Cayin i5

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.

Picture are default 1200 x 800 resolution - click (photos in tables) to view larger images.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.

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.

Charging and USB-C to Coax cablesi5 in provided caseButtons are recessed
(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
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

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.

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.

Top – hp and line-out sockets + vol controlRear – carbon fibre lookClassy looking DAP
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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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!

Home screenAlbum viewArtist viewGenre View SongView
Frequently playedNow playingVU MeterAccess to settings Equaliser
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]


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


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 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
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
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)
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
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.


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.


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
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
Supported Formats10102.50%0.25
3rd Party Apps4102.50%0.10



100+ Head-Fier
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
I got this unit as part of New Zealand tour arranged by @Brooko & @Andykong, thank you very much for including me in this tour :)
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.
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 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.
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.


twister6 Reviews
Headphoneus Supremus
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

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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 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!!!


Headphoneus Supremus
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
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.


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
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.
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.
The case in 4 parts , with all the trimmings . Pictured below is a decent gauge USB C cable and an instruction manual.
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 crudeIMG_20170228_115927576.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 M1SIMG_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.


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 problemIMG_20170228_120223285.jpg
Pradeep A
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 ?
Thanks -  11 hours normal 10 hrs through WiFi


Reviewer: Audio Rabbit Hole
Pros: Smooth, Non-fatiguing and Powerful
Cons: Frustrating little gremlins abound
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
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 
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.
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. 

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.
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.
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.
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's sound.
You make me want to hear this fully burned-in i5.
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.
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.


100+ Head-Fier
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.

  • Like
Reactions: hqssui
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The left side has a power button (and that’s it).
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).
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.
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.
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:
*Favourite Songs
*Frequently Played
*Frequently Played
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.
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.
Downloaded apps appear in the next folder. Here you can also access the Android market. Wifi is required.
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.
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.
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.  
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.

Thanks for reading and happy listening!
I don't think google music streams cd quality, I think it is maxed at 320kbps mp3, unless it has changed very recently.
I love how it has the balanced outs.
@br4lin, the i5 does not have balanced outputs.
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


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.


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.
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.
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.
DAC Chip
AKM AK4490
Amp and volume chips
PGA2311 (volume)
AD712 (amp)
OPA1652 (amp)
BUF634 (amp)
3.97" IPS touch screen
Phone out (3.5mm),
Line out (3.5mm), Bluetooth (version), Digital out via USB-C
32GB (internal eMMC), expandable via single microSD (200gb, listed maximum)
USB 3.1 C (Super Speed)
USB OTG Supported
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
64mm x 126mm x 14mm
Net Weight
195 g
Headphone Impedance Range
8-300Ω (recommended)
Power rating
190mW+190mW (@32Ω)
Frequency Response
20-20kHz (±0.2dB, Fs=192kHz)
5-50kHz (±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
0.006% (1kHz, Fs=44.1kHz; 20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
Dynamic Range
108dB (20Hz-20kH, A-Weighted)
108dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
Output Impedance
LINE OUT                
Output Level
1.0V (@10kΩ)
Frequency Response

0.005%  (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz; 20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
Dynamic Range
108dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
108dB (20Hz-20kHz, A-Weighted)
USB DAC                
USB Mode
Asynchronous USB Audio Class 2.0
Up to DSD128
Up to  384kHz/32Bit
Support (Driver required)
Not Supported
Not Supported
MusicFormatLocal Storage                
Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
Support16-32bits, Fast/Normal /High/Extra High compression level
Up to 384kHz/32bit
Up to 384kHz/32bit
Up to 384kHz/32bit
Up to 384kHz/32bit
Up to 96kHz/24bit
WMA Lossless
Up to 96kHz/24bit
Up to 48kHz/16bit
Up to 48kHz/16bit
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)


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.


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.


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.

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.
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 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.
Gain setting
DAP number (~dB)
Single Ended
Cayin i5
39 (72.2)
213 (72.1)
Aune M1S (firmware 1.03)
70 (72.0)
HiFiMAN SuperMini
21 (72.5)
Cayin i5 (single ended)1
Noble K10E
33 (78)
Aune M1S2
Noble K10E
69 (78)
HiFiMAN SuperMini3
Noble K10E
16 (77.2)
Cayin i5 (single ended)1
38 (71.7)
Aune M1S2
58 (71.8)
HiFiMAN SuperMini3
18 (72.3)
Cayin i5
Sennheiser HD600
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.


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?
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.
  • Like
Reactions: peter123 and eldss
Impressive review. I like your sense of humor.
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!
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!


1000+ Head-Fier
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.
    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.
    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. 
    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. 


Headphoneus Supremus
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
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. 
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.
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
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.
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.
Nice Review! totally agree with it being fun
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:


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Physical media controls, overall graphic user interface, smooth sound, easy-to-use, power output
Cons: Heavy, asynchronous USB buffer, carbon fibre aesthetics (though it might just be me)
Here are my impressions of the i5 [copied from my original post here].

Disclaimer: I was a participant of one of the product tours for the i5, as arranged by Andykong, so a big thank you needs to be given to him for letting me join the listening tour!

Just as the same with Cayin's iDAC-6, the i5 seems to be a top-notch product in my opinion, and I would easily recommend it to those looking for a sub-$1000 portable media player.

Product Score Summary:
Value: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Battery Life: 4.5/5
User Interface: 5/5
Overall: 4.4/5

5/5 rating

I wanted to start off with the user interface. To me personally, the user interface of a portable media player is the #1 priority, so it is impeccable that such a device has a really usable interface both in graphical user interface and hardware.

BAM! Enter the i5!
No, the user interface is not perfect, but it's really darn good, and I'd consider it perfect compared to other products I've tried. Despite it running an older version of Android, it runs smoothly on the i5's hardware, which isn't a trivial detail considering other media players out there.

Navigation is simple and intuitive in the graphical user interface. The only problem I ran across was connecting to a local WiFi network and not being able to use the Dropbox feature (it said the link was invalid).

Using Android's quick settings by dragging your finger from the top of the screen, you have access to many useful settings, including screen brightness, WiFi, Gain, USB DAC mode, etc.. One thing I might suggest in a future firmware version is to include an option to toggle the filters of the i5 (of which there are 5), or if not filters, the general audio settings (perhaps a "More Settings" button can be added to the currently available gain options menu).

Even the Now Playing screen is well laid out. Instead of a traditional straight-line timeline seeker for the current audio track, the timeline seeker is in a circular fashion right outside of the play/pause button. I've never seen the seeker laid out like this before, but it's easily accessible with 1-hand controls, and as a person with small hands, that is always appreciated. The playlist playback mode is controlled with an on-screen scrolling mechanism, so you don't need to keep pressing the button to change the mode if you accidentally skip past it.

The software's volume control is also really convenient if you need to adjust the volume quickly. Just turn the physical volume knob, and adjust the volume on the screen by sliding your finger up/down.

Speaking of the physical controls though, the i5 only has 4 buttons, and it's the only 4 buttons you'll need: FF/RW/Play-Pause/Power. Simple, easy-to-locate, have nice tactile feedback. The volume knob has a lot of resistance (while still being silky smooth in terms of operation), so it won't turn easily in your pocket unless you have tight-fitting clothing and you slide the i5 in one of those pockets.

As an aside, although I don't think it matters much, but when I used the i5 as a USB DAC, even if I was playing 16/44.1 CD-quality files, the i5 would show 24-bits on the display.

4/5 Rating [Design]
4.5/5 Rating [Battery Life]

^ When the i5's screen turns off, it has this kind of retro TV shut down animation. Small things like this in the i5's graphical user interface make it noteworthy, in a good way, since nothing appears to be stock Android in the software and it makes for a unique experience for the user.

The only really big gripe I have for the i5 is its weight. This thing is like a brick both in terms of its size and its mass. The size I don't mind too much as it fits in my pocket just fine, but the weight does feel odd. In your hand, I found the i5 to be a bit top-heavy, presumably because of the volume knob(?).

Although I give a thumbs up to the direction of using USB C for devices, it hasn't quite been widely adopted yet, so if you lose the included USB C cable, you're likely stuck having to buy another cable. One thing I don't like about the USB DAC implementation is the asynchronous USB buffer: it seems to delay audio by 0.5-1 second when playing a regular video or audio stream, which means this device also isn't completely ideal if you're working on something that requires precise audio timing such as editing audio and/or video.

Outside of these things, the i5 feels really rock-solid in terms of build. As mentioned before, the physical media buttons are easy to access and the volume knob's resistance makes it nice to prevent large accidental volume changes when in a pocket.

Although this is just my opinion, I think the carbon fiber (and carbon fiber on consumer electronics in general) on the back looks a bit tacky. A pure black backing would have looked a lot nicer to me, like the Questyle QP1R (simple and sleek).

In terms of the battery life, I never did a complete battery drain. I did manage to get around 5 hours of playback during one listening session and there was about 60% battery left before I started to charge it, so the rated 11 hours of playback seems reasonable to extrapolate, which is very reasonable.

While I had the i5 in my pocket, the device did not become super warm when playing PCM, which is good to see. I've encountered a few portable media players that get uncomfortably warm in my pocket.

Throughout the duration of my time with the i5, I spent the majority of it using it as a portable media player walking around the neighborhood or city with the Etymotic ER4-SR or OPPO PM-3. I did use it at home as a USB DAC for my STAX SRS-2170, and as a USB DAC/amp for my AKG K701 just to test out though. My favorite pairing was with, by far, the ER4-SR.

I honestly couldn't really hear much of a difference at all between all of the available 5 digital filters that the i5 has to offer, but I did settle on the short delay sharp roll-off (this might be a minimum phase digital filter). Ironically, I settled on the same filter for my iDAC-6 review, so there's that going for it.

I'll keep this section short and to-the-point. I've generally liked the sound of DACs featuring AKM DAC chips and the i5 is no exception. The i5 as a whole has an overall warm sound signature to it (warm upper-bass/lower-midrange, and a smooth but soft treble), which makes it ideal to be paired with brighter headphones and used for mobile listening. It has both a musical characteristic due to its warmth, but still manages to be resolving and high-fidelity.

In terms of presentation, I thought the i5 sounded a bit congested in soundstage, but it has good instrument separation and imaging.

Really, I couldn't pick out a specific thing that the i5 did well or bad in terms of sound. I was able to just enjoy the music without having to worry about the sound quality, which is not something that I come across very often in this industry. When using the i5 as a USB DAC, the richness and hint of warmth from the i5 made the ER4-SR sound a bit more like the ER4-XR to me, adding just a bit of that musical enjoyment to the lower frequencies of my music.

At low-gain, 10/100 volume, the i5 had plenty of power to adequately power the ER4-SR, and no background hiss, so I don't think power is something to worry about for 99% of the people out there.

4.5/5 Rating

As a whole, I think the i5 is a near-perfect device for a portable media player. It manages to do well in many of the criteria I demand out of a media player that I would use for mobile listening sessions. Minus the weight of the i5, I really cannot think of a sub $1000 portable media player that I would recommend as a whole for the criteria above, and that is a huge accomplishment of the i5 I think. Both the sound quality and the user interface are among the best I've encountered in a portable media device, and having that all packed into one unit makes it a bargain for the MSRP.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Dynamic punchy bass, Smooth Sweet froward mids, Smooth treble, overall clarity, battery life, features, build, value
Cons: 1 microSD slot, treble could be a bit too laid back on some tracks, not for bassy IEMs
Hi everyone, Before I start the review, I would like to thank Cayin for making this awesome DAP at an affordable price, and also to @Andykong for organizing the tour.
This review will focus on the sound quality and not so much about other aspects, so I'll make the other sections as brief as possible.
I'm an Indonesian working as a Web Developer in Melbourne, Australia.
Other than programming/coding, listening to music is another one of my hobby.
When I start my headphone hobby, music listening has been a very rewarding experience for me and has helped me in many aspects of life other than music enjoyment, although, with the booming price of high end headphones/IEM, etc at the moment, it has become a bit of a heavy hit on my wallet >_<.
Starting from almost 2 years ago I've been really hooked in metal music, and nowadays my everyday music listening always incorporate metal tracks, I guess you can call me a Metalhead but I don't know about that, I also listen to other genres occasionally.

