I bought this phono amp a couple years ago when I got tired of hearing playback that was more about sound than music. The Cary DJH preamp is definitely about music, and has very fine sound.
Audio Electronics is an offshoot of Cary Audio Design, and was a way to bring Dennis Had’s tube wizardry to lower price-points. In the basic PH-1, which sold for around $600, cheaper components were used to balance the high cost of production. These units are beautifully wired, point to point – real craftsmanship.
The PH-1 DJH, a ‘signature’ version, took that basic design much farther by using premium components, including hexfred diodes, very costly Jensen oil coupling capacitors, 1% resistors, and ceramic tube sockets. Also, the appearance is dressed up by an attractive Silver faceplate and beautiful gloss-black chassis. The cost to build these units had to be ruinous; I was told they lost money on each one they made.
The look reflects the sound – very classy and taking care of business! The circuit is class A single-ended with passive RIAA. The 6SL7 (stock tubes are new-production Tung Sol) input tubes are direct-coupled to the 12AU7EH buffer output. Especially notable is the wide open soundstage. While neither extreme calls attention to itself, the highs and lows are complete and naturally balanced, with nothing exaggerated for instant impressiveness. This unit actually grows on you.
When you want to try a different flavor, rather than buying a new preamp, buy some tubes. Purchase this package, and I’ll get you started with a couple highly-recommended classic 6SL7 sets. The RCA (Raytheon was made by RCA) gray-glass tubes have gorgeous depth and creamy timbre. These tubes were made in the 1950s; real time-travel. The Sylvanias are more upfront and lively. But, don’t assume the stock tubes are not worth using – they rock.
I play records on and off, so this preamp has had only moderate use. I didn’t leave it on all the time, as the manual suggests. It warms up quickly and sounds 90% after an hour. All tubes have plenty of life left. Tubes run rather cool to the touch. The 38dB gain is very quiet for a tube preamp. I used it with low-output cartridges via a step-up, and 3mv was plenty for quiet operation. Fixed capacitance is 150pf. Add some with your cables and the load should be right in the pocket for MM cartridges like Audio Technica.
Condition is excellent. Except for swapping tubes a few times, it has just sat in my rack. All shipping containment included, as is the manual. Continental USA only, please. Paypal add 3%.
Check it out. I’ve owned the similar EAR phono box, now very costly at $1700, and not changed at all since it cost $900, imported, twenty years ago. I think the Cary is better, both in sound and definitely in build quality.