Pioneer's First Portable Amp XPA-700

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by edric li, Dec 15, 2014.
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  1. Edric Li
    http://pioneer.jp/av_pc/components/pha/xpa-700/
     
    It was released in October, but I still cannot find any review on this XPA-700. 
    Pioneer was known for its stereo amplifier decades ago, including the SA9900. I wonder how good can Pioneer do on portable amp. 
     
    Had anyone tried it out? [​IMG] 
     
    kawaivpc1 likes this.
  2. nick n
  3. Edric Li
  4. Mazer
    Surprised there hasn't been more activity on this. It looks to be an impressive piece of kit, similar to the ifi DSD micro.
     
    Can anyone clarify its USB from Android capability?
     
    Also, would this have better visibility as a DAC in the Dedicated Source Components forum?
     
    kawaivpc1 likes this.
  5. starblue
    I just bought these few mins back. I won't consider myself an audiophile or a review expert but I can post my impressions in next few days. I also have Sony PHA-3 so I can do comparison to the extent possible.
     
    kawaivpc1 likes this.
  6. kawaivpc1
    Sweet! I'm interested in both Sony PHA-3 and XPA-700.
    How do they sound? I want to buy both.
    Do they work with Android tablet or cellphone? can they decode DSD and 24bit / 192kHz FLAC files well?
     
  7. 21qz
    i also would like to hear your shared experiance.....
     
  8. starblue
    No problem guys. Happy to help as much as I can. I have a question - shall I start a new thread XPA-700 and PHA-3 or post my impressions here ? 
     
  9. kawaivpc1

    Please just post it here! ;P
     
  10. AdDicTiVe
    Sorry wrong page
     
  11. raulromanjr
  12. raulromanjr
    and here you can get all the info you could want on the product straight from Pioneer.  The video is 1 hour long!  It is in Japanese.
     

     
  13. kawaivpc1
    I don't speak Japanese...
     
  14. starblue
    OK guys, apologies for my late post and here you go with the first installment
     
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     
    I recently bought a Sony PHA-3 and a Pioneer XPA-700 and seeing a request for info on the XPA-700 and its comparison with the PHA-3, decided to create this thread. FYI, I am based in Tokyo, Japan.
     
    This is my first post as component evaluator so please be gentle :). Also if you have any specific questions please let me know and I would be happy to experiment.
     
    I will test the two amplifiers with different sources (iPhone, AK120, MAC/PC with Audiverna) in an attempt to cover all the interfaces to each amplifier. 
     
    I will also test the headphones with different headphones - Audeze LCD-3 (first), Senn HD800, Beyerdynamic T5P, Denon AH-D5000, Shure 1840 and Fostex TH900. I have the bose quite comfort but its way below the class to bring in to picture.
     
    Again, (a) please be gentle and (b) feel free to ask me anything you want me to experiment. For example one request is to test whether XPA-700 will work with Android Phones or not.
     
    Lets get going
     
    POST ONE - UNBOXING!
    Both XPA-700 and PHA-3 come in very similar sized boxes - compact and well packed. Boxes are cardboard but thick and have enough cushion internally to ensure safe transport.
     
    XPA-700
     
    IMG_5897.jpg
     
    IMG_5898.jpg
     
    IMG_5899.jpg
     
    IMG_5900.jpg
     
    IMG_5901.jpg
     
    IMG_5902.jpg
     
    IMG_5903.jpg

    Packing itself is compact and speaks of quality. All the printing on the box is in Japanese, not that it matters. Unpacking you see a set of tools for physical customisation and then the main unit itself.
    The XPA-700 is quite well built. Holding it gives solid confidence. Construction is pretty much at par with the step brother Sony PHA-3. One component on the unit that feels a bit fragile is plastic slide button for source selection etc. If anything is going to physically break on the unit it will be these slider buttons. That said you will need to really work hard to break these.
     
    Sony PHA-3 comes in pretty much same size and quality of packing. Unit itself feels quite sturdy. The slider switch for source selection etc feels more strong on the PHA-3.
     
    IMG_5828.jpg

    Both PHA-3 and XPA-700 are pretty much evenly sized.
     
    IMG_5929.jpg

    The Sony has a bit more bold presence with bold Sony in white and golden/blacn High res logo. Pioneer on the other hand is a but subdued in presence looking from top.
     
