Oppo’s recent achievement in the audio universe has not gone unnoticed. I am almost certain they’ve made most other audio brands duck and run for cover, give up their lunch money and require a hall monitor to escort them safely to and from the restroom. These guys don’t mess around.

The HA-1: In “A Class” of its own.

Never before have I come across a DAC and amplifier combination that has as much to offer as this HA-1 from Oppo. Balanced output USB DACs in the $1000-1500 price tier are not at all common, even more rare to find one that doubles as a moderately powerful Class A amplifier with DSD capabilities for only $1199. I can dedicate a full report just to the objective, factual information regarding what the HA-1 is capable of, but I won’t and will draw clear lines between what I feel to be important objective information, as well as my subjective opinions:

The build quality on this machine is nothing short of stellar. At a hefty 13lbs, the unit feels incredibly heavy and solid. One thing that I noted immediately was that mesh heat-vent window on the top of the unit. I am not so sure this was a good idea, as it will allow dust to settle into the innards of the product and make it near impossible for me to clean if need be. I recommend you find some type of dust proof material to set on top of it. As it turns out, this amp can run fairly hot after being active for a while. In the image below, you can see dust particles annoyingly attached to the inner surface of the perforations on the grill vent. These are so hard to clean properly and near unavoidable.

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Fully Balanced XLR 4pin outputs along with a purified and true balanced signal from the Saber 9018 allow for raw, unbridled bass weight that is almost perfectly suited for usage with the PM-1 (Oppo’s recent Planar Magnetic headphone release). The use of balanced components allows for a slight noise reduction and in my experience tends to add a bit of bass weight. The interesting fact here is that Oppo did not go the lazy route. They made a complete balanced signal from start to finish; even the non-balanced output is derived from the balanced components inside. What does that mean? It means the HA-1 is one of very few fully balanced DAC/Amp combos available. Oppo claims the balanced output pushes 4 times the power (double the voltage) of the single ended output.

Click on next page for DAC and sound impressions…

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About The Author

Senior Reviewer

Self Proclaimed Musicality Guru, Photographer, Audiophile and part time Ninja. I started my audio journey back in 96' and haven't looked back. My ultimate goal in this life is to experience as many Hifi rigs as possible...because I am an audio addict.

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  • JRK

    Now compare to the equivalent Audio-gd amp!

    • Kristian Lindecrantz

      My thoughts exactly! Like the Audio gd nfb 28?

      • headfonics

        Good call, we already asked Audio-GD if they would kindly send us a sample for comparison as they seem to share common characteristics. If we get it we will review it.

    • 24bit

      I’ve had some quality control issues in the past, we also did reach out to them for a review unit so hopefully that comes to fruition in the near future.

  • Chimname

    Excellent review! It really gave me a good idea of whether the HA-1 was for me or not. I would have liked if there were more comparisons to other dac/amps around the price range other then the Conductor SL (I’m particularly interested in the Yulong DA8), but the review is detailed enough as it is. Thanks!

    • 24bit

      Thank you!

      The Conductor SL was the best sounding dac in the price tier that I’ve heard or tested, I don’t think the Yulong was up to par with it. I am not a writer who likes to talk about gear that I don’t have on hand to make direct comparisons about inside the actual review. Working off memory isn’t a credible way to review to me but I can safely say the Yulong DA8 is not as good as the Burson as my memory recalls. In pure clarity, I don’t recall the dac being something I immediately wanted to buy and it was incredibly colored. As Oppo did, the 9018 sabers best qualities were ignored and masked with some other components to make the sound less pure. Was it a good product? Hell ya, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about it with great detail or directly comparing without actually having it, so I apologize for that. 🙂

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  • Cotnijoe

    Im a little late to the party, but im a bit confused about your opinions about headphone pairing with the HA-1. You seen to say k812 user will be disappointed with the midrange… But will feel right at home with thr HA-1 because of treble and soundstage. Seems like a similar love hate relation with the HD800. Could you summarize your thoughts on how the HA-1 matched with those two?

    • 24bit

      The K812’s sound signature is accentuated by the HA-1, firm low end, plentiful mids and a good treble experience. These K812 core qualities are mirrored in the HA-1’s sound signature. The HD800 is not accentuated at all by the HA-1, due to the more recessed sound signature the HD800 has. The K812 and the HA-1 are a better fit. If you don’t care so much about the relaxed presentation type of the HD800, then the HA-1 is probably the best all around Dac+Amp combo available in the price range for it. You can get a nice colored tone out of the 1793, or a raw and clinical one with the 9018. But there are certainly better pairings for the HD800 than the HA-1.

