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!!