New: Matrix Audio HPA-2C Classic Amp/DAC (With Review)

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by ostewart, Mar 14, 2016.
  1. ostewart
    Just announced:

    HPA-2 CLASSIC headphone amplifier is the improved model of HPA-2, the optimized circuit design, new style appearance, exquisite processing technology and excellent performance to make it better.

    The new design of USB module is used XMOS U series chip and CS4398 high-performance D/A chip, support PCM-24bit/192kHz and DSD-2.8MHz/5.6MHz signal playback, not only DoP and ASIO Native two DSD playback methods, but also can be used with the iOS and the most android devices.

    Class A work mode can feature it easily to drive all kinds of low sensitivity dynamic headphones; can be used as a preamplifier. The headphone protection function and power on/off noise elimination function to prevent the wrong voltage to damage your headphones and brings you the better user experience.

    Cherry-pick every components, the ALPS 27 type volume potentiometer, WIMA/Nichicon audio grade capacitances, audio dedicated power supply transformer, and precision non-inductive resistances, all of these selective components to ensure get the best playback performance from HPA-2 CLASSIC.

    MSRP: $289







    Line output

    >-95dB at 20Hz-22kHz A-Weighting
    <0.0017% at 1kHz 1Vrms A-Weighting
    Frequency Response
    20Hz-20kHz (+0.01dB/-0.04dB)
    Out Impedance

    Headphone output

    >-95dB A-Weighting
    <0.0017% at 300ohms 13mW 1kHz A-Weighting
    Frequency Response
    20Hz-20 kHz (+0.01dB/-0.04dB)
    Out Impedance
    10 ohms
    Output power
    110mW at 33ohms / 310mW at 300ohms / 160mW at 600ohms
    At THD+N=1%


    L=+6dB H=+15dB

    USB Input

    XMOS Asynchronous USB Audio class 2.0
    >-103dB A-Weighting
    <0.0009% at 1kHz A-Weighting

    16-24 Bit/44.1kHz 48kHz 88.2kHz 96kHz 176.4kHz 192kHz

    DSD2.8MHz/DSD5.6MHz(DoP和ASIO Native)

    System Support

    Windows 7/8/8.1/10 systems need to install the driver supplied
    Mac OS X 10.6.4 and above version have native support and do not require a driver
    Can be used with the most of android devices via the OTG cable
    Can be used with iOS devices via the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter


    Power Voltage
    230V position is fit for AC220V-240V 50/60Hz
    115V position is fit for AC100V-120V 50/60Hz
    Power Consumption
    AC250V/500mA 5×20mm


    280×120×47mm L×W×H(Including the protruding part)
    NOTE: For the purpose of improvement, specifications subject to changes without prior notice.
    Driver&Manual Disk
    × 1
    Power Cord
    × 1
    USB Cable
    × 1
  2. ostewart
    Firstly I would like to thank Matrix Audio for sending me this sample to review, in exchange for my honest opinion. I always try to write honest reviews, this unit received over 50hrs of burn-in before reviewing, no differences were noted.
    Gear Used:
    Dell XPS 15 / Audio Opus #1 > Matrix Quattro II DAC > Matrix HPA-2C
    Dell XPS 15 > Matrix HPA-2C
    Headphones: Fischer Audio FA-003ti W / Fostex T50rp Mk3 / Fostex TH-500rp (IEM’s more on that later)
    Tech Specs:
    A comprehensive list can be found on the Matrix Website:
    MSRP: $289

