Audio-Technica Woos Headphone Elites with New DAC Headphone Amp Combo
Audio-Technica has long been one of our favorite AV companies. They make quality products that appeal to all types of consumers. Are you a headphone neophyte that wants to dip their toe into great-sounding headphones? Audio-Technica has a headphone for you (the M50 line). Do you want to relive your high school days by listening to all your old records? Audio-Technica has a turntable for you. They make gear that appeals to entry-level consumers and the more elite AV enthusiasts. The Audio-Technica AT-BHA100 and AT-DAC100 DAC and headphone amp combo fall squarely in the latter camp.
The AT-DAC100 is the DAC half of the combo with the Audio-Technica AT-BHA100 headphone amp. This DAC literally has all the bells and whistles. It supports up to 768 kHz, 32-bit (linear PCM) and 22.4 MHz (DSD) audio. It is made to work well with vacuum tube pre-amps by suppressing high-frequency noise output. The AT-DAC100 offers two USB inputs (USB-C and USB-B), plus optical and coaxial digital inputs, plus a single set of analogue RCA inputs for greater flexibility of connections.
The lights on the front let you know exactly what resolution you are enjoying and there is a single knob that allows you to switch between the different inputs. The internals of the AT-DAC100 are of the highest quality from the likes of AKM, Analog Devices, Texas Instruments, Nichicon, and WIMA.
Audio-Technica AT-BHA100 Balanced Headphone Amp
The Audio-Technica AT-BHA100 headphone amp is the perfect companion to the AT-DAC100 DAC. This unique device features a hybrid vacuum tube/solid state design that is sure to appeal to Audiophiles. It allows listeners to use any type of headphone including those that have balanced audio connections (an XLR cable instead of a 1/4″ TRS plug). But first…the tubes!
The Audio-Techica AT-BHA100 headphone amp has a 4.4 mm (0.17-inch) TRRS jack and a 4-pin XLR terminal for compatibility with a wide range of balanced headphones, along with two 1/4-inch (6.3 mm) jacks. Those two 1/4″ outputs have independent volume controls. This is essential when you are trying to compare two different headphones as it allows you to level-match them. Someone spending this much money on a headphone amp/DAC combo like the Audio-Technica AT-BHA100 and AT-DAC100 certainly will be auditioning some headphones!
Costs and Power Supplies
One thing to note about these two devices is that the power supplies are external. That’s what makes the boxes so small and compact. It also means they have large in-line power supplies for each device. Something to be aware of when planning your cable routing.
If this all sounds very expensive to you, you wouldn’t be wrong. For components of this quality and care, you’d expect a premium price tag. The Audio-Technica AT-DAC100 will run you $699 and the AT-BHA100 costs a dollar under a grand. Is it worth it? If you are committed to high-bitrate audio files and vacuum tubes, this headphone/DAC combo represents quite the value. If you are looking to give your headphones a little more juice or lower the noise floor coming from your computer, these are overkill.