Bakoon International Products HPA-01M: For Ears And Years

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.

 

box HFN Lieven round kader

 

Bakoon

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”

HPA-01M

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!

Bakoon International Products HPA-01M: For Ears And Years
3.22 (64.44%) 9 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

18 Comments

  • Reply March 17, 2015

    cs098

    Interesting, do you think it can power the hd-6? Sounds like a great amp for bright headphones. Or people who adores the dark sound.

    • Reply March 17, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      The only HD-6 I know is the Sennheiser DJ headphone and that shouldn’t be any problem 😉

      Darker isn’t the right work, unless you find the LCD2 dark. I wouldn’t call it an amp for brighter headphones just cause it works great for the T90. The T90 will always sound like the T90, no matter the amp

      • Reply March 17, 2015

        cs098

        lol he-6 XD

        Yeah I find the lcd 2 to be dark

        • Reply March 19, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          I’d recommend the HPA-01 or HPA-21 for the Hifiman

    • Reply March 19, 2015

      ohm image

      I’m really beginning to enjoy darker sound.

  • Reply March 20, 2015

    Shini44

    will you update the Hugo (as a dac) + this amp, in this review? or create a whole new one for the epic pair? i do own a hugo, yet not a fan of the amp section of the hugo.

  • Reply July 28, 2016

    John

    What amp should I get for Beyerdynamic T90? I am considering Bakoon HPA-01M, G109S, Beyerdynamic A20, RSA Raptor, and La Figaro 339? I really care for a wide and deep sound stage, and good imaging.

    • Reply July 28, 2016

      Lieven

      You list a lot of good amps there. First choice: do you want tubes or not?
      That would make it Crack or 339. No tubes, I prefer a warmer ss like the V200. the HPA-01M is good but it doesn’t easily have a good synergy with lots of other headphones, so I wouldn’t go there.

      • Reply July 28, 2016

        JOHN

        Thanks for your quick response. Based on your review on the HPA-01M, I thought it was the best SS amp for T90. I believe you said that you even preferred it to V281. Now I am a little confused lol. I think 339 with stock tubes are not that good and I do not know if I can find proper tubes for it (any suggestion?). Crack seems to be a safe bet but I do not know how resolving it is. The thing is I want to keep the cost of amp+DAC under 1200$ and I do not know which one is the determining factor for sound stage and imaging. What DAC would you suggest with 339 or Crack? It seems that Asus Essence One Muses edition has great sound stage and tempting performance/price. Could you make some DAC+amp suggestions for T90? What about the RSA Raptor? Have you ever heard it? 6moons’ says that it has unbelievable sound stage with Sennheiser HD 650. I guess it would become even better with a headphone like the T90. Am I right?

        Cheers

        • Reply July 29, 2016

          Lieven

          It is a really good amp for the T90 but if you’re planning on getting more headphones, the HPA-01M might not be the most versatile amp.

          Have you considered the V200? If you’re not into tubes I suggest to stay away from them, unless it’s something you will want to explore of course.

          There is a lot of good gear in that price range, but I haven’t had the Raptor with me, sorry. I doesn’t mean the T90 would be also great on it, but it could be. The Asus isn’t something I would recommend. How about a second hand Hugo?

          • Reply July 29, 2016

            JOHN

            The only headphone amp that I have is the the one built in the Asus Xonar ST sound card. It is OK with my Grado SR80 and the music genre (Rock by the way) that I am listening to but, for everything else, this combo utterly sucks. Although it is very clear and transparent, there is no sense of sound stage. Everything is played right at your ear drum. This works great for fast paced music like Rock but for movies and everything else is very disappointing. This is the reason why I want to upgrade my audio system a little bit. I read many reviews on different headphones, amps and DACs and realized that the T90 might be the headphone that suits me best. It seems to have great transparency and sound stage but quite picky on amp and DAC. I have never heard tubes but I guess they are superior to SS when it comes to sound stage and imaging which I am looking for. Also, I believe T90 is harsh on trebles which makes tubes better option. The reason I was considering the Asus Essence One as DAC was the fact that many people compared its sound signature to Fostex HP-A8. If this is true, at this price, I think it cannot be beaten. HP-A8 is twice the price, at least in Europe. I think Hugo as amp+DAC was perfect if I could go for something like LCD-2 but since this is not the case, I think using Hugo just as DAC is very expensive. I would really appreciate it if you could suggest some amp+DAC combos that you know pair well with the T90. By the way, I haven’t got the T90 yet and, by now, I know that you are fond of the HD 650. So if you think I can get what I am looking for with the HD650, I can go for this one as well if you think it’s more forgiving on amp+DAC synergy. The reason why I didn’t consider the HD 650 in the first place is that I am somehow used to Grado and I think H650 is on the extreme opposite side of Grado sound signature. Sorry for sch a long winded comment lol.

            Cheers

            • Reply July 29, 2016

              dale thorn

              For a headphone like the T90, if you do get a decent tube amp, you could probably use a DragonFly as the DAC. You might find a better DAC in the $2000 USD range, but below $1000 I wouldn’t bet on it. The amp will make the bigger difference.

              • Reply July 29, 2016

                JOHN

                If I can seriously get away with DragonFly as DAC, I could choose between Crack, RSA Raptor, La Figaro 339 and Woo Audio WA2. I have never heard any of them so I have no idea how better expensive ones are compared to the very affordable Crack. Any idea?

  • Reply August 1, 2016

    JOHN

    Any suggestion for me?

    • Reply August 1, 2016

      Lieven

      A DF DAC for a tube amp? Sure! I also advice the HERUS or the HD but there are plenty of others as well.

      DF Black + 339 + T90? Done. 🙂

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