Sony PHA-3 use experience

The PHA-3 has been on the market for some time. I haven’t made up my mind before, mainly because PHA-2 can basically meet my usual needs, and DSD has everything. PHA-3 does not seem to improve much compared to PHA-2.

However, the so-called chopping hand is like this, one did not hold back or started.

Compared with the previous two generations of products, PHA-3’s packaging has become a bit more upscale, no longer a black box, but a style similar to ZX1 packaging.

There is still so much nonsense on the back. However, it can be seen from the nominal parameters that PHA-1 is the most capable of decoding 24bit/96KHz audio, PHA-2 is up to 24bit/192KHz, and DSD decoding is supported by Native mode. The PHA-3 further enhances the parameters and supports up to 32bit/384KHz audio specifications. Of course, DSD can’t run.

Another improvement is support for balanced port output, while almost all portable decoders/amps support only single-ended. But the reality is that headphones that support balanced input, in addition to the Z7 released with PHA-3, are open-type big ears like HD600/650. Shouldn’t anyone wear them out of the street? In short, Sony believes that supporting balanced output is very important, and I don’t know how to do market research…

The accessories are no longer randomly placed in an environmentally-friendly carton, but on the left and right sides of the box, but the most conspicuous is of course the PHA-3 body itself. The first two generations of aluminum alloy + wire drawing process turned into a matte material on PHA-3. Fortunately, some people said that the rumor that PHA-3 would change to a plastic case did not become a fact.

The PHA-3 is a huge change in terms of styling compared to the previous two Sony products. The iconic protection pole has disappeared, and the angular shape of the overall shape has disappeared. Now it has become a brick that does not fall through the autumn. The reason is that it is a brick, because the goods are too big. If the PHA-1 and PHA-2 can also be stuffed into the trouser pocket, the PHA-3 is bundled with any player (the iPod Nano is not counted), there is absolutely no way to put it in the trouser pocket. In winter, the down jacket pocket can be tried. But the drums must be very strange… Fortunately, even in such a volume, the weight of PHA-3 is not too heavy, at least there is no impulse to throw away in the hand.

The reason for the increase in the volume of PHA-3 should be just the increase in battery capacity. However, from the official data, the PHA-3’s battery life has not improved. It is still used as a pure amp or as a PC USB DAC. It can last for 15 hours, and it lasts for 5~6 hours as a decoder, but the most incomprehensible thing is that it now takes more than 15 hours to fully charge! ! ! That is to say, if I listen to 2~3 hours of music a day, I need to spend half a day charging to continue listening to music after two days…. In the case of Sony’s impressive fast charging technology, this design seems a bit Unacceptable.

The design of the output interface, the brass interface of the PHA-2 and ZX1 appears again on the PHA-3. However, when the local gold has been played by various manufacturers, Sony’s design is not difficult, but it is really nothing new.

It can also be seen from the front panel that the PHA series, which has only one indicator light before, has three status indicators, which are high-resolution audio indications (should be higher than 48KHz), DSD stream indication and power supply/ charging indicator. In fact, only the DSD lamp has a little meaning.

Incidentally, the PHA-3’s volume knob is more damped than the previous two generations. It feels better and is less prone to misuse. This is a good improvement.

The “butt” of PHA-1 and PHA-2 is actually very complicated: Micro USB, iDevice dedicated interface, interface switch, and Walkman dedicated input interface. The PHA-3 is even more intensive. In addition to moving the Line In/Line Out and Output switches here, it is still hard to plug in a Micro USB and a fiber-optic input. Today, everything is simple and beautiful, PHA-3 seems to be out of place.

Before the USB IN and the charging port shared the design is nothing wrong, anyway, Sony bite to say that charging can not play at the same time because it will affect the sound quality, then this time to separate the two mouths, does it mean that the PHA-3 can be used normally while charging? What? The answer of course is: no! ! It seems that the DC IN 5V interface is really a failure, because it is really no use other than charging.

On the side, in addition to the always existing Gain high and low adjustment switch, there is also a DSEE HX switch. What is DSEE HX? This should be something that is paired with S-Master HX digital power amplifier technology, the full name is Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, and Sony described this technology as an abnormally bullish fork, which is claimed to be compensated for lossy compression of digital audio (MP3, AAC, etc.) lost. Sound details:

However, from the official schematic diagram of Sony, in fact, this is the “upsampling” technology that has been used by various domestic cottages or non-cottage DACs. The straightforward point is to carry out an SRC to increase the sampling rate and increase the sampling rate of 44.1KHz. Up to 192KHz. As for the actual effect, anyway, I feel that there is no improvement, and sometimes even some deterioration is true. Moreover, if the user pursues the sound quality, it must use the lossless format. If MP3 or AAC appears in the player, it is usually the time to listen to the popular music, and there is no high demand for the sound quality.

The strap has also become one of the gimmicks of Sony’s promotion. Before the PHA-1 and PHA-2 straps should be designed to be very clever, with the groove on the main body, the strap is hooked up, easy to operate, the only drawback is that when it is stuffed in the trouser pocket or lost in the bag A certain chance will be released.

This time, the PHA-3 was round and round, and naturally there was no place to leave the hook, so it was changed to the form of a closed rubber belt of the traditional portable amp. But this is not the point. Sony claims that the strap uses a “transparent design”. Even if the device is bundled, the user can see the content on the screen through the strap… WTF, can this TM be a bright spot?

To be honest, the increase in the size of the PHA-3 has indeed brought more inconvenience to being carried around.

The volume of the PHA-1 is not too small in a portable amp or decoder. It is used to bundle devices such as IPC, at least in length:

PHA-2 has become longer on this basis, but considering that PHA-2 supports higher audio specifications, IPC has not fed it, so the bundled device becomes iPod Touch or iPhone 5/5S or ZX1. , basically no difference and sense:

So what about PHA-3?

