Cayin provided the N6ii free of charge for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill.
When rumor reached my ears Cayin was developing an update to the N6 Digital Audio Player (DAP), a wicked smile spread across my face. Back when I started in this hobby, it didn’t take long before I considered dropping real money on IEMs and DAPs. I had quickly upgraded from the Audioquest Dragonfly connected to my Galaxy S4, to the FiiO X3ii standalone player, then to the X5 Classic, which was a generation behind the X3ii, but a tier above. And within a couple of months, I was already looking for the next leap. I came real close to buying the Cayin N6. But since my main complaint with the X5 revolved around finicky controls, I went with something very, very modern: The Astell&Kern AK120ii.
I always held fond memories of the DAP I nearly bought. My research made it seem fantastic. So I could not wait to see what Cayin had in store for the update, the N6ii.
Where the original N6 looked like a 1950’s take on a sci-fi communication device, the N6ii is… well, a brick. Actually, it has some cool design elements that feel inspired by Astell&Kern. But make no mistake, it’s a brick. This is one of the thickest and heaviest players I’ve tested.
That is not a complaint, either. I do most of my listening at a desk, so these larger devices don’t bother me. Especially when you know they’re using that space to benefit you, with a bigger battery, lots of amperage, and purity of sound.
Cayin has come a long way in their DAP design, and the quality keeps getting better. The display is vibrant and clean of pixilation, being a 4.2” IPS at 768×1280. I find this more than adequate for a music player. The touch sensitivity is highly responsive, and I have experienced no trouble navigating the UI. Speaking of UI, Cayin is using Android 8.1. It’s streamlined and intuitive and should feel familiar to most Android users. The OS runs smoothly on the Snapdragon CPU and 4GB of RAM.
The volume wheel is firm and precise, as well as functioning as the power button. The other buttons are small but easy to find, and work well even through the leather case. Your Balanced port is a 4.4mm TRRRS. I’m glad to see this becoming the standard. While most of my cables are terminated for 2.5mm, objectively, I can’t deny the superiority of this format, and I look forward to the day it wins out completely. Next to the 4.4, there’s a 3.5mm single-ended Phone-Out, and beside that, a 3.5mm Line-Out. On the bottom of the player you’ll find a USB Type-C and S/PDIF sharing one port, and a dedicated I²S port.
One of the many reasons the N6ii became my primary DAP is because all that delicious audio, and all that driving power, never feels burdensome. Wielding a 5900mAH battery, you get about 13 hours from the balanced port, and 14 from single-ended. And unlike some high-current devices, this one doesn’t drain overmuch while it’s inactive. I get nearly half that with the DX220 and its high-current AMP8.
Sadly, the battery life does take a big hit with my favorite module, the T01, dropping to 8.5 and 7.5, even though the output ratings are nearly identical to that of the A01 card. It stings, but I find it more than enough for my needs. I easily get two days of use of out that, but your mileage may vary, so keep that in mind.