Prior to the PHA-3, Sony had long focused on the consumer segment. Still, as consumers confidently turned to more advanced audio products, Sony decided to move upmarket, which encouraged the production of a high-end portable headphone amplifier.
The goal of the PHA-3 was to create a reliable amplifier for the MDR-Z7 and meet consumer demand for more professional audio equipment. Of course, $700 headphones are unlikely to work at full volume on a smartphone or standard player, and the PHA-3 is an excellent choice. It’s powerful and versatile and can be connected to virtually any device. Whether it’s a computer, an external digital music source via an optical connection, or an Android or iOS device, the PHA-3 can act as a DAC. There’s also a line input, so the PHA-3 can serve as a DAC/AMP (though it’s not the most powerful).
For advanced users, the PHA-3 is capable of handling high-resolution recordings at 384kHz/32bit (the current maximum) and DSD. Another interesting feature of the PHA-3 is that it can be used with balanced headphones, with two channels connected separately. It is not surprising that such a device is not compact and inexpensive. Its large size and weight are justified by its whopping $1,000 price tag, but is it really worth it?