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Oppo HA-2SE Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC: The audio Swiss army knife

By Kenny Yeo - 8 Apr 2017

Oppo HA-2SE Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC: The audio Swiss army knife

The Oppo HA-2SE features a chassis wrapped with genuine leather. (Image source: Oppo)

This article first appeared in HWM January 2017 issue.

The new Oppo HA-2SE is the update to very popular HA-2 from 2015. The new HA-2SE looks identical to its predecessor, which is also to say it looks stunning. It is crafted out of aluminum and features sharply beveled edges and a "stitched" genuine leather casing that makes nice to touch and easy to hold.

The HA2-SE also retains the same switches and connectivity options as its predecessors. There’s two digital inputs: a USB Type-A port for use with iOS devices, and a micro-USB port for use with PCs and Macs and Android devices, and also a single analog input in the form of a 3.5mm audio jack. 

The HA-2SE can play music from up to three sources. A: USB, B: micro-USB, and C: line-in.

A nifty switch at the bottom allows users to select between the three inputs. When using the digital inputs, the 3.5mm input jack automatically turns out a line-out jack, allowing the HA-2SE to work as a standalone DAC and be paired with a separate amplifier.

Though the HA-2SE hasn’t changed in looks, it has received major internal updates. The DAC chip has been updated to ESS Sabre’s latest ES9028-Q2M chip and improvements have been made to the amplifier section to lower the noise floor and improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

If you are connected to a digital source, the line-out jack can be used to output analog signals to a separate amplifier.

Without the older HA-2 to test, we cannot say definitively that this new version is better. What we can say, however, is that it immediately and noticeably improves playback with just about any source and headphones that we threw at it. Whether we are playing from our iPhones or PCs using our headphones or in-ear monitors, the HA-2SE makes everything sound cleaner, smoother, punchier and more dynamic. The HA-2SE also has a bass boost switch that immediately adds more oomph to tracks, but be sure to use it sensibly as it can make the bass notes on certain tracks sound muddier.

Here we can see the bass boost switch and the low and high gain switch. There's also a handy battery level indicator.

A final trick up its sleeves is that the HA-2SE can also work as a portable external power bank. It has a capacity of 3,000 mAh, which is sufficient to provide most smartphones with a full charge.

All in all, the HA-2SE is a sleek and highly functional and useful little audio gadget that all audiophiles who love listening to music while on the move should have.

The Oppo HA-2SE is retailing at S$479, available via their website and official retailers.

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