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.
The HDA-DP20 DAP is $370 and is available from ATC Lifestyle and Amazon.
The HDA-DP20 arrives in an interesting little box that is made of high-quality cardboard and has a collage made up of various images in grey-scale with some bright patches of orange throughout. It’s a refreshing change from the norm and the colour scheme reminds me a lot of my all-time favourite 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 HDA-DP20. 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 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 colourful 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 favourites 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 HDA-DP20 DAP 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 favourite 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 lacklustre 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 [email protected] 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.
The 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 analogue, musical feel that never fails to be expressive dynamically and all the details are left intact.
The 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 coloured or thin but earthy and natural.
The 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.
ATC HDA-DP20 Conclusion
The HDA-DP20 DAP 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.