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Cayin i5

Rating:
3.95/5,
Tags:
  • Android based Master Quality Digital Audio Player

    The i5 is a fully customized Android based DAP with WiFi and BT connectivity, support Dropbox cloud music and file sharing via DLNA.

    The international version of i5 has Google Play pre-installed, and user can installed audio-related applications such as online streaming and alternative music players to i5 conveniently.

    The audio performance of i5 maintained the overall Cayin sound signature, it is a perfect balanced among resolution, powerful, control and musicality for the target audience.

Recent Reviews

  1. Brooko
    Cayin i5 - Respectable Performance
    Written by Brooko
    Published Dec 3, 2017
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Build quality, output power, sound quality, formats supported, connectivity options, overall value
    Cons - Older Android which is not really optimised for 3rd party apps, mediocre battery management, no replay-gain, gapless not 100% working, stuttering with Tidal. apparently no more fw updates.
    [​IMG]
    Picture are default 1200 x 800 resolution - click (photos in tables) to view larger images.

    INTRODUCTION

    DAPs or Digital Audio Players are pretty hard to review (in my humble opinion anyway). Everyone wants to know about the sound – how is the sound stage, is it bassy, bright, noisy, clean background? Unfortunately I've found the differences in sound between DAPs are often very minute, and more about tonality than anything else. The real differences (to me) are usually in the features, the power and battery life and the ease of use.

    So if you're looking for a review which raves about the minutiae of sound, and expounds about the smallest of nuances, you'd possibly be better to skip this one and skip to one of the more subjective reviewers. If however you'd like to know my impression of the i5, the features it has (and what its missing), the overall usability, and what I like and/or get frustrated by – then please pull up a chair, and lets get to know this DAP together.


    ABOUT CAYIN

    Cayin is a registered brand of the Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., Ltd. The company was founded in 1993 (celebrating a big anniversary next year), and their main focus up until 2013 was on HiFi products including CD players, tube amplifiers and speakers. Some of their range is truly gorgeous too – if you get the time, browse their website (the tube amps in particular look wonderful!). In 2013 Cayin started branching out into portable and personal audio, and have released a string of products which have been met with critical acclaim, especially for their sonic ability. To date they have produced more than 400 products.

    I always like to let the company's words speak for themselves – and in Cayin's case this comes from their Facebook site:

    “While our products carry a distinctive cultural connotation and span over a very wide price range, we are devoted to developing the best sounding audio equipment at competitive prices.

    Cayin pays attention to detail because we believe this is what it takes to reproduce music naturally. We might have a different agenda or employ different technologies for different products, but ultimately, we serve only one purpose: to move our audience with hi-fidelity.

    We deliver music diligently, and we are prepared to go a long way for that. With Cayin, your music will never be the same again.”

    In closing I'd also like to mention Cayin's rep on Head-Fi, Andy Kong, who has been truly diligent on the website – always helpful, and ready to act as a conduit between the community here and their engineers.


    DISCLAIMER

    The Cayin i5 was provided to me as part of a review tour. At the completion of the review, the i5 will be returned to Andy (along with my thanks for being allowed to spend time with the unit). I do not make any financial gain from this review – it is has been written simply as my way of providing feedback both to the Head-Fi community and also Cayin themselves.

    I have now had the Cayin i5 for around 6 months (my apologies Andy). The retail price at time of review is USD 380-400 (Amazon), but has been around the $450-$470 mark.


    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

    I'm a 50 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (mostly now from the FiiO X7ii and iPhone SE) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD800S, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, MS Pro and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and it has mainly been with my own personally owned IEMs - the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and LZ Big Dipper. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present – although needs updating) is listed in my Head-Fi profile.

    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not overly treble sensitive, and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.

    I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be skeptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables (unless it was volume or impedance related), and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 50, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.

    For the purposes of this review - I've used the Cayin i5 in combination with many different earphones and tested most of the functions I am able to. This does not include some applications like DLNA or OTG – which I can neither test properly, nor am I interested in. We'll touch very briefly on streaming, but again it won't be an area I'll spend a lot of time on, simply because I simply use the Cayin i5 predominantly as a player. I have prior experience with entry level Sony's (very early models), then step-ups to the Cowon iAudio7, iPhone4, iPod Touch G4, iPhone 5S, HSA Studio V3, FiiO X5, X1, X3ii, X5ii, X7, X1ii, X7ii, X3iii, iPhone SE, Cayin N3, and the L&P LP5, L5 Pro, and L3.

    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.


    WHAT I PERSONALLY LOOK FOR IN A DAP

    I thought I’d list (before I start with the review) what I really look for in a new DAP.
    • Clean, neutral signature – but with body (not thin)
    • Good build quality
    • Reasonable battery life – at least 8-10 hours
    • Easy to use interface
    • Able to drive both low impedance and (within reason) higher impedance cans without additional amping.
    • Value for money
    • Enough storage to hold either my favourite albums in red-book, or my whole library in a reasonably high resolution lossy format (for me – aac256)
    • Gapless playback
    • Reasonable EQ
    • Bluetooth/Wireless if available
    Did I get all of this with the Cayin i5, and more importantly how did it compare to equivalent DAPs in similar price ranges? We'll take a look and as we go, I'll refer to this list. We'll also make a comparison to other DAPs later in the review.


    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

    The Cayin i5 arrived in a box and lid, with a printed retail sleeve. The sleeve has a photo of the i5 on the front and details of the main features on the rear. The box measures ~ 183 x 116 x 53mm, and has two compartments – one for the i5 and one for the accessories.

    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG]
    Retail boxInner boxFull accessory package

    The total accessory package includes:
    • One USB to USB-C data and charging cable
    • One USB-C to coaxial cable
    • One micro USB to USB-C adapter
    • One leather case
    • Three screen protectors
    • User manual and warranty
    • The Cayin i5
    The case is quite nice but a little loose fitting and the sides cover the edge of the screen (making scrolling the right side a little difficult, and the buttons a little too deep to be easily accessed). Its a decent case overall though as long as you're careful not to tip it.

    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG]
    Charging and USB-C to Coax cablesi5 in provided caseButtons are recessed

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From Cayin's website and packaging), and I've included the FiiO X5iii specs as well as a comparison.
    ModelCayin i5X5 3rd Gen
    Approx current price$399 USD$399 USD
    Dimensions~ 126 x 64 x 16 mm~ 114 x 66 x 15 mm
    Weight195 g186 g
    DSD SupportDSD64/128DSD64/128
    Lossless PCM SupportAPE, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, WMAAPE, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, WMA
    Lossy SupportMP3, AAC, WMA, OGGMP3, AAC, WMA, OGG
    Use as external DACYesYes
    Battery4800 mAh3400 mAh
    Play time~11hr SE~10hr SE, 8hr bal
    DAC ChipAK4490AK4490x2
    Main amp chipOPA1652+BUF634OPA426x2
    SNR (H/O)≥108 dB (A-weighted)≥115 dB (A-weighted)
    THD+N (H/O)<0.006%<0.003% (32Ω/1kHz)
    Balanced?NoYes 2.5mm
    Output to 16ohm (SE/BAL)Not stated 480 mW / 400 mW
    Output to 32ohm (SE/BAL)190 mW per channel250 mW / 240 mW
    Output to 300ohm (SE/BAL)Not stated28 mW / 26 mW
    H/O Impedance (SE/Bal)<1.0Ω<1.0Ω / <3.0Ω
    Line Out?YesYes
    Digital Out?YesYes
    Internal Storage32 Gb32 Gb
    External Storage200 Gb stated, but suspect can go higher512 Gb (256x2)
    Screen3.97in IPS TFT 480x8003.97in IPS TFT 480x800
    OSAndroid 4.4Android 5.1
    RAM1 Gb1 Gb
    WirelessBluetooth and WiFiBluetooth and WiFi

    BUILD AND DESIGN

    I really like the overall build of the i5. Because it is a touch interface, and also requires some hefty internal components to address both power and battery, a DAP of this sort is always going to need to be somewhat “slab” like in build, but Cayin have addressed this with their own style. The device is CNC'd from an aluminum alloy and the back plate looks to be gorilla glass over carbon fibre. It really is quite striking. In overall size and weight it sits pretty much between the FiiO X5iii and FiiO X7. The chassis has rounded corners and beveled edges, and somehow manages to feel reassuringly weighty, without feeling overly chunky.

    The front is dominated by the 4inch TFT IPS capacitive touchscreen, with part of this being a touch “home” button. At the left hand side is a single on/off button, while on the right are the play/pause and forward/back buttons. Below these is the single micro sdxc slot. At the bottom is the USB-C slot for data transfer, DAC use, OTG use, digital out and charging. To be honest I'm not 100% sure of how I feel about the change to USB-C. At this point in time I don't have a lot of USB3 devices, and it has been a pain sometimes if the battery is out and I don't have the charging cable (I always carry a USB to micro-USB cable). I guess this format/standard is going to become more prevalent, so probably a smart (if bold) move on Cayin's part. At the top is the analog line-out and headphone out 3.5mm sockets, and the analog pot. The pot is resistive rather than stepped, so there is a reassuring firmness to the control. The downside is that it does take a little more effort to move the wheel than a stepped based design.


    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Left side – on/off buttonBottom – USB-C socketRight side – play controls

    I do find that the actual design lends itself more to left than right handed use (one handed) using the hardware controls, and this frees up my right hand for the touch controls. The hardware buttons give nice tactile feedback, and my only complaint is that the case is a bit bulky (making the buttons quite recessed), so can be slightly difficult to use with the case intact.

    The 4inch touch screen is vivid and clear. It has a wide viewing angle (almost 180 deg), and as far as on-screen smudging goes, actually seems better than the X5iii. Low light visibility is excellent, but with full sunlight (like most touch screen devices), you have to shade the device for any decent viewing legibility. For the most part the touch screen is reasonably responsive. However occasionally the older OS and 1 Gb of RAM do seem to combine (usually when there is a bit of background processing going on) to create some lag. Its not any better or worse than the X5iii in this regard though, and on the whole is quite responsive.

    Internally the Cayin i5 sports a quad core Cortex A7 1.2 GHz processor along with a dual-core GPU, 1 Gb of on-board RAM and 32 Gb internal flash storage memory. DAC / decoding functionality is the job of the single 32 bit AK4490EQ DAC chip, allowing both DSD decoding up to DSD128, and PCM up to 32/384. Volume control comes via Burr-Brown PGA2311 analog volume chip, and the AD712 OP amp is used as a low pass filter, along with the OPA1652 for power. The OPA1652 then uses two BuF634 buffers to boost current.


    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Top – hp and line-out sockets + vol controlRear – carbon fibre lookClassy looking DAP

    BATTERY
    The i5 is powered by a 3.8V 4800 mAh Li-polymer battery which provides approximately 10-11 hours play time using the 3.5mm single-ended head-phone output with my LZ Big Dipper IEMs. In my tests this was achievable using IEMs with the screen mostly off, and the DAP set to play continuously. This obviously does not reflect real-world usage, so expect less if you're constantly using the screen, or using apps that may have a higher draw on the battery. For my personal use (single-ended) I can easily get 8-9 hours out of a fully charged battery with normal use, and this has been sufficient for day to day use.

    Charging time typically is about 4 hours using a 2a charger, and considerably more if just using the USB port on my desktop, so considerably slower than the X5iii on both counts. You can also play and charge at the same time if using a portable battery pack.


    POWER OUTPUT
    Cayin's output specs show 190 mW per channel into 32 ohms, but unfortunately don't give a whole lot of data on their power output into other loads. I figured the best way was simply to test some real devices and measure the SPL, and also a subjective test. For each test, I used the excellently mastered new track “The Same Asylum As Before” from Steven Wilson's new album “To The Bone” - mainly because it was the same track as I used for the X5ii when I reviewed it, so it gave me some good comparative data. For each test, I aimed to get to my average preferred listening level of 65-75dB with peaks well under 85 dB. For this I used my trusty calibrated SPL meter.

    First up was FiiO's own 28 ohm, 106 dB/mW sensitivity F9 IEM. It is an easy load to drive and reflects an average load for everyday use. 27/100 on the i5 was sitting me easily within my preferred sonic range on low gain – so plenty of head-room.

    Next up was HiFiMan's flagship RE2000 IEM at 60ohm and 103 dB/mW sensitivity. This represents a load with higher impedance and lower sensitivity, and surprisingly only requires ~32/100 to reach the same listening volume. Again plenty of head-room, and the RE2000 on the i5 sounds wonderful.

    This time a harder load and an ear-bud as well. VE's flagship Zen2 is an incredible sounding ear-bud which while relatively sensitive at 108 dB/mW, has a much higher impedance of 320 ohm. This was much harder to measure, and I don't know if I got this completely accurate, but 37-39/100 reached my ideal listening level and again I could detect no issues with the i5's amplification sounding weak.

    Lets move to full sized headphones. This time I used the SPL meter again, and simply measured at the outer ear. First up was the Alessandro MS-Pro at a nominal impedance of 32 ohm and SPL of 98 dB (1V). Around 28/100 was a comfortable listening level and once again hitting my ideal volume level. The MS Pro and i5 was a really good match too.

    Up next was Sennheisers HD630VB at 23 ohm and 114 dB SPL. Again the i5 had no issues with essentially what is a portable headphone, and 30/100 on the pot easily drove to my normal listening levels . Again the pairing was really good – but unfortunately the HD630VBs controls did not work with the i5 (they do with the X7, X7ii, X5iii and my I-devices).

    [​IMG]
    Final test – and this time lets step beyond the likely and try something a lot will consider slightly ridiculous (I don't). The HD800S is 300 ohm and 108 dB/mW. Its my real test as I sometimes like to move around the house with these headphones so for me it is a realistic test. Again pleasantly surprised by the i5 because ~43/100 on low gain was hitting my preferred listening level, and this combo sounded really good.

    So all in all the i5 appears to be quite a powerhouse with very good power output at higher impedances, and IMO actually performs better than the X5iii in this area. And to check that I wasn't simply deluding myself, I also checked the HD800S with FiiO's A5 headphone amp. It is quite neutral, and can output 150 mW into a 300 ohm load. I've used it before with the HD800S and it has very much impressed me as a portable device. So once I'd found my ideal listening level, I simply used test tones to replicate the same volume with the A5, then switched between the two. The HD800S did not sound superior with the A5 and I'd be quite happy simply using the i5 by itself.


    WIRELESS CAPABILITY / PERFORMANCE
    The Cayin i5 comes with both Bluetooth 4.0 and 2.4 kHz Wifi capability. Performance on both seems pretty good. The Wifi receiver is not as good as my iPhone. I'm sitting in my study, the router is around 8-10 meters away, but through two walls. My iPhone SE is showing full bars, the i5 is about 75-80%. Connection is solid and stable, and perfectly good for streaming or downloading apps or updates. The iPhone is slightly quicker. So the i5 is good – but not perfect.

    [​IMG]
    The Bluetooth connectivity was excellent with my FiiL Diva Bluetooth headset. Connection was straight forward – easily recognised and paired. And I can actually install the Android FiiL+ app (by manually installing the downloaded apk), however the app ran like treacle, and I couldn't get it to properly pair or recognise the Diva. So access to the advanced features of the head-set curtailed (the X5iii and X7ii both manage it OK), however this could easily be simply the older Android version limitations. I can use all the headset's other features including volume and track control, and can easily get to 20m (it starts breaking up beyond that).

    Next up was FiiO's BTR1 Bluetooth unit. Connection was easy, and the volume controls worked well and could be used for next and previous. Unfortunately the play/pause button did not work, and the range was only about 7m before it started cutting out. To be fair, the iPhone range wasn't much better, although at least all the controls worked.

    So I think Bluetooth gets a good pass mark – not perfect, but definitely above average if you have the right device to pair.


    UI AND USABILITY
    The UI is standard Android and I'm not going to cover all the standard features (battery meters etc), and concentrate instead on Cayin’s integration with their Hiby Music app.

    Once you get past the opening animation, you arrive at the “home” screen which is essentially a single page with 4 visible blocks or sections for file locations and connectivity, and one hidden (scroll down). These include internal and external storage, Dropbox and LAN connectivity, and USB flash drive (OTG). Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to test other connectivity and pretty much stayed with music on the phone, and also a brief stint with Tidal when I had an account. Along the top third of the screen are the usual “folder”, “music”, “album”, “artist”, “genre” and “track” choices. Each take you to their respective areas – the album one gives you album art, but the artist choice just shows icons (X5iii uses the album art for these two which is quite nice). The “genre” choice is really weird giving 8 icons, but only showing singe word genre choices (eg if I have “Rock, Pop” as a genre choice it doesn't show up in either). It allows access all other genres in a separate hidden list you get to by scrolling up. Most other DAPs do something similar – so I've already resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to simplify my genre tags to actually have something useful. The track list is alphanumeric and based on song title (nice), and perfect for setting up a shuffled list.

