- Feb 21, 2007
Cayin is a somewhat well-known audio company who traditionally specializes in desktop speaker amps, preamps, and integrated amps, plus the occasional CD player. Their lineup at any given moment tends to be rather large, with a focus on tube gear (though not exclusively). They've received quite a bit of recent praise for their N6 portable audio player as well as their C5 portable DAC/headphone amp, both of which are more well suited towards the HeadFi crowd.
The company seems to have big plans to infiltrate the "personal audio" space more than they have in the past. To that end, the new iHA-6 headphone amp combined with the matching iDAC-6 makes for a somewhat compact setup which approaches reference level sound quality. I've got the pair in for an eventual InnerFidelity review but wanted to get some discussion going prior as the full write-up could take a while. Thus far I'm very impressed with both units.
So what's special about the iHA-6? I'd argue it really isn't anything too unique in the grand scheme of things - just a competent, full featured headphone amp with gobs of power, and a really good looking enclosure, for what seems to be a fair price considering the performance offered. Cayin is still working out distribution in North America but the amp will end up selling for $999 (as will the matching DAC) which ain't cheap, but neither is it crazy expensive like so much new gear we see these days.
The iHA-6 is a fully balanced, fully discrete headphone amp with a very specific focus on headphones only. That means no built-in DAC option and no preamp functionality. Earlier I called it "full featured".... how is that possible if it doesn't have these extras? I submit it's still a feature packed amp, just with a focus on headphones only. You get 1/4" single ended output jacks - one for low impedance headphones, and one for high - which double as 3-pin XLR balanced outs. There's also a separate 4-pin XLR balanced output which is what I mainly use. Inputs are RCA and XLR which are selectable via front panel button. We also get buttons for gain adjustment and current selection (low/high) to best match a variety of headphones.
Did I mention this thing is potent? Single ended mode nets 2200mW/channel into a 32 ohm load, while balanced operation bumps that up to 7 full watts per channel. That should be more than plenty for any headphone you might possibly throw at it including the mighty HE-6. The internal design is such that the balanced output can be used even with unbalanced RCA inputs and vice-versa, without a significant sonic penalty. The 4-gang Alps potentiometer reminds us of the true balanced nature of the design. It's not the motorized version though - no remote control here, which again makes sense due to the lack of preamp outputs.
Overall my impressions thus far are quite positive. It's a neutral sounding amp, tons of drive, no coloration (euphonic or otherwise), and really quite transparent overall. Nice wide soundstage too. Sounds great with everything from HE-6 and HE-1000 to HD800, Edition 12, K812, etc. Obviously I need a lot more listening time before can give it the full evaluation. But I'm not hearing anything to complain about thus far. And keep in mind I've been spending most of my time lately with more expensive amps: Violectric V281, Simaudio 430HA, and the Auralic Taurus. That's not bad company to be in.
Now for some more pics, some very obviously stock photos, others very poorly done by me - it will be clear which ones are which. I'll have more thoughts and better pics as time goes by.
And the competition on my audio rack:
HERE is a link to my review of the DAC and amp at InnerFidelity. Do I like them? You'll have to read it and find out.
EDIT: For those readers in North America, MusicTeck is the authorized dealer. Don't mess with others, as your warranty will suffer... and MusicTeck offers very competitive pricing anyway. The new price drop the $699 makes this an amazing value.