Cayin i-HA6 - Impressions, opinion

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by gbeast, Jul 17, 2016.

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  1. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

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    So I recently wrote up a review of this amp. However, I feel like it was wayyyy tooo long, wayyyy too wordy and not concise enough. And I missed out on some aspects. In short, this amp is very good for the money. I think its WOF status is very deserved.

    In case anyone is interested in the amp I figured I would give a run down of my impressions of it. I am considering owning it at some point but haven't made up my mind. With all this new gear coming out I don't know what the freak to do.

    Impressions:

    Pros:

    • Resolution: I believe this amp is pretty resolving. It gives off an immediate sense of speed and clarity. The transparency is excellent for such a small hefty little amp. I could hear a good amount of microdetails. Micro dynamics are okay as well. If I only had a grand and wanted the best transparency I could get I would hop on this amp.
    • Neutrality: Pretty much as flat as it gets, There is a treble sheen to this amp that is noticeable and a flatness throughout the frequency range but I didn't hear a lot of hard etchiness. The treble texture is open and kind of soft but very much present in balance. Sparkle- this amp does it but in a non scratchy fashion. I guess I mean the treble is refined but not super solid or glaring. It has some edge but not much scratch. The midrange is very balanced and fast. The lower mids are flat and the upper mids are present. Words like lush, euphonic, organic or warm may not apply to this amp.
    • Bass: is flat but pretty much free of bloat and extra warmth. If you are looking for an amp to firm up a headphone with weak bass keep looking unless in the case of a headphone like the Omni, sheer power helps the bass. I won't call it lacking, just flat. If you already have a headphone that has good bass then this won't screw it up but rather play it like it is. I actually appreciate the control this amp has. It is decently solid and can be punchy with the right headphone pairing through the balanced jack.
    • Separation: Pretty good just not on the level of my Trafomatic Head 2 amp. I never get a sense of blending but the fast sound, average tonal density, only slightly above average soundstage, and less than exceptional depth prevent me from experiencing that wonderful layering effect some other amps may offer. It is technically a capable amp for the price though. It shows here as well.
    • Price: 999 that means a used one can be even found eventually for 700 and that is a very good price.
    • Build: Who says the Chinese can't build quality products?... You need to hold, listen, and even open this piece of gear for proof of the opposite.
    • Good with most headphones: I had little synergy issues except for the Audeze LCD2.F and it not sounding like a tube amp for the HD800S...because it def sounds solid state.
    • Power: 7W into 32 ohms
    On the fence:
    • Soundstage: I guess this is due to the company it was in during my time with it. It had a decent soundstage but nothing really to boast about. Slightly round but not really wide or deep. For a solid state I feel it didnt hold the HD800S back but it didn't really compliment it either. The Airist Heron 5 is exceptionally wider. The Nuprime HPA-9 is slightly deeper. My TH2 is slightly wider but tons deeper. I didn't feel boxed in by the soundstage so that is why I am on the fence about it.
    • Treble: I feel this amp is a bit bright. Cayin can be known for their sparkle. I don't believe it is prickly but overall I would prefer it to be just a hair less in presence. Again I am on the fence about it because with a headphone like the Kennerton Vali it is very much welcomed. The HD650 however, for my tastes, didn't need the extra presence, but soaked up the extra speed. I just feel like for the 650 it further exposed it's graininess.
    Cons:
    • Jacks: Despite it being relatively low noise and clean with sensitive headphones, and having a high impedance and low impedance jack, EVERYTHING SOUNDS BETTER BALANCED with it. The HD800S sounded okay through the high impedance jack but the other jacks seemed a bit soft in dynamics and punch. It only sounds punchy and dynamic using it balanced.
    • Layering: I'd prefer better heft of tone to compliment its decent separation. This in my opinion helps the layering because dense tones have a better time at keeping from getting blended in complex and busy music. Good separation, Deep soundstage, Heavy and solid tones = good layering. This is missing the last two aspects in my opinion. Maybe this is only because my TH2 excels in this area and may not be a good reference. Usually good tube amps do better than solid state here anyway.
    woops...well looking up I didn't expect to type as much as I did....wordy as usual and with tons of errors like most times but I believe this gives a good idea of what this amp is all about...what the heck here are some comparisons with amps that are just about as unpopular.

