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Cayin N5 DSD Lossless Music Player

Rating:
4.09091/5,
  1. H20Fidelity
    One of the best unique offerings in its price range.
    Written by H20Fidelity
    Published Apr 30, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Design, features, settings, sound, appearence, build, value, file support,
    Cons - Could be a smidgen more revealing around the mid-range, (though at its price you simply can't complain)
                                 Coverphoto.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
    Cayin have always intrigued me, their approach to portable audio isn't about sound quality alone, far from. Their designs are some of the most unique and peculiar on the market. Not only have their designs separated themselves from competition, they detach themselves from MP3 players as we've come to understand them. Last year when we toured Cayin N6 the casing was described by my friends with some entertaining titles.
     
    I will say Cayin N6 wasn't my preferred design for a flagship player, it was quite heavy, a little 'clicky clacky' on the push button controls and cumbersome on the go. All that changed when I laid eyes on their mid-tier model Cayin N5, only impressing me further once I held N5 in the palm of my hand. On top of the design Cayin managed to pack this little player to the brim with features. Everything from USB 3.0 port, dual micro sd card slots, coax out, line out, huge file support, respectable resolution screen. The pocket-sized player even supports 2.5mm balanced headphone out if you wish to use it. All for a respectable price of around $345 USD.
     
    Specs:
     
     
    Phones Out (Bal):

    1. Power rating: 300mW+300mW(@32Ω)
    2. Frequency Response: 20-20kHz(±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz)
    3. 5-50kHz(±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
    4. THD+N: 0.006% (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    5. Dynamic Range: 108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    6. SNR: 108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
     

     

    Phones Out (Single End):

    1. Power rating: 200mW+200mW(@32Ω)
    2. Frequency Response: 20-20kHz(±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz)
    3. 5-50kHz(±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
    4. THD+N: 0.006% (1kHz时,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    5. Dynamic Range: 108dB (20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    6. SNR: 108dB (20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    7. Output Impedance; 0.26Ω
     

     

    Line Out:

    1. Output Level: 2.0V (@10kΩ)
    2. Frequency Response: 20-20kHz (±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz)
    3. 5-50kHz (±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
    4. THD+N: 0.005% (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    5. Dynamic Range: 108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    6. SNR: 108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
     

     

    Battery

    1. 4200mAh 3.7V Lithium polymer, can play 9 HRS
    2. Charging: 3 HRS (with 2A Charger, not provided)
    3. Charging Current: <=1500mA when charge with 2A Charger,<=500mA when charge with computer USB port
    4. Recommended Headphone impedance Range: 16-300Ω(recommended)
    5. Dimension: 11.1 x 6.4 x 1.64(cm)
    6. Net Weight: 195g
     

     

    Music Format (Local Storage):

    1. DSF: Native hardware decode DSD64 and DSD128
    2. DFF: Native hardware decode DSD64 and DSD128
    3. SACD-ISO: Native hardware decode DSD64 and DSD128
    4. APE: Up to 192kHz/24Bit(Support Fast and Normal compression only)
    5. FLAC: Up to 192kHz/24Bit
    6. WAV: Up to 192kHz/24Bit
    7. AIFF: Up to 192kHz/24Bit
    8. ALAC: Support
    9. WMA: Support
    10. AAC: Support
    11. Mp3: Support
     

     

    USB Audio(DAC):

    1. USB Mode: A synchronized USB Audio 2.0 Class
    2. DSD: Support DoP (DSD64)
    3. PCM: Up to 192kHz/24Bit
    4. Windows: Support (Driver required)
    5. MAC OSx: Support
    6. iOS: Not support
    7. Android: Not support
     

     

    Package

    1. Cayin N5 Music Player
    2. USB cable
    3. 3.5mm audio cable
    4. Silicone case
     
    (add specs from penon audio here)
     
     
    Price / Availability:
     
    Penon Audio, Amazon and selected retailers.
     
