A review of the Cayin player N5ii — raising the bar

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The year has just begun, and the good players come out one by one (well or at least going out). One of the most anticipated innovations coming directly “under the tree” became Cayin N5ii, which was about to appear in stores. About it will talk today.

The company Cayin have always had warm feelings, since the very first model of the N6 (for three years on the market, a joke?) like anyone else, they showed that they know how to do and interesting design, and sound. In addition, the developers never followed the fashion (well, except that the design began to make a little bit traditional), slowly to adopt the new DACs and not releasing per year for 3 models. Each product is logical, thought out and verified, no exception and N5ii. In common with the previous model, it has little, you could even say that anything other than price, these models do not bind. The new model has a ESS Sabre 9018K2M (despite the same Internet hysterical — the perfect choice), amplifiers in the chip of the OPA, three oscillator, and in addition in the role of the Android OS. The price for this has remained comparable with the first generation, the recommended price of this model is $ 370, which, combined with good design and high quality sound makes the player a strong player in its segment.

Specifications

  • CPU: Rockchip RK3188
  • DAC: ESS Sabre 9018K2M
  • OH: OPA1652 + OPA1622
  • Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz (±0.2 dB), 5Hz – 50 kHz (±1 dB)
  • Output power (per channel at 32Ω load): 130 mW normal output of 250 mW balanced
  • Recommended load impedance: 16Ω – 200Ω
  • Total harmonic distortion+noise: 0.002% of
  • Dynamic range: 116 dB normal output 117 dB balanced
  • The ratio signal/noise: 116 dB normal output 117 dB balanced
  • Channel separation: 76 dB normal output, 92 dB, balanced
  • Output impedance: ≤0,4 Ω regular output, ≤0,6 Ω balanced
  • Supported formats: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, APE, WMA, MP3, OGG, AAC, DSD, DSDIFF, SACD ISO
  • Supported resolutions: depends on the formats most to 24-bit/192 kHz
  • DSD support: up to DSD256
  • Input: USB-C
  • Outputs: 3.5 mm nauchnikov, combined with linear, 2.5 mm balanced output is USB Audio and coaxial output with an adapter
  • WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: 4.0
  • Screen: touch 3,65″, 854 × 480
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • Built-in memory: 32 GB (available for user about 26 GB)
  • Support storage cards: 2 x MicroSD
  • Battery: 3000 mA/h
  • Work time from a single charge: up to 12 hours
  • Charging time: about 3.5 hours
  • Dimensions: 115 mm × 57 mm × 15 mm
  • Weight: about 150 g

Packing and delivery

Box traditionally made unusually, this time it is flat, although in design it’s the same standard version in the style of “the external cover plus inner box with magnetic flap”, it’s all couched in radical black color. It’s funny that even the user manual feature in this Gothic colors — silver letters on heavy black paper.

In the box is the player with pasted directly into the factory protective films, plastic sheath, two plugs for the MicroSD slot and USB C cable. For more PU leather case made “crocodile” will have to be bought separately.

In General, excesses in the package no, but attempts to save is also not observed.

Design and management

Perhaps it is the appearance is what impresses with this model, in the life of the player was even smaller than in the photos. Its simple rectangular aluminium body weighing just 150 grams, which allows you to easily carry it in your pockets, and makes N5ii most compact player with Android (at least from the number that visited in my review). Artsy design ideas Cayin unfortunately gone, N5ii is almost the antithesis of all previous models: no unnecessary protrusions, chamfers or edges — simply a box, diluted only by the volume control in the upper right corner. The design is a bit like the old model, A&K, but perhaps due to greater restraint looks even better.

The rear panel of the player is closed and the plastic ring with an interesting pattern on the top protects the factory protector. The front panel is almost completely occupied by the screen with a back button underneath it. The screen is generally good, with normal viewing angles and even the margin of brightness that allows to see information in the sun, but it has a certain tendency to cold-blue tint. However, this is primarily a player, and for these purposes, the display is quite OK.

The developers have not stinted on the physical buttons, the Android and touch screen is good, but control is “blindly” — even better. On the left side there is a button on/off switch, it is also (you guessed it) turns off the screen. On the right side put three playback controls, below are two slots for MicroSD cards (Cayin loves lovers DSD). Memory card slots without trays is made, making it easier to access them on the go, but the situation worsens with dust, lag inside the player, so better not to keep them open and use the supplied plugs. At the top are both socket outlets on the underside of the USB-C connector.

Traditionally Cayin, this connector is very versatile. In addition to charging and access to memory cards, it allows you to connect the player as a USB DAC, allows the device to read USB OTG flash drive, to output digital signal via USB Audio and using a special adapter on the coax. Not all these functions are implemented is, for example, in USB mode the DAC there is a delay, and the output of the USB Audio is not yet “finished” before a perfect working condition (does not work with all DACs plus there are complaints of background noise), but I think at least the USB Audio fix soon with firmware, although the latency of the DAC, most likely, will remain.

