on the move.
Output impedance is 1.1 ohms, great for the 32 ohm input impedance of the Beyer T 5 p (and Grado) headphones. This is in contrast to the Sony PHA-1, which has a 10 ohm output impedance that is a bit higher than the 8X rule of thumb would suggest for 32 ohm headphones (headphone input more than 8 x amp output impedance).
Another niggling nuisance is that the digital input plug where the Lightening connector goes looks like a mini USB, but really is a Beyerdynamic special. They include both a cord with a lightening connector on its other end for your iPod, and another with a USB on the other end for charging, but it seems unusual that they did not just choose to use the standard USB mini plug. However, the cord intended to reach to the iPod is only 4-1/2" long, a bit short if you hang the A 200 p on your belt and put your iPod into your pants pocket, as I do. You cannot use a third-party USB-to-Lightening cable to replace it, as its end is the proprietary Beyer connector.
Overall, great DAC/amp for portable use with no compromise in sound and excellent transport remote controls.
Pros - Sounds great, very small and light
Cons - Not to fond of the plastic finish
Source – Lenovo Ideapad / Assus N55SF
Headphones – HD 280 pro/ 595 / 650 and 800 – Beyerdynamic T1 – Shure SHR440
Amps – WA2
Dacs – Arcam Rdac
Test Tracks ¬
Cecile Mclorin Salvant - John Henry
Bruce Springsteen - Hungry Heart
Rush - Makig memories
The knife - Like A Pen
Talking Heads - The Great Curve
Wynton marsalis - The Arrival
Richard Bona – Janjo La Maya
Julian Lage – Margaret
55 x 55 x 13 mm
20 Hz – 20 KHz
Maximum Output Voltage
> 110 dB
> 106 dB
24 Bit , 96 KHz
This is beyerdynamics first foray into the world of portable amplification with the A 200 p and with a name like Astell&Kern printed on the back you would expect it to deliver in spades. Can this tiny little player compete with other giants of the portable world like Ibasso and Fiio? From my 3 weeks with the device I think it can.
The A 200 p was sent to me as part of a tester reviewer program set up by Beyerdynamic. I am not affiliated with Beyerdynamic in the professional sense and this review is of a voluntary nature so I will post the product back after the review is finished. I was picked along with 10 others to submit my thoughts about the device for others to read here on the forum.
Build Aesthetics and Durability
The build quality of the A 200 p is compact and practical and comes in a nice black carded box with leads designed by J River. The amp also comes with a tidy leather case and on the back is attached an extendable strap for binding to your player.
Beyerdynamic include 3 cables for connecting to various devices such as laptops, idevices and smart phones. I had planned on using the A 200 p in it's intended portable form. My Ipod is an Ipod classic with a 32 pin line out but unfortunately there was no 32 pin connector provided with my review sample. I also have a Cowon J3 which does not allow an external Dac and it would be nice to be able to use the amplifier section in the A 200 p with the Cowon but unfortunately this is not possible. I have talked to Beyerdynamic about this and they have informed me that there will be a 32 pin provided for Ipod connectivity when the product is released so for my time with the A 200 p my laptop was my only source device.
In one sense the build quality is fine. Beyerdynamic have opted for a plastic casing over aluminium. Choosing plastic over aluminium has its benefits – its lighter and although the amp casing seems very durable I can't help but think that aluminium would have been a better choice in terms of robustness. In my opinion metal casings have a nicer fit and finish and in terms of appearance plastics just dont cut it.
The volume pot is a wheel adjustable design. It functions by turning the wheel clockwise to increase volume and as you turn the wheel anticlockwise the volume decreases.
I find the volume wheel slightly annoying to be honest. One of the biggest draw backs is the fact that there is no hard stop. It takes about 5 revolutions of the wheel to reach maximum volume but once achieved the wheel will keep turning ad infinitum. A hard stop would be a good feature so you know where the volume is when you turn the player back on, otherwise you can get max volume when you least expect it.
The sound of the A 200 p is where it really shines. It takes my laptop to new levels in terms of audio quality. When I compared the 2 sources the A 200 p easily trounces my lenovo IdeaPad. I also have an Asus N55SF that I used for A to B comparisons with the Beyer amp. And even here the A200 p comes out on top. It is also very close to the performance of my Rcam Rdac and maybe some of the reason for that is in the fact that the A 200 p shares a similar chip-set – the Rcam uses a Wolfson 8741 IC and the A200 p uses Wolfson WM8740 and when you listen you can clearly hear the Wolfson house sound.
The A 200 p drives my HD280 pro, HD595, HD650 and Shure SHR 440 with ease. I had no issues at all driving these headphones regardless of the slight differences in impedance. I also tried my Beyerdynamic T1 and Sennheiser HD800 (thinking the A 200 p wouldn't be up to the task) and was pleasantly surprised by how it handled them. These Flagship headphones are a lot more power hungry and although the A 200 p couldn't give them the volume they needed, I thought that the pairing was fine. Sure it lacks the smoothness and finesse of my Woo Audio WA2 but aside from that the A 200 p managed them without too many hitches.
While listening to the track “John Henry” by Cecile Mclorin Salvant I found the vocal was crisp and clear and the double bass was very well rendered. The drumming on this album is top notch, each cymbal was well defined in the mix and the contra bass had a nice extension. The A200 p handles jazz very well and seems to also have a very nice presence for acoustic music for example the Julian Lage album “Gladwell”. I listened to this album a lot with the A 200 p. I was very surprised at how good it sounded through this little amp. I had the HD650 on loan and the combination of this album with A 200 p and HD650 was very engaging. I could clearly hear that Julian used an archtop guitar on most of the tracks and on the track “Margaret” I could almost imagine myself in the sound hole of the guitar.
For my next test track I plugged the A200 p out and just listened to HD595 straight from my laptop – the result was terrible. Bruce Springsteen's “Dancing in the Dark” sounded flat and dead. My laptop/HD595 has a horrible etchyness in the treble that would put anyone off listening. As soon as I plugged the A 200 p back in everything was brought back up to par. The A 200 p really gave this track meat in the lower registers that it needs. The baritone sax had lots of bite and sounded warm and bell like. The drumming also sounded great with lots of snap on the snare. Very enjoyable indeed.