     
    Packaging:
     
    On arrival the boxing is quite plan Jane from first look. I have a black relativity thick cardboard box with a nice texture, the words 'Cayin' can be seen in the upper left corner. On the back of the box however, is an assortment of information including the AKM AK4490 DAC used, PGA2311 volume chip, there are some other highlighted features such as the 2.5mm balanced headphone out, USB 3.0 and ability to support two micro sd cards. Total weight of the package comes in at 195grams.
     
    box1.jpg
     
     
    box2.jpg
     
     
     
    Once removing the lid (which wasn't exactly effortless) the first thing you'll see is the player itself recessed into an insert. A piece of ribbon laying behind the player lets you pull upwards to release N5 from its holding facility. I'll say so far the presentation is quite attractive, sometimes these subtle formulas talk class in themselves. Once you lift the player out you'll find another cardboard insert below with your accessories and extra goodies.
     
    n5insidebox.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Accessories:
     
    Included is:
     
    1. x1 Silicon Case
    2. x1 User manual
    3. x1 USB 3.0 data/charge cable (flat)
    4. x1 Quick start card
    5. x1 3.5mm coax to female RCA cable
    6. Quality control pass sticker
     
    When I look at the accessories there's something about them, something shows a higher quality than I usually experience. The silicon case appears high-grade material, the USB 3.0 cable thick flat and durable, even the user manual has been laminated in glossy finish. Its things like this add up to the quality Cayin shoot for even at mid-tier level. The manual is well laid out in English explaining most of the players functions. Cayin went the distance in presenting the package displaying they actually 'care' which is a welcomed aspect compared to some others in the portable audio market.
     
    acessoires1.jpg
     
     
    acessories2.jpg
     
     
    acessoires3.jpg
     
     
     
    Design / Build:
     
    At this section its 10/10 stars, if one thing appeals to me more besides N5's features its the design. Like mentioned in the introduction it appears Cayin have some of the most daring physical designers working for them. From the all metal casing, vents engraved along the side, the large respectable resolution screen, everything about the design makes N5 appear almost like an artifact you discovered deep inside an ancient pyramid. Its a real head turner, a conversation piece that may even leave people curious what the unit actually is when first showing them.
     
    The back of the unit has a carbon fibre plate, the words Cayin in gold running writing on top. Its not far from the appealing look of an Astell & Kern player but much, much cheaper. Its not only the looks, when you hold the unit in your hand it has a little weight which adds to its quality. Kind of like holding an expensive watch or rare treasure and I love it.
     
    Areas like the buttons are chrome finish, the scroll wheel embedded with finger grip notches firm to click, its just leaks quality everywhere and I can't express anymore how I admire the design of N5.
     
    Let's have a quick walk around the player:
     
    player1.jpg
     
     
    player2.jpg
     
     
    player5.jpg
     
     
    player3.jpg
     
     
    Player4.jpg
     
     
     
     
    User Interface:
     
    From an off state the player takes roughly 10 seconds booting to the main menu. The first you'll see is a musical backdrop and some round icons spreading across some strings. At the top of the screen there's an icon bar showing the volume level, gain mode, your main menu selection, EQ status and battery percentage. So nice to see more players integrating the battery level in percentage readouts, not only very accurate, looks great as well in the corner of your screen.
     
    The main menu options are:
     
    1. Music category (genre, artist, album etc)
    2. Music library (folder browsing / select each card slot)
    3. Now playing screen
    4. Music settings
    5. System settings
     
    interface1.jpg
     
     
     
    Music Settings:
     
    In this section you're able to adjust settings like gain mode, play mode, switching between line out or headphone out, gapless, EQ. Unlike several other players I've reviewed Cayin really deck out the music settings with several features, some you may use daily, others adjust once and be done with it. None the less its these adjustments that make a player very flexible to a number of users.
     