The developers promise up to 12 hours of player on a single charge, in my test (MeeAudio P1 in the role of loading, FLAC 44.1/16 mode “Audio Priority”) is approximately 10 hours and 30 minutes — the result is still excellent for such a compact device. Fully charging the battery took me about 3 hours, not very long, but still to Quick Charge you get used quickly, and in most players it lacks. Pause N5ii discharged at a rate of about 1% (by rough estimates), so the timer is off in idle is still enable.

Firmware

The role here is FOR Android, carefully drained engineers Hiby, ate on writing firmware for so many dogs that they can already be considered by Koreans (you know, so-so joke). Under the guidance of designers Cayin shell was very functional and comfortable, all practices Cayin i5 then maintained and extended.

Immediately after starting we were met by the library window, open the browse music by folders. Each media gets its own button with a circular diagram of the occupancy — this convenient and clear. Media library is divided into three sections: music, playlists and network drives. The first two sections, in turn divided into subsections. In music, you can browse files by folders, artists, albums, genres and all tracks are in one list. In the play sheets can be viewed favourites, often reproduced tracks, recently played tunes, and, in fact, play-lists. The network section on the media library allows you to connect to various servers and to download music. To switch between sections and subsections, you can either click the buttons at the top of the screen or swipe.

Also, the player can search the library, right now it searches only the title track — the group name or album ignored, I think, will fix it in next updates.

The playback screen traditional, is showing cover art, lyrics or a pair of nice VU-meters. The developers have made to this screen several different versions of the control switch which you can use the buttons in the lower left corner of the album cover, it allows you to choose the most convenient option for you.

Traditionally, the player has a menu on the left, which contains the basic settings: scan media files (very fast, by the way), timers, sleep and off in idle mode, digital filter and other. The player has all the desired features like browse and playback without pauses. In this side menu is a separate item for the installed third-party apps, of which exactly two out of the box: Google Play, ES File Explorer, but you can install everything you need (however, hardly it makes sense to install something in addition to customers of streaming services).

As expected there is a drop-down curtain quick settings like turning off network interfaces and brightness, there is also a button with the icon of a gear that opens access to system settings of Android.

One of the major software innovations of the firmware is the audio priority mode, when activated, turn off the wireless interfaces and the maximum stop all applications running in the background to ensure maximum performance of the primary player and removing all that can obstruct the sound. Of course, streaming clients and third-party players in this mode will not work, he created solely for the player that is embedded in the firmware.

Speaking “in General” — leaves a rather pleasant impression, everything works quickly, if not try to download torrents directly from the player or run the images of 5.1 disks in DSD256. Cayin to work on improvements, so there is hope that the player will update regularly.

Also good UX part, everything is “at hand”, the only drawback — some buttons are too small, which requires careful targeting, but this fairly quickly adapt.

Sound

To listen to the device used the following headphones: iBasso IT03, 99 Meze Classics, Audio Zenith PMx2, Noble Kaiser Encore, Campfire Audio Andromeda, 64 Audio U12, HUM Pristine and others.

Cayin engineers took still one of the best modern DACs (special thanks, used the mobile version, not desktop) and gently “cooked”. During the creation of N5ii the developers decided to recall its flagship N6, it is to his sound tends to the new, in the past there were attempts to add to the flow of that particular color. I would call N5ii neutral character of the player, thus avoiding stalling in a boring monitormost, the sound has a pleasant “corporeality”, that is good for the sense of realism. Looking ahead, I will say that the sound of this kid clearly succeeded in its price range this is probably the best player for lovers of naturalness without accents.

In General, to describe the sound N5ii quite difficult. Well, judge for yourself: good bass weight, but without excessive massiveness, he has good speed and working on textures, but it doesn’t sound dry. He is great for its price range hlestkost and elasticity, but it is carefully controlled and remains in place even in the now fashionable style “anorexic singer is monotone mumbling on the background of booming strikes.” If you complain to the bass of this model, we can say that he not appeal to additional pumping bass, Oh and then strict pressed the lower bass. I have already discussed this account for YouTube, as I generally believe that portable technology in the uterine layers NCH not only possible, but necessary to withdraw into the background. First, many headphones this range is poorly controlled (or even not really play), and he creeps to the higher frequency, pressing them, and secondly, live instruments do not go so low, so these frequencies need only to synthesized bass. Returning to N5ii — he has these “lower bass” is pressed on really sparingly, and if you listen to something with a synthetic bass line — the selection of headphones will allow you to get more than enough of this range.

The midrange can also be described as “particular signs does not possess”, here transparent midrange, good detail (but not outrageous), they are devoid of color and served in a fairly relaxed manner. The player copes with the transfer of the small nuances of the recording, but not over-emphasize the flaws of the track in the foreground, it is well open and high-quality dynamic headphones, and megadriver rebar. Very impressive N5ii cope with the construction of the scene, she a little more average in width and slightly less than the average in depth, but the instruments are very clearly separated, between them there is enough space in both directions. For midrange I have the same recommendation — if you’re used to players with a certain color, N5ii may seem “not so”, although in fact and emotion, and detail to very good for its price level. Serving mid N5ii not aggressive, it is also worth considering fans of “pumping mad”, but existing in the recording energy he conveys good.