While listening to the track “like a pen” by The Knife I really noticed an big improvement in imaging – the electronic percussion's were really well spread to the left an right channels and the vocal sat in the middle with the right amount of air.
So in the end my opinion is a slightly mixed one. Cost aside, the A 200 p does a pretty bang up job. It renders audio pleasingly. It's versatile, and simple to use, and a complete amp/dac solution. If you only care about sound then I think the A 200 p is a good choice.
However, at this price you may be seeking a higher build quality than you actually get. If you're easy on equipment, and appreciate the light weight, the A 200 p casing is certainly an advantage. If like me, you're a little more demanding on your hardware, and like the “sexier” look and feel of polished aluminium then this might encourage you to look at other more robust solutions.
If you don't already have a dac/amp, and this is your first endeavor into high end audio the A 200 p is a first step worth considering. It is a simple, self contained, adaptable device. As most of us would agree - sound comes first - and in that vein you could do worse than the A 200 p
Pros - Smooth sounding signature, Powerful amp, easy to set up and use.
Cons - Sticky jog wheel, Proprietary Port, price
When the opportunity came up to review the Beyerdynamic A200p, I jumped at the chance and volunteered to do one.
Spoiler: Warning: DISCLAIMER
I'm not an audiophile, even though I've been called one, I just enjoy my music. I don't think I have Golden Ears nor do I think my opinion is to be definitive. I just know what my ear likes and know that there are plenty others that will disagree and I'm cool with that. My musical taste is a bit eclectic, artists like Dave Matthew Band, Lorde, The Knife, Rihanna, Springsteen and Beethoven all share the same playlist through out my sessions. Hopefully the wide berth in genre range can allow this review to apply to a wider audience as well.
I am kind of a Beyerdynamic fanatic as my headphones collection will point out. They just check off a lot of boxes for me so I'm quite familiar with their pros, cons, signature, etc.
Spoiler: Warning: EQUIPMENT
Aune T1 (Amperex 6DJ8 Orange Globe & Sylvania 6BK7B)
Beyerdynamic : DT770 (Prem 250 & Pro 80), DT880 Prem 600, T90s and DT1350 (I would've tried the T1 as well but I didn't have a 1/4 to 1/8 converter on hand.)
Fischer Audio DBA-02 MKII, and Fostex TE-05.
The A200P is a portable dac/amp that meant to work with iOS and Android devices. The compatibility list can be found HERE. The device is well packaged and bundled. It comes with 3 different cables (Android, Apple and USB.) and a carry case. It's surprisingly small and light weight, thus making it easy to pocket for portable use. The build is simple and elegant, very minimalist. I've tested this device with a Samsung Galaxy S3 and a Windows computer. I don't have access to an Apple Device so the review will be limited to those tested. Set up was easy and hassle free. Just plug everything in and turn the device on. A little bit more fiddling with settings in Windows for Foobar was required but nothing major. No driver issues to deal with, which is definitely a plus. My only gripe is that the A200p is equipped with a "proprietary" usb port. The usb port is recessed and shaped in a fashion that your average usb cables won't fit into the device, leaving you to either buy their cables or fashion one yourself.
The A200p is equipped with a jog wheel for volume, 3 playback control buttons (Which also worked in Windows), and a power toggle switch. Operating the A200p is simple and easy but I did hit a snag here. Using the jog wheel isn't as smooth as I thought it would've been. It tends to get stuck and not want to budge until you apply some force to it, then it'll slide smoothly. The device comes with a small black "mole" that you can stick to the jog wheel to help with movement but, this being a loaner unit, I didn't want to tarnish it in any way. I will have to admit though that I would have quite an internal struggle whether to put it on or not. The device is beautiful the way it is and I wouldn't want to mar the look with the "mole" to increase functionality... until I find that I can't stand to use it without the "mole". Overall, aesthetically and functionally the device is a hit. But this is Head-Fi and what really matters is... How does it sound?
The first thing that jumped out at me when listening through the device is that it's very smooth, very balanced overall. Nothing really stood out but I detected a slight roll off of the treble. It's non-fatiguing nature allows for long listening sessions and pairs well with bright headphones like the DT series and the T90, taming the highs enough to reduce/remove some sibilance but keeping the highs airy and detailed. It also does the same with my primary IEMs, the dba02-mkII and TE-05. Overall, a very satisfying performance from a dac of this size.
Paired with the great performing dac is a powerful little amp. It handled the range of headphones quite well from the low (13, TE-05) to the high (600, DT880). The 880/600ohms ran really well when listening to modern songs that are brickwalled but it also performed admirably on older quieter tracks, mainly classical pieces. It does a respectable job to getting the 880s to a listenable volume in an average household/workplace. Very impressive performance from an amp of it's size.
Note : T90s were the primary cans used. Volume matching was done by playing the same 10 second test track and taking the max with my a Sound Meter app on the S3... except when I compared against the S3.
A200p : Thinner sounding overall, less body. Treble extension is better on the NFB12. Soundstage doesn't feel as wide, probably due to shorter treble extension.
Aune T1 w/ Amperex 6DJ8
A200p : Thinner mid section but bass is tighter and more extended. Treble is similar in smoothness, maybe less roll off in T1. Hard to tell.
Aune T1 w/ Sylvania 6BK7B
A200p : Treble roll off is more apparent in this comparison. Everything else is very similar.
Samsung Galaxy S3
A200p : Very clear and clean sounding, smoother and very pleasant. S3 is very grainy in comparison. I'm going to miss this unit when it goes back.
This little dac/amp does a lot of things well and doesn't get in the way with it's size. It has it's little snags like the jog wheel and proprietary usb port but outside of that, I really liked my time with the A200p. If I couldn't have my Aune T1 & Darkvoice 336 at work, I wouldn't mind stepping down to the A200P. It's extremely convenient to be able to have a versatile dac/amp on you at all times w/ weighing you down.
Thanks to beyer1924 for the opportunity to test out the A200p. It's a great little device.
