CAYIN IHA-6 VS NEUROCHROME HP-1

NUEROCHROME HP-1 MSRP: $1299 USD  /   CAYIN iHA-6  MSRP: $999

Neurochrome HP-1 vs Cayin iHA-6

BASS:

I think the bass has decent control over the 6XX driver. It has a punchy kind of sound to it. It got my toe tapping fairly easy. I initially thought it was more punchy down low than the Cayin but song after song after song had them about a tie. The Cayin iHA-6 bass is just a little tighter. I noticed this when listening to Jonathan McReynolds – ‘Limp’. The HP-1 played the stomps and kick drums with a fatter sound than the 6 and the 6 played it tighter with better focus.

MIDRANGE:

The HP-1 is evenly balanced but sounds a little more warm in the lower midrange compared to the Cayin but the Cayin has better air and harmonics. The fundamentals of vocals and the balance of the HP-1 sounds decent but more congealed and flat as if they are missing a bit of realism. They sound like a recording and most usually the Cayin iHA6 is being compared to my Trafomatic Head 2 here and it  loses in that department. The iHA-6 is pretty good technically but it is the embodiment of what a solid state amplifier sounds like to me and what Stereophile neutral sounds like so I expected the HP-1 to have more realism. Judging by tone alone, pianos, xylophones, and vocals sound a little more earthy and round but it’s missing depth and air to me. In comparison the mids sound more dry on the Cayin but pop out with more realism and even better control and resolution. The decay of most voices I heard was a little cut short it seemed sometimes. The Cayin was faster but reverb trails, echos, and decays lingered in the air with more distinction.

On my favorite song for testing is Fleet Foxes – ‘The Shrine/ Argument’ the chorus come in with harmonies and there I noticed how in comparison to the Cayin the reverb layers blended together and the separation of those layers were blurred whereas the Cayin resolved those layers better and made the voices decline into the background with more realism.

I guess saying the ‘hear through’ factor on the HP-1 is absent for me sums it up and voices really need that to sound convincing even if the pitch of the tones are correct, the timbre on the HP-1 is fuzzy.

TREBLE:

I found both of these amplifiers to do treble the same in regards to quality. That is: not hard, bold, or sharply etched but about the same in quantity as the Cayin. The Cayin seems brighter but that is because of the upper midrange, lower treble, and upper treble. The middle treble sounds similar to me on both amplifiers. Analog sounding treble that is solid and tangible both is what both of these miss.

OVERALL BALANCE:

The earthy and colorful yet fuzzy timbre of the midrange on the HP-1 sounds like it has a weird spot somewhere in the lower or middle mids that may be an accentuation but honestly I can’t really fault the balance of the amplifier. It’s balance is pretty even otherwise. The Cayin in comparison hears like a an upwards tilt and is a little leaner in the midrange. The HP-1 sounds more evenly balanced. 

SOUNDSTAGE:

This is an area I feel the HP-1 suffers in. It has less depth than my Cayin but about the same width. The Cayin has lost to all amplifiers I have heard at its price or above except for being a little wider/ or equal in width to the Pro iCan but the Pro has much better depth. The HP-1 is flatter and less holographic than both of these and does poorly in my opinion.

TRANSPARENCY/CLEANLINESS/BLACKGROUND:

I think the HP-1 does pretty good here. I could ‘hear through’ easier on my Cayin though. I am close to saying the HP-1 sounds cleaner by just a little bit. But transparency is almost a tie. The Cayin sounds more open though in comparison. 

DYNAMICS/TRANSIENTS/RESOLUTION:

I want to just combine the rest. I think that it has an upfront and direct sound but I am not getting this ‘aggression’ people are talking about. Not at all. Actually the Cayin seems a little more aggressive. The Cayin is faster and the transients seem more sprightly but they as a brand tune for that kind of thing. The HP-1 does decent with the attacks but bad with decay. The resolution is fair but the Cayin resolves a bit better. Microdynamics are better on the Cayin as well.

BUILD:

Let me pause for a second.

Man….to be honest. I am depressed sharing these impressions because I want a few things. I want an upstanding man with the balls to defend his gear on a forum with people being rude to him to succeed after all of the garbage he put up with. I want to see more manufacturers show good and solid data and stand by it when the put a product out. I’d like to see more bang for buck out there because it’s getting deep in the market. However, I can’t be dishonest and gloss over the issues I have with this particular piece of gear.

I cannot assess the durability because this is only a week loaner. After all of the hands it has been through the amp still looks new but I would not stack anything heavy on it because the chassis bends in at the push of a finger. The knob is nowhere near close to as nice as the Cayin which is only 999. It doesn’t turn with the resistance and smoothness something of this price should. It looks like DIY and feels it.

VERDICT

The amp sounds like it can measure good. I mean it’s relatively clear and is not grainy but until someone throws up measurements of soundstage, microdynamics, depth, layering, ‘hear through factor’  and that special instant connection factor, measurements can only show so much. You have to…. HAVE to combine lots of subjectivity. 100% subjectivity (all you can say you prefer) and 100% objectivity(all you can reasonably exploit in regards to testing) not 50/50.

This amp based on the Cayin iHA6 being on the market and Jotunheim a lone is very overpriced at 1299. The only aspects it has that peak its head into that tier of the market is control, and low distortion. The Cayin sits in its spot  with a little shakiness like it just won easily but knows it’s spot is not there forever.

CAYIN iHA-6 WINS

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