The upper frequencies in General continue the General trend of the model, they are a bit simplified in the attacks, they do not have “cleavage” expensive tops, but they are detailed and quality crafted. Treble are not aggressive, do not climb to the fore, but the background is not lost, so here, too, everything is OK, not super cool, but very very good, there are pleasant damping, providing the airiness and realism, normally transmitted the volume that distinguishes quality of the recording.

A few words about the difference of the outputs. In addition to differences in power (and balance here really has a good power reserve), a 2.5 mm Jack socket offers a higher level of detail and better dynamics. The difference is not huge, but for high-end headphones, the transition to the balanced connection, perhaps, justified.

Comparing N5ii with tops, of course, you can find moments in which he is inferior, but for my taste, clearly the negative aspects, it is also devoid of, therefore to do stuff, contrasting it with the models of the upper-middle segment and overlying the flagships, I’m not.

Cayin N3. Little brother “Cain”, of course, good in its segment, but updated to the “middle” brother does not hold up the resolution, and to build imaginary scenes. And in General it is darker on the pitch, which also contributes to the difference sound.

Cayin N5. Continuing the “family” analogy, we can say that these players remind brothers from different fathers — like they have little in appearance and in the flow. The first N5 sounds tougher, you can even say that more aggressive, with more accentuated treble and more hlestkost bass (while sacrificing the solidity and physicality).

Cayin i5. Staying on a little Vanga and assume that this model will be removed from the product line of the company, the background of the new N5ii there is no point in the existence of one more intermediate step between the middle and top models. N5ii compact, but comfortable (it is a pity that this nice slow wheel of i5 is not here) and closer to the flagship N6 sound. If you compare the i5 with him, the previous player Android has more accented with a massive bass and a more “spiky” treble.

Cayin N6. Exactly what, in my hearing, seeks new N5ii. Despite the overall “character” of the sound, N6 defends its “flagship” status, offering better resolution in the midrange and noticeably more detailed attacks on HF, although slightly more massive bass N5ii I sometimes like more.

FiiO X5-III. Here, perhaps, the case when players have very little in common, making it easier to choose between them. “Five” FiiO offers a more fused and slightly darker flow, while “five” Cayin created for fans of neutrality. It is also worth considering that the FiiO is a little bit bigger, but he’s got a better screen.

FiiO X7+AM2. Well, still the flagship, though the former is still the flagship. Better resolution, more textured bass, better study of HF — that is what constitutes the superiority of this model.

Lotoo Paw 5000 Mk II. If to put outside the brackets usability in particular, and IOS in General (and the difference, as you know, huge) and only compare the sound — Lotoo sounds energetic, he has a little more emphasis on bass, a bit brighter treble, a little bit more emotion added to MF.

Compatibility

I think even in characteristics it is clear that N5ii is quite capable of dealing with most earphones, except for the tight model. On the other hand, three-stage adjustment of the Gain allows the player to work well with sensitive IEM, in my memory this is one of the quietest players in terms of background noise. Thanks to the neutral flow, the hero of this review copes well with almost any headphones, helping them to discover their strengths at a normal level.

Genre player universal (as amended to the taste of the owner), but it is especially good for styles with natural instruments and lively emotional vocals. For a record, it is moderately tolerant, somewhere in the 6 out of 10 on a notional scale of “fault-finding”.

As usual, some tracks for example

Joe Bonamassa — How Deep This River Runs. Reliable and support modern Blues rock, Joe Bonamassa, long shunned my collection. Maybe they expected a moderate price for the player, his virtuoso command of the guitar will be revealed in full (listen to the Blues player for $ 3,500 — it’s not true). High-quality recording benefits greatly from the surround and neutral sound N5ii, allowing you to enjoy the complex guitar parts and the General arrangement that this track rich.

Roxette — Listen to Your Heart. A little absolute and total classics never hurt, especially that second generation N5 from Cayin copes with vocals Marie Fredriksson, and with everything that is added Per Gessle. Especially spectacular was the finale, in which the main melody of the song is replaced by a sonorous Coda.

The Clash — Should I Stay or Should I Go. Of course, the Sex Pistols greatly undermined the reputation of punk rock, convincing almost everyone that “the worse you play, the punks, the better”, but the same The Clash effectively managed to refute this thesis. Nameshow in his work an explosive cocktail of punk, new wave, funk, and sometimes even climbing into styles like reggae, they were able to give impetus to the many groups who have developed genres like rockabilly. But it is perhaps a subject for another conversation, back to N5ii. As I said, by itself it adds nothing, but something that is inherent in the track plays perfectly, and the hit confirmation.

Insights

I think anyone who has read up to this point, have realized that the player I really liked. A perfect balance of affordable prices, compact size, stylish design, modern features and high-quality sound that offers N5ii. It is not without some drawbacks (which I think will be fixed by firmware), but still well Cayin has raised the bar of the middle segment, and I with impatience will wait and see what they will offer on the top models (and sooner or later they still will do it).

PS If you like music and/or actively interested in the topic of portable audio — subscribe to my channel @PortaFi Telegram, where I am able to announce the reviews, sometimes I share news, thoughts and good music.

Buy Cayin N5ii

A review of the Cayin player N5ii — raising the bar
Pavel Dmitriev