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/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
135 Volume Steps
Low Output Impedance (1.1 Ω)
External Buttons Too Sensitive
Recessed micro USB Port
For more information on the Beyerdynamic A200p, please visit:
Pros - Brilliant DAC implementation, will drive almost anything, great volume ergonomics, tinytinytiny
Cons - A few functional hicups with and/or without supplied accessories, amp section is almost ruthlessly powerful
IT'S HERE!!! AND LOOK AT ALL THE STUFF THAT CAME WITH IT!!!
There have been another couple great reviews already that have shown the amp and accessories in some great pictures. So I'll make this part of my review short and sweet.
Suffice it to say that you'll be surprised when your A200p shows up, both because of its size and because of the plethora of stuff that it comes with.
This thing is very, very small. I have a PA2v2 portable amp that's nice and small but this thing makes it look like the PA2v2 is like lugging around a desktop amp. So it goes without saying that it's pretty darn easy to implement in any portable rig. My first thought when I took it out of the box and held it in my hand was something along the lines of Will Smith's comment in MIB when he's handed The Noisy Cricket..."I feel like I'm gonna break this damn thing." In a good way, of course.
To add to the benefits of the size, beyerdynamic does a great job of making sure you're wanting for very little when it comes to portable accessories. All the cables are there and so is a leather case. (For the sake of full disclosure, I had some difficulties with the long USB cable that my review sample came with but a cable is a cable and once I got a replacement from beyer, all was well...zero problems.) The case is a very nice addition - it's a nice leather and it fits the amp pretty securely - with 2 main caveats: The strap that is attached to the case is far too small to fit larger smartphones (like my Galaxy S4) and when it's in the case (or out of the case, to be fair), the forward, back, and play/pause buttons on the A200p are very easy to accidentally hit until you get used to handling the amp.
And I guess it bears mentioning that the volume wheel is pretty tough to use as-is unless you have perpetually moist fingertips. But the addition of the little stick-on circles as another accessory is a great fix. To me, this shows that beyerdynamic not only thinks of form factor (with the flush-mounted volume control) but also possible issues with that kind of a design. Bravo.
IT PLUGS THE USB CABLE IN, OR ELSE IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN...
OK, here's how I went about my testing, gear-wise:
Galaxy S4 smartphone
1964Ears V3 CIEMs
AudioTechnica ATH-FC700 on-ears
Mad Dog v3.2 over-ears
I wanted to try every possible permutation of these in combination with the A200p and I eventually succeeded thanks to my replacement long USB cable. There were no problems on the software side with any of the sources as everything picked up the A200p perfectly and had no glitches during normal operation (about 50 hours total). And I think the different cans I used in particular helped me run the gamut of the stresses that are possible on an amp, portable or otherwise. And the fact that they're all closed was great for investigating what this amp would probably be used for primarily.
In terms of source files, I used everything from the very small number of 192kbps mp3s that I have in my digital collection to my "standard" FLAC rips to the several high-rez (96/24 primarily) titles I own.
On my laptop and desktop, the player was Foobar (Direct Streaming). And on my GS4, the player was PowerAmp.
PLAYING WITH IT (THE AMP)
During operation, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the A200p was to use. You pretty much just plug it in, adjust volume, and go.
As some other reviewers have noted, it's very nice to have such a wide range of volume possibilities. I don't think this will be too much of a bonus for people who like to plug in the same cans all the time but during my testing, it was great. And it's always better to have and not need than to need and not have. The volume goes up plenty high for orthos like the Mad Dogs and it's easy to fine-tune volume at any point in the range.
The power/lock switch works as advertised. Not much to report there.
Aside from the aforementioned touchiness of the exterior seek and play/pause buttons, they work perfectly with both desktop and portable player platforms. I didn't use them much but when I wanted to, they did exactly what they should have.
I LOVE THE SMELL OF A NEW AMP IN THE MORNING. SMELLS LIKE...VICTORY.
I've been messing around with headphones for a while and I thought I would start with a few of my own idiosyncrasies, for reference:
1.) I prefer a somewhat laid-back presentation with all my music listening. That said, I don't mind neutral at all as long as it's not too boring. And while I am a big fan of somewhat trebly/sparkly cans such as beyer's own DT880, I am pretty sensitive to pronounced treble and/or upper mids.
2.) I am not a DAC nut at all. I appreciate good ones and I've had quite a few over the years but I've never considered spending big bucks on high-end ones, despite the fact that I'll drop some serious coin on both amps and cans in a heartbeat.
3.) I don't like to EQ. Not. One. Bit.
So with those in mind, on to my impressions of how the little dude made noise.
Firstly, I would like to say that my favorite aspect of the A200p by far is the Wolfson DAC implementation. I've only owned a DAC that used a Wolfson chip once before but the way it's used in this particular configuration is nothing short of brilliant. With every source and with every type of digital file I fed it, there was a noticeable improvement in both soundstage precision and dynamics vs. what I'm used to hearing with my humble Schiit Modi and HRT Music Streamer II. Granted, these aren't world-class DACs in and of themselves by any means...but I was quite surprised by how much of that almost indescribable "more" I got from the digital processing in the little A200p.
I also have a vinyl rig at home and on a good vinyl pressing, there's that disorienting sense of texture and depth that is really tough to find in digital files. At the risk of being cliche, it's that old saw about seeing a very good reproduction of a sunset vs. seeing an actual sunset. With the A200p and my CIEMs, I was a little slack-jawed at times when I started to hear my digital music getting dangerously close to that analog level of "there-ness". I also heard it in the Mad Dogs, albeit to a slightly lesser extent. With my wife's cheaper AT on-ears, the effect was less pronounced...but those are several orders of magnitude less expensive than the other two sets of cans I was using. The fact that I could hear the difference in DAC in those at all was still surprising.