    Also at the top of the screen is a “list” section which gives access to play-lists, frequently played tracks, recently played tracks, and anything you've tagged as a favourite. The two other options at the top are a search bar and “person” icon which allows access to the Hiby settings, equaliser, library scanning and also 3rd party apps.

    The now playing screen (tapping the now playing bar at the bottom) brings up large album art. Swiping this gives access to lyrics and also a VU meter. Below the album art are icons for play mode (slide to change), equaliser access (sort of), play-list access and adding to play-list or favoufavourites. Other than that you have the song title, and artist but no album info, and a touch play/pause and forward/back on-screen buttons. Around the play/pause button is an orange progress bar which can be used to scrub forward or back.

    Hiding in the top corner is a 3 dot icon which when pressed gives you the option to delete the track, or list its properties.

    The EQ options are a mixture of good and bad. Lets get the bad out of the way first. The button on the now playing screen gives me access to the presets, but nothing else. It doesn't bring up the actual EQ screen and doesn't give an option to turn it off once engaged. In order to actually get to the EQ you have to use 3 clicks to access it from the Hiby menu – someone wasn't thinking when they put this together. FiiO's is one click. When you get to the EQ screen, it is very similar to FiiO's 10 band EQ. There are presets, and a custom option (but you can customise all the presets, and there is a reset button to return them to their original state). There is a 24 dB swing (-12 / +12) which allows plenty of room for tweaking and 10 bands. The layout is the same as FiiO's with 5 sliders shown on screen at a time, so you have to slide left and right rather than having them all on the screen together. The good news is that the entire 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency display is shown on the entire screen, so this does help when you've inadvertently hit the wrong slider. The thing I love with the Hiby implementation is that each band shows the adjustment (in dB) that you've used. No guess work. Nice!


    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Home screenAlbum viewArtist viewGenre View SongView

    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Frequently playedNow playingVU MeterAccess to settings Equaliser

    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    3rd party appsHiby Music settingsHiby Music settingsStd Android settings Std Android settings

    Third party apps are accessible from the Hiby type slide menu, and Google App store is installed. I originally had Tidal on here, but it had the same issues as FiiO's (stuttering). Neutron installed fine and works well, but I have noticed that using third party apps often makes the i5 very laggy and slow. Its obviously optimised for the Hiby interface, and you take your chances with anything else.

    Rather than bore you silly with descriptions of all the screens and options, I've simply photographed them, and this should give you the main gist of some of the things which are available. So lets look a little closer at some of the features the i5 offers.[/SIZE]

    OTHER FEATURES

    The Good
    • EQ – while its difficult to get to, the EQ itself is pretty good with a +12/-15 dB range, and pretty easy to use with the actual adjustments shown on the graph.
    • Quick scanning – it's lightning fast compared to the FiiO devices I have. Less than a minute scan 6800 tracks. Slightly longer to write the index though. Impressive.
    • Boot time – it's generally pretty quick, about 40 secs from first screen light up to having access to the menu system. Thats not bad for an Android based DAP.
    • Connectivity – cloud or external connectivity (LAN, Dropbox, OTG) has been really well thought out. Although I don't use it, general feedback has been positive.
    • The digital out (with included HQ USB-C to coax cable) worked brilliantly with the iFi iDSD, and was a great pairing, especially with both the HD600 and HD800S.

    The OK
    • Gapless – Its implemented reasonably well. Using FLAC files, there is the very faintest micro-gap. Using AAC files the gap is practically unnoticeable – although there is occasionally some truncation between two tracks. Good but not perfect.
    • DAC – in DAC mode you'll need a driver loaded for Windows use, but its OOTB for me with Linux. Works pretty well, although there is some lag with video – both in Windows and Linux. Playing around with sample rate can alleviate this.
    • Stability – although some of the features aren't as well thought out, and the UI isn't as intuitive as I'd prefer, the stability has generally been pretty good, and I've had less crashes than on the likes of the FiiO X5iii. The obvious counter to this is the X5iii is still being updated, features refined etc
    • USB digital out – I've had success with the Cozoy Takt (sounded pretty good too, I must admit), FiiO's Q1 and also their diminutive K1. But support is very much hit and miss – the FiiO Q1ii was a no-go, ans was my IMS HVA. Nice to know that some devices work well though – and for this, Neutron is a must.

    The Issues
    • Battery drain – appears normal during use (especially with the default Cayin music app). But if you've stopped the music, and not switched it off, expect a similar sort of battery drain to actual use. I was charged at 100% last night, spent about 2 hours listening, then stopped the music. On waking this morning, the battery was at 30%. Yep – somehow 50% drain over the space of 6 hours. If you're not using it – switch it off. FiiO implements this a LOT better.
    • 3rd party apps - I use Neutron a lot mainly because of its DSP functions and ability to use 3D spacialisation (widen the sound stage). 3rd party apps on the i5 tend to run much slower on the i5 than the likes of the X5iii, and they also seem to be quite battery intensive (shaving 2-3 hours off the normal battery life).
    • Update support – The i5 seems to be at the limit of its support (in terms of updates with Cayin). This isn't a conscious choice from Cayin – but more limitations of the older SoC and software system. It still means that we're stuck with the current firmware limitations.
    • Streaming – this doesn't affect me so much, and it seems to be typical of a lot of Android based DAPs. Apps like Tidal stutter. Its not a massive issue – but enough that it gets annoying. If you're a mostly Tidal user, I'd recommend using a phone and DAC/amp combo instead.
    • Standard external play-lists – not sure what is up with this, but I keep getting “I/O errors”. The same list will play on any of the FiiO's – it is a simple m3u8 play-list file. I could probably work it out, and I suspect it might need to have absolute references – but it should work OOTB, and I don't have the time or inclination to work out a solution.
    • Replay-gain - there is none

    SOUND QUALITY & COMPARISONS

    The following is what I subjectively hear from the Cayin i5. Some of you may find this section a little limited, so I’ll give you some insight into the way I’ve changed my opinion on how to describe the sound with any competently made DAC, DAP or amplifier. The problem with trying to break the sonics down to bass, mids and treble is that DAP / DAC / amp is designed (or should be designed) to be essentially flat across the frequency spectrum. If it has enhanced bass, then isn’t it adding colouration that should come from the headphones or EQ or recording? Likewise, I won’t comment a lot on sound-stage, as this is primarily a by-product of the actual recording, or the transducers you’re using.

    So how do I go about describing it? Well my gear isn't great for measuring DAPs – the SNR and THD readings will be below the noise floor of my cheap soundcard. So for now we'll assume that the i5 measures relatively flat – and I say relatively because most of the higher end DAPs do have an intentional roll-off in the DAC section to warm the overall tonality. So what I will do is comment on overall tonality and resolution, and also expand further when comparing the Cayin i5 to some of the other DAPs I have experience with.

    For the record – on most tracks, the volume on i5 was adjusted to give me an average SPL around 65-75 dB. Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list https://www.head-fi.org/f/articles/brookos-test-tracks.17556/. When I tested side-by-side with other DAPs I used test tones, and an SPL meter to volume match. I used the same track, and had the players set up so I could rapid switch. Testing was performed with my Alclair Curve (being one of the most neutral monitors I have).


    Cayin i5 General Tonality

    This is actually an easy one – because the Cayin i5 is (for me anyway) very similar in overall tonality to the FiiO X5iii. It could be described as being a little on the warm side – but I'd prefer to refer to it as rich and smooth. Like the X5iii, the Cayin i5 has very good resolution, and like the X5iii there is a deepness and smoothness and fullness of overall tone which very much reminds me of my old Audio-gd NFB-12. Where the i5 differs from some other DAPs I own is that the tonality is silky smooth – no sign of harshness or glare. I've never really noticed the glare on other DAPs before, but when comparing side-by-side, the Cayin i5 (like the X5iii) just seems to have a smoothness which is perfect for easy listening. So what about something a little more neutral to double check my findings? For this, my other DAP to check was the X7ii with AM3A amp. In direct comparison the X7ii appears a little leaner, a little cleaner and a little more resolving.

    Resolution / Detail / Clarity
    Clarity and resolution is excellent on this DAP, its just not as brutally apparent as some of the other audio devices I have. I've gone over my test tracks many times with the i5 now, and it is not missing any of the detail or resolution of my other “more linear sounding” DAPs or DAC/amps. It just has a different presentation of that detail. When playing Floyd's “Money”, all the nuances from the cash registers are present – they just don't have that edge to them. In “Sultans of Swing” I can still hear the clicks when Withers taps his drumsticks together, but there isn't that extra heat or emphasis. What I hear is more organic and perhaps more tonally pleasing.


    Soundstage / Imaging
    Why is this section even here? The perception of sound-stage in a DAP is a result of the music you listen to (the recording) and the transducers you use. The DAP has virtually nothing to do with it, as long as it has decent crosstalk measurements, and there is no DSP involved. For the record, I volume matched the Cayin i5 and X5iii (same DAC sections), and tested my binaural tracks. Both sounded pretty much the same. And whether you use the Alclair Curve or the UM ME.1 Planar IEM, the perceived sound-stage width/depth was the same on both devices, and only influenced by the actual transducer being used. The one good thing with the i5is that you can use Neutron's DSP settings to widen the perceived stage. The only issue is that Neutron is a little laggy with the i5.


    Cayin i5 vs FiiO X5ii
    [​IMG]
    The X5 2nd gen (X5ii) is very close in size physically to the Cayin i5. The i5 has a single SDXC slot, while the X5ii's is dual, but the i5 has the benefit of onboard memory while X5ii has none. Both can play most high-res formats (including DSD), and both have similar output options (coax, line and headphone outs). Both also have similar battery life.

    The i5's advantages come with it's wireless connectivity options, touch screen, separate wheel for volume control, and more feature options via the Android interface (apps etc) along with a better screen resolution. Power output seems slightly in favour of the i5. The X5ii does have one advantage (feature wise) compared to the i5 and that is working replay gain (although again Neutron covers this). Both also have a reasonable search function.

    Sonically these two are quite close in both tonality and resolution. The i5 is slightly smoother but its definitely not any warmer. The X5ii sounds slightly more vivid, and actually sounds a little cleaner (again its that very slight smoothing that the i5 brings).

    As far as value goes, it is very hard to beat the X5ii as a straight music player – especially with the dual slots and the current price of around USD 250 (Amazon). It has very mature firmware now and is quite stable. Of course the advantages of the i5 still remain with its Android UI, features, and wireless connectivity. Those looking for a simple music player are possibly better considering an X5ii. If Bluetooth or wireless are a must though – especially for LAN or NAS connectivity, the i5 will deliver a richer and smoother tonality plus the connectivity features.


    Cayin i5 vs FiiO X5iii
    [​IMG]
    This is probably the natural comparison most will make. In terms of size, the two are very similar with the Cayin being slightly longer. The Cayin has more driving power, and can handle the HD800S quite well – where the FiiO X5iii is probably at its limits. The X5iii has balanced mode, but it really is power limited (does not offer extra voltage).

    The i5 UI is slightly more stable (less prone to crash), and things like scanning are very fast (quicker than X5iii). The UI itself can be a bit easier at times to follow than FiiOs and other times more complex (getting to EQ requires more steps), but on the whole both are comparable. The i5 uses an older Android 4 version where the FiiO is Android 5. Wireless performance on both is comparable – however neither have as good wireless connectivity as my iPhone. Bluetooth range and stability is slightly better on the Cayin i5, but both are good for portable use with a headset. I am able to install 3rd party apps like Neutron and Tidal on both – but the X5iii seems slightly more stable with 3rd party apps. Both can be used as an external DAC, and I had no issues with either (after installing drivers) on a Windows 10 PC. For general ease of use and comparing the default Pure Music (X5iii) to Hiby (i5), my personal preference would be toward the X5iii – it is more feature rich. The i5 also has the tendency to drain the battery quicker (it really needs a decent sleep mode).

    Sonically the two are extremely close and I guess this is the result of the same DAC hardware (AK 4490). I spent a lot of time going between the two and when volume matched, I'd say they sound practically identical – I can't tell them apart in a blind test. At first I thought that there might have been a little more extension with the i5, but when I got my wife to help me blind swap I was completely baffled over which was which (more evidence of sighted bias at play). Both sound fantastic with a rich and smooth tonality that I personally find really relaxing.

    In terms of overall preference, its a bit of a tough one for me. The price now on both units is pretty close – you can pick up either for ~ USD$400. Both have their strong points. I don't tend to need 2 micro SDXC slots (I use aac256 on my portables anyway, so storage is never an issue). The X5iii balanced connection offers no obvious benefits. I do like the extra power of the Cayin i5, but equally like the versatility of the X5iii's slightly more modern OS. Both have their individual personalities, neither is perfect, but the comparison is really close – and I would really be happy with either.


    Cayin i5 vs FiiOX7 (original)
    [​IMG]
    This one should be interesting. The original X7 was FiiO's original flagship DAP. It used to retail at around the $650 mark but nowadays can be found at $360-450. The X7 is larger, mainly due to it's interchangeable amp section. You get button controls for volume rather than the i5's wheel (and I much prefer the i5 for this). Both have single sdxc slots, 32 Gb internal memory and similar features in terms of wireless connectivity. The biggest difference with the X7 is the Android version (slightly more modern 5 vs 4) and the ability to change amp modules. By doing this you have additional control over both tonality and also power (with the AM5 high power module being able to drive many high impedance cans including the HD800S.

    Sonically the difference (in terns of resolution) is not huge, but the X7 with AM3 module is noticeably more linear, and appears cleaner because of the more neutral tonality. The i5 in comparison has that slightly smoother rich tonality which people will either love (find it musical) or dislike (citing it as warm). This is not a night and day, and really comes down to preference. While I prefer the slightly better volume control on the i5 and also the added power (without using amp modules), with the price between the two so close, again it is a difficult choice.


    Cayin i5 vs FiiOX7ii
    [​IMG]
    This one is more interesting. The X7ii is if course the update to FiiO's flagship DAP. Its only been out a few months, and already has a big following. The X7ii is again larger, mainly due to it's interchangeable amp section. But the design of the X7ii now borrows heavily from the X5iii, and includes dual expansion slots, the volume wheel, and the updated software (including Viper incorporated into the default player). The X7ii adds access to the 5GHz band for wireless, has access to balanced output (with the more traditional extra power output). It can also utilise not only the new (default) AM3A amp module, but also any of the previous ones. It also has 2 Gb onboard RAM and 64 Gb internal memory. The UI is a lot more stable and a lot smoother than the i5.

    Sonically there are no large differences in resolution, but the tonality difference is noticeable, and its a repeat of past comparison with the X7. The Sabre DAC of the X7ii is noticeably more neutral and appears cleaner because of it. The Cayin i5 again has that slightly smoother rich tonality – but I can get that with the X7ii simply by adding a module like the AM5 or even AM2A. There is a big difference between the i5 and X7ii in price (and especially if you are going to have extra modules), but this time (for me anyway) the features justify the difference in price – and despite the extra cost the X7ii is the clear cut winner for me.


    VALUE

    So how do I see the overall value of the Cayin i5? Quite simply, it reaches that overall performance which still has me recommending it at its current price point. In the current $350-$450 range it sits as a solid performer, able to power both IEMs and most full sized headphones. It does have its issues, but they do not detract from what is a pretty good feature set for the price.

    CAYIN i5 – SUMMARY

    My thanks to Cayin (especially Andy) for allowing me time with the i5. I've really enjoyed getting to know this DAP, and spending a lot more time with it (at the end of the tour) has allowed me insights I don't think I would have had if I'd been trying to write a review over 7-10 days.

    The Cayin i5 is a very well presented DAP with excellent build and some really good hardware design features (especially the volume wheel), and just a few minor (IMO) design fails (limited RAM, and at the limit of upgrade life). It feels great in the hand, has good implementation of both Bluetooth and Wireless, and the touchscreen seems quite responsive when in the Hiby app. Power output is more than sufficient for IEMs and portable devices, and also for higher impedance headphones such as my HD600 and HD800S.

    In terms of UI and features, the Cayin i5 has many of the features of most modern DAPs, but is limited by both the RAM (apps outside the Cayin default app can be laggy), and is missing functionality like replay-gain. The UI is easy to follow and relatively stable, although like most Android devices I've seen, has its good days and bad. For my personal use, I've had the occasional crash – but overall the fw has been relatively stable (YMMV depending on usage). Probably the one major annoyance I have is the lack of a sleep mode (when not playing). The number of times I've gone to use it and had a battery warning of less than 5% has been frustrating. This is one DAP you want to turn off completely between uses.

