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Sony PHA-1A

Portable headphone amplifier/USB DAC

7 Reviews | 2 questions - 6 answers

Item # 158PHA1

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Overview

Our take on the Sony PHA-1A

I once lost a whole afternoon listening to Sony's fantastic PHA-3 headphone amp/DAC  — easily among the best I've ever heard. But let's be honest, it's a lot more amp than some people will want to invest in. Thankfully, Sony has an outstanding, more budget-friendly alternative for those of us who simply want way better sound from our smartphones, tablets, portable music players, and computers, along with the luxury of enjoying that sound wherever we go. Say hello to the sleek, compact PHA-1A.

A portable high-res powerhouse

I once lost a whole afternoon listening to Sony's fantastic PHA-3 headphone amp/DAC  — easily among the best I've ever heard. But let's be honest, it's a lot more amp than some people will want to invest in. Thankfully, Sony has an outstanding, more budget-friendly alternative for those of us who simply want way better sound from our smartphones, tablets, portable music players, and computers, along with the luxury of enjoying that sound wherever we go. Say hello to the sleek, compact PHA-1A.

Small enough to take almost anywhere, this beautifully made little amp connects between your music player's or computer's digital output and your headphones to deliver the serious punch and clarity your tunes deserve. And for high-res music lovers, the PHA-1A can even decode PCM digital audio signals up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, so you can enjoy better-than-CD audio quality. Its rechargeable battery supplies the power you need to pump out bigger, bolder sound for up to six hours at a stretch. Your favorite headphones will jump to attention, surprising you with greater bass impact, musical detail, and forceful dynamics.

Versatile connectivity and sturdy construction

Sony PHA-1A headphone amp/DAC

Sony's sleek and portable PHA-1A headphone amp/DAC delivers powerful sound for high-quality listening on the go.

The PHA-1A works with a wide array of devices. Its three separate USB ports give you a direct digital connection for your iPod®/iPhone®/iPad®, Hi-Res Walkman®, a PC or Mac®, plus a charging port. This allows the Sony to bypass the DAC in your player or computer, and decode your tunes with superior audiophile-quality precision.

Built like a Swiss watch, this Sony's rugged aluminum enclosure protects the precision circuitry inside from outside interference and impacts. The recessed volume knob reduces the chance of accidental level changes during playback. Plus, a built-in gain switch around back makes it easier to match the amp's output to a wide variety of headphones — from highly sensitive in-ear monitors to big, high-impedance power hogs.

Product Highlights:

  • battery-powered portable headphone amplifier with built-in USB DAC
  • decodes PCM digital audio sources up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • gain select switch provides compatibility for a wide range of headphones and earphones
  • three USB ports:
    • micro type-B input for charging (adapter cable included)
    • micro type-B input for computer, Sony Walkman™, and Xperia™ smartphone or tablet connections (adapter cables included)
    • standard type-A input for iPod®/iPhone®/iPad® devices (these devices must use their own respective cables, not included)
  • Windows and Mac computers supported (free software downloads from Sony's website for playback)
  • built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery provides up to 6 hours of playback
  • sleek and durable aluminum body
  • recommended headphone impedance: 8-600 ohms
  • frequency range: 10-100,000 Hz
  • 2-7/16"W x 4-7/16"H x 3/4"D
  • weight: 5.11 oz.
  • warranty: 1 year parts, 90 days labor
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

What's in the Box:

  • PHA-1A portable DAC/headphone amplifier
  • 2 Silicone rubber mounting bands
  • Protective silicone rubber sheet (1-5/8" x 3-1/2")
  • 59" Micro USB cable (Type A USB on one end and Micro USB on other end)
  • 8.5" Digital cable for Xperia (Micro USB on one end and proprietary connector on other end)
  • 5.25" Digital cable for Walkman (Micro USB on one end and proprietary WM-Port connector on other end)
  • Startup Guide
  • Reference Guide
  • Listening for a Lifetime booklet
  • Limited Warranty (US)
  • Sony Consumer 1 Year Warranty (Canada)

I found Pete very helpful with placing my order. The Sony PHA-1A portable headphone amplifier made a big difference when listening to headphones. The music came alive when using my Apple iPod and I phone 7. The highs and bass where much improved. Thanks Crutchfield for the fast delivery

Bruce, Clifton, Nj

Reviews

Sony PHA-1A Reviews

Average Customer Review(s):

(7 Reviews)

Limited Application

Crutchfield customer from Lewiston, ID on 8/29/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

Extremely limited application. I plan to return for refund. Team has a similar product with more broad application.