I found the DAC to be the most awe-inspiring on quieter vocal and acoustic music (for vocal textures and string dynamics) and on electronic music (for rhythmic dynamics and attack/sustain). But everything...and I mean everything...sounded very, very good. Some standout tracks that I made note of are:
Bruce Springsteen - Reason To Believe (Nebraska)
BT - Every Other Way (These Hopeful Machines)
Beats Antique - Beezlebub (A Thousand Faces)
Cara Dillon - She Moved Through The Fair (Hill of Thieves)
Jane Monheit - Tonight You Belong To Me (Home)
Keb' Mo' - City Boy (Keb' Mo')
Kelly Joe Phelps - The Black Crow Keeps Flying (Lead Me On)
Blockhead - Triptych, Pt. 3 (Music By Cavelight)
So the DAC implementation in the A200p gets a 17/10 for me. Which sucks because it has me wanting to get my hands on the next Wolfson-based DAC I see.
As much as I loved the DAC portion of the A200p, I was really hoping to like the amp section at least as much. While it didn't turn out that way, all was not lost.
I have no complaints about the overall competence of the amp at all. The little beyer is far from underpowered. It drove even my Mad Dogs adequately from my GS4 which is something I didn't expect. The amp is plenty loud from all sources with all types of files and it doesn't sound unbalanced, per se. But for me, it made everything sound a little more forward than I'd like.
All of the headphones I used for testing handle bass pretty well and I had no complaints in that department. Nothing was bloated or uncontrolled and the accuracy of the bass from the A200p is actually pretty darn good. It allows the driver to dig nice and deep and the only time I heard any real strain was when I was listening to bass-heavy electronic music (Phutureprimitive's Kinetik album comes to mind) via the MDs out of my GS4. But with the ATs, the amp actually helps quite a bit in keeping the bass - from the bottom to the upper bass - from disintegrating into pure mud...which it does very easily with unamped input. When evaluating the bass with all the cans I used, the phrase "iron-fisted control" surfaced in my mind more than once. I highly recommend trying out albums like Daft Punk's Tron soundtrack with bass-capable cans via the A200p.
Mids with all cans were very respectable. Everything was pretty much neutral with the exception of the upper mids sounding noticeably shouty with some tracks. I noticed this most with my IEMs and to a lesser extent with the Mad Dogs. One example I noted was Billie Joe and Norah Jones's take on the Everly Brothers in their Foreverly album. I found myself turning the volume down more than once because the upper registers of their vocals started to hurt a little bit. (The humming at the beginning of Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet? is a good example.) This isn't a damnation of the overall midrange presentation, however. There are always recordings that are a little taxing on the ears in the upper mids and I just found that the A200p had just a little bit too much muscle in that area for me with those tracks.
Treble with the A200p is nice and clear. There's plenty of nice detail even with muddier cans like the ATs. And I never had an issue with the treble sounding scratchy. But I would say that my biggest complaint was that the amp made the highest frequencies sound a bit icy and peaky at times. When I was using the MDs and IEMs, I was reminded of the one gripe I had about my Denon D2000s; I always visualized them sonically as a big, sinfully plush couch that has an icepick hidden in it somewhere. It was sort of the same with the A200p. I had never really heard the two expensive sets of cans exhibit such sharp high frequencies before using the A200p. But again, these instances were rare. For the most part, the little beyer amp imparted just the right amount of detail with some headphones that are somewhat dark by nature. And with decidedly non-neutral cans like the cheaper ATs, the A200p goes a long way toward making them sound almost even up top.
Soundstage was very good with all headphones tested. The combination of the excellent DAC and the ultra-powerful amp made separation and localization as good as I've heard it from my IEMs. Considering that all the cans I used were closed, I thought the headstage was uniformly wide and deep and sonically, nothing got in the way of anything else even with the ATs. Again, it was probably equal parts DAC and amp but in terms of spatial sound reproduction, the A200p sounds as effortless as they come.
Dynamics were fantastic in all respects, considering the circumstances. The A200p probably isn't ideally suited to driving orthos out of a smartphone but even in that regard the A200p performed better than it has any right to, considering its size. And when you throw a more reasonable load at it, your transducers will bow out long before the amp starts to stumble. POWER and CONTROL are what this amp is all about.
OK, TL;DR....SUM IT THE F$&* UP, MAN!!!
My summary of the beyerdynamic A200p is that it's an excellent choice for portable use or even on-the-go desktop use. It has a beautiful DAC implementation and an amp that backs down from absolutely nothing. And beyerdynamic has truly thought of its customers in the way they have approached the A200p design and their choice of included accessories. My only warning would be to those who have somewhat bright-sounding 'phones and don't want to EQ and to those who are overtly sensitive to upper mid and/or treble energy. Those people may want to purchase the A200p from an outlet that has a good return policy.
Last thing: Thanks again to beyerdynamic for allowing me to review this little guy. They're a great company, they have yet another great product on their hands, and I'm glad I was able to check it out and share with the community.
Pros - Small size, ideal for wearing on the hip; easy-to-use controls; neutral, non-fatiguing sound; great pairing with IEMs
Cons - No line out; best used with more-efficient headphones
My review of the A200P is part of the beyerdynamic loaner program described in this thread:
About me: I am a big fan of portable audio gear, having acquired various DACs, amps, and sources over the years. Some of that gear will show up in the review for comparison. I've been into headphones for quite a while -- I had an Audio-Technica ATH-1 when I was a kid which is now long gone, and after college I bought the Sennheiser HD580 from HeadRoom, followed by the HD-25 II, both of which I still have. I bought the Total BitHead about nine years ago, but its controls got noisy and so I didn't do much with it. I recently got back into the hobby and got the head-fi bug to learn what sound I like. Short answer: I am a fan of neutral sound, and like both the LCD-2 revision 2 (pre-Fazer) and MrSpeakers Alpha Dog for their low distortion and fast response. For portable headphones, I mainly use the V-MODA XS (which replaces the M80 for me), the Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9, and the VSonic GR-07 Bass Edition IEM. My musical taste is heavily-weighted towards jazz (surprise surprise), but I mix in some old rock, R&B, and EDM at times.
Ergonomics and Design
The beyerdynamic A200P looked small in pictures, but it still surprised me how small it is when I unboxed it.
This device is tiny! It measures 5.5 cm by 5.5 cm by 1.3 cm outside of its leather case. Inside the case, the size increases to 6.2 cm by 5.8 cm by 2.2 cm including all clearances. It is light, too; slightly under 2 ounces (57 g) with short cable and no case, and around 3 ounces (77 g) with cable and case. It is so light that you might not know that you are carrying it, except for its connection to the smartphone you are using as a source -- which brings up the most important issue: How do you carry the A200P?