I don't actually listen to all kinds of music, lets say for example Classical, therefore it is important to understand that this review is based on my observation on the kinds of musics I like, and those are mainly:
- Metal (many kinds, mainly the extreme kind, everyday anytime anywhere)
- Rock (mostly Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Radiohead or something like it)
- Pop (90s stuff, rarely)
- EDM (Mostly trance and it's sub-genres)
- Jazz (Norah Jones, Diana Krall and the likes)
- Indonesian Song (it's basically the Indonesian version of pop or rock, guitar is used all the time, sounds natural and relaxing, however, mastering of the song is not very good, this is good to test how good a headphone/Iem handle poorly recorded material)
- JPOP and JROCK/Visual Kei, whatever you call it (mostly the older stuff)
I used the Cayin I5 for about a week not including transit times everyday at work and at home on weekend, I will also make some comparisons to my Ak Jr DAP.
- Shozy Stardust
- Meze 99 Classic
- MrSpeakers Ether Flow
- Campfire Audio Vega (1 day only, lol not enough time)
- Cavalli Liquid Carbon (Cayin I5 as DAC)
- AK Jr
- Chord Mojo
the box is black with white cover with the picture of the player itself, opening the box you are greated with the player nicely guarded with thick foam at the top and the accessories at the bottom.
my unit come with screen protectors, one with information in it explaing the buttons on the player, very nice touch here.
USB c to usb cable
micro usb to usb c adaptor
Thick brown leather case
Coaxial cable
The Cayin I5
The Build Quality is very nice, nice paint colouring for the unit with sturdy construction.
It is a little thick, but it has excellent battery life, so i won't complain about this.
Nice screen with good brightness to be used outdoor very easily.
It has carbon fibre back which is the signature of Cayin products, I personally like this since it looks premium on the device in my opinion.
At the top of the unit you will find a volume wheel at the top right, with very good resistance to prevent un-intentional change while in your pocket. Other than that we have a 3.5mm headphine jack and line out jack.
At the bottom is the USB C port for charging and data transfer duties.
On the right, You will find 1 Micro Sd slot, play/pause button, previous and next button.
On the left is the power button.
All buttons in the unit has good tactile feel and does not feel flimsy at all.
The player itself is very responsive to touch, easy to use with snappy operations.
At the home screen, you will find User, music, playlist(list) and search button at the top and just underneath that your navigation mode.
There are 5 Navigation modes available:
- Folder
- Artist
- Album
- Genre
- Tracks
For Artist, Album, Genre, Tracks to work, you need to scan your library first.
I'm a big fan of Folder navigation since I like to group all my musics in folders based on my preference, so It is very good that Cayin has included this feature.
You can then access you on-board memory or to your sdcard to play your music, there are also Dropbox, Lan and USB flash drive features however I don't usse them at all so I can't comment on their functionality.
If you swipe to the right, you have quick access to your user menu wherever you are in the player, in there you have:
- Third party app (Thanks to android, you install your own in it)
- Music Scan
- Equalizer (not a fan but usefull)
- Sleep Time (usefull to save battery life)
- Music Setting (to set gain, filter, SPDIF out mode, gapless playback, etc)
- About
Sound Quality
The Signatures
The Cayin I5 has a warm musical signature with smooth highs and forward mids. 
It works very well with modern music and my favourite genre (Metal), The bass although quite a bit north of neutral never intrude the mids at all.
The treble is laid back and smooth, sometimes too laid back in some tracks but it is fine most of the time and provides a fatigue-free listening experience.
The Bass
The Bass is big and hits hard with excellent dynamics, extension is very good but it is not the tightest bass I've heard, it has a little bloom in it but this bloom actually works very well and the bass sounds grand and satisfying to the ears.
Despite being a little thick due to the very slight bloom, speed is maintained and has distinction between each drum hits.
This is demonstrated very well in many Death Metal tracks especially in Brutal/Technical Death metal, double blast beat hits strong and fast with excellent rumble and distinction on each hits.
On EDM tracks, the bass extension down to the sub-bass is well extended and does a very good job to provide a very enjoyable experience.
I'm not a basshead but I feel that basshead will enjoy this DAP a lot due to it's excellent bass performance.
The Mids
The mids is smooth and is on the intimate side. Clarity of the mids is very good without any sibilance and just flows naturally with the music seamlessly.
Like the bass, the mids are a little thick and lush. 
Screaming and growling vocals in metal track are intimate and smooth (I know right, it is harsh vocals but it's smooth as well, lol). The intimacy adds to the emotion and feel of the tracks, amplifying the rage and anguish of the song without sounding veiled in any way.
On Jazz Tracks like Norah Jones, the lushness of the DAP helps in this regard, you can feel the slight warm and raspness in her voice when she sing the lyrics and all the details of her vocals shine trough very well.
Electric Guitar sounds very smooth while maintaining the edges and bites it needs to bring its rawness out without sounding harsh and artificial.
The Treble
The treble is again, smooth and fatigue free, it still has some spark in it but it is not a bright DAP.
Details are there although it is a bit hard to spot this due to the excellent bass and mids being more forward by a good margin compared to it.
This brings up a point to be asked about this DAP:
"Is the treble too laid back?"
For me, maybe? 
It is true that in some of my metal tracks I have found that some cymbal hits is a bit far back in the background and you will most likely miss it if you don't listen carefully. 
In most songs, it is still laid back however, can still be heard easily albeit still being overshadowed by the bass and mids.
Overall the treble performance is good, however the placement could be a little too laid back for me, whether you like it or not depends on your preference though, some people is really sensitive to treble.
Other point to consider is that the details on treble will usually get drawn out while using it on the go, even if cayin decides to make the I5 brighter and provides more details up top, it is still hard to hear eveything in a noisy transport. 
The Soundstage, Imaging and separations
The soundstage presentation is not very large but it is quite good, imaging is accurate and all the instruments are separated nicely and there is no congestion in the sound.
Shozy Stardust earbud (hi-end earbud)
The tonality of the cayin blends nicely with the stardust signature, the bass hits hard and the mids are lush and very musical sounding, treble is smooth and not fatigueing, more laid back, relax listening experience, then using AK Jr.
Sub-bass is still rolled off due to the nature of earbud since there is no seal to get a good sub-bass.
Details in the treble still pops out here and there and is laid back so the mids being more prominent could potentially take your attention away from it, it is there if you listen to it though.
Mr Speakers Ether Flow
I'm impressed with the power that Cayin I5 provides to power ths planar, I didn't expect the unit to be powerfull enough to drive hi-end planars this well.
Bass gets more boost with some more meat in it and brought forward a little bit, while still being tight with nice dynamics, the snap is there and still maintain the speed even on a blastbeat drum attack with death metal tracks.
Mids is push Forward a bit and has longer decays, the pairing provides some more lushness to the mids providing a more intimate experience(the mids is usually a little bit laid back on the ether flow), details are still there.
Treble gets toned down a bit while still having some edges and sparkles when needed, overall good treble, but the mids and bass get my attention most of the time.
Compared to my usual setup, this pairing is good and would be happy to use the i5 in a pinch, although my usual set up (Mojo -> Liquid Carbon -> Ether Flow) still beats it handily(and it should).
Meze 99 Classics
Best pairing of the bunch IMO, very enjoyable experience.
Bass hits hard and deep with excellent extension, the quantity is definitely north of neutral by a decent amount(combination warm headphone + warm DAP), however it does not disrupt the mids at all. Very meaty and maintains good speed for metal tracks, works very well for metal and EDM.
The bass sounds big and grand and fills up the space just like listening to music in a hall but without the resonance.
Mids is again got pushed forward more and is more of an intimate experience, vocal is lush and decay is a tad longer than my usual combo (AK Jr -> meze 99), however it is very musical and engaging, the edges in screaming and growling vocals is smoothened a bit by the longer decay, but there are still plenty of details to satisfy.
Treble is smooth and laid back, cymbal hits is usually heard at the background behind the bass and mids, it never gets fatigueing (I actually feel that the bass dynamic attack is more fatigueing than the treble in the long run).
I've concluded that in this pairing the treble is a bit too far in the background, despite that I still get the most enjoyable experience out of all the cans when using the DAP alone, still the best pairing.
Campfire Audio Vega
I only have 1 day to use the Cayin I5 -> CA Vega and I'm not sure if the vega that I receive has been burned in or not (I think it's brand new unit as it did sound better later on on my other set-up),so I can't comment much on it. 
Based on my first impressions on it, in my opinion, it is not the best pairing, the Vega already has a north of neutral bass that sounds big in the soundstage(Confirmed this using the AK Jr and Mojo), when you combo this with the Cayin I5 that has similar properties, what you get is super big north of neutral bass that feels a little overblown.
Basshead may love this but I'm not a basshead so this is too much bass for me.
When used as DAC with my Liquid Crabon with Balanced Output to MrSpeakers Ether Flow, I found that the line out functionality of the Cayin I5 still work quite well, however I need to turn the volume knob past 12 o'clock to get decent volume on my flow.
Again the most noticeable effect of this pairing is to the treble, The treble becomes more laid back compared to my ususal mojo->LC set up, this is good for me as the Ether Flow is a tad bright and this can help a bit.
With this set-up I don't have any concern for the treble to be too laid back on some songs. when using the Lc as Amp, the treble is not being toned down as much as using the Cayin alone.
This got me thinking that most likely the amp section of The cayin is the main part that is responsible to that laid-back smooth treble signature.
Onto the sound quality, It is quite good!
The bass still hits hard and have excellent extension, with very good speed.
The mids is still forwarded and smooth with good details on it.
The treble is not as laid aback as when using it alone, which is good. smooth treble without sibilance and fatigue free.
The Soundstage is the biggest improvement, it is simply bigger with better image and separation.
Overall I'd say it is quite good to be used as DAC but there are better options, it does not sound as full and dynamics compared to my mojo when used as DAC, details also come out more on the mojo -> LC combo, so given the choice I will always use the mojo for my DAC on the LC.
The Cayin beats the AK Jr very easily in my opinion. 
The I5's bass has better dynamics and sounds bigger with better extension and clarity, the AK Jr has more neutral bass though.
The I5 has lusher mids that is smooth and emotional, the AK Jr is not as lush and as the i5 but has quicker decays with dryer sounding vocals.
The treble on the I5 is more laid back and smooth, the AK Jr's treble is not as laid back but despite that details does not seem apparent and not as smooth.
Soundstage is about the same, but due to the intimate signature of the Cayin, the Ak Jr sounds a little bigger.
Chord Mojo
Not a DAP, but why not..
Mojo's Bass is tight, accurate and still musical but not as much in quantity compared to the Cayin I5 bloomier bass. 
Mojo's mids expose more details and is only a little bit lush, It is smooth and not as intimate compared to the i5, the I5 goes musical all the way providing Lush intimate smooth mids but not as detailed.
Mojo's treble is not as laid back and again is more detailed compared to the Cayin I5's laid back treble, both offers smooth treble and is not the thin analytical type.
When used as a DAC, the mojo is a better choice due to better implemented line-out sounding fuller, dynamic and detailed with the Liquid Carbon.
In Australia, I can buy this DAP for 599 in DWI, the original retail price is 699 AUD here, and for that amount of money, the Cayin I5 definitely punch above it's weight with excellent performance in the bass and mids.
The pairing needs some consideration as Bassy IEM will not fair well with this DAP due to it's Bass characteristics.
For some who has the meze99 Classic and is looking for a DAP, this is the best pairing I've heard.
It performs well when used as a DAC to desktop AMP, but there are better alternatives for that use case.
Battery life is excellent, but charging time is slow.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Beautiful & solid build, calm & smooth sound, reads any format, wifi enabled
Cons: Long charge time, slight learning curve, doesn't pair well with sensitive c/iems
 This has been a product that I’ve been wanting to try out ever since fellow Head-fier @nmatheis spoke so highly of it; so a couple months ago when I was offered an opportunity at a review, I quickly accepted. So thank you to Cayin for allowing me to spend some time with one of your prestigious products.