Pros:

Cons:

Sony PHA-1A

David from Menomonee Fls, WI on 5/6/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

I recently purchased the Sony PHA-1A. I have this coupled with the Sony NW A35 a hi-rez player. I was a bit skeptical that this would significantly improve the sound. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The Sony PHA-1A provided more detail and clarity. Everything sounder deeper, more open and focused. If you really enjoy listening to headphones with a hi-rez player for with an iPOD, I would highly recommend this.

Pros:

Cons:

A Must for Portable Music!

John from Rocky River, OH on 4/27/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

I've been looking for something to give the music on my phone and Ipod (yes, I still have one) a little more backbone. The Sony PHA-1A is exactly what I've been looking for. It's small enough to be easily carried around but it produces a BIG sound. Paired with good headphones it will totally change the way you listen to your music on the go.

Pros: Makes portable music sound better Easy to carry with your mobile device Holds a good charge

Cons: A little expensive (but you get what you pay for)

Sony PHA-1A

Crutchfield customer from marysville,ohio on 3/20/2018

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

I own both this Sony and also the Teac. They are both terrific pieces of equipment and greatly enhance the listening experience and I actually recommend both. However I will give a slight edge to the Sony in that it does provide an even clearer and more precise interpretation of the music I listen to (mostly classic rock) and it seems to do a slightly better job in the upper frequencies. It is also a great deal lighter than the Teac and seems to charge a bit quicker. But I don't think you can go wrong with either DAC. They both make the listening experience through a good pair of headphones better than any pair of floor speakers I have owned.

Pros: Great music enhancement. Really makes your headphones pop. Light weight. Good battery life.

Cons: Kind of expensive but if you're a real headphone fan they are well worth the investment.

Sony PHA-1A

Bruce from Clifton, Nj on 8/13/2017

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

I found Pete very helpful with placing my order. The Sony PHA-1A portable headphone amplifier made a big difference when listening to headphones. The music came alive when using my Apple iPod and I phone 7. The highs and bass where much improved. Thanks Crutchfield for the fast delivery

Pros:

Cons:

Sony PHA-1A

Crutchfield customer from Los Angeles, CA on 10/28/2016

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

I have been living with a SONY PHA-1A for about a month now and it has been an excellent purchase for what I needed. I was looking for an outboard D/A converter that would work with my I POD for mobile use as I have an I DAC for home use and wanted the same quality sound in the car or anywhere else I was at, including work. I was not disappointed as it gives me the depth and accuracy of sound I have been looking for. I have an Audio Quest Dragonfly with Jitterbug that I use mostly at work and with my I pad and new I pod with the lightning input but finding something to work with the older I pod 30 Pin connector was difficult. Thank you Sony and B&H. I have found something I have been seeking fro quite a few years. This is one of the best purchases I have made in a long time. I don't leave home without it.

Pros:

Cons:

Good amp, flat DAC

Dogbone_384 from Massachusetts on 12/28/2015

Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)

A nice portable headphone amp built like typical Sony, a little tank. Output power and battery life is very good but the DAC sounded flat compared to my Meridian Explorer and Audioquest Dragonfly.

Pros: Built quality, portability, and battery life.

Cons: Sounded flat compared to two other DACs I own.

Details

Hands-on research

Product Research

Features

Overview: The Sony PHA-1A is a battery-powered portable DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and headphone amplifier that lets you listen to high-resolution audio up to 192kHz/24-bit through your headphones. You can connect a PC, an iPod/iPhone/iPad, or a high-res capable Walkman or Xperia to the unit using one of the two USB inputs.

Aluminum Construction: The PHA-1A features a compact aluminum enclosure to protect the inside circuitry and components.

Connections: The PHA-1A has two USB digital inputs: a Type A USB port for connecting an iPod/iPad/iPhone (with the device's cable), and a Micro-B USB for connecting a PC. An extra pin beside the Micro-B USB accommodates the supplied cables for connecting a High-Res supported Sony Walkman or Xperia. Another Micro-B USB, labeled "DC In 5V", is provided for charging the built-in battery using the supplied cable. The front panel features a stereo 3.5mm headphone output that supports impedances from 8 to 600 Ohms. The output is compatible only with 3-pole stereo miniplugs. For this reason, in-line and on-board headphone remote controls will not work.

Controls: The front-mounted large power/volume control knob with plenty of headroom to let you set the volume just where you want it. A 2-position gain switch (normal/high) on the side lets you match the headphone amp to various headphone impedances.

