Superlux HA3D Amplifier

Taiwanese brand Superlux continues to introduce products that upsets the pricing standard of professional audio products. Not stopping with the HD668B monitoring headphone that we’ve reviewed a while ago, they’ve continued their invasion into microphones, portable headphones, and now, headphone amplifiers.

The Superlux HA3D headphone amplifier clearly was designed for the professional audio and television production crowd. It has a tank-like build quality, pro-style 1/4″ connectors, balanced line inputs, 1/4″ TRS stereo inputs and loop outs. The dimension of the amp is fairly big by today’s standard of RSA-Shadow and Pico-Slim sized amps. You certainly won’t be taking HA-3D amp during day to day activities. Despite the “professional irregularities”, the HA-3D amplifier offers quite some interesting features that makes us decide it’s worth writing an article on.

The first and most striking feature is how the amplifier is able to drive three headphones simultaneously, while offering individual volume control for each headphone! Yes, three separate, isolated headphone amplifier circuits in one box! It’s not something that the average people would need everyday, and yet, it still is highly fascinating because now you’re suddenly able to burn three headphones simultaneously without much problems. Or, you can share your music with friends without having to fight over the volume control. Or, being the headphone addicts that we are, you may want to A-B headphones and the HA-3D will let you A-B-C headphones and volume-matching the three headphones easily.

Three headphone outs, three individual controls. Woo-hoo!

 

Considering that the HA-3D runs only on two AA batteries, it’s pretty surprising how the amplifier is able to drive full size headphones simultaneously without breaking a sweat. The amplifier circuitry runs on +-15V, and it’s quite potent to drive big full size headphones to ear-shattering levels. I’m talking headphones like the Sennheiser HD600, HD650, HD800, and the LCD-2 grade here, not some easy to drive Audio Technicas. Yes, three big full size headphones running on full volume with only two AA batteries! This amp wowed everyone during our last local gathering, as everybody was happily listening to three headphones simultaneously blasting music from the same source. The only headphone that I’ve found the HA-3D to be incapable of driving properly is the Hifiman HE-6 (and perhaps the HE-5 variants as well), but the LCD-2 is quite a light drive for the HA-3D (9-10 O’clock with the LCD-2). Superlux claims 8 hours of battery life out of the 2x AA internal batteries. Nothing grand there, but what can you expect from 2x AA batteries? At least I can see that they’re aiming for easy availability of batteries when people are using it for on-location production sessions. If you have AC power available, the HA-3D also takes an external power supply in the range of 5V to 17V. I wonder if you can make it run on USB power with the cable.

Pro-grade connectivity. 1/8″ input on the far right for us Ipod users. Loop out lets you daisy chain these two or more of these amps together.

 

ONLY 2 AA batteries. Please don’t complain about the battery life, considering what this baby can do.

 

Other notable features of the HA-3D is the loop out, which will allow you to pass on the signal to another HA-3D unit for six simultaneous headphones running at the same time with six individual volume controls. The lack of RCA input is probably not a very good thing with the audio crowd, but using an Ipod, I can use a typical LOD cable and plug it in the 1/8″ input jack. For IEM users, the first headphone output offers a choice between 1/8″ and 1/4″ TRS jacks. The monstrous gain is not very ideal for IEMs though, as the range for volume control is very limited, and there’s always some channel imbalance problems on analog potentiometers in low volume settings. But if you can live with the non-ideal volume control, you can definitely listen to some IEMS through the amps, even sensitive ones such as the JH16Pro.

A choice of 1/8″ and 1/4″ jacks for the first output.

 

Internal shot.

 

Close up on the internal. Click on image to see bigger size.

 

The sound quality is actually very good for something that is at this price range (and with so many features as well). It’s not going to start taking businesses away from HeadAmp and the such, but the HA-3D has quite a clear sound without no noticeable distortions. Obviously, the pro-crowd isn’t going to take use anything that has any forms of distortions. The sound does have one flaw though, that is the recessed midrange. Midrange is quite clear, but it doesn’t have enough presence and body for general music listening with vocals. So that’s going to be one of the catch with this otherwise great sounding amp. With Electronics and Classical, I don’t see the midrange to be a big problem, and the straightforward, dynamic, and lively sound of the HA-3D turns out to be quite fun sounding.

