Because the iHA-6 is so f**king neutral, bordering on bright, you ought to search deep within yourself and decide if you have any treble sensitivity. If you do, stick with the warmer headphones and IEMs, and they’ll pair beautifully with this highly revealing amp.
Despite some early thoughts on the matter, it turns out I am not awfully sensitive to treble. For those with my kind of tolerance, you have little to fear, even with the Sennheiser HD800 ($1,399). This marriage is insanely clear and wicked detailed. Yet it stays just south of hot territory. Alright, so maybe neutral-on-neutral is not the most ideal setup, but I find this particular example works well. It comes across rather natural, un-fatiguing, and good. The iHA-6 really showcases the HD800’s strengths.
Noble Audio’s Keiser Encore ($1,850, Review HERE) is, in a lot of ways, the HD800 in IEM form. Huge soundstage, impeccable detail and transparency, and bright, bright treble. It is to Cayin’s credit this amp achieves its level of performance and chosen signature, while remaining smooth enough that Encore never becomes harsh. In fact, Encore has never sounded better.
Naturally, though, warmer in-ear monitors benefit the most from this kind of raw clarity, like the Custom Art FIBAE Massdrop Exclusive (~$900). Imbued of supreme fullness, big-ass bass, thick, romantic mids, and warm, smooth treble, you really want a nice, neutral source. The energy with which Cayin presents detail, and the cleanliness of its stage, is just what this warmth monster craves. It balances things out so that every aspect can shine.
Another good example of this can be found with Empire Ears Legend X ($2,299, Review HERE). It’s not as warm as FIBAE ME, but Cayin’s extreme technical expertise counters the thick, riotous tuning of LX, and introduces a welcome helping of class and refinement. Nothing is sacrificed, while much is gained.
Perhaps the IEM which scales the most from all this power, is the Final Audio E5000 ($279, Review HERE). This f**ker sucks up tons of juice, and pushes most of my mobile gear to their limits. Cayin’s immense amperage elevates this earphone to new heights. Furthermore, their tuning compliments each other. E5000 has mad warmth and bass and unassuming highs. iHA-6’s transcendent clarity infuses things with a magical air.
The hallmark of a great amp, in Pinky reckoning, is whether it plays well with both the HD800, and Audeze. My LCD-3 Fazor ($2,000) proves this amp’s worth. Such smooth treble accounts for the darker tone, while the extension ensures fabulous resolution. Clarity and detail are already strong with the LCD-3, but it’s a chocolaty, languorous performance. And it responds splendidly to the quick excitement of the iHA-6.
The ZMF Headphones Atticus ($900) sounds awesome on everything. Really. It vibes with everything I’ve tested so far. It’s superb on mobile devices, and loves the warmer NFB-28. Yet it dances like a slut with the brighter Cayin, as well. Atticus balances its rich lows with subtle high-end sparkle, and binds them all together with such smooth, clear, and resolving mids. iHA-6 tightens everything up, making the whole ensemble pop with breathtaking potency.
What a strange and savage odyssey! I don’t often plug IEMs into my desktop gear, though moments like this make a fellow ponder his habits. Having a beast of this pedigree in reserve when your endurance wears thin and you find yourself longing for a sit-down… well, it can reshape the structure of your audiophilia. The Cayin iHA-6 is fantastically versatile and a winning gamble for earphones and full-size cans alike. It may be the exact missing piece to your own setup, in particular, for those who deal mostly with portable gear.