The A200P : Beyerdynamic’s portable Amp/Dac Combo

Disclaimer: Beyerdynamic sent us the A200P as a review sample and it will go back to Germany after this review.

 

The AK10. I mean, the A200P

The Beyerdynamic A200P is the Astel&Kern AK10 with a Beyer branding. For those not familiar with the AK10: the A200p is a mini portable DAC/AMP combo for your iDevice, Android phone or your computer. That means the A200P extracts the digital signal from your source and amplifies the signal for your headphone or earphone, resulting in an elevated sound quality.

Strong points of the unit are its tiny size and its price: measuring only 55 x 55 x 13 mm it is one of the smallest and lightest (51grams) portable AMP/DAC combination on the market. Priced at 299€ it is one of the cheapest devices that allows you to extract digital data from your iDevice.  Units like the Hifi-M8 and Theorem, which of course are playing at a whole other level, set you back double or triple the investment. This is one of the first units that lets you get the most out of your iDevice for such a small price.

I like how the A200P looks, it is small and stylish and it is easy to use its controls. Well, let me get back to that. The A200p has a next/previous and play/pause button next to the power/lock button which are all located on the sides and which are very easy to use. They even work with Foobar when using the A200P with my laptop, very easy! The main button however is the scroll wheel on top of the unit that controls the volume. Brand new out of the box I had a really hard time to get the wheel to move at all leaving me very frustrated. There are two ways to make it work; the first is by sticking one of the sticker buttons that come with the unit on top of the wheel. (see pics) The second, how I did it, was by just using the wheel a whole lot. (It’s kind of hard to put the sticker on a review sample) I have been turning the wheel even when I wasn’t using the A200P and by now it has become very easy to use and I love how easy it is to change the volume. The volume wheel has 135 steps so it is very easy to get the volume exactly how you want but in the beginning, using the scroll wheel really was very frustrating.

The A200P comes with a leather case, the 3 stick on buttons I mentioned earlier and a bunch of cables: a lightning cable for your iDevices, a micro USB cable for your Android units and a USB cable for your PC. The down side of the A200P is that the connector on the unit has a special form so getting aftermarket cables for your A200P might not be that easy. As expected the A200p only has one 3.5mm headphone out as it will mostly be used with small portable headphones like the T51P or IEMs.

Inside of the A200P is a Wolfson 8740 DAC chip. You can’t do much wrong with a Wolfson but more on that later. The A200p cannot be used as a stand-alone DAC, unless you would turn the volume up 100% and use the headphone out but this unit, in contrast to the Resonessence Herus, is not meant to work like this. I was told guys on Head-fi have managed to extract 24/96 playing FLAC from iDevices using an upgraded AK10 with a specific iPlayer. In normal circumstances however, you would be limited to 44.1 on an iDevice.

Battery life is estimated at 11 hours but I never got to test this as I mostly used it in combination with my laptop or for shorter times when I was on the go.

The Result

It is no surprise that the overall sound signature of the A200P with the Wolfson chip is smooth and relaxed and on the warmer side. The A200P is dead silent, clear and has a black background and produces a linear sound. There no special focus on the bass, mids or treble but the treble do is softer.

Positioning and balance even is quite good on the A200P but the sound stage isn’t the widest. Detail levels are OK and while the A200P certainly is a big improvement over my onboard sound card from my laptop and it has enough power to drive most portable headphones and IEMs, I can’t really call the sound quality spectacular compared to the other iDevices on the market. But that of course isn’t its goal either: the A200p, for a small price, lets you improve your “on-board” sound whether it’s from your iPhone, PC or Android phone.

The A200p is very inoffensive sounding and easy to listen to. It works great with the easy to drive T51P and they make for an excellent (on the go) combo as the sound signatures fit perfectly together. I even prefer the amp section of the A200P over the amp section of the Herus when using the hard(er) to drive Sennheiser HD650. Of course the Senn sounds a lot better out of a more powerful amp but it’s more than just “doable”. The A200P does well with the “smaller” and easy to drive headphones like the HD25 and ATH-M50.

When using IEMs the A200P is dead quiet and you can set the volume to really low volumes without hearing any hiss or background noise, not even when connected to your pc over USB. While I loved using the A200P with my laptop when listening to my custom IEMs I actually preferred the headphone out of my Samsung S4 with the 1964 V6S (review soon). It was more energetic and faster sounding, more alive. I just found them to mellow sounding from the A200P but then again other IEMs sounded better when using the Beyer unit. I don’t have an iPhone myself but George who’s a loyal reader and fan of portable audio (he uses a TOTL FitEar) confirms the improvement in sound quality over the headphone out of the iPhone and he loves the unit.

Read more on the next page

The A200P : Beyerdynamic’s portable Amp/Dac Combo
4 (80%) 5 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.

44 Comments

  • Reply April 23, 2014

    dalethorn

    I bought this a few weeks ago, and can confirm the impressions here. Good accurate review!

    • Reply April 23, 2014

      L.

      Thank you Dale!

  • Reply April 23, 2014

    ohm image

    I shot it for Headphone Book 2014 when it was just the AK10 and thought it looked cool, but my eyes kept zipping to the AK240 instead. Glad to see Beyer choose a cute company as an OEM.

