Review: CAYIN CS-6PH Tube MM/MC Phono amplifier

Review: CAYIN CS-6PH Tube MM/MC Phono amplifier - A very special phono preamp with tonal distinctiveness, a very smooth and fluid gait. A lot of phono for the money!"

The Cayin CS-6PH marks a significant milestone for tube specialist Cayin as they venture into crafting their own phono preamplifier, tailored for discerning analog enthusiasts. In the vast landscape of Chinese hi-fi manufacturers, Cayin distinguishes itself as one of the premier brands with a holistic approach to audio equipment production, ranging from small, minimalist tube amplifiers to intricate digital mobile players. While developing a phono preamp may appear to be within their wheelhouse, it’s no simple feat when pursuing high-end standards. This challenge intensifies when tubes are involved, as delicate microvolt-range phono signals intersect with high-voltage anodes and radiant cathodes. The Cayin CS-6PH defies the norm by merging puristic circuitry with contemporary user-friendliness, resulting in a sound so luxuriously natural that it can almost outshine reality itself.


Plus gain :40 db57dB/61dB/65dB
Frequency Response :+/- 0.2dB+/- 0.2dB
THD :0.05% (1kHz)0.1% (1kHz)
Input Sensitivity :2.5mV (200mV, 1kHz)0.12-0.25mV (200mV, 1kHz)
Input Impedance :4.7 kOhm47 Ohm/100 Ohm/200 Ohm/ 470 Ohm/ 1000 Ohm
Cap :47pF/100pF56 pF
S/N Ratio :85dB (A-weighted)70dB (A-weighted)
Channel Separation :90dB80dB
Output Impedance :200Ohm RCA, 600Ohm XLR
Input Terminals :RCA x 1
Output Terminals :RCA x 1, XLR x 1
Tube :Electro-Harmonix 69222EH/ECC88 x 2, JJ 12AX7/ECC83 x 2, Electro-Harmonix 12AT7EH/ECC81 x 2, RCA 22DE4 x 2
WHD :360mm x 309.5mm x 177mm
Weight :11.5 Kg

Unique Features of the Cayin CS-6PH

Cayin’s meticulous approach to phono stage design involved rigorous testing and refinement before unveiling the CS-6PH. Their commitment to excellence is evident in the CS-6PH’s unique capabilities. It stands out as one of the rare phono preamplifiers that can handle both Moving Magnet (MM) and Moving Coil (MC) cartridges, offering extensive configuration options for each cartridge type. Cayin takes a less-traveled path by opting for an all-tube amplification, even for MC signals, rather than relying on low-noise transistor input stages. This bold choice leads to the utilization of six double triodes, granting the CS-6PH remarkable flexibility and HiFi-friendly linearity.

The MC mode, in particular, showcases the full potential of tube amplification. To attain the 65dB per channel amplification required, the CS-6PH employs a rare and carefully selected type of tube: the tension grid tube, exemplified by the Electro Harmonix 6922. Tubes like the ECC88/E88CC (known as Valvo, Philips, or Telefunken originals) are also compatible, distinguished by their finely wound grids and compact design. This design choice minimizes noise, increases efficiency, and reduces sensitivity to external vibrations. The CS-6PH’s signal tubes are shielded beneath sheet metal sleeves with spiral spring mounts to safeguard against mechanical and electrical interference.

For additional anode voltage purity, the CS-6PH incorporates vintage 22DE4 rectifier tubes, such as those produced by RCA in the USA. These tubes, though aged, are still abundant as new-old stock and offer enduring performance. The CS-6PH features both RCA and balanced XLR outputs, with a toggle switch to activate the latter. The XLR output, connected to encapsulated balancing transformers, provides a fully symmetrical signal, enhancing the phono preamp’s performance. The CS-6PH’s internal components are meticulously crafted, with ceramic tube sockets securely fastened to the chassis. Wiring and printed circuit boards inside the housing are of superior quality, while relays handle all switching operations.