I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.
    I'm a 25 year old firefighter, for the City of Concord North Carolina as well as the U.S. Army North Carolina National Guard. The cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.
    My interests/hobbies are power lifting, fishing and relaxing to audio products and reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.
    Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.
    My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.
-Misc. Equipment
    -Audio Purifier/Source cleaner
        -UIT PMP-354P
    -Bowers & Wilkins P7
    -Meze Headphones 99 Classics
    -Empire Ears Hermes VI
    -Sennheiser HD650
    I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.
    The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.

The Opening Experience
    Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short implies to other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.
    As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’
    This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this products introduced itself shall we?
20161223_171141.jpg   20161223_171200.jpg
20161223_171227.jpg   20161223_171302.jpg
    Overall I really liked the “handshake” that Cayin provided. The box holding the i5 is presented in a way that doesn’t wow m but also doesn’t disappoint me either. The front portrays the Cayin i5 in an “action” kind of way that’s off centered with wavy lines in the back drop. I will say that this method does a great job of making the product “pop”. The back is, in my opinion, rather cluttered with quite a bit of showy ‘look what i can do ‘ jargon that largely could’ve been in a welcome pamphlet on the inside.
    Speaking of the inside, once you open the container you’re greeted by a large owner's manual & starting guide, standard stuff, that gives you a pretty good guide of all the features that are present within the Cayin i5. Directly behind that you’re presented with the i5 cleaned, polished and evenly centered. A very beautiful presentation that succeeded in giving me some serious excitement to give it a whirl.
    Finally, bringing up the rear, is inside the i5 holder and is a USB C charging cable (that hopefully becomes the new standard) & a splendidly premium coaxial cable that’s encased in a very strong fiber then to top it off with the Cayin logo printed on each termination.

20161223_164634.jpg   20161223_164714.jpg   
20161223_164845.jpg   20161223_164918.jpg
20161223_164816.jpg   20161223_164859.jpg
    This is an area that no matter what price point it’s in I’m always on edge. More & more & more do companies cut corners & use the absolute bare minimum they can get by with just so they can maximize their bottom line profits.Thankfully I can report that the Cayin i5 doesn’t follow this path; or if they do they sure can cover it up well.
Just lifting the i5 out of its holder I was off put by the weight it has. It isn’t much, if any, larger than any of the other digital audio players (or DAP henceforth)  I’ve reviewed in the past but it does certainly have a weight to it. A fair bit of it is likely due to it being built from high strand aluminum with not easily seeable access points (it’s quite solid in other words).
The top is where you’ll find the 3.5mm line out (to plug into a stereo etc…) & the 3.5mm headphone port as well as the super finessing volume knob.. The front has a 3.5” x 2” touch screen glass along with a home “button” (doesn’t actually press down so is it still technically a button?). The bottom holds the USB C charging port. The right side (while looking at the device) holds the volume & play/pause buttons as well as the claimed up to 200gb microSD card slot (while I can confirm the claimed size I have no larger cards so it may be able to take larger I however was unable to test). The left side side (while facing the device) has the power button. I certainly saved the best for last for this beauty and that’s the back. The back of the Cayin i5 is very trippy (in a good way). It has a wavy block pattern that’s covered with a glass that has the cayin logo and other information on it on top. This combination together makes for a really cool looking illusion that makes it as if the letters on the glass are floating or even drifting on waves, a really cool touch.

Specifications (copied straight from the official Cayin site)
Phone out(3.5mm)
Gun color
64 mm×126 mm×14 mm
Net Weight
195 g
Impedance Range
Power rating
0.006% (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
Dynamic Range
Output Impedance
Line Out                
Output Level
1.0V (@10kΩ)
20-20kHz (±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz)
5-50kHz (±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
0.005% (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
Dynamic Range
USB DAC                
USB Mode
Asynchronized USB Audio 2.0 Class
Up to DSD128
Up to  384kHz/32Bit
Support(Driver required)
Not Support
Not Support
Power Specification                
4800mAh 3.8V Lithium ion polymer
Battery duration
~10 HRS
Charging time
~4.5 HRS (with 2A Charger, not provided)
≤1500mA when charge with 2A Charger,≤500mA when charge with computer USB port
MusicFormat(Local Storage)                
Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
Support16-32bits, Fast/Normal /High/Extra High compression level)
Up to 384kHz/32bit
Up to 384kHz/32bit
Up to 384kHz/32bit
Up to 384kHz/32bit
Up to 96kHz/24bit
WMA Lossless
Up to 96kHz/24bit
Up to 48kHz/16bit
Up to 48kHz/16bit
Up to 48kHz/16bit

    A DAP’s functionality (or ease of use) plays a big factor in how well an individual favors it. Most DAP’s are quite straight forward in their approach and can be learned all but instantly. But most other DAP’s don’t have an Android OS either. The i5 does have a little bit of a learning curve to it and at times, even after becoming familiar with it, it’ll still get to you sometimes.
    For those who familiarize themselves with modern Android flagship devices, the i5 will seem to be a bit sluggish in its response time. This also carries over to the app stores browsing & downloading speeds (to be discussed more in the features section). This isn’t a big deal at all just a small giggle I gave to myself about how spoiled I had become to have to wait an extra whopping .03 seconds (just a thrown out number I didn’t actually measure or count anything). The touchscreen removes the need for directional or control buttons so this does make circumventing the menu screens a bit easier.
The difficult part comes when you want to select a track you want, granted there is a search bar at the top of the page that I’ve become best friends with that allows you to search for a song you’re wanting to hear but say you want to just navigate your available songs (which are even labeled as LQ, SQ, and HQ for low, standard, and high quality sound as well as DSD [direct stream digital]). To the right of the screen gives you letters and, at least for me, makes one think that you can just hit the letter and it’ll teleport you to that section of music. Unfortunately it doesn’t so you’ve got to either use the search button or scroll for however long it takes to find the song you want.
Very few complaints aside, and honestly I believe I was just nit picking for something , I do really like how Cayin has formatted their i5. Does it have a few hiccups? Sure, as does every single DAP I’ve ever reviewed and likely ever will review. But without just nit picking it into the ground I feel they did a very good job incorporating an Android OS into a DAP format.
    Unlike most DAP’s the Cayin i5 has a whole lot more to it than just a fancy way of selecting which song in what folder to play. Oh no, for as said already, the Carin i5 is an Android OS (working on a 4.4 Kitkat update) & with that comes a plethora of extra features that the user, or at least myself, can really utilize.
    The first and coolest of which I took advantage of was the wifi connectivity. Though yes, I have a couple thousand songs at my disposal, I still very much like to stream music and hear what I don’t yet have and even better yet, listen to new music I’ve yet to discover. The google play store works just like it would if it was from your phone so you in all likely could play flappy birds on here (I didn’t actually try anything other than Pandora and Spotify I was just saying). But wifi is an area that’s been very neglected throughout the DAP world and very recently has been shown that a many of users would prefer to have it as an available option (surprise, surprise).
    Next on the list is Bluetooth. I believe this is just a byproduct of having an Android OS with wireless capabilities because, at least for me, I don’t see too many people purchasing a DAP of this caliber only to stream the music to a wireless headphone and lose what makes the Cayin great.
    The last feature that I would like to discuss is how well you can create playlists with the i5. Yes, a great deal of DAP’s have the ability to create playlists, and a many of them very well. But the ease of which I could not only create a playlist but access them really impressed me. I was able to make a playlist for working out, relaxing, and even a review playlist for when it was time to actually get down to business.
    Finally we’re to the musical presentation. I will be the first to admit that before I began listening to so many DAP’s I thought that these were only a medium for which one holds their music and the only difference between the models was the looks and internal dacs and amp. chip sets. And though in the technical aspect of things this is true, but how they mix and match and even tune their devices adds a very impressive color to the music that is different with each device regardless of how similar the internal components.
    As for the Cayin i5, this device really presents a calm and relaxing presentation that still focuses on detail retrieval. The i5 also definitely possesses a pairing bias that really favors certain flavors of headphones. What I mean by this is that the i5 sounded just, sublime, when paired with the Meze headphones 99 classics. I have never hear a pairing that sounded as good as these two together (well maybe the SR-009 through the Blue Hawaii but that’s a whole new price bracket), my 99 Classics completely disappeared when playing through the i5 and retrieved detail I’ve never heard before nor again on any other system. It also paired quite well with my Bowers & Wilkins P7 but not quite as well as with the Audio-Technica lineup. Nothing I played through it sounded bad (my Empire Ears Hermes VI ciem’s did have a notable and prominent amount of hiss and even a hum however), but in direct comparison there just wasn’t as much symmetry between products that aren’t really mids to mid bass focused.
    Going back to its sound characteristics, comparing them to my other two DAP’s (Hifiman Supermini & Luxury and Precision L3) these are really smooth in their presentation and attempt to expand the soundstage of the product you’re listening to but it doesn’t quite succeed. The audio sounds farther out from left to right but the artist sound much much closer (like an egg shaped stage). As where my Supermini is very slow and warm and perfect for sleeping or working out with its heightened bass range, the i5 stays fairly balanced. It most closely resembles that of my L&P L3. Now comparing those two, sonically the L3 sound is more realistic and natural and “breaths” (I’m not sure if that’s the word I’m trying to get out but it’s what jumped out at me). Now, the difference isn’t night and day but instead a tomato tahmahto (spelled intentionally to get my point) kind of thing. Both DAP’s are roughly the same price with the i5 having more features and convenience than that of the L3 having wifi capabilities but the L3 is definitely more sonically accurate and revealing and can silently handle my ciems.
    Lastly the power output is incredible on the i5. Not a single headphone I used had the slightest amount of problems being driven by the i5. Granted nothing I used is super power crazy but they still use some juice (especially the ATH’s) but even so the Cayin never stuttered or made me make any large increase in volume. Also, on that note, the volume on the Cayin i5 is what I’ve been asking for for years. It’s buttery smooth and wonderfully linear with ONE HUNDRED volume options that increment in ONE’S!!!!! What a concept I know right? But seriously, from my phone to other DAP’s no one seems to get the volume adjustments right for I can never seem to find that sweet spot ESPECIALLY when I’m trying to sleep. Please, if ANY other DAP manufacture reads this review please take after the Cayin because they have perfected this adjustment.
    To conclude my review of the Cayin i5. The Cayin team did a truly amazing job designing their i5 digital audio player. It’s beautifully and competently made and will play any audio codec one would throw at it. The sound is very calm and a real enjoyment to listen to but definitely pairs better with headphones that are more between mids to mid bass focused. The battery life lives up to the claimed 10 hours of active listening but it does take awhile to charge so don’t expect to plug it in for a few minutes and expect to be on your way, it’s an overnight thing. It’s really a product that an owner can really make his or her own. I completely understand why @nmatheis speaks so highly of the Cayin i5, it’s certainly well earned.

Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos as well as a rare comparison video I made between the Cayin i5, Luxury & Precision L3, and Hifiman Supermini. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.
  • Like
Reactions: Brooko
Nice review! The cons are accurate as I share the opinion on that.


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Clean and open sound; non fatiguing
Cons: Android based firmware not stable. Would prefer an easier method to get to folder structures.
I had the pleasure of listening to the Cayin i5 as part of the midwest USA tour.  Other than being responsible for passing the item along, I did not receive any compensation or expense from the vendor and my comments are my personal observation.
First of all, as a summary, I would like to say that I enjoyed listening to this device very much.   It had a clear and open sound that I think is in the same ballpark as the FIIO X7 and even the Chord Mojo when paired wtih a digital source.   Yes, I think the Mojo provides a slightly better listening experience, but at the expense of mucking about with two items to play music.  Compare that with just using one integrated device.
For sound alone, I would compare the overall sound signature to the Shanling M2.  That unit has a relatively unique, open and clear sound with a slight warmth.  Midrange and treble to my ear is slighlty accentuated on that device, and I think the same applies to the Cayin.  Where that can be glorious is vocal driven music, jazz, and classical.  I think we are looking at less than a decible of emphasis, and it might be an artifact of the open sound signature.   An example of a stunning rendition was the Mahavishnu Orchestra's Apocalypse.   That is a jazz fusion work produced by the legendary George Martin (think Beatles).   You could really get immersed in the music or pick out individual instruments if wanted.  That quality is something that is shared with the the Mojo by the way.  Say, in my book if a reviewer can compare a unit to the Mojo the manufacturer is doing something very right.  I did have a recent "re-listen" to the Mojo as Howdy brought it along when he personally handed over the unit (thanks pal!).
I mainly listened on my new FLC8S pair (ok I am bragging but what the heck); and also on the Tennmak Pro.  In my book , by the way, the Tennmak is quite the bargain.
So of the DAP units in my possession, the FIIO X3II, Shanling M1, and Shanling M2, this unit did stand on top of the heap.  But then again, that is to be expected.   But then again the Shanling M2 has what I think is a similar sound signature so I will be OK now that the unit has been shipped back to the US distributor.
Now I will move on to the unit itself.  It is a very solid piece, with solid engineering.  It plays a wide variety of sources, and does have native DSD which I apprecaite.  It also was able to act as a DAC for my iphone (using a trick USB splitter that I have that in some instances can overcome the iphone and its notorious message about DAC devices requiring too much power).  I was unable to get the OTG function to work with my PNY USB stick.  That stick works just fine in my FIIO X3II with firmware 1.4.   I just ordered a new OTG cable for USB type C by it did not arrive to be tested with this unit.
I also did not test the streaming function from Spotify or Tiday or from my NAS.  Why?  Well that gets to the "beta" status of the firmware in my mind.  The unit skipped on various tracks and sometimes needed to be reset when playing music.  My sense is that the firmware is not truly stable yet.
When I received the unit there was a crash.  I then reinstalled the firmware.   It is possible that I lost the default menu options at that point.   I found it hard to go directly to music menus when rebooting (which did take a bit longer than I would prefer).   It would appear that there are methods to go easily to the music menus or music folders.  ; I just never found them.  For me, the unit came up in more of a generic Android style menu and it took a few swipes to get to the folders or music menus.
I did not check out the battery life carefully but did run the unit down by accident.  Perhaps I did not set up the automatic power down mode properly.  User error is one of my specialties.
So would I purchase the unit?   Well, I would hold off on making a final decision until I knew the firmware was stable.  Plus, FIIO just released the X5III which seems fairly similar in feature sets and I would want to check that out.  There is also the question of the general desirability of Android as a music interface system.  If one does not mind Android, then this unit is a contender.  Of course if steaming is your bag; then one must consider is the streaming going to be done on the road?  In that case this unit would have to be tethered to a phone.   More toys to contend with in that scenario.  Perhaps an audiophile phone like the LG might be a direction to  consider if that is a need.
Overall, I think Cayin has built a very nice unit.  I am fairly confident that the various bugs will be resolved.  They certainly have a nice positive presence on Head Fi forums and that is a good sign of their market commitment.
Not sure about your issues with the UI. But after starting up it takes exactly one click to get into the folder mode. I have some small issues I would like to have resolved too, but the navigation as such is really simple imho. 
Perhaps I lost some user interface default customizations when I reloaded the firmware after a crash.  I have modified the review a bit based on your thoughts and input on the forum on this topic.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Fast file scan, Android based, Great sound
Cons: Slow startup, choppy wifi streams


The i5 in hand is a global tour unit, and has been updated to the latest version. It is based on android 4.4 and extremely toned down to the minimal runs, that supports dropbox stream and some stream / player apps from play store, but i did not test that function.


In terms of visibility, the TFT screen resolution isn't exactly sharp. Text seems a bit on the blurry side, and under direct sunlight, visibility has been quite challenging even on max brightness.Start up on the i5 is quite slow and could take around 20 - 30 seconds to jump into the main interface, which is the first image on top.


All tests are done based on Pentatonix album, which i admire for the "a Capella" ability of their 5 member group, each divided clearly on their vocal functions.
  1. Scott Hoying – baritone lead and backing vocals
  2. Mitch Grassi - tenor[size=10.8333px] [/size]lead and backing vocals
  3. Kirstin Maldonado – mezzo-soprano lead and backing vocals
  4. Avi Kaplan – vocal bass, vocal percussion, bass lead and backing vocals
  5. Kevin Olusola – vocal percussion, beat boxing, backing vocals, cello


Treble on the i5 is clear and clean. Finger clicks and minor background beat boxed tips can be heard clearly. It doesn't clip although trebles blowing the rooftop off. Kirstin's high notes doesn't even irritate the ears, which might happen when the trebles are tuned way high. Totally appreciable high notes and clean trebles.


Pentatoix... a cappella.. the true focus will be of course the vocal power of the i5, and how it can handle the separations of different vocal length of each of the members, well except maybe Avi which is the bassist and maybe Kevin who plays with treble spikes. Using the i5 I can CLEARLY hear who is singing and who is not, and they mix so well that the album is SO enjoyable to listen to. With very minor instrument interference, they really pulled off the a cappella sweetly and i can go on the whole album twice with no boredom of any sort. Unbelievable! i5 really pulled it off better than my x5ii!


This is the main star attraction of Avi. His bass vocals can go real low, and i mean REAL low, rumbling bass, right off his vocal chords. Kinda What, but then that's how i5 still managed to pull it off cleanly, going all the way low without any muffles.

Sound stage + Separation

For this section, since PTX is a mastered studio album, sound stage wouldn't fit the bill and so I head to Joe Bonamassa : Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks, live album from Red Roc, Wyoming.
Based off the track Tiger in Your Tank, I can clearly distinguish each position of the pianist, vocal, bass guitar, background trumpets and so much more.Slight left, slight right, full front, full back, front left, front right etc etc, it's so much fun trying to understand Joe's placement of his crews on the stage and reasoning behind them, and match them to the live videos of them on stage, it pulls quite close when compared.
Echoes from the cheering of the viewers can slightly soak into Joe's mic and I can sense the enjoyment of the viewers, as if I was there having a cold beer with a cowboy hat, yelling cheers, whistling and clapping for some more encores. Really fun album to listen to.


Yeah the sound quality is splendid, but for everything with plus, there is always the minus side of things. Besides the aforementioned visibility, the volume pot is also something i wished for improvements. Ths i5 in possession is relatively new so the scroll wheel is still stiff but I'm uncertain if scrolling durability is there, will it get loose? who knows, it might. The unit loading speed is also not the fastest. 
Secondly, there is no standby hibernation like what Fiio excels at doing to their DAP. It draws quite high battery usage even left there not playing. X5ii could stay hibernated for so long, but the i5 just died in the 3rd day not playing but on active.
USB type C, another thing where all cables need to sacrifice. You will have a much harder time with aftermarket cables for now, as type C still not as common as they hoped it to be.
Everywhere this whining about USB-C. How can this much better standard be pushed if everybody continues whining that not so much cables are available yet? If just enough makers use it the cable  options will appear automaitcally. See Fiio? Presenting new X5 3rd gen and still using hopelessly outdated MicroUSB.
And you count the volume knob negative because you don't know whether it will remain in the future? After some months I can tell you it is still the same as on day one.
Agree to the hibernating and the startup time for the i5
Good concise review. I like the comparisons of the different vocals. I'm also on the side of liking the volume pot. I like the throwback aspect to it (guess my "old school" side is coming out!:wink:).That's why we have so many on the tour! Gives wonderfully different perspectives.

Well done, and congrats.


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Android OS, touch screen, hi-fi sound at mid-fi $
Cons: Quirky wifi, one sd slot, leather case slippery (on inside)
I am lucky. Very lucky. As I listened last Sunday to the i5, not only did we have the first good (not hard, but good) freeze of the Fall, but since I had been up since just before sunrise, I was able to see the first light of day, and how the natural world changed as Sol lit up my morning. High level Cirrus clouds meant a change in weather was coming, and the winter resident as well as winter visitor bird population flew, dove, lit, fed, and generally filled my yard at various times. The migrating/residential American Robin (Turdus migratorius) filled our Hackberry tree (Celtic occidentalis) for the hard berries (which I would later that day find out had been "deposited" on two of my vehicles by the damn Starlings [Sturnus vulgaris], an apt name!...oh well); while the elusive (most of the time) Pileated Woodpecker (Hylatomus pileatus) flew through and lit upon a dying Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata ); a tree I call the Whomping Willow due to the similarity of said tree in the Harry Potter movies. I don't get to see the Pileated often enough, what with our schedule of school, home and soccer, rinse, repeat; so this was a definite treat. Drinking my fine Chiapas Coffee, I listened and watched and listened some more. The visiting Dark-eyed Juncos (both Oregonian and "Common" Junco hyamalis spp. ) filled the lower shrubbery (no not of Monty Python variety), feasting on the seeds after a long Fall migratory journey. A White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) scaled up our Pear tree (Pyrus spp.) as opposed to down like the Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) feasting on any insect lucky enough to have survived the cool weather, but torpid enough not to elude the sharp beak. A veritable organic buffet was within not only the critters length, but most definitely my viewing pleasure. And I watched some more. Song after song, artist after artist for well over two hours, only stopping the view to refill my coffee..... What a glorious day it was and it was only two hours after sunrise! This was my full scale "intro" to the i5. And I was glad. Extremely impressed right off the bat.