    • Reply April 23, 2014

      L.

      I just wish it had a higher SQ

      • Reply April 24, 2014

        dalethorn

        My jury is still out on that A200p. I can hear more detail than using most low-budget headphone amps without DACs, like the FiiO E07k to the iPhone LOD, but I think the Zen Head amp might be better even though it doesn’t have a DAC. The comparison I most want to make is to the Portaphile Micro when it arrives in a few weeks. I’m going to compare the A200p to the Portaphile Micro running from the iPhone LOD, since I don’t think putting a good DAC ahead of the PM would be fair – the A200p just isn’t in that league. This really points up the need to have a good amp in these little DACs that doesn’t degrade the sound coming from the DAC. It would be nice to read in the manufacturer’s blurbs something like this: “The ‘xyz’ DAC contains a headphone amp that’s a great match for the DAC, so the maximum sound quality coming from the DAC is preserved all the way through to the headphone”. Or maybe they all say that and I just didn’t see it.

  • Reply April 23, 2014

    tre54321

    Question: Does this work with the Classic?

    • Reply April 23, 2014

      L.

      It does not work with the Classic

      Compatible devices:

      Apple

      iPhone 5

      iPhone 5S

      iPad Air

      iPad (4th generation)

      iPad mini

      iPod touch (5th generation)

      • Reply April 23, 2014

        tre54321

        Thanks, L. Fingers crossed that Apple eventually releases an iPod Touch with 128GB capacity.

        • Reply April 23, 2014

          L.

          Lots of people are waiting for that Classic Pro Ipod 🙂

          • Reply May 25, 2014

            SallyMaeSusan

            If Apple go down the hi-res file path, won’t they have to release a new player?
            Or maybe they’ll do it in a phone.
            Either way, I have no appetite for DAPs, DACs or amps that may only sound a little better than my Classic or iPhone 5 (Thank you, Jamie Delgado)

      • Reply April 23, 2014

        George Lai

        Although some forums mention that iRiver said they were working on a 30-pin connector.

        • Reply April 24, 2014

          dalethorn

          Mine came with the 2 proprietary cables with ends for the amp, then the other ends were Lightning and micro USB. If I could find a male 30-pin to female USB-A or female micro USB or female Lightning adapter, I could see if that works.

  • Reply April 23, 2014

    George Lai

    The volume wheel is indeed a challenge. I find that if you rest your finger on it for a second or two, then it turns freely. I wonder if there is some magic under the button as the side effect is that it is not easy to accidentally shoot the volume to max when it is in your pocket, volume lock notwithstanding.

  • Reply April 23, 2014

    George Lai

    The AK10 has a firmware update on the iRiver website that allows you to then play 24/96 using the Onkyo HF Player app on the iPhone 5.

    • Reply April 23, 2014

      L.

      Is anyone willing to try that on the A200P? 🙂

      • Reply April 28, 2014

        George Lai

        I should add that I’ve actually done that, 24/96 that is.

  • Reply April 24, 2014

    Patrick

    Great article L. Had the chance to use beyerdynamics a200p as well for about a week, can’t give such a detailed opionen as you, because of lacking good IEM (a.t.m CX400-II) but I prefer my fiio e17 over the a200p, because of his great and easy to handle (ergnomic) buttons and also the ability to work correctly with my ipod classic – The wheel was indeed a nightmare. The quality is compared to laptop outputs (which I often used in the past) fabulous – Had my fun on spotify, soundcloud and youtube channels (mrsuicidesheep, riserecords, dangerkids etc.) The prices in my country are at 250$, which is ridiculous – when I see things twice or 3x expensiver than other places. Anyway hope to see your review of the 1964 as fast as possible! – Greetz

    • Reply April 24, 2014

      L.

      Thanks for the comment Patrick. I’m still waiting for the Cosmic Ears CE6P that keeps on getting pushed back…

      • Reply April 24, 2014

        Patrick

        Google it just as you announced it ^^ Well they look really interesting btw. are they customly variable as ACS or the jhaudio? As example a red shell with a black/white plate (at the top) and blue coloring (*gasm).

        • Reply April 24, 2014

          L.

          Of course they are. Have you seen my review of the cosmic ears ba4f?

          • Reply April 24, 2014

            Patrick

            Yeah checked it out, man.. way to many options to choose D: Jhaudio, ACS, 1964 and now cosmic, well gone wait until my current IEMs are gone give up to have a reason. Btw. “Jewels in the crown” pretty nails those IEM after reading your opinion on those shining beautys ;). I mean for less than 450$ to buy a price/quality value of his own, certainly not a bad choice. p.S: What is it holding you back on the cosmic ears CE6P? Logistic problems or suchlike…

            • Reply April 24, 2014

              L.

