Sony's DSD-capable PHA-2 portable headphone amp/DAC
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anyone here use the PHA-2 with IEM's?  I'm planning on using mine with Westone 4's.  Do y'all think they'll pair well?  Also gonna try out with some HD700's, although I don't think 150 ohm cans will be driven as well.  In the future, I may have to invest in a pair of XBA-H3's as I've heard they sound incredible through PHA-2. 
 
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Oh wow! Now that's the way to use the ZX-1 and PHA-2! Yeah!

The ZX-1 as a great transport with a terrific UI, the PHA-2 as an awesome DSD-capable DAC, with Line Out to a "real" portable amp that can put out a lot more than the hamstrung PHA-2's 90mW into 32 Ohms.

Now, at least the specs are good. How does it sound?

The sound quality through line out is very Good , now hang from Your portable amp to improve The sound quality
Pha 2 support DSD , but WM ZX 1 does not support DSD
 
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Do you happen to have a picture of the ZX1 straped to the PHA-2 without the padding?  I am interested in seeing how the bump on the back affects the fit between the 2 devices.  Can anyone explain why Sony thought this bump was acceptable!?!  Such a great-looking player otherwise!    
 
The ZX1 comes with a rubber bumper to bring it to even height. Here it is on top of the PHA-2 with the bumper visible at the right between the two devices:
 

 
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  anyone here use the PHA-2 with IEM's?  I'm planning on using mine with Westone 4's.  Do y'all think they'll pair well?  Also gonna try out with some HD700's, although I don't think 150 ohm cans will be driven as well.  In the future, I may have to invest in a pair of XBA-H3's as I've heard they sound incredible through PHA-2. 
I use my PHA-2 with JH Audio custom IEMs (5 Pro and 16 Pro), and it is fantastic.   A very low noise floor with the PHA-2, so you won't hear any hiss when there is no music playing, even with sensitive IEMs.  The soundstage is definitely enhanced (depth of the field) and both vocal and mid-base have more meat/weight than when the ZX-1 is unamped.
 
To be fair, I do end up, however, not carrying the whole stack when I commute, simply because of the added bulk.  The trade-off between the incremental SQ improvement and portability of your rig is definitely something you should consider before you make the commitment to buy IMHO, especially if you are going to mainly use IEMs with the ZX-1.  One more factor to consider is that you lose the ability to access some of the features on ZX-1 such as ClearAudio+ and DSEE HX when you use the PHA-2 (with the hight resolution/digital connection).  I don't use them anyway, but some members mention that they actually like the features.
 
Never owned HD700's, so can't help you there, but the PHA-2 more than adequately drives my LCD-XC and even my LCD-2, although the latter seems pretty taxing on the little guy.  Is the PHA-2 an ideal amp for large cans such the LCDs and the Sens?  Probably not, but again, it can do the job adequately, when called upon.
 
I tried the XBA-H3's with PHA-2, and while it is good, I am not sure if you are going to actually hear a substantial improvement over the Westone 4's.  Also, the fit is something you actually have to get used to, especially If you are used to how customs or even universal IEMs fit in your ears.  
 
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I have pair my HD 700 with Sony PHA 2 like below :

Source : Sony WM ZX 1
Dac / Amp : Sony PHA 2
Headphone : Sennheiser HD 700
Cable : hi res stock cable

Sound quality very good , PHA 2 can drive my HD 700 in normal gain with hi res cable in very good authority .
PHA 2 have enough power to drive HD 700

IMO


 
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The sound quality through line out is very Good , now hang from Your portable amp to improve The sound quality
Pha 2 support DSD , but WM ZX 1 does not support DSD
 
I didn't know that - what a shame.  I guess I had just assumed the ZX-1 could read DSD files, since the PHA-2's DAC can do so, and they allowed for a digital connection from the ZX-1, vs. analog line out from the ZX-1.  
 
And yes, the idea of using the PHA-2's analog line out to a more powerful portable amp would indeed improve sound quality for less efficient heapphones.
 