When I was contacted about the possibility of the Cayin i5 tour, I realized that this would be my first non-headphone review, and I would have to rethink somewhat how the review process would proceed. Happily, the whole process worked out, and I am very happy to report that the time I had with the i5 was a success. Not a COMPLETE success, but a very, very good time was had while the unit was in my possession. I was also lucky that my time was extended due to the US Thanksgiving Holiday (and a very gracious next-in-line tour partner, ). This allowed me to do some "testing" I might not have done otherwise.
I would personally like to thank @Andykong and @nmatheis for including me on the tour. It is and was an honor to be included. Andy's only request was that we provide open, honest thoughts in our review of the positives, and thoughtful critique of any shortcomings on the threads which discuss the i5. I wouldn't have it any other way, and came upon both positives and negatives in "our time together." I was also lucky enough to live close enough to @PinkyPowers, for a hand-to-hand delivery. A definite advantage in the shipping department. The only downside to that, is that my review has to follow his excellent review. We share some similar thoughts, and believe it or not, a similar writing style. Please take that as a positive, since I thoroughly enjoyed his review, and feel that "method" is an excellent way to proceed.
Last, the time with the i5 afforded me the wait until my new camera arrived (old Nikon D50 gave itself up after nearly ten years of dedicated service, mostly birding and as a diehard soccer dad; thank you old friend!). So the fruition of that time awaited is you are the first to see pictures with my new set up...please be kind, I would appreciate it...
Needless to say, I was kind of giddy with excitement at the prospect of reviewing something well above anything I currently own in the Head-Fi department. An excitement which grew as we neared the "exchange site" to the point where my daughter (yes on the way to her goalie practice) had to tell me to "calm down, it will be OK!" A point I took well, I might add.
I immediately opened the shipping box to find the well packed unit within the product box. Quite a nice understated box, but we all know that the innards are what counts. Opening the black box to reveal the unit itself, I was quite pleased with the initial aesthetics of the Cayin. It is quite a nice looking unit. Turning the unit on, I waited for what seemed a long time (less than a minute to full power up) I admired the memes shown....most of them. I would agree in that I'm not sure what the "burn your music" meme means; but I am taking the positive route in that it means "get your music ready to play." After power up, the main menu came up, with plenty of options. I mounted my micro sd card, but noticed there was also a good amount of music already on the hard drive. I am assuming this was music loaded for the CANJAM trade show, since our unit was a demo there. The more I listened, the more I appreciated the variety included, and actually spent much more time listening to the preloaded music than from my card.
I ran the i5 "naked," without the leather case for a good two days, just to get the feel of the unit. Extremely well balanced is the way I would describe the unit "heft." It is neither too heavy, nor too light. It is of good size, and can be easily held without fear of it slipping through your fingers. Easily into a pocket it will go, too. I noticed as I ran the unit the first day, downloading apps, setting up my Amazon Music and Spotify, and doing the general run-around that the unit became quite hot. I believe this is a function of the unit "running on all cylinders up a hill." I also think that the beautiful carbon-lace back is used as a heat sink to transfer said heat away from the unit. Overall, the unit is modern enough to look really very nice; while paying homage to an older Industrial Age what with the machined out areas for the power on one side and the pause/forward/reverse buttons on the other. Think the movie Bladerunner, and you get the picture. Elegant, but functional. New Age, but Medieval in character. A screen which is flush with the sides of the unit does not hurt, either. To keep the screen cleaner, I did use one of the screensavers. I hope this kept the unit aesthetically clean.
I wish I could say the same about the leather case. It is quite nice, but of a lighter color, so any marks will show immediately. While this can add what we will call "patina" for a lack of better words; if I am spending this amount I would expect a choice of colors. That said, my hope is that someone will come up with an aftermarket case to quell my fears. And after limited use, I can see this case not holding the unit in place very well. The side "overhang" of the leather onto the screen is flimsy, and actually hinders access to the corners of the screen itself. An area where much is going on within many subsystems of the unit. It is nice, don't get me wrong, but I wish for something which would protect the unit better and longer. In my time, I have purposely tried to get the unit to slip (over a soft landing, and never dropped, sheesh...), and have been successful. But, most of us will be extremely careful with such a pricy unit, and would not extend such "abuse." I would be remiss if I didn't state my concerns, though.
Since I have an iPhone 6+, I am long removed from an Android OS, but easily found my way around the many sub-menus and options. I was even adept enough to remember what was where! A definite plus in my advanced age. Efficient is how I would describe the menu. Nothing really hidden, but nothing really fancy about it, either. Some have stated that they wish the menu(s) had more bells and whistles. I would agree if this was a unit more like a Smartphone. But as PinkyPower stated so well, this is a DAP first and foremost and should cater to the music. By and large the i5 does this well, with only the occasional slowdown or "glitch." More on the glitches later.
This is the furthest up the DAP food chain I have ever been. And if this is an indication of what lies in the mid-if region, I willingly admit I am a kid on his favorite playground. One I will openly share with all of my playmates. As my time draws to a close (Holidays are good!), several conclusions can be drawn from this excellent kit as well as some possible future improvements.
I was lucky enough to spend over 40 hours listening to various headphones (Fostex T40RP MK3, Campfire Audio Nova, Tennmak Pro, Alpha & Delta D2 (very briefly, they were not good), MEE Pinnacle P1 & M6 Pro, and the VE Monk (originals and Purple+) as well as my three amps (Schiit Magni 2, Fiio A3 and Fiio E06) during the time together. I also compared the set up to my secondhand-to-me Fiio x3ii, since that is the only dedicated DAP I have currently. For online purposes, I compared my iPhone 6+ with Amazon Music and Spotify to the i5 after downloading the apps to the Cayin. Hopefully, I can shed light into the listening of some items, with which previous reviewers do not have. My line of equipment is definitely mid-if at best sprinkled generously with good quality low-fi, so I hope this will not only be valid, but helpful to those looking for a DAP first.
A final listening was performed on my home system, an older Arcam AVR300, through ProAc Tablette 8's and a Paradigm 2100 sub. The ability to run the i5 on many sources and through many different scenarios is a great positive, one which I am not sure Cayin may have envisioned (based upon an in-thread conversation with Andy). Scratch that, I ran out of time for this comparison...sorry!
Power up is simple, and after the memes comes to good part, the listening. And good sound it is. Whether it be from the already enclosed music (assuming this is CANJAM leftovers, as stated above).
My first listening was done from my Micro SD card. It was impressive, with a warm full sound, but not as impressive as I might have thought. That change completely when I delved into the music which was "native" on the DAP. Starting with Adele's Hello, I was immediately smitten with the increase in sound quality. What was a slightly warm sound from the SD card, was a deep, rich, warm sound (to me) which belied the "other" music which I had heard only a short hour before. After investigating why this might be, I quickly determined it was due to the Sampling Rate of each song. The native music was of much higher quality, and it showed. My music was the standard 44kHtz, while the music on the i5 was of a much higher sampling rate. The difference showed.
The music was more clear in sound, separation of individual instruments better, vocal parts were more very prominent, and the overall quality was just better. Now, I know I am not the most adept at digital music, but I did know and understand that the higher the bit rate, the more "true to sound" the music would be (my interpretation). To me, this meant that the i5 was less forgiving of musical quality. The goods were quite good. The worse was tolerable, but only after you re-acclimated your ears from the good. As a side point, when I compared the SD music on my Fiio x3ii, the card music sounded much better than on the i5. I'm not sure how much of that was actually real, but I did notice a difference. Both players were compared without eq, to minimize differences. The sd music just sounded better on the Fiio. Overall though, the i5 produced that warmer sound I described above. Sound stage is less than on the Fiio, though. Not by much, but a nice intimate sound can be had if the song is defined that way.
Certain songs really brought the Cayin to life, so to speak; and I will admit I listened to them incessantly. Over and over I played Anne-Sophie Mutter's Zigeurnerweisen Op 20. I had heard Ms. Mutter's music before, but not to this extent. I was enthralled, mesmerized, completely taken in to the music. Enveloped and blanketed, this song threw me to a high winter mountain cabin, with snow falling upon deep already fallen snow. Fire burning, favorite wool on and single-malt in hand; I was overwhelmed with the detail, the separation, the finger plucks on the strings. It was an incredible listening experience and one which left me in awe. How can something so small produce such wonderful sounds? I will admit that this was a wonderful push into the mid-fi realm. I will also admit, that this would be worthy entrance DAP, for those that want to spend a bit more than the "budget" DAP's. A fine quality unit this is.
Once past the mountain cabin, err visceral experience of the cabin; I added Eric Clapton's wonderful Pilgrimage to the listening carousel. Round and round I went, listening for the details of the back up female vocals. Clapton's rough English voice sounding fresh and vibrant. I will have to add this album to my collection, but suffice to say that this was a good song for the audition of male vocals. Full of tone, deep in reach; this song added to the already solid sound I was enjoying from the i5. Just a so solid sound, that it was as if I was adding a layer upon an already impressive sound. The Cayin responding, "Yes, I can add that good sound on top of what I have already provided you." This may seem like gushing over-syrupy praise, but this unit is not meant for that kind of praise. It is worthy of praise, but in that workman, industrial-like sage that carries over from it's shape. A solid unit, backed up with solid credentials and solid musical matter what is thrown its way (with quality input, as I stated above regarding  my lack of quality music).
Not only does the unit look good, it can back that look up with excellent sound characteristics. The same cannot be said regarding the WiFi operation. After downloading Amazon Music, and Spotify, I was mostly unable to use either. I did get one Spotify song to play, but nothing from Amazon. After researching the issues, I found out that "Error 181" is a common Android problem with Amazon Music, and possibly stems from the lack of ownership of the music you use via Amazon. Kind of an ironic "Apple-like" twist that you cannot play music on an Android which you do not own. Especially knowing that regular music downloading to an Android Smartphone is so easy. I could be completely wrong here, but my 2+ days of research found this out. As for Spotify, Andy pointed out on the Cayin impressions thread ( that some were having issues. I will not delve into that any further as it is a known issue, except to say that some surmised it was due to the home WiFi systems of some. I would concur, except that this happened in two different businesses. I did not have more time to investigate. I will leave it at that. But, the music is what the i5 is all about, and I can say that the music playing was flawless. No glitches what-so-ever.
IEM/Headphone options:
Normally when I write a review, I break it into usable sections such as a normal IEM review would does it handle the bass/mids/treble to sound stage, etc. With the Cayin, I took a different approach, a more holistic-overall impressions approach. I then hoped to backtrack into the individuals such as how the i5 sounds with individual phones and amps. I am afforded a modicum of different amps and headphones and mentioned in-thread that I hoped my impressions would be from a more mid-fi perspective. My TOTL IEM is currently the excellent Campfire Nova. My TOTL can is the extremely satisfying Fostex T40RP Mk3. I like them both, and spent the vast majority of my time with those. I will keep amps separate for now.
The pairing of i5 with Nova seems like the compliment of a fine sound system. Paired together, the two function as an incredible mid-priced unit like they would be a package happily offered by either manufacturer. The two pair extremely well together, what with the warm full sound of the CA complimenting the warmish, slightly smaller sound provided by the Cayin. This is a package I would happily live with day-to-day. Neither draws attention to itself, but provides top quality sound. Easily driven, the pairing was, too. On Dire Straits Brothers In Arms the steel guitar of Mark Knopfler just sounds fabulous. Like it would if you were in a seedy bar in New Orleans, or London. You know you shouldn't go to that kind of neighborhood, but you know you will be have the i5/Nova to protect you. The smoky room is filled with guitar rifts which please you completely. A thorough workman-like effort from a workman-like band, through workman-like units. It just works, if you haven't caught my...oh heck, you get it.
I can't say the same about the pairing of i5 with either my Alpha & Delta D2's or surprisingly my Pinnacle P1's. They just weren't pleasant. Not after the Nova or T40's. Which is an acceptable trade-off. Not all IEM's were meant to be heard or work functionally with the music unit. that is one of the best and worst things of our hobby...seeing what exactly DOES work with our gear and tailoring that sound to each unit we own. Much like a home system where you don't necessarily have to own all of the same gear from speaker to head unit, that is the fun I found with the Cayin. Trying different headphones to judge what worked and what didn't added to the appeal. I will say that my Fiio x3ii is much more forgiving in this regard. But, that is OK in it's own right. I like that experimenting with headphones of the Cayin i5. Quite appealing it is.
An interesting pair was had when I threw the Fostex into the mix. From my personal experience, the T40's are a hard unit to drive. No matter whether it was through my iPhone 6+, or my Fiio; an amp was very much required. And even then, it was not completely adequate sometimes. Happily that was not the case with the i5. It fairly easily drove the Fostex's on its own. No added power necessary. While I did have to push the unit to a much higher volume than with the Nova, it was still quite adequate. Tolerable is probably an insult to both units, but suffice to say that both went about their business without protest. Not quite the smoky-flavor of the Nova though. The Fostex fairly came alive through the Cayin. I can honestly say that this was the best my T40's sounded, ever. Vibrant, but not overpowering, the sound was much more forward than the Nova, but still not enough to shout at you. It's presence was felt, oh yes; but i would liken this to the quiet body builder who comes to your party (a common theme in my reviews apparently...the lush that I am...) and speaks with a quiet respectful voice. But as a result is highly regarded for not being the boisterous one. A voice listened to as the room draws down its noise. Complete, with nary a weakness the Fostex paired so well, that I now listen to it much more than I did; driving it with either my Fiio or iPhone and my A3. A new appreciation was had by me for the sound, thanks to the Cayin. Rich in tone, open in sound stage (not airy, but definitely lets you know the sound goes beyond your head) and full of package, I appreciate both a bit more due to their pairing.
I did find myself EQing the Fostex more than any of my other testing phones. I added a good bass thump, and this only heightened my respect for both. Fostex's are near legendary for their need of power to drive them properly, but not once did the i5 complain. Not even with the enhanced bass. An overall quite pleasing addition to the party. The volume pot was a good bit higher (50-55 out of 100) than the Nova, but it was not outrageous, by any means.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my new favorite "budget" IEM; the excellent Tennmak Pro. What a little gem this is, and paired with the Cayin was simply a joy. If I were to hand the pair to someone who knows sound, but not price, they would probably guess much higher than the actual cost. In fact on some of the review tracks I used, I preferred the Pro's to the Nova. Clapton's My Father' Eyes is an excellent example. The song seems made for the pair. Rich deep female vocals, and Clapton's aforementioned gravely voice just work. Bass that is not drowning all other out, leaving support room for the rest of the musical sound. A wonderful pair with which I used actually MORE than the Nova's. High praise indeed, one would hope.
A natural addition to the Cayin would be an amp. Not needed, but thoroughly enjoyed I used the only three I own: a Fiio e06, Fiio's A3 and Schiit's Magni2. All worked well, but some tales were told amongst the three. The e06 drove whatever phone was in the loop quite well. I toggled between all of the settings on this $20 amp, from neutral to bass enhancing to full enhancing. My favorite enhancement is the bass enhancer since some of my favorite IEM's a a smidge lacking in that department. With the Cayin though, I found myself enjoying the neutral the best. I did run the amp on full bore, or slightly less than full bore, but there was nary a complaint. not strained I was pleasantly surprised that an amp of such low budget would produce with a MUCH higher mid-fi DAP. I was able to run both the Schiit and the e06 right through the headphone jack. Strangely enough though, I had to run the A3 through the line-out; losing all control of the i5. I was not able to ascertain why. Maybe someone reading this can fill me in as to the cause.
The A3 pairing was the best of the three, even though all control was through the amp, itself since I had to hook the unit through line-out.. Clean, crisp and clear the sound took what was an already good sound and made it sound (to me) better. This is probably a poor choice of comparison (my previous statement), but I would liken the addition of the A3 to the frosting one might put on chocolate brownies. Certainly not needed, but an addition you do not turn down! I did notice a brighter sound through the amp, than alone. Again, no EQing was used here save the low/high gain and bass enhancing. I did feel the sound was bright when run neutral, though. My favorite setting was on high gain and bass enhanced, especially with the Fostex. Slightly lacking in the bass department, the A3 brought in that finished-full sound sound to the T40. That final polish one adds after you have waxed your car. Even though you have gone over the car with the clean towel twice already, you always do the third run...simply because. This is how I would describe what the A3 on high gain with the bass enhanced sounds like (OK, LOOKS like in my car analogy, sheesh...), that final finish which gives the Cayin that envious glow of show-car quality.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Schiit pairing. Especially with the Nova. I had severe feedback when hooked together and the music was between songs. I am not sure if this was due to my cable system, the proximity of a lamp or what. I will need to isolate this, it was simply not acceptable. That said, DURING the songs, the Schiit gave a pretty good account of itself. On high or low gain though, it was extremely bright in sound. The trebles were pushed VERY far forward. Something with which I had not experienced before. Maybe it was the quality of my existing head units, but the sound became intolerable after a short listening session, regardless of the song, with the Cayin. I do not fault the i5 at all for that.
A hearty thanks to Andy and Cayin once again for including me on the tour. The i5 is a wonderful piece of kit, holding down the mid-fi section of the market in a very solid manner. The sound alone should be enough to draw in potential customers. But when you add in third-party (there I go again!) application use, as well as the ability to stream Tidal and Spotify on WiFi you have a unit which can compete in the market very well indeed. A very good touchscreen added to boot makes the Cayin i5 a worthy addition to the stable if you can afford another. If this was to be my first purchase into the DAP world, I would gladly accept the minor quibbles I had, in trade for the top quality sound provided. And at the retail price listed it is a fairly comfortable purchase, too.
Well done, Cayin you have produced a unit which brings the functionality of the modern world together with the old-world industrial-ness of the design element. A design I very much like, and give the overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars as a result.
Enjoyed the review. Well-done.
Good review and on the whole spot on, however the issue with streaming is very unlikely to be related to home network issues.  
My faulty unit had nothing to do with home network, tried it on other networks and on a strong 4g mobile netwprk with no improvement in the issue.  Although my unit appeared faulty it has been said in the thread that the I5 wifi is not as strong as a smartphone to help with interference, this is probably more of a cause to streaming issues rather than home networks.
Thanks Pinky and McCol, much appreciated. As for the Wifi issue, I only wanted to mention it, because the issue has been mentioned quite a bit in thread. Not trying to minimize it, just didn't want to beat it to death.

