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Oustanding Chinese Headphone Amp: Cayin (Spark) HA-1A [Review] - Page 3

post #31 of 80
Not having ever heard this amp these comments are of the "general" type


First,the concept-the layout and styling of that amp is excellant.The "look" one that I like and could easily live with at any part of my home though I can envision times when it would overpower other support componants if they too do not have certain style touches.Not a slam of the Cayan but more "poor those other devices"


Second.The EL-84 SE mode Triode strapped has a very pleasing sound with headphones (or speakers for that matter if within the driving range of) and it surprises me more amps do not take that route.I guess even headphone amps follow the "me too" lemming like migration to whatever one guy does the rest follow and add features rather than try anything actually new.
My pentode HPA uses the 7189 triode strapped (which can be used directly to replace the EL-84 most times but not the other way around so maybe opening up some more tube rolling options for the Cayinn) and I like what I hear and concur with your findings with a couple of caveots.
Pentodes have their own sound as do SET amps and while they both play the same harmonics the sound is not the same.There seems to be more power in the bass region with a pentode amp that SETs do not seem to have (slam ?) and some small amount of added life also in direct comparison.which is more lifelike or truer to the original ? Beats me man.Not sure which is a better way I only know they are different and not comparable directly.
Changing a cap or tube rolling does not make one topology sound like the other no matter how many tricks are played.Maybe just my ears,maybe not.
The ability to choose pentode/triode operation can only be called a plus and since it is really no more than a resistor/switch adds more in real world useability than it could in cost so to not add it would be the poor choice.As dual use at the computer with inefficient speakers you would wish for the option if it were not there !


Quote:
In a nutshell, Cayin HA-1A has a open, pure SET sound well worth $400, but it is a not suitable for high-sensitivity headphones.
The front end tubes are not suited to the low gain you need to avoid noise in a high sensitivity low impedance headphone.
Grados like a X2 gain (+6dB) so it is a no brainer the 12AX7 not suited for this but so ?
Attempts to make a universal "any cans" amp must and always do mean comprimises and those comprimeses usually fall in favour of whatever cans were used during the design and testing stages with all others beingmostly an afterthought.If not afterthought then forcing something to do by sheer electronic will to do something it is not suited to do.

Design for Grados and you can use your Senns but not to their best.
Design for senns and usually you can use Grados but the noise levels will be higher or the bass thin or both.Just the way things work and not a knock on what looks to be a very nice amp.Style points it gets a 9.5 (there being no 10 )

I think maybe this amp with a wider exposure and maybe a larger distribution network would be a very popular alternaive to SET amp or the "not" SET amps calling themselves that which if you know the definition is "a single triode" which has no choice but to be class-A.

BTW-first class job on the review .Two thumbs up
post #32 of 80
Hmm....the more and longer I listen to the HA-1A, the more "right" it sounds. I wonder why, effects of more burn in? My ears settling in? The more and wider genre of music I am trying? Not sure.

2 main points I hear, the sibilance is much smoother now, so much so that compared to the SHA-1, the SHA-1 sounds "grainy" in female vocal sibilance. I was listening to Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs SACD "Verse" from Patricia Barber, and Pope Music CD Lori Leibermann (all 3 discs from her). These are really really good vocal discs, particularly the MFSL SACD.

I actually thought I was hallucinating, but a switch to the SHA-1 for comparison confirmed it. Quite noticeably smoother, but retaining all the details.
post #33 of 80
Hi, is it only me, or do you guys find that the HA-1A needs a mesh/grille rather than slots for ventilation? It's operating way too hot. Currently I slide out the cover halfway out so that the tubes section is "naked" whenever I listen and slide it back after that.
post #34 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2100
Hi, is it only me, or do you guys find that the HA-1A needs a mesh/grille rather than slots for ventilation? It's operating way too hot. Currently I slide out the cover halfway out so that the tubes section is "naked" whenever I listen and slide it back after that.
I don't think it is excessively hot, at least compared to my tube amp for speakers, which uses double the number of EL84s. I don't have a thermometer at home, though.
post #35 of 80
I am going to let the verbage go on, and then, I think the review deserves review status, so it will go into the amp reviews forum.
post #36 of 80
Ferbose, you are trying the JJ EL84s? I tried the EH EL84s, saw the US$14 price tag for a "matched" pair (most of the modern popular and easily available tubes are easily matched anyway) so i just got them to try it out. Been burn it in for about 12 hours through the speaker output. The sound is not as lush as the JJs (also current production, no NOS magic here). Midrange doesn't seem as magical. Also the extreme highs (ie vocal sibilance) sounds smoother and more extended.

