Sennheiser unveils HDVA 600 analog headphone amp, asks for $1,600

Alexis Santos
A. Santos|09.01.12

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Sennheiser unveils HDVA 600 analog headphone amp, asks for $1,600

Along with a few IFA 2012 announcements, Sennheiser peeled back the wraps from its HDVA 600 headphone amp, an analog flavor of the previously unveiled HDVD 800. Like its sibling, the freshly revealed hardware sports a glass panel for peeking at its innards and an anodized aluminum exterior, but leaves the digital inputs behind. While the 800 carries a hefty $2,000 price tag, the 600 will set customers back a smaller -- but still substantial -- sum of $1,600. Both units are tailored for the likes of Senn's flagship HD 800 headphones, so they should easily be able to drive cans that require up to 300-ohms. The pair won't be available in the US until later this fall, but in the meantime, you can breeze past the break for specs and more details in the press release.

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Sound perfected: Sennheiser presents its analogue and digital headphone amplifiers

OLD LYME, Conn. – August 31, 2012 - Building a hi-fi device that sounds so brilliant, so crystal clear and so free of distortion as if one were sitting right in front of the audio source. Creating a level of acoustics that surpasses everything that has gone before. These are the visions that drive Sennheiser in the development of its high-end products.

After recently having presented its first digital headphone amplifier, the audio specialist Sennheiser announces at IFA 2012 that it will also launch an analogue version of the device, available in the U.S. later this fall. Both the digital HDVD 800 ($1,999.95) and the analogue HDVA 600 ($1,599.95) have a fully symmetrical layout and promise a unique listening experience. They harmonize perfectly with the High-End headphone line HD 800, HD 700, HD 650 and HD 600.

The outstanding features of the new headphone amplifiers include a balanced sound image, maximum precision and impressive spatiality. The high-end devices have a fully symmetrical layout for operation with analogue audio sources, thus ensuring absolutely symmetrical signal transmission from the source to the headphones. Especially designed for the use with digital sources, the HDVD 800 features an extra high-quality Burr-Brown digital/analogue converter that converts digital audio data into analogue signals with a resolution of 24 bits and a sampling rate of up to 192 kHz. This enables the HDVD 800 to transmit the entire frequency spectrum of high-end audio sources without any loss of frequencies.

"The search for perfect sound is a constant motivation for us to develop new ideas," said Maurice Quarré, Director Product Lifecycle Management Sennheiser Consumer Electronics. "The best example is the legendary Orpheus. These electrostatic headphones with a vacuum tube amplifier, which came onto the market around 20 years ago, have become an icon in the audio world. With the new headphone amplifiers, Sennheiser is now taking up the tradition of the Orpheus, providing music lovers with the perfect combination of Sennheiser headphones and a specially matched amplifier."

Cutting-edge technology, top-quality sound
Signal processing in the HiFi devices is fully symmetrical. That means that not only the signal input into the amplifier is symmetrical but also the signal output and therefore the connection to the headphones. "The fully symmetrical principle effectively compensates for interference and distortion. The sound therefore becomes much clearer as total harmonic distortion is minimised," explained Axel Grell, Sennheiser's High-End Product Manager at Sennheiser. However, the headphones can also be connected using a normal 6.3 mm jack plug. The amplifiers are also equipped with an asymmetrical input socket; when using this input, the incoming signals are symmetrised before further processing takes place. On the HDVD 800 digital sources are connected to the rear of the unit as an AES/EBU input or S/PDIF (optical and coaxial). The digital version is featured with an extra USB input, which offers 24 bit data transmission at 192 KHz*.

In order to fully exploit the sound potential of the HDVD 800 with any audio source, a rotary gain switch at the rear of the unit provides simple adaptation of the amplifier output to the audio input voltage. This ensures that the dynamic range can be used to its full extent.

Sophisticated materials for a premium touch
A glass panel embedded in the aluminium housing of the amplifier gives a clear view of the top-quality interior of the devices. Selected components and sophisticated circuitry promise the ultimate in listening pleasure. The rotary potentiometer is mechanically connected to the volume control by a 150mm long shaft. This unusually long potentiometer shaft allows the signal path between the audio source and the potentiometer to be kept very short, thus preventing possible interference of the signal. High-quality components (Alps RK 27 quad) ensure that the volume is controlled with maximum precision and a fine rotary 'feel'. Also visible through the glass panel are the cooling element, the audio relay and countless MELF resistors for the amplifier. "The material selection has been thought through down to the finest detail in order to fully exploit the amplifier's sound potential. The audio aspects of each individual component were evaluated in listening tests before the optimum combination was finally chosen," said Maurice Quarré.

And such meticulous attention has also been applied to the exterior. Both, the housing and the potentiometer control as well as the rotary switch for selecting the source are made of anodised aluminium, while the front panel of the housing and the controls are milled from solid material. The HDVD 800 and the HDVA 600 were developed and designed in Germany, and the latest members of Sennheiser's high-end series are also being manufactured there.

The new analogue HDVA 600 and the digital HDVD 800, which are being introduced at IFA in Berlin today, will be available in the U.S. later this fall, and will also be on display at CanJam at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver, CO between October 12th and 14th.

*Driverless operation on a Mac from operating system OS 10.5 onwards. A driver is included for Windows computers from XP operating system onwards for 192 kHz operation.

Technical Data for HDVD 800 and HDVA 600

Dimensions and weight
WxHxD (mm) Approx. 216x55x324
Weight (kg) 2.2

Power supply
Input voltage 100..240 V AC / 50..60 Hz
Power consumption < 30 VA

Audio inputs
Analogue input (XLR-3)
Max. input voltage (symmetrical, eff) 20 dBV
Input impedance 10 kOhm

Analogue input (RCA)
Max. input voltage (eff) 14 dBV
Input impedance 10 kOhm

Audio data
Frequency response 0.3 Hz to 100 kHz (-3 dB)
Total harmonic distortion < -110 dB (1 kHz / maximum gain)

Digital features of HDVD 800

Digital SPDIF (RCA)
Max. sampling frequency 192 kHz (AES3-compatible)
Max. resolution 24 bit

Digital SPDIF (TosLink)
Max. sampling frequency 192 kHz (AES3-compatible)
Max. resolution 24 bit

Digital AES/EBU (XLR-3)
Max. sampling frequency 192 kHz (AES3-compatible)
Max. resolution 24 bit

USB standard USB 2.0 / USB 3.0
USB audio class USB Audio 2.0

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