I guess one thing that prevents me from recommending this to everyone is the wide pricing variation of Superlux around the world. I’ve sent emails to a few distributors, asking for the price of the HA3D amp, but haven’t gotten any response. Locally, we are able to get them for a bit under U$100, which makes it one of the best value in amplifiers around.

 

Gears used for review:

Headphones: Sennheiser HD600, HD650, HD800, Audez’e LCD-2, JH16Pro

Source: HRT Music Streamer II+, Ipod Classic 120GB

Superlux HA3D Amplifier
5 (100%) 3 vote[s]

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33 Comments

  • Reply December 10, 2010

    talip bin osman

    hey mike…

    any idea how to get this product here in sg?

    • Reply December 10, 2010

      Mike

      Hey talip, sorry, no idea for now… BUT you can try the professional audio shops at Sim Lim Tower. Superlux is primarily a microphone maker. Hung Brothers, perhaps?

      I think the weak distribution of the Superlux goods is what getting in the way of them getting to be more recognized. I've received a response from one of the US retailers, and he doesn't even have the HA3D in stock.

      • Reply December 11, 2010

        dickography

        now, how can i get this in Indonesia?
        kantong-kresek or other online retailers don’t have this amp in their catalogue…

        • Reply December 11, 2010

          Mike

          Han han has it. πŸ˜€

          • Reply December 11, 2010

            dickography

            thanx a lot, mike

            • Reply June 1, 2013

              Peter

              It’s a great amp.

              We actually use it as a Hp amp when we recorded this album.

              We did the mix on Grimm speakers but amp’ed our Akg 702 and Beyerdynamic with the Superlux when checking for phase’.

              http://www.soundliaison.com/

        • Reply December 13, 2010

          ryan

          hi..dickography, you can contact sentra musik +62 21 62302611/ 62302718, Radian Musik : +62 21 6126044, Pro Musik : +62 21 6220 3669 for all product SUPERLUX at our retail shop. or you can contact pt.prima citra megaswara +62 21 6220 3669 fax : +62 21 6220 3616 (SUPERLUX Distributor Indonesia)

  • Reply December 10, 2010

    @headfonia

    For people wanting to get their hands on the #Superlux HA3D, you can try emailing Ray @ http://www.superlux.us/

  • Reply December 11, 2010

    dickography

    oh anyway, how do you compare this to bravo audio v2? considering they’re almost similiar in price range, which one has a bigger power juice?
    and which one would you choose for an all-rounder amp?
    thx πŸ™‚

    • Reply December 11, 2010

      Mike

      I reviewed the Bravo a long time ago and I think the Bravo is roughly the same in terms of loudness/gain levels. Of course the Bravo is more tubey and thicker sounding, where the Superlux is more lively and more dynamic sounding.

      Here is the Bravo review: http://bit.ly/fmQNfS

  • Reply December 11, 2010

    Earfonia

    This is what most pro engineers audio need on the field, battery powered multiple headphone outputs amplifier πŸ™‚ Just nice πŸ™‚ I will give a try soon… my church musicians would be great to have this πŸ™‚ Thanks for the review Mike! Just wondering if there is any replaceable op-amps inside… πŸ™‚

    • Reply December 11, 2010

      Mike

      Ah, I still haven't published your HD668 modding article! Guys, Earfonia wrote a brilliant modding article on the HD668B, but I haven't finished translating it into english.

