a very high-end DAC, headphone amp and preamp in Siamese mode

Yamaha had to offers a DAC/headphone amp worthy of the name to accompany its very impressive YH-5000SE planar headphones. It’s finally done with the HA-L7A. PFor the occasion, the manufacturer pulled out all the stops and presented one of the most ambitious devices on the market. Obviously, the price is accordingly.

Two parts, but actually only one

The Yamaha HA-L7A was presented in a non-functional version a few months ago at Munich High End. From an aesthetic point of view, it clearly stands out from the crowd. This DAC/amp is in fact built around a single chassis… but separated in two, in the shape of an L. This originality makes it possible to better separate the power supply from the rest of the electronics. Yamaha plays even more on the height of the device to stack the different stages and reduce the signal path.

Its style, as daring as that of the YH-5000SE headphones, remains difficult to compare with the latter. The HA-L7A is an interesting mix of exuberance (toroidal transformers placed at the top) and sobriety, as evidenced by its discreet buttons and its sandblasted and black anodized aluminum surface.
Obviously, we are not dealing with the most compact and light equipment in its category since it measures 333 x 133 x 189 mm and weighs 5.3 kg.

Headset sound hub

Both a DAC (converter), headphone amplifier and even preamplifier, the Yamaha HA-L7A already has a good number of connections:

  • digital inputs: 1 USB-B, 1 optical Toslink, 1 RCA SPDIF;
  • analog inputs: 1 RCA stereo line input;
  • analog outputs: 1 RCA stereo line/pre-amplified (switch) output, 1 stereo RCA line/pre-amplified (switch) output in dual 3-pin XLR;
  • Headphone outputs: 1 6.35 mm jack (unbalanced), 1 4.4 mm jack (balanced), 1 4-pin XLR (balanced).

The interface and settings are not left out. These are done via a set of ultra-thin buttons and dials, placed on the upper side of the HA-L7A. It is possible to adjust the volume, access the different inputs, or even modulate the Sound Field sound effect created by the device (we will come back to this). All indications are displayed on a small OLED screen, installed next to the various buttons.

High-end DAC and “floating” amplification

In a very Japanese high-end philosophy, the HA-L7A is anything but reasonable in its technical approach. The most classic point is undoubtedly its conversion stage, which is based on an ES9038PRO from ESS, the best current chip from the founder after the ES9039PRO. Here, Yamaha leverages four of the chip’s eight conversion channels for the left channel and four for the right channel. This DAC comes with two high-precision clocks and eight types of digital filters.

As for amplification, it is a little more original, since it integrates technology buton “Floating Balanced” (“symetric with floating mass”). Here, Yamaha uses a total of four amplifier circuits, individually dedicated to each pole of each channel. This symmetrical design, with floating mass (isolated) goes quite far, since it even concerns the inputs RCA and outputs (RCA and headphone outputs). Indeed, a conversion circuit allows you to go from an unbalanced input signal to an unbalanced signal. There is therefore, virtually, no difference in processing between the two types of incoming streams. For volume adjustment, the Yamaha HA-L7A is equipped with a MUSES72323 chip, which allows working with volume steps of 0.25 dB. For its part, the Pure Direct function allows, in in the case of simple amplification, to deactivate all circuits involving the conversion and DSP stages.
The power supply, announced as very high-end, was designed by the American manufacturer Analog Devices.
Yamaha also highlights the rigid and well-damped design of the assembly, such as the fixing of the toroidal transformers on a steel plate, or the presence inside the chassis of an 8 mm aluminum plate. The structure is supported by a set of five conical steel legs, which ensures excellent overall decoupling.

Finally, last little Yamaha touch, the Sound Field function gives the possibility of virtualizing six different sound ambiances, ranging from Cinema mode to Concert mode.
Quite original, high-end and equipped with high-quality components, the Yamaha HA-L7A DAC/headphone amp/preamp will be available from October 2023for a price of 3900 euros. It is therefore not aimed at all budgets, but constitutes a very nice complement to the Yamaha YH-5000SE headphones.

Yamaha HA-L7A specifications

  • Type: DAC/headphone amp/preamp
  • DAC: 1 ESS ES9038PRO
  • Symmetric floating mass amplification
  • Sound Field and Pure Direct sound technologies
  • Digital inputs: 1 USB-B, 1 optical Toslink, 1 RCA SPDIF
  • Analog inputs: 1 RCA stereo line input
  • Analog outputs: 1 stereo RCA line/pre-amplified (switch) output, 1 dual 3-pin XLR stereo line/pre-amplified (switch) output
  • Headphone outputs: 1 6.35 mm jack (unbalanced), 1 4.4 mm jack (balanced), 1 4-pin XLR (balanced)
  • Frequency response (-3 dB): 4 Hz – 80 kHz
  • Signal-to-noise ratio (without measurement accuracy): 120 dB
  • Output power: 1000 mW per channel into 32 ohms
  • Remote control delivered
  • Dimensions: 333 x 133 x 189 mm
  • Weight: 5.3 kg
  • Price : 3900 euros

Official photos of the Yamaha HA-L7A


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