    Sonically (and this is subjective) the Cayin i5 has a rich and smooth tonality which I know many will call “warmish”. It has no issues with resolution or clarity, and I personally really like the overall signature from the AK4490 DAC. So far it has ticked many of my personal boxes in what I look for in a DAP, and at the price of $400 I personally find that in terms of tonality, features, usability and performance – it is up there in terms of overall value.

    I've tried to apply a more objective measurement table (rough attempt below) which I will try to refine over time. Using this new measurement, the Cayin i5 get a pretty sold 7/10 from me. Possible immediate improvements would include better case, more ram, better battery management, fully working features like reply-gain and gapless, and more internal and external storage.

    Again – thanks to Cayin and Andy for providing me with the i5 for review. I'll be genuinely sad to see it go.


    Scoring Chart
    DAPCayin i5 (out of 10)
    My ScoreOut Of WeightingWeighted Score
    Accessories7105.00%0.35
    Build9105.00%0.45
    Design7105.00%0.35
    UI (Default)71015.00%1.05
    Output Power61010.00%0.90
    Storage (Int & Ext)71010.00%0.60
    Sound Quality81015.00%1.20
    Battery Performance6105.00%0.30
    Other Features
    Replay Gain0102.50%0.00
    Equaliser8105.00%0.40
    Supported Formats10102.50%0.25
    Gapless6105.00%0.30
    Connectivity8102.50%0.20
    3rd Party Apps4102.50%0.10
    Value81010.00%0.8
    TOTALS103150100.00%7.250


    [​IMG]
  2. daduy
    Jack of all trade, master of none
    Written by daduy
    Published Mar 26, 2017
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Good sound and build quality, Allow streaming service such as google play music, can be used as USB DAC out of computer, built in 32gig storage.
    Cons - Bit bulky and heavy, performance is a bit slow and sluggish
    Disclaimer
     
    I got this unit as part of New Zealand tour arranged by @Brooko & @Andykong, thank you very much for including me in this tour :)
     
    Introduction
     
    I am just another music fans in this world, I love listening to music, and that made me stumble into head-fi around 10 years ago when looking for the best way to listen to my music. I am not in anyway an audiophile, heck not even close, so please forgive any lack of details in my review. Most importantly this is my personal impression on the unit, most likely i heard things differently than you, my ears, my preferences, my brain :)
     
    I've listened to Cayin i5 for about 2 weeks when travelling to/from office and in the office as well.
     
    Music preferences
     
    My music preferences is mostly instrumental, whether it's Classical, Jazz, Celtic, New Age, etc. I also enjoy music with vocal on them, but my playlist is mostly instrumental. I would say around 80/20 mix.
     
    Example of the music I listen (not limited to):
    - Acoustic Alchemy
    - Tony McManus, Soig Siberil
    - Hawaiian Slack Key guitars
    - Fusion Jazz (Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Fourplay, Special EFX, you get the idea)
    - Akira Jimbo, Tetsuo Sakurai, Casiopea
    - Incognito
    - Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi, Musica Antiqua Koln, Rolf Lislevand
    - Yoko Kanno
    - Madonna
     
    Sound signature preference
     
    Hmm...not sure what my pref is, I enjoy Fostex TH-600 very much, It's one of the best headphone I've heard, so that make me a fan of U or V shaped sound signature.
     
    Having said that I also enjoy ZMF Blackwood which have mid-centric sound sig compare to the TH-600, so I guess I am flexible :)
     
    My typical listening gear is: Asus Xonar STU -> Parasound Zamp v.3 -> ZMF Blackwood
     
    When travelling I usually use MEE P1 straight out of DAP/Phone.
     
    Build Quality
     
    The Cayin i5 is CNC'ed from aerospace aluminum alloy and I can confirm they feel solid in your hand.
     
    It is an Android based music player, and it got 4" touch screen, so imagine holding 4" smartphone in your hand, however I find them to be a bit thick, maybe double the thickness of my LG V10 phone. They both also shared very similar weight.
     
    Interface
     
    Cayin work together with Hiby to create a quite simple and easy to use interface to access your music. I am not going to focus too much on this section, if you're familiar with operating your smartphone I doubt you will have issue with using the built in music player.
     
    Since the i5 is built on Android, and they were pre-installed with google play, you can in theory install your favorite music player if the built-in program doesn't suit you. I am happy to report that google play music is working fine out of the box and that's a big plus for me as I use them heavily to stream my music.
     
    Unfortunately I can't help to notice that performance when using google music player is a bit slow/sluggish compare to the built-in music player. I suppose this is understandable as i5 only packed 1gig of RAM and not exactly running the latest snapdragon processor. Just bear in mind that they were optimized for the built-in music player and don't expect to play angry bird on them (maybe you can, I didn't try :)
     
    As a DAP, the i5 has another handy feature up it's sleeve, you can use it as a DAC! I tried this using my linux computer and it work without any issue.
     
    So you pretty much have a DAP that probably can do all the thing that you asked for, feature wise it's hard to beat the i5.
     
    Sound Quality
     
    Ok the most important part for me, sound quality, so how do they sound? I would say they sound neutral, balanced and transparent. The i5 keep a good balance between being detailed and musical at the same time, they are not too laid back and not too forward as well.
     
    The i5 is powerful enough to make my ZMF Blackwood sings, and they can go very loud, however I find that the amp is not as powerful and dynamic compare to desktop amp, in my case I tried using the line out from i5 to parasound zamp and can't help to hear more dynamic and life from the blackwood.
     
    Comparison
     
    Comparison mostly done using ZMF Blackwood and focused on sound quality
     
    i5 vs LG V10
     
    The LG V10 is no slacker in the sound department, carrying a ES9018 DAC, and to my surprise they both sounds very similar if not exactly the same. Ok I suppose it's impossible for them to sound the same, however the differences is very subtle that I am not sure if It's an actual difference or just my imagination. Bottom line from what I can hear, they have similar sound signature and quality to them, which make the LG V10 a good alternative for i5. Having said that, i5 offer more features and can handle DSD natively.
     
    Hifiman Supermini vs Cayin i5
     
    Similar experience with V10 here, i5 and supermini share similar sound signature, however the Supermini managed to deliver a slightly more airy, refined, extended treble and deeper bass compare to i5. However i5 got some nice EQ and obviously far more features than the Supermini. I suppose they are quite different product and it's not an apple to apple comparison.
     
    Summary
     
    In a way, Cayin i5 is a remarkable device, they sound good, and probably have all the features you need in a DAP, heck you can even use it as a DAC, so in theory if you are a big fan of their sound signature you don't need anything else. It will serve as your portable DAP, desktop DAC, amp, everything!
     
    Unfortunately nothing is perfect, and I have two small problem with them:
    1. They are bit bulky and heavy
    2. It's not better than my LG V10 (sound wise, but can go louder that V10)
     
    I still see i5 mainly as a DAP, so the problem above become a bit of issue for me, I don't want to carry 2 big devices, and if I can't hear any difference with my existing phone, why would I need them?
     
    While it's not for me, I am sure other people will find them great and I won't argue that they are a great DAP packed with good features.
     
  3. twister6
    The forgotten hero!
    Written by twister6
    Published Mar 5, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - neutral musical tonality, decent output power to drive many headphones, streaming support, gorgeous design (that volume wheel), battery life.
    Cons - hissing with sensitive iems, single microSD, interface could be smoother.

    The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.  The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with all my readers on Head-fi.
     
    Manufacturer website:  Cayin, for sale on MusicTeck and Amazon.
     
    *click on images to expand

     
    Intro.
     
    I used to consider saturation of DAP market as a good thing.  After all, competition should benefit consumers and challenge manufacturers to introduce more innovations to stand out from the crowd.  But too much “saturation” can have a negative effect.  Today, DAP market resembles smartphones, and even worse.  Seems that every few months there is yet another release, and the focus shifted from improving audio quality to adding more features, resulting in compromises.  I'm sure many manufacturers feel frustrated too, but I think it affects even more the consumers who spend months researching and comparing, ready to pull the trigger, and then something new is announced and you are back to square one.
     
    I was excited last year when Cayin announced their upcoming i5 DAP, and appreciated their honestly when the release was delayed to fix wifi interference problem.  Having tested and reviewed C5, N6, and N5 in the past, I always held Cayin in high regard and found them to have solid releases with unique design and great sound quality.  As a matter of fact, ever since I received i5, about 4+ months ago, I have featured it in most of my headphones and DAP reviews as a source and for comparison.  Unfortunately, while waiting for more fw updates and under a flood of other review samples (and a few things in my personal life, as many have probably noticed I slowed down with reviews), I never got to write a full i5 review and now deeply regret it.  There are no excuses, though this is not going to be my usual long review, but rather a shorter version (by my standards, since it has a limited comparison and pair-up).  I felt like going back to review i5 helped me rediscover this DAP (and its standing among other mid-fi performers) and it deserves another ray of spotlight, so here we go!
     
    Unboxing & Accessories.
     
    Like their previous products, the packaging is not too flashy but still has a very informative presentation with a bold image of i5 on the front (focusing on that unique volume wheel) and the list of key features/devices on the back to give you a quick design overview.
     
    cayin_i5-22.jpg   cayin_i5-23.jpg
    cayin_i5-24.jpg   cayin_i5-25.jpg
    cayin_i5-26.jpg   cayin_i5-27.jpg
     
    Accessories include USB-C to USB data/charging cable (yes, i5 broke the mold and moved to USB-C), the micro-usb to USB-C adapter (to be able to utilize all your current micro-USB cables at home), screen protectors for the front and the back, and the user guide with a warranty card.  I also received their original leather case (probably pleather) that offers a basic scratch protection, though after a while it felt a bit loose so I had to mod it with a few sticky notes under the cover on the back to "fix" that.
     
    Later, Cayin released two optional accessories, a high-quality USB-C to Coax cable (a beautifully crafted premium cable with a braided clothe sleeve, high quality branded connectors, and a cool storage gift box).  They also made available another more premium leather/pleather case; this one had a tighter fit (no more accidental nip-slip out of the case), a higher quality better touch material, and a distinct red stitching finish.
     
    Perhaps the new case is not of the same caliber as $60 Dignis, but for $25 it’s an excellent solution to protect your i5 from scratches and to enhance the grip when you are on the go.
     
    New case in comparison to the original one:
     
    cayin_i5_case-01.jpg   cayin_i5_case-02.jpg
    cayin_i5_case-03.jpg   cayin_i5_case-04.jpg
    cayin_i5_case-05.jpg   cayin_i5_case-06.jpg
    cayin_i5_case-07.jpg   cayin_i5_case-08.jpg
    cayin_i5_case-09.jpg   cayin_i5_case-10.jpg
    cayin_i5_case-11.jpg   cayin_i5_case-12.jpg
    cayin_i5_case-13.jpg
     
    USB-C to Coax cable (optional):
     
    cayin_i5_coax-01.jpg   cayin_i5_coax-02.jpg
    cayin_i5_coax-03.jpg   cayin_i5_coax-04.jpg
    cayin_i5_coax-05.jpg   cayin_i5_coax-06.jpg
    cayin_i5_coax-07.jpg   cayin_i5_coax-08.jpg
    cayin_i5_coax-09.jpg   cayin_i5_coax-10.jpg
     
    Design.
     
    Some Android based DAPs with a large touch screen fall into a trap of looking too smartphone-generic.  Thus, different manufacturers are trying to spice up the design with beveled or non-symmetric edges or the addition of analog volume control wheel.  Cayin decided to stand out from the crowd with its own unique wheel design in the upper right corner of the unit.  The wheel feels very solid and has enough friction where you will need two fingers to turn it, the only time when I feel like I need to use two hands for operation.  It’s not super tight, but just enough resistance so you don’t accidentally bump the volume when i5 is in your pocket.
     
    The metal frame of the DAP is CNC machined from aerospace aluminum alloy, with a front of i5 covered by a glass with a touch screen display (3.97”), including “home” touch button at the bottom, and the back having a traditional Cayin carbon fiber plate.  The unit itself has dimensions of about 126x64x14mm with approximately 196g in weight – feels very solid and comfortable in your hand with a bit of heft, but I still prefer to keep it inside the case since metal frame and carbon fiber back can get slippery.
     
    The sides of i5 are elegantly carved with sexy lines where you can find on the left in the upper corner a power button, and on the right in the upper corner transport buttons (separate skip next/prev next to each other and next to them a play/pause).  On the right at the bottom you will find micro-SD card slot (listed as “up to 200GB” but should be supporting 256GB since it was introduced later).  The bottom of the DAP has USB-C port to charge, transfer data, connect coax cable, and for usb-OTG storage connection (still looking for a small usb-c otg thumb drive).
     
    Keeping up with a cylindrical design of the volume pot in the upper right corner, the top of i5 follows the same rounded edge shape which blends in with a volume wheel.  At the top, you will also find 3.5mm headphone jack.  Unlike N5, i5 offers only single ended headphone port.  Next to it is the Line Out output to bring out output of its AK4490 DAC to external amp connection.  I gotta admit, with a symmetric positioning of identically looking 3.5mm jacks, I had to pay careful attention not to plug in headphones into LO.  Perhaps, a little port dust plug is a good solution in this situation.
     
    Other key hardware design features under the hood, in addition to AK4490 DAC carried over from N5 design, are 32GB of internal flash memory, 1GB of RAM, quad-core Cortex A7 processor, 4800 mAh battery (giving around 10hrs of playback time), and support of Bluetooth and WiFi under Android 4.4 OS (optimized by Hiby who collaborated with Cayin on this design).  With a selection of quality op-amps and buffers, i5 is designed to drive about 190mW of power per channel with 32ohm load - plenty of power even for some demanding headphones (no issues driving my planar magnetic PM3, EL8C, or 470 ohm R70x).  While <1ohm output impedance is a good news for multi-BA IEMs, but keep in mind that hissing will be noticeable with sensitive IEMs.
     
    cayin_i5-01.jpg   cayin_i5-02.jpg
    cayin_i5-03.jpg   cayin_i5-04.jpg
    cayin_i5-05.jpg   cayin_i5-06.jpg
    cayin_i5-07.jpg   cayin_i5-08.jpg
    cayin_i5-09.jpg
     
    GUI.
     
    Unlike some other Android based DAPs with audio app running on top of a regular Android OS, here Cayin along with Hiby took a different approach with "Android" being on top of the audio app.  Once you boot up i5, it looks like a typical DAP with a dedicated audio interface.  You are greeted with a main music page Folder view with options to access internal memory, micro-SD card, and "Cloud" with either Dropbox or LAN connections.  You can also switch to Album, Artist, Genre, and Tracks view.  Or click on List view to see your Favorites, Frequently Played, Recently Played, and Playlist.  There is also an option to do a full search which brings up QERTY android keyboard (just like in a smartphone).
     
    Swiping notification bar down (typical Android feature), you get a quick access to WiFi, Bluetooth, Gain setting, USB Mode (keep in mind, i5 can operate as USB DAC too), Idle shutdown, and Scheduled power off.  Here, you can also adjust the brightness level of the screen and the screen time out, as well as being able to access the full Android Settings menu by clicking on the upper right corner Icon.  People with Android phones will feel here just like at home, iOS users will need to spend a little bit of time getting used to it.
     
    Swiping the main screen to the right, reveals more Setting options for Music scan (scan all or the specified folder), Equalizer (10band paragraphic EQ with 31/62/125/250/500/1k/2k/4k/8k/16k bands and a few genre-specific presets), Sleep Time, and more expanded Music Setting with gain, digital filter, DSD gain compensation, SPDIF Out, Play through folder, Start up and max volume, channel balance, breakpoint resume, gapless, album art, and lyrics display.
     
    So, where are the Android apps?!?  You will find it in a secluded section under Third-Party applications which opens a new screen with installed apps, including Google Play store.  For a better management of the memory (only 1GB of available RAM after all), Advanced Task Killer is already pre-installed and built into the bottom of the screen for a fast access.  I have installed a small handful of apps, such as Spotify and a few games.  Everything seems to be working as expected, though I do want to note that download is on a slow side (especially when you downloading OTA fw updates).  I have free Spotify and found no issues with streaming.  Cayin already mentioned about a known issue with Tidal streaming which is not entirely under their control, and now waiting for a final resolution.
     
    Unfortunately, that is a problem with Android support.  Now, your users are tapping into the 3rd party apps which can slow down or crash Android OS, something which is not under control of Cayin.  Thus, it becomes a double edge sword.  Customers are asking for streaming, so manufacturer builds their OS on Android platform.  But that also opens a can of worms with people installing various apps which are not under control of the manufacturer (Cayin).  When something doesn't work, people blame the manufacturer who has nothing to do with this since they are not developers of the app.
     