  [snip]
 
Never owned HD700's, so can't help you there, but the PHA-2 more than adequately drives my LCD-XC and even my LCD-2, although the latter seems pretty taxing on the little guy.  Is the PHA-2 an ideal amp for large cans such the LCDs and the Sens?  Probably not, but again, it can do the job adequately, when called upon.
 
[snip]  
 
As an LCD-2 owner, I know that it can indeed sound "adequate" even when connected to my Sanza Clip+, which outputs only 4.8 mW per channel into 50 Ohms vs. the PHA-2's 58 mW into 50 Ohms.  But getting loud enough isn't the same as having the dynamics, bass extension, and bass control that comes with following the recommendation of Audeze support - to use an amplifier with a minimum of 1000 mW per channel.
 
The Meier Stepdance thread, for example, evidences many LCD-2 owners coming to the realization that the greater than 1000mW output of a Stepdance, 2Stepdance, or Quickstep, when powered by a 15VDC source, brings about readily appreciated improvements in the sound of the LCD-2, vs. the roughly 450mW rms output of a Stepdance using an internal 9V battery as the power source.
 
And as an owner of the DACmini CX, which only provides about 680mW into 50 Ohms, I consider that to be about the minimum wattage needed to really make the LCD-2 come to life - despite the Audeze recommendation of 1000mW.
 
The LCD-XC must be more efficient, going by your experience where the PHA-2 did better with the LCD-XC than with the LCD-2. Still, I doubt that Audeze would recommend the PHA-2, at only 58mW into 50 Ohms (or about 132mW into the LCD-XC's 22 Ohm impedance.)
 
I have pair my HD 700 with Sony PHA 2 like below :

Source : Sony WM ZX 1
Dac / Amp : Sony PHA 2
Headphone : Sennheiser HD 700
Cable : hi res stock cable

Sound quality very good , PHA 2 can drive my HD 700 in normal gain with hi res cable in very good authority .
PHA 2 have enough power to drive HD 700


IMO
 
 
OK, I'm bewildered.  
 
Sony's specs for the PHA-2 must be severely understated.  I'll wait for more testimonies, but I have to ask:  
 
Does the HD700 sound any better with a more powerful amp connected to the PHA-2's line out?
 
Mike
 
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The ZX1 comes with a rubber bumper to bring it to even height. Here it is on top of the PHA-2 with the bumper visible at the right between the two devices:
 
Kind of a clunky presentation if you ask me.  How did the same company create 2 devices meant to work together that are so different? To me, this signals internal management issues within Sony.  Both devices are fine, and they do work together, but they missed a HUGE opportunity to make them work GREAT together.  And no DSD, from the creators of DSD, during a time when Sony is evangelizing shamelessly for the technology?!?  Well, they clearly have a number of things to improve on for the ZX-2.  
 
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  Kind of a clunky presentation if you ask me.  How did the same company create 2 devices meant to work together that are so different? To me, this signals internal management issues within Sony.  Both devices are fine, and they do work together, but they missed a HUGE opportunity to make them work GREAT together.  And no DSD, from the creators of DSD, during a time when Sony is evangelizing shamelessly for the technology?!?  Well, they clearly have a number of things to improve on for the ZX-2.  
As soon as you add DSD capability, you have to add even more battery capacity and the battery is already too big.  You can't have everything.  This is a portable player with hi-resolution DAC and a great built in audiophile grade digital headphone amplifier section.  It already takes up too much battery life to play 24/192.  Sony knows what they're doing.  You want DSD, get the PHA-2.     
 
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I didn't know that - what a shame.  I guess I had just assumed the ZX-1 could read DSD files, since the PHA-2's DAC can do so, and they allowed for a digital connection from the ZX-1, vs. analog line out from the ZX-1.  
 
And yes, the idea of using the PHA-2's analog line out to a more powerful portable amp would indeed improve sound quality for less efficient heapphones.
 
