The Beyerdynamic A2: A Reference Amp

Disclaimer: Beyerdynamic is a site advertiser and they sent us the A2 on loan. It will be returned to Germany right after this review is published. I have to apologize to Beyerdynamic for the review not being online sooner though.

box HFN Lieven round kader

 

The A2 Amp Inside Out

The A2 is a stylish, timeless looking, modern amplifier that was designed from zero. Beyerdynamic already had experience with the A1 and the A20 but they decided to start from scratch.

On the front you will find two single ended outputs, the input selector and the volume control. These single ended outputs can be used in parallel so that two people can enjoy the selected music at the same time but there do is an audible difference when two headphones are connected together. Especially if one of those is an orthodynamic.

On the back you’ll find both RCA inputs and one RCA output, next to the power plug. On, the bottom (no idea what they were thinking there) they put the gain selector (-4dB/0/+4dB) and the output impedance selector buttons (0-100Ohm and +100Ohm).

Together with the A2 you will receive a headphone stand that connects to the A2 amp and a remote control. There are no balanced in- or outputs on the new A2, and that’s a shame, though it’s not a necessity.

I like how the A2 looks, it’s an elegant design with smooth rounded housing edges without visible joins, screws or rivets made of massive, anodized aluminum. Another special eye-catcher is the transparent charcoal-colored glass panel, which is flush with the top surface, enabling you to look through the famous Beyerdynamic sound-wave logo into the interior of the A 2. LEDs illuminate the circuit board in a warm light, like that magic tube glow we all like. It’s no surprise to me that the A2 won a Red Dot Award for Product Design in 2014.

The A2 measures 216 x 235 x 55mm, it’s pretty small and it is practically invisible in my living room. It won’t draw any attention to it like the Violectric V281 does, and that’s a good thing. It weighs 2.23kilograms and power wise it delivers 170mW/250Ohm which isn’t too much on paper. Numbers don’t mean everything though. For the rest is a pretty well-kept secret what’s going on inside the A2…

Sound

Beyerdynamic describes the A2 as following: “With its powerful and lively response, the A2 brings out the best performances from all dynamic headphones and supplies an excellent reproduction quality that is as close as possible to the original sound: From highs with a brilliant resolution and absolutely authentic mid-range to a deep, natural bass. Amazingly noise-free operation and precise control can be enjoyed via all headphones that are connected, regardless of their impedance”. I have to say that for at about 95%, they are right.

A few key words come in to mind when listening to the excellent Beyerdynamic A2 amplifier: clarity, detail, transparency and smoothness.

This is one of the better transparent sounding amplifiers I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. There’s no particular focus on anything and while I don’t always like that, the A2 does it in a smooth and musical way. The A2 has a very good sound stage with a high level of clarity and air between instruments. There is a lot of detail from bass to treble without being to analytical. The typical reference tuning as I call it.

Bass is tight, fast and detailed. The A2 delivers very good bass but it could have even been better with some added layering and depth. The mids section is a pleasure to listen to, but don’t forget, these are Beyerdynamic mids. That means a lot of clarity, musicality, detail and air but with a little less body. The A2 shows the typical Beyerdynamic treble tuning which I can appreciate but it might be a bit much for the treble allergic listeners. Treble is lovely sparkling with a lot of extension and detail.

This Beyerdynamic amplifier produces a very good solid state sound. It’s fast and tight yet there always is a lot of detail and all that in a very musical way. The A2 has a more forward sounding sound signature, like the Beyerdynamic units often have. There’s no surprise there.

Amps

The recently reviewed Violectric V281 has more power and adds more to the sound than the A2 does. You won’t find the bass body and full bodied mids of the V281 in the A2. In return there’s more clarity, a bigger sound stage and more detail, all presented in a more forward way with a touch of typical Beyer brightness. When using the V281 in balanced mode, you get closer to the A2 sound signature but you’ll always hear more of the Vio’s characteristics.