    The only thing they are in control of is the main DAP interface and the Playback screen which has been designed with a collaboration of Hiby, a company which has a lot of experience in audio apps and writing audio drivers to bypass Android SRC (sample rate conversion where OS down-samples audio files as a common denominator to all other apps accessing the audio).  The main Playback screen has a very clear layout with upper top half of the screen occupied by a song artwork (if one is available) which could be switched to lyrics view (if embedded with a song) or a very elegant Stereo VU Meter.  Underneath you have selection of different loop modes (single, repeat, random, etc.), shortcut to access EQ, view the list of songs in a current playback folder, and being able to add to favorites. 
     
    Below is a display of a song/artist name and playback controls with Skip Next/Prev on the sides a Play/Pause in the middle of a circle with a playback time marker.  Interestingly, to scrub through the track, so you can fast forward to a specific time in the song, you must touch and glide your finger around the circle edge.  It's a neat graphic feature, but also a bit awkward since as you moving the finger you partially blocking the circle where the time marker is located.  I wish there would have been an alternative layout to have a straight fast forward scrub bar.  Also, as a general comment, the touch interface is not super responsive, and I sense a bit of a lag.
     
    cayin_i5-12.jpg   cayin_i5-10.jpg
    cayin_i5-13.jpg   cayin_i5-11.jpg
     
    Sound analysis.
     
    If you look at the design architecture of i5, it’s clear that Cayin didn’t intend it to be too far off the non-Android N5 version.  The way I see it, the intent of i5 design was to give N5 streaming capability by converting it to Android-based DAP.  In this conversion process, i5 lost second micro-SD card and balanced output, but gained touch screen interface, WiFi and BT, and of course that gorgeous volume wheel.  I also believe there was a different opamp introduced in the design, which slightly affected the tonality and extension at the top end, but overall we are still dealing with a very balanced sound that oozes with natural, musical, neutral tonality, slightly titled toward the warmer side.  If you are familiar with N5, don’t expect drastic changes, and I will go over them in my Comparison section where I will look at Cayin family of N5, N6, and i5.
     
    I know everybody has a different reference points when trying to describe sound signature of a DAP.  It’s not an easy task because headphones own sound signature plays a big role in this equation.  I went through many different IEMs and full size cans, covering different sound signatures, and arrived to one common conclusion.  The neutral, natural tonality of i5 pairs up great with most of them.  The only pair up I wasn’t happy about was with sensitive IEMs (like Zeus) where I find hissing to be a bit distracting.  I hope in their next N-series design, Cayin can find a better compromise in terms of background hiss level.  With i-series, they got too much other mainstream consumer stuff on their plate, but audiophile focused N-series would benefit greatly if the hissing with sensitive IEMs is reduced.
     
    cayin_i5-21.jpg
     
    Of course, using external portable amp can solve this problem, or you can just turn i5 into a digital transport and drive your external DAC/amp.  The pair up with Micro iDSD was fantastic, very transparent clean sound which I enjoyed with all my IEMs and full size cans, and thanks to built-in IEMatch, I don’t have to worry about hissing.
     
    Also, don’t forget that you have Bluetooth Wireless support which only depends on wireless encoding of the audio and the quality of your headphones decoding circuit.  Though aptX is not supported, lately I have noticed that many higher end wireless headphones use their own DSP sound enhancement where sometimes it’s hard to even tell a difference between aptX and non-aptX.  This difference is more audible with cheaper wireless headphones that use lower grade chipsets that limit bandwidth.
     
    cayin_i5_coax-11.jpg   cayin_i5_coax-12.jpg
     
    Comparison.
     
    When I was reviewing N5, many people wanted to know how it compares to their flagship N6.  Obviously, with introduction of i5, people are curious how it compares to its N5 sibling and if it’s considered to be an upgrade or side grade.  I will cover below sound comparison of i5 to N5 and N6.  As far as i5 vs N5 goes, in my opinion it’s a side-grade where you need to figure out if you want streaming and Bluetooth support and OK with less storage, or if you want more storage (dual microSD) and balanced HO port.  In more details:
     
    i5 vs N5 – both have a very similar sound signature and tonality, resolution and transparency, including layering of the sound and soundstage expansion.  The only noticeable difference is that i5 sounds a bit smoother at the top end.  We are not talking about warmer or less resolving sound but I have tested these with a few sibilant test tracks which sound more pronounced on N5 but have smoother upper peaks on i5.  Also, I prefer touch screen interface controls over mechanical wheel in this case.
     
    i5 vs N6 – this comparison is very similar to how I heard N5 vs N6, where N6 has a brighter tonality with a more revealing sound which gets closer to analytical retrieval of details.  N6 sound also has more transparency and airiness, while i5 sound is smoother, a little warmer, and with more body in comparison.  At the same time, I hear i5 to have a wider soundstage than N6.  Both DAPs have a resolving sound, just a difference in tonality and transparency.  Also, despite flagship status, N6 is starting to feel a bit outdated, and in need of a refresh.
     
    cayin_i5-14.jpg   cayin_i5-15.jpg
     
    Next comparison could be perceived as a bit “controversial”.  With a recent introduction of FiiO’s X5 3rd gen, not sure if it's still a collaboration with Hiby, many people turned to a new shiny toy, forgetting about their lost “hero”.  Both are great DAPs with their own strengths and weaknesses, and targeted at the same consumer audience who want a compact design with a decent audio quality and streaming capability.  So, let’s take a closer look.
     
    i5 vs X5iii – in comparison, i5 has a little wider soundstage, while the staging depth is the same in both.  The bass in i5 is more layered with a better articulation, while X5iii bass sounds a little more one dimensional in comparison.  Both have a very similar bass extension and impact.  Upper mids in i5 are a little brighter and more revealing, including treble having more sparkle and airiness, while X5iii is a little smoother and more organic, including a little smoother treble.  I think that’s one of the biggest differences between these two DAPs, where i5 has an edge in sound quality due to a better upper end extension and more airiness which expands the dynamics of the sound, while X5iii sounds a little flatter in comparison.
     
    My testing was done comparing Single Ended 3.5mm outputs, volume matched, between these DAPs.  When comparing i5 to X5iii BAL HO, I hear an improvement in sound where X5iii is a little more dynamic now, but still doesn't reach i5 level.  Also, both have a very noticeable hissing with sensitive IEMs (like Zeus), though i5 is a little stronger and with a higher pitch sound.
     
    When it comes to a design, i5 has a more premium solid look, but X5iii has a more practical and a more comfortable one handed operation since playback controls and volume wheel are on the same side and the volume wheel is a lot easier to turn.  Also, despite having the same 32GB of internal storage, X5iii has two microSD slots.
     
    In terms of GUI design and interface, X5iii offers a more smartphone-like experience which is smoother when dealing with Google Play store and apps, while in case of i5 the Android apps feel like a hidden add-on.  That’s one of the biggest differences, where X5iii feels like Android OS with FiiO music app on top of it, while i5 feels more like an audio DAP with a limited Android access to allow apps on top of it.  It's a very different experience that could attract different users.  If you are into audio streaming and apps and need more storage, X5iii will suite your needs better.  If you just want access to streaming apps and your focus is on better audio quality, i5 has a definitive edge here.  Keep in mind, i5 has a single AK4490 DAC while X5iii has two AK4490 DACs, and it's a good example that more DACs doesn't mean a better sound quality.
     
    cayin_i5-16.jpg   cayin_i5-17.jpg
    cayin_i5-18.jpg   cayin_i5-19.jpg
     
    Conclusion.
     
    With headphones, they stay longer in demand, and some even become classics.  Once you put headphones on your consideration list, you can revisit it 6-12 months later and still find it relevant.  With DAPs, especially Android-based, the momentum is right before the releases and maybe 2-3 months afterwards, until something new is announced for release.  There is too much progress in a field of DAC chips, storage options, Android releases, different flavors of hw controls, and updates in various standards (like Bluetooth).  Plus, when you are dealing with app support, your hardware and OS version can become obsolete and not-supported in a short future.  It’s a risk for a manufacturer when they step out of audiophile-centered design with a better longevity, and step into a more mainstream consumer design where you must keep up with the latest trends that change every 4-6 months.
     
    Personally, I don’t use streaming as much, but do recognize it has a huge selling factor for many consumers.  I do appreciate Cayin’s approach to bring audio player functionality to the front, and Android app support to the background which suites my needs, but maybe not others.  It was their first attempt to test Android waters, and I hope it won’t be their last.  As a matter of fact, I hope for the touch screen interface to appear in their N-series flagship release, because mechanical and button scroll controls feel rather outdated today.  Regarding i5, I still think it’s relevant despite other competitive releases, and perhaps with future updates Cayin team can optimize it further to make operation smoother since it still has some lag.  In terms of audio, it sounds as good as their N5 mid-fi DAP, and you have plenty of power and a great pair up synergy with a wide range of IEMs and full size headphones.  Maybe, it’s not a new kid on the block, but Cayin i5 is still a relevant choice when you are looking for a great sounding DAP with a bold solid design and support for WiFi streaming and wireless Bluetooth, all under $500.
    1. Hawaiibadboy
      I think the i5 is claustrophobic compared to X5iii. I also think the X5iii is better than the double the cost DX200. Using Pink Floyd - DSotM and Sony EX1000 IEM. We disagree completely about everything but like you said, if everybody liked the same thing this site would be boring and 1 company would rule them all. That definitely would not be good. Monopoly is a fun boardgame but it isn't good for the consumer market.
      Hawaiibadboy, Mar 6, 2017
    2. BartSimpson1976
      which FW was installed at time of review? The hissing has been significantly reduced since FW 2.0. Still hoping that some FW quirks could be ironed out with next FW since 2.0 was focussing mainly on USB DAC function and FW 2.2 rook care of USB audio out. So now they concentrate on the sorting issue, the tag reading and some other smaller issues.
      BartSimpson1976, Mar 6, 2017
    3. twister6
      @BartSimpson1976 fw2.0
       
      @Hawaiibadboy : yep, I agree, x5iii will have a more straight forward Android interface, while i5 focus is far from that typical Android interface (completely customized).  Oh, and I'm glad at least we agree on something :wink:  HF is enjoyable because everybody brings something unique to the table, and it's more fun when we can discuss it in civilized way, even agreeing to disagree!!!  Cheers mate!!!
      twister6, Mar 6, 2017
  4. Takeanidea
    Elegant looks lots of features refined sound - does the i5 have it all?
    Written by Takeanidea
    Published Mar 1, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sounds great looks lovely easy to use
    Cons - Comes up very slightly short on sound quality compared to the DX100 and the Chord Mojo
    IMG_20170228_120916759.jpg
     
     
    With thanks to our great supporter of headfi @Andykong, I have had the Cayin i5
     
    on loan for a fortnight or so. I have had the chance to listen to it extensively. My focus has mainly been on the sound quality as displayed using whatever methods came quickly to hand with using the features available. Whilst not exhaustive it was as thorough as I could manage given the timeframe. These are my opinions based on my subjective thoughts on what constitutes good sound quality. There are 194 pages of impressions on the I5 on the headfi headgear forums here. These pages contain so much information, pros and cons on even the most insignificant aspects of the DAP that if you don't find what you seek that I haven't mentioned here, it probably wasn't worth worrying about in the first place.
     

    Build

    During which I tell you a little bit about what's in the box, what the DAP does, how reliably it does it and how easy it is to work out how to use it. The cosmetic appeal of the DAP comes under my scrutiny too
     
      IMG_20170228_115330838.jpg
    The above is a USB C to Coax cable. Good for connecting the i5 to a Chord Mojo for instance. And a lovely quality cable it looks too.
     
    IMG_20170228_115440583.jpg
     
    IMG_20170228_115448556_BURST000_COVER_TOP.jpg
    The case provided - the subject of much controversy on the forum thread and I may be told has already been changed. It is excellent, fits beautifully and looks wonderful.
     
    IMG_20170228_115532423.jpg
     
    IMG_20170228_115543131.jpg
     
    IMG_20170228_115614067.jpg
     
    IMG_20170228_115625018.jpg
    The case in 4 parts , with all the trimmings . Pictured below is a decent gauge USB C cable and an instruction manual.
     
    IMG_20170228_120041898.jpg
     
    IMG_20170228_120147382.jpg
     
     
     
    If you're wondering what the above is - it is a C to Micro converter.
    In use, the Cayin i5 worked like a charm for me. Compared to the no frills Aune M1S (review here) which I was lucky enough to review at exactly the same time as the i5, the Cayin was slow to start up and slow to read the Micro SD Card. This is understandable when you consider how much the i5 has to do compared to the Aune. The Aune has 1 task - to play music through the SD Card. The i5 can do so much more.
    The i5 has bluetooth which worked extremely well. Whilst bluetooth out didn't suffer any dropouts overly I used it for workouts on my treadmill more than anything serious. The headphone jack is a World away from the muddiness I felt when I had the bluetooth working. WiFi  would be something I would look for in a DAP. I enjoy meandering around YouTube and Netflix and Deezer. The ability to be able to watch and listen with decent sound quality without needing a stack is where DAPs can score. The surfing I did on the i5 all worked fine. Tidal on HiRes MQA unfortunately doesn't at present. I say that without guaranteeing that it will in the future as it's really only Tidal that can fix such a problem. Tidal will work on the bigger processors that smartphones and laptops have these days. The i5s coax out worked beautifully and my Chord Mojo had no problems linking up to the Cayin. 
    The touch screen functionality was just as it should be. Some of the GUI for navigating round the screens was a little crude IMG_20170228_115927576.jpg
     
    IMG_20170228_115939012.jpg
     
    but was easy to get used to, The volume control was one of my favourite features. It was so easy to use even when in the pocket and so precise compared to other switches you have to use blindly. 
    The cosmetic look of the i5 is appealing to me. There is a move away from the bland look of a smartphone. IMG_20170228_120400702.jpg
     
    The elegance of the i5 is in evidence front and back. In particular the rotary volume knob at the top of the player is a bold move design wise. IMG_20170228_120307631.jpg
     
     

    Sound Quality

     
    The old chestnut that I guess is the whole point of my I'm doing this review. If you're of the opinion that every digital piece of equipment that measures relatively flat sounds the same, then I'm in the clear because this bit will be skipped over. If you're on the fence and trying to find out more about this DAP read on. I have tried to read as little as I can about the i5 so as to be as objective as possible. My mind is my mind and my ears are my ears - full of flaws no doubt , making tiny little assumptions. This opinion can be put against every other opinion out there and maybe a pattern can be found as to whether it's bassier ,harsher,more refined or more detailed than their existing DAP. I find this is the most controversial part of every review I write. Perhaps that makes it the most interesting? IMG_20170228_120531688.jpg
     
    There is nothing wrong with the sound quality of this DAP against the Aune M1S IMG_20170228_114403840.jpg
     
    and the Ibasso DX100. I did side by side testing over the course of my time with it. The i5 performed just as well to my ears v the M1S. The DX100 was the flagship DAP for Ibasso
     
    up til very recently and arguably the one that started all this madness. I have had it for 4 years so I am used to the sound signature and am very attached to the DAP. It's not surprising therefore that I put this one slightly ahead of the M1s and i5 sound quality in the superchallenge. I found the DAP more revealing and more accurate than it's 2 rivals. As to the i5 and M1S , I found the i5 a slightly punchier more lively sound than the more mellow refinement of the M1S. There are no winners or losers here, simply a matter of preference. Each DAP produces a decent sound without any glaring anomalies.  I went to the Bristol Sound & Vision Show on Saturday and was able to listen to another 6 top and mid tier DAPs. Honestly? They were all great. Sorry to confuse the issue even more. My opinion is this - if you get a DAP that has a fairly decent reputation and isn't supposed to sound like a polished turd, chances are that months and years down the line you'll be so used to the sound signature that you wondered why you ever worried about it in the first place.
     

    Conclusion

     
    The Cayin i5. It's a decent DAP, manfully trying to muscle in on a fiercely competitive marketplace. I really enjoyed using it, lived with the fact that it won't stream hires MQA over the Internet and generally had a great time with it. So the question finally is - would I buy it? If I could be assured of decent support should anything go wrong it would be tempting. Cayin has the looks, a decent enough sound to tempt many out there. I have no doubt we haven't heard the last of this Company , especially as they try to cram as much processing power as they can find to tame the Tidal problem IMG_20170228_120223285.jpg
     
    IMG_20170228_120251244.jpg
     
    IMG_20170228_120303728.jpg
     
    IMG_20170228_120307631.jpg
    1. Pradeep A
      Good review but you left out one of the most important aspect...battery life ..How well is the battery backup on this one ?
      Pradeep A, Mar 2, 2017
    2. Takeanidea
      Thanks -  11 hours normal 10 hrs through WiFi
      Takeanidea, Mar 2, 2017
  5. subguy812
    Great Powerful Sound...Patience Needed
    Written by subguy812
    Published Feb 23, 2017
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Smooth, Non-fatiguing and Powerful
    Cons - Frustrating little gremlins abound
    Introduction:
     
    From the company that brought you the N5 and N6 sources comes the Cayin i5. The i5 is their entry into the very competitve mid priced DAP market. Cayin also has other lines of audio equipment and is no stranger to the members of HeadFi. The focus of the review is the Cayin i5 DAP in conjunction with the HIBy music player.
     