    Packaging, Build Quality and Accessories:
    The HPA-2C comes in the standard White Matrix Audio box, it is made of quality cardboard and has a good finish, albeit plain. This is a device you will have read about or seen rather than needing the packaging to sell it, because of this no specs or images are needed on the box. Inside the box you get the HPA-2C very well padded in a foam insert, along with the accessories and instructions. The device is well packaged being held with foam, and also the device has a thin protective pouch over it. Overall the packaging is plain, but very well made and serves it purpose of getting the product to you undamaged, even when handled by the worst of couriers.
    The build quality is superb, I didn’t find any blemishes on my unit, the finish is a neat matte black and everything fits together very nicely. All the inputs and outputs are gold plated and of excellent quality, the headphone socket is tight, the volume knob rotates every so smoothly. It all feels very sleek, smooth and solid. The full metal design with small opening on the sides also help keep the unit cool, and it only gets a little warm when being used, considering it is a class A amplifier.
    Accessories included are the power cable, which is a standard 3 pin kettle lead, a USB cable, manual and CD which includes the driver. All in all you get everything you need to get it up and running.
    Functionality and Setup:
    The main improvement Matrix have done is add a high quality DAC to the HPA-2 amp as standard, not longer having it as an optional extra. The HPA-2C can be used as a pre-amp for a stereo setup, as a headphone amp only and as a DAC/Amp combo, you can also use it as just a DAC but the volume control controls the RCA output level, so as a DAC it doesn’t have a fixed line level out.
    This amp has 2 gain settings, however I have never needed high gain, it is only really needed for very hard to drive headphones.
    Setup was nice and easy, I am using windows 10 and just installed the driver and it was simple to setup and use.
    Well what can I say, this is a powerful desktop amp that has a great built in DAC for a neat all in one solution. It is suitable for full size headphones, and inefficient IEM’s only, with most IEM’s there is a constant audible hum unfortunately, which is never audible with full size headphones, no matter how efficient they are, a little odd. I should add that the output impedance is 10 Ohms so it is best suited to headphones 80 Ohms and over really.
    This as an amp on its own tries not to add too much flavour, it is powerful and balanced, well refined and ever so slightly smooth. It takes the slightly sharp edge off the sound which makes it an enjoyable listen. It may not be the flattest in terms of overall sound, but it is also not as smooth as a valve amp at the same price. It works wonders with Beyerdynamic T1 1[sup]st[/sup] Generation as it takes the edge off the slight sharpness in the treble without taking away the detailed nature of the headphones. The sound is articulate and extended on both ends, with the FA-003ti you get the great separation and soundstage, along with the very tight and detailed sound, but the amp adds a little warmth and adds a little something that makes them sound tonally correct.
    Using it as a DAC/Amp also works very well, I cannot hear a huge difference between the Quattro II and the internal DAC, the Quattro II definitely has the upper hand in detail retrieval and also refinement where you can nitpick things a little easier, and the Quattro II is fantastic in its own right, but if you only need a USB input I cannot see anyone going wrong with just using the internal DAC and this as a standalone device.
    Using the Fostex TH-500rp I still find myself going to my Feliks Audio Espressivo Valve amp, as it sound smoother and overall compliments the TH-500rp better than the HPA-2C, the HPA-2C does make them sound a little more open and also extension up top is better, but with the Espressivo they sound buttery smooth. This is not a fault of the HPA-2C, just personal preference.
    Comparing it to the JDS Labs Element, the HPA-2C has a touch more authority and body, the Element sounds a little cold in comparison, even though it is an exceedingly good product. I feel the HPA-2C adds some realism to the sound. Both very good products, and the Element works better with IEM’s but the HPA-2C works better with hard to drive headphones.
    This is a great looking, well built amp/DAC combo that would stand proud as an all in one desktop solution, or as a lone headphone amp fed by another source. It is perfect for driving hard to drive full size headphones effortlessly with control, body and refinement. It may not be the most versatile amp out there, nor is it the flattest sounding amp, but is does offer a slightly full sound which I find works very well with the Beyerdynamic T1, Fischer Audio FA-003ti and others. Overall a great device, with an MSRP of $289 I can highly recommend it.
    And if you are adventurous the op-amp is interchangeable too, so it opens up the possibility to roll others.
    Sound Perfection Rating: 8.5/10 (the hum makes it not suitable for IEM’s, but if you use it for what it’s made for, it is fantastic for the price)
  3. ostewart
    I'll be getting one in Black I hope, anyone on here with the original HPA-2?
  4. leeperry
    same price as the gustard, someone should tell matrix that this is not 2014 anymore.
  5. ostewart
    So in your opinion the pricing is way out?
    I'll be receiving mine on Wednesday hopefully, will test it with the Fostex TH-500rp, German Maestro GMP 400, Fostex T50rp and my Fischer Audio FA-003ti W.
    I will reserve all judgment on price/performance until then. The price from the look of the specs looks fine for a good DAC/Amp combo, considering the JDS Labs Element is $349 (it does output quite a lot more power) and costs extra to have a line-in/line-out.
  6. leeperry
    Its biggest enemy will be the old HPA-2 from 2014 that costs $199 new on ebay and a lot less used, $290 for CS4398 and a BCL clone is on the high side indeed. I woulda expected at the very least ES9023 and a $199 price tag then they would have stomped the market, makes you wonder how long they'll keep milking the BCL cow but then again the room for the DAC board is way too small to make it any worthwhile IMHO as it'll never sound like a real full-blown standalone DAC with I/V. I do own both HPA-1 & HPA-2 BTW, pricing for HPA-3 is ludicrous so I'll pass.
  7. ostewart
    I have the Quattro II DAC, and it is a solid piece of kit, so let's see how this stacks up.
    I like the versatility of the Quattro II, but it is quite pricey, not bad for the price and if you are going to use it to it's full potential then it is worth it, but if you only need a simple DAC with USB in and RCA out the iFi iDAC2 is much better value.
    I'll have this amp tomorrow,
  8. ArthurPower
    The internal DAC was optional on the original HPA-2. The model with the DAC included was $320 dollars and that is what they are currently selling for on eBay and elsewhere. This new HPA-2C includes a new updated DAC and sells for $290 dollars.

