Review: PS Audio HCA-2 Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

Recently acquired the PS Audio HCA 2 power amplifier from a longtime associate of mine.

He is a totally dedicated tube maven, but he was more than enthusiastic about the HCA 2, so much in fact he is moved further upstream in the PS Audio line of power amps.

So when his new one arrived, this one came my way. I was somewhat skeptical, being somewhat jaded after 50 years in this hobby. However I have always appreciated his views and the PS Audio pedigree lends further creedence to this product.

My initial observations when first powered,was okay it is a good amp,quiet, nice sonics, but then again so many power amps fit that description. However after about five days of 24 hour operation, this assesment changed quite dramatically.

All of a sudden on the fifth day the HCA 2 really came in and I mean really came into its own, in a big way. The soundstage, depth, transparency and the delicate layering in of the instruments were just mesmerizing to say the least. I can't remember being this impressed since the Mark Levinson ML 2 mono blocks came on the scene some 30 years ago and thats an experience still firmly etched in my mind to this day.

But here is a new kid on the block so-to-speak that is so very near the signature of pure Class A output amps,without the heat, the weight, the increased power bill and all else that convential Class A amps have.

While the HCA 2 cannot compete with the very best of Class A amps, its overall signature is well within 98 percent of the pure Class A counterparts. So close in fact, that I can easily live with this unit for the foreseeable future. Because what it may lack here and there it more than makes up for in so many other areas of overall performance. I have had the PS Audio HCA 2 powered on 24/7 for several weeks now and zero glitches or flaws have been encountered. Truly plug, play and enjoy straight out of the gate.


Stereo power amplifier
Revolutionary SDATâ„¢ output stage
Balanced JFET input stage
Built in High Current UO
Single ended and balanced inputs
WBT output connectors
Custom gold plated RCA inputs
True balanced XLR inputs
Produces almost no heat

Completely load invariant
Sonic warmth of tubes
Power and impact of SDATâ„¢
15 watts total idle current
Unparalleled midbass
Subterranean low end
Stunning performance

8 ohm power
- 150 watts rms
4 ohm power
- 225 watts rms
2 ohm power
- 275 watts rms
Input connections
- 1 pair each balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA)
Output connections
- 1 pair 5-way binding posts
Frequency resonse
- 10 - 20 KHz (+/- 0.5 dB)
- 0.2% at full rated power into 8 ohms (1 KHz)
Voltage gain
- 30 dB
Input impedance
- 100K
Input sensitivity (full output)
- 1.15v
- 35 lbs
- 17" W x 4.5" H x 14" D

Listed below are some of the LPs and CDs used for the evaluation.


Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064)
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)
Paul Desmond/Jim Hall - Complete Recordings - Mosaic(MR6-120)
Time Out - Dave Brubeck Quartet (Columbia CS 8192)
Paul Desmond - Self Titled (Artist House AH - 2)


Ben Webster At The Renaissance (Contemporary Records OJCCD-390-2)
The Royal Ballet Gala Performances (Classic Compact Discs CDSCD 6065)
Jurassic Park Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCAD 10859)
We Get Requests - The Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 810047-2)
You Won't Forget Me - Shirley Horn (Verve 847482-2)
On Every Street - Dire Straits (Warner Brothers 26680-2)
Trio Jeepy - Branford Marsalis (Columbia CK44199)
Paris Jazz Concert - Louis Armstrong (RTE 1001-2)
Braveheart Motion Picture Soundtrack - London Symphony Orchestra (London LC0171)
Patriot Games Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 07863 66051-2)
Highlights From The Plugged Nickel - Miles Davis (Columbia CK 67377)
Private Investigations Best Of Dire Straits (HDCD) - Dire Straits (Warner Bros 49891-2)
Straight Up - Bob James Trio (Warner Bros 945956-2)
Land Of Giants - McCoy Tyner (Telarc 83576)
New York Reunion - McCoy Tyner (Chesky 5173324)
Gladiator Motion Picture Soundtrack(Decca 2894670942)
Copland - Appalachian Spring (Telarc CD 80078)
F. Fennell - Holst Suites (Telarc 80038)
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Telarc 80041)
John Williams - American Journey (Sony 89364)
Bizet - Carmen (Telarc 80048)
Live At Sweet Basil - McCoy Tyner Trio (Evidence ECD 22106-2)

