Reviews by AEIOU9


100+ Head-Fier
Excellent package, top choice in current DAP market!
Pros: Overall sound quality, AMP flexibility (SS and NuTube), high quality device with nearly perfect build quality - screen & smooth operation due to 660 SoC, size for what is offered
Cons: Price
For those who want the picture in a few crisp bullets:

  • Overall sound signature is neutral with the flexible AMP selection influencing if the sound signature stays neutral or leans to the warm end of neutral
  • Nutubes do warm up the sound but will fall short of a true tube AMP (comparing against my WA7 3rd generation)
  • Excellent technical capabilities – lots of detail retrieval and a huge soundstage
  • Smooth user experience due to solid SOC choice and good firmware, great screen
  • Well built with good battery life (~8-9 hours)
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For those continuing on, I did my review using the following equipment:

  • Aroma Jewel w/ EA Centurion Cable
  • UM Le Jardin w/ PWA Meet Again Cable
  • ZMF VO w/ ZMF 2K Copper Cable
  • Only utilized balanced output
  • I maintained the P+ mode and class AB AMP for all my listening
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Device + User Experience

Let’s start with the device itself, the N8ii is a well-constructed piece of electronic equipment that does almost everything right with a couple of exceptions. Starting with the good, you can tell the N8II is made with premium materials and the manufacturing process + QA is solid.

The N8ii has an excellent screen for those who will use their DAP to stream any video or for anyone who just wants a quality screen while they are scrolling through their music library or streaming service of choice. Cayin has notably improved the WiFi receiver in the N8ii, the N6ii TI was terrible on my network and kept dropping the signal while streaming. I ultimately had to sell the N6ii TI because it was so bad, but I’m pleased to announce that on the same network gear, I have 0 problems with the N8ii. Lastly, Cayin has a very stable set of firmware and chose a strong performing SoC, for me and my uses it just works, 0 issues. The hardware and software combination here just leave you with a smooth and trouble free user experience.

Size-wise, while the body is not ultra-portable, it is portable and something you could slip in your pocket, unless you are rocking skinny jeans 😊. For what Cayin is packing in here, I think they did a great job fitting everything into this form factor. For my use case, I view this as a pro but if you prize portability and size above all, the N8ii might not be right for you.

Accessories wise, Cayin provides a reasonable bundle of cables, adapters and a nice case. Meets expectations for a high-end DAP at this price range.

Now onto the opportunity areas! First, I will say these are minor nitpicks and both pertain to the volume knob. I don’t think these design decisions should sway anyone from buying this DAP. Aesthetically, I would have preferred something that wasn’t gold and didn’t have the funky design engraved into it. Mechanically, I wish there was a little more resistance and no “clicking” from turn to turn. For me, the ideal solution would have been a smaller, non-gold version of the DX300MAX knob with the same feel when using it.

Listening Impressions

As stated in the “executive summary” this is a DAP that dabbles in the neutralish range. For those looking for something very warm, it might be worth exploring the new Sony flagship (basing that on others’ impressions). For those not in this camp, I think the N8ii hits a very good sweet spot as it brings out tons of detail in recordings, a very wide and 3-dimensional soundstage, and the ability to tweak the presentation between straight neutral to warmish neutral because of the two AMP offerings.

In SS mode, here are the key things I heard across my test tracks:

  • Soundstage is larger and more 3-dimensional
  • Bass is tighter and “crisper”
  • Treble is a bit more extended
  • Slightly better detail retrieval across the mids and treble range
In tube mode, here are the key things I heard across my test tracks:

  • Technicalities take a small hit relative to SS mode but are still impressive and not lacking on an absolute basis
  • Bass is a bit more “bombastic” and fun
  • Pleasant natural tonality for mid and treble frequencies
While I won’t detail out the P/P+ and class A/AB differences (others have done that better already 😊), I did play with them, they are noticeable and I think it is amazing that Cayin was able to fit so much configurable hardware into a portable device of this size…pretty awesome!

For those with headphones, I tested my ZMF VOs (300 ohm) and was able to drive them properly with plenty of headroom left (medium gain, ~55 volume). Not sure how that will scale up with harder to drive gear like a Susvara, but I suspect many headphones will play nicely with the N8ii.

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While I have owned and tried many DAPs, I do not keep multiple DAPs so I can’t give fair comparisons against other DAPs as those are going largely off memory. I can comment that I don’t have any regret or desire to track down my prior DAPs including the elusive DX300MAX TI.