    The available music settings are:
     
    1. Gain setting (Ldb / Hdb)
    2. Digital filter (several options)
    3. DSD gain compensate
    4. SPDIF out (DSD64) (D2P / DoP)
    5. Equalizer (custom presets / 10 band adjustable sliders)
    6. Play mode (normal / repeat, repeat 1, shuffle)
    7. Output selection (phone / line out)
    8. Breakpoint resume (off / on)
    9. Gapless (off / on)
    10. Max volume (set limit)
    11. Start up volume (memory / custom)
    12. Set up Start up volume (set limit)
    13. Balance (L/R – 10 steps each way)
    14. Album art (of / on)
    15. Lyric (off / on)
     
    interace2.jpg
     
     
     
    System settings:
     
    In this section you'll find features like language selection, theme selection, folder operation, switching between USB and DAC mode. Once again Cayin not letting anything leak through the cracks people might need. Sometimes I find it amazing how all these single features can be implemented into a player then function seamlessly without any confrontation between each other.
     
     
    System settings available are:
     
    1. Language (several options)
    2. Theme selection (different colours)
    3. USB mode (DAC / USB)
    4. Backlight time (30 seconds / 40 minutes)
    5. Screen brightness (6 settings low/high)
    6. Folder operation (off /on)
    7. Enable hibernation (off / on)
    8. Idle shutdown (off / on)
    9. Idle shutdown time (5minutes / 120 minutes)
    10. Scheduled power off (off / on)
    11. Format TF card
     
     
    interface3.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Now Playing screen:
     
     
    At the heart of the unit is the now playing screen where you'll see your album art displayed with a great resolution screen for its class taking up most of the real estate. The track title, time duration, volume level, play mode, gain mode everything you need to enjoy the unit without glancing to far away. When you combine the design we spoke about coming from an ancient time then throw the modernization of a great colour screen with current album art you form something really special. Old meets new, design meets technology, all give the player a certain character.
     
     
    interface4.jpg
     
     
     
    Navigation:
     
    Getting around the unit consists of using the scroll wheel and buttons along the side of the player. Basically, the scroll wheel can be used for moving up and down the menu options or you can simply use the buttons on the front of the unit also. The scroll wheel has a center button which makes your selections. I find moving around the unit requires two hands for most parts especially when navigating through the menus and your music folders but its actually quite enjoyable. The scroll wheel clicks firmly with each small rotation, the buttons have solid amount of resistance, it works quite well, a continuation of the design aspect.
     
    There are other settings that change their mode when the screen is asleep, for example, long pressing the volume buttons will change tracks, single presses will change the volume in small increments so it doesn't get caught going up too loud in your pocket. Lots of little safety measures taken to expand the functionality and make the user experience a firm selling point.
     
     
    Battery Life / Output Power:
     
    N5 is spec'd out to reach a respectable 9 hours, using 16/44 FLAC I had no problems reaching those amounts, even more depending how heavily you use the unit, your file format and the amount of screen on time you use. I think anything under 8 hours is looking a little brim in today's age though N5 manages a neat little readout display in percentage and never feels like you're a slave to the power point. For myself I probably charge the unit once every 2-3 days.
     
    The output power is rated at 200mW+200m @ 32ohms which is more than you'll need with any of the low impedance IEMs on the market. I'd say N5 will do well with most full-size headphones as well. During my time using IEMs I've never flicked the unit into high-gain and never ventured past 50 percent volume. Its a real little powerhouse made for the masses and should do well with just about anything (within reason) you throw at it.
     
     
     
    Sound Quality:
     
    In-ear monitors used:
     
    1. Tralucent 1Plus2
    2. Tralucent Ref.1
    3. Shozy Zero
    4. Aurisonics ASG-2
    5. Echobox Finder X1
     
    Files used:
     
    1. 16/44 FLAC (all files)
     
     
    N5's overall tonality is on the 'slightly' warm side of neutral, it can sound a little smooth around the mid-range and treble regions. While the treble is never absent I do hear a little lacking extension or a laid back presence. Areas like the low-end have solid punch with great extension, the bass always ready for action if your genre/albums are in request. One area that stands out on the lows is the texture and detail being quite nice, there's enough clarity to make your earphones sound full and warm if their signature is tuned that way. When you reach the mid-range the timbre has a certain house sound I've heard from Cayin's N6 player, its quite unique and classy giving the player its own personality.  Quite an addictive house sound you don't want to shift away from.
     