Well, in one particular scenario, the design of this device is brilliant -- so brilliant, in fact, that one might consider getting the A200P just to have the ergonomics it provides. You see, the back of the case has a spongy, springy elastic band. This band is too small to use as an attachment method to a phone -- no modern smartphone will fit inside of it. But it is perfect for a belt. So, I put it on my belt, on the left side, like a permanently attached old-school pager (it flips out from the leather back to aid in cabling), with the buttons facing up. Then, the length of the iPhone cord suggested exactly where to put the teathered device: in my back left pants pocket. Connect headphone to the headphone jack facing forward, and I was ready to go.
Now, the brilliance of this design as a remote control is easily gleaned in this setup. Need to adjust the volume? How about pause a track, or jump forward or back? No problem! It can all be done by touch using the left hand, and without going to the phone itself. It can even be done through the fabric when wearing a shirt out, like us somewhat older folks are wont to do. I found myself changing my listening habits with this little setup attached to me. The ease of volume changes was a godsend while walking; I could reduce it quickly when I heard something nearby, making my travels safer. To do this, attaching one of the little black dots to the top of the turntable volume control was necessary. And the diminutive size of the A200P means I wouldn't bump into it ever. How does it compare with other remotes?
You see, I like remotes. I have some Pebbles, I've tried Bluetooth audio controllers, and I even have the old Apple (Wired) Remote, which is non-functional at this point even for those devices that are compatible with it. The A200P is a bit bigger than the Apple Remote, but of course the Apple Remote relies on the line-out of the iPod it is connected to, so there's no digital-to-analog going on in the Apple Remote (although there may be some op amps there). But the Apple Remote has buttons. Lots and lots of buttons. Whenever I changed volume using the Apple Remote, I felt like a starship captain on Rigel VII on Star Trek, except unlike the chest-worn communicator, I was inanely hunting for the correct button clipped to my chest. The A200P has a big wheel for volume that is easy to find, doesn't blow out your ears when you start rotating it, and stays out of the way when not in use. It is much easier to use than any buttons on a headphone cord, too.
This use case is important enough that beyerdynamic should include a sheet of paper showing you how to wear it.
The A200P is simple enough to use: Turn it on, connect it to your portable audio source via one of the provided cables, and play. Three cables are provided: a 14.2 cm Lightning cable for modern Apple devices, a 14.2 cm micro USB cable for Android devices, and a longer 1 meter USB A cable for PCs and Macs. I did not try the Android functionality but was able to easily use the Lightning cable with both an iPhone 5 running iOS 7.1.1 and an iPad mini running iOS 6.1.3, and I also found the USB A cable easy to use under both Windows 7 and Mac OS 10.8.5. The volume control and buttons on the A200P were functional in Windows Media Center on a PC, and I found it very nice to tweak the volume and pause and play TV shows without going to the computer keyboard. On a MacBook Air running Mac OS X, the volume control acted on system volume, and the buttons worked properly as transport controls in iTunes. I found the use of the volume control ideal in practical scenarios. It takes many many turns to adjust volume, which means you will not likely blow out your ears accidentally with the A200P.
The cables provided in the package have proprietary connectors to the A200P, so losing these will require a purchase of new ones from beyerdynamic. This also means that the two portable-device cables are not easily extendable, which means the distance between your portable source device and the A200P will be 15 cm always. That can be a problem if you need to extend the controller away from the device, to put the source device in a different pocket, for example. It is easy to extend a USB A cable as extender cables are readily available, although I did not try this.
There are two LEDs and one toggle switch on the device. One of the LEDs is close to the data port on the A200P and glows green when the DAC/amp is on. The other LED is on the "volume turntable" side of the device near the top left corner, and blinks blue when the device is in use. It quickly flashes blue when you turn the volume control, and it quickly flashes red when you try to raise the volume past the limit on the device. The toggle switch serves two purposes: (1) in one direction, it turns the device on and off, springing back to center, and (2) it locks the volume and transport controls in the other direction, which is convenient when an errant button push or volume change is not desired.
The A200P has a battery that takes a few hours to charge using the USB A cable and lasts for about 10 hours of playback. The device is smart and turns off after a few minutes of no audio playing through it.
The A200P supports playback at sample rates of 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz, and 96kHz, with either 16-bit or 24-bit sample depths. It was difficult to determine what sample rate the A200P uses in practice, however, as there are no rate indicators on the device itself. Both Windows and Mac OS X reported hi-res sample rates and bit depths when selected. Also, I ran some tests on four different portable DACs under five different configurations in this thread to test greater-than-16-bit playback capability under iOS 7.1.1:
The A200P passed this test, meaning that it does play back greater-than-16-bit information when it is presented to it. Of course, getting 24-bit files to play back in iOS is currently tricky, but rumor has it that the situation could change soon. Suffice to say that the A200P looks to be future proof from a hi-res music point of view.
So how does the A200P sound? For this part of the review, I will use as reference two other DAC/amps that I have in my possession: the HRT microStreamer, and the CEntrance HiFi-M8. Each of these is quite different from the A200P. The HRT microStreamer has both a headphone out and a line out, but it has no battery, no volume control, needs the Lightning-to-USB Camera adapter AND a USB cable to connect to an iPhone, and looks like a DIYer's rig no matter how you wrap things when using it with a portable source. The HiFi-M8 is quite a bit bigger, has toggle switches for all sorts of things, comes with a power adapter that is as big as the DAC/amp, and carries the source device on its back. From a form factor and convenience standpoint, the A200P has them both beat. But, it is still useful to compare their sound as this
When I first started using the A200P, I paired it with the V-MODA XS, which is a warmish headphone.The pairing made the A200P sound very, very dark. Bass was everywhere. For comparison, the microStreamer had a much lighter tone and sounded much better with the XS, and the HiFi-M8 sounded more neutral. But that was only the initial impression, and I decided time was the key with this device.