      The HA-1 pushes the limits of what the K812 is capable of, but the HD800 exceeds the potential of the HA-1’s sound quality. The HD800 will scale up a bit and over the head of the HA-1. This won’t happen with the K812, the HA-1 maxes out the clarity potential of the K812 in my opinion.

      • Cotnijoe

        Thanks for the reply. So what would your conclusion be for the K812 with the 1793 burson vs HA-1?

        • 24bit

          I think the burson 1793 is the wisest choice if you want a very musical sound in tone, but with that you will get a noticeable downgrade in staging depth of field. The HA1 is just the swiss army knife of dacs/amps so for input and output needs you really can’t go wrong here. It has almost everything one would need. No need to go more expensive, as mentioned. I think the HA1 and the Burson are stretching the limits of the K812’s clarity, so either will be the brick wall for the headphone on that front.

          I’d sacrifice the super musical and colored tone of the Burson 1793 for the usefulness of the HA1. Balanced in and out, standard, USB thumb drive, RCA in and out, Optical, Bluetooth input, remote control, digital face all in the HA1…you just can’t beat that. It is relatively future proof so I would opt for the HA-1 because it sounds more like the 1793 Burson than it does the 9018 Burson. It is a good middle ground headphone amp and dac that wont color it up too much, also wont decolor it too much to make it sound super neutral and boring.

  • vick_85

    Hi Michael
    I need your advice…

    I’m in the market for a new dac/amp combo
    I’ve been using a Burson HA 160D for nearly 5 years and am looking to upgrade.

    I would like my new dac/amp to have greater resolution, deeper bass, weightier and punchier bass(when required), more open sound and greater detail retrieval but not sound too analytical/cold.

    Things I will use the dac/amp for
    1) listen to music. source pc> jRiver along with Jplay ASIO.
    2) watch blurays on my Pc. As long as its a good movie I watch it, it can be a period drama or a summer blockbuster or an Indie no one has heard of so the dac/amp should do well with movies.
    3) playstation connected to monitor and sound channeld through dac amp.
    4) netflix

    I listen to a lot of rock and classic rock plus the regular mainstream music pop, rap, r&b, edm, some jazz.

    Most of my music is 16/44 and some of it is in 24/48 or 24/92 format if the recording is available.

    I don’t like an in your face aggressive kind of sound because I have my headphones on for 4-5 hours a day and I don’t like the sensation of having my ears fried by the end of the session.

    Headphones I own: hd650, mdr Z7, lcd2 fazor, V moda M100 with xl pads, Shure Se846 and senn IE80
    Future buys: PM1 and AQ Nighthawk.
    Possible future buy: HD 800S depends on the reviews.

    Should I go for the conductor virtuoso ESS9018/PCM1793 or the ha1?

    Burson has the more powerful amp along with the option of swapping dac modules whereas the oppo has a balanced headphone jack along with the ability to accept bluetooth stream and iDevices without any additional devices. Its such a difficult choice.

    • 24bit

      I think you already have it right with the 160D in that tier, still what I recommend to most asking for amps/dacs in that price range and its one of my favorites. The Virtuoso is noticeably better than the HA-1, which in turn is noticeably better than the 160D. You’ll hate me for this, but I say stick with the 160D unless you are willing to pay for something like a Schiit Mjolnir that is a little bit better, but lacking the yumminess of the 160D. You will lose too much of the Burson sound if you step away from Burson lineup.

      If you want a relaxed sound signature that isn’t so forward or engaging, then go to head fi right now and buy this dudes used Heron 5 amplifier by Airist Audio. If the sale thread is still there, he is selling at $699, the Heron 5 is $2000 mspr new. The amp is hyper smooth and if you jump on it, you’ll have everything you want in an amp, then you can drop a few hundred in a dac and save nearly a thousand dollars. My review of it is due soon, its a great amp that meshes well with moderate to relaxed sounding headphones.

      If you go 9018 in most Dacs, you get a neutral tone. Oppo is a bit warmer on their 9018 in the HA-1, but their 1793’s are very musical and enjoyable. I don’t think you need to go as high as the Virtuoso, you should start as the Conductor series and see if you like them first, then move upwards. Or skip it all and try to score that Heron 5 for $699

      • vick_85

        Thank You for the swift reply.

        I really like the 160D because its simply a brilliant piece of kit, plus it and the HD650 for me are a match made in heaven.

        I’ve heard good things about the heron. Thanks for the heads up on the brilliant deal. The heron is still up for grabs lets see if I can work out a deal with the seller.

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