     
    Cayin i5
    -MRSP: $499 
     
    https://www.amazon.com/Cayin-i5-Portable-Audio-Player/dp/B01I50QDZW/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487850263&sr=8-1-fkmr1&keywords=cayin+i5+dap
     
     
    201610201540123887.png
     
     
    My unit was purchased from MusicTeck. I would whole heartedly recommend reaching out to MusicTeck. Andrew is a great guy and so easy to deal with. He has a line of quality products and is expanding his line so be on the look out.
     
    I am not going to write an extensively long detailed review or a series of unboxing photos. There are plenty of unboxing's out there just do a search if you want that. There are also some very comprehensive reviews available currently on HeadFi I would encourage you to read them. I think this device is a mixed bag of joy and frustration and  I would rather highlight my real world, daily use experience with the device rather than make this a science project review. 
     
     
    I will begin by saying that my experience with a variety of sources has not been as extensive as my headphone list. The standard I hold all DAP's to is the AK120ii. For me, owning the Pono player and using that in balanced mode was the bar that all DAP's needed to raise. Upon first listen, the AK100ii player was an instant upgrade in sound quality and GUI, a great DAP experience compared to the PONO. If I had a criticism of the incredible AK player it would be the power always left me wanting for more. If you want quality you have to pay for it, but anyone on HeadFi knows there are those occasional jewels that you find that perform at a higher level than their price, an example that comes to mind are the Meze 99 Classics. AK players aren't cheap but they do deliver a nice user experience.
     
    Some of the other sources I have owned include;
     
    FiiO X3 
    FiiO X5 
    PONO 
    Clip Zip+ 
    Astell&Kern AK100ii 
    Astell&Kern AK120ii 

     
    I reached a point where I was going to stop purchasing more equipment and utilize what ever cellphone I had for streaming. I was ready to stop my endless search for the Holy Grail of sound nirvana. If I was only going to stream I certainly wouldn't need a DAP so I sold my AK120ii in a momentary lapse of reason, to this day I don't know what I was thinking. I started to use my Pixel XL as my source streaming Amazon Music and Tidal. Those that have followed my thread posts or reviews know I am not into the desktop gear and being tethered to a chair does not appeal to me, I need portability. While portability does provide some power challenges when driving a headphone such as the HD650, it can be accomplished. Streaming using only my cellphone as my sole source left me feeling unsatisfied, not to mention I have a 256GB micro sd card stocked with some prime FLAC music just sitting here idle and I couldn't power my HD650. I wasn’t ready to buy another DAP at the top tier price point yet so I was looking for a mid price point DAP($500 or less) that seemed to check a lot of boxes and was reviewed to have good sound quality. The Cayin i5 had received many accolades in 2016 so I figured I would give it a test drive. 
     
    http://headfonics.com/2016/10/the-i5-dap-by-cayin/
     
     
    Headphone.Guru_2016POTY_DAP.png
     
     
    Inside the box there is a cable and an included micro to USB-C adapter (edit). There are front and back screen protectors, the i5 unit and an owner’s manual. There is no protective case, most of the reviewers were part of a tour and they were sent a case along with the unit so if you see a case in most of the reviews that is why.
     
    I will say that upon first glance of the unit you can immediately see that the unit is a well built and sexy design. From it’s large volume knob to it’s screen size it is well thought out. Once you hold it in your hand you realize this thing is built like a tank and it is heavy, very substantial. I think the feel in the hand is really a plus as you never feel it is the least bit fragile. Let’s discuss the volume knob for a second. It may sound strange but it is an awesome volume knob. It is the volume knob that all other volume knob's should aspire to be when they grow up. It has great control and you actually have to want to turn knob, no accidental turning, one volume step at a time with no additional play in the knob. One of the things that some did complain about with the AK 120ii player was too much play in the volume control. Volume knob = a 10 on the volume knob scale. [​IMG]
     
    The following IEM's and Headphones were used during this review:
     
     
    64 Audio U12 Adel w/B1 module/ Rhapsodio Silver Litz cable
    Meze 99 Classics
    Sennheiser HD650
     
     
    I think the best way to give the consumer the information on this player from the good, the bad and the ugly perspective is to use bullet points to highlight why it is worthy to consider and what will annoy the hell out of you.
     
     
     
    200x200px-ZC-b75db793_IMG_20170101_110943.jpg
     
     
     
    The Good:
     
    Volume Knob – Perfect 
     
    Power – It actually powered my HD650 with authority and bass presence; I am so impressed with the power of this unit. The most powerful DAP I have used and in a good way.
     
    Build Quality/Looks – Solid, well thought out, not fragile and I think the design is sexy, beautiful
     
    Non Fatiguing – This is one smooth player that is never harsh or sibilant and you can listen to it for hours
     
    Sound Quality – You will see this in The Good and the Bad. It takes brain burn–in to actually get past it’s warm delivery. Once you devote some time the details start to shine through it’s initial thick delivery. I enjoyed it after I spent the time with this DAP it deserves. Good size sound stage.
     
    Streaming – TIDAL streams on this unit. It is a plus you can stream TIDAL but everything else about the TIDAL experience on the i5 is part of The Ugly.
     
    USB DAC – The unit can be used as a USB DAC
     
    Firmware 2.0 – A great step in the right direction(upon writing this it appears 2.2 was released)
     
    GUI – Fairly simple to learn and navigate, and it had all of the options I wanted, but it has it's quirks and frustrations
     
    Hardware Buttons - Right side play/pause and skip track buttons and it doesn’t require the screen to be on.
     
     
    The Bad and Ugly:
     
    Sound Quality - The warm initial listen. The initial listen may turn some off. The warmth is definitely how the majority of reviewers will describe the Cayin i5 and rightfully so. I am just not sure the majority spent enough time to appreciate the sound quality. Warm compared to an AK 100ii or 120ii.
     
    Storage Space – Only one micro SD slot and only 32 GB on board. If you are going to only put enough internal space for the OS and a few files then offer two storage slots.
     
    Features – I think the unit tries to offer too many features from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth and infinity. It is fine to have features but make sure the basics are delivered first. Ie… more storage, newer version of Android, OTA update that works.
     
    Streaming – If you are going to advertise the unit with Google Play store and downloading and streaming apps make sure they work huh! TIDAL is a complete joke on this unit. Whether it is the fact that the app on the Play Store is designed for a newer version of Android or the i5 just doesn’t have the processing power to stream TIDAL seamlessly, whatever the reason it skips, stutters and just isn’t enjoyable.
     
    Battery Drain – The i5 has a tendency to drain the battery while in sleep mode. This really needs to be fixed because it isn’t a trickle it is a drain.
     
    No Balanced Output – No balanced output
     
    USB DAC – The audio/video timing don't sync correctly so streaming videos or movies isn't good. There were also occasional lock ups.
     
     
     
    200x200px-ZC-26db5731_IMG_20170101_111726.jpg
     
     
     
    Thoughts on the Sound:
     
    The sound is thick, warm and like a friendly blanket in the winter, it covers you with a comfy sense of peace. It truly is an amazing sound. Soundstage is wide and the music lays out in front of you with a smooth ease. When using the 64 Audio U12 the initial sound was too warm but as I had more time with the unit it really became organic and natural sounding with the U12. The power to drive the HD650 is very impressive as it drove them with force and bass presence. Treble was never sibilant or harsh with the HD650 or any headphone I used. I found a friend with this DAP and it’s inviting sound signature. Details will shine through but the details are infused into the smoothness of the signature of the i5, another reason it provides an effortless listening experience. Anyone with the Meze 99 Classics needs to pay close attention. Even though the Meze have a warm tilt to their sound signature the pairing with the Cayin i5 is incredible they truly pair as if they we made for one another. The sound conjures dreams of listening  to some Sade with a fine Scotch and a Cohiba accompaniment.
     
     
    900x900px-LL-b7125e41_IMG_20170102_201003.jpg
     
     
    Conclusion:
     
    Now that it appears I totally trashed this DAP and left you wondering why you would ever want to buy an i5 let me be fair. The sound quality is really worth every penny. I was disappointed that the Cayin i5 had many niggles in it's software and functions, most I feel all can be fixed with firmware updates. In my experience it appears many of the DAP’s released today release with some issues, uh oh I feel a rant coming on. I wish the i5 would have focused more on what should be the price of admission in the DAP market today. Check all of the boxes needed to differentiate a DAP and it's features from the features that consumers have readily available from their cellphones and deliver a musical experience with plenty of storage, internal or external, seamless GUI. There are really good audio cellphones available today, the HTC10 and LG V20 come to mind, which are convenient for the individual only wishing to carry one device. Stop releasing half baked equipment and test it fully and be diligent in monitoring your customer's feedback for that device and stop worrying about your next release. The rush to get items to market is frustrating to consumers. We are willing to spend our hard earned cash but we want what we pay for and don't want to feel as we are the beta testers for your equipment. 
     
    Even the larger companies, Samsung comes to mind, are guilty of inadequate testing. The Note 7 is a fine example of this. It had every feature possible in a cellphone and it was a wonderful piece of technology but at the end of the day no one wants to carry a fire hazard in their pocket,(end rant).
     
    If I didn’t have the Opus #2 I would be happy with the i5 from the pure musicality of the device. It’s sound stands above many others in this cluttered mid tier lineup of DAP’s. If someone is looking for a smooth non-fatiguing, powerful well built DAP this could be the one to get. I would strongly encourage you to visit the Cayin i5 thread to see if the annoyances are being ironed out. With all of the little issues I would still recommend this DAP based on the primary reason we purchase a DAP in the first place...it's sound.
      PinkyPowers and pr0b3r like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. PinkyPowers
      You make me want to hear this fully burned-in i5.
      PinkyPowers, Feb 23, 2017
    3. Hawaiibadboy
      I think that the 3* rating doesn't match with your other parts of the review.
       
      That is kinda wack.
       
      He can and you can rate reviews how you see fit.
      Hawaiibadboy, Feb 23, 2017
    4. glassmonkey
      Anybody can do whatever they want in their reviews--so long as it doesn't violate community rules. Have you seen Watagump's Kaiser 10 review?
       
      I just thought that this DAP is objectively better than the 3* DAPs out there. I liked his review, and thought it was very honestly portrayed.
      glassmonkey, Feb 23, 2017
  6. piksnz
    A cloud centric DAP with good value for money
    Written by piksnz
    Published Feb 21, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Build quality, Online streaming features, Good bass and sub bass, USB C
    Cons - Warm tone, not neutral
    This is the video review of the Cayin i5 Digital Audio Player. The player has been compared with iDSD Micro BL and Audeze Cypher cable for its sound qualities. Skip to 12 minutes 50 seconds mark for the comparison section.
     
    [​IMG]
      hqssui likes this.
  7. Hisoundfi
    Desktop level performance that fits in your pocket. The Cayin i5 Android based digital audio player
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Feb 7, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Musical and engaging sound signature, Drives most high impedance headphones well, Analog to digital volume pot is awesome, Can stream music apps
    Cons - Video playback lags and freezes, Some minor software bugs, A little too powerful for sensitive IEMs, Slow charging times
    At the time this review was written, the Cayin i5 was listed for sale on Amazon's website. Here are links for more information and purchase:
     
    20170118_200857.jpg
     
    https://www.amazon.com/Cayin-i5-Portable-Audio-Player/dp/B01I50QDZW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486517498&sr=8-1&keywords=cayin+i5
     
    http://en.cayin.cn/products_info?itemid=87
     
    INTRODUCTION
    201610201541166292.png
    When reading product impressions and reviews you must consider the source. This can be applied in any interpretation you so choose. Not only can an impressions be impacted by the reviewer’s experience with similarly designed and priced products, there are also different and unique variables like the hardware and software is being used in their audio chains. Anything that uses electricity to make sound depends on the audio source that’s pushing it.
     
    We want the most ideal thing we can have for what we’re willing to spend when it comes to audio gear. This philosophy creates markets for earphones, DAPs, DACs and amplifiers. Add to the fact that we are in a renaissance of advancement in acoustics, the bar continues to get raised in terms of price to performance ratio at every price point.
     
    Computer and smartphone technologically transcends with each passing year. These advancements are being utilized more and more in digital audio players. It seems that this technological trickle down is about a year or so behind modern day smartphones. As Android 6.0 and higher gets released, Version 4.4 and up to 5.0 are now designated for DAP use.
     
    Manufacturers are evolving in their designs by breaking away from their iPod roots and venturing into more of a smartphone footprint. Android based digital audio players are starting to pop up more and more. The luxury of streaming music is now possible (via WIFI) and having a separate music source saves battery on our phones. At the same time this is all going on, phones like the ZTE Axon 7 and LG V20 deliver sound output and quality that rivals the best portable sources you can buy. At this current time I feel the line is blurred, leaving us to ask ourselves if it’s worth our while to buy a mid to high priced DAP. We’re to the point that some people would be better suited to purchase earphones that have good synergy with our streaming cellular devices (depending on phone and battery usage).
     
    I like to save my old phones. Aside from having them as a backup I can also stack them with a portable DAC/amplifier. These rigs are sometimes a “best of both worlds” tool for audio. I get the speed, functionality, versatility and user interface of a modern device in combination with an audiophile grade DAC chip and amplifier.
     
    My jeans have four pockets for a reason. Front left for my DAP (or Bluetooth receiver/amplifier) and a pair of in-ears ran up to my collar. Front right is for my Phone. The back right is for the wallet. The back left is for snot rags and old receipts. Compartmentalization at it’s finest, BOOM! With how much I listen to tunes a music source separate from my phone is a useful tool. I can zone out to music without the distraction of texts, emails and  messages. I save battery on my phone as well.
     
    So what do I need for a DAP? I need something with a sturdy build. I need something that doesn’t make it look like I’m running around with a giant brick in my pocket. I need something I don’t have to take out of my pocket to change tracks and adjust volume. I want WiFi streaming. I want Android Market. I want DSD and FLAC playback. I want something that sounds good with in-ear monitors and full sized headphones. Can I get this for under $500 dollars? Am I asking for too much?
     
    Recent releases like the Fiio X7, Sony Walkman series, and now the Cayin i5 show that the terms streaming and audiophile can be used in the same sentence. Streaming services are pushing the envelope and keeping up with the trends and technological advancements. Tidal streams in FLAC and Google Music streams in a high CD quality 16/48K bitrate (Itunes and Spotify are also very decent). It’s time to put much of the “digital noise” and “jitter” talks to rest. The only things that can hold the non-caveman back from enjoying a seemingly endless music collection in CD quality is a mediocre phone, crappy Wifi/cellular signal, or old-fashioned pride. Just an heads up, Google will soon be making FLAC playback a reality in  their products. Audiophile chromebooks eh? Me likey!
     
    Cayin is well known for some really impressive amplifiers and more recently a portable line of products that cater to budget audiophiles on the go. The C5 and C5DAC are both incredibly well received (and POWERFUL) pieces of gear. The N6 DAP is well known for its sound quality as well.
     
    When newly released pics and discussions regarding their upcoming i5 were taking place, I was immediately infatuated with this device. First things first, it was a flat out sexy looking DAP, with flowing lines, simple button layout, and an awesome looking analog volume pot. When Andrew allowed me to bat cleanup on a tour unit I immediately jumped on the chance and have the pleasure to share my experience with you.
     
    REVIEW
    Many of the guys have already explained or gone over criteria of this player in great detail (Kudos to you all for this). I am going to focus my efforts in reporting to what I consider to be the “meat and potatoes” of this player.
     
    20170119_064638.jpg
    The i5 comes in a black box with a white sleeving. The front of the package displays a nice picture of the unit and names the product.
     
    20170119_064627.jpg
    The back of the box displays main features and playback capability. Just to get this out of the way right now, Cayin has playback up to DSD when used in their stock player mode.
     
    20170119_064846.jpg
    The opening of the package is redundant at this point. Let me remind you that the i5 uses a USB type C cable (micro USB and lightning won’t work without an adapter) and comes with two very nice cables to help make this happen. One is a charging cable, and the other is a USB type C cable to digital audio male jack (to use your i5 with another amplifier that receives a coaxial digital signal). Also included in the package (aside from the device) are some screen protectors and owner’s manual.
     
    20170118_200502.jpg
    Holding the unit in my hand, the first impression is that this thing is very solid. The i5 is a little taller and fatter than an iphone 4, and also a little heavier. The glossy carbon fiber print on the back of the unit is flat out sexy looking. There are some sleek lines and uniformity to the unit. It is definitely a stylish device. Hard button layout looks simple and easy to operate.
     
