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May 2013
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere!
Napa Acoustic NA 208 H Headphone Amplifier
Presenting the music at a bargain basement $299 price.
Review By Alfred Fredel

 

A Headphone Amplifier for Everyone!

Napa Acoustic NA 208 H Headphone Amplifier  A few years ago, I was introduced to a small company that provides audio solutions at affordable prices. I am always a sucker for a good deal and I tend to search out products that will give the listener the best bang for their buck. Recently, I have been listening a lot to my headphones and have been looking for a respectable headphone amplifier that will not break the bank. Joseph at Napa Acoustic suggested his NA 208 H headphone amplifier to fit the bill. Having worked with his products in the past, I thought this would be a good opportunity to sample this little unit and hopefully give me some quality sound through my cans.

The NA 208 H is a member of the 208 family of Napa Acoustic audio components. A physical and cosmetic match to the 208 series amplifier and CD player, the NA 208 H is designed to provide unique options for listening, control and system building. As a headphone amplifier it delivers audio that is balanced, smooth, dynamic and open. According to Joseph, its super-low-noise tube amplification circuitry using a 6N2 tube, ensures even the most demanding headphones will perform at their best.

The NA208 H is much more than just a headphone amplifier. It also boasts an onboard DAC (Burr Brown PCM2702) that will allow you to go straight from your digital device or computer as well as an analog stage that will allow you to use the unit as a preamplifier. There is an analog auxiliary switch for greater flexibility. My only complaint might be the cheesy glow given to the tube that is really not needed and is just a cosmetic detail. The build quality is quite strong and you get this whole little package for the affordable price of $299, a real audio bargain.

I use two sets of headphones in my listening room that are very different. The first pair is a set of Grado SR 125. These cans are efficient, forward and very dynamic. The second set of headphones is my venerable Sennheiser HD650, noted to be detailed and refined units. They require a bit more power to drive them well.

 

Versatility: Many Ways to Play With the NA 208 H
My first flirtation with this little versatile unit was with my computer. I have several files that I have downloaded from HDtracks. These are sensational files and I recommend that you at least try them. I loaded up Slowhand by Eric Clapton, one of my favorite albums. On "Cocaine", the NA 208 H managed to tame my Grado SR125, which can be a bit on the bright side. The performance was balanced and controlled yet fun to listen to for long periods of time. Switching to the Sennheiser HD 650 headphones was a real treat. The guitar work on "Wonderful Tonight" was detailed and warm, a real good start. Next on my list was a transition to my iPod and Pure i20 dock into the auxiliary input of the NA 208 H headphone amplifier.

Napa Acoustic NA 208 H Headphone AmplifierWith my iPod, I played many files that tested the dynamic range of the headphone amplifier. From jazz to ska, everything I threw at the NA 208 H was handled with authority. The unit was smooth, detailed and open. One of my favorite recordings is Cherryholmes' self-titled album. This well-rounded bluegrass recording has consistent instrumentals and vocals and features the classic tune "Workin' Man". The NA 208 H ate up this dynamic album and made it a truly enjoyable listening experience while listening through my Sennheiser HD650 headphones.

Moving on to my living room, I wanted to see how this little unit would function both as a preamplifier and headphone amplifier. I also wanted to play a few records albums to hear some of my best tunes. After listening to several albums, I came to the conclusion that I was definitely happy with this little unit from Napa Acoustic. The headphone amplifier in combination with my turntable and Sennheiser headphones was my preferred listening combination. It was warm, musical and natural. I actually listened for hours to this combination. Pink Floyd s "Learning to Fly" from A Momentary Lapse of Reason was special with the tune's trippy guitar leading the way. There was just one last order of business to hear from the NA 208 H and that was how it would perform as a preamplifier. For my last period with the NA 208 H, I choose to spend the time listening to Jimi Hendrix and tunes from Axis: Bold As Love.  The warmth of the simple tube was a real benefit as Jimi's guitar work was featured in classic tracks like "Little Wing" and "Castles in the Sand". The little unit that could was quite a surprise and will probably not be making the return trip back to California (write me up Joseph!).

 

Conclusion
Okay, do we have a groundbreaking product here? No. Do we have a piece of audio candy that is going to bring you to bankruptcy? Certainly not. What we have is a modest product that does what it says it is going to do. It claims that it will drive most headphones with authority and smoothness. It accomplished this in spades and was even able to drive my Sennheiser HD 650 headphones at comfortable levels without any signs of strain. Napa Acoustic claimed that it would function as a USB DA converter and it did remarkably well. The company also claimed that the product would function as a preamplifier and it brought joy to my vinyl listening experience. All in all, what this product simply does is present the music while simply staying out of the way at a bargain basement price. After all, isn't the end game for you to enjoy the music?

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear  
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Vacuum tube stereo headphone amplifier and USB DAC
Vacuum Tube: 6N2 
DAC: Burr Brown PCM2702
Inputs: Stereo analog via RCA and digital via USB
Output Power: 500mW x 2 @ 100 Ohm
Freq. Response: 20 Hz to 40 kHz
Input Selector: AUX and USB
THD: Less than 0.1%
S/N: Greater than 88 dB
Dimensions: 6.6" x 9.4" x 4.7"(WxDxH)
Price: $299

 

Company Information
Napa Acoustic
44380 S. Grimmer Blvd
Fremont, CA 94538

Voice: (510) 371-3416
E-mail: info@napaacoustic.com
Website: www.NapaAcoustic.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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