Overall this is a pretty stunning unit, and I would love to own one.


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Nice texture, natural tonality, smooth and sweet
Cons: Narrow soundstage, a bit muddy, buggy v2 firmware
I have received i5 as a part of its EU tour.
I like the design and UI a lot. It is Android 4.4 based so not the latest but will do. It also has ability to download 3rd party apps (as opposed to some other Android players like Opus #2).
I use 3rd party apps to sync my desktop PC (iTunes) with the players I own. It copies not only song but bi-directionally syncs metadata like ratings, play count, skip count, last play time etc.
It helps to create a dynamic playlists like "often played but not rated yet" or "highly rated but played long time ago".
I was happy to see it working with the Cayin.
The interesting part of UI is that the special music-centric launcher is used. There is no desktop. You can swipe to the left to open a menu where you can find some settings and 3rd party apps.
Google Play works just fine when you enable the WiFi. I have not noticed any interference from WiFi so it is well shielded.
The UI is very well designed but sometimes hangs. I had to restart the player from time to time. I am sure this can be improved by future firmware upgrades.
It feels solid and handy. Has physical buttons which is a plus.
The leather case I received with the Cayin protects most of it but makes the use of side buttons a bit more difficult.
I would rate it above Samsung S6 phone but below Sony ZX2, Onkyo DP-X1 and iBasso DX100. Those 3 are more expensive though.
Cayin is smooth and warmish so may pair well with headphones you find a bit too harsh or too bright.
Its soundstage is intimate, narrow and sometimes a bit at the back of you head. I must admit I prefer more "in front" presentation when the sound is positioned more in front of me.
The soundstage has nice layering in terms of depth. If you carefully listen you can distinguish the layers of presentation well.
I liked the Cayin's tonality: the instruments sound natural and you can distinguish their tone well. I would even say that in the tonality aspects it beats the ZX2.
ZX2 wins in terms of clarity. Cayin sounds a bit muddy when put next to it.
What kills the music aspect to me is the decompression artifacts. From time to time you can hear loud squeaks like the audio file was broken.
I use alacs (Apple lossless format) that work well on S6, ZX2, DP-X1 and DX100.
Cayin i5 vs Sony ZX2 with Denon AH-D5000
  1. i5: natural sound, soft
  2. ZX2 clearer and deeper bass
  1. Diana Krall / Peel Me a Grape: more echo / room feel on i5, more bass and clarity on ZX2 - ZX2 wins
  2. Hurvitz / Overture :i5 more naturally sounding, ZX2 drier - i5 wins
  3. Bonnie Tyler / Total Eclipse: i5 sweeter vocals, more natural instruments, ZX2 - crispier - i5 wins
  4. Pink Floyd / High Hopes: i5 more natural, warmer and smoother, ZX2 - less natural, colder, harsher but also crispier /cleaner.
    If you prefer relax and smoothness over detail and clarity i5 is your pick.
Cayin i5 vs Sony ZX2 with 64 Ears A12 CIEM
  1. The Handsome Family - Far from any road: i5 a bit dull and foggy, good resolution, narrow soundstage, ZX2: much cleaner, wider soundstage, more 3D, more details, ZX2 wins
  2. The Cranberries - Zombie, i5: more natural, less clean, more intimate
  3. Florence + The Machine - What the water gave me: ZX2 nicer bass texture and instruments separation in intro, cleaner, a bit of sibilance, i5 no sibilance, a bit deeper but narrower soundstage
Cayin i5 vs ZX2 with Audeze Sine
  1. Zaz - Les Passants - ZX2 crisp, good instruments separation, i5: less 3D, more in the face, a bit foggy, ZX2 wins
  2. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - Please Baby - i5: narrower but deeper, more natural but less crisp - ZX2 wins
Cayin i5 vs Samsung S6 with Denon AH-D5000
  1. Adele - Someone like you - S6 a bit harsh with modded D5000s. i5: deeper low tones, piano is clearer and more present, voice even more in front, more 3D, i5 is a clear winner
  2. Birdy - Skinny love - S6 is more dull and foggy, plays from distance, a bit sibilant, i5 is clearer and more present, has more 3D soundstage, and better positioning of instruments, less sibilant - i5 is a clear winner
Cayin i5 vs Samsung S6 with 64 Ears A12 CIEM
  1. Christina Aguilera - Express - S6 has flatter presentation, but is a bit clearer and has blacker background, i5 is foggy with Low Gain, switching to High Gain improves a lot, but still the background is greyish, soundstage is better, instruments are more natural - no clear winner - depends what your sound preferences and priorities are
  2. Morcheeba - Lighten up - again S6 is a bit harsher, flatter and clearer, i5 is more relaxed, smoother, natural sounding, more 3D but a bit foggy
Cayin i5 vs Samsung S6 with Audeze Sine
  1. Leonard Cohen - Waiting for the Miracle - i5 is natural sounding, not sibilant, warmish, more 3D but with greyish background, s6 has a bit too much of low tones which dominate the mids - i5 is clear winner
  2. Jacques Loussier - Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - i5 has nice punch, natural sound, relaxing sound, misses on ultimate clarity, s6 seems faster, shows nicer texture of low tones, has crispier high tones - it comes the cost of limited soundstage and less natural sound
General comments
  1. more power than Sony ZX2 - especially with Audeze Sine outdoors
  2. occasionally hangs - restart needed (hold power off for a few secs) firmware 2.0
  3. music settings -> digital filter options: short delay slow roll off - makes sound sharper and cleaner IMO + adds some “echo” effect / room feel
  4. good battery life, but charges slowly
  5. takes up to 2 seconds to start playing
  6. alac playing problems
  7. tested with 3rd party Apps: Rocket Player and iSyncr to auto-sync PC/iTunes and the player
If you're looking for a nice DAP which is a clear upgrade from a phone and has warm sound you should definitelly give i5 a listen.
If you prefer natural tone of instruments over the clarity you should shoot for the Cayin i5.
  • Like
Reactions: hqssui
Nice to see a comparison with the ZX2. You broke the differences down very well.