    FUNCTIONALITY
    20170118_200337.jpg
    The left side has a power button (and that’s it).
     
    20170118_200306.jpg
    The right side has play/pause and skip track buttons. The buttons a dedicated for music playback and operation without activating the screen (very smart).
     
    20170118_200325.jpg
    The top of the unit has a 3.5 mm fixed audio output as well as a 3.5 mm headphone out jack. There is also an analog styles volume pot. In terms of design I think everything is very well thought out.
     
    20170118_200353.jpg
    I like the fact that audio jacks and volume control are located at the top of the pocket and hardware buttons are on the upper portion of each side of the i5. This makes it possible to control music playback without activating the screen, and better yet without having to take the unit out of my pocket each time. Although Cayin has designed a very well built and well thought out button layout, I occasionally caught myself pressing the wrong button. If there was a way to determine each button based on feel (without looking) just a bit better, It would only increase an already high mark in this criteria.
     
    20170118_200035_HDR.jpg
    Powering the device on, I’m greeted with a orange tinted welcoming from Cayin. Once booted, the i5 opens with a home screen which shows all folder and network options. The i5 has 32GB of internal storage, and also a TF card slot (on the lower right hand side) which allows users to add significant amounts of storage for music files. Other options were drop box and connection to a personal music server (must be set up by the owner).
     
    Tracks are broken down and organized in several different ways:
     
    *Album
    *Artist
    *Genre
    *Tracks
    *Favourite Songs
    *Frequently Played
    *Frequently Played
    *Playlist
     
    20170118_200023_HDR.jpg
    All folders are sorted alphabetically. It’s a pretty simple layout and once learned it is simple and easy to use. As with other DAPs, I was able to access the “Tracks” folder and randomly play my entire music library, making the i5 a digital jukebox that could be listened to for hours.
     
    20170118_200116_HDR.jpg
    The Android aspect of the i5 has been uniquely integrated. From the user sub-folder, the Android Market can be accessed via the "third party applications" tab.
     
    20170118_200130_HDR.jpg
    Downloaded apps appear in the next folder. Here you can also access the Android market. Wifi is required.
     
    20170118_200208_HDR.jpg
    I was able to jump on the Android market and download just about any app I wanted. As long as the phone, camera or microphone features weren’t needed to use the app, I was able to download and install it. Functionality was not always one hundred percent compatible, but this was primarily in regards to apps that used video streaming.
     
    Functionally (in terms of audio) everything seems to work well. However, the i5 is not without some bugs and hiccups in its software. Here are some bugs I experienced:
     
    *When trying to adjust the equalizer during music streaming and playback, the i5 froze and reset.
     
    *All hardware buttons have a delay after the device is booted. It takes a minute or two for hard buttons to work with software. Beware of button mashing right after firing the device up. If you press a bunch of buttons, or the same button repeatedly before the hardware buttons are functional, the commands will engage all at once, causing the device to seem to have a mind of its own.
     
    *Let it be known, the i5 IS NOT going to be an ideal player to stream movies, youtube or music videos (at least not with the current software installed). The timer is jacked between audio and video, and the picture will often times freeze and the device will reset.
     
    *The processing power of the i5 seems to be a bit on the slow side. One gigabyte of ram simply isn’t enough to maximize use of the Android Market. Today’s apps now require more processing speed in order to prevent lag during use. Some apps (primarily video streaming apps) will have lag or freeze.
     
    *The integration between the stock music player and music streaming apps is not ideal. Hardware buttons get jumbled between the stock and installed Android applications.
     
    NOTE: I am told that there will be a firmware update for the Cayin i5 coming soon. I look forward to checking it out and reporting back once the firmware is installed. If any software issues are addressed I will remove my software bug report on it.
     
    With all that said, the i5 is a great music player. If used for music playback exclusively (and taking steps to avoid bugs) the i5 is a fun and easy to use device. If you are familiar with using a smartphone the i5 is relatively easy to learn to navigate.
     
    20170119_070651.jpg
    The i5 can also be used as a DAC/amplifier that will improve the sound of external sources. With my windows laptop I was able to easily download, unzip and install software needed to use the i5 as a DAC/amplifier. The device also has a USB C to coaxial audio output.
     
    20170123_104551.jpg
    Cayin has implemented a massive 4800 mAh battery which is rated to give the unit eleven hours of music playback, or ten hours of music streaming. Although battery life is very good, I didn’t seem to get those same numbers (possibly due to screen usage). I got about two to three days of using the device for recreational listening (two to three hours a day) before I needed to recharge the device. Something you should know is that the i5 does not charge very quickly. The i5 needs 3-4 hours or sometimes more (depending on charger) to charge from a depleted battery completely.  
     
    SOUND
    201610201541214418.png
    This is the most important part, and to be honest the i5 doesn’t fail to impress me. Although it’s sound and power output doesn’t follow in the footsteps of many other players, the i5 brings something unique to the table, and offers something different (in a good way) than much of what I currently have.
     
    What I hear from the i5 is a bold lower-mid and mid-range with slight emphasis, and supporting frequencies that are complimentary, well controlled, and avoid talks of “too bassy” or “too bright”. In a world that leans towards a U or V shaped signature, the i5 perceptually breaks free from this knowledge and brings a refreshing and enjoyable sound signature. There have been times I’ve listened to tracks with my Fiio X7 and thought the sound was too bright, but not with the i5.
     
    201610201541093716.png
    Many recent players implement ESS DAC chips. The Cayin i5 us using a AK4490 DAC chip. The sound is ever so slightly warmer, richer, and slightly more “full” sounding than what I’ve grown accustomed to in recent year’s offerings. While I’ve heard many people speak about this player as being “too warm” or “too musical” I would first question what earphones they are using with the device and secondly what their previous source was before trying the i5. The new AK chips do sound different, but in my opinion they are something special. Everything I’ve heard with the AK chip has been excellent so far. Where I think some people are getting lost in the hoopla is that they aren’t hearing an artificially large stage from the i5 due to the full nature of the player’s mid-range tuning.
     
    For a portable player, the i5 sounds FANTASTIC with full size headphones. A majority of my time spent with the i5 has been with my Sennheiser HD600 and HD6XX. The 190 mW that the i5 packs under the hood rocks these headphones (particularly in high gain). No, they won’t directly rival powerful high end desktop amps but it’s still a great portable option.
     
    20170118_200009_HDR.jpg
    While I feel the i5 performs better with full size cans, it’s more than adequate with in ear monitors. High impedance monitors like the 64 Ohm Mee Audio Pinnacle and Hifiman RE-XX sound great with the i5. Just about everything 32 Ohms and above will sound good and synergize well with the i5. Highly sensitive multi-driver armatures will rock in low gain, but with a small drawback. Be aware that if all you have are in-ear monitors with high sensitivity (16 Ohms or lower) you will be subject to a small amount of background noise. Although this is the case, the i5 did an excellent job avoiding EMI. For a player as powerful as this, the i5 does a great job with IEMs. I do hope/wish the unit would have a more sensitive gain setting than what they have registered as “LOW”. At the end of the day the i5 is a little bit too powerful for a collection of just in-ear monitors.
     
    COMPARISON TO FIIO X7
    The Fiio X7 is a device that is cut from the same cloth in many aspects. Both devices use older versions of Android and have stock music players separate from the Android aspect. I feel this is the most ideal comparison and should be a great comparison for those who are torn between the two.
     
    Functionally the two players aren’t that far off and resemble each other in many ways. Although both players had very similar button layouts, the i5’s analog to digital volume pot was a big plus as compared to the hard buttons of the X7. Not only is it easier to adjust volume on the i5, I didn’t hit the wrong button as often (volume can be easily confused with the track change button of the X7).
     
    User interface is a touch better on the X7 in my opinion. Although not far off from each other, I liked the screen layout a bit more with the X7’s music player. The experience was a bit more Android user friendly. The i5 was no slouch though, and once learned wasn’t something I would say is a dealbreaker when deciding between the two units.
     
    The X7 has interchangeable amp modules that can be purchased separately. The i5 has a non-replaceable amplifier that is in my opinion more universally applicable to my headphone collection than picking just one amplifier than what Fiio offers with the X7. If you really want to dial it in when it comes to a particular type of earphones, you might be able to do it better with the X7, but it will come at an increased cost on top of the X7 purchase price. The X7 has a balanced option with the AM3 amp module. The X7 also offers a K5 docking station which amplifies music from a computer or your X7. I personally feel the i5 doesn’t need a docking station due to the fact that it has great DAC/amplifier capabilities already. If I wanted to upgrade the power output of the i5, I would probably be talking about spending quite a bit on a dedicated desktop unit. For the record, Cayin offers some incredible high end amplifier options. Here is some links if you’re interested:
     
    http://en.cayin.cn/products?cid=1
     
    http://en.cayin.cn/products?cid=2
     
    Both devices struggle in terms of processing capabilities. I don’t think one device is necessarily faster than the other. They both have some bugs that hold them back from getting a higher score in this regard.
     
    On a whole (and regardless of what amp module is being used) the sound from the X7 is leaner, cleaner and sounds more airy. Sound from the i5 is bolder, richer and dynamic. Both sound great in their own ways. The X7 avoids less background/floor noise, but at the same time it picks up more EMI from other devices and when streaming music. Because of this I prefer using the i5 to stream music.
     
    At the end of the comparison I can honestly say that I can’t pick one over the other. The biggest difference and selling point for each one is the sound signature. If you want a more “tubey” sound you might want to go with the i5. If you want a more “solid state” sound go with the X7. If you want an all-in-one portable solution with the simplicity of grabbing the player and going, you might want to go with the i5. If you don’t mind spending some extra cash on whatever amp models and accessories, and enjoy tinkering with your gears, the X7 might be the device for you.
     
    CONCLUSION
    20170118_200450.jpg
    The i5 is a mark in the evolution of an affordable dedicated DAP. It directly rivals the X7 and offers the audiophile community a player that has many of the same features as more expensive players (and even some extras). The drawback is that as I type this, I have a phone with a processor that crushes these older processors and versions of Android. As the world of DAPs advances, so too does the smartphone market, leaving one to wonder if it’s worth the extra funds and pocket space to pack a DAP.
     
    The i5 isn’t a perfect product yet still checks most boxes for music lovers. Truth be told, I would have paid a few hundred extra dollars to see the unit have a faster processor, more RAM, a newer version of Android, better video playback, less bugs as well as  balanced and optical outputs. All are not necessary, but any additional noted aspects would be welcomed improvements. I would assume these will be possible factors for Cayin to consider when they design the i6. As time goes on, the market for this type of player will grow. Releases like the Fiio X5iii and iBasso DX200 are in the works, so there's plenty of similar competition. As I always say, it’s a good time to be in this hobby!
     
    I really like the i5 because I have a dedicated music player that won’t eat away at my phone’s battery life. It will hold most people’s entire music library, and also stream music when WiFi is available. Most importantly, for the first time I have one unit that makes my HD600 portable. It’s a well thought out design and build that makes for a fun and easy to use portable option.

    20170118_200857.jpg
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
      davidcotton, earfonia, Brooko and 8 others like this.
    1. senorx12562
      I don't think google music streams cd quality, I think it is maxed at 320kbps mp3, unless it has changed very recently.
      senorx12562, Feb 8, 2017
    2. br4lin
      I love how it has the balanced outs.
      br4lin, Feb 10, 2017
    3. PinkyPowers
      @br4lin, the i5 does not have balanced outputs.
      PinkyPowers, Feb 12, 2017
  8. glassmonkey
    Cayin i5 Android DAP: A musical player with loads of functionality
    Written by glassmonkey
    Published Jan 18, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Big sound stage, loads of driving power, neutral with hint of warmth, no hiss with sensitive IEMs, Google Play, generally good OS, sexy Tron body
    Cons - Genre tab is a mess and other minor operating system niggles, pre-burn in sound is woolly, weak WiFi, old Bluetooth
    Cayini5-5.jpg
     

    Acknowledgment   

    Thanks, @Andykong at Cayin, and @Takeanidea for organizing the UK wing of the worldwide extravaganza of i5 tour. It is always an honour to work with great companies and dear friends.
     

    Introduction

    I’d been trying to get my hands on a review unit of the i5 for a while through various contacts with Andy and I’d been following the i5 thread when @Takeanidea asked me if I’d been interested in joining the UK wing of the i5 worldwide tour he’d be organizing. Of course I said yes.
     
    The i5 was has a customised Android 4.4.0 interface developed with HiBy (a Chinese audio company out of Donguan), and loads of features all built by a company that has repeatedly shown they really care what their consumers want by regularly interacting with the community on HeadFi. Andy regularly patrols the threads, is open to suggestions, and is honest about the limitations of devices offered by Cayin. Not only that, the i5 has full-on Google Play store implementation from the moment the unit is first powered on, which is something that is not common enough in Android DAPs—they all should do this! Other companies need to bite the damn bullet and get Google Play approval, don’t be dullards and laggards.
     

    About the company

    Cayin is a brand of Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., Ltd., a company founded in 1993. Most folks outside of East Asia wouldn’t guess that Cayin has been in the audio biz for nearly 25 years, I know I didn’t. That’s because even though Cayin has been making amplifiers for decades, they’ve only recently in the grand scheme of audio dipped into portable audio. It took them 20 years to jump into our market (2013), but they’ve been kickin’ butt since they jumped in. Cayin products tend to have unique styling: the retro plastic cap of the C5 portable amp/[dac] (dac was added later), the flagship N6 DAP with its circular screen and image that makes me reminisce on UFO sightings and watching X-Files, the N5 with it’s screen that looks like it is running away from the left side of the player, racing off with the tire on the right (scroll wheel), and they haven’t disappointed with unique styling on the i5.
     
    ps625.jpg
     
     
    The first I ever heard of Cayin was the Cayin C5 portable headphone amplifier, which later got an upgrade to have a DAC in it too. The reputation of the amp at the time was that it was warm, musical, and powerful. I knew I was into the last couple, but I wasn’t sure if warm was the thing for me at the time coming from analytical scrappy RE0 iems. I’ve since discovered that whilst warm isn’t my preferred signature, it’s a nice vacation home for my ears—i.e. a good place to go to relax.
     
     
    Caesar-Wing-Massage-Reclining-Chair.jpg
     
    Needless to say, I’m excited to lay back and take this in. Does this i5 come with Shiatsu massage?
     
    Like most sensible people I started falling in love with music as a child. My first portable audio device was a Sony Walkman (the cassette kind) that I got when I was 10 years old (24 years ago).  I listened with the cheap Sony on ears that came with the Walkman until I bought a Koss CD boombox and started listening to UAF College Radio and 103.9 (alternative
    rock at the time) in Fairbanks, Alaska. I once listened to Louie, Louie for 3 days straight, and I’m not insane—did you know there is a Spanish gospel version of Louie, Louie?
     
    Like political tastes and tastes in friends, my musical tastes evolved through association and then rebellion and experimentation. From the songs of my father (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, ZZ Top), to the songs of my peers (Dr. Dre, Green Day, Nirvana, Weezer), my tastes evolved, expanded and exploded into the polyglot love that is my current musical tapestry. Like a Hieronymous Bosch mural, my tastes can be weird and wonderful: dreamy Japanese garble pop, 8 bit chiptune landscapes percolated with meows, queer punk, Scandinavian black metal; or they can be more main-stream with minglings of Latin guitar, Miles Davis trumpet, and banks of strings and percussion in the Mariinsky Orchestra. Mostly my audio drink of choice is a rich stout pint of heady classic rock and indie/alternative from my musical infancy and identity formation (the 90s). Come as you are, indeed. Beyond the weird, the wonderful, the interesting and accepted, I’m a big fan of intelligent hip-hop artists like Macklemore, Metermaids, Kendrick Lamar, Sage Francis and Aesop Rock. I even dabble in some country from time to time, with First Aid Kit and the man in black making cameos in my canals.
     
    My sonic preferences tend towards a balanced or neutral sound, though I’ll admit to liking a little boosted bass or treble from time to time. If I have to choose between warm and bright, I’ll choose bright almost every time. A few screechy high notes are preferable to me than a foggy unfocused bass guitar. As my tastes are eclectic, and a day of listening can involve frequent shifts in my sonic scenery, I don’t generally want headphones that try to paint my horizons in their own hues. I need headphones that get out of the way, or provide benign or beneficial modifications. I desire graceful lifts like an ice-dancing pairs’ carved arc, not heaving lifts like a man mountain deadlift.
     
