Truth, Beauty, and Greatness – A Review of the Cayin N5ii

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Because the Cayin N5ii is more neutral than warm, with strong treble energy, it pairs well with most headphone profiles, but it does especially well with those of a warmer, bassier disposition.

Andy is fond of extolling the synergy of the Meze 99 Classics ($309, Review HERE) and Cayin’s players. I wholly agree. Something magical happens every time I hook these cans up to the i5, and I get a lot of that same alchemy in the N5ii>99C brew. The tonality sends shivers down my spine, never more so than with acoustic rock. It’s rich, with such mighty, rumbling bass. Vocal clarity is at a crystalline degree. Imaging and depth are addictive. Meze does a wonderful job of showcasing a player’s soundstage, revealing just how good the N5ii is. These are the headphones I use to conduct my critical A/B comparisons between DAPs, and they find a true lover in Cayin.

The Sennheiser + Massdrop HD6XX ($200) is, as we all know, a fairly warm set of monitors, with above neutral bass. The ideal sig for this player. Now, the HD6XX is not meant for portable devices, but even so, on High Gain, they get good and loud to my ears and sound very clean and dynamic. If you run balanced (which I’m not) you’ll have even more headroom.

iBasso has blown me away with their $99 IT01 single-dynamic-driver IEM. Of course, with Tesla magnets and Graphene diaphragms, these are no ordinary DDs. The IT01 is actually a kindred spirit to the N5ii. Neutral-warm, high levels of clarity and detail, energetic and smooth. Naturally, they pair well together. The bass is strong and deep, the treble has good sparkle, and the mids are vibrant. It’s a fantastic setup that won’t break your bank.

This holiday season, whenever I had to brave the tumult of retail, I took the Cayin N5ii and my only set of CIEMs, the Empire Ears Spartan IV ($749, Review HERE). They combine to create a pinnacle of musicality and transparency. A perfect balance is met, where naturalness and emotion swirl together in smooth liquidity. This system never feels like it’s trying. In fact, the “system” disappears, and all you have is music… music that just sounds right.

Finally, how about I bring out the big guns? The 64Audio tia Fourté ($3,599, Review HERE) is the most revealing, transparent, and resolving earphone I’ve yet heard. It opens up the N5ii and brings it to its very limits. With Fourté, I can hear its strengths and its weaknesses. And let me tell you, there are no obvious weaknesses. I can listen to this setup and become so caught up in the perfection of it all I forget I have bigger and better DAPs on-hand. Oh yes, Fourté illustrates the virtues of those other players, but it also shows me the N5ii is a rock-hard f**king gladiator that never fails to wow.

So what more do you need? Buy one today. If your budget is anything under $600, even $599, buy the N5ii. It is jammed full of awesome, and sounds as good, or better, than anything else in this price-range. It is currently my favorite DAP in terms of size and form, and one of the finest-looking things yet wrought by man. The Cayin N5ii is indeed the new King of Mid-Tier. They should be proud of what they’ve accomplished.

-~::Pinky_Powers::~-

Product Highlight

MCU: Rockchip RK3188
Display: 3.65” 845×480 TFT touch screen
DAC: ESS9018K2M
Op-Amp: OPA1622 x 3
Storage: 32GB + TF (up to 400GBx2)
Headphone: 3.5mm + 2.5mm (Balanced)
Line: 3.5mm (shared)
Digital: Coaxial, USB Audio (in/out)
USB: Type C (2.0), charging, OTG

System: Custom Android 5.1
RAM: 1G DDR3
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz
Bluetooth: BT4.0 (SBC)
Battery: 3000mAH
Duration: ~12 hours (single-ended) ~9 hours (balanced)
Charging: ~3 hours (2.1A)
Dimension: 115*57*15.3 (mm)
Weight: ~150g

Specification

Phones Out (Single-ended)
Power rating: 150mW+150mW (@32Ω)
Frequency Response: 20-20kHz (±0.2dB, Fs=192kHz) 5-50kHz (±1dB, Fs=192kHz)
THD+N: 0.002% (1kHz, Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
Dynamic Range: 116dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
SNR: 116dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
Channel Separation: 76dB
Output Impedance: ≤0.4Ω
Connector: 3.5mm TRS (shared with Line Out)

Phones Out (Balanced)
Power rating: 250mW+250mW (@32Ω)
Frequency Response: 20-20kHz (±0.2dB, Fs=192kHz) 5-50kHz (±1dB, Fs=192kHz)
THD+N: 0.002% (1kHz, Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
Dynamic Range: 117dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
SNR: 117dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
Channel Separation: 92dB
Output Impedance: ≤0.6Ω
Connector: 2.5mm TRRS

Line Out
Output Level: 2.0V (@10kΩ)
Frequency Response: 20-20kHz (±0.2dB, Fs=192kHz) 5-50kHz (±1dB, Fs=192kHz)
THD+N: 0.003% (1kHz, Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
Dynamic Range: 116dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
SNR: 116dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
Channel Separation: 92dB
Imp. matching: ≥10kΩ (suggested)
Connector 3.5mm TRS (shared with Phone Out)

USB Audio Output
DSD Mode: DSD64/DSD128, DoP or D2P*
PCM Mode: Upto 24Bit/384kHz

S/PDIF Output
DSD Mode: DSD64, DoP or D2P*
PCM Mode: Upto 24Bit/192kHz convert higher resolution to 176.4kHz or 192kHz

Recommended Headphone: impedance Range 16~200Ω (recommended)

*D2P: DSD to PCM, always output at 24bit/88.2kHz

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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.

