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Benchmark HPA4 Headphone / Line Amplifier Impressions

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by negura, Apr 8, 2018.
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  1. bimmer100
    Fwiw, I am using speakon cables with the AHB2 (4pole connector using 2) and my Zu Audio Soul Supreme speakers (8pole connector using 6). I have read a few articles saying the noise floor is a little lower with the speakon connection vs spades or banana. But not sure it’s really worth all the effort. If you wanted, just use the cables you have and likely enjoy or reterminate those cables with speakon connectors which is easy to do.
    Roasty likes this.
  2. nordkapp
    Not using speakon, just locking banana connectors and Canare starquad cable.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
  3. lithiumnk
    I had tried few high sensitive iems(andromedas, EE zeus drop, katana). The background was pitch black, no hiss. HPA4 in no way altered the frequency response of these iems. All my headphones/earphones pair very nicely.You should try your ciems.

    One of the most standout feature of hpa4 for me is the driver control & bass reproduction. The bass resolution, layering, body & extension is top notch. Its like discovering new bass notes in my test tracks. Hpa4 pushes so much air that on one song I felt that my adx5000's cup lifted momentarily & I was not even listening at high volume. Experiences like this makes hpa4 very special.

    Preamp functionality is supposed to be better than hp out. So much to explore. I cannot even imagine how hpa4 will pair with ahb2/sr1a(future upgrade).
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
    phthora likes this.
  4. phthora
    I second that! With my Shure 846, the sound is still remarkably clean and, somewhat annoyingly, much better sounding than my DAP.
  5. YooperAudio
    My HPA4 lets me go far deeper into my music without experiencing discomfort or pain - and this is true for both my HD800S headphones, and when used with my AHB2 monos out to speakers. the concept of "loud" has taken on an entirely different meaning. Now when listening to, say, a jazz quartet through speakers from 12 feet away, I just turn up the volume to mimic what I expect it would actually sound like in front-row seats. Same for my headphones (which I was was kinda meh with until the HPA4 came along). The reality of it all is addicting. DAC3 HGC on the front end, fwiw.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2019
  6. tunes
    Is the HPA4 driving the Hifiman Susvara enough or will I need to use the ABH2 speaker taps to get the most out of the Susvara?
  7. bimmer100
    the HPA4 has more than enough power to drive the susvara. I own both HPA4 and AHB2 and would never consider using the AHB2 with the susvara's. I'm quite happy with the performance and few amps have the grunt for the susvara's. however HPA4 will deliver.
  8. tunes
    That’s excellent news since it simplifies the amp headphone dilemma for Susvara and can also use the HPA4 to drive my Utopias and HEKse. I recently listened to my Utopias on a ZanaDeux tube amp and was shocked at the improvement in bass performance and the opening up of the sound stage. Does the HPA4 improve the sound stage of the Utopias. I am currently driving them directly from my CHORD DAVE DAC!
  9. FourT6and2
    Any update on this comparison? No doubt the HPA4 is a winner, but I'd like to know if it's $2600 better than the 789. I want to just say screw it and buy the HPA4, but it's really hard to justify $3K for use as just a headphone amp when there are now three other THX options on the market that are all $400 or less: Drop 789, Monoprice 887, and the new SMSL SP200. All four products test off the charts. But measurements don't always equal sound.

    If Benchmark offered a baby HPA4 to fill the gap, I'd be all over it. A DAC3/HPA4 combo all-in-one. No extraneous features. No touch screen. No chaff. Just a solid DAC with a solid built-in amp with XLR4 and 1/4" jack. Would need to be less than $3K though.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019
    bluenight likes this.
  10. Thaddy Contributor
    I ended up going with the DAC3 B and paired it with the GS-X Mk2. Fantastic pairing, really let's your headphones shine. I considered the HPA4 but in the end I really wanted preamp functionality as well. Why not the DAC3 HGC thouguh? It only lacks a balanced headphone output.
  11. tunes
    How do you know that the Susvara wouldn’t open up when driven by the AHB2 unless you compared it with the HPA4. This would dispel some of the ongoing debate about the Susvara needing the power of a speaker amp to reach its greatest performance!
  12. nordkapp
    Thats weird. The HPA4 is an outstanding preamp with a SOTA volume control.
    Tobes likes this.
  13. Thaddy Contributor
    Bah, confused it with the HGC that doesn’t have preamp. Apologies.
  14. FourT6and2
    It's a viable option. But yes, it lacks XLR4 and its gain controls are internal. So switching between headphones with vastly different sensitivities means you have to open the chassis and mess with dip switches. Doesn't seem convenient as far as amps go. And yes, I have multiple headphones. I think I'm going to try the DAC3-B and HPA4 for a few weeks via Benchmark's audition program. But my short list is:

    DAC3 + THX 789 / Aune S7 Pro / Cayin iHA-6
    Qutest + THX 789 / Aune S7 Pro / Cayin iHA-6
    Cayin iHA-6 + iDAC-6MK2
    Matrix Element X

    For the price of the Matrix or the HPA4, I can actually get all three of the other amps together + whatever DAC I want. It's a tough decision without being able to try before I buy.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019
  15. twoloszyn
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019
    bluenight likes this.
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