Nuforce HA-200: High performance, Single Ended, Class-A Headphone Amplifier

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by kazsud, Nov 20, 2013.
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  1. Villy
    I thought the same thing about Burson's and Dexa's size. They can still be fitted though, with an angled socket, but Burson has been having lots of overheating issue (Gustard H10 thread has tens of pages discussing it) and have hard time finding meaningful reviews on Dexa's opamps. Don't even know what opamps are AGD's and even Google doesn't readily available info. Well, anyhow, I will most certainly be rolling opamps, likely regulators too, and report back ... just need to get my pair of HA-200s first .... [​IMG]  yeah, will stack them as mono-blocks
  2. Armaegis
    Oh wait I was getting my units mixed up. I was thinking the HAP-100 which has two sockets side by side which makes swapping the big boys in difficult. The HA-200 only has a single opamp... the fancy Bursons might fit afterall but I've never tried. You'd have to pull some of that cabling out of the way at the very least.
  3. Villy
    Nah, not Burson, fancy looking and not bad but not great either. Sonic Imagery 994enh, best discrete opamp there is. Or Sparko's Labs SS6302, I know the former very well, have a pair in my Yulong A28, magnificent piece of work, so may try Sparko's.
  4. Armaegis
    Sonic Imagery 994... any relation to the John Hardy 990 stuff?
  5. Villy
    Very good question - don't know, maybe, maybe. In any event, the difference between whatever integrated opamp the device comes with and 994enh is so notably big, in my experience, I might swap the integrated out immediately - don't see the point of waiting to complete initial burn-in, from my perspective will only be wasted time. I realize these may be strong words for some 'purists', all I can say is one needs to hear the difference for him/herself.

    So I'll be swapping opamps for sure, just wanted to check somebody else's experience in regards to opamp brand and model used.
  6. Robert777
    @zilch0md , or anyone else active on this thread, I am looking to purchase an amp to pair with my HD800's and I really like what I have been reading, and learning, about low feedback and zero feedback. I think the Nuforce HA 200 or the Metrum Acoustics Aurix would be perfect for me.
    I am only interested in purchasing a new amp and will be sticking with my current HP-A8 as a DAC.
    Would anyone who has heard both mentioned amps say that it is only really worth paying the extra money for the Aurix if I am also prepared to purchase a Metrum DAC for some synergistic magic?
  7. Villy
    Hi Robert, I have not heard the Aurix but will give you a short impression of the HA 200 from my perspective. Over the years I have owned a number of head-amps including tube-driven (Little Dot's IV SE among others), and presently own Yulong A28 with extended modifications (Sparco regulators and Sonic Imagery opamps). The A28 is very good amp to begin with, not cheap still punches well above its weight class, and in its current configuration is just incredible. Few weeks ago I got a pair of HA 200 to use as a monoblock. After some good burning I compared them to the A28 and to my ears, incredulously I'd say, they sound better. Without any modifications whatsoever, none.

    What makes them better, to me is their neutrality and ability to reproduce with extremely high clarity and fullness the signal from the DAC. They basically stand out of the way and let the latter shine, or as much as it can.

    To sum it up, great, great amp in monoblock stack (haven't tried it as stand-alone because I'm not interested plus that means no balanced signal),incredible indeed considering the price. I think HA 200 monoblock will out-duel pretty much any amp under 2K, especially given its neutrality. That however is a good thing if you own high resolving dac, and may be just an Ok thing if your dac is just Ok. Don't know how good the DAC portion of HP-A8 is, hopefully it is very good. I have Matrix X-Sabre which is very resolving if a bit on the warmer side (I'm a warmer sound person).