In order to match the sudden increase in the volume of PHA-3, my first thought was to bundle the HTC M8:

The reality is that even if you can ignore the HTC M8 curved back cover, PHA-3 is not suitable for it, M8 is wider and longer. So basically you can confirm that the mainstream Android phone wants to match PHA-3, it must be uncomfortable to use.

So what about Sony’s own ZX1?

The volume of the ZX1 is not big. In addition to the buttocks that are tilted up, the volume of the ZX1 should be similar to that of the iPhone 4S. It is easy to move around when it is bundled up and down. Even the effect of the flagship player tied up is not good. What is the best thing to do with the PHA-3 bundle? After thinking about it, I found that whether it is PHA-1 or PHA-2, the focus of publicity or being known by everyone is because iDevice is supported.

Sony has made another contribution. After smashing up almost all of its own players, plus almost all mainstream Android devices, the best-looking device is actually the iPhone 6. Regardless of length or width, the PHA-3 is tailored to the iPhone 6.

But the problem is that iOS should support source output higher than 16bit/48KHz audio, only Lightning to USB Adapter Kit. After installing this line, PHA-3 has almost no portability.

In any case, for PHA-3, from the most convenient use, it is still bundled with ZX1: dedicated cable, support DSD decoding, and it is relatively convenient to switch songs.

Another point that needs to be taken out is that the PHA-3’s accessories still save the iDevice cable, and replaced it with one more:

According to the illustration on the back of the package, this line should be used to connect to a Sony XPeria phone. But Sony phones don’t seem to be much different from other Android phones, then…

Plug this line into the HTC M8 and the system immediately recognizes that it is an OTG line and the phone enters USB Host mode.

Unsurprisingly, PHA-3 can be easily identified by Andorid devices this time, and there is no need to use two lines to toss back and forth like PHA-1 and PHA-2. After the M8 recognizes the PHA-3, the playback also looks normal, the system volume is disabled, and the PHA-3 is correctly recognized in the Android system file.

However, the problem is that it seems that Andorid’s current player will still output the audio first SRC at 44.1KHz or 48KHz even if it is facing an external DAC, because when playing a 24bit/192KHz audio file, PHA-3 Hi- The Fs light is not lit. Another small discovery is that I don’t know when to start. HTC M8 even supports the 24-bit/192KHz direct decoding of the music player that comes with the system. However, through the previous analysis, it still passes the SRC.

In short, Android’s support for USB DAC is still very basic. Although iOS requires high-definition audio source code output for HF Player and camera kits, it is at least simpler to operate and supports DSD output. If Android must output high-resolution audio, then only through a paid software called USB Audio Recorder Pro, and its UI/UE is not for normal people… so you want to match ordinary Andorid Mobile phones use external DAC, we can only continue to expect Android 5.0 to give strength.

Having said so many topics that have nothing to do with the sound itself, or return to the essence of PHA-3: the sound comes up.

This time, the PHA-3 was used as a USB DAC to play music on a PC. Although PHA-3 supports fiber input, the fiber supports only 192KHz/24bit and does not support DSD, so use USB. The software uses JRiver, ASIO output, and Sony’s own driver.

The first thing you can feel is that the thrust of PHA-3 has been greatly improved compared to PHA-2. Large headphones like the K701 and HD600 and the DT880 are pushed with the PHA-2. Although the sound of the PHA-1 is greatly improved, the high volume of the High Gain+ is still suitable. The sound is only audible. . The PHA-3’s output level is significantly higher in the High Gain state, and the sound is not far from the desktop DAC as a whole. Although there are very few opportunities to push the ear with PHA-3, this is a bit of an improvement.

PHA-3 generally continues the sound style of PHA-2 – the tri-band is relatively balanced, and it is described by the words that most people love. This sound is plain water and light. But the sound field of PHA-3 is big enough, even if it is listening to some classical music recorded on the spot, it is okay to want a little burst of sensation. In addition, PHA-3 seems to have made some progress in resolving power. The control of high frequency is much better than that of PHA-2. K3003 will no longer be overthrown when it is in High Gain. The most surprising thing is that the sound of PHA-3 seems to be a bit more emotional, not as cold as PHA-2.

When using the Normal Gain to push the SE846, the SE846’s exaggerated low frequency is controlled just right, neither will it be a headshot nor a lack of anything. The IF is still Sony’s old style: the distance is just right, the image is clear and solid, and it won’t be particularly tired for a long time.

As for the noise floor and sound separation, this is Sony’s strength. The performance of PHA-3 will naturally not disappoint, and it is still quite pure.

In general, PHA-3 is a device that reveals a high level of music. It can have a completely different style with different headphones or earphones. The larger output power also makes it a wider range of applications. As for the balanced output, you need to wait until you find a balance line to replace the HD600.

PS. I heard the Sony Z7 for a few days, and I used the balance of the PHA-3. But the sound of the Z7 is not enough to describe it. The sound field is small, the sound is boring overall, lack of space and air, the layering is not strong, and the resolution is general. Even after switching to the very high-end CD turntable + decoder + desktop amp, the Z7’s sound has hardly improved.

The sound of the PHA-3 has improved, but for most people who play with it, a high-quality player like the ZX1 is actually enough. The new fiber input and balanced output are more like a ambition that Sony hopes the PHA-3 can replace the desktop DAC, and the practicality remains to be verified. The official 5xxx guide price is a bit nonsensical. At present, the price of the Japanese version on Taobao is about 3400, which is still somewhat high. If you can enter the 2500 level, the sound of PHA-3 is still very competitive.

Finally, PHA-3 has a hidden function. When bundled with a mobile phone or a device such as ZX1 for decoding, PHA-3 is definitely a competent hand warmer…