Lithium-ion Rechargeable Battery: The PHA-1A is powered by a built-in 3.7-volt Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Battery life is approximately 6 hours (operating at 1 mW+1 mW output). The battery charges in approximately 6 hours via USB when connected to a PC. With the optional AC-UD10 USB AC adapter, charging time is only 2 hours.

Compatible Devices: The Sony PHA-1A is compatible with a wide variety of devices (click here for the latest list). With two USB inputs, it can connect to most computers, iPhone/iPod/iPad, and select Sony portable digital audio devices:

  • Computer: The unit can play digital audio files stored on your computer. The unit includes a Micro USB cable for connecting it to your computer's USB Type A port. The PHA-1A is compatible with the following Operating Systems: Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7 (SP1), Windows Vista (SP2), and Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later. Note: For Windows PCs, you must first install the driver software "Sony Portable Headphone Amplifier USB Audio 2.0 Driver" before connecting the PHA-1A. Playing high-resolution audio files on your computer may require you to download and install "Hi-Res Audio Player" software to your computer.
  • iOS Devices: The PHA-1A is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod. The Type A USB input is provided for connecting the i-device using the USB cable provided with the device. The digital audio data from the device is transferred directly to the DAC, and bypasses the device's internal DAC. On most iOS devices, the maximum resolution played through the PHA-1A is 96kHz/24-bit PCM. Compatible models include:
    • iPhone: 6Plus, 6, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, 4, 3GS, 3G, iPhone
    • iPad: Air 2, mini 3, Air, mini 2, mini, 4th gen, 3rd gen, iPad 2, iPad
    • iPod:
      • touch: 1st through 5th generation
      • classic: 120GB, 160GB (2009)
      • nano: 2nd through 7th generation
  • Sony Devices: Special digital cables are supplied for connecting the PHA-1A and the following Hi-res Walkman and Xperia devices:
    • Sony Walkman: NWZ-A15/A17, NWZ-F884/F885/F886/F887, NWZ-ZX2/ZX1
    • Sony Xperia Tablets: Xperia Z2 tablet, Xperia Z3 tablet compact
    • Sony Mobile Phones: Xperia A2, E3, M, M2, T2 Ultra, T3, Z Ultra, Z1, Z1 Compact, Z2, Z3, Z3 Compact

Silicone Belts: The PHA-1A is designed to allow you to conveniently attach your portable device to the top. Two silicone rubber bands are provided to strap your portable to the headphone amplifier, and a silicone rubber pad helps to prevent scratches.

Specifications:

  • Frequency Range: 10 Hz - 100 kHz
  • Distortion: 0.01% or less (1 kHz)
  • Supported Impedance: 8Ω - 600Ω
  • Maximum Input: 1 Vrms (Audio in)
  • Maximum Output (with built-in battery):
    • 148 mW + 148 mW (8Ω, 10% distortion)
    • 80 mW + 80 mW (32Ω, 1% distortion)
    • 16.4 mW + 16.4 mW (300Ω, 10% distortion)

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team. They verify what’s in the box, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Q & A

Customer Q&A

Crutchfield asked  
Why did you buy this?

Combination of price, portability and it seems like it will suit my needs [ Donald  Aug 16, 2018 ]
I have a Sony Hi Res Walkman [ Avinash  Aug 08, 2018 ]
Have only heard good things about Sony amps and am going to make the leap and try out one for myself! [ Austin  Jan 17, 2018 ]
Portable, Light weight, quality direct connect, and play DAC for iPod,iPhone, iPad, MAC. [ Jose Diego  Dec 21, 2015 ]

2 questions already asked

I have to be honest and say I have not tried to do so! But I must say that the time to charge the device on a portable charger I purchased (Insignia NS-MAC2U2NW) is shorter than the Teac (HA-P50) that I also own. And although both devices are outstanding at what they do, the Sony seems to have a longer battery life. [ elmer  Feb 18, 2018 ]
Never tried [ ROBERT  Jan 25, 2018 ]
No you can not [ DAVID E  Jan 25, 2018 ]
Try Onkyo HF player for iOS. It plays FLAC & DSD! [ Christopher  Jan 26, 2016 ]
No, only 48/44.1 on iOS/iPods. See the link to the Sony site for supported devices on their detail tab. [ ACH  Dec 31, 2015 ]
We have not received any answers from other customers on your question. I would recommend reaching out to an Advisor by phone (1-800-324-9695) or online chat. They should be able to help answer your question. [ Krissy  Oct 09, 2015 ]  Staff
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