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New tube amp: the Cayin HA-1A MK2

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by project86, Oct 3, 2016.
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  1. project86 Contributor
    I've already discussed the Cayin iDAC-6 DAC and matching iHA-6 solid state amp around here. And I gave them both a thorough review over at InnerFidelity not too long ago. To sum it up - versatile DAC and very neutral, powerful amp, both with excellent build quality and competitive pricing. Along with their fairly recent portable devices - the C5 amp, the N5 and N6 DAP, etc - Cayin is looking rather impressive in the personal audio segment.
    Now to switch gears a bit. Cayin has another amp on deck, something completely different from the iHA-6. And as much as I love their solid state offering, this one might actually be the more significant release in some ways. The amp in question is totally new yet vintage at the same time.
    Confused? Don't be. The amp I'm discussing is the HA-1A MK2, which is, as the name suggests, a sequel to the original HA-1A from about a decade ago. Search for HA-1A discussion on HeadFi and you'll find all sorts of praise for the original model, dating back about a decade or so. The form factor remains the same but this thing is new from the ground up in all other respects. And I'm totally hooked on it. 
    I don't want to gush too much - let's save that for my upcoming review which should go live soon over at Part Time Audiophile. I've submitted already and I'm not sure how many other articles the editor has on deck to post prior, but I'll update here when it's up and running. Short version: the HA-1A mkII is a spectacularly "tweakable" tube amp. By that, I mean it takes on completely different characteristics based on whatever tube complement is used - more so than the majority of tube amps I've experienced. That opens the door for nearly endless variation... a quick, detailed sound? Warm and smooth? Neutral with liquid midrange? The HA-1A MK2 can any and all of those given the right tubes. No matter which experience you choose, the HA-1A MK2 is an excellent performer. The one "weakness" involved is the lack of ultimate resolution as found in uber-amps from Eddie Current etc. Not that I would expect a $999 amp like this to match, in every single aspect, those models which go for 2-7 times the price. Still, I don't recall hearing a Woo Audio amp I'd choose over this (to name just one example), regardless of price. And I've heard most of them. The Woo amps are stunning in a classic sort of way, very different from the modern lines and non-exposed tubes of the Cayin, but for pure SQ I don't think it's much of a contest imho. 
    This thread is to get the word out - the Cayin portable stuff is quite popular these days, and the i-series DAC/amp is picking up steam, but now there's another entry in the desktop landscape. Cayin is very well known in other regions of the world so perhaps there are even some others who already own the HA-1A MK2 and can share some impressions. 
    And now, bring on the eye candy!

    davidmolliere and alphanumerix1 like this.
  2. project86 Contributor
    Btw hope Andy Kong (of Cayin) doesn't mind, but I'm reposting this pic of his system from one of the other threads.... so many goodies to choose from. The Cayin iDAC-6 feeding a neutral iHA-6 and a more musical HA-1A MK2 is a killer combo!
  3. Andykong
    I was wandering where did I see this system before? Looks very similar to my system. :D

    Wait a minute, this is my system :D :D :D

    Just arrive at LA and get over my jet lag, so pardon me for not in a very good shape when I jump onboard HeadFi forum tonight.

    Want to thank John for reviewing our HA-1Amk2, we are flattered once again by his strong support. I am sure the review will be very informative and tells you everything you need to know about the tube headphone amplifier, so I am looking forward to check out his full review too.

    Some background story about the original HA-1A which was a small powered speaker amplifier with pre-amp and headphone output launched back in 2005. It was reviewed by Sam Tellig & Wes Phillips (Stereophile, Vol.29 Nos.6 & 11, June & November 2006), primilarly as a headphone amplifier, and was listed on Stereophile Recommended Component (Class B) till 2011. I have extracted the description from Stereophile recommended components for your reference:

    The HA-1A is certainly part of the proud history of Cayin. With its unique form factor and innovative circuit layout, it has been one of the long term best sellers in Cayin’s line up. Our Lead Product Engineer Dehai CHEN, who designed the HA-1A originally, decides to upgrade his original work after 10 years of hard learning. He keep the form factor but redesigned everything else from the ground up, give up the speaker output and puts Headphone output as his primary objective when he revives the classic.

    The most interesting part is, Cayin will demo the HA-1Amk2 at the CanJam RMAF, and our Lead Product Engineer Dehai CHEN will attend the event as well, so if you are interested in checking out tube headphone amplifier and will be in the Denver area this coming weekend, drop by our booth in RMAF and talk to the man behind the HA-1A story, I am sure this will be an interesting gathering.

    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
  4. grizzlybeast
    Nice. Would love to see the review. I wonder how it compares to my TH2. It looks gorgeous. 
  5. soundaware
    Is the centre black our D100Pro? a desktop digital transport system.
    That's great![​IMG] 
    Soundaware Stay updated on Soundaware at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
    https://www.facebook.com/Soundaware-Audio-CoLtd-140035019979865/ https://soundaware.aliexpress.com/store/3548007?spm=2114.10010108.0.0.10615299SwJmQV market@soundaware.net Soundaware Official
  6. Andykong

    Yes, this is 2014 version of D100Pro Deluxe, and I have been using it for quite a while. I have purchased an external clock upgrade (the little metal box above the D100Pro and below our iHA-6 headphone amplifier) before your Femto clock upgrade is available. I wish I have waited for your Femto clock upgrade as the extra pair of clock cable to the external clock is making life a bit difficult to work with.

    I have posted my experience in selecting D100Pro Deluxe as my network player back in 2015.
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
  7. lugnut
    I have reached out to numerous US Cayin Dealers in the last 4 or 5 months on buying the new Cayin headphone amp & dac. I have mostly not received any response from them, to, not going to carry them, to, no way ! I don't know what is up with US Cayin dealers & headphone equipment, but hopefully this new tube amp will spark a little fire under their as* !
  8. Andykong

    If you are in US region, please contact MusicTeck for Cayin portable/headfi products, they should have stock the complete series right now.

    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
  9. project86 Contributor
    I was wondering what that box was. Sounds pretty nice!
  10. spkalka
    Gorgeous retro design!
  11. grizzlybeast
    I agree
  12. gr8soundz
    Any idea when they will get around to actually posting the review?
  13. project86 Contributor
    Not sure... it's in the queue but I don't know the specifics. Feel free to go HERE and shoot the editor a request. Demand to Cayin article go live ASAP! Or however you want to word it. Let him know the interest is there and perhaps it will bump the other stuff in line ahead of it (if there even is anything ahead of it, I don't really know).
    If several people do this it couldn't hurt though...
  14. gr8soundz
    Message (to editor) sent.
  15. gr8soundz
    Just got a reply. That was quick by comparison.
    As to why the review isn't posted, he says it's "Just timing."
    Fair enough but I did print magazine editing some years ago and we'd be on to another issue after 3 weeks time. Can't imagine why an electronic review takes that long to edit and publish. After all, speed of information delivery was what killed most print media over the past decade or two.
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