Yamaha has officially announced the headphone amplification partner for its YH-5000SE headphones, following worldwide previews of the anticipated component in recent months.
The HA-L7A, which we got hands-on review time with at the High End Munich and Australian Hi-Fi shows earlier this year, is Yamaha’s first-ever high-end amplifier and has been designed to partner with its five-star flagship headphones (though any wired headphones can naturally be used with it).
While the L7A might be its debut headphone amp, the company certainly has a rich history of amplifier engineering as its foundation. Indeed, the Japanese brand says it took the patented Floating and Balanced Power Amplifier technologies at the core of its pre, power and integrated stereo amplifiers, and optimised them for headphone applications.
As the high-end price point demands (we’ll get to that later), Yamaha has seemingly taken exceptional care to limit noise and distortion in the name of clean, high-quality power and performance. Firstly, the three circuit boards (the main board that handles minute signals, the amplifier board, and the power supply board) are isolated from one another.
All circuitry is supposedly entirely independent of the ground, cancelling the effects of external ground-related noise, and the post-DAC stages have balanced circuity for fully balanced transmission (balanced conversion is also built in for conventional unbalanced inputs for consistency across the input sources).
Then there’s a dual toroidal transformer design, with the power supply using independent transformers for the minute-signal circuitry in the front stage and the amplifier section in the second stage. These two transformers sit directly above the power supply board, minimising the power supply path and creating a distinctive L-shaped chassis. Speaking of which, Yamaha promises to have created a highly rigid, 5.3kg-heavy chassis here to minimise the effect of vibrations – the top panel is made of 8mm-thick aluminium, the toroidal transformers are mounted firmly onto a 2mm-thick steel plate, and there’s also a double rear panel, and a unique heavy-duty housing featuring a bottom cover at the end. Five conical feet – one at each corner – with dampers between them and the bottom panel help absorb vibrations too.
The HL-L7A is unsurprisingly a digital-friendly machine, with USB type B, coaxial, and optical inputs fed by ESS Technology’s top-tier ES9038PRO 32-bit, 8-channel DAC chip, which features a dedicated master clock utilising a crystal oscillator with ultra-low phase noise, and applies four-channel conversion to both the left and right sides, in the name of accurate conversion.
There are also XLR and 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced headphone outputs in addition to a single unbalanced headphone connection, plus XLR and RCA pre-out/line-out outputs to allow the L7A to also be used as a DAC or preamplifier.
Yamaha is shouting from the rooftops about its new Sound Field mode, which offers six sound presets for creating the optimal sound field depending on the music or video source being played. Again, this sees Yamaha bringing the soundfield technologies and processing it has developed over the years for its AV receivers, into the headphone world.
So, we get to the price. The Yamaha HA-L7A is priced at £3499 / AU$6999, with UK availability commencing in November and Australian availability kicking off sometime in ‘Q4’. (We will update this article with pricing and availability information for the US market shortly.)
Will the HA-L7A prove a formidable rival for the class-leading Chord Hugo TT2 at this price level? While an initial listening to the HA-L7A and YH-5000SE during the High End Munich show gave us every impression that this is indeed a harmonious head-fi pairing, we can't wait to go twelve rounds with it in our test rooms in due course.
Read our hands-on Yamaha HA-L7A review
Read our full five-star Yamaha YH-5000SE review