Build quality

The Cayin CS-6PH phono preamplifier is a testament to the brand’s dedication to delivering high-quality audio components with exceptional build quality and a carefully considered design. Let’s delve deeper into its build and design features:

Build Quality:

  1. Heavy-Duty Chassis: The CS-6PH is housed in a robust chassis that exudes durability and strength. This chassis not only shields the sensitive internal components from external vibrations and electromagnetic interference but also ensures the preamp’s longevity.
  2. Premium Materials: Cayin has spared no expense when it comes to materials. The chassis is crafted from high-quality metal, providing a substantial and luxurious feel. This material choice not only enhances the preamp’s durability but also contributes to its overall stability.
  3. Vibration Isolation: To maintain audio purity, the preamplifier includes advanced vibration isolation mechanisms within its chassis. These isolators prevent mechanical vibrations from affecting the delicate circuitry, ensuring that the audio signal remains pristine.
  4. Carefully Selected Components: Cayin’s commitment to audio excellence is evident in its component selection. Every element within the CS-6PH is chosen for its ability to enhance sound quality and minimize distortion, resulting in a meticulously designed interior.


  1. Timeless Elegance: Cayin has opted for a timeless design that transcends trends and remains relevant for years to come. The clean lines and understated elegance make the CS-6PH a visually appealing addition to any audio setup.
  2. Tube Display: One of the standout design elements is the prominent display of the vacuum tubes. Positioned on the top of the chassis, these tubes emit a warm and captivating glow. Beyond their functional role in amplifying the signal, they add a touch of vintage charm to the overall aesthetic.
  3. User-Friendly Interface: The front panel of the CS-6PH is designed with the user in mind. It features intuitive touch buttons that allow for easy adjustment of settings and input selection. A strategically placed mute switch provides quick and convenient control.
  4. Effective Ventilation: Proper ventilation is essential for maintaining optimal tube performance. Cayin has incorporated well-placed ventilation openings to ensure that the tubes operate within their ideal temperature range. This not only extends tube life but also contributes to consistent audio quality.
  5. Balanced XLR Output: Adding both functionality and a modern twist to the design, the CS-6PH includes a balanced XLR output. Users can toggle a switch to activate or deactivate this output, providing flexibility in connectivity options for various audio systems.

In summary, the Cayin CS-6PH strikes a harmonious balance between superior build quality and an elegant design. Its solid construction, premium materials, and attention to detail make it a reliable and visually captivating component in the world of high-fidelity audio. This phono preamplifier not only elevates the audio experience but also serves as a timeless piece of audio equipment that enthusiasts can proudly showcase in their setups.

Listening Impressions

In listening tests, the CS-6PH demonstrates an ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Even when compared to other premium phono preamplifiers, the CS-6PH’s sonic signature stands out. It crafts a lush, organic flow that seamlessly weaves timbral and textural intricacies together, delivering an unparalleled listening experience. Its ability to handle even the most high-resolution audio systems without a hint of harshness or strain is truly remarkable. The mid-treble region remains transparent and open, revealing an expansive timbre space devoid of artificiality. This unforced, dynamically rich musical flow is a hallmark of the CS-6PH, reminiscent of the signature sound of high-quality single-ended triode amplifiers like the Cayin CS-805A.

Of course, like any audio component, the CS-6PH is not without its imperfections. It exhibits slightly more noise than transformer-based phono stages, which is common among tube designs. Additionally, there is a subtle trace of residual hum, although it remains well below the surface of the groove noise. These minor drawbacks are inherent to tube phono stages and do not detract significantly from the CS-6PH’s exceptional sonic performance.

In the realm of soundstaging, the CS-6PH excels. It breathes life into music, effortlessly creating a three-dimensional space within which instruments and vocals emerge with unparalleled realism. It elevates studio recordings, enveloping the listener in an intricate web of acoustic textures. Records that were once seen as merely “good” suddenly reveal their hidden depths and subtleties.

The Cayin CS-6PH phono preamplifier’s sound performance is where it truly shines, offering audiophiles a remarkable listening experience. Let’s explore the sound test in more detail:

1. Exceptional Clarity: The CS-6PH impresses with its ability to deliver crystal-clear audio. It excels in reproducing even the finest details in your vinyl records, allowing you to hear subtle nuances in the music that may have gone unnoticed before. Instruments and vocals are rendered with exceptional clarity, providing a more immersive and engaging listening experience.

2. Natural Warmth: Tube-based preamplifiers are known for their warm and inviting sound signature, and the CS-6PH is no exception. It infuses a delightful warmth into the music, adding a touch of analog magic to your vinyl playback. This warmth is especially appreciated when listening to genres like jazz, blues, or classical music, where the richness of tones is crucial.