    My last hearing test with an audiologist was a long time ago and under strange circumstances. However, I have heard tones all the way down to 10hz and all the way up to 23Khz using headphones in my collection. Either my headphones tend to have a hole in frequency at 18kHz or my hearing does, because I never seem to hear it. I’m sensitive to peaky treble, and treble fatigue, even when I can’t hear what might be causing it. I do enjoy smooth extended treble. I like deep tight bass and impactful drums, and dislike upper mid-bass emphasis.  I like my vocals crisp, so stay away from Josh Tillman’s voice you nasty upper mid-bass hump.  I like air in the stage, not just cues to distance and height, but the feeling of air moving around and through instruments. Soundstage shouldn’t be just about hearing, I need to feel it. I listen at volume levels that others consider loud (78 to 82 dB), but I just set it to where the dynamics peak. I’m not here to shatter my eardrums. I like them just how they are.
     
    I generally don’t believe in using EQ, not even for inexpensive headphones, especially in reviews. I won’t claim that I haven’t done it, but I generally try to avoid it.
     
    I believe that burn-in can make a difference, but I also acknowledge that there isn’t any measurement that appears to give conclusive proof that burn-in exists. I trust my ears, fully acknowledging that my brain may fill in expected details, may colour my interpretation, or may be subject to its own settling period with a headphone. In my experience, burn-in effects are not as large as proponents of burn-in tend to advertise. I’ve also noted that using white/pink/brown noise, I almost never observe changes beyond 24 hours of burn in. When people tell you that you shouldn’t listen to your headphones until they have 200 hours on them, I think these people need to be ignored. No matter what, you should be listening to your headphones at different stages, right out of the box and at intervals. How can someone observe a difference without baseline observations and follow up observations to measure change trajectories? If you really want to be serious about controlling for effect, you need volume matching, source matching, and tip/pad matching.
     
    I’m a firm believer that cables can make a difference, but I don’t think they always do. When I tried out Toxic Cables line, they were in a bunch of baggies at the Cambridge 2015 HeadFi meet without any labels tell me what I was listening to. The cheapest looking one was the one I liked the best. I was excited that I wouldn’t have to spend much to improve my sound. It turned out that the cheapest looking one was the Silver/Gold top of the line cable. I’ve heard the difference that USB cables can make, from upgrading from the crappy cable that came with my Geek Out 1000 to a Supra USB, and then again when upgrading to the LH Labs Lightspeed 2G with the iUSB3.0. When I picked up a cheap shielded power lead from Mains Cables R Us to replace my standard kettle lead on my integrated amplifier, I heard more crunchy and clearer treble. I switched the leads with my wife blinded and she heard the same difference. I didn’t tell her what I heard and let her describe it herself. But cables don’t always make a difference. When I switched from my standard HD650 cable to a custom balanced cable (Custom Cans UK, very affordable), the sound stayed exactly the same when hooked up via a top tier (custom made by my local wire wizard, out of  silver/gold Neotech wire) 4-pin XLR to 6.3mm converter. Balanced mode made a difference in clarity and blackness of background—this indicates that the amp was the deciding influence, not the cable. Your mileage may vary and you may not hear a difference, but I have.
     

    Vital Statistics (specs from manufacturers and distributors)

    Cayin doesn’t throw down a bunch of marketing bovine excrement on their website, which is refreshing. There is a little bit of mangled English telling us that the player is precision crafted from a block of CNC machined aerospace aluminum; has versatile outputs; has fine sandblasted buttons that are nice to touch and easy to use; decodes SACD ISO, even with DST; and that the interface eloquently marries the sound output to an appealing playback interface.
     
    These Chinese companies really need to have some native English speakers work on their marketing blurbs. I’ve seen way too many companies fumble when they try to output embellished descriptives of their gear. None of the words above were exactly what Cayin said. I thought I’d help out here. We all toss up a word salad from time to time—or review to review as is my condition.
     
    calvin_fixative_gibberish.gif
     
     
    PHYSICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    DAC Chip
    AKM AK4490
    Amp and volume chips
    PGA2311 (volume)
    AD712 (amp)
    OPA1652 (amp)
    BUF634 (amp)
    Display
    3.97" IPS touch screen
    Outputs
    Phone out (3.5mm),
    Line out (3.5mm), Bluetooth (version), Digital out via USB-C
    Storage
    32GB (internal eMMC), expandable via single microSD (200gb, listed maximum)
    USB
    USB 3.1 C (Super Speed)
    USB OTG Supported
    Battery
    4800mAh 3.8V Lithium ion polymer (non-removable)
    Battery duration
    ~10 hours (WiFi)
    ~11 hours (offline)
    Charging time
    ~4.5 hours (with 2A 
    Charger, not provided)
    Charging current
    ≤1500mA charged via 2A Charger,
    ≤500mA charged via computer USB port
    Color
    Gunmetal
    Dimension
    64mm x 126mm x 14mm
    Net Weight
    195 g
    Headphone Impedance Range
    8-300Ω (recommended)
    HEADPHONE OUT
    Power rating
    190mW+190mW (@32Ω)
    Frequency Response
    20-20kHz (±0.2dB, Fs=192kHz)
     
    5-50kHz (±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
    THD+N
    0.006% (1kHz, Fs=44.1kHz; 20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
    Dynamic Range
    108dB (20Hz-20kH, A-Weighted)
    SNR
    108dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
    Output Impedance
    ≤1Ω
    LINE OUT                
    Output Level
    1.0V (@10kΩ)
    Frequency Response
    20-20kHz 
    (±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz)

    5-50kHz 
    (±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
    THD+N
    0.005%  (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz; 20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
    Dynamic Range
    108dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
    SNR
    108dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
     
     
    USB DAC                
    USB Mode
    Asynchronous USB Audio Class 2.0
    DSD
    Up to DSD128
    PCM
    Up to  384kHz/32Bit
    Windows
    Support (Driver required)
    MAC Osx
    Support
    iOS
    Not Supported
    Android
    Not Supported
      
    MusicFormatLocal Storage                
    DSF
    Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
    DFF
    Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
    SACD-ISO
    Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
    APE
    Support16-32bits, Fast/Normal /High/Extra High compression level
    FLAC
    Up to 384kHz/32bit
    WAV
    Up to 384kHz/32bit
    AIFF
    Up to 384kHz/32bit
    ALAC
    Up to 384kHz/32bit
    WMA
    Up to 96kHz/24bit
    WMA Lossless
    Up to 96kHz/24bit
    MP2/MP3
    Up to 48kHz/16bit
    AAC
    Up to 48kHz/16bit
    OGG
    Up to 48kHz/16bit

     

    Form & Function

    DAPs are funny little things. Most sound good. It is my belief that a properly implemented DAP shouldn’t add anything to music or take anything away. It should be neutral by default. For those who don’t want neutral, headphones can adjust the sound, or EQ. As stated in my bio, I’m not really into EQ, so much so that I haven’t spent the time to learn its nuances and empower it as a deductive tool in analysing headphones like some other reviewers.
     

    Build quality (physical characteristics)


    Cayini5-1.jpg
    Cayini5-2.jpg
    Cayini5-3.jpg
    Cayini5-4.jpg


     
    The i5 is a beautiful gunmetal grey brick of CNCed aluminum. It has etchings in the side that remind of old school Tron light lines.
     
    tronflynnandco.jpg
     

    Cayini5-6.jpg
    Cayini5-10.jpg
    Cayini5-12.jpg
    Cayini5-13.jpg


     
    It is rectangular, as are most DAPs, but it has a curved top edge designed to highlight the rather unique and rather delightful volume pot. Some have previously noted that the volume pot is not entirely flush with the rest of the body. This has the unfortunate effect of making the pot rub against surfaces that the i5 is sitting on when it is not enrobed in its case. Luckily for me, this review unit came with with a leather protection case. Lucky for everyone else, volume control works digitally, and the smallest of movements of the knob will call up volume control on the screen. I love the feel of the volume knob. It feels natural and ergonomic to this right handed fellow. It has a nice smooth glide to the rotation while having a firm grip when you engage. I love the feel of the volume knob—yes, I know I just said that, it’s really really nice. For left handers, I imagine it isn’t so ergonomic. The volume has a large number of steps, and the two gain settings should allow fine tuning of volume level that will satisfy almost all users. I found that volume control was smooth and without distortion.
     

    Cayini5-14.jpg Cayini5-16.jpg

     
    In a pleasant surprise, the i5 comes with protectors installed on both the back and front, and spares for both sides. Every manufacturer should be doing this and it is totally awesome--try watching the clip below with sound off, it's hilarious.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Statistic
    Measured
    Bluetooth range
    ~10m with minimal obstruction
    Battery life
    ~20 hours transport (USB C to coaxial digital)
    ~ 13 hours DAP Mixed redbook and HiRes
    ~ 12.5 hoursTidal Streaming
    >21 hours Bluetooth
    Charge time
    ~5 hours from zero battery (Note 2 charger, 2.1A)
    Scan 200GB microSD
    40 seconds (with all cover art correctly displayed)

     
    The tests of the physical parameters of the player generally are above specifications. It is really refreshing to see a manufacturer report conservative numbers, unlike my experience with HiFiMAN DAPs that way underperformed their specifications. The battery life is especially impressive, but there is one caveat. All my tests were done on low gain, which should be good for basically any IEM. I found it interesting that the digital only transmissions (transport and Bluetooth) appear to bypass the amplifier circuit completely, resulting in much longer use. For those who are into Bluetooth, or want to use this as a slick transport, this is a nice surprise. That amp circuit must be consuming lots of juice even on low gain!
     

    Operating system

    The operating system was developed in partnership with HiBy, but is much more refined than the HiBy app I have had on my Android phone off and on. HiBy on my phone has always looked great, but suffered from stability issues on Android 4.4.2, so I keep trying it to see if they get it quite right and keep being disappointed. The HiBy implementation on the i5 is a different beast entirely.
     
    I like the OS implementation, for the most part, but have some recommendations that I’ve shared with @Andykong. I have a firm dislike of the implementation of the Genre tab. Most folks looking into Genre will expect to see an album view, not an alphabetical list of tracks by Genre. Maybe I’m wrong, and people do like seeing tracks listed; if so then there should be a view switch to allow people to decide between album and track view. I also don’t like that there are forced categories. I’ve got a bunch of empty categories taking up the top of my screen. This is not useful and needs to go. The Genre view as currently organised does make setting up a Genre shuffle easy, which is one benefit. I’ve also suggested that album stacks be used as the view, similar to what you see in JRiver. The Artist view also needs a facelift. Currently it doesn’t show album art to represent artists, the JRiver stack approach, or just showing the album art for the first album from the artist would be a big improvement over showing silhouettes of nothingmen.
     
    /img/vimeo_logo.png
     
    I also found that I couldn’t effectively use the A..B..C… listing on the right side of the screen to navigate through my large library. I’ve suggested that the A..B..C… listing should be across the top of the menu. In addition to this right column being difficult to use, I’ve found that the edges of the screen are difficult to use with a case on. I find myself posting my finger against the leather to press screen buttons and struggling. A millimetre of difference on location of icons would settle the problem.
     
    On positives, the Play store is fully and correctly integrated, unlike the upcoming Echobox Explorer or current Astell & Kern players. However, when using Google Play store, app downloads stalled if I tried to do more than one at a time. So take it nice and slow installing apps. Standard Android options are accessed how you would expect to access them, through a pull-down screen at the top. This pull down menu is also where you change the USB mode—this is how you use the USB DAC function, and is a place to quickly change gain settings. Additional settings, including: third-party applications (Play store), music scan, equalizer (10 band graphic) with cool curve display, sleep time (think old-school music playing alarm clocks), music settings (wealth of settings here), and an ‘about’ section; are found by swiping to from left to right. Most of these little tabs are pretty straightforward. Music settings has lots of options in it. You can change gain, digital filters (I pretty much always just use slow roll off), DSD gain compensation (+6dB is industry default), change SPDIF out from DoP to conversion, and a number of other settings that are pretty self-explanatory.
     
    Something I really miss on the OS implementation, a back button and an active app display button. These are standard Android features and I found it baffling to be reduced to iOS-esque single button operation. There were no hardware or software buttons for these, and software buttons should really be implemented. The DAP doesn’t quite feel like Android due to these being missing and other skinning that has been done.
     

    Other Features

    The i5 features Bluetooth. I conferred with Andy about this and he indicated that it is Bluetooth 2.1, a quite out of date Bluetooth. In practice, I found that the Bluetooth was generally stable, and sounded decent, but did experience some drop-outs and judders. Whilst the Bluetooth version can’t be changed on this player, Andy told me that future DAPs from Cayin will have more up to date Bluetooth. One of my best Bluetooth dongles is 2.1 and non-aptX, so I people shouldn't expect a downgrade in sound quality because of the difference between aptX, Bluetooth 4.0, etc... I've written a bunch of Bluetooth headphone reviews, so I'd have a look at my review index, if you want more information.
     
    When using WiFi, I found that the antenna was very weak. At the same distance from the router, my Note 2 gets five bars whilst the i5 only gets two bars. This weakness on WiFi was evident in interruptions in playback. Additionally, when using Tidal the controls were reversed for going forward and backward between tracks in a playlist. I also had some times when playback just stopped for no reason. With the Bandcamp app, I had some similar problems. Sometimes playback would stop, and I’d have to restart playback or restart the app entirely.
     
    The i5 has my most loved feature in a DAP, the ability to act as a stand-alone DAC. I think that this should become a standard feature of all DAPs, but I can imagine that implementation is difficult, especially with an Android based DAP. The implementation on the i5 was pretty seamless. No problems with driver signing, just go to their webpage and install the driver on the computer (for Windows, didn’t try on Mac or Linux). To use the i5 as a USB DAC, you then need to slide down the top menu (standard placement of Android menu) and change the USB mode to DAC. In order for this to work the DAP needs to have firmware 2.0 or later. I really like that Cayin responded to customer requests and added this feature.
     
    In addition to having the USB DAC function, the i5 also lists USB OTG as a feature and have included a small adapter to allow use of standard OTG cables. In the OS, the files view breaks down storage locations and shows USB OTG drives separately. I really like having the ability to expand storage beyond the players capabilities. Unfortunately, the OTG doesn’t just work when you plug in a drive. I tried a 128GB drive that works on my DX50, and it didn’t immediately add the tracks to the external storage. When just plugging it in gave me no joy I tried rescanning my library with it plugged in—no joy. I also did the same attempt with a  microSD card reader plugged into my USB OTG cable (this also works on DX50), and I still got no joy. So, on paper, this has USB OTG, which I like. In practice, I couldn’t get it to work.
     
    As soon as I got the player, I was struck by the features, but also keenly aware that this player is not meant to be their flagship. It’s missing big internal storage. The Bluetooth is out of date. Unlike their other players, there is no balanced output. The OS isn’t perfected yet. I think that they’ll have another player out this or next year that will be an under $1000 flagship. We’ll see what the future holds for Cayin.
     

    Audio quality

    The i5 has excellent audio quality, but it takes a bit of time to get there. When I got the i5 it sounded too warm for me, like woollen blanket worn as a cape/cocoon round the house warm. The warmth inhibited detail and didn’t get the most out of the always impressive AK4490 DAC chip. I was disappointed and expressed this to @AndyKong. Andy told me to be patient, that the analogue circuit takes a while to settle and this is why he generally gives the first person on the tour two weeks time to audition—it needs 200 hours of burn in, he said. I don’t know about 200 hours, but I can certainly say that it opened up after 100 hours or so—I didn’t time the change as I generally don’t expect DAPs to need burn-in. After this approximate point the warmth subsided to a pleasant light touch, like a cozy pair of slippers rather than a full body enrobement. The treble also opened up and the soundstage expanded (these are correlated, as soundstage is basically all in the treble). Whereas before the details were veiled by a woollen blanket, they are now readily apparent. I really like the sound now. The sound is a softly warmed neutral, which means that there really isn’t much to talk about tonally.
    When I plugged in the UERR with the Cayin i5 for the first time after it opened up, it was probably the best I’ve heard them sound in single ended operation since I got them. It really exposes how limited the DX50 is in comparison. One thing that I noted with the i5 is it hasn’t hissed on me. The Noble Kaiser 10 Encore (K10E) hisses on a lot of sources, but not on the i5. The UERR rarely hisses, but it does sometimes—not on the i5. I’ve spent a lot of time with both the UERR and the K10E on the i5 and I find myself having difficulty taking the headphones out of my ears when I have it on. The Trinity Audio Phantom Master 4 plays very nice with the i5 also.
     
    The soundstage on these is large and well-defined after the burn in phase. Instruments operate well in space with good detail. The width is especially impressive.
     