    Similarities and Key differences that matter
    - Sony has separate micro-USB ports for audio in and charging. XPA-700 has a single micro-USB port for both audio and power plus a separate power ON/OFF switch to decide if you want to charge via USB while listening audio via USB
    - Both units have audio sampling indicator. The XPA -700 however allows to force up sampling via a slider switch. PHA-3 does not have this option but has a propritery audio up sampling engine/switch DSEE HK (MORE ON THIS LATER)
    - PHA-3 has line in/analog input, XPA-700 does not
    - Both units are apple approved and play audio input from IOS devices with a class A USB port (on the unit) without any issues.
    - Both units have gain selector (low/high)
    - Both units have single ended and balanced outputs. Sony is rated 100 mW in singe ended and 320 mW in balanced mode at 32 ohms. XPA-700 only claims 100 mW at 32 Ohms.
    - both units have optical input however PHA-3 has a toslink input while XPA-700 has a stereo jack stile optical input (I haven't tried if analog input will work on this port)
    - PHA-3 clams a battery life of 6 hours on 15 hrs charging via PC USB cable. In my experience with a dedicated charger it takes 6 hours max (1A min). XPA-700 manual is more precise in the sense it says 6 hours charging time with 1A input. XPAs battery run time is a bit disappointing at 4.5 hours though.
     
    MORE TO FOLLOW
     
    gugman likes this.
  15. starblue
    POST TWO - SONIC IMPRESSIONS - with AUDEZE LCD-3
     
    Source 1 - Audiverna on iMac with native resolution out via USB.
    IMG_5907.jpg
     
     
    Music files
    1. DSD - Davis Ellias - The Window, Rodeo on a Ridge, Morning Western town // all freebies
    2. 24-192 - Norah Jones , come away with me
    3. 24-96 - The Nordic Sound - 2L audiophile reference recording
    4. 44.1 - Best audiophile voices VII
     
    Both XPA-700 and PHA-3 correct detect the bit rate for all files including DSDs.
     
    Source 2 - iRiver AK120 optical out to the two units.
    This is where the first difference shows up and I am not too certain what is going on. With optical out from ak120, the XPA-700 correctly detects the bit rate/audio quality for all files. The PHA-3 reads all files at 44.1! I doubt this is a k120 or cable problem.
     
    I listened to both PHA-3 and XPA-700 right out of the box, in other words no burn in and hence fair comparison between the two.
     
    I first heard the PHA-3 simply because i bought it first. The PHA-3 is VERY VERY good. Its warm with no harsh highs. Good bass which is not too boomy. I really really like it. With LCD-3 its engaging and additive. I found myself listening for quite long while originally intending to switch to XPA-700 for evaluation after couple of songs. Its a bit front sounding compared to the XPA-700.
     
    Switching to XPA-700 I didn't had very high hopes. If Sony in recent times had been a disappointment in producing anything appealing to specialised consumers, Pioneer isn't even the league. Or so I thought!
     
    The XPA-700 sounds absolutely AWESOME!. Its warm, warmer then its sony step brother and yet it is quite detailed. The highs are there, they are just presented in a more warmer fashion that doesn't hurt the ears. There is enough bass, nice and tight, no booms. And the mids are fluid! It is just impossible not to feel in love with this amplifier. 
     
    The PHA-3 while quite controlled at lower volumes, to me it starts showing its relatively brighter side as you pump up the volume. I will test it with the Senn HD800 and Beyer T5P in due course but I have a feeling it will not be my favourite. The XPA-700 on the other hand retains its tonality all the way up to 100% volume. 
     
    Neither amp has issues driving the LCD-3 although you may need to crank up the volume knob past 2AM. 
     
    To be honest the PHA-3 is not bad and there is quite even contest between the two amps when you compare the lows, the stereo imaging and the details. Its just the extra tube like warmth in XPA-700 that makes it a winner for me. The XPA sounds closer to my Woo Audio WA6 SE then a solid state amp. If i were to describe in terms of headphone character then PHA-3 is more of a FOSTEX TH900 while XPA-700 is what Audeze LCD-3 is all about.
     
    Neither one is a looser and you can't go wrong with either. In the end it comes down to personal preference. For me, in this round and combination the XPA-700 is winner.
     
    gugman likes this.
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