It continues right after the click!

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

55 Comments

  • Reply February 17, 2015

    Zoltan

    If you are familiar with both: how does it compare with the Meier Corda Classic?
    Thank you.

    • Reply February 17, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I reviewed it here: http://headfonia.com/meier-audio-daccord-corda-classic/

      To me the A2 is the better amp by quite the margin. While the Classic might be more analytical, the A2 is more musical and has more timbre/feeling. I found the Classic rather cold sounding, some would even call it boring sounding. The amps are both neutral and transparent yet one is musical and smooth and the other is anylitical and cold.

    • Reply February 17, 2015

      ohm image

      The Meier Corda Classic and Block are my favourite amps for Beyer phones, meaning I can’t wait to hear the A2.

  • Reply February 18, 2015

    Tibor

    Hello and thank you! Could you say more about “there do is an audible difference when two headphones are connected together” please?

    • Reply February 18, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      IT means the output volume and quamity drops when using two harder to drive headphones like an LCD2 and a T90 at the same time

  • Reply February 23, 2015

    Jinx

    Great review! I am really happy that you compared it to the A20 and to see that I made the right choice buying that over the A2. I’m currently using the A20 with DT990 600 ohm and it sounds great, but I will probably buy the T1 at some point if Beyer doesn’t release anything else within a year. Do you think the A20 will pair well with the T1?

    If Beyer makes an improved A20 I will probably buy it 🙂

    I am always looking forward to reading your reviews eventhough I’m not gonna buy half of it. Keep up the good work.

    • Reply February 23, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Thank you Jinx. I’m glad you like the A20. However I do feel it would be sort of “wrong” to use the T90 or T1 on an amp that’s holding it back

      • Reply February 23, 2015

        Jinx

        I think I’d rather buy the T1 instead of T90, but can you explain more detailed what you mean that the A20 will hold it back? Do you also think it holds my DT990 back? So far I really like it with the A20 but maybe it’s different with the T1.

        You ask if T1 are the headphones for me – that is hard to answer but from all my research my guess is yes. Can never know untill I try it though. HD800 are regarded as a really good headphone but from what I read it is too analytical where the T1 is more musical with a little more bass and slightly less soundstage. TH900, apart from being expensive, probably has too much bass for me to use it for all the genres I enjoy – if I only listened to EDM it might be a homerun though. The Audeze series are too heavy for my liking and “might” be too dark for my taste (I don’t know about the new EL-8 though). Hifiman are too uncomfortable. Don’t know if that is accurate or if I’m missing some worthy headphones but that’s what I’ve gathered so far.

        I have heard from some guy that knows an insider at Beyerdynamic that says they will release new mid-fi and hi-fi headphones this summer – wether that is true or false I can’t say but will be very interresting if it’s true.

        • Reply February 23, 2015

          dalethorn

          The T1 I had sounded very crispy and “harder” than the HD800 I had, and while some of those properties are more musical, I’d use a tube amp to soften it some.

          • Reply March 6, 2015

            Jinx

            But isn’t that what A20 could do? It’s a warmish solid state after all.

            Regardless I’m probably gonna start out by using the T1 with the A20 and take it from there. I’m planning on upgrading my DAC though. I’m currently using Henry Audio USB DAC MK II. I have no idea what to look at. Meier Daccord?

            • Reply March 7, 2015

              dalethorn

              If the T1 sounds good with the A20, then you’re home free. I don’t know the Meier amps, but some people here do. The only other amp I remember mentioned that is or was as recommended as the Meiers was one of the Lehmann Audio amps. Between Mike** and Lieven I’d take their advice as gold.

              **Mike is featured on some of the older reviews.

              • Reply March 7, 2015

                Jinx

                Bad recordings as in compressed music? I’ve just learned about the Loudness War and it’s really a shame. I mostly listen to EDM and Mainstream music. That being said I also listen to other genres as Classical etc. From what I understand is that listening to 320 kbps files are good enough but it also matters how they are mastered? So compressed files are bad recordings as you speak of?

