Reviews by olddude


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Incredible detail, wide soundstage, power, good price point for the value
Cons: Too much detail (!), somewhat artificial sounding, no "soul" musically.

Cayin N6 Audiophile DAP Lossless Music Player

Note:  I was able to test drive the N6 when it was making its way through the West Coast tour of the United States recently.  I did not purchase it, so this review is based on a short-term testing cycle, not a long-term ownership experience.  Thanks again to hakushondaimao and to EmpJ of CTC Audio for making this tour happen. 
Packaging is excellent.  My wife even commented on that when she saw the box and its contents.  The device itself looks and feels quite substantial (it is not a lightweight), and build quality/attention to detail seem to be first class.  The controls are not immediately intuitive, but a quick perusal of the directions sorted them out quickly.  The GUI is easy to see and understand. 
I had some initial problems with my tour unit when it first arrived.  I had inserted a 64gb MicroSDCard of mine in it, loaded with my music, and run a music scan.  All of my music showed up, but every time I attempted to play a song the device emitted a loud pop in my iems and then did a power off/power on reset.  Checking the power display, it showed 40+% power.  Re-reading the directions, it was clear I was operating it correctly.   I even switched iems to be sure it wasn’t a plug issue.  I did get it to play two songs, but then it began to reset again. 
I decided to charge it fully, and let it do so for an hour or more.  In the meantime, I downloaded the most up-to-date firmware from the Cayin site.  After a full charge, I loaded up the firmware update and ran it, then went into settings and set the device up.  At that point it worked flawlessly.  I can only assume that the power indicator was not reading correctly, and that the device was resetting due to lack of power.  That or perhaps because the device was at a lower firmware there was a problem there.  I posted this on the tour pm we are communicating on and was told by the person who had it before me that he had somewhat the same problem, but that the device settled down and worked after a while.  Also, be aware that this was the second tour unit to experience this issue (the first was recalled halfway through the tour and replaced with the unit I tested).  The first unit had a problem with the headphone out, which was believed to be causing the issue.  However, in reading the Head-Fi thread on the N6, I don’t see people posting about this. 
In any event, the device was now working flawlessly.  I used both my Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors and my Fidue A83s in my testing.  I used the standard cable with each.  The device was set up with no EQ and Digital Filter was set to Slow. 
When I first listened to it, before the firmware update, the device sounded incredibly bright and holographic through my UERMs.  Instrument and vocal placement was distinct, the soundstage was quite wide, and the upper trebles were detailed to the point where I felt that within an hour I would be fatigued.  Bass was strong, mids were clean, but it sounded quite artificial.
After the firmware update the sound was much improved (to my ears).  While placement was lessened, the over-brightness was gone and it felt much smoother.  The soundstage remained wide.  With my UERMs the sound was quite pleasing, although to my ears it was a bit digital.  The level of detail was phenomenal.  This was before I began to a/b with my Pono, based entirely on simply listening to a variety of songs on the N6.
I ran through a number of tracks with both the UERMs and the A83s, going from the N6 to my Pono or vice versa.  I started and stopped tracks before swapping devices.  I also rolled back the tracks and played the same sections over again.  I attempted to match volumes as closely as possible by ear.  Visually, both devices used about the same amount of power for my listening levels based on their volume indicators.  
What I heard was interesting.  The N6 has a very clean, detailed and almost glasslike sound.  All instruments and vocals seem distinct and separate from the others.  The level of detail was amazing.  The bass was strong when it was there in the track, the mids were strong and clear, the trebles were not overly bright but very distinct.  To my ears it sounded very digital.  When I would move to the Pono and play the same exact section of music at the same volume the sound was not as overtly clear, not as precisely detailed.  There was interaction between instruments and vocals, frequencies were reverberating and mixing that I did not hear with the N6.  There was much more timbre with the Pono.  The bass felt stronger, the mids seemed about the same but again not as detailed, and the trebles were not quite as bright.  But what the Pono had was a feeling of musicality.  It was anything but digital.  It sounded like music being made by people.  The N6 sounded like music assembled on a computer.  Maybe it is a matter of analogue sounding vs. digital sounding. 
Having had an iBasso DX50, a Colorfly C3, a  Fiio X5 and a Fiio X1, I would say that the N6 (which is obviously more expensive than all of them) sounded clearer to my ears.  Even though I appreciated the incredible amount of detail in the N6, it was too immaculate and too impersonal for my tastes, especially when compared to my Pono.   
I also a/b’d using my UERM by swapping out my single-ended cable for my balanced cable.  It just made the differences even more apparent.  The Pono took on even more timbre and musicality.  I didn’t try this with my Fidue (I can run it balanced as well) but I assume the same would hold true with it. 
For testing I chose music I listen to often.  I have relatively narrow tastes compared to some here.  I used Steely Dan Gaucho in 24/96, Steely Dan Aja in DSD and 16/44, Donald Fagan Nightfly in DSD, The Beach Boys Pet Sounds in DSD, Thomas Dolby Best Of in 16/44, The Beatles Abbey Road and Past Masters 2 in 24/44, The Band The Band  in 24/192, The Band Stage Fright in DSD, Joni Mitchell Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm in 16/44, Bob Dylan Blonde On Blonde in 24/88, Paul Simon Hits in 16/44, Peter Gabriel 1 (Car) in DSD, Stevie Wonder Music Of My Mind in 16/44, Talking Heads Little Creatures in 24/96, Traffic Heaven Is In Your Mind and Traffic in 16/44, Van Morrison The Best Of in 16/44, Brian Wilson No Pier Pressure in 16/44, and Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks Orange Crate Art in 16/44.
Some of the above sounded better or worse to my ears.  Paul Simon’s Me And Julio sounded really artificial on the N6 (this was the worst track I heard), even though it sounded fine on the Pono.   Most of The Beatles songs sounded fairly similar on both devices (these were from the 2009 remasters in 24 bit, a very nice set with very good sound).   Mostly it was the feeling of relative thinness from lack of timbre that bothered me with the N6.  Even though there was plenty of bass, there was no real resonance.  Sort of a crystalline sound, not brittle but impersonal.  But, again, the level of detail was impressive.  I was able to hear everything distinctly in each track. 
Would I recommend the N6.  Sure.  It’s a good device, well made, that delivers an incredible level of detail, separation and soundstage at a good price point.  Will I buy one?  No.  It doesn’t suit my sound signature.  Might it have had a different response to different kinds of music that I didn’t play on it?  Possibly.  I’ll leave that to other reviewers. 

I listened on 3.1
The N6 is leaning on the warm side with fw v3 and v3.1.It was bright up to v2 , less musical and somewhat cold and unemotional with the wrong iem up to v2,something that me and others commented on the thread.The N6 is a very picky dap when it comes to iems,a revelation with my ie800,just good with the se846(still better than dx90 in key areas like soundstage,clarity),needs a lush tone iem to bring its best.
Appreciate the honest and accurate review.
hmm, wonder how it would sound with my K10! Anybody try it?