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DAC - Fostex HP A8C
A JAPANESE MAGICIAN

I-INTRODUCTION.

The Japanese manufacturers are most of the time separated in two categories: those addressing the mass market like SONY for example, and those addressing the extremely small high end market such as STAX, SHINDO or YAMAMOTO.
Their approcah has always been particular, simple and efficient.
FOSTEX was founded in  in 1973 and employs more than 20,000 persons around the world. The nrad is a major player in the music industry, particularly in the recording studios via their digital recorders, their monitors loudspeakers.
This brand is also well known for its wide band speakers, such as the FE 103, FE 108, FE 168 and FE 208, which have been highly regarded for more than 30 years....
It also produces small speakers for Apple as an OEM manufacturer.

The current product range is wide: there are 5 DACs in their catalog:
  • a tube based, portable DAC, ref: HP-V1
  • an entry model: HP-P1
  • a new one: HP-A3
  • the intermediate model: HP-A4
  • and the top of the line: the HP-A8C

We have reviewed the most interesting model : the HP-A8C.



II-THE FOSTEX HP-A8C DAC.

This DAC has not been released for a long time. It includes a preamplifier, a DAC and a headphone amplifier, The DAC is the well known
AKM 4399 operating on 32 bits.
HPA8_devant.png


and this is the rear face:
HPA8_arriere.jpg

If you carefully look at ti, you notice that there is SD Card slot: this one was useful with the previous firmware versions, but it is therefore useless.

There are a lot of connectors, we can just notice that the XLR connectors are missing. The optical connectors are the crappy TOSLINK, and we obviously regret that the ST optical connectors are available only on the most costly models nowdays.

The look is excellent with a beautiful black finish and the weight, reaching 4kg, lets hope a decent power supply.


III-THE SETUP.

As usual, we maintain the setup along the years in order to help you with comparing the reviews and devices performance.
The previous DIY DAC has been replaced by the FOSTEX on the SPDIF input
.
config-ref2.jpg
Our also well known "dematerialized" setup has been used to test the device with varous files: 24/96, and 192 DSD.
 
config_demat.jpg

IV-THE LISTENING SESSION.

We strongly recommand to firstly install the latest firmware version available for download on the FOSTEX website.
If you plan to lesson to DSD files, we recommand you to NOT use the SD card but instead to download the free FOSTEX player available on the FOSTEX website: therefore, your DSD files will be playable without any need to move...
 
PlayerFostex.jpg
 
The burn in period seemed a bit longer than usual: approximately 300 hours.
During the first listening, we did not feel anything particular: this DAC is neutral, quick enough and with beautiful timbres. It is only after a long listening session that you begin to really appreciate this DAC: you become addict very quickly ! The "foot taping" syndrom is present...

If you plan to use headphones, the match with the TH900 is perfect.

This DAC merits a lot of congratulations, particularly when it is compared to many competitors, costing very ofte, much more.



V-.CONCLUSION.

It is only the second time that a low priced DAC gets our congratulations. The first one was the NuForce HDP, and the other ones are our absolute references such as the WADIA 9, the COUNTERPOINT DA-10 full upgrade with the 24/96 Rapture Premium card, etc... but their price is not in the same range...
The price of this FOSTEX is in the average of the common DACs, but if we compare it to the others DACs (excluding our absolute references) it will surely be in the 3 best ones.
The headphone output is excellent and perfectly matches with the TH900: this our reference setup when it comes to headphones.


Pros:
  • excellent volume control: step by step with 0.5dB per step.
  • beauty of the timbres
  • speed and transcient response
  • includes a preamplifier
  • excellent headphones output
  • reasonnable price: €1,650, compared to its performance
  • if you want something better, prepare yourself to pay €10,000....

Cons:

  • we prefer the 1X setup, the other alternaives being useless
  • the latest 3.02 version of the firmware is mandatory to get the best out of it
  • the SD slot at the back is useless with the latest firmware
  • the headphone output is not compatible with every headphone, for example the Sennheiser HD800
  • the optical connectors are TOSLINK only, whereas only the ST standard is serious
 
TL_5.jpg
This article was written by Florent and Nounours on December 2014.

Creation date : 12/07/2014 @ 21:44
Last update : 21/01/2015 @ 13:52
Category : DAC
Page read 8225 times


Print the article Print the article

Reactions to this article


Reaction #4 

by Nounours18200 08/12/2015 @ 19:52

Bonjour,
Je vous conseille de contacter directement Florent (mon co-administrateur) en lui posant la question par mail (cliquez sur son nom ci-dessus, à la fin de l'article) : comme c'est lui qui possède ces 2 DACs, il saura vous répondre bien mieux que moi.
Merci et welcome sr ThresholdLovers.

Reaction #3 

by Sebas75010 07/12/2015 @ 20:45

Bonjour, Possedant l' Icon HDP avec l'alim optionnelle Nuforce 96K, pensez vous que le Dac Fostex amène une amélioration notable? De plus pensez vous tester prochainement le Dac Nuprime DAC 10H

Reaction #2 

by provence13 19/01/2015 @ 19:30

Bonjour,
Nous n'avons pas encore eu la possibilité de faire un essai mais nous y pensons.
Cordialement

Reaction #1 

by BDN 18/01/2015 @ 11:04

Bonjour,

Dans la saga des DAC, envisagez vous de mettre en compétition le DAC MYTEK 192 DSD qui reçoit les plus grandes éloges sur la scène internationale ?

Musicalement votre
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