    Areas like refinement, separation are good even being a little ahead of iBasso DX80. When it comes to resolution and mid-range detail there are sufficient amounts for the price range but its the only area I feel N5 may hold back over the iBasso, DX80 is just is a little more revealing. Its easy for me to say I would take Cayin N5 over FiiO X3II if offered the choice as the detail is surpassing that level and N5 isn't as warm as the FiiO units I've owned/heard which I don't particularly enjoy.
     
    Soundstage is decent although not extremely wide, layering is sufficient on the left/right channels. While these areas are more then present the sections may be compromised being a mid-tier player. Overall you're not missing terribly much from the next level up in players but a little more stage width would have been welcomed for my Tralucent IEMs which push the limits of width for an in-ear monitor. While the Tralucent IEMs may not have reached their performance ceiling I had particularly good results pairing N5 with the dynamic driver based Shozy Zero earphones. The two provided an excellent amount of detail and dynamics which became my favorite earphone for N5.
     
    Summing up, N5 is more than capable for the price and especially for an everyday all rounder who wants to lessen listening fatigue. The way the mid-range and treble presents themselves with that slight smoothness and relaxation allows many hours of listening without becoming tired. Players like iBasso DX90 are very revealing highly strung units but there is always the price of your ears needing a rest after an hour or two. I believe Cayin tuned N5 for the long haul, the all day listeners and this shows with their end result.
     
     
    Conclusion:
     
    From the design, features, settings, Cayin completely nailed it. Not only have they produced one of the more unique looking players on the market at a respectable price point, they've hammered the functionality and usability down to a tea showing a functional practically bug free player can be accomplished if the market and companies put dedication to it. While other companies were moving into touch screens Cayin produced what I call a 'true audiophile' DAP. It looks good, sounds good and shows testament to the roots of  audiophile character.
     
    When we talk about the sound N5 plucks many of the right strings, while it isn't the most detailed unit I've heard in this category N5 successfully accomplishes what it was designed too, that long listening experience. While I do prefer a slightly more revealing sound I am not taking any points off because technically N5 is quite strong, the timbre, house sound all equate to something quite special and will appeal to several portable audio hobbyist. For me, just having the unit in my house, on my desk when not in use is almost like gazing over at a sentimental piece, one I suspect with age won't appear any older.
     
    I'd like to thank Cayin for sending the sample and its been a really fun, enjoyable experience reviewing Cayin N5. Its a pleasure to use on a daily basis, I can easily, easily recommend N5 to anyone out there looking for a great player among this populated portable audio market.
     
     
      fnkcow, mgunin, twister6 and 5 others like this.
    1. Sonic Defender
      Sounds like a great player, but I still think touch screen is the way to go and I suspect Cayin will end up embracing this reality. I like that the N5 has enough power for most user needs. Thanks for the review.
      Sonic Defender, Apr 30, 2016
    2. twister6
      twister6, Apr 30, 2016
  2. cleg
    Great option for detailed mids lovers
    Written by cleg
    Published Feb 29, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - sound, power, output impedance, design, balanced output, two microsd slots, USB 3.0
    Cons - controls require some time to get used to, noise in sensitive IEMs with balanced output
    Cayin N6 is definitely one of my most favourite players. That's why I've waited for their new more affordable model with impatience. Finally, I've got N5 in my hands and spent enough time with it to make a judgment.
    1MainPic.jpg

    I won't spend lot of time, describing box, it's contents and players design/menu. There are excellent reviews, covering this in depth. So, just brief impressions, before I continue to the sound.

