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Cary Audio HH-1

Posted

Pros: Incredible soundstage, effortless musicality, ability to tune sound via tube rolling, detailed without sounding harsh, built like a tank

Cons: Large footprint, pricey new, causes separation anxiety, not great for rock (not the most forgiving with poor recordings). Lacks input

So I’ve owned the Cary HH-1 for a little over a year and decided to sell it the other day. Oh boy do I regret my decision now.  After spending so long with a piece of gear I grew attached to its sound signature and level of performance that is hard to come by.  I’ve heard better amps for sound staging, micro-detail, bass, mids, treble etc. but there are very few that can put all together to give the synergistic emotion of the Cary. I’m finding I’m listening to music now but not enjoying it and to me that is what it’s all about.  So what do I do now?  I’ve got great gear and sounds very nice but I’m coming to realization that there are very few amps out there capable of creating the musicality of the Cary. During the Chris Botti concert last night in Nashville, I realized I made the mistake of selling the amp.  The way I felt during the concert is how I felt listening to his music on the Cary, the lifelike presentation most amps can't reproduce.

 

So, I’m always surprised when I show up to meets and I have my Cary, most people are intrigued by it but seem to be intimidated by its size but are always surprised when they listen to a headphone and are like I don’t remember these cans sounding like this before, they sound better than I remember. This happened several times with the Sennheiser HD700 which garnered much more respect through the Cary and many preferred them over the HD800.

 

Tubes: This amp does respond well to tube rolling even with the MOSFET output.  The stock EH 6922 don’t do this amp justice and maybe why this amp doesn’t get the respect it deserves because all reviews are primarily based on the stock tubes.  Getting into the premium tubes will let this amp shine and come to full glory (Cary put better stock tubes in your next version please, might get some traction with the next one). OK, so listening to this amp with better tubes will all you to customize the sound you are looking for.  I’ve rolled several Amperex 6922 PQ and 7308 USN-CEP and find both outstanding.  PQ’s are slightly more recessed but give that classic Amperex warmth to the mid-range. I preferred the USN’s due to its electric energy in the treble. Also, if you love detail the Tesla e88cc will delve deep to the black depths of the music. It’s amazing how quiet this amp is (using a black sand violet mkii pc) there is no hiss or faint background noise unless dictated by the music selection.

 

Build Quality: Cary has always done an excellent job of over building their gear, no exception here.  The amp has an overbuilt toroidal power supply delivering endless supply of current, except to the power hungry HE-6.  The chassis is rock solid and one of my favorite volume knob of any amp I’ve used.  It’s silky smooth and ultra-precise.  The front plate can be changed between a black and silver face plate, the black does show finger smudges easily however.  As reviewed by Mr. Tom the RCA jacks are weak and cheap, would like to have a better jacks (quibble).

 

In closing, I could gush on and on about my year with this amp but will leave it to you to go out and try it for yourself. They are quite rare however which is sad, probably one of the best kept secrets in the headphone amp world, but I don’t want it to be, it deserves so much more!!

Posted

Pros: Extreme detail, liquid midrange, sweet treble(with no loss of detail), solid deep bass(even sub bass on the right music) built in PSU.

Cons: Price, time consuming to tube roll, cheap rear RCA's and large footprint.

I'll start off by saying I'm not very good at writing touchy feely reviews.

 

So this Amp is something very special, and somewhat unique because of its circuit topology. I've read the few reviews online, and some describe this amp as having a MOSFET output, while others state the use of Bipolar output devices. If any of them took the time to look at the outputs, they notice that Cary has wisely chosen a class A cascode amplifier design, using both MOSFET and Bipolar outputs. The Cascode was first used in the 40's with a couple of triode tubes. I have not seen this design in any other (SS/tube) headphone amps, but I like how it sounds in this one! 

 

I've rolled in a few different Russian tubes, and I'm very much liking a matched set of 1970 Reflector plant 6n23p's. In case you did not know, the input side of the Cary HH-1 is a pair of 6922 tubes, then the levels are brought up to Headphone level via the cascode class A outputs.

 

I've been using a Schiit Valhalla and Lyr for the last 3+ years. This Cary out does both of the amps in everything! by a very wide margin(at $1595. it should). I would not pay $1600. for this beast of an amp, only because of the vast selection of good amps out there for under $1500. I got mine used for $800. and at that price, I've yet to hear any other amp that can even approach the SQ of the Cary.

 

The Amp has a unique ability to give you tons of detail, without crossing over to the land of harshness. The image is very nice, placing music behind, in front, and everywhere in-between.

 

The midrange is silky and full, NEVER sounding thin. As I write this a track by Bebel Gilberto came on and I feel as I could float away in the currents of her voice. I never got these sort of illusions from my Schiit gear.

 

As for the Bass, Deep, detailed and neutral. Not over whelming and no too light, just right in an absolute correct way. I find the overall tonal quality of the amp to be right down the middle. I never feel any need to do any sort of EQing.

 

I'm sure the Bifrost 4490 is helping out a bit, as far as getting every last detail out of the music. I'm getting Sooooo much more info from my music with the Cary. And it's not just info, it's feeling and emotion. The Cary just feels like a living creature.

 

I'm running Senn HD650's and Oppo PM-3's both sound fantastic with the Cary. My source is a Mac tower, toslinked to a Schiit Bifrost 4490 DAC.

 

I think if Cary had put any effort into pushing this amp, it may have been a Hugh hit. So I gotta say this, This amp is one of the best out there(at any price), and Cary is piss poor at sending out demos for review.

 

Like Schiit, Cary is Made in the USA. Is Fully discreet. I'm glad there are companies like Schiit and Cary. They are very different (imo), as Cary is all about Tubes and making music sound nice, whether the music was made nice or not. Cary does have a house sound(warm and sweet). Schiit is more about value for the dollar, and because they sell direct, you'll get a great product that would cost you more to build yourself. Cary's going to cost you more because they have established retail dealers. If the HH-1 was made by Schiit, I think it would cost around $900. But it would also have a more SS sound(the Schiit house sound)IMO.

:beerchug: 

Cary Audio HH-1
Description:

The new HH-1 headphone amplifier from Cary Audio is an all-new hybrid design, featuring a tube input stage feeding a single-ended MOSFET output stage. These MOSFETs were chosen as they have sonic characteristics very similar to tubes, and the entire amplifier operates fully in class-A at all output levels. It is extremely simple to connect and operate, featuring a pair of RCA input jacks and a loop-through output pair, a power switch and a volume control. Top quality parts are mounted on a heavy gauge fiberglass circuit board, and only two stages of amplification are used for the shortest possible signal path. A power transformer, rated at three times what is required for the amplifier’s design, feeds a fully regulated discrete power supply for the best sound quality. It is designed to drive headphones with an impedance between 30 and 600 ohms. A 30-second muting circuit prevents any annoying pops and clicks when turning on the HH-1 headphone amplifier, and ensures that all circuits are fully stabilized before each listening session.

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