Reviewer: The Headphone List
Pros: Outstanding value for such a package. Soothing, robust sound. Gorgeous, high-quality build. Leather case.
Cons: One microSD slot. Unfinished firmware. A few bugs.

Cayin agreed to let me join this review tour under two conditions. One: I must share my impressions openly and honestly, for good or ill. And Two: “For God’s sake stop sending us nude photos of yourself!”

Life is a compromise, and here we are.

::The Review::
I think this is going to be a rather short review. The sonic qualities of the Cayin tweaked my sensitive areas so well I could not find the willpower to refuse it long enough to perform tests I had no interest in. I never opened up a single app. I did not stream from Spotify or TIDAL. Hell, I didn’t even perform a full battery drain to see how long it lasted. Does this work as a USB DAC? Couldn’t tell ya! I just listened to FLAC files stored on my SD card through a variety of headphones and compared the i5 to my other DAPs.

Oh yeah, there’s also zero un-boxing photos. Thank God for other, more professional reviewers, yes?

Cayin’s last player, the N5, is the very example of strong, innovative aesthetics working harmoniously with function. It’s one of the most beautiful DAPs out there, and handles at the top of its class.

The i5 is every bit the superior.


A large, captivating volume knob is the focal point of this design. Right from the onset it speaks of grace and purpose. It turns with smooth control, and is firm enough not to move by accident. The chassis is big, but fits in the hand and pocket. The screen is flush, bright and detailed, and responds perfectly to touch commands. The hardware buttons are intuitive, placed exactly where you want them, and feel just right when depressed.

However, I do have a major criticism of the hardware: One SD slot? FiiO made the same mistake, moving from the X5’s two slots to the X7’s one. If all you have is 32GB of on-board storage, you essentially have none. That does not count as the second SD card. If you’re only going to give us room for one microSD card, you had better give us at least 128GB of on-board storage, like the AK120ii. But since we all know that’s expensive, just give us two slots and be done with it.

With the X7 and i5, my fears have been validated twice now. Moving to a full and open Android device diminishes the overall package. Focus on what’s important: Sound, storage, and interface. Abandon the frivolous. We don’t need Apps, WiFi, video or Bluetooth. Those things are foolish and wrong and are only useful if sound quality is not your top priority. In which case, we already have smartphones.

A DAP should be held to narrower, yet higher expectations. It ought to be a device apart, dedicated to the singular purpose of a true hifi system in the palm of your hand.

Okay, enough proselytizing. I swear.

The Android UI is pretty raw-looking. I feel the software lacks much of the artistry found in the hardware. It’s all function, zero style. Which isn’t a terrible sin, but a little incongruous with just how glamorous the chassis is. Nonetheless, it isn’t too difficult to navigate the options and features here.

Folder Browsing has an unusual bug I’ve never seen in any DAP before. It doesn’t sort numerically--alphabetically if you use brackets around the date.

It works fine if your albums are formatted like this:
1970 – Paranoid
1971 – Master of Reality
1972 – Vol. 4

However, the Cayin gets all confused and sorts the albums randomly if you do it like this:
[1971] Master of Reality
[1970] Paranoid
[1972] Vol. 4

Most of my artists are formatted with brackets, so this “little bug” quickly became the t-Virus, and a good portion of the week saw me running from chompy zompoids.

I spent a few days with the Cayin i5 using v1.8 of the firmware. Updating to v2.0 was frustrating. The Over-the-Air (OtA) update function did not work. There were errors connecting to Cayin’s servers. So I did it manually. The instructions on their website were spot on, save for one rather important omission which led to stress headaches. At the time I read them, the instructions did not state you must power down the unit before booting into update mode. Pretty obvious, one might think. Where the confusion lies is that you must be powered up to transfer the firmware onto the SD card. Given they are step-by-step instructions you would think the next step would be “Power Down”. Then “Boot Into Update Mode”. But no, it just says boot into update mode immediately after transferring the firmware file.

It took me a while to figure it out. I wear this shame like a cloak, warming me against the bitter hostilities of the world.

Firmware v2.0 delivered no obvious benefits to my usage. The sound did not change (good), and the sorting issue remains (bad). I’m sure there were a number of bug fixes, but for my limited scope of use, I noticed nothing new or different.

As I mentioned earlier, in my negligence, I did not perform a proper battery test, but I will say it seemed to last longer than my AK120ii. That’s not hard to do, but I was happy for it, all the same.

During my week with the i5 I noticed two or three instances where the unit shut off on itself. Once it happened when Idle Shutoff was disabled, another time while I listened to music. Never when it had any reasonable excuse to do so. So keep an eye on that.

Okay, that about covers all the technical drudgery. Let’s move on to where this unit really shines.


The Cayin i5 sounds amazing. It seems like it was tuned specifically for my savage disposition. Warm and smooth are the dominant traits. It presents organic, natural music, not music stripped down to raw details and shot into your ear-holes like shrapnel. It all sounds full and rich.

The i5’s rendering is more refined than the N5. I felt the FiiO X5 Classic was ever so slightly more refined than the N5, and now the i5 easily beats the X5. That’s what I call an improvement in fives.

Music is smoother on the i5 than it is on the X5, cleaner, and less digital-sounding. Soundstage is a bit wider, as well. There seems to be greater depth. Both are equally detailed. The i5 just creates a nicer, more honest sound.


Now… the Astell&Kern AK120ii is still the king stallion of my stables. I’ve yet to try a DAP that beats it. I’m sure they’re out there, but I haven’t heard one myself. The Cayin i5 does an admirable job competing against it. Far better than I expected.

Limiting the AK to single-ended output, and using an A/B Switcher, the i5 is heard to be a little grainier/messier. The Astell&Kern is even more refined, with better coherency. Treble seemed less rolled off. It sounds just a touch more natural, the stage a touch wider. I felt a greater sense of immersion with the AK.

Biased? Maybe. But I’d like to emphasize just how little the differences actually were. Switching between the two with split-second speed, it was often difficult to say how they differed. It took extended listening and mighty focus to mark the changes. The Cayin i5 surprised the hell out of me.

When I switched cables and used the AK120ii’s BALANCED output, the differences became much greater. The N5 had balanced, and I expected the i5 to fix the noise issue the older sibling suffered from. Apparently Cayin could not, opting instead to remove balanced output entirely. So the AK has an unfair advantage that, when utilized, brings the potential a good pace ahead of anything the i5 is capable of.

But enough of comparisons, yes? The simple listening of the i5 is such a pleasurable experience. I loved it off every one of my portable phones.


None of my earphones received more Cayin-time then the Rhapsodio Solar BA10. Perhaps because the treble was tamed some by the i5, I couldn’t get enough of the Solar. I could hear just how detailed this player is. Above all, the i5 excels in musicality. Solar filled up like a balloon, delighting in such potent, uncompromised tonality. The Rhapsodio is not my current favorite IEM—that goes to the U12—but this pairing possessed a special kind of magic I found myself drawn to again and again. Solar brought out the virtues of the i5 like nothing else.

I’ve come to think of the Audio Technica ATH-IM03 as the poor man’s Solar. Their sonic presentation shares so much in common it can be easy to forget which is which if you become distracted. Unfortunately, the IM03 is discontinued. But if you can find one, buy it. It does everything the Solar does for the i5, just a tad bit lesser. Eminently scrumptious sound!



My trusty old Sennheiser Momentum 2.0s are still the only portable over-ears I own. I’ve been meaning to try some others, particularly the Meze 99 Classics, but my funds end up down other avenues. Lucky for me, the M2 is one hell of a headphone. The Cayin i5 drove them tremendously well. They sounded full and thick. Even lush! I have to EQ the AK120ii to achieve that result on these. The warm, fluid quality of the i5 works great for the Momentum, which tends to render its music loose and reckless. Charmingly so. But Cayin fills things out with more bass and keeps them in line. I could listen to the i5>M2 all day.

This extra warmth doesn’t benefit everything, though. The 64Audio U12 with ADEL B1 Module is the greatest IEM I’ve ever heard. It’s warm, velvety, and smooth beyond compare. Pairing with the i5 felt like too much of a good thing. It sounded a little congested, a little too thick. Should I have spent much time with them together, I imagine my brain would adjust and I’d learn to love it. But during my brief test, I much preferred Solar on the i5. On the AK120ii, the U12 conquers the field. Particularly in balanced.


Pinky didn’t know what to expect with Cayin’s foray into full-on Android extravaganza. My experience with FiiO’s similar turn left me underwhelmed but intrigued. Cayin fell for a number of the same pitfalls, but ultimately maintained the sense of self that separates them from the crowd. The i5 does not feel like a soulless block of circuitry with a touchscreen interface. It feels like Cayin brought the old artisan techniques into modernity, and did so with exquisite skill.

I enjoyed the Cayin i5 so much that, should anything happen to my AK120ii, I would be VERY tempted to replace it with Cayin’s new masterpiece. Finally we have an offering from this company that sounds as good as it looks. I doff my hat to you, Cayin. Well done.



Seems the problems with the case are solved with later production batches. Unfortunately nobody contacted the buyers of first batch where the i5 slipped out about an exchange or refund...
The case which Cayin provided me was indeed looser than I'd like. Not so loose the i5 falls out whenever you tip it upside down, but it will pull out if you so much as yank on the headphone plug. If you shake it whilst upside-down it might slip free. Now, the Astell&Kern leather is as tight and form-fitting as Trinity's pants. ...that's a Matrix reference.
What an excellent review! All the information I would normally want, but wrapped up in the most enjoyable style of writing! Great job :xf_eek:)


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Sounds wonderful, full textures, great layering, doesn’t require amp, nice looking, touch screen w/nice UI
Cons: little congested, sounds better with warmer amp, android startup time
Disclaimer: I do not own the i5 yet with this being tour sample that was provided by Cayin. I sent this unit on to the next tour member at the end of my 7 day trial so the UI insights are from a newbie providing initial thoughts and not a seasoned Cayin UI pro. Thank you Cayin and @Andykong for including me once again as your products never fail to impress. Having said this, below is my honest opinion as always with no punches held back.
This is a great little DAP for $500. It sounds wonderful direct and doesn’t require an amp like most DAPs do to get good SQ. It is right sized, easy to control with a nice touch screen UI, and has a wonderful volume control.


I am just starting to learn it, and it does everything that I need, but it is not as intuitive as my AK100ii. I like the way the AK starts in the music player, the i5 starts in a dashboard. However, to get to the dashboard, you have to go through a lock screen like any Android setup requiring that extra step. The bottom line is that the i5 UI is good enough to do what it is supposed to do and is likely easily customized for those that own the unit and spend a little time. What I have never found in a DAP is instant on like an iPhone/iPad which would be wonderful.


