Beyerdynamic A200p: Portable Digital Amplifier

Editor’s Note: The Beyerdynamic A200p is a product adapted from and very similar to the Astell&Kern AK10. The two share very similar functionality and outward appearance.

Disclaimer: I’d like to thank Beyerdynamic for loaning me the A200p for review.  The sample will be returned to Beyerdynamic following evaluation.

A200p iphone cable_mini

The Beyerdynamic A200p is a very small DAC/Amp combo for portable use with computers, iPads, iPhones, and Android phones (list of confirmed compatible devices).

The device itself is 55×55×13 mm and the included leather case with belt strap adds minimal bulk.  It features and on/off/lock switch, headphone out, play/pause/forward/reverse side buttons, micro USB connection, and a very large rotating volume wheel (more on this later).

While the USB connection is a standard micro-B type, it is recessed and compatibility with generic cables seems improbable, so you may be limited to the included proprietary cables, which includes one long cable for computer use, and two shorter cables for iDevice and Android usage.  Beyerdynamic does sell replacement cables.

Other features include a Wolfson WM8740 DAC chip, volume control of 135 steps, and an estimated 11 hour play time. Output impedance is an importantly small 1.1 Ω and outputs 1.7 Vrms in the USA version.

A200p usb cable_mini

Both the USA and EU versions default to being volume limited (to 150 mVrms, in accordance with EU-50332-2) but the USA version allows for volume limit override by holding down the play button for a few seconds. Once the volume limit is removed, the A200p restarts the volume at its lowest setting as protection feature.

MSRP is $299 USD, which makes it one of the more affordable DAC/Amp combos able to play with most portable devices.

Usage

The A200p is very easy to use and it’s small size means you can stick in a pocket and easily take it with you.  The flush volume wheel is the first thing you notice about the design, after all it takes up the entire front side of the device.

A200p flat on case_mini

Upon initially receiving the device, I found the volume wheel very frustrating to use.  Sometimes, I could easily get it turning, yet other times I couldn’t get it to move no matter how hard I tried.  Beyerdynamic does include stick-on pads to help with usage problems; the pad gives your thumb some grip to help rotate it.  However, I found that after a week’s use, the volume wheel loosened enough to turn it with every attempt.

For that first week, I do recommend using the stick-on pad — especially with computer use when the default computer volume can be set initially high or when changing between vastly differing sensitivity of earphones.

After finally breaking in and mastering the volume wheel operation, you really come to appreciate the 135 steps of volume control.  So many amps, computers and phones give you quite large increases in volume with each click or turn of their volume controls, making it difficult to find a comfortable but loud enough volume selection. The A200p is very pleasing in this respect — you have quite a bit of wheel movement before the volume increase becomes much louder- and works excellently for super-sensitive IEMs.

A200P flat in case_mini

My only complaint would be that you cannot control volume through a typically slim jeans pant pocket; you will have to remove the A200p from tighter pockets in order to change it but larger pockets, like a jacket or cargos, should have enough room for you to maneuver the volume wheel while still concealed.

The only other design frustration I experienced was over the side buttons for forward/reverse/play/pause- those three buttons are incredibly sensitive to any pressure.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally skipped a song when moving the A200p around or trying to get the volume wheel moving in the early days.

Physical buttons are pretty much a requirement for a completely satisfying mobile audio experience, in order to operate unsighted, but some added resistance to these side buttons would be much appreciated.

Next Page: Sound Quality

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