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Review of Beyerdynamic A200p portable USB DAC/amp with lots of pics!!!

OP vectron

16th April 2014, 06:09 PM   |  #1  
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This is a Review of Beyerdynamic A200p portable USB DAC/headphone amplifier. http://north-america.beyerdynamic.co...-200-p-us.html

For anybody who is serious about sound quality and invested into audiophile headphones, you know that DAC and amplifier are among the essential pieces of your audio chain. Also, you would know how expensive this equipment cost and how much space it will occupy. So what are you supposed to do if you want to enjoy your 300 ohm headphones with your smartphone? Or maybe you want to stream Netflix on your laptop and surround yourself with hi-fi sound? There is a number of portable solutions available to help you with this task, but NONE of them will come even close to a small size of Beyerdynamic A200p portable USB DAC/amp. I just had an opportunity to test A200p, and here is what I found.

Arrived in a very compact box, a size similar to Beyerdynamic in-ear headphones (MMX102ie and DX160ie) I recently reviewed, I actually expected this DAC to barely fit inside. There was plenty of info on the front and the back of the box, but no typical magnetic cover to reveal the actual product. I have a feeling Beyer guys did that intentionally to make a surprise even sweeter once you take A200p out of the box. When I say small, that wouldn't be even accurate. It's TINY, with a matchbox dimension of approximately 55mm x 55mm x 13mm and only 51g. It's hard to even believe that such a small footprint can host a powerful audiophile quality Wolfson WM8740 DAC (24bit/96kHz), an integrated rechargeable battery able to last up to 11hr, a capability to be connected to either Android or Apple smartphones or your laptop or computer, a set of Play/Pause and Skip song transport controls, a dedicated Power/Lock switch and a status LED indicator, and a large flush mounted volume control wheel covering the whole top of the device.

In addition to the DAC/amp, a very generous selection of accessories was provided, including micro-usb and lightning adapters, full size USB adapter which also serves as a charging cable, a beautifully crafted leather case, and a quick-start guide. In addition, a set of 3 self-adhesive rubber pads was included to help with turning of the volume wheel. Though the end of the cables attached to A200p had a proprietary connector, these are all very high quality cables and this particular connection was very secure. As a matter of fact, everything about this product screams high quality and solid build, and there is a very good reason for that. Beyerdynamic teamed up with one of the top premium portable audio equipment manufacturers, Astell & Kern, to update their award winning AK10 DAC/amp to transform it into A200p.

The operating principle of this device is very simple. You bypass internal DAC (digital to analog converter) which outputs internally to 3.5mm headphone jack on the phone or the laptop, and go straight with a digital data stream into A200p. In there, isolated from all the noisy components of your phones or computer, you convert to analog audio using one of the top quality audio DAC chips, and output to its own 3.5mm headphone jack where you plug in your headphones. The audio spec yielded some very impressive numbers with 0.008% of T.H.D. and 110dB signal to noise ratio, flat frequency response, and being able to support headphones with up to 600 ohm in impedance driven by an output level of up to 1.7 Vrms.

With such an impressive spec and design, the next step of testing was to determine how this translates into audio performance. Let me just tell you that using it with my ThinkPad T430s laptop transformed a sound quality significantly! You can have the best set of headphones and use only FLAC files - that will not overcome bottleneck of low quality hardware. Switching headphones connected from laptop to A200p felt like someone lifted a veil off the sound. The soundstage really opened up, the bass felt more detailed and faster, the midrange became crystal clear especially in upper mids (benefiting vocals significantly), and treble got more sparkle. Of course YMMV depending on your laptop hardware, but I was impressed with a change I experienced on my laptop. I also enjoyed how I was able to Play/Pause Windows Media player using A200p built in controls. Now keep in mind, this was a comparison using laptop as an audio player. Testing it with my Note 2 didn't yield the same drastic changes, but those changes were still noticeable. It had a similar impact of opening up the sound and making it a little bit brighter and detailed. Also, benefit of being able to control song playback and skipping between tracks was priceless. The included leather case was also a nice touch, but I wish they would have thought of a better way to integrate it with some attachments for your smart phone. In my opinion, it can probably work if you use a rubber or wrist band around your smartphone and attach the flap of the leather case underneath of it on the back of the phone.

Overall, I was very impressed with a design and a performance of this portable USB DAC/amp. If you have high impedance premium headphones, A200p probably going to be the smallest and very cost effective solution to connect these to your laptop or a smartphone. For a regular low impedance headphones, it's a lot easier to recommend A200p to anybody who wants to use it connected to your laptop since the sound improvement will be significant. For those with a smartphone and a typical low impedance headphones, it's all going to depend on the sound quality of your phone and being able to support digital audio output. Also, you will have to plan where/how are you going to place phone/DAC when using together. I would suggest for Beyerdynamic to include an optional longer micro-usb/lightning cable so you can keep your smartphone in the pocket with A200p clipped somewhere on your belt with headphones attached to it. But in general, this little device really deserves some consideration!

