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andrew_cawood's picture
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Sony PHA-1

I'd been considering the Fostex HP-P1 but seduced by the dual funtionality of the PHA-1, I took a punt on one and ordered it from Japan. It arrived yesterday after taking around 3 weeks (3 days in actual transit and 2.5 weeks sat in customs!).

First impressions are good, the design and build are superb, and I'm impressed by the step up in sound quality from the ipod, but I do have a problem. Using the USB from a mac creates buzzing and distortion - at first I thought it was a fault, but then I tested it on my wife's PC and it automatically downloaded some drivers and worked perfectly. 

For some reason it doesn't automatically install drivers for the mac and I can't find any to download on the net - would seem odd if they created a device to work with an Ipod that didn't also work with a mac!

Any ideas?

 

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RE: Sony PHA-1

Smile  Worked it out now. Needed to change settings in Audio MIDI to 96hz 2ch-24 - it was buried in the Japanese instructions.

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RE: Sony PHA-1

I'm also very tempted by this one! The fact that it works on a computer and an iPhone and a Galaxy phone is really appealing!

Have you compared it to any other similar DAC + amps?

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RE: Sony PHA-1

Hi quadpatch

Unfortunately I don't have a direct portable comparator (read your review of the HP-P1 with interest BTW), I've playing about a bit though:

1. Ipod > Pure I20 > Beresford Caiman Gatorized

2. Ipod > Pure I20 > Beresford > Graham Slee Novo

3. Mac > MF VDACII > AudioEngine N22 headphone out

IMO It stands up well against 1 (much more spacious) and 3 (quite similar), but 2 is slightly better with more defined bass, and less sibilance.

In terms of headphones, I've tried AKG K702, Beyer DT1350, Westone 4R. It has no problem driving any of them, but then none are particularly power hungry. The sibilance was only really a problem with the AKGs and it seems to be getting better (or my ears are getting used to it). 

There's a few things I really like about it, the volume pot is very nice and weighted beautifully, I can't hear any background noise even with the IEMs and the rubber band attachments are nicely thought through. 

After I bought it I noticed Rakuten were doing a good deal on it (£250 + duty) which unfortunately I missed - I just checked and they've sold out now. 

 

 

 

 

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RE: Sony PHA-1

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the info, that's a really nice comparison! I see so it can't quite stand up to the Graham Slee, and that doesn't surprise me at all. I must say I was hoping for a little bit more from the Fostex HP-P1, it was decent, but I wish we could squeeze a bit more out of something so expensive so I am really curious about this Sony and the new CEntrance.

Shame about Rakuten, I had never heard of that place before. Did you get yours from eBay?

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RE: Sony PHA-1

I got mine through a company called shopping in Japan, with duty it ended up costing around £400, which I think is a little expensive. 

Rakuten is Japan's answer to Amazon, they recently bought Kobo and Play.com - the Sony's back up there now and even a little cheaper at £243. Would probably be just under £300 with shipping and duty costs. Which having played with it for a while now, i would say is a fair price. 

http://global.rakuten.com/en/store/mikasacamera/item/4905524889116/?s-id=borderless_browsehist_02_en

The Centrance seems to be the one that most of the headfiers are excited about, and they seem to have a very inclusive approach to product development which is nice. But according to their comparison page of similar items it will eventually retail for more than the HP-P1. 

I am enjoying the Sony, it might even be good for my health - I've been taking a few strolls in the snow while listening. The DT1350s work as excellent ear muffs too.  :grin:

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RE: Sony PHA-1

Hey thanks for the heads up on the Rakuten price! For £300 I am very tempted it must be said. 

Haha I was out in the snow playing with the V-Moda M-100 today - still trying to love them - with some EQ on Dubstep it was really quite impressive, it got fatiguing after an hour or so, but that's not really the headphone's fault :P. Anyway they also act very well as earmuffs :).

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RE: Sony PHA-1

I just tried buying the PHA-1 through Rakuten, unfortunately it goes through a reseller and Rakuten leave the rest of the transaction to them. The other down side is that they want to tack on an exrta £50 on top for the money transfer, so with that and postage, VAT, Duty and admin fees it's going to go up well over another £100. That's just put it into the annoying territory for me so I am asking to cancel. I don't know why they don't just allow you to do Paypal but there you go Sad

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RE: Sony PHA-1

That's really annoying - I don't blame you for pulling out. Seems like the Ryanair pricing model again! 

But keep an eye on the price, the Yen seems to be really sliding against the pound. 

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RE: Sony PHA-1

Hey Andrew, They wouldn't take paypal so thankfully they were OK with me cancelling the order. I was getting really excited about getting it too. I will keep an eye on the place you bought yours from and see what happens.

I have also sent an email to Sony asking if there's any likelihood of EU availability for the PHA-1 in the near future. It was difficult to find a good email address for them so I'm not sure if they will respond. The distributor who helped me out with the Fostex stuff also deals with some Sony products so I will try to get him to enquire also. It would be a shame if this model doesn't make it over here. There are so few DACs that work with my phone, even less with the iPhone so I would have thought this would be a no-brainer, especially if they can keep it cheaper than the HP-P1. 

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RE: Sony PHA-1

I wouldn't expect too much from Sony UK on this one just yet, I called their customer service with my initial problem. They hadn't heard of it, had no record of it, and after a day they left me a message to say they couldn't find anything out about it. Let's be fair, at least they tried! 

After a bit more use, I'd describe the sound as extremely clean. Perhaps a little too clean and digital with certain types of music. I'm currently listening to some 24/96 piano music and it's quite lean and even harsh sounding. Time to stop I think! 

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