Disclaimer: Bakoon International Products sent us the Bakoon HPA-01M just for this review. Last time we got a review sample from the German distributor, this time it came directly from South Korea.
A few months ago Mr. Soo In Chae, Director of Bakoon, asked me by email “If I was interested in reviewing the brand new HPA-01M?”. I reviewed their TOTL amplifier, the HPA-21, in November 2013 and I can still remember how it sounds. It made that big of an impression on me. Logically I was interested in reviewing the HPA-01M and one of two first production samples was sent to me. I think the other one went to 6moons. I consider it a real honor to get the HPA-01M as one of the first in the world.
For those of you who don’t know Bakoon, I do advise you to read up on our HPA-21 review. In short, Bakoon is located in South Korea, and they have developed the SATRI circuit that is also being used in this headphone amplifier. Their latest amplifier, just like its big brother, also offers the listener a “Current” and “Voltage” headphone output. The 01M is an analog type headphone amplifier like the CypherLabs Picollo, and we really loved that one. The HPA-01M comes in a really simple brown card wood box with a charger and two white bands saying “For Ears And Years”
Bakoon has already made several amplifiers but they were always desktop sized and heavy. This time they wanted to offer the typical SATRI sound to audiophiles “on the go” and so they developed a Miniature version of the HPA-01 headphone amplifier.
If you look at the 01M you will see it isn’t really Miniature, it actually measures 95 mm (W) x 140 mm (D) x 17.5 mm (H) and weighs about 1kg. As a result we should rather call it transportable instead of portable. Unless you’re carrying it around in your man bag of course. Nothing wrong with that, this is a desktop sound quality rig.
The HPA-01M uses the same technology as the HPA-01 but in Miniature. It has a perfectly working and already renowned full discrete, zero negative feedback, SATRI Circuit inside. They managed to throw out quite a number of components without having a negative impact on the sound quality. Design wise I love the new Bakoon amp. It is made out of one solid block of aircraft grade aluminum and it has a minimalistic design with trendy stripes on the right side. It’s gorgeous. At last years’ CANJAM Europe there was a prototype of the HPA-01M. Back then the lay-out was still a little different as you can see in the picture (input not in the front) but it already sounded excellent with the Audeze + LCD-X.
The Black Box
The HPA-01M comes in three colors: grey, black and gun metal. My version is the black one. On the front you’ll find the 3.5mm in- an output, the power switch and the gain switch (for current mode) and of course the volume dial that, like with Astell&Kern, has been incorporated inside the case. It isn’t always the easiest to turn but it surely is safely tucked away in there. I have to admit I would have loved to have seen a 6.3mm output, as I now always have to use the adapter. On the left side you’ll find the charger connector and that’s all there is to see.
Maybe you remember it from my previous review but the Bakoon amplifier is battery operated. The amplifier doesn’t work while the batteries are charging and it takes up to 3.5 – 4 hours for a complete charge (80% after 2 hours). One charge will guarantee you about 8 hours of musical bliss. I have been pairing the HPA-01M with my AK240 a lot and both always ran out of battery around the same time. When the M is turned on, a minuscule orange LED on the front lights up. A minute or ten before your battery dies on you an extra red LED will turn on. It’s a nice idea, yet in real life I never noticed the mini red light turning on and it left me amp-less quite a few times. Be warned.
The full tech specs of the HPA-01M can be found here on the Bakoon webpage.
Sound and more on the next page!