This is my quick look at the stunning T+A HA 200 headphone amplifier, a mini HiFi Review. I have just reviewed the gorgeous T+A Solitaire P headphones that are probably the best in the world and I have just described them as ‘the Rolls Royce of headphones’. All of this is true but one advantage they do have is that the headphones are being driven by the aforementioned T+A HA 200 headphone amplifier. It is a spectacular piece of equipment, drawing on the quality feel of the HV and R Series products.
This T+A HA 200 headphone amplifier is just an audio masterpiece, it sounds and looks stunning.
This T+A HA 200 headphone amplifier is just an audio masterpiece, it sounds and looks stunning. The lines remind me of the beautiful R Series and the box itself feels like the DAC 8 dedicated to headphones (I love, love, loved the DAC 8/AMP8 combination!! ). The key thing to note is that the T+A HA 200 headphone amplifier is just that, a headphone amplifier, there is no streaming module, though it does have the rather special T+A DAC onboard. Also, there is no ‘analogue out’ which would be nice to have so you could use it as a preamplifier but I guess you do have three analogue outputs at the front and at a push you could split the XLR output if you wanted to.
The HA 200 is fitted with the proprietary T+A True 1 Bit digital/analogue converter, capable of 32 Bit/768 kHz for PCM and DSD 1024 for Bitstream. The T+A HA 200 headphone amplifier has three headphone outputs that can be accurately fine-tuned to match the connected headphones. Based on the company’s HV analogue technology, which is reserved for its flagship range of high-end audio components, the HA 200 is capable of driving even the most demanding of headphones, thanks to the high-quality power supply that features two separate toroidal power transformers – one for the analogue circuits and the other for the digital circuits.
The HA 200 retains the four DAC filters from the DAC 8 that I remember including Bezier 1 & 2, and the FIR flat frequency response option. The upsampling in the DAC can be turned off if required. There is a huge range of inputs, with the HA 200 featuring 8 inputs, including 2 x analogue (including XLR) and 6 x digital, if the optional HDMI board is utilised, this is an optional extra (see the Specs at the end).
The amplification is a pure Class A power stage with three separately switchable outputs that are the new balanced Pentaconn connector, XLR and the usual 6.3 barrel socket. You can have multiple headphones connected at the same time if you choose.
I just love looking at it! I have the anodised brushed aluminium version, the black one must be to die for. And it has the VU meters, plural, for each channel! The VU Meters are programmable to display the input signal, or output signal, the temperature of the output stage or the quality of the input signal, as well as any clock errors. The VU meters are illuminated by a backlight and are captivating in the dark.
The front screen, displaying menu choices, sample rate and volume is modelled on the screens from the HV series and the R Series and really do justice to the fine engineering on display. The LED lights on the front panel shine a characteristic blue to show your selected options.
I’ve had the T+A HA 200 headphone amplifier mainly in my lounge using an Auralic Altair G1 as my streaming source with Atlas XLR (analogue) output to the HA 200. Latterly I have moved the T+A HA 200 headphone amplifier into my office to listen to the DAC from my DELL XPS computer, using Audirvana. I’ve ditched JRiver! I’m still using the T+A Solitaire P headphones from this review and also my own Oppo PM-2s. The DELL is connected to the HA 200 with an Atlas Mavros Grun cable as featured here.
The HA 200 is highly configurable and I have arrived at my preferred settings of the Bezier 1 DAC filter (reassuringly the same as my DAC 8 review, my ears have not changed),’ Wide’ Bandwidth, controversially I have the impedance setting at 80 Ohms for the Solitaires (I should be using 12 or 18 but it works for me) and I have the 2 channel crossfeed off (another controversial choice?).
With the T+A Solitaire P headphones
With the Auralic Altair G1 the HA 200 has a perfect partner, with the probable exception of the high-class Auralic Vega G2 DAC. With unity output and XLR cables, the Altair G1 delivers a clean analogue output for the HA 200 to do its thing. The Solitaires were reviewed here, it is a beautiful sound.
Switching the streaming source to a DELL XPS with the USB B interface into the HA 200 DAC the results are even better. With Radiohead’s The Numbers, the bass line is perfectly controlled with depth and control. My 24-bit copy on my hard disk is so much better than the Tidal version it is almost embarrassing. But with a platform this good and headphones to match these differences are easier to discern. I have the Solitaires in the 4.4mm Pentacomm balanced output.