The AK4490 is my favorite off the shelf DAC at the moment and I have been searching for the right DAP AK4490 implementation. The AK380 is crippled by its amp and even its add on amp leaving the DAP useless IMO without an external amp to use my Hidition CIEMs. So the AK4490 offerings that I am aware off is down to the Aune M2 and the i5. The i5 stomps on the Aune in build/UI, but the Aune has a better matched AMP providing a little more sound stage and better bottom end.
The i5 amp is a little cold for my taste, but powerful enough that it doesn’t require an external amp to sound full and textured. This by itself is a big deal as it is not convenient to have to always carry a stack. The Aune amp also can go stackless, while sounding cold. However, I feel that the Aune amp is providing a noticeably bigger sound stage. Both the Aune and the Cayin are bested by my C&C BH2 external amp which has a noticeably richer and more controlled SQ. Where the i5 amp ran into problems was with faster more complex music where the SQ started to break down.


The i5 has the wonderful AK4490 signature with ample black space between the instruments and great layering with awesome timbre and texturing. It is the texturing that gives me the goosebumps that brings me back to the AK4490. Where the i5 lacks is in sound stage as does 99 percent of all DAPs. To me, most DAPs sound congested. The addition of my BH2 amp gives me more sound stage where I am no longer bothered, but the addition is minor. While this is no sony wm1a/z nor a LPG in SQ, it is not priced like one either at a fraction of the cost for most of the SQ. I should note that all my listening was done with a full sized HEX headphone which sounded wonderful together.

Comparison to AK100ii

Priced at 40 percent more, the AK100ii should kill the i5, right? Wrong. The AK UI was much nicer in my opinion, but the i5 was good enough. I am enjoying Tidal on my AK now after the last update, but I think there is a way to do Tidal on the i5 too – but I am not an android guy to figure it out. That being said, a DAP is all about SQ and there I think it beats my AK in all but busy passages. The AK may have a sound stage advantage though.

Running Speakers

While the i5 worked well as a DAP, even more impressive was the DAC sound running line out to my stereo to drive my speakers. Had a family music night and enjoyed the AK4490 goodness on my speaker system that drove new texturing and layering for a very fun night. The SQ is very musical and engaging. The UI made wandering through my collection easy.


Final Thoughts

The i5 has impressive SQ at its price point the puts my previous x5 and dx90 to shame and matches my more expensive AK. The form factor is pleasing and UI is nice. The only weakness for me is the AMP section which is colder than my preference and provides a little smaller sound stage than preferred. However, having an internal amp that drives HPs and CIEMs to full potential directly is a huge value. Don’t get me wrong, the i5 DAC/AMP pairing is impressive, but I am getting jaded after listening to a vast array of high end overpriced equipment that is eschewing my judgement. I think that the i5 is a solid entry at the $500 price point.
Sorry Bart if this review came off as negative in any way as it was quite the opposite experience to me. Thought it was a fantastic DAP. Should point out that I missed explaining that it was a tour DAP, will add, and that I only had it for a week to explore. As for a UI, I appreciate the touch screen for the graphics and the ability to search my music, but most of the time, I just play a folder - like a playlist - with the screen off and hit the forward button which this player allowed me to do. The point about the AK UI was that it was brain dead simple not requiring any configuration out of the box. That being said, many of my friends are "Android people" and love android UI's for their customization capabilities and the app stores so I can appreciate the functionality. This was a first pass at the review and as you pointed out needs some tweaking - especially if it came across as a negative review.
BTW, warm vs. cold - the nature of the AK4490 in my experience is to be very thick with textures that many call warm. When I say cold, I am talking about the absolute black between notes/instruments that removes the euphonics along with an elevated treble that drives that fantastic layering. I find that my personal tastes are to pair the AK4490 with a warm amp to perfect the emotion that the AK4490 lays out there for you. The internal i5 amp is fantastic all by itself, but my BH2 AMP has some sort of voodoo magic that has to be heard to be understood. Even the $3K DAPs sound better with the BH2 amp connected so this is not to be implied as a i5 issue, just a pairing observation.
@Barra Thanks, I did not find your review negative.I understand that you liked the i5 very much actually (and so do I). I only found your approach to the UI wrong.
Compared to a lot of Chinese DAPs the i5's UI is absolutely great and intuitive. There are however, still a few minor quirks i it which have been addressed to Cayin and acknowledged by them. Warm/cold anyhow is a matter of personal preference. Maybe you should have addressed the hiss which you easily get from the i5 with sensitive IEMs. 
Don't worry. I am not one of these fanboys who feel personally insulted if somebody says something negative about their toy! 


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: overall sound, android, UI,wireless interfaces, battery life
Cons: treble refinement, some buttons are to small, several features are yet to be added

Cayin can definitely organise master-classes "how to succeed on personal audio market". Of course with their experience on serious hi-fi market, taking over portable niche isn't hard, but so many other well-known companies failed there… Cayin started with really good N6, followed by excellent N5, and now they're targeting new niche with model, coded I5.

As usual, I'd like to apologise for my english, as it's not my main language.

This index corresponds new lineup of players, built with Android and having all related pluses. Of course, 4.4 is a pretty outdated, but it's more then enough to give user WiFi streaming, access to network storage, additional Google Play applications and so on. Android in this player hid behind nice shell, based on Hiby music, so you can actually use I5 without much Android interaction.

Musical hardware is pretty similar with N5: AK4490 as DAC, similar OpAmp, so sound doesn't cause any concerns. Additionally Cayin gave users nice sensor screen, stylish design and even USB-C support. Player "understand" almost all formats, including different kinds DSD, can work as USB DAC and has a nice battery.

Price is also pretty good. Of course, $470 isn't spare change, but if we compare I5 price with competitors, we can call Cayin philanthropes.

Technical specs
All specs can be found in official I5 tread:

Packaging and accessories set
Of course, I5 is far from gorgeous N6 packaging, but it's obvious that Cayin have way lower margin for this player. Nevertheless, I5's box is really good. White outer envelope hides traditional black cardboard box with minimal polygraphy. Inside you'll find player itself, USB-C cable, few protector screens for both front and rear panels, MicroUSB to USB-C adapter and different papers.

There are "official" case, sold separately. I've purchased it immediately, it's really stylish and protects player well.

Design and controls
Cayin are constantly working on design of their products, making it more and more strict. I'm really missing those bold experiments like circular display of N6, but I'm a minority here. Fortunately, I5's design is still interesting enough.

Player's body made from metal, back side features carbon insert, on lower side is plastic lid, I think it hides antennas.

Front panel mainly occupied with screen, which has pretty good resolution and view angles. Unfortunately, under the bright sun it loses major part of readability. Under the screen located sensor "home" button.

On the sides of player located mechanical control buttons. On left side — on/off button, combined with screen lock, on right side — play/pause and tracks navigation and MicroSD slot. Player has 32 Gb of built-in memory and supports cards up to 200 Gb.

Lower side of player contains USB C connector, upper — headphones and line out.

Upper right side of player occupied with volume regulator, and it's a pure tactical orgasm. It's rotating slowly, but smoothly, and it's hard to resist from turning it all the time.

As OS used Android 4.4 with custom launcher, based on HibyMusic. Main screen of I5 contains nice buttons, leading you to different music storages: internal memory, micro SD, Dropbox, LAN servers and external USB drive (yep, player supports them). When source connecter, player shows diagram with free space. Also, you can browse your media library by artist, album, and genre. For more convenience, there are separate menu with lists: recent tracks, most played ones, favourites, etc. Actually, controls are pretty good, but buttons are too small for easy control, so I hope Cayin will fix it in future updates.

There are all necessary features: equalizer, 5 digital filters switch, sleep timer, and so on. You can install thirdparty software from Google Play, but most of this apps will play hi-res with downsampling via Android mixer.

I5 has 1 Gb of RAM, it's pretty OK for shell itself, but not so much for additional apps. In AnTuTu I5 scores 14605 points.

There are some nice features like network streaming and external USB drives support, they simplifies everyday tasks. Also, Cayin declared that I5 will be able to use external DACs via USB, but it will be implemented in future FW updates.

With MeeAudio P1 as a load, on low gain and volume set to 30, I've got 10 hours and 45 minures of playback (FLAC, 44.1/16), but active screen usage will reduce this time noticeably. Charging with iPad adapter took about 4 hours and 20 minutes. Actually, life time is pretty good for such feature-packed device.


For listening, I'm sung following headphones: ZMF Omni, Meze 99 Classics, Lear LHF-AE1d, Ambient Acoustics AM10, Audio Zenith PMx2, Noble Kaiser K10AU, Campfire Audio Jupiter, Dita Audio Brass.

I5 uses pretty similar to N5 set of OpAmps, so they have common "general" representation, but Cayin collected N5's feedback, and took it into attention, removing some of small issues from N5's sound.

Bass in i5 is pretty deep and has moderate punch. It has good quantity, resolution is a bit lower then maximal, but lows have a nice texture. With darkened headphones, this player will be good even for bassheads.

Mids, of course, are good, resolution, microdynamics, emotions — all is present here. Player doesn't add anything to mids, so if you like colored sound, it's not an option for you. As many AK4490 devices, I5 features digital filter switch, from all its settings I prefer "super-slow". Subjectively, I'm missing stage depth with I5, it's aobut average in sound layering, but stage width is more or less OK.

Treble is "normal". They aren't superb in terms of general perception, they are lucking some sense of "luxury", but they have decent speed and decay.

Some subjective comparisions.

Cayin N5 Both DAPs have similar neutral sound, but N5 has some accent on upper-mids, that made sound "rougher", but on last FW it's lowered, so here N5 sounds closer to I5. Also I5 has a bit deeper bass.

Cayin N6 N6 features more rich sound, with some hint of softness, giving more "musicality" to records, so generally, N6 sounds a step higher.

Fiio X7 + AM Fiio offers better staging and better treble. Also, X7 has a bit better detalisation. On the other hand, I5 offers more engaging and energetic lows.

QLS 360 QLS is rougher, it has more drive, more emotions, actually, it offers pretty different representation, and those who like 360 won't like I5 and vice-versa.

I5 is pretty universal DAP: 180 mW for 32Ω load it's more then enough for vast majority of headphones, and close to 0 output impedance makes this player good option for multi-driver IEMs. With sensitive IEMs some noise is present, but for me it's pretty quiet, so it doesn't bother me.

Style-wise player is pretty universal, but to my ears it's the best suited for technical and complex music: classics, jazz, technical styles of metal, and so on. Player is pretty sensitive to quality of recordings, I'd say 7 points by 10 scale.

Really interesting player, having nice design, interesting features and good controls. Sound is also really OK, and affordable price is a cherry on top of I5's benefits.

P.S. I've also made a video with initial impressions

@BartSimpson1976 I'm agree with your points, but it's really interesting, how perception differs. I hear noise, but for me it doesn't a critical issue, as well as gapeless. Of course, it's better when DAP doesn't have them both, but for me it's acceptable. And critical for me is a lacking of playback position memory for example.

As for case, mine isn't tightest, but it sits pretty reliable. May be it'll stretch later, I don't know.
everybody has different priorities, that's why it is so interesting to see the different opinions. The i5 is in the top leaguewhen it comes to value for money. New firmware ETA has been announced just now, so we will see how things develop. 
You have excellent English!