                From my understanding most EDM and Mainstream these days are sadly compressed so maybe the Daccord isn’t for me 🙁 Do you have any recommendations?

                • Reply March 7, 2015

                  dalethorn

                  Lieven could probably steer you toward a better amp choice if you put your constraints (budget, taste, current source and music etc….) in a concise post. 320k CBR MP3s or equivalent can sound pretty good if …. you ripped the CD to lossless uncompressed (i.e. WAV) and then converted the WAV yourself. But play those 320k’s on much better gear and you’ll eventually understand what’s missing.

                  • Reply March 7, 2015

                    Headfonia_L.

                    He’s looking for a DAC, Dale 🙂

                    • March 7, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      DAC, amp, it’s all the same thing when you’re playing 320k, yes?

                    • March 8, 2015

                      Jinx

                      I payed arround 270€ for my current DAC, I´d like to get one that is better than that if possible. You say the Daccord is very analytical so maybe I’m looking for a more musical one as you said?

                      @dalethorn:disqus I’m playing music from Spotify Premium. I’ve been told that this is good quality, but you make it sound like trash?

                    • March 8, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      “Sound like trash” is not even close to what I said. What I said in effect is, when you have the better more expensive premium components, you will hear more of a difference between 320k and CD quality than you will hear with basic components like a computer with a FiiO E17k or similar amp.

                    • March 8, 2015

                      Jinx

                      How do you suggest I upgrade from 320 kbps? I know there’s a thing called WIMP but that’s twice the cost of Spotify Premium.

                    • March 8, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      For music streaming I wouldn’t be concerned, since other factors are the real limitation. If you buy any of the tracks to download and keep, then you would want a lossless copy, but it would be good to know where that copy came from – i.e. what kind of quality is it? Was it ripped from a CD and the full quality retained (not up-res’d from a lossy copy)? Was the source (CD?) the best available copy? Could it be an inferior pressing or master?

                      There are several things I do now when I select CD’s to purchase: I check the reviews to see if there’s any information on quality and versions. I compare tracks on Amazon or iTunes, and even though those are 256k, the quality differences are huge from track to track depending on which album they were taken from. There’s always a possibility of mislabeling when sampling Amazon’s or iTunes’ tracks, but most of the time you can make a much better choice of which CD to buy that way.

                      I’ve purchased a lot of lossless downloads from HDTracks, Blue Coast, Hyperion, Lynn, and a few others, but the selections are usually very limited, and in some cases you can pay more than the CD price for the same quality due to wrong labeling. I even see 96 khz and 192 khz (not kbps) downloads of ancient recordings from some sites, where presumably the 4 times CD resolution track has more detail than a 44 khz CD, since the download track came directly from a master, from the company that owns the recording. But 192 khz copies of old analog recordings, at twice the cost of a CD or even more is highly dubious in my opinion.

                    • March 8, 2015

                      Jinx

                      Can you explain further what you mean when you say that you wouldn’t worry about streaming?

                      I don’t think I can afford to buy loads of CD’s but say I find some tracks on Spotify that I really like should I then buy CD’s on amazon and turn them into lossless?

                      How do I handle the compressed music? That term is kinda of new to me so I don’t know much about it. I mean even if I buy a CD chances are still that it can be compressed right?

                      I also listen to some EDM, either A State Of Trance by Armin Van Buuren but the best quality I can get is 320 kbps. And then I listen to some EDM from some music channels on youtube. The problem here is that youtube quality isn’t the best but alot of the artists being uploaded there are not very known so I can’t get my hands on good quality I think.

