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TEAC HA-P90SD: portable head-fi muscle at Fujiya Avic 2015

  • FA_2015_autumnImagine that you buy a Suzuki Swift only to realise post-purchase that it won’t go off-road. To remedy the shortcoming you buy a gearbox-less, steering-column-less Land Rover and rubber strap the Swift to its roof. With the hatchback’s steering column and gearbox wired into the 4WD below you ride up top. And now you’re set for some hectic off-road action. Crazy, huh?

    And yet in the portable audio world this practice isn’t uncommon. Many an ear-freak can be seen getting about with their luxury digital audio player rubber strapped to the back of a portable headphone amplifier, wires akimbo. Why? Because their DAP won’t go it alone with the likes of the Beyerdynamic T1 or the Sennheiser HD650.

    With the slow introduction of more portable-friendly headphone models, more lately in direct collaboration with Beyerdynamic themselves, Astell&Kern tacitly admit their players to be short on go juice. At RMAF this year HiFiMAN’s head honcho Dr Fang Bian described them as “terribly weak”.

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    Inverting the lower powered DAP trend is the TEAC HA-P90SD.

    At the Fujiya Avic headphone show in Nakano I witnessed first hand just how effortlessly the TEAC device can drive Beyerdynamic’s 600 Ohm T1 – not in a pinch but a cinch. Our table host confirms the spec sheet claim of  2 x 40mW (into 600 Ohms) by way of an OPA1602 output chip. A friendlier 32 Ohm load will see 2 x 170mW.

    But you don’t need to pop the lid to know that. In hand, the TEAC feels like an 4WD jeep looks. At 280g, it’s no flyweight. Those protective corner fins aren’t for show – they mean business.

    As one might surmise from its model name, the HA-P90SD started life as a headphone amplifier. Only later did TEAC add a Burr Brown PCM1975 DAC. Data is clocked in by two independent oscillators: one for 44.1/88.2/176.4kHz, the other 48/96/192kHz. This is serious stuff. DSD256 and PCM up to 24bit/192kHz are yours for the feeding.

    How to supply the HA-P90SD with digital audio? On top a 4-way 3.5mm port: analogue input, optical input, coaxial input and output (for DDC pass through). The downward facing USB ports accommodate desktop/laptop PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones. Strap on if you must…

    …but TEAC have also added transport functionality to the mix. A (rudimentary) low noise screen, see/saw rocker switch (up/down) and select button are used to navigate the contents of a side-mounted microSD card. That’s the ‘SD’ in HA-P90SD.

    On run time from a fully battery charge, TEAC rate based upon the unit’s most resource-intensive scenario – decoding DSD – with which you can expect around 6 hours’ playback.

    Winning precisely zero cool factor awards, the HA-P90SD’s interface is agricultural at best. This isn’t a product for the mainstream, not by a long shot, but for hardcore audiophiles it might just enough to ditch the two-fer of DAP + DAC/amp.

    The TEAC HA-P90SD is available worldwide in red and black finishes for a non-outrageous JPY70,000 (~US$700). A DAP that can accommodate more demanding headphones? It’s rugged, a little rough around the edges but ideal for off-road action right out of the box. No strap on required.

    Further information: TEAC Japan

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    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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