I’ve had my Dragon Inspire IHA-1 now for a sufficient time period to post my thoughts. I will use a subjective 5 point scoring system.
Power Conditioning: Blue Circle Audio FX2 XOe and Blue Circle Audio PLC Thingee FX2
Power Cables: Sablon Audio Gran Corona
Audio Chain: MacBook Pro running Audirvana Plus > TotalDac D1 usb cable/filter > iFi iUSB > Light Harmonic 10G split usb cable > Berkeley Audio Alpha usb/spdif converter > Siltech HF9 aes/ebu > Bel Canto DAC 2.5 > Siltech 220i interconnect > Jeff Rowland Capri preamp > Siltech 220i interconnect > Dragon Inspire IHA-1 > T1’s/TH900/3000ANV
Build Quality: 4.5 out of 5
The IHA-1 is a relatively heavy (for the size of the chassis) unit and appears robust. Everything is tight, knobs have no loose play, the unit sits flat on a flat surface, no issues whatsoever.
The paint job is terrific and you need to see it in person to really appreciate it.
The tube sockets and headphone inputs are very solid and I believe they will last a very long time and continuous tube rolling and plugging and unplugging of headphones should not be a problem.
When using my TH900's or my 3000ANV's and there is no music playing, I can hear a barely audible faint hum in the right channel. It disappears when music is playing. It does not bother me, but I wanted to mention it. With my T1’s, I can’t hear the hum at all. Out of curiosity (not concern) I corresponded with Dennis Had and Moon Audio about this and it is not a defect. It is a counterpart to the design of the amp and the sonic goals for this amp.
Aesthetics: 4.0 out of 5.
The faceplate of the IHA-1 has a bit of “old school” “no nonsense” look to it. I like it, but think it could be improved a bit with perhaps a different faceplate. The terrific paint job makes up for the rather utilitarian looking faceplate. I do like the overall size of the chassis. Let me state again- the paint job is outstanding!
Sound Quality: 5 out of 5. I'd like to give it a 6
I don’t believe one can review the IHA-1 without mentioning the tubes being used. The IHA-1 is very transparent and if your headphones are of sufficient quality, you will very easily be able to tell differences when rolling in different tubes. After a bit of experimentation, I settled on a NOS Brimar U52 for the rectifier tube and NOS Sylvania 6BX7’s, which provide a bit less power than 6SN7’s, but I find them to be the most enjoyable (I understand the 6BX7’s are Dennis Had’s favorites, and I can see why). If you need more power, you can swap in different tubes.
If I had to summarize the sound of the IHA-1 in one word it would be “magical”. I don’t mean to sound like a new age hippie (because I’m not), but this amp transports me to another planet. On the planet are two things- me and the music, and after a while, it is just the music. Everything around me… all the possible distractions melt away from my consciousness. My tendency to analyze the sound tends to drift away as well. I get swept up in the emotion of the listening experience.
Breaking the sound down into separate aspects, I would say the IHA-1 earns a solid 5 in every single sonic aspect I can think of, except for the bass, which I would give a very good 4 or 4.5, which is down to tube designs vs. solid state designs and not a design issue with the IHA-1. I would personally take the IHA-1 over any solid state amp without hesitation.
Forcing myself to analyze the sound, I would describe it as very holographic. The sound is exceptionally three-dimensional, round, full, highly detailed, airy and slightly warm. And by “warm” don’t take that to mean “rolled off”. It is not rolled off at all- it seems quite extended. Treble and midrange are spectacular. Bass is very nice as well. Bass is perhaps not as hard hitting as a top level solid state amp, but still quite good. For context, I listen to EDM more than any other music genre and the IHA-1 is able to keep up in the bass department.
The IHA-1 also excels at timbre, fullness of tone, dynamics and soundstaging. With the right recordings, the ability of the IHA-1 to recreate the recording venue is breathtaking. I can’t point to any weakness or sonic shortcoming. It just sounds “right”.
I really don’t know what more I can say. Dennis Had is a genius.