    Comparisons

    Comparisons were done using the UERR for reference volume matched at 72dB. I find that the UERR is louder in ear than universals, which I usually match at 78dB. I made comparisons to the Aune M1S, HiFiMan SuperMini and iBasso DX50 in single ended mode. White noise is random, so there isn’t a set dB level, which means that my dB measurements are objectively monitored but subjectively averaged over a period of observation. I also compared the balanced operation of the Aune M1S and HiFiMAN SuperMini to the single ended operation of the i5 using a 2.5mm  TRRS to 3.5mm TRS adapter from Venture Electronics and a DIY 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm TRRS adaptor made by my friendly local wire and amp wizard. I have the UERR official Ultimate Ears balanced cable. I also made comparisons using the Noble K10E with the Effect Audio Ares II+ balanced cable using the same adaptors. Comparisons using the K10E were done with volume matching at 78dB, my standard listening level. The table below gives my settings information.
     
    DAP
    Headphone4
    Gain setting
    Volume
    DAP number (~dB)
    Single Ended
    Cayin i5
    UERR
    LdB
    39 (72.2)
    DX50
    UERR
    Middle
    213 (72.1)
    Aune M1S (firmware 1.03)
    UERR
    Middle
    70 (72.0)
    HiFiMAN SuperMini
    UERR
    --
    21 (72.5)
    Balanced
    Cayin i5 (single ended)1
    Noble K10E
    LdB
    33 (78)
    Aune M1S2
    Noble K10E
    Low
    69 (78)
    HiFiMAN SuperMini3
    Noble K10E
    --
    16 (77.2)
    Cayin i5 (single ended)1
    UERR
    LdB
    38 (71.7)
    Aune M1S2
    UERR
    Middle
    58 (71.8)
    HiFiMAN SuperMini3
    UERR
    --
    18 (72.3)
    Cayin i5
    Sennheiser HD600
    HdB
    57 (77.7)
    HiFiMAN SuperMini
    Sennheiser HD600
    --
    27 (77.7)
    UERR Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered, K10E Noble Kaiser 10 Encore
    1With Venture Electronics 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm TRS adaptor
    22.5mm TRRS cable
    3With Venture Electronics 2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm TRRS adaptor
    4UERR with Ultimate Ears stock 2.5mm TRRS cable, Noble K10E with Effect Audio Ares II+ 2.5mm TRRS

     

    iBasso DX50

    The DX50 soundstage has generally performed well in my tests, but comparing to the i5 the soundstage doesn’t have the depth or width that the i5 has. The i5 is also more neutral. The DX50 pushes mids a bit forward, the i5 doesn’t do that. Colouration on the i5 is more neutral. The i5 wins this audio duel with more natural presentation and impressive synergy with the UERR. With the Noble K10E, I have already determined that the iBasso DX50 doesn’t do excellent. Nothing makes the K10E sound bad, but it also doesn’t sound its best. On the DX50 I get hiss and don’t get the excellent soundstage that the Noble K10E is capable of outputting.
     
    The DX50 is no longer in production, but its successors are reputed to be very good (haven’t heard them yet). The DX50, as mentioned earlier, has functional USB OTG. It also has a good OS with excellent physical buttons. The overall fit and finish of the i5 are easily better than the DX50. The DX50 does have that lovely removable battery. That is a feature that will be missed going forward. My wife's S3 just died, so now I have four DX50 batteries.
     

    Aune M1S

    The M1S has a similar tonality. On Pink Floyd – On the Run, the two players are very similar in presentation of stage, but the i5 has a bit better definition on the train announcement near the beginning of the track and in general. Stage height is a little better on the M1S. On Pink Floyd – Time, the clocks are more in your face and instrument separation is greater, the stage is also wider and deeper. The drums are bigger and bolder through the i5, there may be a little lift in this frequency range as the drums are further back in the stage on the M1S compared to the i5. Both have good full sounds to the drums, but the i5 is fuller in single-ended. When switched to balanced mode, the M1S pulls ahead with bigger stage and better definition.
     
    The Aune M1S, like the i5 doesn’t hiss with the Noble K10E. With the Noble K10E and some good old Surfer Rosa highlights, Where is My Mind, the Aune M1S has a touch more subtlety with the restrained almost hiding male almost echo muttering backing vocals, but it doesn’t have quite the same amplitude on the ethereal female vocals. It climbs, but not quite to the height of the i5. The stage is significantly wider and a bit deeper on the M1S. Both sound amazing. The Aune M1S is about to get promoted to daily driver for a bit, both for the sound, and because I have to push this i5 on to @Ithilstone so he can get his review on.
     
    The Aune M1S has a similar library scan speed, but doesn’t have any frills in the OS. It is black on white text with folder based browsing and rudimentary playlist making (limited to favourites). It is easily the least featured. It has the excellent volume control with three gain settings and clear distortionless micro-adjustments. The Aune also suffers from a bit of bugginess right now as the firmware is a work in process. Aune is working very  quickly, but there is still work to do. I think this will dance a bit more when the firmware is all sorted, it already sings beautifully. I narrowly prefer the sound of the M1S and like that it has a 2.5mm balanced jack, but every other comparison goes to the i5.
     

    HiFiMAN SuperMini

    The soundstage on the SuperMini isn’t the match of the M1S or the i5 in size, but it is just as well defined as either. The OS on the SuperMini doesn’t compete with the i5, but easily bests the M1S. The SuperMini doesn’t have adjustable gain and has one of the worst volume controls I’ve ever seen on a DAP, 32 steps is bad—it’s iPhone volume levels bad. It does drive the HD600 well, which, to my surprise, the i5 does pretty well too. I am getting a little bit more noise on the i5 and a little smaller sound stage and less dynamic sound.  The SuperMini drives the HD600 more cleanly and with a bit fuller sound. The i5 will do in a pinch for a 300 ohm headphone, but the SuperMini does it better. I also tested the HD800 on the SuperMini last weekend, it did an impressive job—a dedicated amp is necessary to really make the HD800 shine to its full solar flare brightness potential (I mean that in a good way). Unfortunately, I didn’t also test the HD800 on the i5. In my experience the HD800 is easier to drive but needs an amp that matches well to sound its best.
     
    With the Noble K10E, the SuperMini hisses, like many DAPs. It also has a more muted sound and a smaller stage than its two primary competitors in the i5 and the M1S. Because of a little bit of veiling the dude-quiet vocals don’t pop out from hiding as much. The amplitude of the female vocal doesn’t reach the aeries of the i5 or the M1S. Again, you can’t make the Noble K10E sound bad in my experience, but the SuperMini wasn’t competitive versus the i5 or M1S here.
     

    Conclusions

    The i5 is deserving of all the laurels thrown at it this year. It projects a big stage with an inviting subtle warmth to its neutral tonality. It isn’t a detail king, but it surely won’t disappoint. The caveat is that all these laudible audibles require patience. The first 100 or more hours may sound warm and a bit closed in. If that is the sound you are looking for, you will be disappointed when the sound butterflies with a vengeance. Why do you like that caterpillar so much anyway?
     
    PICT0031.jpg
     
    When it comes to all the bells and whistles that come with an excellent DAP these days, the i5 has a USB DAC function, it has multiple gain settings and lots of play and power in the volume adjustments, it has Android with access to the Play Store, it has WiFi and Bluetooth, it has excellent battery life and an extremely clean and silent output. It is one of the best all around players under $500, and people need to check it out. It does have some fierce competition going forward this year, though, so we all should stay tuned.
      peter123 and eldss like this.
    1. PinkyPowers
      Impressive review. I like your sense of humor.
      PinkyPowers, Jan 18, 2017
    2. ngoshawk
      Good review. Glad my thoughts match yours and Pinky's. It is quite a unit, and I still think about it quite often. And yes, I believe!
      ngoshawk, Jan 18, 2017
    3. Kavalier
      Great review Glassmonkey, your sense of humor definitely mantained me hooked in every word you wrote, also very detailed. The I5 definitely deserves the attention it is getting, and yes we´ll see how it performs against the competition!
      Kavalier, Jan 19, 2017
  9. Voxata
    Cayin i5, a modern and sophisticated player with only a few drawbacks
    Written by Voxata
    Published Jan 18, 2017
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Metal body, 4490 DAC with a sturdy volume knob based on Android
    Cons - Plastic screen, still needs an external amp for 250+ Ohm headphones.
        Today is my long overdue review of the Cayin i5. I had trouble getting this review complete due to a holiday emergency and a slow recovery however, better late than never. 
    *disclaimer* I've received this unit on a tour for a week in exchange for my honest opinion. I am not affiliated with Cayin nor am I being compensated in any way so the following will be unbiased, honest and true to my experience with the i5.
     
    i52.jpg
     
      
        Looking at the build quality both impresses and also leaves things to be desired. Here we've got a great metal feel with a solid weight in hand. Excellent looking carbon fiber on the back and the volume knob is firm and robust. There is an elephant in the visual room though and that is the decision to use a plastic based screen that will become completely marred after little use. I received the unit scratched thoroughly.. There are a couple of screen protectors in the box so if you get an i5 apply one immediately. Including them however is a nice touch. Nevertheless, for a product at this price level I'd be wanting glass.
     
    i51.jpg
     
     
        When it comes to sound quality I must say that mobile units still are not up to taking on the desk, however, they keep getting closer that is for sure. That said, my headphone inventory is fairly hungry. I've tested the 650, HE-400i and DT770 with this DAP. I wouldn't recommend the 6XX series of headphones without a serious amp addition. The 400i was borderline, however sounded good considering. The DT770 sounded great. There is a lot more to amp needs than volume. Sure, the 650 got loud however it was also flat and lacked dynamics/punch with clipping. As such my testing was primarily with the 770 and 400i. 
     
    i54.jpg
     
     
        Listening sessions were impressive for a mobile unit. Sure, I'm spoiled at the desk using BAL and HE-560's but.. one has to have a decent portable rig to enjoy too right? The i5 fits right in there with its small size, enjoyable listen and with its android powered core it is quite the flexible and capable player. I have mixed feelings at times with the 4490's bloom however on my headphones it wasn't detracting. The sound stage was just right. Details were there with a bit of a warm touch to keep things smooth, which I believe is important on a mobile unit. The DAC section is done right.
        There was a bit to be desired when it came to dynamics and experiencing sound coming out of nowhere with depth and authority. I'd mostly attribute this to the need of a stronger amp. If you've got more efficient headphones I doubt this will be an issue for you but.. for me, I added the Jotunheim into the mix just to test my theory. Once I did this, I was pretty impressed. This wasn't a notch below my old 4490 DAC which was excellent as I'd really have to hunt hard track down the differences. The sound stage lifted and authority came through in troves as well. Again, this is only an issue if you are like me and have an inventory of power hungry headphones.
                                                                                                                                  
        If I were to add one of Cayin's portable amps to this equation I'm fairly certain I would be very satisfied with my full range of headphones, as exhibited by using the i5 as purely a DAC. Overall, I enjoy the player.. If it had a more quality screen cover and a bit more oomph, it'd be a quick buy in my book. However, if you own more efficient pairs of headphones, IEMs or the like the i5 is quite the compelling buy. The SQ is smooth and fantastic, with an engaging enjoyable listen which really is the point of a mobile player in my opinion. Many mobile players go down the detail hunting track which really kills a few less than well mastered songs. Leaving you skipping tracks to find something enjoyable. The i5 sits in the middle, still giving you detail but not throwing it into your face.. This is a very good decision on their part.
         I've not looked towards Cayin for possible purchases yet, however with this unit and given they are quite receptive to feedback I'll be keeping an eye open in their direction for sure. Also worth noting battery life was solid and depends on how much time you use the screen, as it is a sizable one. Firmware was a bit groggy (it was also very expansive), however since the unit had not been out long I'm fairly certain they've ironed those issues out nicely. 
  10. howdy
    Very well thought out DAP!!
    Written by howdy
    Published Jan 15, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Size, UI, placement of buttons and layout of screen. Oh, and did I mention the Sound!
    Cons - Might be warm for some and 1 mSD.
                                                                                                              Cayin i5
                                     20161207_2052321.jpg         
     
     
    I always start out with that Im a 43 year old man with average hearing loss for someone my age. I think Im still able to hear little subtle differences in sound. I was not able to spend a LOT of time with the device as I like many others here is married with kids and it can be hard at times to find time to myself to be able to quit listening. 
     
    Thank you to @Andykong for organizing this tour and the Awesome support you give on the threads! Its still rare to see someone from a company to answer all of our questions.
     
    Well lets get started, this will not be a lengthy review as I like to get to the point and never over exaggerate. 
     
                                                                                      
     
     
    Boxing
     
    Im not a big fan of boxes and how it comes to me as long as the unit is protected when in shipment. So here hold high regard to how well its packaged, I will say is there was time and thought put in to it and looks like most of the packaging that higher end DAPs come in. The unit came with everything you will need to get started.
     
    Comparisons
     
    I have a Onkyo DP-X1, Chord Mojo with FiiO X3ii and a Opus#1. Headphones used were Alclair RSM CIEMs, DUNU DN2000j and Oppo PM3 with a SE and Balanced connectors. It seems over the years my personal collection by far getting smaller compared to when I first stated this expensive hobby. So all listen and comparisons where done with  the aforementioned.
     
    Sound and DAP
     
                                                                                                            20161207_2053481.jpg  
     
     
     
    I have read other reviews and have read the thread quite a bit but did not contribute much as for questions and or adding but had always kept in touch with the thread, In real life Im generally a man of few words as I like to get to the point. I had read a some say that the DAP has some UI issues and I do agree a bit but, for the most part the unit worked flawless for me and always did what I wanted sometimes it could be a bit slow to respond but I really liked the way everything was laid out and how to just overall nevigate. I also like the main page where you could see what drive you where listening to and that you could click from there. I am a subscriber to Tidal Hifi and unfortunately did not use this feature, I wish I had as that is one main source I like to use a lot, but I do have 3TBs of my own music but Im lazy and hardly switch my music around. This would be a great reason that Cayin (and ALL other manufactures) should have 2 or more mSD cards so that we can just put all of our music on there.
     
    My main music that I listen to is classic rock, Zepplin, Floyd,Rush and Eric Clapton but also, Pantera, Hollywood Undead and everything in between. I also like BB king and some blues.
    With all that said, I think being that the i5 tilts on the warmer side compared to my sources mentioned the i5 excels with older rock, blues and brass. This does not mean that it wouldn't work for all genres as it definitely will. I have rigs that I like to keep paired up and thats how they stay (maybe a OCD) but the Mojo/X3ii are used with my CIEMs and the Opus is used DUNU, I use the DP-X1 with my CIEMs to. 
     
    The i5 is a DAP that you could load up with some of your favorite rock find a spot on the couch with the fire on and just veg out for hours! It is non-fatiguing and is easily listenable for hours on end.  DAPS that accentuate detail are generally hard on the ears and can get tiring within short periods is no fun for longer periods of listening.
     
                                                                                                          20161207_2054341.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
    During my many short periods of listening and comparing I enjoyed the i5 more with my CIEM then my other IEMs and I did use my PM3s quite a few times. With my CIEMs which are fairly neutral they seemed to balance each other while listen to some Eric Clapton and the Eagles and all though the i5 is on the warmer side it does have really good detail and does not get over powered by the warmth. My DP-X1 has some really good detail in just about all genres but would not be classified as fun like I would consider the i5 to be. My Opus and Mojo have great detail and can be listened to for a long periods of time but it would not be as fun as the i5 if that makes sense. This might not be as much as some would hope for in a definition of what the player can do but, it heads you in the right direction. Its a great player, and I think its only downfall may only be the battery life seems a bit short but to be fair I was playing around a lot with it while the screen was on and Im one who usually pushes play-shuffle and sticks it in my pocket to enjoy what a DAPs main function is and that is to enjoy the music!
     
    I do wish that I had more time with these Tour units, sometimes a week to 10 days is never enough time to do a great review, I wish that I was able to pair this up with my Mojo as now Im looking for a better Android based device that can utilize Tidal. I think the next iteration of the i5 should be similiar to what it has now but with 2 or even better 4 mSD or a dual SDHC so that it would be able to hold 1 TB of music. All these DAPs that are meant to utilze offline music storage need to have dual slots as 1 card needs to be allocated to your Tidal Spotify or what ever you are using, also, Im sure no one likes swapping cards in and out all of the time.
     
    This review might be a little over the place but you get my drift, if you are thinking about getting this player do not heitate, it is a great player and Cayin thanks for letting me try out your device.
    1. emptymt
      Nice Review! totally agree with it being fun
      emptymt, Jan 15, 2017
    2. Andykong
      Glad you like the i5, and I hope you have the opportunity to try out the i5 with your Mojo sometime when the USB Audio out feature is available.

      I have mentioned in one of my exchanges with another Tour reviewer that Cayin has spend a lot of effort to balance between details and warm sound signature, looks like this effort is paying off, you can check out the original discussion as follows:
      http://www.head-fi.org/t/802382/cayin-i5-lossless-android-dap-with-akm4490-dac-supporting-32-384-pcm-64-128-dsd/2460#post_13140307
      Andykong, Jan 23, 2017

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