    Breif comparisons:
    Heron 5
    - 989 MSRP: The Airist is a lot wider, a lot airier even though just a little less bright. The 5 is even flatter in soundstage and worse in layering, has better midrange tonality, less resolving, less detailed, a lot less dynamic, less transparent but close. Softer and less dense bass, less bass. It is less powerful, takes up more desktop space and is not balanced.
    Bonus: On Massdrop for 750 it is still a good amp for the right headphone due to its relatively good level of clarity, wide open sound, and gorgeous midrange tonality (haven't heard a better tuned midrange as far as balance goes yet)

    Nuprime HPA-9 649 MSRP: Similar soundstage, more bass, warmer lower midrange, slightly hazier separation, punchier as a single ended amp but the Cayin is just as punchy/dynamic when using it balanced. The cayin is faster, clearer, more detailed, and more powerful.

    The Cayin sounds in a different league compared to the other two above despite it losing on minor things.

    Trafomatic Head 2 MSRP 2500 stock tubes: Cayin is the better value since it is just as transparent compared to the TH2 with stock tubes (better tubes improve clarity) It is also a better match with hard to power planars. The bass, while less solid and hefty in tone can also have less fuzziness around it (depending on the headphones since the TH2 actually has no fuzziness with the 800S bass). The TH2 however when matched with the proper headphone pretty much bests it in every area. Especially with the HD650 the TH2 has better depth, layering, details, bass, tonality, texture, density....yadda yadda...
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2016
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  2. takato14

    takato14 Doglover

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    Getting me very excited for this piece of kit, for sure...
     
  3. Warrior

    Warrior Friend

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    Nice write up. Cayin builds some good shit. I like what they do.
     
  4. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

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    Once they get good distribution to the US then it will be available. Right now you can only get it through Canada.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2016
  5. Jerry

    Jerry Facebook Friend

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    Hi GBeast,

    Can you please compare this with Schiit Ragnarok and Jot? Sounds like they have rather similar tonal character. Jot is only USD400 (amp only). Is there a reason to get this rather than the Jot?

    Thanks.
     
  6. Dotard

    Dotard Acquaintance

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    Thanks for the review. Cayin seems to be putting some good thought and value into their headphone line.

    Actually the product from them I'm most interested in is the HP-1A, but it seems impossible to get in North America.
     
  7. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

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    Never have I heard the Rag.

    the Jot has a harder glare but a very similar balance overall. The Cayin has a deeper soundstage, similar control if not just a shade tighter but is actually just a little less transparent(barely could tell, we are talking .02% difference). On planars the Cayin is just a little more punchy. Their transparency levels are really really close. If I had to pick one though I would get the Cayin because I got tired of the soundstage being flat on the Jot. However, for the price I would say the Jot is a better buy.
     
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  8. Resolve

    Resolve Acquaintance

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    I picked up one of these for about 700 new and have been using it with fairly low impedance headphones (around 32 ohm) on the low gain SE out while I wait for my balanced cables to show up. So far it's only the slightest bit better than the amp on the idsd micro black label. I notice that it's a touch faster and slightly punchier, but almost indistinguishable. @gbeast how noticeable is the difference between balanced and single ended here? You mentioned balanced was better but I'm curious in what ways. Essentially I'm trying to figire out what I should listen for when my cables arrive. Using AFO and Nightowl, both will be balanced. But the 10 ohm output impedance is a bit of a bummer right now.
     