The next day, I tried the A200P with two other headphones: An IEM - the V-Sonic GR07 Bass Edition - and an over-ear - the beyerdynamic DT250/250. Now we are talking! Using the beyerdynamic headphone with the beyerdynamic DAC was a match made in heaven. Suddenly the bass was in line with everything else, and I could hear a level of detail that I was not hearing before. That is when I noticed that the A200P is a very fast-sounding, nuanced DAC. It does not provide an exciting sound, but it provides a very accurate, non-fatiguing sound. I found placement of percussion instruments to be particularly noteworthy. For example, when listening to Luis Conte's conga drums in "Pools" [Latin Jazz Trio], I found each tap to have a distinctive character that was presented by the A200P as is, with no additional excitement or false ringing. Ultimately, I began to enjoy the beyerdynamic A200P as a long-term portable companion, listening to album after album without getting tired. Since then, I've paired the A200P with the sweet-sounding Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9, and it has plenty of juice to drive the small woodies to ear-splitting levels.
Pairing the A200P with a good-quality IEM is the best way to travel with this DAC/amp. I found it a bit unnerving to listen to the GR-07 BE and walk around, not just because the sound was so good; I felt like I was getting a great life soundtrack with no added weight or bulk whatsoever. Bass-laden tracks worked particular well with this setup, such as Lose Yourself to Dance" by Daft Punk [Random Access Memories], and "H Gang" by Donald Fagen [Morph the Cat].
The A200P has a reasonable amount of gain and gets louder than the iPhone's headphone out, but only slightly louder. I did try it with two hard to drive headphones: Mr Speakers Alpha Dog, and the Aude'ze LCD2 version 2. Both were driven nicely to moderate volumes, but they did not open up as much as when they are driven by a more capable amps, such as the FiiO E12. One could pair the A200P with a portable amp like the E12, but the setup is not very convenient due to the shape of the A200P - physical stacking does not make sense.
So what is the verdict on this little DAC/amp? Well, for its intended use case - as a belt companion to a back-pocketed phone - the beyerdynamic A200P is a ideal portable audio device. I can think of no better way to wear a portable DAC/amp on the go. The size is right, the controls are convenient, and the sound is a nice bump up from a stock headphone out.
The A200P is a smooth-sounding DAC, with a tilt towards a warm, non-fatiguing sonic character. It does not add anything to the audio you are listening to, which is IMO a very good thing. It does hi-res playback when the upstream software allows it, which gives some future-proofing to the device. How does it compare to the other DACs in my possession, particularly the HRT microStreamer and the CEntrance HiFi-M8? For everything but movies, I prefer the A200P's sound over the microStreamer, the latter of which has a more bright and forward character. The A200P came close to the sound of the HiFi-M8 with efficient headphones when playing at sub-48kHz sampling rates, but the HiFi-M8 bettered the A200P when it came to its upsampling 96kHz performance and when used with harder-to-drive headphones. Of course, the HiFi-M8 is a totally different design, is incredibly heavy, and costs more than twice the amount of the A200P, so there are some apples and oranges happening with this comparison.
On sound alone, the beyerdynamic A200P is quite capable, and one could make the argument to get it as a laptop add-on, especially given its controls. A volume knob is so nice to have, and watching TV on a PC was incredibly comfortable.
About the only concern I have on the A200P is the lack of a line out, which means you are going to mainly use it with more-efficient headphones like IEMs or portables. Double-amping with a second more-powerful amp is an option but is not convenient. The form factor of the A200P begs to be used solely with a source, not as part of a multi-device audio chain.
The A200P is a nifty little DAC/amp that is (Lightning-based) iDevice compatible and works with Windows and Mac PCs. Its price is also quite competitive with other DAC/amps that work with iDevices, and in fact costs less than many other current offerings in that camp.
Pros - Incredibly neutral sound, black background, small size & stylish aesthetics
Cons - No line-level output, provided accessories make for awkward use, price, potential durability issues
The Beyerdynamic A 200 P is a new portable DAC/AMP meant to be paired with Android (Micro USB) and iOS (Lightning Connector) devices.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS (from the product site here)
Output level . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.7 Vrms (US version), 150 mVrms (EU version*)
Recommended headphone impedance . . . . . . . . . . . . . ≤ 600 Ω (US version), ≤ 32 Ω (EU version*)
Output impedance . . . . . . . 1.1 Ω
Frequency response . . . . . . . 20 Hz - 20 kHz (± 0.2 dB)
Signal-to-noise ratio . . . . . . > 110 dB
T.H.D. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . < 0.008%
Crosstalk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . > 106 dB
Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 headphone socket, mini jack (3.5 mm), 1 special Micro-USB
USB powering . . . . . . . . . . . 5.0 V, 500 mA / USB cable
Dimensions . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 x 55 x 13 mm
D Weight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 g
Spoiler: Warning: Large Pictures!
This section is going to be especially simple. This device sounds incredible. It is exceptionally clear and balanced. When paired with my HiFiMan HE-300's, I was blown away with the presence, tightness, impact and extension of bass, the neutrality and separation of the mid-range, and the exceptionally clear (but never sibilant or even slightly fatiguing) treble.
I'd go into more detail about the sound quality, but there simply isn't any more to say. It's amazing in every way. No matter what headphones I tried it with (with one exception explained later!), it provided a perfectly neutral source. No matter what aspect you look at, it delivered. Separation, extension, balance, impact, decay, the A 200 P was perfect.
The single flaw in the internals of this device is the amp. It is advertised to handle headphones under 600Ω, it was a push to fully power the 250Ω DT880's. There wasn't enough headroom to really rock out. I cannot imagine a pair of 600Ω headphones being able to be properly powered. With my 50Ω HifiMan HE300's, the maximum volume was only slightly into the uncomfortable range. Someone wanting to blast some rap, for example, through a pair of DT770 Pro 80Ω might be left wanting a gain switch.
Build Quality & Aesthetics
The build quality is great. It survived a week in a relatively open backpack pocket with barely a mark on it. The only thing that I can nitpick at about the build quality is that the volume wheel is easily scratched. Being so exposed, even in the case, it should be more resilient.
The device looks amazing to me. It is simple yet unique. The size adds to the aesthetics all the more. It looks great next to my Note 3 in its black/silver case. The case is also very nice, sporting a durable faux leather.
