H-80A Hybrid Amplifier review AVL 2008


H-80A Hybrid Amplifier review AVL 2008
equipment review
Reproduced courtesy of Audio & Video Lifestyle magazine
Cayin H-80A
Hybrid Integrated Amplifier
emember that old
Gillette ad that went
something like ‘a
shave so good, I
bought the
company’ - well,
that’s not exactly
what I had in mind when I first clapped
eyes and ears on this new Cayin
amplifier, but I knew I just had to have
This would be my second Cayin
amplifier, having already purchased one
of its A-88T valve amps, and having
retired my trusty old MEs, I was looking
for something to replace them. Xindak’s
great sounding pre and monoblocks
were on the cards, but I fancied a really
Vital Statistics
440 x 235 x 533mm
Final Link Audio Pty Ltd
34 Gamelite Drive
Melton, VIC 3337
(03) 9746 0394
[email protected]
decent integrated. The ‘high-end’
integrated amplifier is making a bit of a
resurgence of late as more music lovers
opt for the quality one box option, but I
have to admit, even before I’d switched
this huge slab of an amplifier on, its
looks alone had me more than halfway
convinced. Powering it up and taking in
the big blue VU meters probably added
another 25 per cent, so all that
remained for it was to sound half
decent and I was locked in.
This is a big amplifier - not
McIntosh big, but getting there. It
weighs 35kg and is built to such a high
standard, both internally and on the
outside. Its machined look is made up
of lots of aluminium built around a very
heavy and solid chassis. The dual blue
backlit VU meters register power
output and sit behind a thick acrylic
window. Controls are simple - there’s a
big central volume knob and switching
for six inputs - five line-level and one
balanced, all of which can be done via
the supplied solid aluminium remote.
Around the back there’s the row of
inputs including the balanced XLR
sockets and a single pair of heavy duty
4mm binding posts for the speaker
leads. The H-80A sits on four
individually adjustable feet, which are
also heavy-duty and need to be to
support all that weight. There are some
magnetic discs which the feet sit on and
although initially fiddle to correctly
position, once in place, the amplifier’s
not going anywhere. But make sure
your equipment rack or table is up to
Audio & Video Lifestyle Magazine
Cayin’s hybrid
marks a
different breed
of amplifier
By Nic Tatham
the job of accommodating the H-80A.
Removing the ventilated lid was
mandatory - I had to see what was
inside. Even it was an expertly machined
bit of aluminium and the guts revealed
only top-notch components had gone
into the H-80A’s design. Massive dual
450 watt transformers form the basis of
the power supply and the internals
show Cayin’s no-compromise to layout
and construction, which is largely due to
the fact that its products are all still
handmade. German engineering’s
known to be meticulous and precise and
that’s exactly how the H-80A’s been put
Towards the back lie two 12AU7
valves which are used in the preamp
input stage. Being a hybrid design, the
Cayin marries the best of two amplifier
stages - the valve pre and Class A solid
state power output. The idea behind
this hybrid circuit, which Cayin was the
first to develop, is to provide the
smoothness and warmth from the valves
and the sort of depth and dynamics
Class A solid state provides.
Traditionally Class A means low output,
but not so here. With its dual mono
design and thumping power supplies
the H-80A is rated at 80 watts per
channel into 8 ohms, increasing to 150
Class A/B watts into a 4 ohm speaker
load, which is ample juice to drive most
speakers, even trickier loads. I had quite
a few to try and was keen to try them.
The amp arrived in a very large box,
and having been a demo unit, already
had around 100 hours under its belt, so
was just about nicely run-in. I’d not long
had it when the first Tuesday of the
month came around which, up this way
on the NSW Central Coast, means
‘audio night’ at Gosford Hi-Fi. I lugged
the amp into the back of my car and
took it over so that everyone could have
a listen. Like me, everyone who saw it
was impressed. We listened to all sorts
of music and different equipment, which
gave a good insight into just what this
big Cayin sounds like. Everyone certainly
liked how it performed.
Back in the AV room at home (I’m
not lugging it about any more) I set
about trying the amplifier out with all I
had. It’s been about three months since
I first took delivery to the time of
writing this review, so I’ve had plenty of
time to put it through its paces. Most of
the listening has been on my pair of
Ambience Reference 1600 ribbons and
the pair make an excellent match. This
Cayin does a lot of things right. Bass is
well resolved and has plenty of that
lovely Class A fullness - I could safely
say I’d not heard better bass from the
Ambience. These speakers appreciate
control and that’s also something that
the Cayin does really well - it retains a
Audio & Video Lifestyle Magazine
tight grip on both the music as well as
whatever speakers it’s driving. That
management extends down into
the lower frequencies and
things sound decidedly tight
with fine drive and punch.
