The Improbable Mid-Fi Achievement – A Review of the Cayin i5


None of my earphones received more Cayin-time then the Rhapsodio Solar BA10. Perhaps because the treble was tamed some by the i5, I couldn’t get enough of the Solar. I could hear just how detailed this player is. Above all, the i5 excels in musicality. Solar filled up like a balloon, delighting in such potent, uncompromised tonality. The Rhapsodio is not my current favorite IEM—that goes to the U12—but this pairing possessed a special kind of magic I found myself drawn to again and again. Solar brought out the virtues of the i5 like a champion.

I’ve come to think of the Audio Technica ATH-IM03 as the poor man’s Solar. Their sonic presentation shares so much in common it can be easy to forget which is which if you become distracted. Unfortunately, the IM03 is discontinued. But if you can find one, buy it. It does everything the Solar does for the i5, just a tad bit lesser. Eminently scrumptious sound!

During my first sojourn with the i5, I felt it was too warm for the likes of the 64Audio U12. As a monster of warmth itself, the U12 didn’t like all that mid-bass Cayin pumped into it. The soundscape grew veiled and closed-in. Dark is the proper way to describe it. Now… well. With the new firmware, and fully burned-in, I must say, I quite like the i5>U12 pairing. Or maybe it’s just my brain that’s burned-in. Whatever the case, I no longer find this match so terribly offensive. Smooth, rich, and meaty. The ultimate in soothing melodies. Yes, it’s not as clear or transparent as with the Opus#2, but it delivers one compelling, pleasurable performance.

The Meze 99 Classics is God’s gift to Cayin owners. I swear each of these was built with the other in mind. Meze has more than enough vigor in the treble department to overcome the i5’s recessed highs. The vocals, crystalline on the Opus#1, takes on extra note weight, and become only the slightest bit less clear with Cayin. And oh sweet Jesus, that bass! The 99C fills out the lows with a liquid sub-range that blossom into an enormous spectacle you never want to end. The i5 only helps that along with top energy and extreme driving power. What more can I say? The Meze 99 Classics are my favorite headphones for this DAP.

Speaking of driving power… even on Low Gain I can push my Sennheiser HD6XX to loud volume. Thanks to the i5’s tremendous dynamics and fat-ass-bass, these headphones sound pretty damn good, even. They deserve a full-size desktop amp, and they benefit from one, though some DAPs can trick them into mimicking that performance. The Cayin i5 is one such DAP. My Sennheiser sounds neigh unto complete.

Like Solar and the Meze, Noble Audio’s Kaiser Encore has all the right charms to bring out the best in this music player. The treble is seriously bright, which the i5 reins in a bit. Encore reproduces some of the clearest, most detailed mids around. Cayin adds color and warmth to them, resulting in sultry vocals that are very hard not to love. While I don’t claim Encore’s bass is weak, it is more on the neutral side compared to Solar or U12. I find the aggressive low-end of the i5 works beautifully for this co-flagship by Noble. It will also take full advantage of the i5’s soundstage, as Encore is one of the most spacious-sounding IEMs on the market. Its capacity for resolution, imaging, and its ability to reveal ALL, makes this one of my new favorites. This is the earphone you put in if you wish to learn the whole and utter truth of the Cayin i5.

Pinky didn’t know what to expect with Cayin’s foray into full-on Android extravaganza. My experience with FiiO’s similar turn left me underwhelmed but intrigued. Cayin fell for a number of the same pitfalls, but ultimately maintained the sense of self that separates them from the crowd. The i5 does not feel like a soulless block of circuitry with a touchscreen interface. It feels like Cayin brought the old artisan techniques into modernity, and did so with tremendous skill.

I enjoyed the Cayin i5 so much that, should anything happen to my Opus#2 or AK120II, I would be VERY tempted to replace it with Cayin’s new masterpiece. Finally we have an offering from this company that sounds as good as it looks. I doff my hat to you, Cayin. Well done.


The Cayin i5

Model i5 Outputs Phone out(3.5mm)
Color Gun color Dimension 64 mm×126 mm×14 mm
Net Weight 195 g


Impedance Range

Power rating 190mW+190mW(@32Ω)





THD+N 0.006% (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted) Dynamic Range 108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
SNR 108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted) Output Impedance ≤1Ω
Line Out
Output Level 1.0V (@10kΩ) Frequency

20-20kHz (±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz)

5-50kHz (±1dB,Fs=192kHz)

THD+N 0.005% (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted) Dynamic Range 108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
SNR 108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
USB Mode Asynchronized USB Audio 2.0 Class DSD Up to DSD128
PCM Up to  384kHz/32Bit Windows Support(Driver required)
MAC Osx Support iOS Not Support
Android Not Support
Power Specification
Battery 4800mAh 3.8V Lithium ion polymer Battery duration ~10 HRS
Charging time ~4.5 HRS (with 2A Charger, not provided) Charging
≤1500mA when charge with 2A Charger,≤500mA when charge with computer USB port
MusicFormat(Local Storage)
DSF Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
DFF Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
SACD-ISO Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
APE Support16-32bits, Fast/Normal /High/Extra High compression level)
FLAC Up to 384kHz/32bit
WAV Up to 384kHz/32bit
AIFF Up to 384kHz/32bit
ALAC Up to 384kHz/32bit
WMA Up to 96kHz/24bit
WMA Lossless Up to 96kHz/24bit
MP2/MP3 Up to 48kHz/16bit
AAC Up to 48kHz/16bit
OGG Up to 48kHz/16bit


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About Author

Pinky is an artsy twat. Illustration, graphic design, writing. Yet music escapes him, and always has. He builds his own cables, and likes to explore the craftsmanship of others. He's a stabby one, also. At the first hint of annoyance, out comes the blade. I say he's compensating for something... in a big bad way. If we all try really hard as a collective, maybe we can have him put down.


  1. Swaroop on

    Great review. Precise and to the point. I’m seeking some guidance in buying my first dap. I like my sound balanced with a slight emphasis on the lower end. Looking for a musical experience rather than an analytical one. Planning to use it with my im02s and 1more triple driver. As you know, the former is very picky when it comes to source.
    Looking for something at around 200$. Not seeking any fancy features. Good sound output, decent battery life and functional interface are adequate; anything above would be a bonus.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Pinky Powers on

      At that price, my first stop would be the Cowon Plenue D. I may change my mind once I get my hands on the Cayin N3, but right now, the Plenue D is the most attractive player at $200.

      • Swaroop on

        I’m also awaiting more information about cayin n3; looks like a great package. Would you be able to tell if the cowon plenue d pairs well with the im02?

        • Pinky Powers on

          I’d wager it’ll pair quite nicely.

          If you can buy from Amazon, their return policy is great, just in case it doesn’t work well for you.

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