T+A HA 200 USB/DAC Headphone Amp Page 2

Finally, those two VU meters on the fascia – programmable for colour and brightness – can be configured to show input or output level, the temperature of the device and the output stages, or the quality of the incoming digital signal. All fascinating stuff, but the meters can also be turned off. Fortunately...

sqnote Great Awakening
Given that the HA 200 utilises T+A's HV (High Voltage) technology, and packs separate power supplies for the digital and analogue sections, all the way back to twin transformers, it's hardly surprising that this amp seems capable of driving just about any headphones with almost disdainful ease. I was lucky enough to have the 'matching' planar magnetic headphones to hand for testing – the two making a truly prodigious pairing – as well as another pair of headphones using the same technology, Oppo's PM-1 [HFN Jul '14], the P9 Signature from Bowers & Wilkins [HFN Mar '17], and Focal's Clear model [HFN Mar '18].

920ta.remA range of designs and technologies, then, from the closed-back P9s to the wide-open Clears and the two planar magnetic designs, but what was quickly apparent was the ability of the HA 200 to grab hold of a pair of headphones and drive them in an entirely convincing manner, both using conventional unbalanced connections and – where available – in balanced mode. If our review of the Solitaire P headphones noted that they were 'a good headphone waiting to become a truly great one', then listening to Dana Zemstov and Anna Fedorova's Silhouettes set [Channel Classics CCS 42320] in DXD through the HA 200, I couldn't help but think that moment of greatness had arrived.

It wasn't just the confident weight and delicacy of Fedorova's piano and the timbre and bite of Demstov's viola, but rather the open, spacious yet intimate acoustic captured in the recording, not to mention the obvious sympathy of the two's playing.

Out Of The Head
Switching to the Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature headphones brought a somewhat darker view of the music, but what was impressive was the way the HA 200 controlled what can sometimes be a slightly lush listen, creating an altogether sprightlier sound without losing any weight.

Suddenly that quality these headphones can deliver when driven very well, of a surprisingly enveloping soundscape, sometimes even with effects off when the producer has pulled a clever trick – either in opera recordings or with radio drama in particular – is fully realised. Whether with the P9s or the more open Focal Clears, what the HA 200 is able to do is create an entirely coherent 'out of the head' soundstage.


And that's without recourse to the crossfeed control, which can occasionally just make things a bit confused. Listening to the recently released Oslo Philharmonic/Vasily Petrenko recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade [Lawo Classics LWC 1198; DXD], the impression is one of large orchestral forces, persuasively recorded, and a free-breathing, uncompressed and hugely dynamic sound.

I've also never heard the Oppo PM-1 headphones driven so convincingly: powered by the HA 200 they take on even greater weight and precision, which serves well a recording such as Snarky Puppy's Live At The Royal Albert Hall set [Live Here Now; n/a cat no], with its large musical forces, tumbling rhythms and palpable audience presence. Even Ella Fitzgerald's 1956 Live At Zardi's set, from Qobuz [Universal/Verve 5798051; 192kHz/24-bit] sweeps the listener up in the atmosphere of the evening, the immediacy of the recording shining through.


And the jangle-pop of Sports Team's Deep Down Happy [Universal/Island 0872862] grabs the attention right from the off, thanks to the HA 200's mix of power and deftness, making every line of the lyrics crystal clear while allowing the music to continue its headlong rush. This may be very high-end, very serious hi-fi, but it knows how to have fun.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
You can quibble about what it doesn't do – I'd prefer built-in network and USB HDD playback, and analogue line outs – but what the HA 200 does, it does to sensational effect. Explore all its flexibility, wondering at the design and build, or treat all that as over-engineering, plug in a good pair of cans and let the music take you. If you take hi-fi headphone listening very seriously, you're going to love it.

T+A elektroakustik GmbH & Co. KG
Supplied by: The Audio Business Ltd, Wilts, UK
01225 704669