Late in the testing period, I began experiencing some weird behaviors. The sound on my A200P would cut in and out, and sometimes even jump to full volume. A few times, I was using it to preamp my speakers, and once it awakened my whole family. It turns out, the USB connector on the device has some contact issues. I assume Beyerdynamic would be very good to deal with getting a replacement, but that doesn't change the fact that this device has a weak point.
Design & Accessories
The device has a combo lock/power slider. I am not a fan of this but it works just fine. It has a play/pause button and buttons for seeking forward and back. They worked fine with Android and iOS devices. The bottom sports a weird but very smart smaller-than micro USB port. It puts the stress of bending the cable on some of the housing and not on the connector itself. If a wide variety of cables and lengths are offered at a reasonable price, this is a VERY good choice. The volume wheel is great. It dominates the device and has a very satisfying but subtle soft tactile resistance when changing volumes. It almost feels digital, as opposed to a strong mechanical click.
The device comes with a case, which has a flap for belt attachment and a strap for attachment to phones. The case is great, though the top is left open, which I do not like. The strap for phone attachment, however, is odd. It looks cheap, especially when stretched. It is very small, and would struggle to go around larger phones, not just phablets like my Note 3 (a task at which it failed completely) but also more normal phones like the Galaxy S5.
The most obvious and crippling feature missing from this device is a lack of a line-out. It is a great quality DAC but if you want to use it with speakers or your car stereo, you're stuck using it pre-amped.
With my experience, the battery life is great! I realized the other day that I had been using it with my phone for about 3 hours a day over 5 days without charging it.
Here's where it gets a bit weird...the cables. It comes with a cable to connect via micro USB and one to connect to iPhones via the lightning connector. Each cable is about 4" (10cm). When mounted on your belt, that cable is often too short to place the phone in your pocket without the phone dangling from the cord. This wasn't an issue with my Note 3, as it is huge, but it was awfully close, and getting the phone out of my pocket was VERY difficult. Even with a small phone like the iPhone 5, getting the phone out of a pocket was not easy. Then, when you have your phone out of your pocket, it is attached to your hip by a 4" cord. This could've been remedied by including 12" or so cords. If they make this option available cheaply, then all is well. I just don't see the point of including a belt loop case without a cable you can use it with. On the bright side, it does fit next to most phones in the pocket. I was able to put it next to my Note 3 in most jeans, though I chose to leave the case off due to the added thickness. It also includes a nice full-sized USB cable for charging and connecting to PC's.
Compared to the iBasso D-Zero, this thing really shines. It lacks the slight high-mid emphasis of the D-Zero, and it doesn't have any of the graininess in the treble that the D-Zero has. It's amp seems to be in line power-wise, which is disappointing due to the increase in price. The D-Zero has line out, which the A200P lacks.
The Fiio E17 is not very clear, where the A200P is exceptionally clear. There is a lot of grain introduced by the E17's amp, especially when gain is used. Even with a +12Db gain on the Fiio, the Beyerdynamic is only slightly below it in volume (at max). The Fiio E17 is slightly warm where the A200P is very neutral.
In short, the A200P completely outdoes the iBasso and D-Zero in sound quality. It should, though, considering the price differences. More power would be nice but considering the size, it isn't ridiculous that hte A200P isn't more powerful than it is. I'd love to see a comparison with the iBasso D6 or D12.
This thing is great in the sound department. Clean, neutral, black background. Amp isn't up to spec but still very good.
Very solid, nice finish. Volume wheel could have a more durable finish.
Clean, simple, gorgeous.
Comes with a nice case, micro USB, full USB and lightning cables. Case is very nice, though the smart phone attachment strap needs to be stretchier. Smartphone cables are too short for use with belt buckle function of case.
These ratings combined with the price leave me to rate it a 4/5. It is simply too expensive to not include the cables to use it with the belt attachment feature for the case. Still a very nice device and should serve MANY customers very well. The sound is exceptional and Beyerdynamic should be very proud to have made this device.
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 4Dimunitive A 200 p
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.
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.
EDIT - I later purchased the review unit from Beyerdynamic for a reduced price
PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.
(This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review) - click to read.
Spoiler: Warning: Spoiler!
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 4Size 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 frontRetail box rearRetail 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 outerInner tray and accessory boxAccessories
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 cablesUSB / 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 caseA 200 p in case (front)
A 200 p in case (side) - player controlsA 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.
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!
Portable DAC and amplifier
55 x 55 x 13 mm
20 Hz – 20 kHz
Maximum Output Voltage
24 bit, 96 kHz
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 controlsA 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 indicatorTop 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.
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.
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 + HD600The A 200 p - versatile and genuinely portable
Pros - Refined sound, detailed smooth highs, very black background
Cons - Weak amplifier
First off a little about me.
I wouldn't say I am an audiophile as such, though a few of my non music loving friends would tend to disagree.
I merely love music and cannot stand poor audio. I know what I like in speakers/headphones.
That being said I may steer clear of as many audiophile terms as I can in this review,
Conditions/gear for this review:
A loud office building
A loud train on the commute
Unique Melody Mentor universal iems
Mr Speakers Mad Dog 3.2
An iPad mini retina 128gb
A HTC one m8
A fiio e18
And of course a beyerdynamic a200p that Beyer so graciously allowed me to trial and review.
Music used for this review is a mix of Chesky tracks, some flacs ranging from Nora Jones 24/192, daft punk 24/96 and even some system of a down 16/48.
I will also be using some 320 bit rate mp3s from various genres that I listen to on a daily basis.
Usually in such a review I would steer clear of mp3s etc however I see this as a portable solution that I am reviewing so in addition to critical reviewing with flacs I will review with the Kind of files a lot of people may pick up off iTunes or Google.play for their mobile device.
Ok so where to begin.
First off, this thing looks amazing. The build quality is stellar. Having owned an ak100 previously it was up to the standard I expected.
Looks aside however there are a few niggles in its design.
The volume wheel, though I understand what they were going for with the turn table design, is very hard to turn without the provided rubber pads. I know they are provided but design wise this seems like an afterthought (and takes away from the look of the device)
When using the provided leather cover the track control buttons can be quite hard to distinguish, not impossible however it does make for some adjustment time. With the case off this is a non issue.