    Box is nice, simple and stylish. Accessories set is also good, but I recommend you purchase "leather" case, it's good enough for it's price, and N5 deserves better case then stock silicon one.
    3InBox.jpg

    Design is really superb. It's not that futuristic, like N6's, but it's still interesting. N5 has it's own face and reminds me those retro hi-end devices, this is a nice touch. Controls are a bit complicated at first time, but I've quickly got used, and now they are OK for me. Scroll wheel is responsible and reliable, screen has nice resolution and remains readable in direct sunlight.
    4Acessories.jpg

    Menu is nice, it has 4 nicely animated themes. Feature-wise, N5 has everything that we expect from modern player: media library, folder playback, lots of settings, USB DAC functionality, etc.

    I must admit, N5 offers pretty nice features that are absent even in their top model N6: balanced amplifier with balanced output, USB 3.0 slot for faster file transfer and 2 memory cards support. Also N5 uses top DAC chip from AKM, AK4490 (N6 has 2 PCM chips).
    5RearPanel.jpg

    N5's battery is big, so it offers almost 9 hours of work, which is really OK for such a powerful devise.

    So, outlook-wise, N5 is a modern device, with all necessary features, unusual design, comfortable controls and sleek look.
    7TopView.jpg

    And now, about the sound. First thing that I've noticed — N5's sound really changed after firmware update, to be more precise, v2 firmware made sound worse, and v3 made it better again, so recent firmware have the best sound. Second notice — my sound perception of N5 differs from vast major of reviews here. I don't have any explanations beside of subjective perception features. So, I've warned you :)

    Generally, N5 have analytical sounding, with a hint of brightness. Player have really great and emotional mids and builds really good soundstage.
    9Buttons.jpg

    Bass of N5 is fast and detailed. It have a good resolution and texture. In some rare cases, N5's bass lacking some power, punches are present, but they aren't as crashing, as with other DAPs. Fortunately, this isn't an often issue.

    Mids are N5's best side. They are emotional, live, have great detalisation and speed. This is definitely the strongest staple of N5's sound. This allows player to build good stage, both in depth and width. Instrument separation is good.
    10WithAtlas.jpg

    Treble is nice, airy and have perfect for me quantity. Compared with hi-end DAPs, N5 has some simplifications in treble, but it's hardly noticeable in everyday listening.

    Some subjective comparisons.

    Cayin N6 This is the main place, where my perception differs from other reviews. For me, N5 sounds colder, while N6 is warmer and more musical, N6's sound have more body and is more solid.

    Fiio X5-2 Main competitor in this price segment have about the same "level", but offers slightly different representation. N5 is more neutral sound, while X5-2 give more bass and punch. Roughly, I'd prefer N5 for classics and vocal, and Fiio — for rock and electronic music. But anyway, I've enjoyed metal with N5.

    Hidizs AP-100 Darker and more energetic sound. AP100 has more lows, but also have less details on mids, it's stage is narrower.

    iHiFi 800 This DAPs have similar sound representation, but iHiFi have better treble, and N5 — mids and lows. Also N5 is way better in controls and design (but also much more expensive).

    iBasso DX80 For me, DX80's sound is too emotionless, while N5 is great in emotions representation, so in 100% of cases I prefer N5.

    Another plus of N5 is its universality. It have really low output impedance, so it's a perfect choice for multi-driver hybrids and armatures. On the other hand, N5 have pretty lot of power, up to 300 mW is really enough for vast majority of full-size headphones. Only issue is pretty noticeable noise level of balanced output, when paired with very sensitive IEMs.

    Style-wise, I think N5 is better suited for complex genres like orchestral classics and vocal. Also, N5 is good in progressive rock and jazz. Little worse (but still pretty OK) is metal, but here you should better look for good remasters.

    To conclude, N5 is a great player for those, who prefer neutral representation and enjoys great mids representation with lots of emotions.

    I'd like to thank to Cayin for providing me with a free review sample in exchange for my honest opinion (but import customs made this sample far from free).

    As usual, my humble video with impressions.

