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Digital Audio (FLAC/MP3/etc) Players (DAPs) item created by ostewart, Aug 19, 2017
Pros - Extremely well built. Intoxicating sound signature. USB DAC functionality
Cons - No streaming or wireless capability.
ATC Lifestyle is a Hong Kong based company which was established in 1997. They're mostly known for their portable batteries and battery chargers and are also an authorized Apple accessory developer and manufacturer.
With over 60 years of experience I expect ATC has some very refined manufacturing expertise to draw from. Recently they extended their product line to include some high end audio products, one of which I'll be looking at today - the HDA-DP20 DAP that has some impressive specifications including a dual Wolfson DAC solution, line and coaxial outs and powerful headphone output. Read on to find out more.
This sample was sent for the purpose of an honest review. I'm not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.
The HDA DP-20 is $370 and is available from ATC Lifestyle and Amazon UK.
Packaging and accessories
The DP20 arrives in an interesting little box that is made of high quality cardboard and has a collage made up of various images in gray-scale with some bright patches of orange throughout. It's a refreshing change from the norm and the color scheme reminds me a lot of my all time favorite PC game featuring a particular scientist (a gold star for anyone who can name it!)
Inside is the DAP sitting pretty in a foam cutout and beneath that is a smaller box with the added accessories which include:
USB to Micro USB cable
Protective carry pouch
32GB Sandisk MicroSD card
Quick Start Guide
$20 Voucher card inc. 20% discount on a single purchase at HDtracks
So that's a nice little package right there with some great extras thrown in. It's nice to add a carry pouch but I would much rather be provided with a protective leather or even plastic case as DAPs can take quite a beating when used regularly if you're taking them out and about. The MicroSD card however is a great addition that ensures you have everything ready to go out of the box.
Build and functionality
Solid is the first thing that comes to mind when you pick up the DP-20. It weighs in at a solid 168 g which is just 10 g shy of the Astell & Kern KANN. The all metal body has a matte black finish that's smooth, has a nice texture and is resistant to fingerprints. It's sits in the hand well and can be easily operated with a single hand.
Starting with the front side there's a metal wheel in the top right corner which takes care of volume control. The wheel is recessed into the chassis to avoid accidental volume changes and has a good amount of resistance built in. I find it to work really well and it is easy to manipulate single-handed with either hand.
Next is the 2.3 inch IPS screen with a native resolution of 400 x 360. It's protected by a glass cover and has a bright, clear display. Album art looks great, being vivid and colorful and the screen is bright enough to comfortably use outdoors on a sunny day.
Down in the left corner are three buttons, namely the Play/Pause/Select, Now Playing settings and Back button. The Now Playing settings are quite interesting. It brings up a rotary menu which is different from the main Play Settings menu and has quick access to things like gain switching, playback and shuffle options, add to playlist, add to favorites and delete.
Finally at the bottom right is the large scroll wheel which is used for navigating the menus. It has a nice, smooth action and is useful for scrolling through lists.
On the left side of the player are (from top to bottom) power button, back/rewind button and forward/fast forward button, a MicroSD card slot and a pinhole reset button. A short press on the power button turns the display on/off and a long press powers on or shuts down the device.
Now on the bottom are (from left to right) Micro USB port, line/coaxial output and headphone output.
Overall the build quality is excellent and the player feels premium and extremely robust.
Moving on to some of the features now, we'll start with the UI (user interface). The DP20 runs on a Linux based OS and is fast and responsive with no signs of input lag. There are 5 different themes available that allow you to customize the appearance to your preference - I always appreciate little touches like this.
Gapless playback is present and works flawlessly with no pauses or pops between tracks. There're low and high gain modes, a 10-band graphic EQ with preset and custom options and adjustable maximum volume. You can favorite songs or add them to a playlist easily from the Now Playing rotary menu.
One outstanding feature is that the DP20 can be used as a USB DAC which adds a lot of versatility. You can use it to bypass your computer's lackluster built in audio solution and keep the player charged at the same time. It also worked perfectly with my smartphone using an OTG cable. That's really neat.
The headphone output power is 240mW@32 ohm and THD+N comes in at a very impressive <0.0025%.
The 3000mAh battery is rated at 9 hours on the company's website but most of the time I seem to get up to 11 or 12 which isn't an amazing figure but should be sufficient for most people to last through a busy day.
Gear used for testing: DUNU DK-3001, Ultrasone Performance 860, LZ A4, Veedix NC50
Sound is handled by dual WM8740 DACs and is backed up by dual AD8610 high precision JFET input amplifiers and judging by the results, that is a good combination to have under the hood. The DP20 has a full-bodied, textured bass, wonderfully precise midrange and treble and a great sense of timing. Extension at both ends of the spectrum is really good and it imparts a sense of air and space to the music so you'll never feel too closed in or congested. There's a real analog, musical feel that never fails to be expressive dynamically and all the details are left intact.
Midrange has great resolution, details and separation while still maintaining that airiness that I mentioned above. Vocals are clear and intimate while staging and imaging are superb for a mid-tier player. The tonality is sweet and untainted and never comes across as being either colored or thin but earthy and natural.
Soundstage has above average width, adding to that feeling of open space between instruments and is able to convey depth as convincingly as more expensive DAPs. The DP20 sounds smooth and organic without sacrificing accuracy and puts down layers that are full of texture and richness. In Anathema's "San Francisco" everything from the multi level synthesized notes to the piano to the steady percussion is all laid out around you and comes together as a cohesive whole.