 
As an LCD-2 owner, I know that it can indeed sound "adequate" even when connected to my Sanza Clip+, which outputs only 4.8 mW per channel into 50 Ohms vs. the PHA-2's 58 mW into 50 Ohms.  But getting loud enough isn't the same as having the dynamics, bass extension, and bass control that comes with following the recommendation of Audeze support - to use an amplifier with a minimum of 1000 mW per channel.
 
The Meier Stepdance thread, for example, evidences many LCD-2 owners coming to the realization that the greater than 1000mW output of a Stepdance, 2Stepdance, or Quickstep, when powered by a 15VDC source, brings about readily appreciated improvements in the sound of the LCD-2, vs. the roughly 450mW rms output of a Stepdance using an internal 9V battery as the power source.
 
And as an owner of the DACmini CX, which only provides about 680mW into 50 Ohms, I consider that to be about the minimum wattage needed to really make the LCD-2 come to life - despite the Audeze recommendation of 1000mW.
 
The LCD-XC must be more efficient, going by your experience where the PHA-2 did better with the LCD-XC than with the LCD-2. Still, I doubt that Audeze would recommend the PHA-2, at only 58mW into 50 Ohms (or about 132mW into the LCD-XC's 22 Ohm impedance.)
 
 
OK, I'm bewildered.  
 
Sony's specs for the PHA-2 must be severely understated.  I'll wait for more testimonies, but I have to ask:  
 
Does the HD700 sound any better with a more powerful amp connected to the PHA-2's line out?
 
Mike
Zilch,
I know you wish the PHA-2 had better power specs.  It wasn't made to drive high impedance headphones.  Sony knows their market and it doesn't include people who listen to LCD-2's or Sennheiser HD650's on the go.  It was made to pair with efficient headphones and IEM's.  I have HD700's and am not planning on ever taking them out of the house (have a Burson amp for that), so PHA-2 will be my portable rig with some IEM's and maybe my P5's...and I'm expecting it to be FANTASTIC for this purpose.  I think if you start seeing the PHA-2 like this, you'll appreciate it a little more.    
 
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  I use my PHA-2 with JH Audio custom IEMs (5 Pro and 16 Pro), and it is fantastic.   A very low noise floor with the PHA-2, so you won't hear any hiss when there is no music playing, even with sensitive IEMs.  The soundstage is definitely enhanced (depth of the field) and both vocal and mid-base have more meat/weight than when the ZX-1 is unamped.
 
To be fair, I do end up, however, not carrying the whole stack when I commute, simply because of the added bulk.  The trade-off between the incremental SQ improvement and portability of your rig is definitely something you should consider before you make the commitment to buy IMHO, especially if you are going to mainly use IEMs with the ZX-1.  One more factor to consider is that you lose the ability to access some of the features on ZX-1 such as ClearAudio+ and DSEE HX when you use the PHA-2 (with the hight resolution/digital connection).  I don't use them anyway, but some members mention that they actually like the features.
 
Never owned HD700's, so can't help you there, but the PHA-2 more than adequately drives my LCD-XC and even my LCD-2, although the latter seems pretty taxing on the little guy.  Is the PHA-2 an ideal amp for large cans such the LCDs and the Sens?  Probably not, but again, it can do the job adequately, when called upon.
 
I tried the XBA-H3's with PHA-2, and while it is good, I am not sure if you are going to actually hear a substantial improvement over the Westone 4's.  Also, the fit is something you actually have to get used to, especially If you are used to how customs or even universal IEMs fit in your ears.  
Thanks so much for your impressions.  Really glad to hear about the PHA-2's low noise floor...super excited about adding a little energy to my W4's.  I guess I shouldn't really worry about how it'll handle my HD700's and 600's, since I'll mainly be using this on the go.  Also, good to hear that the XBA's aren't much of a upgrade from W4's, as my wallet is starting to hurt!  In any case, I'll let you know how how everything works when I get the PHA-2 early next week 
 !!!!
 
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