    You get a well proven amplifier design with an updated DAC for less money then the previous model. There are a few HPA-2 left without an internal DAC that are selling for about $200. So if you do not need or want an internal DAC then that might be a good option for some (while they're still available).

    The M-Stage series of amplifiers continues to be a huge hit and for good reason. They pair so well with many different headphones. The main Matrix M-Stage thread is just about to hit 5000 posts!

    Unlike DAC's which are continuing to evolve and be upgraded, a great amplifier circuit design continues to be a great amplifier circuit design. There are very little changes over the years in analog technology.
  9. ostewart
    My HPA-2C has arrived, impressions will come shortly followed by a full review.
    It is bigger and heavier than I expected, very good finish and build quality.
  10. Johnnystuff
  11. ostewart
    Optical out of my Opus #1 > Matrix Quattro II > HPA-2C > TH-500rp
    This amp is powerful, low gain and the volume knob is at around 10-11 o'clock.
    I'm used to listening to these on my Feliks Audio valve amp, the Matrix has more immediate power and authority whereas the valve amp is more laid back.
    This isn't a dry or thin sounding amp however, with very good dynamics and body.
    I find the headphone out on the Matrix Quattro II to be quite fatiguing, the HPA-2C has a fuller sound but it is not necessarily a warm sounding amp. It is well balanced, with excellent low end definition and control, the mids are detail and the highs are not forced or harsh.
    I'll test them with the Beyerdynamic T1 soon.
  12. ostewart
    Listening to the Beyerdynamic T1 (original version) there is still a hint of sibilance and the well known treble peak, but they do sound very good out of this amp.
    Again I'm using it on low gain and the volume knob is only at 10/11 o'clock.

    The sound is dynamic, full and detailed. Very good synergy here, I can imagine it would sound excellent with the T1 2nd generation also.

    Also the amp doen't generate a lot of heat, it stays cool even after a couple of hours of listening. I will be testing this as an Amp/DAC combo soon rather than only amp.
  13. ostewart
  14. i20bot
    So how does this thing fair as a unit by itself?  Its power seem to be geared towards 300ohm headphones.  Have you tested HD600 or 650 on it?  Kinda interested in this thing for a simple desktop setup, thanks.
  15. ostewart
    I have not got the HD600/650 but I use it with Fostex TH-500rp and it drives them with ease. It also drives the Beyer T1 with ease, all of this on the lowest gain.
    So it has plenty of power, and the sound is clean, crisp yet smooth and not peaky.

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