There’s a lot more to
this amplifier other than
fine bass extension and
control. Another attribute
(if you like a bit of volume)
is that it can be cranked
without any hint of stress
or compromise of the
music. Send a bit of Rage
Against The Machine or
Nine Inch Nails its way,
wind the wick and get those
VU meters twitching and
the Cayin’ll dish it out with
plenty of thrills. It eases out
NIN’s Closer at unfeasibly
loud levels, holding the bass
and treble percussion
together nicely without the
slightest hint of giving way to
distortion. Again, few amps
I’ve had in my possession have had the
sort of dynamic headroom that’s on
offer here. In this respect, it reminds
me of some of the bigger Musical
Fidelity amplification that’s able to
deliver plenty of current on demand.
T e c h n o t a l k
Product Type:
Intregrated amplifier
Dual mono, hybrid Class A
Power Output:
80 watts per channel RMS
(8 ohms, Class A)
150 watts per channel RMS
(4 ohms, Class A/B)
Frequency Response:
Valve Complement:
2 x 12AU7
5 x line level RCA
1 x balanced XLR
Signal To Noise Ratio:
Total Harmonic Distortion:
0.2% (1kHz, 80 watts, 8 ohms)
Power Consumption:
280 watts
Technotalk specifications and recommended
retail prices are supplied by the manufacturer
“This Cayin
does a lot of
things right.
Bass is well
resolved and
has plenty of
that lovely
Class A
fullness - I
could safely
say I’d not
heard better
bass from the
control and
that’s also
something that
the Cayin does
really well - it
retains a tight
grip on both
the music as
well as
speakers it’s
driving. ”
It’s a fluid and expansive
sound; rock numbers have
appropriate bite and attack,
drums crash and basslines flow
with becoming menace.
But it’s also a mellow
performer when need be and
those dynamics don’t disappear
as the volume’s diminished
either. At low levels the Cayin
still presents a full sound in
which instruments remain easy
to follow. Detail retrieval’s good
and although not quite as
revealing as some amplifiers
(Xindak’s XA Series springs to
mind), the big Cayin still gives
great insight into a wide musical
It’s what inside that counts. The internal layout,
variety - this is a smooth, but
construction and component list of the H-80A is as
bold sounding amplifier.
There’s no trace of the sterile, impressive as its outward appearance.
over-analytical sound that can be
Ancillary Equipment: Shanling SCDconstrued by some amplifiers as detail
T200 CD player, Ambience Reference
retrieval and vocals sound full bodied
1600 loudspeakers, Quad 11L
and rich. This quality makes listening to
loudspeakers, QED Silver Anniversary
the likes of Lizz Wright or Elizabeth
Biwire speaker cables
Fraser of the Cocteau Twins a pleasure.
Hi-fi finesse is clearly evident with such
nicely produced recordings - the better
O p i n i o n
the source material, the more at home
the Cayin is. This extends to the source
component also and a decent CD player
The ‘Opinion’ expressed here is that
(preferably with balanced outputs) is a
of the reviewer, summarised in the
form of a 5-star rating system, and
should be considered as an integral
The longer I lived with the Cayin, the
part of the full contents of this
more I’ve grown to appreciate its allAudition Equipment Review. As
round charms. This is an amplifier
such, each category should be
design that’s capable of a highly attractive
judged on its own merits and not
mix of effortless power and delicacy. Play
necessarily used as a comparison
a Rachmaninov Piano Concerto and the
with other equipment reviews in this,
H-80A does a superb job of balancing the
or other editions of Audio & Video
orchestral weight with the delicate touch
Lifestyle magazine.
of the keyboard. Other orchestral
material’s also handled well by the
amplifier’s combination of weight and
speed. In fact, it’s this that lends the H Excellent
80A to a much wider variety of musical
Switching to my little Quad 11Ls, I’d
“The ‘high-end’ integrated amplirarely heard them sound so big. That
fier is making a bit of a
bass fullness worked its magic with the
resurgeance of late as more music
standmounters and I was quite happy to
lovers opt for the quality one box
keep the Quads hooked up, such was the
option . . . its looks alone had me
amp’s ability to coax some serious
more than halfway convinced.”
sounds from the petite 2-ways.
For a Class A, the Cayin doesn’t get
overly warm either, certainly not to the
sort of egg-frying temperatures some
Build Quality
designs operate at. It’s a mightily
impressive amplifier in a lot of respects
and the sort of audio equipment that
partnered in the right system with do all
Value For Money
that’s asked of it, look great while doing
it and do so for years to come. AVL
Audio & Video Lifestyle Magazine