Published on August 18th, 2016 | by Greg0
Matrix’s HPA-2C: A Classic Desktop Amp/DAC
There’s so much great music in the world, and it’s a shame that it often ends up being played back through tiny earbuds, wonky speakers, via compressed streams, using small and underpowered devices. There are lots of ways you can improve your experience, and while some are as easy as getting better files, one of the biggest and most important upgrades you can make is to get a good pair of headphones. Assuming you’ve done those two things, there is one more logical step, which is our focus today.
If you listen to digital music with a computer, you’ve probably wondered about how the music makes it’s way to your ears. The trick is with circuitry, specifically digital-to-analog conversion, and a DAC helps the process by using dedicated and separate pathways. The Matrix HPA-2C Classic is basically like adding an high-end express train to your system- plug it into your computer with USB cables, and then plug your headphones into the DAC. It also serves as an amp, like many competitors, and is flexible enough to serve as a pre-amp or even an amp-only. That’s an improvement over the predecessor, though it still supports up to a maximum of 24bit/192kHz natively.
Though the packaging isn’t impressive, the initial impressions of the unit were. The HPA-2C nicely hefty, with an all-metal body and a lovely finish, a textured volume knob, slightly recessed front ports, and an unusual shape with rounded edges. We burned in the unit for a couple of dozen hours before throwing some FLAC files of various genres through a few different pairs, from closed electrostatic to dual-driver IEMs. The most sensitive IEMs did suffer from a little hum, but there was no trouble with even harder-to-drive over-ear pairs. The sound signature was fairly neutral, if not flat then just slightly warm, and can pump up details, power, and boost the soundstage of just about every type of music.
The HPA-2C does offer two gain settings, via a front-panel switch, though you’ll probably just want to leave it at the lower setting. There are dual RCA ports too, for both input and output. In it’s class, the latest from Matrix is one of the sleekest units, as long as you aren’t looking for anything portable. Smooth volume adjustment, satisfying tactile sense, and a great depth all add up to a friendly, energetic DAC/amp. Expect to spend around $289 for the Matrix HPA-2C is silver or black, online and in stores.