                    • March 8, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      Just the experience you’ve had that you mentioned here is beyond the scope of this discussion. I’m not the best at typing so it would take lots of hours and 50 pages of typing to explain very much. Your ears and your experience are your best tools to get you what you want. When I say don’t worry about streaming, it’s because it goes away after you listen. What you do want to worry about is building a collection of permanent music tracks that later on you might regret you didn’t get the best quality. So now you know all the possibilities and you can ask the right questions to be sure your collection (if you build a collection) is going to be satisfactory in the long term.

                    • March 8, 2015

                      Jinx

                      I guess I need to find out if I can hear a difference between 320 and the better quality files as a start. What quality comes after 320? I’m very confused about that – I’ve heard about lossy, lossless, FLAC and some more also. I think I need to get hold of a few good quality tracks and compare them to 320 and see what happens.

                      But what is your opinion on compressed music? Most of the mainstream seems to have that. Or maybe my ears are cheating me.

                    • March 8, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      ‘Compressed’ is used in at least 2 different contexts: One is the lossless compression that occurs in converting a WAV or CD track to FLAC – another is the lossy compression in converting the lossless WAV/CD/FLAC track to MP3. The second case is when the mastering people compress the music dynamics at the console, and then save their results as the music track that you buy. In my opinion, even when your hearing is excellent, the dynamics compression is usually worse than a good compression to 320k MP3. But those are very different processes, which if you think about it, make very different compromises in the sound.

                      I’m not against either type of compression when they’re done temporarily for certain purposes.

                    • March 9, 2015

                      Jinx

                      Yeah I meant the dynamic compression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcKDMBuGodU

                      To my ears most of modern mainstream music is made that way (At least to my ears). And it’s really sad 🙁

                      What music quality should I listen to in order to find out if I need to upgrade from 320 kbps or not?

                    • March 9, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      Rip some CDs to WAVs and then convert the WAVs to 320k MP3s, then compare those.

                    • March 8, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      BTW, I didn’t mention the Daccord – Lieven did that.

                    • March 9, 2015

                      Jinx

                      Do you have any recommendations for a DAC? My limit is arround 700€. I will use it with DT990 600 ohm (Later T1) and A20 (I might upgrade to A2 but time will tell).

                    • March 9, 2015

                      Headfonia_L.

                      Check out Resonessence Labs!

                    • March 9, 2015

                      Jinx

                      Thanks will check it out. Are there any contenders to this? And how does it compare to the Daccord? (I was about to ask if it was better but I’ve learned in this area it’s a very subjective thing)

                    • March 9, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      Remember with separate DAC and amp, you will have extra wiring and jacks with the DAC output, extra wiring and jacks with the amp input, and extra interconnect cables. All of that degrades the sound – the sound that you pay extra for. So you’re not just looking for the “best DAC” and “best amp”, you also have to make sure all those extras have the absolute minimum negative effect on your sound.

                • Reply March 7, 2015

                  Headfonia_L.

                  Each good dac will show you how bad recordings sound. I don’t think it’s the goal to get a less good DAC so your music sounds better.

                  Lot’s of great budget dacs out there, even the E10K, E17K, Herus, Stoner Accoustics UD120, etc

                  • Reply March 7, 2015

                    dalethorn

                    But don’t let the DAC hold back the amp, although the DAC can be a lot better if you’re going to upgrade the amp later.

            • Reply March 7, 2015

              Headfonia_L.

              The Daccord is very analytic and will show you everything in the music. Bad recordings will sound bad. Very good for classical but missing a tad musicallity

        • Reply February 24, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          I’m a big fan of the T90 and at the same time I really don’t like the T1. It’s too aggressive and sharp for my taste. I do think the A20 holds the T90 back because I know how the T90 sounds on better amps like my 300b amp or the Bakoon international, or even a bottlehead Crack. So that makes me believe the T1 will be the same on the A20, but I might be wrong. The A2 amp has a big sound stage, lots of detail and is perfect for this type of headphones, imo.

