I picked up the Sabaj PHA2 headphone amplifier a week or two ago and figured now would be a good time to do some first impressions of the device. This little guy can be picked up on Amazon for about $50-60 and provides some powerful, smooth audio for not too much coin.
The front of the device features a standard 3.5 mm low-impedance stereo audio-out jack for your headphones, in-ear monitors, or earbuds; a neighboring 1/4″ high-impedance stereo audio-out jack complements the aforementioned by providing an outlet for nearly all audio listening devices. Audio output from the quarter-inch jack is much, much louder and cleaner than the eighth-inch jack; after a little research and talkin to some folks on Reddit, I found that the jack in use in the photo has a large resistor on the board behind its function, thus degrading the sound a bit–whereas the larger output does not have the same issue. Moving on. The adjustment knob is at the right, and is pretty smooth-turning. Coming from the NTK059, the the knob adjusts more slowly than the NTK (you can turn both 3 degrees, and the NTK will get much louder as opposed to the amplification provided by the same 3 degrees turned on the PHA2). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the NTK’s knob feels overly-sensitive after much use. Finally, the power button is located at the left of the device. It clicks when you push it; a red LED indicates the device is powered, but not turned on, while a blue LED indicates the device is powered on.
The footprint of this device is roughly 4 inches by 4 inches, so it doesn’t take up much desktop space, which is quite nice. The body is metal and feels well-constructed, but is not disproportionately heavy, which is nice.
At the rear of the device, we have two sets of stereo RCA connections–one input set and one output set. I ordered a nice, braided RCA to 3.5mm cable, as no such cables are included. The connections are approrpiately snug and have no play (no wiggle). The output jacks also allow for audio to be passed through the amplifier out to an external speaker or sound system. To the right of the input and output, there is a micro-USB port which accepts 5V DC input; you’ll have to use your own cable, as no USB cable is included. This port does not allow for data transfer, so you won’t be able to interface it with your computer over USB. At the far right is the regular power port which is also 5V DC. (Important note: Do NOT attempt to power the device from both the USB port and regular power port at the same time; it will fry your amp!).
After some usage, I am fairly impressed with the PHA2. While my KZ ZST Pro’s don’t require amplification, the use of the amp definitely smoothed out the sound, added some body to the bass region, and cleaned up the silence. My only issue with the Sabaj PHA2 is that at $50-60, there are options which offer more bang-for-buck value at only marginally more expense (such as the FiiO Q1 Mark II, which combines DSD, DAC, and amplification in a $75 portable device) . That said, if you don’t want to spend more than $50-60 on an amplifier, then the the PHA2 is probably for you, and I do recommend it.
Sabaj is a Chinese audio manufacturer based out of Shenzhen. Founded in 2016, their team of experienced audio engineers is committed to building favorable and quality audio products at low prices using internet-direct sales strategies.
Sabaj also manufactures the PHA3, which is a vacuum tube amplifier. There are some differences to consider here, which I will review if I pick up the PHA3 in the future.