I listen to far more vinyl than I do CDs and this prompted an evalution into a preamp to use with the HCA 2 and finally settled on a Superphon Revelation Mk II as having the best synergy and phono section to use with the HCA 2. Many of the newer preamps on the market do not have a phono section, and I don't care to use an out board phono section. Just more wire and cables to deal with. I have a lot more expensive preamps, but the Revelation MkII proved the better match and used Musical Concepts Superconnect IV interconnects throughout.

As far as the CD listening experience goes, it has been a marvelous one. Using a Audio Analogue 1st generation Paganini CD Player as reference, has prompted me into listening more in this medium than previous.

The Alon Model 1 speakers have really come alive and the signature is amazing using the Alons. I listen to a lot of Bill Evans Trio and solo work. And the delicate touch the HCA 2 has on piano recordings is a joy I have seldom found with other amplifiers at near any reasonable price category.

I have found myself of late listening more and more. It appears to me listening fatigue is a thing of the past. And my dear wife of 35 years, who in that period of time has made damn few comments on the gear that has passed through here, said "whatever you bought this time, you should keep, I like the way the system sounds now" I almost passed out from that statement !! She says "she can hear music and the instruments everywhere in the room now" !! For her to be impressed must say a lot for the HCA 2. And as jaded as I am now, I must admit that the PS Audio HCA 2 is one of the finest amplifiers that have passed through here. And at my age now, it is nice to find an amp I can lift by myself, minimal heat and lower power bills. Yep the PS Audio HCA 2 has found a home with me. Its minor caveats I can live with nicely.

And to be honest I don't know what I would get that would be better overall than the HCA 2. It is a marvelous performer that easily can compete with some of the finest amps out there. It has become apparent to me that digital amps such as the HCA 2 are the wave of the future and will only get better as designers continue to push the envelope of this design.

For an audiophile many years into this hobby/business I am more than impressed, almost as impressed as the day the Mark Levinson ML 2 burst upon the scene and changed audio forever. I don't know if 30 years from now if the HCA 2 will have that legendary status or not, but lets stay tuned and see what develops as the years go by. The PS Audio HCA 2 could be one of those pivotal moments in audio design that we look back on as a defining event in audio.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Pass Labs, Threshold, Levinson, Classe, Rowland, Krell, etc
Hello Ferrari, I felt as you did about the HCA-2, wondering how it could improve. I found a good deal on a Reference Audio Mods HCA-2 with all of their modifications (except the Eichmann binding posts.) Their mods really take this amp to another level, more ambience retrieval, delicacy, bass authority, instrumental timbre accuracy, the usual gamut of things we seek out in an upgrade. slammed the HCA-2 pretty hard and I think the upgrades address all the areas of weakness that bothered their reviewer. If I were to go the upgrade route again, I think I'd look at Rick Cullen's work seriously, as his upgrades are very well engineered and assembled. I'm hard pressed to recall anything I've heard anywhere near it's price that sounds as good to my ears.
I had this amp in my system for a while when it first came out. I was comparing it to seveal different amps (Pass Aleph 3/5, ARC VT100mk2, Odysee Stratos Dual Mono) at the time, and wanted to keep one solid state amp. I needed more power than the Alephs, and I ended up keeping the Odysee. For me, the bass on the HCA-2 was great, but the mids just didn't sound natural. I was using Proac 2.5 speakers at the time.
After owning the HCA-2 for about a year, I did the complete "level one" mod myself. I let the amp burn-in for a full week, before listening. OMG... What a difference... I laugh when I think how this amp is rated class "A". With the mods, NOW it is class "A".