The HDA-DP20 is an excellent device, particularly when it comes to sound quality. It's extremely well built, has a decent battery life, nice screen and a rock solid, responsive UI. The standalone DAC feature is a really handy bonus, making it a great companion for a laptop or smartphone.
If you're not concerned with support for streaming services or Bluetooth and just want a straightforward, great sounding DAP that can also double as an external DAC then the HDA-DP20 could be the perfect solution.
Pros - Smooth, Resolving sound, powerful, can be used as a DAC
Cons - Not a lot of features for the price makes it not the best VFM
Firstly I would like to thank ATC HiFi for this sample, it has had well over 100hrs of burn-in before reviewing.
Gear Used: HDA-DP20 > Grado SR60e / Inearz P350 / 64 Audio U6 / HiFiMan RE2000 and more
Packaging, Build quality and Accessories:
The DP20 comes in a neat little matte black and orange box, with specs and info on the back and the model number on the front. It is a two piece box that slides apart, inside you will find the DAP neatly held in place in a card tray. Underneath this is a small box with all the accessories in. It is a really nice looking and not overly bulky box and a pleasure to open.
The build quality is very solid, the DAP is all metal and feels very well built with no flaws to be seen. The outputs are all solid with no play; the volume pot is stepped and feels great. The scroll wheel and buttons are all easy to use and feel great; there are no issues with the build quality in my opinion. The edges of the metal surrounding the volume pot are a little sharp but nothing that I have personally had issues with.
Accessory wise you get a nice little fabric carry pouch, a cable to use the coaxial output on the bottom, a micro USB cable and lastly you get a 32GB Sandisk MicroSD card which is a great addition. It’s not a lot of memory but these days you buy a player and need to go and buy a memory card straight away usually, at least like this you can pretty much use it out of the box. Plenty of accessories and everything you need really.
Features and Ease of use:
The DP20 has quite a few nifty features and I will try and list the main ones.
You get a dedicated line-out on the bottom, that can also act as a coaxial output for use as a transport with an external DAC.
It has high and low gain, USB DAC function, gapless playback, EQ, adjustable max volume, playlist support and favourites.
The DP20 has a simple and easy to use interface; it supports folder view but also the categorised view with All songs, Artist, Album, Genre, My favourite and Recently played. There are 2 settings menus, one for playback one for general, in these you can toggle the gain, USB mode, Line-out or Coax out, sleep time, screen brightness and time off duration, and it also has a couple of different themes. There are plenty of options in the settings to customise the player to your liking.
The now playing screen has the album artwork, file name, duration and the screen is relatively sharp for its size however the text is quite small. Pressing the back button from the now playing screen takes you to the folder you are playing from.
If you press the options button whilst on the now playing screen you are presented with a few options: Gain, Order of play, Shuffle playback, Repeat modes, Add to favourites, Add to playlist and also Delete file. This is a really handy little menu when tracks are playing.
The only thing I don’t really like about the design is the headphone output is on the bottom, the opposite end of the volume control. This means adjusting volume whilst it is in your pocket is harder.
Battery life wise, you get roughly 8-10 hours out of the DP20, which is fairly average for DAPs at the moment.
The DP20 has a volume wheel on the top, recessed and covered by the DAPs case so it is not easy to accidentally change the volume when it is in your pocket. On the left side you have the power button which toggles the screen on/off too and also 2 playback buttons for skipping tracks. Just below these is the micro SD card slot, on the front you have a scroll wheel for menu navigation, and next to it 3 buttons. One is the play/pause button which is also the select button, a settings button and below that a back button. The layout is a little odd but once you have been using it for a couple of days it’ll come naturally.
The DP20 actually sounds really good, I have been listening to both the DP10 and DP20 and it is hard to pick which I prefer. The DP10 has a more reference sound that is highly detailed, it also has 2 micro SD cards and more output power, however the DP20 is nicer to use and has a slightly smoother and laid back sound. Compared to my reference player the Opus #2, the DP20 has a sort of lush and warm sound signature that is not harsh or fatiguing in any way.
The DP20 is very controlled sounding, and also slightly more refined than the DP10, having a more holographic and expansive sound. The lows are full bodied and articulate adding a little warmth to the sound. The mids don’t really stand out, they are just well detailed and smooth, the highs lack a tiny bit of bite over the DP10 and Opus #2 thus making it a very easy to listen to DAP. The separation, layering and soundstage are all very good on the DP20, creating a refined and holographic sound that is also resolving. The sound is very coherent and pleasing not allowing the warmth to sacrifice finer details in the music.
Conclusion: Again this is a tough segment of the market, with a lot of competition; the DP20 fits in quite nicely with minimal added extras. It focuses on being a music player, and in that sense it is excellent, it does not have Bluetooth or Wifi but what it does have is excellent build quality and great sound quality. If you want a no frills, dedicated player that offers a relaxed and smooth sound the DP20 is well worth looking in to. The added feature of being able to use it as a DAC is an added bonus. Now regarding value for money, yes there are players with more features for the price, but the sound of this is actually worth the price in my opinion, and the build quality really is superb.
Sound Perfection Rating: 8/10 (Smooth, refined and easy to use)