    Hope that helps a bit, let me know if I can answer more specific questions.
  8. zilch0md
    Having never used the HA-200 in the dual monoblock configuration, I nevertheless concur with everything you are saying here, as it relates to the HD800.  I actually ordered two HA-200s at the same time, leaving one of them unopened, only to sell it it in that condition, later, new in the box.  Call me cheap, but I was so very impressed with how well a single HA-200 performed with the HD800 and so discouraged (call me lazy) by the prospect of ordering custom cables for a dual monoblock setup, that I decided to sell the second HA-200.  
    Having stepped up from the harsh, brittle edginess of my Oppo HA-1's amp section to the HA-200, even though I had already been using the Metrum Octave MkII NOS DAC, the truly single-ended and thus, low-feedback HA-200 was the final piece of the puzzle for providing the HD800 with a "decent" signal. After a about 13 months of almost hating my HD800, I had finally upgraded enough weak links in the chain to start enjoying the HD800 for what it can do, without forcing it to be something that it is not.  
    The Oppo HA-1's amp section is the best thing going with the HA-1, but it's far better suited to planar magnetic headphones - where its power can really shine and the heavy use of negative feedback to deal with distortion caused by its multi-stage design cannot be detected in the low-energy signals near the noise floor - because a headphone like my LCD-2 rev.1 simply doesn't have sufficient resolving power to hear the hash that the HD800 can readily discern.
    This was my desktop setup after getting the HA-200 and prior to getting the Aurix:
    Ever since Tidal HiFi was announced, I've been using an iPad 3 > CCK  as a USB source to the Octave MkII DAC, later inserting an Uptone Audio USB Regen between the iPad 3 and DAC.
    But I also replaced the HA-200 with the Metrum Acoustics Aurix.  To answer your question, @Robert777, there is no special, acoustic synergy between the Octave MkII and the Aurix, despite their cosmetic match.
    Rather than hunt for my previous posts regarding my comparison of the two amps, I'll keep it short by saying, that for my ears at least, using the Octave MkII with either the HA200 or the Aurix, into the the HD800, and keeping in mind that the Octave MkII is not the last word in resolution, the contest was so close that the deciding factors came down to this (trying my hardest to ignore the cosmetic benefits of going with the Aurix):  Do I want more detail and a tiny bit more neutral response -OR- do I want a more expansive soundstage with an ever so slightly warmer response?  Other than that, the two amps sound very similar in my opinion.  And most people could rightly argue that I'm splitting hairs, even on the detail vs. soundstage comparison, but even more so on the neutral vs. warm comparsion, as it took a lot of testing to convince myself that I wasn't imagining the difference in warmth, with the detail vs. soundstage differences being a little more obvious.  I suggest you think about which of those two traits you would personally prefer, before opening this spoiler:
    The Aurix is slightly more detailed than the HA-200 and is just a tad bit more neutral (hard to detect).
    The HA-200 offers slightly more soundstage than the Aurix and is just a tad bit warmer (hard to detect).
    Again, keep in mind, that I reached this conclusion using the less than uber-resolving Octave MkII DAC. When using my CEntrance DACmini CX DAC or the Oppo HA-1 ES9018 DAC, the detail/transparency advantage of the Aurix is more obvious, with the soundstage and warmth advantage of the HA-200 remaining the same.  In short, I sold the HA-200, because I wanted to maximize the HD800's resolution abilities, thinking that some day, I might get a better resolving NOS DAC. (I've got my eyes on the Metrum Acoustics Musette, currently.)
    That said, I genuinely miss the HA-200's soundstage. Again, I'm talking about tiny differences, here.  Overall, the HA-200 is a better value, by far, as they are nearly identical, sonically.  
    Again, remembering that the contest is very close, I would say the Aurix comes closer to being truly transparent - allowing the HD800 to precisely hear whatever is coming from the DAC.  And it's because I'm not entirely happy with the Octave MkII (calling it "muddy" is too harsh a word, but it is "soft") - I decided the Aurix was the better amp for future compatibility with a better DAC - but again and again and again I have to say - I'm splitting hairs.
  9. Robert777
    @Villy and @zilch0md
    Thank you both for such informative replies.
    Reading through parts of this thread again has really helped me learn about headphone amplifiers circuitry and feedback issues. I appreciate it all.
    I am normally terrible for always being drawn to the most expensive item but the slightly warmer response of the HA-200 is very appealing. I have never been the best at discerning the differences between audio equipment, most likely because I listen to a lot of old punk rock which sounds like it was recorded underwater, so anything more than the Nuforce would quite possibly be wasted on me.
    I also like the idea that I could double up and go balanced at a later date for still less than the Aurix.
    Thanks again.  
    zilch0md likes this.
  10. Robert777
    How are the Omni's and the Enigma's on the HA-200?
    Two headphones I would have loved to own but import duties to the UK are awful. Hence my decision to concentrate my love onto my HD800 instead.
  11. Villy
    Going monoblock only makes sense if the source/DAC has balanced outputs because HA-200 can be used as monoblock only with balanced signal. It won't work with the signal from the RCA inputs, the amp was designed so that it will automatically switch to single channel amplification but only when it detects signal coming from the XLR. As for the 4-pin to 2x 3-pin adapter cables, yes the only option used to be custom made with respective pricing. But e-commerce over the last couple of years has made it a bit easier and so pretty good quality adapters can be found on eBay and Amazon for reasonable price - they'll come from China though, so be prepared for a couple of weeks wait if decide to purchase them.
    Personally I am big proponent of balanced audio and would go to say that any headphones with high detail and stage rendition deserve/ought to be hooked to a balanced setup, for it will enhance notably their sound, or more appropriately will allow them to reach their abilities.
    The Enigmas sound fantastic with the HA-200, again in monoblock stack. They are planars so they need a bit of oomph which the XLR happily provides, but have a feeling that a single amp may need some 70-80% of its power to drive them sufficiently due to the signal from the RCAs being with lower volume by design.
    The Omnis I got only recently but it happened so that I haven't been able to give them a good run yet - long story short, a driver needed to be replaced and Zack was gracious to do it without service charge. I just got them back on Monday and burning the driver as we speak, so say early next week I'll have a good impression where they stand, from my perspective of course. Sound impressions always reflect individual preferences, and have a meaning to others only when compared to an impression from another headphone, which I'll try to do.
    To me the Enigmas are the star on top of the tree though, if I can only take with me one pair, that will be it. They are the best headphones I've heard, certainly the most exciting to listen to, and I've heard all imho worth hearing, or rather those that I have interest in hearing, except Ether and HE6 and HE1K. Don't want to turn this into another Enigmas appreciation thread, I've added my impression on the original already, and in few weeks I hope to compare them myself against the the aforementioned 3 during the NY meet.
  12. Robert777
    Thank you again for your input.
    Glad you are liking the Enigma's. I read nothing but good things and they look like a really special headphone. A little out of my budget but I hope one day to hear them somehow.
  13. volly
    Can anyone compare the Nuforce HA-200 to maybe a Schiit Asgard 2? 
    I can get a HA-200 locally for a really good price and was wondering if anyone can compare it to an Asgard 2 which I'm currently using.
  14. Armaegis
    The Asgard 2 is a very nice all-purpose amplifier. Looking at your current listing of gear, I don't think the HA-200 would be a significant upgrade for you. Though if it's cheap enough...
  15. volly
    Thanks for that Armaegis, the Asgard 2 is very very capable amp and I do enjoy it.
    My birthday is coming up and I have access to a unit brand new, for $350 Aus dollars, that's including a pretty decent discount, which it normal retails here for $600.
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