      Light - Man and ForgottenSpy like this.
  3. x RELIC x
    Cayin N5 - Attack!
    Written by x RELIC x
    Published Jan 1, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Unique Design - Very Detailed Music Reproduction - Battery Life - Solid Build - Dual mSD Slots - Separate Coaxial Output Jack
    Cons - GUI - Some Hardware finishing could be better - Balanced Output Hiss With Sensitive IEMs
     
     
    Cayin N5 Review
     
    Disclaimer
     
    The Cayin N5 was provided to me as part of the Cayin N5 world tour in exchange for my impressions and honest opinion on the device and it has since left my possession. I am in no way affiliated with Cayin and do not own the Cayin N5. I'd like to thank Cayin Audio and especially @Andykong for providing the opportunity to review the N5. This review is based entirely on my impressions and your impressions may be different from mine.
     
     
    About Cayin Audio
     
    From the second post in Head-Fi Cayin N5 Thread - LINK.
     
    "This is a busy year in Cayin. The success of N6 has opened up a lot of opportunities to this 20 plus years prestige audio company. After the launch of C5DAC, Cayin R&D team has been busy in further integrating their amplifier expertise with latest DAP experience, and their effort will pay off when the new N5 is released. This is the second DAP from Cayin and is tentatively priced at US$349 (subject to local tax and logistic charges) and yet maintain the overall sound signature and capability of N6, so It is a compact and powerful, low cost and professional DAP that every headfier should looking forwards to.

    Cayin started to go into headfi market few years back and started with several desktop based Headphone amplifiers. They decide to venture into portable market as their new development focus in 2013 and have launched two very successful products in 2014: the C5 portable headphone amplifier and the N6 Digital Audio Player (DAP). These two products were exceedingly well-received among HeadFi communities all over the world. Cayin has been working very hard since then and planned to offer 5 new products in 2015. The C5DAC back in Q1 was a capable twin to the prominent C5, and the forthcoming N5 will be a strong alternative to the renowned N6."

     
     
    "Cayin is a premium HiFi brand from China, has been a major player in local (Mainland China) market since 1993. Their focus has been always dedicated HiFi equipment covering every chain in the music reproduction path, from CD player to speaker, but the essence is no doubt their tube amplifiers. Their equipment ranged from around US$100 to just below US$10,000 per item, covering the needs of different requirements and budget."
     
     
    SplashImage.jpg
    The beautiful Cayin N5.
     
     
    Cayin N5 Specification

    Technical
     
    DACAK4490EQ
    MCUDual Core 600MHz Ingenic Xburst JZ4760
    PLDSA2000
    VolumePGA2311

    Features
     
    Headphone200mW+200mW @ 32 ohm (SE); 300mW+300mW @ 32 ohm (BAL)
    USB-DACAsynchronous USB up to 24bit/192kHz
    Volume Control0-99
    Gain SelectionHigh/Low (+6dB)
    Channel Balance-10~+10; +/- 10dB
    Equalization10 bands, +/- 10dB
    Power SavingAuto Power Off, Backlight time off, Breakpoint Resume

    Interface and Storage
     
    Display2.4” TFT 400x360 IPS screen
    Analog Output1x 2.5 mm (BAL headphone)
    1x 3.5 mm (headphone/line)
    Digital Output1x 3.5 mm S/PDIF (coaxial)
    Physical Control1x Control Dial + 1xEnter/Play/Pause Button
    3x General Navigation Button
    Volume (+)
    Volume (-)
    Menu
    LanguageEnglish, French, German, Thai, Japanese, Chinese (Traditional, Simplified)
    Storage2x micro-SD card (up to 256GB)

    Phones Out (Bal)
     
    Power rating300mW+300mW @ 32 ohm
    Freq. Response20-20kHz ( ±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz );5-50kHz ( ±1dB,Fs=192kHz )
    THD+N0.006% ( 1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted )
    Dynamic Range108dB ( 20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted )
    SNR108dB ( 20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted )

    Phones Out (SE)
     