23 Comments

  1. Juan Luis Quiroz on

    Hi Pinky,

    The N5ii would make a good match with the 99 Neo?

    • Pinky Powers on

      Oh yes. Because of Neo’s deep warmth, it plays beautifully with the N5ii’s clear, detailed output.

      • Juan Luis Quiroz on

        Oh, is good to know. I was already looking for a replacement for the N3 I use.

  2. Ajay Marrott on

    Hos does the N5II compare to the Opus #1s?

    • Pinky Powers on

      It compares well.

      • Ajay Marrott on

        Are they on equal footing or do prefer one over the other?

      • INDRAJIT on

        Hey, on the recent market of Audio players bringing in the 2.5mm(Bal), is there a way to simply buy a cable(male 2.5mm to 3.5mm female) for traditional headphones and use it with the 2.5mm output? I have an Audio Technica M50X and there are some cables that claim to turn M50x into balanced sound. There is a lack of such cables or even balanced headphones in a country like India and so i was wondering that if there is no way to convert M50x into balanced with a simple cable then how does a N5ii in (Bal mode) compare sonically with a Fiio X7 1st gen in (single ended) mode?

        • Pinky Powers on

          For the most part, any headphone that uses a L and R connector that goes into each earcup can use a balanced cable.

          If the headphone is designed so that only one side is plugged in at a time, then a cable cannot turn those headphone balanced. They must be modified so that the Negative L and R pathways remain separate.

          There are a few rare examples of a headphone using one-sided earcup connection, but that jack is a 4-pole. Meaning +L -L +R -R are all on their own pathways. These CAN use a balanced cable.

          From what I know of the M50X, they would need to be modified, since they share ground.

          Plugged a balanced cable into a single-ended headphone can damage your amp, and is highly inadvisable. You’re basically shorting two live lines together. 🙂

  3. Tim on

    Hi,

    Thanks for your advice. I’ve managed to get my hands on a 2nd hand OPUS 1 Dap. Great sound indeed. But one curious thing I’ve discovered is that unlike all my other DAPS – it’s not able to split cue files – so all my cue file albums play as one long track now 🙁 ….wonder if you’ve had the same experience?

    I can see why you like the sound though 🙂

    • Pinky Powers on

      Congratulations on the awesome purchase.

      I haven’t noticed this CUE issue. But I only load albums already broken up into their individual songs, so I wouldn’t see this anyway. Sorry.

      • Brian on

        How do you think the N5ii sounds compared to the Opus #1? I have the Opus and think it sounds decent with ATH-M50’s and 1More Quad IEMs.

        What about both of those vs a Mojo?

        My taste in sound is a v-shape…more bass and high treble with less mids.

  4. Victor on

    Hi Pinky,

    Great review. Really interesting when you hear with Tia Fourte and you said there is no obvious weakness of this N5ii. This player seems be the beast at its price range.

    What do you think if i’m upgrade AK100 1st gen to N5ii? Would it be great improvement?
    I use noble savant for my iem.

    Thanks

    • Pinky Powers on

      I would not seek an upgrade to a DAP by looking at one that is far less than even half its original price. That is not a reasonable mentality to have. lol.

  5. Tim on

    Hi,

    Thanks for your excellent review. One query – based purely on sound quality alone, and no other considerations, would you consider this new N5ii Dap or Cayin’s flagship N6 to have superior audio chops – for your tastes?

    • Pinky Powers on

      Tim,

      I have not heard the N6. I suspect it may still sound better, but based on how much DAP tech has progressed over the last two years, that may not be true anymore.

      However, the N6 is not long for this world. Cayin already has plans to replace it. But no word yet on when that will happen.

      Personally, if I were shopping in that price range, I’d buy the Opus#3. Even without auditioning it. I’ve had nothing but love for #1, #2 and now #1S. I would buy the #3 without any hesitation or fear.

  6. Zack on

    Hiby R6 review coming up soon? I would like to know how it compares to Cayin N5ii.

    • Pinky Powers on

      I have no contacts with Hiby, so I’m not sure if or when I’ll get my hands on the R6.

  7. Elric on

    I have it and use it with Noble Sage and Eros II, This is music i want to hear, great sound, great review.

  8. Scott Thouvenin on

    Hi pinky, great review and I’m going to pick one of these up and compare it with my current zx300. I just want to know what the iems were on the second page first picture? They look of gold or brass coloured and look tiny, which I like.

    Thanks again, a real concise review, with humour and wit 😉

  9. Csaba on

    Enjoyable writing – as always. Can’t resist – ordered one right now. Really curious with the Meze 99 Classic (I’ll show my balanced cable project soon (without 3D printed part) ).
    Nice color match Fourté – Symbio 🙂

    • Pinky Powers on

      Oh, that sounds marvelous. You need a webpage with a proper store, Csaba. Keep me posted, though. I’m a fan.

      Good job on the N5II buy. You’ll love it.

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