May 102014

I have always held Oppo in high regard based on their extraordinary Bluray players, I have every reason to believe this new headphone amp/pre-amp with HT bypass will operate at the highest quality level.

From Oppo:

Shortly after the successful launch of its PM-1 planar magnetic headphones, OPPO Digital released another member of its family of personal audio products today – the HA-1 headphone amplifier.

Oppo-HA-1-and-PM-1OPPO Digital is well known for its reference quality universal Blu-ray Disc players, and the HA-1 headphone amplifier builds upon the success of the BDP-95 and BDP-105 audiophile players. Drawing upon the proven circuit design of these award-winning players, the HA-1 combines an uncompromising analog audio section with the latest technology in digital audio.
The analog audio section of the HA-1 is a fully balanced design with an emphasis on keeping the audio signal in the analog domain once it leaves the DAC. The HA-1 is anchored by a hefty toroidal power transformer, and linear power regulators and filters with custom made capacitors ensure that the headphone amplifier has a clean power source with plenty of reserve energy. The fully balanced Class A power amplification section uses hand-picked and paired discrete components to ensure symmetry, and a motor-driven precision volume control knob allows for both manual and remote control volume adjustment while keeping the audio in a pure analog audio path.

The HA-1 is especially suitable for high-resolution digital audio playback. Its digital inputs include coaxial, optical, balanced AES/EBU, and an asynchronous USB DAC. It is easy to connect the HA-1 to digital audio players or to a computer running the listener’s favorite playback software. The USB DAC supports PCM audio up to 384 kHz 32-bit resolution and DSD audio up to 256x the CD sample rate. The same ESS 9018 Sabre32 Reference DAC and output driving stage used in OPPO audiophile Blu-ray players ensure extremely low noise and low distortion performance. The HA-1 is compatible with Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad for use as an external DAC, enabling the listener to directly tap into digital music played from these devices. For additional convenience, the Bluetooth audio transport with high quality aptX CODEC sets music free from your mobile phones with a performance boost.

OPPO designs the HA-1 headphone amplifier with the same versatile approach as the Blu-ray players. The HA-1 is a high performance headphone amplifier, and it doubles as an asynchronous USB DAC, a stereo pre-amplifier, a digital audio dock for mobile devices, and a Bluetooth audio transport. Users have a choice of using the 4-pin balanced XLR or the traditional quarter-inch headphone jack. Line level analog inputs and outputs are provided with both RCA and balanced XLR sockets.

The HA-1 sports a classic design with contemporary elements. It is a desktop component housed in an aluminum chassis, and the familiar volume and source selection knobs are complemented by a 4.3-inch color screen for easy operation. While music is playing, the screen can show a classic VU meter, a modern spectrum display, or detailed technical information about the audio signal. A supplied IR remote and a smartphone app provide complete control and convenience.

With its exemplary sound quality, versatile connectivity, and energetic driving power, the HA-1 headphone amplifier is a good match with any high performance headphones or stereo sound system. The black version of the HA-1 is available now directly from OPPO Digital’s web site at a retail price of $1199, and the silver version is estimated to be available in June.

Feb 262013

I am taking a few college courses right now and it dawned on my recently that many of the people I go to school with have never known a time when you didn’t listen to music in a digital, mobile format. This got me thinking back to the earliest days when I used Winamp, and then Apple released the juggernaut known as iTunes.  Winamp played hi-res files and the formats I preferred, like FLAC. iTunes had its own format and then, like now changed your music files to a sound like what Apple wanted. iTunes was super easy to use as long as you agree with the way Apple believes your files should be organized, which is kind of like using your floor as a filing cabinet.

cansI hated digital files because I could see where it was headed, the utter destruction of quality recording. Well, thus far it hasn’t gotten that bad but we have some time left. Over the last 15 years I have been methodically moving my extensive music collection to digital. It is time consuming to rip thousands for CDs and especially vinyl records. I have however gotten it done and it became imperative that whatever program I used would never, ever, make a change to the sound of a file, never change a tag, and never do anything I didn’t want it to.

Eventually I loaded Media Center from JRiver onto all of my home computers. It controls as much or as little of my home entertainment systems as I choose. This includes playing ripped DVD and Blurays across my home network or if you feel really adventurous even to your phone or tablet when you are on the move.

For someone like myself, I wanted a clean music interface without all of the clunky video, picture, and crappola in my way. Media Center makes it as easy as clicking few buttons to strip those away so I have an uncluttered interface  with a back end that keeps my HD music files sounding as close to perfect as possible. You will simply hear the best your system is capable of.

The Computer Audiophile has put together an excellent review and how to of JRiver Media Center and explains in detail why it is as good as it is and how you can make it your own.

Do you still use iTunes?

Plantronics Backbeat Pro Stereo Bluetooth Earbuds Deliver Freedom

 Headphones  Comments Off on Plantronics Backbeat Pro Stereo Bluetooth Earbuds Deliver Freedom
Feb 062013

Even for someone like me there are times I have to set aside my over-ear headphones and go to earbuds or in ear monitors. If I have to be connected to my media via a cable then why not just use full size cans. Well, ok, so there are times when earbuds are more acceptable, like the beach, working out, or a non-disco themed funeral.

backbeatI don’t listen to buds often so I don’t want to pay a lot and am willing to give up some of the sound quality I get from full sized headphones. If I am not going full size how about going cable free? I am asking a lot and aside from some very odd options from Motorola, which I passed down last year, I could only find one pair of actual cordless earbuds. The Plantronics Backbeat Go is a Bluetooth headset. Now it does have a cable that connects the two earpieces but can you imagine how quickly you would lose one or both earpieces without it?

Charging and control of the headset, microphone, and other phone controls are on a small set of buttons near the right ear piece. This includes volume, mute, pick up, on-off, and more. Pairing to my Galaxy Epic was the fastest I have ever paired anything to, well, anything else.

I really don’t care about the phone capabilities but I found no fault with them at all. The earbuds fit well and stay in place thanks to a little wing on each ear piece. This holds it in your ear. I have read complaints about getting the ear pieces to stay in but I found the originally attached pieces to fit my ear and hold very well.

The sound quality is better than I expected, thanks in part to the fact that they fit me well. The sound is fairly neutral and never gets irritating; it just never really gets you jazzed. For $69 at Amazon these are a great deal and you will not regret your purchase, well I suppose if you have some mutant head or ears you could have a problem. As for me, I am strolling down the street, unencumbered by a cable and the weight of a mobile DAC and amp.

If you are looking for a way to leave the cable behind or the situation dictates you leave your good rig at home, you will be happy with the Plantronics Backbeat Go. Pick up a pair now and experience the freedom of going cordless!

Have you ever tried a stereo Bluetooth headset?

2012 Head-Fi Holiday Gift Exchange

 Amplifiers, Headphones, Music  Comments Off on 2012 Head-Fi Holiday Gift Exchange
Nov 282012

The Head-Fi gift exchange is once again upon us. For those who are new to this fun it is pretty simple. You are paired with a like minded individual with whom you will exchange gifts. Usually this consists of CD’s or LP’s but can be anything the two of you can agree on.

Grado Labs SR80 Review

 Headphones  Comments Off on Grado Labs SR80 Review
Nov 272012

It’s easy to see why the Grado Labs SR80 headphones (MSRP $99.00) are popular. They’re affordable, have great frequency response, are quite comfortable, and have a fun, retro look that should please those who are into that sort of thing.

Read the full review here