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But is this difference in soundworth that huge difference in price?
That is a subjective question as some may answer "they want the best, no matter what the price". It is well known that as you go up the price scale, the improvements get smaller and smaller.
One can tear apart Oppo's design. For example, they use one single Sabre 9018 DAC. Nobody knows exactly how they split this, but a guess is they use 2 of its 8 outputs for the RCA out, 4 for the XLR output, and 2 for the headphone output. Some DAC designs would have utilised 3 separate DACs for each of these. What difference would that have made? It would increase the dynamic range from the quoted 115dB in the specs to about 133dB. Both of these numbers are beyond the human auditory capability however. But if you want to be perfectionist about it, and spend more money, you will find implementations that use multiple DAC chips. You can even go really crazy and use each 9018 chip as a single mono DAC and get 135dB of dynamic range and probably improve the channel separation as well.
Also, Oppo uses op-amps in its designs whereas perfectionist designs use discrete components. Once again, if a good op-amp and capacitor choice is made, can you really hear the difference vs discrete components. But audiophiles will be "turned on" by the mention of discrete components.
Finally, I object to Oppo's website which is misleading. On the specification page it says SABRE32 Reference DAC delivers an unprecedented DNR (Dynamic Range) of up to 135dB and THD+N. True but completely irrelevant to the implementation Oppo have used for the HA-1. They should NOT use "up to" type comments when there is in fact no way to achieve that with the HA-1. While not factually incorrect, as they are just talking about the chip in general, I feel it should not be mentioned on the website directly related to the specification tab.
You hit the point jonstatt,
there are many highly regarded amps without fully discrete design out there, Violectric HPA V200 just for example.
My thoughts about this little (ugly... sorry) HUGO-thing, I'll better keep them ....
I had a few days with my new OPPO HA-1 and for my taste it sounds fantastic, better than all my previous amps.
Before the OPPO I used a TEAC HA-501 together with my audiolab M-DAC and my LCD 2's rev.2
This was a very good pairing for someone like me, who is very sensible about any little hint of sibilance or harshness.
The presentation was lush with very smooth treble and somewhat bass-heavy.
I enjoyed this combo for a long time but missed the right amount of bite and dynamics I'd like to hear.
I had to set the volume really high to get the kind of sound I want.
With the OPPO all that is there, even at low volume levels.
The other great thing I noticed is the exellent three dimensional imaging and separation of "instruments".
In comparison to the HA-501 the sound is a bit thinner what I believe is a result of the
better controlled and textured bass the OPPO delivers.
So, if anyone looks for a SS amp with tube-like sound I would recommend the TEAC HA-501.
My LCD 2 rev.2 never sounds so good like it does with the OPPO. They sound crystal-clear, not cold or dry and
the week point of the LCD's, the soundstage, is wider and deeper than with any other amp I used.
I had the same results with balanced and unbalanced cables but balanced seems to be a bit more dynamic.
Some words to the DAC qualities: I switched back and forth between the internal DAC and my M-DAC
(XLR-connected) and sometimes I thought the M-DAC sounds a hint smoother, but honestly,
the differences, if there are any, are so small I would never be able to tell which one is playing without knowing.
This shows how good the implementation is, because John Westlakes design (M-DAC) is exellent.
All the other cool features of the OPPO are well known and you could easily put another "audiophile"
Brand on that OPPO Box and sell it for triple the price or more.
I love it, I'll keep it!!!
I compared the HA-1 with the Master 7 as a DAC directly to active speakers and to amps with headphones and there was a distinct step up in both the level of detail and how "natural" the music sounded with both more expensive DACs. I also compared the in-built headphone amp by plugging the Master 7 in as a source and the differences I had noticed in the previous comparison were not apparent using the in-built headphone amp. That gives me a fair idea of the performance of the HA-1 IMO.
I reckon for the price it is a good unit and spot-on in value.
There are only a couple of things I think could have been done better: The mute button is only on the remote, which could be a problem. The text on the displays should be larger so they can be easily read from a distance. And the knob feel of the volume control is awful.