    Power rating200mW+200mW @ 32 ohm
    Freq. Response20-20kHz ( ±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz );5-50kHz ( ±1dB,Fs=192kHz )
    THD+N0.006% ( 1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted )
    Dynamic Range108dB ( 20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted )
    SNR108dB ( 20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted )
    Output Imp.0.26Ω

    Line Out
     
    Output Level2V ( @10kΩ )
    Freq. Response20-20kHz ( ±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz );5-50kHz ( ±1dB,Fs=192kHz )
    THD+N0.005% ( 1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted )
    Dynamic Range108dB ( 20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted )
    SNR108dB ( 20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted )

    Coaxial Out
     
    Output Level0.5Vp-p ( @75Ω; 1.0Vp-p ( unloaded )
    Output Imp.75Ω

    Audio Format
     
    DSDDSD64 (DSF, DFF), DSD128 (DSF, DFF), SACD ISO
    WAVUp to 24bit/192kHz
    FLACUp to 24bit/192kHz
    ALACUp to 24bit/192kHz
    AIFFUp to 24bit/192kHz
    APEUp to 24bit/192kHz
    WMAUp to 24bit/96kHz
    AACSupported
    OGGSupported
    MPEGMP2; MP3

    Battery
     
    Battery Capacity4200 mAH
    Charger1.5A
    Power LEDFlashing: Charging
    Battery Life~ 9 hours
    Charging Time~ 3 hours (with 2A Charger, not provided)
    Charging Current<=1500mA when charge with 2A Charger,
    <=500mA when charge with computer USB port

    Physical
     
    Dimension(L) 64mm
    (H) 111mm
    (W) 16.4mm
    Weight195g
     

     

    BottomRightAngle.jpg
     
     
     
    About Me (Frame of Reference)
     
    I am an audio enthusiast in my mid forties and have enjoyed listening to music since my youth with vinyl, cassettes, and later CDs and digital files. I listen to wide variety of music from a perspective of losing myself to the experience. At times I like to be transported to different states of mind or emotion in the case of classical and OST recordings. Other times I go to the venue in the case of live recordings, binaural+, or studio sessions. Some times I just like to rock out. Every time, however, I want the clearest and most natural representation of the music that I can afford. If the track has thumping bass I want to hear it. If the track is complex with many instruments I want to hear each one. I listen critically often but also appreciate timbre and musicality. 
     
    I've used Sony Walkman cassette players, mini disc players, Sansa Clip+, iPod classics, iPhones etc., over the years as my portable devices, and I have 'grown up' with headphones in my ears and players at my side. My first digital high resolution player was the FiiO X3 first generation. My current daily portable player is the AK240 and I enjoy it for its interface, musicality, refinement, and it's pairing with my JH Angie IEM.
     
     
     
    Packaging and In The Box
     
    N5_SexyBox.jpg
     
    OuterBox.jpg   OuterBoxBack.jpg
     
    OuterBoxAcc.jpg
    Cayin provides simple but elegant packaging for the N5 with a good array of accessories.
     
    The packaging for the N5 is what I like to see when I purchase a product. Simple, understated and elegant. I can't stand seeing splashy advertising on the box but I do appreciate key specs being listed on the packaging. Cain has done both and it's nice to see some general information on the bottom of the box for quick reference. Once the lid is lifted off the box the N5 greets you in a simple foam cutout with a cloth tab to aid in lifting the unit from its cradle, a nice touch. Underneath the foam cradle is another box that contains all the included accessories.
     
    Accessories:
     
    - QC passed card.
    - Extra screen protectors (with one already applied).
    - Quick reference guide.
    - User manual.
    - Warranty information.
    - USB 3.0 cable for charging and data transfer.
    - 3.5mm to RCA coaxial adaptor.
     
    There was no case included with the tour unit but I'm under the impression that retail units will come with a silicone case. There are also options for a leather case from Cayin - LINK - and from 3rd party manufacturers as well, like the beautiful Dignis case - LINK.
     