I prefer the JJs. More magic in the sound.
post #37 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2100
Ferbose, you are trying the JJ EL84s? I tried the EH EL84s, saw the US$14 price tag for a "matched" pair (most of the modern popular and easily available tubes are easily matched anyway) so i just got them to try it out. Been burn it in for about 12 hours through the speaker output. The sound is not as lush as the JJs (also current production, no NOS magic here). Midrange doesn't seem as magical. Also the extreme highs (ie vocal sibilance) sounds smoother and more extended.

I prefer the JJs. More magic in the sound.
I have EL84 from EH, JJ, Sovtek and China. Chinese is a weak performer. Sovtek is very clean but too clean. EH has a rich sound but less clarity in treble. JJ is more balanced, at least with K1000 I feel so.
post #38 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferbose
I have EL84 from EH, JJ, Sovtek and China. Chinese is a weak performer. Sovtek is very clean but too clean. EH has a rich sound but less clarity in treble. JJ is more balanced, at least with K1000 I feel so.
From what i read, JJ is regard as the best new current production tube.

I wonder if i should get a pair of RCA 7189s. USD$70 per matched pair. I am sure they won't be around next year or so. At least JJ EL84s will still be here and cheap enough. What do you say?
post #39 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2100
From what i read, JJ is regard as the best new current production tube.

I wonder if i should get a pair of RCA 7189s. USD$70 per matched pair. I am sure they won't be around next year or so. At least JJ EL84s will still be here and cheap enough. What do you say?
hi 2100,

You might also want to try out Amperex EL84.

Other (matched pair) choices available:
Ei (Frankie)
Sovtek (Frankie)
Mullard (Frankie)
Sovtek M(ilitary) (Martin)
Philips MiniWatt (Parts Connexion)
Telefunken (Ad on echoloft)
post #40 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Oak
hi 2100,

You might also want to try out Amperex EL84.

Other (matched pair) choices available:
Ei (Frankie)
Sovtek (Frankie)
Mullard (Frankie)
Sovtek M(ilitary) (Martin)
Philips MiniWatt (Parts Connexion)
Telefunken (Ad on echoloft)
Thanks....have already checked out Frankie and Martin, don't think i'd want to buy any of the choices. Maybe will check out echoloft.
post #41 of 80
Don't overlooked some good inexpensive NOS 6BQ5s (American designation for EL84s):

RCA
Sylvania
GE

Expect to pay about $10 - $25 per tube for these.

I can't remember, but is the HA-1A an SET amp? If so, you don't need matched pair output tubes. By "matched", I mean the measured output, you probably should still want to make sure they are from the same manufacturer, and have the same internal structures.

I might have said it before, but if you like Amperex, look for some rebranded Amperex 7189 tubes under the name "Hammond" as in Hammond Organs. I guess Hammond used these tubes in their organs back in the hay days, so they rebranded the tubes supplied by Amperex.
post #42 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by gundam91
I can't remember, but is the HA-1A an SET amp? If so, you don't need matched pair output tubes.
Yup, it's SET but it's only from what i read so i can't confirm. The later models has an ultralinear mode so it's twice the fun? I use the ultralinear when i drive my speakers.

Here in SG, i get my tubes from a shop called Well audio, usually he can match for the customers for no extra charge, as long as he has enough stocks. If there is a new large batch, then you just grab a couple and he will match it for you on the spot. Nice guy, if the the market price (from the net) is say $60, he will still sell you at the old price eg $45.
post #43 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gundam91
I can't remember, but is the HA-1A an SET amp? If so, you don't need matched pair output tubes.
It is single-ended, using EL84 that is wired either in triode or ultralinear mode (switchable).
EL84 acts as pseudotriode--though it is not directed heated triode that purists desire, it is OK to call it SET, I think.
post #44 of 80
Wow Northern Oak, the Telefunken EL84s are S$360 a pair!

I've decided to use the money to modify the clock, change the diodes/caps and add in a linear power supply, from EAM. Bring the player's level up past the $2,000 level hopefully.
post #45 of 80
Thread Starter 
Just an update regarding K1000.
I found that using speaker terminals to drive K1000 sounds even better than using headphone jack. The details seemt to get richer. Maybe this is due to balanced (4-wire) vs unbalanced (3-wire) configuration.
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Oustanding Chinese Headphone Amp: Cayin (Spark) HA-1A [Review]