          I have both the open and closed EL-8 incoming. The new Hifiman’s (He-400i and HE-560) are extremely comfortable though, they’re not like the old Hifimans

          • Reply February 24, 2015

            dalethorn

            I think your observation about the handling of the T1 and T90 on the A20 is spot on – they sound different and the T1 has more ‘potential’ detail, but the A20 won’t help it.

  • Reply February 24, 2015

    Jeroen Wijnands

    You got a slight language error there. I don’t think the “do” is necessary in this sentence:

    so that two people can enjoy the selected music at the same time but
    there do is an audible difference when two headphones are connected
    together

    • Reply February 24, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Thanks, I corrected the second one

      • Reply February 24, 2015

        Jeroen Wijnands

        glad you didn’t take offence.

    • Reply February 24, 2015

      dalethorn

      I looked at the context and wondered if there was something intended but not fully communicated, then I decided that these were extraneous and nothing was left out.

  • Reply August 18, 2015

    theswordofdoom

    I am pretty new to the audiophileverse…just got an HE-560 and was considering this for my headphone amp to pair up with my Resonessence Labs Concero HD. How would this pairing work out? Or is the V281 a better match? Will I regret not getting a balanced out on the A2?

    Yes I saw you compare them in this article, But was just looking for a little direction here as a newbie.

    • Reply August 18, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I found the 560 to sound a lot better on the V281 in the end. The V281 is one of the best amps on the market and its balanced output is sublime. Ask anyone who has (listened to) one. The A2 really missed balanced but is is almost half the price. V281 is the way to go.

      • Reply August 19, 2015

        theswordofdoom

        Thanks. I will go with the V281. My preference is to try and get the right solid state amp the first time. Will I be ok with the default volume control option?

        • Reply August 19, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          I have the RC option but haven’t used it a single time…

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    matthew36

    Could you use grados with this amp?

    • Reply August 27, 2015

      dalethorn

      Beyers and Grados both have an intense upper end, so it seems logical they would tune for that.

      • Reply August 29, 2015

        matthew36

        Yeah makes sense!

        • Reply August 31, 2015

          matthew36

          Should have done my homework before asking this question. Will not happen again.

  • Reply April 2, 2016

    Aaron

    Hi Lieven. I have buyed A20 after reading your review some time ago to pair it with HD650 mostly. I really liked bass punch, naturallnes and mids of it, but clarity, speed details, soundstage and especially upper mids of it was disappointing… Sometimes i even prefer my Fiio e12, because of much better speed, more exciting upper mids(Sometimes just touch too much), bass tightness and overall more clean signature. Do you think A2 can deliver Sound signature that is something between E12 and A20? In short A20 is too boring sometimes and E12 is too exciting sometimes… Thanks.

    • Reply April 3, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      The A2 is more clear, faster, lighter bass, cleaner but it is a whole lot more expensive as well. The A20 is a mid fi amp, A2 is reference. HAve you tried something like the O2?

      • Reply April 3, 2016

        Aaron

        Yeah, it was too cold. Besides, later am going buy T90, so it whould be nice if A2 can pull it off. My problem with A20 and HD650 pairing that extension stops at upper mids all the way to highs. Do you think A2 have more crisper mids and especially upper mids than A20? I dont even like A20 with my DT990, because it stole character of it “make it smooth”.

        • Reply April 3, 2016

          Headfonia_L.

          The A20 does that to all headphones. The A2 does not. Have you tried Burson?

          • Reply April 3, 2016

            Aaron

            Which model exactly i should try?

  • Reply January 25, 2018

    Juan

    Wonder how this would pair with a chord hugo 2. I got Hd 800 S and the chord hugo 2 does well with it but I feel like the volume gets to like 85-90% so is defiantly taking the hugo 2 some effort to lift my 800 S

    • Reply January 26, 2018

      Lieven

      That doesn’t sound right. If you need to turn your H2 up that much, then there’s an issue with your input signal/level. That or you’re really deaf 🙂

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