3. Dynamic Range: The CS-6PH boasts an impressive dynamic range, allowing music to come to life with a sense of dynamism and vitality. Whether it’s the thunderous crescendo of a symphony or the subtle plucking of a guitar string, this preamp captures the full range of dynamics, ensuring that no musical detail is lost.

4. Balanced Sound: The balanced XLR output option further enhances the sound quality by providing a clean and interference-free signal path. When connected to compatible audio equipment, the CS-6PH delivers a balanced soundstage with well-defined stereo imaging. This feature is particularly advantageous for users seeking the highest audio fidelity.

5. Low Noise: Despite its tube-based design, the CS-6PH manages to keep noise levels impressively low. Even when using high-gain settings for moving coil (MC) cartridges, the background remains quiet, allowing the music to take center stage without distraction.

6. Vinyl Character: This phono preamplifier has the ability to retain the unique character of vinyl records. Vinyl enthusiasts often appreciate the subtle imperfections and “analog warmth” that vinyl brings to music. The CS-6PH preserves these characteristics, ensuring that vinyl’s charm is not lost in translation.

7. Versatile Compatibility: The CS-6PH’s flexibility in accommodating both moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) cartridges means that it can adapt to a wide range of vinyl setups. It provides ample gain options for various cartridge types, allowing users to fine-tune their sound to suit their preferences.

In conclusion, the Cayin CS-6PH phono preamplifier excels in delivering an audio experience that is characterized by its clarity, warmth, and dynamic range. It manages to strike a balance between the precision of modern audio technology and the vintage charm of tube amplification. Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or new to vinyl, the CS-6PH is capable of elevating your vinyl playback to a new level of sonic excellence, making it a valuable addition to any high-fidelity audio system.


In conclusion, the Cayin CS-6PH transcends the conventional boundaries of phono preamplifiers. It achieves the remarkable feat of delivering an exceptionally natural and organic sound while accommodating both MM and MC cartridges. Its unique approach to tube amplification, impeccable craftsmanship, and thoughtful features make it a standout choice for audiophiles seeking a transcendent listening experience. While it may not boast the absolute lowest noise levels, its musicality and sonic finesse more than compensate. The CS-6PH is an ode to the analog medium, a testament to Cayin’s dedication to the art of high-fidelity audio reproduction.

Positives of the Cayin CS-6PH:

  1. Exceptional Sound Quality: The Cayin CS-6PH offers a remarkably natural and organic sound, characterized by a lush and dynamic musical flow. It excels in revealing fine details, delivering a highly transparent and immersive listening experience.
  2. Versatility: This phono preamplifier is versatile, supporting both Moving Magnet (MM) and Moving Coil (MC) cartridges. It provides extensive configuration options for each cartridge type, accommodating a wide range of analog setups.
  3. Tube Amplification: The CS-6PH employs tube amplification for both MM and MC signals, contributing to its unique sonic signature. Tube enthusiasts will appreciate the warm and harmonically rich sound that tubes bring to their vinyl playback.
  4. High-Quality Components: Cayin’s commitment to craftsmanship is evident in the CS-6PH’s build quality. It features solid ceramic tube sockets, meticulous wiring, and high-quality printed circuit boards, enhancing its durability and reliability.
  5. Balanced XLR Output: In addition to RCA outputs, the CS-6PH offers a balanced XLR output with encapsulated balancing transformers. This provides a fully symmetrical signal path, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of audio systems.

Negatives of the Cayin CS-6PH:

  1. Higher Price Tag: The CS-6PH is relatively expensive compared to some other phono preamplifiers on the market, which might deter budget-conscious buyers.
  2. Slight Noise: While the CS-6PH offers excellent sound quality, it exhibits slightly more noise than some transformer-based phono stages. This may be a concern for users with extremely low-output MC cartridges.
  3. Residual Hum: Like many tube phono preamps, the CS-6PH may have a subtle trace of residual hum. Although this is generally inconspicuous during regular listening, it may be a consideration for those seeking absolute silence.
  4. Complexity: The CS-6PH provides a wide range of configuration options, which can be overwhelming for users new to analog audio equipment. It may require some time and effort to optimize settings for individual cartridges and systems.
  5. Size and Weight: The CS-6PH is relatively large and heavy due to its tube-based design. This may pose challenges in terms of placement and integration into existing audio setups, particularly for users with limited space.