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A tale of two cities with the OPPO Digital Sonica DAC, HA-2SE

  • hpfes2016-200OPPO Digital’s range of Sonica products will soon comprise two wireless multi-room speaker models. We might (lazily) think of them as OPPO’s take on a Sonos Play:1 and Play:3. However, each Sonica speaker sports a handful of fundamental differences to the Santa Barbara-born old timers: DLNA, Bluetooth and AirPlay compatibility. The latter turns each Sonica – or each L/R pair – into a Roon endpoint.

    At both RMAF 2016 and the Tokyo Headphone Festival, the Chinese/American manufacturer teased a pre-production version of another new Sonica product: the Sonica DAC. Once again, there’s a twist. This DAC includes a DLNA-capable network streaming module, one that can also distribute the digitised version of its analogue input to other Sonica devices.


    For those who like to play a mental game of DAC chip wars, the Sonica DAC features ESS Labs’ latest flagship silicon – the 9038PRO with Hyperstream II tech. Pragmatists know that a DAC’s audible traits stem from far more than the chip choice. Power supply and output stage being two biggies.

    The Sonica DAC will begin shipping in November with an MSRP of US$799.

    OPPO Digital have also kept their portable DAC/amplifier up with Jones’ by adding ESS Labs’ lower-power flagship chip, the 9028Q2M, and improving the unit’s ‘gain structure’ to bring hiss-sensitive CIEM users back into the fold. These are what lift the HA-2 to Special Edition status. The price remains the same at US$299.

    At the Denver Marriott Tech Center hotel, OPPO Digital’s Stateside rep Christopher Vick introduces us to both new models and also covers some of the finer points:

    In Japan, OPPO Digital is represented by Emilai. Company mainman Kenzo Kono has the biggest smile and possibly the best spoken English of any local audio dude. He lived in Phoenix, AZ for several years before returning to his home country to start a family.

    Two weeks after RMAF 2016 at the Tokyo Headphone Festival, Kono re-introduces us to the Sonica DAC and also shows us its back panel connectivity options:

    Kono is the business brain behind Emilia. His offsider Kotaro Shima is more technically-minded. On the floor at the Nakano Sun Plaza event, Shima-San had a prop not seen in the USA: an HA-2 SE with its lid lifted:

    Further information: OPPO Digital | Emilai Japan


    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile. John used to live in Sydney. Now he lives in Berlin.

    Follow John on YouTube or Twitter


    1. Too bad the Sonica DAC does not include a Roon end point client. That would be a killer product in my opinion.

    2. Hoe you’ll eventually do a wls speaker series review…. not just Bluetooth but also can do 24/192 flac etc.. like the new oppo sonica and sonica grand, the new denon series, blue sound etc… does older b&w zeppelin still stack up. It’s a fast growing segment.

    3. No headphone jack or amp in the Sonica DAC? Why would they use the best ESS DAC chip with lowest noise and then put a noisy switching supply in it? Why not use a linear supply? And no way to bypass it with an external linear supply? Why try to make a statement product and then skimp on parts?

      • But it wouldn’t then fall into line with the more affordable spirit of the Sonica and
        Sonica Grand. In other words, this isn’t a statement piece.

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