              I am getting the first unit and they ran into a bass driver issue. It should be fixed next week. Then I will need a few weeks to listen

  • Reply April 24, 2014

    Rich

    Great article again by Lieven. I own both the a200p and the CEntrance HiFi-M8. I agree that the HiFi-M8 sounds superior in every way however it should as it costs more than twice as much as the a200p. I purchased a200p for portable use outside my home and for exercising. As much as I love my HiFi-M8 it is really to big for some portable situations such as exercising or taking to the gym. Also it’s laptop style power supply makes it bulky to travel with in your carry on bag. I love the a200p for the purpose I bought it for. It sounds better than the headphone out of both my iPad and iPhone and is extremely portable so it is easy to take to the gym or traveling. As mentioned in the article it also mates very well with Beyer’s own T51ps, which I own, and my Westone Customs (which I use when traveling or at the gym). My only drawbacks for the a200P are its use of proprietary cables and no iPo classic compatibility. But Beyer North America has told me an iPod classic cable is expected to be released by June 2014. The release date had been pushed back due to difficulty getting Apple approval.

    • Reply April 24, 2014

      L.

      thanks Rich and thank you for the info on the cable!

      • Reply April 28, 2014

        tre54321

        Now that sounds promising (re. the iPod Classic compatibility). :3

  • Reply April 25, 2014

    johthor

    Very nice review Lieven. Could you compare with the JDSlabs C5 as they are fairly close cost wise. Thanks

    • Reply April 25, 2014

      L.

      Thanks Johthor.
      The C5D is of course a little bigger but uses standard cables. C5D on an iDevice needs a CCK, the A200P doesn’t. that’s important to note if you will be using it with a iDevice.

      SQ wise the C5D is ahead of the A200P in all aspects + you get a gain switch and a bass switch with 3 positions. Just looking at sound, the choice is easy

  • Reply April 25, 2014

    johthor

    Sorry meant the C5D

  • Reply April 26, 2014

    johthor

    Thanks for the quick reply Lieven. I would like to take a couple of lines to express my appreciation to both you and Mike. How you guys make time in your busy lives to answer all the posts that you do amazes me. For the 3+ years I have been involved in this awesome hobby the excellent reviews on Headfonia and the constant advice and information you both provide in the comment section have been and immense help to me and many others. Thanks again for the invaluable service you both provide.

    • Reply April 26, 2014

      L.

      Means a lot. Thank you!

    • Reply April 27, 2014

      ohm image

      Have to say, ‘yes’, to this as well.

    • Reply June 6, 2014

      SallyMaeSusan

      I second that; this site is brilliant.

  • Reply May 22, 2014

    SallyMaeSusan

    Mmmm; I read on an another forum of a guy who bought one to pair with his iPhone 5 and SE846’s.
    After initially being excited, he ended up sending the A200P back as he reckoned the sound straight out of the phone was better.
    Next time round, they’ll ditch the silly ‘turntable’ volume…surely.

    • Reply May 22, 2014

      L.

      I turntable volume is the least of the issues of the a200p

      • Reply May 22, 2014

        dalethorn

        It’s not big enough to fix all the traditional “solid state sound” issues. If Beyer started with a better chipset, maybe like the Audioengine D3 or Dragonfly2 etc., they would have a better amp.

  • Reply June 28, 2014

    Eric Thompson

    Doesn’t any USB dac work with an iPhone now? Does this work with older 30 pin i devices?

  • Reply November 21, 2015

    Bharath Yelavatti

    Hi..
    I am confused between getting A200p or AudioEngine D3.. for my iPhone 6+ with beyerdynamic T51i setup..
    Which one do you recommend… ?
    For me… high superb quality and immersive experience is more valued than brand…

    • Reply November 21, 2015

      dalethorn

      A200p is made for phones, but D3 is not – requires extra power -use on computer only. But the Oppo HA-2 is a much better DAC/amp than the A200p.

  • Reply January 15, 2016

    mbze430

    After owning the A200P for 1.25yrs now….. my volume wheel is still hard to turn. German engineering? I just lick my finger and it will grip the wheel.

    Is there another alternative unit that will sound better than the A200P and about the same size? Mainly I am using a PSB M4U2 in planes and then my DN-2000 IEM when out and about. My budget for the new DAC/AMP will be up to $400-$500

    • Reply January 15, 2016

      dalethorn

      Right now AudioQuest has the new $100 and $200 DragonFly’s. There’s the little FiiO K1 and the larger E17k. Pico has a small DAC/amp I think. Any of these would be as good as or better than the A200p (actually the AK10, OEM’d). But you didn’t state what your source is…

      • Reply January 16, 2016

        mbze430

        Source will be primary be with FLAC 44.1Khz I rarely have anything in the 96/192. Unless you mean DAP source… in that case it’s my cellphone/laptop. I don’t own a DAP.

        I have been seriously considering the Chord Mojo. I just wish there are some pictures comparison how big that unit is. If it is “portable” I might even consider that.

        I want to make a noticeable difference in SQ from the A200p to my next unit. But you are absolutely right… can someone really hear the difference once outdoor. Which is why I was considering the Chord Mojo, being marketed as a “portable” unit.

        Would be nice to find a place to demo the Chord Mojo too.

        • Reply January 16, 2016

          dalethorn

          With phones, the perfect form factor is the Oppo HA-2. Perfect form and aesthetics, great sound, good price. It’s my no. 1.

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