You can have multiple headphones plugged in with the HA 200, when I plug in and turn on the Oppo PM-2s in the XLR 4-pin output, there is no difference in my view in having many headphones connected.
With the Oppo PM-2s
I thought it would be useful to try some other headphones, though the Oppo PM-2s are similarly Planar Magnetic. The HA 200 provides the platform, with impedance set to 8 Ohms on the menu (the headphones are 32 Ohms) the sound is slightly thicker but it is still a nice sound, maybe not quite as spacious.
I have the Oppo PM-2s with the 4 pin XLR balanced output and it is a nice sound but you have to say the Solitaires have so much space to operate. Switching to (24-bit, 96kHz) Subterranean Homesick Alien the Solitaires are miles better than the otherwise very good, old school now PM-2s. I just wish I still had the Empyreans in my stable. What is most interesting to me is just how poorly Tidal stands up in direct comparison to a hard copy on a computer directly fed into this DAC and how poorly it performs against Qobuz.
Tidal v Qobuz – My Final Word
With my laptop suitably tuned in, with Atlas Gun USB into the HA 200 and the T+A Solitaire headphones, I am in the perfect position to opine on the Qobuz v Tidal debate. I choose to listen to the following, it is a straight shot out (my website, my song choice!):
Songs by Radiohead
Subterranean Homesick Alien
The Pyramid Song
House of Cards
MQA comes up as 44.1kHz, no bit rate
MQA comes up as 44.1kHz, no bit rate
MQA 16, 44.1
Comes up as 16-bit, 44.1kHz
I do get really aggravated by Tidal as I find it quite hard to understand what bit rate I am getting often and so I just sit there a bit more suspicious of the quality I’m getting. I have to say my Tidal out of my NAC-N 272 sounds fantastic more often than not but it is clear there is more to be had. And I do know when to move on! But… I find that Qobuz has a wider, more spacious sound generally and these four tracks highlight this. I do realise I should be listening to Toccata in D Minor but that is just not my thing. So my Qobuz shootout is based on Radiohead tracks, more complex tracks have a little more room to exercise in my view.
Final observations, am I going to switch to Qobuz? Am I heck! I’ve got two Naim Classic streamers that are not Qobuz ready, or likely to be in the coming Millennia! Choices. The final point to make is that when I have a hard copy of a track like The Numbers it feels better to use my copy than the streamed version. This points to the idea that maybe we’ll start moving to more PC-based high-end audio solutions, it feels like that from here, with £12,000 worth of headphone equipment on!
With Bluetooth & YouTube
I had a really nice play with the Bluetooth on the HA 200 from an iPad. It works nicely and it affords playing the live Thom Yorke version of The Numbers on repeat with a great pair of headphones. Other highlights from YouTube inevitably include Whitney Houston singing at the Superbowl and The Delines performing Colfax Avenue on the KEXP channel.
The remote is really classy for the HA 200 and is gorgeous, it is charged using a lead from the back of the HA with a cable that is provided. All the menu functions are there as well as volume control and a mute button.
It is hard to fault such a fine piece of equipment, so I won’t. It is, simply a masterpiece of headphone amplifier loveliness. With such a high degree of flexibility, it will be difficult to find a pair of headphones that wouldn’t benefit from the dynamic control of this Class A product. It is the easiest 5-star of the year, what an outstanding headphone amplifier.
The T+A HA 200 headphone amplifier is retailing near £6,600. The HDMI board is an optional £480.
D/A-Converter PCM: Double-Differential-Quadruple Converter up to 32 Bit/768 kHz
DSD: T+A True 1-Bit Converter, native Bitstream up to DSD 1024 (49,2 MHz)
Digital Inputs USB Audio Input, AES-EBU, BNC, Coax, TOS-Link, HDMI (optional)
USB Receiver conforming to UAC2 and UAC3 standards
Digital Section Separate PCM und DSD signal paths and processing
Additional „Non Oversampling“ DAC mode (NOS-DAC)
Amplifier Double Mono „State of the Art“ discrete HV Amp technology
Pure Class A power stage
3 separately switchable outputs (Pentaconn, XLR, 6.3 barrel socket)
Adjustable output impedance
Frequency response + 0 / − 3 dB 0,1 Hz – 200 kHz
Special Features Complete galvanic isolation between digital and analog sections
Weight 6,5kg, 14.4 lbs
Accessories Remote control FM8, power cord, USB-cable for charging RC, USB cable 2.0 for DAC, RCA cable
Finishes Alu silver anodized (43), Alu black anodized (42)