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  9. Rayzilla

    Rayzilla Rando

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    Just wondering if there is any update your opinion on this value for money amp. Thanks.
     
  10. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

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    I am super late. The SE outputs on it are mediocre. Balanced is the way to go with that amp for the best results
     
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  11. Erikdayo

    Erikdayo Almost "Made"

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    I actually don’t mind the HD650 on the high impedance out though I may be in the minority there. That said, the balanced performance is on another level. I wouldn’t buy this amp for primarily single ended use. There are much cheaper options for that. I don’t think this amp is really designed to be used single ended at all despite the those two 1/4” jacks there to fool potential buyers.

    Wonder why they didn’t make the low impedance out 1ohm or less instead of 10ohms.
     
  12. Resolve

    Resolve Acquaintance

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    Yeah I got my balanced cable in for the NO and it's crazy better. Like night and day how much better the balanced out is. However, I don't advise using this with highly sensitive headphones like the NO. You will hear some hiss. I had to get an XLR attenuator custom made just to help with that. With the AFO and other less sensitive cans it should be great.
     
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  13. Erikdayo

    Erikdayo Almost "Made"

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    I've found some odd things with my IHA-6 and hiss/hum. A Musicteck rep told me this is normal. I think at least my hum issue is either an issue with the amp or the dirty power in my house. I've had hum issues with quite a few amps over the years.

    From the balanced tap with the HD650 and Auteur I get hum from the left channel when the amp is on low current + low gain. I have had the hum on low current + low gain go away at times, but I am unsure of the conditions that cause it to go away. Might just be when the amp is powered on long enough? Or maybe it just goes away for a while and comes back. Typically I avoid using that setting because of the hum so it's hard for me to say.

    On the HD650 I get no noticeable hiss or hum when the amp is on anything besides low current + low gain. Every other combo is fine.

    On the Auteur I get hiss when the amp is on high gain. It might sound odd for a 300ohm headphone, but I use it on high current + low gain for the lowest noise floor with the Auteur. Strange, but it sounds great.

    Few notes regarding these issues with the single ended taps. When I tried the HD650 via the high impedance SE jack the hum was not there on the low current + low gain setting. Quiet on every setting. Through the low impedance SE jack the same issues I've noticed with the balanced out were there. Hum on low current + low gain but quiet on all other combinations.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
  14. Resolve

    Resolve Acquaintance

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    That's weird. For me I got left channel hum from the balanced out, but I compared it with the unit in store and it had the same issue. My conclusion has been that it's not an issue with the amp but more-so the pairing. I'll report back once I get my other cables for less sensitive cans. I also have an Auteur on the way so I'll try to remember to update here when I get them.
     
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  15. Erikdayo

    Erikdayo Almost "Made"

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    Sorry for not being more clear. I'll edit. It IS in fact the left channel only. Thank you for reminding me. But it also does appear to go away at times when I just happen to get curious and check.

    Perhaps it isn't an issue with my amp, and they are all like that. That's reassuring in a way.
     
  16. Resolve

    Resolve Acquaintance

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    Just out of curiosity, how do you find the Auteur with the IHA-6? Do you have the Teak? or blackwood. I'm concerned it might be a bit bright, but I'm feeding the IHA-6 with the idsd micro black label and find that the dual burr brown DAC gets rid of sibilance that I hear through my other DACs, even with typically brighter cans.
     
  17. Erikdayo

    Erikdayo Almost "Made"

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    I have a Teak Auteur. I think it’s quite nice with the IHA-6, but it was just slightly too bright for my tastes out of the box even with my NOS DAC (Onyx). There was a little too much zing to the treble.

    Luckily the solution was included with the Auteur. Perforated Eikon pads. Tamed the treble just enough to work well with the IHA-6. Sounds a lot more natural and pleasing to my ears.

    I am quite happy with the IHA-6, but I’m looking to acquire a Liquid Platinum close to launch to test the waters on a return to tubes.
     
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