      As for the HA3D amplifier, it has no replaceable op-apms inside. At least nothing on a socket. I'll post internal photos soon. πŸ™‚

    • Reply December 11, 2010

      Mike

      I've updated the article with internal shot pictures. πŸ™‚

  • Reply December 11, 2010

    Mike

    Not very cheap in the UK/Europe apparently:

    Pinknoise systems listed €127.34 incl. VAT http://bit.ly/gX8bkS =/

    Here is a blog that mentions the price being €89 http://bit.ly/fW5KW1

    UK Guitars has it for €100 http://bit.ly/eU7xPC

  • Reply December 12, 2010

    Earfonia

    Thanks a lot for the internal shot Mike! It seems using dual channels MC33178P op-amp from ON semiconductor, 100 mA output per channel, with low 2V/us slew rate. It's bipolar Op-Amp (cranky op-amp), so if this circuit can use bipolar op-amp (which is not easy), it can be replaced with any dual op-amp, bipolar or jfet, as long as the input bias current matching or lower than MC33178P (100 nA), and has the output current 100 mA or higher πŸ™‚ http://www.onsemi.com/pub_link/Collateral/MC33178

  • Reply December 12, 2010

    Jimmy

    Wow..great review mike,,as always.
    And you know that you are the first one who make this review !
    Because, I didnt find any reviews about this superlux amp before.

    • Reply December 13, 2010

      Mike

      Thanks, Jimmy. πŸ™‚

  • Reply January 14, 2011

    Andres

    Great reviews I find in your site.
    Another interesting addition would be the Shanling PH100 (Class A) Headphone amp.
    I have one and for the price I think it can't be beat.

    • Reply January 14, 2011

      Mike

      Thanks, Andres.I think the main selling point of the Superlux is that it's battery powered, able to drive 3 big cans simultaneously to really loud volumes, and independent volume control.Shanling is a well known chinese hifi brand, but I think it's a more conventional amp in the sense that it doesn't offer the features the Superlux has.I'm sure the sound is very good though. Makes me want to try it. πŸ™‚

  • Reply January 27, 2011

    Noel

    The HD3Ds are now available for online purchase in North America on http://www.pawmusic.com as well as a number of other Superlux products including the headphones!

  • Reply April 5, 2011

    Audiopest

    I see nothing here about this being a pretty flagrant knock-off of Sound Device’s HX-3. I’d like to know if there are differences and if so, what they are.

    • Reply June 9, 2011

      Suso Ramallo

      Yes, looks like a Sound Devices rip off

      • Reply June 9, 2011

        Anonymous

        It would be interesting to see what Sound Devices say about this, as I wasn’t aware of the Sound Devices amp until you guys brought it up. Over here the Superlux brand name is much more popular than Sound Devices. Also the build quality is actually very good and doesn’t look like a knock off, so it may be a case of OEM branding, since Superlux is based in Taiwan.

        I’ll try asking Sound Devices to see what they say about this.

      • Reply June 9, 2011

        Anonymous

        This is the reply from Sound Devices:

        Mike,

        Looks like you did NO research before posting this review. The Superlux is an almost identical copy of our HX-3, a product we designed and make here in Wisconsin. It is indeed a copyright violation of our design, down to the traces on the circuit board and text in our user guide. We introduced the HX-3 in 2001 and have been continuously shipping it since then. We focus on the production and broadcast markets, a world that looks so far from your focus.

        You can certainly quote me above, and I recommend you get a quote from Superlux, as well. I’d love to see their response.

        Jon Tatooles
        Managing Director
        Sound Devices, LLC

  • Reply August 16, 2012

    AudioHipster Doyen

    Hey here at AudioHipster we have been checking out this head-amp, and find it quiet, clear with plenty of clean power, throwing away are 8 channel and keeping 2 of these in the studio, Steve Rothermel one or the designer of the Sason Speaker, like his so much he never sent it back… anywho we have these in stock here at AudioHipster studios. Cheers Doyen

  • Reply December 31, 2013

    huub

    I have one, It’s inexpensive of course, but the low end is a little woolly on my HD600’s.
    Also output 1 (the one that also has 1/8″) is very woolly sounding, very different sounding from the other two outputs.

  • Reply December 24, 2015

    Aakshey

    How does this compare to Magni 2 or Objective2 or FiiO E09k?

  • Reply January 7, 2016

    ALARICUS

    I think a strong mid range is important for ‘Classical’ too.

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