Dan Worth continues « Headphone Month » at Hifi Pig with the a review of the Epiphany Acoustics EHP-02Di Headphone Amplifier & USB DAC
So, a little while back now I got myself an Epiphany EHP-02 portable headphone amplifier. The unit was very handy being of a portable design with it’s built in rechargeable battery which lasted across many days of decent length listening sessions. I subsequently recommended the unit to a few friends who still cherish them to this day.
A month ago during the build up to this months Headfi Special at Hifi Pig, Epiphany contacted us to let us know about their latest model of headphone amplifier with built in Dac the EHP-02Di. So naturally after enjoying the standalone portable amp I was happy to have a look at the 02Di.
Epiphany Acoustics have not just had a eureka moment deciding to add a DAC to their already award winning headamp, they have in fact as many will be aware already have a DAC/amp in the product line up namely the EPH-02D. User feedback to Epiphany was extremely positive in the performance stakes but many people found as I did with the portable device that having the power input jack socket on the front of the unit was an eyesore and also a little uneasy in use, most of us have our power sockets trailing off of the rear of a unit or desk.
Epiphany has addressed this issue by moving the socket to the rear now. Another user friendly want/upgrade to the existing 02D is a pair of stereo phono jacks on the rear. What’s clever about these sockets is they act as an input for an analogue signal to the headphone amplifier or when the USB DAC is utilised from a computer (which is plug n play and doesn’t require drivers) automatically switches to an output to any normal system as a usable standalone DAC with integrated headphone amplifier. The two devices can be used simultaneously.
Power to the DAC is via the USB host computer and filtered on board. The data is controlled by the on-board crystal oscillator to improve performance.
The DAC is based on the TE7022L UAC1 engine and ES9023 24 bit DAC chip. It supports 16 bit and 24 bit at sample rates of 44.1kHz, 48kHz and 96kHz.
The Setup and Sound
After leaving the EHP-02Di on 24 hours a day for week through my AKG K702’s fed via USB from the DAC to ensure good burn in time as I was fairly busy so wanted to make sure it had some good hours on it I was ready to rock and roll.
As well as having the AKG’s running from the dac/amp I also made use of the analogue outputs running a set of Harman Karson Sounsticks which sat on the desk. This would give me an idea of the DAC’s performance against the analogue connection straight from the Mac to the Soundsticks.
As a Headphone Amp
First impressions were very nice top end detail, vibrant mids and a good bouncy bass when listening to Spotify’s Top 100 list which consists very extensively of the world top pop music. A good mixture of dance, rock and vocal work adorned the list and was a great way to see how the EHP-02Di would fair without being overly specific.
Vocals were extremely pleasing sitting a little bit forward of flat, allowing them to be projected and vibrant in nature. The top end is very neatly handled, remaining controlled with wailing females and intricate when listening to synthesised dance music. The treble doesn’t slope severely, cutting off high frequency extremes, they do seem to keep going on and on. As far as bass is concerned I would say its a bit bouncy, a little tight and fast. The lower end could be said to have a more neutral tonality, it’s not dry or weighty nor is it coloured. The cleanliness in this area depicts details well and those of you out there who are not bass heads will appreciate the extra detail here.
Flicking over from Spotify to Amarra increased performance and rendition of a higher quality bit depth and better recording.
The EHP-02Di shows better delicacies in the mix when fed with quality recordings, midband presentation is a little more fluid with better undertones. Top end is a tiny bit more refined and bass remains clean and explicit.
Singling out the DAC
I use the Harman Kardons very often when sat at the desk, whether it’s to use them for music, tV or Film. They are normally plugged into the headphone output of the Mac Mini. The wonderfully versatile feature of added RCA’s on the 02Di allowed for me – the user to be able to have the Soundsticks always plugged in to what was originally just a headphone amp/dac in the first incarnation of the product the EHP-02D.
Improvements were decisively apparent and immediately noticeable. The Mac itself is fairly modded, has the fan removed, runs three linear power supplies, is solid state and has OS tweaks. These improvements made a difference at the time to the Soundsticks (and the main system) but utilising the dac from the Epiphany was a larger step up in performance.
I’ve had many high end active and passive speakers in the alcove where the desk is but the Soundsticks are of a size that just compliments the space so well. The EHP-02Di didn’t change the presentation totally, it does seem to be extremely neutral, what it does offer tho is a far better detail retrieval, a stronger presence of bass characterisation and a vocal which stands out and doesn’t get so lost in the mix.
The headphone amplifier itself can be as mentioned ran from the RCA sockets on the rear. Using the device in this manner is just like using the standalone portable EHP-02 which Hifi Pig has already reviewed if you wish to check it out.
With a compact and attractive design the Epiphany Acoustics EHP-02Di is a terrific desktop unit which can be implemented as the main hub for a computer. Whether it’s music, games or films through a set of powered speakers or a set of headphones for the same for more intimate listening the EHP-02Di won’t fail to impress.
Build Quality – 7.5/10
Sound Quality – 8/10
Value For Money – 8.5/10
Overall – 8/10
Price at time of review – £179.99
Recommended for – it’s ability to run headphones and speakers simultaneously and having a terrific sound to pound performance which is neutral, detailed and involving.