Saw the HA-1 in silver at the ChiUni-Fi event today. It does exist ! And it's silver ! Otherwise same as the black.
The HA-1 was received well in general. Guys with the Uber-rigs thought it didn't have enough power (no surprise there). Two separate people expressed concern at the depth on the unit (13 inches) given its otherwise 'desktop' profile and leanings (something I called out back in post #120 on this thread). Our final decision for placement of this was 'nightstand'.
The other call was that this was an excellent unit for people who want a no-nonsense, one-stop end unit that does most things well. I agree with that but that's not me, that's why I think this amp will be moving on out of my collection.
You thought the silver would be different from the black other than color? lol
It is a deep unit, and very stout and heavy... a bit bigger than the average headphone amp, but that is also necessary to incorporate all the features it has as a class A amp.
So when it's turned up there isn't enough volume? I have never heard anyone say that and I would challenge them emphatically on that observation.
The HA-1 has plenty of power to run even the most demanding headphones. True story...
I suppose a nightstand placement would be good for someone who listens to most of their music in bed.
Mine will go in my office where I can use it at will while I work and play on my PC.
Oppo's website now notes that the silver units won't be in until July. [sigh]
(As far as size and shape goes, it looks like a similar and competitive unit from Pioneer, the U-05, is wider but shallower. Just released in Japan, but not here yet.)
That information really hasn't changed, what has changed really is that the HA-1 again is out of stock. The U-05 lacks any analog inputs, has much lower headphone amp output (unbalanced 2 x 180 mw into 32 ohm , balanced 2 x 300 mw into 32 ohm) , no bluetooth, and sells for about the same price (estimate $1000).
I remember and was wanting to inquire about this.
I was wondering at if the line outputs where the same level for both dacs,
And also, did you use same cables?
Or switch cables to verify any differences in cables as well?
So I am to assume the oppo line outs aren't as detailed as that other dacs line out?
The reason for me thinking there are more variables in your first tests,
is because in your second test using only oppo as amp, there were less variables, because only oppo amp was the out.
Then so, as you say, "the differences were not apparent",
so I am guessing that means the on board oppo dac performs better as combined unit.(at level of a master 7?)
Anyway that's my take so any more clarification is appreciated
@Maxx134 I volume match and listen for details such as instrument decay in the best recordings I have.
Sorry if it wasn't clear. I realised it was a bit of a poor explanation. It is easy to compare DACs through speakers or headphones volume matched if one of the DACs has a variable output, which the HA-1 does. Then, at the same volume, I can listen to music either in an A/B test (using multiple inputs on an amp) and try and make out the fine details of the music, such as instrument decay or other subtleties. It was apparent in that comparison that the Hugo and Master 7 were resolving more micro-detail.
Then, if I plugged either the Master 7 or Hugo into the HA-1 (the latter being preferable for volume matching) and listened for the same detail from the HA-1's headphone amp (or pre-amp) in an A/B comparison, I couldn't make out the micro detail that I could using the Hugo directly as a DAC/amp or DAC/pre.
So on detail retrieval alone, I didn't think the HA-1 was as resolving as either of the more expensive DACs. But, overall considering the price and performance generally as a good DAC, good pre-amp and good headphone amp, I think it is about right in value.
You obviously have extreme experience so I glad U cleared that up.
As for me, I love this combo because I feel it approaches or "touches" that majestic level that "end game" gear gives.
It makes me have a feel for what to do next in future, should I decided to spend more to get there
I think this HA-1 will become a great reference point standard at this price range for comparison to other gear..
After reading more, I am thinking the Master 7 probably sounds better than the Nad51. .
Since purchasing the HA-1 now I want to try the Hugo, but I never would have until I heard what was possible through the HA-1.
I also have to say thank you to Currawong for doing the comparisons and not ignoring the HA-1 in favour of obviously better gear. Currawong is the man!
Does anyone know why the Oppo pm-1 forum is Locked?
Probably because it turned into a 'Hifiman' thread and then a 'which amp pairs best with the HD800?' thread.