Here are the pictures.









































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16th April 2014, 07:52 PM   |  #2  
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Btw, I just got an update from Beyerdynamic (USA), next month they will be releasing 30 pin cable for A200p. Good news for those with iPod classic, iPhone 4, and older iPads!!!
22nd April 2014, 07:39 PM   |  #3  
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Thumbs up Test configuration with Note 2
Hi vectron,

thx for the test and the nice pictures.
I have a Galaxy Note 2 (GT-N7100) and I'm interested in the Beyerdynamic A200p.
However, the Galaxy Note 2 is not on the compatibility list for the Beyerdynamic A200p.
I contacted Beyerdynamic Germany and they confimed that they do not support the Note 2 with this DAC.
But it seems that you successfully tested this combination in your review.
Please can you post the test configuration for me:
Which Note 2? 7100 or 7105
Android 4.3?
Samsung or Custom-ROM?
Which player app? built-in player or a special USB player like USB Audio Player PRO or USB Audio Recorder PRO?
Connection between Note 2 and the A200p directly with the enclosed Beyerdynamic USB OTG cable?
Thanks!
22nd April 2014, 09:31 PM   |  #4  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wicked smattering

Hi vectron,

thx for the test and the nice pictures.
I have a Galaxy Note 2 (GT-N7100) and I'm interested in the Beyerdynamic A200p.
However, the Galaxy Note 2 is not on the compatibility list for the Beyerdynamic A200p.
I contacted Beyerdynamic Germany and they confimed that they do not support the Note 2 with this DAC.
But it seems that you successfully tested this combination in your review.
Please can you post the test configuration for me:
Which Note 2? 7100 or 7105
Android 4.3?
Samsung or Custom-ROM?
Which player app? built-in player or a special USB player like USB Audio Player PRO or USB Audio Recorder PRO?
Connection between Note 2 and the A200p directly with the enclosed Beyerdynamic USB OTG cable?
Thanks!

I have Verizon version, SCH-i605. Stock Android 4.3. Plays from EVERY audio app, stock Samsung player, Neutron, YouTube, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Pandora, etc. It doesn't matter which audio player. Note 2 supports digital audio over HDMI which comes out of micro-usb connector to bypass going to internal Note 2 dac. Yep, using Beyer micro-usb cable (it has proprietary connector going to A200p and regular micro-usb going to the phone). No need for any other OTG cables, Beyer/Astell&Kern included cable has it built-in.

Everything works perfectly. You can also use a charging cable with full usb connector to plug in to your laptop to use it as an external sound card. Also, works with new iPhone using lightning cable and soon they will release 30pin cable.

Btw, I just reviewed Beyerdynamic T51i headphones and used A200p in a review as well. Here are some more pictures how to attach A200p to Note 2.







11th May 2014, 03:29 PM   |  #5  
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Thumbs up
You should start your own blog.
A lot of general information, try to write more about personal experience
We also love read more about comparisons
About comparison, can you make this DAC review?
http://hifimediy.com/index.php?route...product_id=124
Last edited by Shezoid; 11th May 2014 at 03:34 PM.
12th May 2014, 02:06 AM   |  #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shezoid

You should start your own blog.
A lot of general information, try to write more about personal experience
We also love read more about comparisons
About comparison, can you make this DAC review?
http://hifimediy.com/index.php?route...product_id=124

One of these days, maybe. Too much time commitment while I still have a full time job, family/kids, and other projects... I know, comparison would be great, but I'm overloaded with review material and lately didn't have too much time to go back and to continue with analysis. What I'm trying to do now is to add a little bit of comparison in some of my new reviews.

Will check out that DAC, though you have to be realistic that $30 DIY dac is not in the same category as $300 brand name But, nevertheless, would be an interesting comparison. I will ping those guys for review sample.
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12th May 2014, 08:05 PM   |  #7  
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I hope you will be surprised how good it is, especially for its price
12th May 2014, 09:33 PM   |  #8  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shezoid

I hope you will be surprised how good it is, especially for its price

Will see I dropped them an email last night and got a reply right away, a review sample will go out this week. I'm sure it's better than a built in phone DAC, and probably will make a difference on my aging Note 2, but newer phones are getting better and better. Keep in mind, you are piping digital data from micro-usb connector, bypassing internal DAC, and you are using phones internal 5V supply to power up this external DAC. The package is small, so you can't do too much filtering of power supply (not enough room for discrete capacitors). As a result, you are powering up a high quality DAC with a noisy power supply feed. A200p has it's own rechargeable internal power supply to isolate it from phones power supply. Or something like FiiO E18 has internal power battery and big caps inside for a good filtering.

But nevertheless, I will be curious to compare and will write about it here!

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