Hot from the oven is the new Fostex HP-P1: portable digital transport, DAC, and amplifier all in one box. I have received the device straight from Hiroaki at Fostex Japan (thanks, Hiroaki!), and pairing the HP-P1 with the Ipod Classic, and out to Fostex’s TH-7B headphone (equally impressive, by the way), I am literally drooling at the sound quality this little DAC produces.
The HP-P1 takes on the same concept that we’ve seen earlier from the CLAS (Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo). By acting as a portable digital transport to the Ipod, then feeding it to its own internal DAC, it produces a source quality that’s superior to the Ipod’s built-in DAC. The HP-P1 also adds its own internal amplifier, making for a more complete product package than what you get on the CLAS. With a target MSRP of $799, the HP-P1 roughly takes in the same base price of the portable transport & DAC of the CLAS device, and adds some $300 for the internal amplifier circuitry.
The sound quality of the HP-P1 is simply mind blowing. The sound of the AKM AK4480 equipped HP-P1 is simply smooth and colorless. Taking a different stance from the heavily colored but analog sounding Hifiman HM-602 and HM-801 players, the HP-P1 gives me an impression of a very refined digital source. It’s very precise, very clear, transparent and colorless, and yet the whole sound is very smooth and refined with none of the nasty coldness often associated with digital sound. The soundstage layering is very precise and clear-cut, the frequency extension very good with one of the smoothest frequency extension I’ve heard on any DACs. Guys, this stuff is good.
Lately I’ve been a big fan of the older, analog sounding DAC like the PCM1704, the TDA1541 and TDA1543, which is why I heavily favor the HM-602 and HM-801 for their very analog sound reproduction. In phase with the vinyl revolution, these old DAC chips have been the ones heavily favored by the audio crowd as they give a very analog sounding reproduction with great sound ambiance, tonality and emotion superior from most of the newer DAC chips. The sound of the Fostex HP-P1 is quite the opposite, as it clearly takes on the stance of the more colorless, often dubbed “digital sounding” DACs. And yet, this may be one of the best version of the “digital sound” group I’ve encountered so far. The colorless sound and precise instrument separation and layering is very impressive, and while most other digital sounding DACs fail, the HP-P1 shines with a truly smooth and musical without the slightest hint of coldness to be heard. This is very impressive, even by desktop DAC standards.
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