Now this device is small. I am talking, take how small you expect it to be and halve its depth. It really is amazing what they can do in such a small package. This in mind however, it's form factor makes it almost awkward when sliding in and out of the pocket and when using the phone for browsing the internet or games as an example.
The design of the case would have me lean towards this not being meant to be in the pocket so much as on a belt etc while tethered to the phone in your pocket. This is also a great idea except it makes your headphone cable quite awkward if you are wearing a suit or he like.
I know the above is mostly nitpicking so take it for what you will.
To me when going portable, functionality is almost as important as sound... Almost.
The cables provided work as intended, though don't wow me, but honestly every are USB cables, I am over it.
I will break this into a few comparisons however firstly my overall thoughts on the sound.
The sound is crystal clear. I was truly impressed by the transparency of this little guy. In comparison to the AK100, it is all but as transparent. It is not coloured in any obvious way and portrays the music in a very musical, non analytical way, which I guess is a result of good implementation of the DAC Chip used.
The bass strong, however not "boosted". It is tight and detailed with no obvious bleed into the mids. It extends well and really compliments the Mentors in this regard.
The lower mids, though a little less prominent than the bass, are still detailed and never sound thin. This is a huge deal for me, as I tend to prefer a thicker (not muddy) sound to a thin, dry sound.
The vocals I found to be very detailed, being able to hear lips opening and nose breathing from vocalists wasn’t something I had heard on my mobile listening, so this was a pleasant addition to my listening experience.
I found the highs to be quite smooth. Very refined. Never sibilant. I know this has as much to do with the headphones/earphones presenting the music also, however I did not notice any negative impact on treble even when there were clearly more details presented than directly from an iPhone5s, HTC One M8, iPad Mini Retina or Fiio e18.
If I could attribute two words to the sound of the a200p they would be "refined" and "mature".
HTC One vs a200p:
When comparing the HTC One and the a200p, one instantly notices a smoother sound from the a200p. When going back and forth between the 2, the HTC sounds harsh. Almost offensively so. I understand one must adjust to the sound of one or another, but repeatedly, when switching back to the a200p, I was happily presented with a cleaner, more articulate sound with a airier wider sound stage, cleaner bass and breathtaking vocals. Output wise, both devices drive my Mentors to painful levels. With my MadDogs, after unlocking the volume limit, the a200p was slightly louder, however remained cleaner sounding right the way to the top.
iPhone 5s/iPad Mini retina vs a200p:
I have combined these comparisons because I believe the iPad and iPhone to sound very similar, however that the iPhone ever so slightly exceeds the iPad sound quality.
When comparing the iPhone and the a200p, while the difference wasn’t as clear as the HTC, it was obvious that the a200p is again more refined than the iPhone.
In this case however, it is better than the iPhone in every regard, but only slightly. The iPhone has more bass quantity, but less control/detail/texture. The mids are more recessed on the iPhone, and imo this is one of the clear wins of the a200p. The treble is much smoother on the a200p, but retains detail besting the iPhone. The iPhone can be shrill at higher listening levels/upper range, this is not present with the a200. To me another big win.
The soundstage is bigger and instrument separation is leaps and bounds ahead of the 2 mobile devices.
Volume output on the iPhone/iPad were noticeably lower than the a200p.
E18 vs a200p:
While these 2 devices share similar features (while the e18 only natively supports android), they are very different products.
The a200p is a much prettier/smaller device, however I would argue that the e18 is actually a more useful form factor. It slips into a pocket much easier, is easier to attach to a device and also doesn’t add complexity to using the device when in hand.
The controls of the e18 can be used through a trouser leg, volume, bass, gain, track change. All of it.
That being said, the a200p being used outside the pocket on a belt etc, the controls are equally as easy to reach.
Comparing the sound on these 2 is almost like comparing a Bentley to a Camaro.
It greatly depends what you want in a device.
Fantastic looking device
Firmware works seamlessly with android and apple devices
Refined sound, detailed, more neutral than the e18
Very black background for iem's
Seemingly endless Battery life
NO DETECTIBLE INTERFERENCE FROM MOBILE DEVICE
Weak amplifier (perfect for iem's however)
Awkward form factor if you intend to use the device it is tethered to.
All the inputs and outputs you could ever need
Can be used as a DAC, amp or both.
Good form factor for attaching to a phone
Gain and bass boost options if required
Hiss (even on my mad dogs)
Buggy firmware as best I can tell, mine actually goes haywire every time the phone roams.
HORRIBLE MOBILE INTERFERENCE.
Not neutral, bass centric sound.
Now I know I am not writing a review on the e18 but these are in comparison to the a200p and lets face it, the fiio is probably the closest competition to the a200 at this point in time.
If you are planning on using iem's, then my suggestion is the a200p hands down (if you can afford the extra $$). It has a darker back ground, a balanced sound with fantastic clear detail but remains musical at all times. I don’t believe the extra features of the e18 outweigh the difference in sound between the 2 devices.
The a200p has better sound staging, better instrument separation, better upper mids and vocals. The a200p almost makes the fiio sound dark.
HOWEVER if you are planning on using full sized headphones in your travels or you are a complete bass head then you have a tougher decision on your hands.
With my Mad Dogs, there are very few songs I don’t have the a200 at maximum volume to achieve a normal listening level.
All this said however, I have not had the impulse to use anything BUT the a200p over the past week that I have had it. In fact, I was disappointed to have to a/b it with alternative devices.
In closing, my advice, if you have a pair of iem's and you want to go mobile, it is hard to look past this device at its price point. Some people will argue it is too expensive, but you are imo essentially allowing your phone to sound like an ak100 (sans the impedance issues). Having the ability to have that sound quality, but still be able to use your music app of choice, stream if you like to, watch videos etc is worth the cost.
If however you are planning on running full sized cans, I would be setting some money aside for more powerful options in the HiFi m8.
If however you are poor, have a wife that cripples your audiophilism or are otherwise unable to save $350, then perhaps the e18 is an option for you.
Ciao for now.