     
    Hardware Look and Feel
     
    BlueBeauty.jpg
    That wheel belongs to Batman!
     
    As with the Cayin N6 I find the N5 to be very visually appealing, but for different reasons. While the N6 is a retro Sci-Fi styled DAP I feel the N5 is a superhero's DAP. I can easily see this as part of Batman's utility belt (Cristian Bale Batman, not Michael Keaton Batman). The combination of angled, hard lines, with the buttons and bevels has a great design aesthetic to me. When it was first announced I was drooling at the pictures and in person it mostly lives up to the images found on-line. The shiny edges mixed with the slightly off neutral grey body add a gorgeous natural accent to the body in contrast to a sea of rather bland chassis designs from other DAP manufacturers. I realize this is simply a music player, but I appreciate it when a company takes the time to add a design aesthetic to their products. The N5 design may not be for everyone but it certainly got the blood flowing to my visual cortex.
     
    The back of the N5 is covered in carbon fibre but unlike the N6 this carbon fibre is not smooth and almost feels like a sticker. I prefer the smooth Carbon Fibre finish on the N6 and, to me, the N5 back seems cheap. I also noticed the tour unit was showing signs of wear on the Cayin logo on the back. IMO the finish on the back side could use a clear, smooth piece of glass or hard plastic or smooth lacquer to protect the painted logo and give the backside a more professional look. Of course this is my opinion and others may like the look and feel of the backside, but the lettering does need a cover over it.
     
     
    Back_CF.jpg   Back_CF_Lettering.jpg
    The painted text needs some protection.
     
    BumpyCF_Back.jpg
    A bumpy carbon fibre finish that could look better in my opinion with a
    smooth cover/lacquer over it.
     
     
     
    Hardware Usability
     
    I remember when I had the tour unit for the N6 I had a very hard time adapting to the hardware button layout. I'm happy to report that the button layout on the N5 is more user friendly and I found the overall interaction with the unit a pleasant one, with some caveats. On the top of the unit is the power button and like the N6 a long press powers the unit on/off while a short press toggles the screen on/off.
     
    The most used hardware buttons are the small funky bat-wheel with a centre select button, and the three buttons along the left side of the N5's face - from the top down the buttons are Menu Back, Right (next), and Left (Previous). Along the left side of the unit you'll find the volume up/down buttons as well as a convenient Menu button that is context based depending on the screen that is currently displayed. When the screen is off the volume up/down buttons also act as Back/Forward with a long press and the Menu button acts as the Pause/Play button. There are no lock screen options but these buttons have you covered when the screen is off. 
     
    Here's the caveats for me with the hardware control: 
     
    1) The Pause/Play (Menu) button has about a two second delay when resuming a track with the screen off so although I pushed the button the music did not start to play immediately.  This had me pressing the button again, which of course paused the music again. Very frustrating.
     
    2) The two face buttons for Right (next) and Left (previous) switch functionality when you enter a sub menu from the main menu. For example, when scrolling lists in the browser the Right button becomes an Up button and the Left button becomes a Down button. This messed with my head a little as I expected to continue pressing the Right (next) button to navigate to the next item instead of the previous item in the list. After a while I became used to the navigation and I imagine if this was your only DAP it would become second nature. I just wish I was more logical from menu to menu for me.
     
    3) The scroll wheel would jump around on me when doing a slow rotation clockwise. Instead of continuously moving through the menus when the wheel is rotated it would sometimes jump back an item or two before continuing to move through in the correct manner. FiiO has had similar issues that they have fixed in firmware updates so hopefully Cayin can do the same.
     
    4) The same reason I love the look of the DAP is also a source of frustration for me. The buttons are located all over the DAP and require me to do more finger dancing to control the device than is optimal. I had the same frustration with the N6 but it's not as bad on the N5.
     
    Besides the caveats the hardware controls are all fairly easily accessible and once you get used to the button layout it is a breeze to operate the N5.
     
    The battery life is rated at around 9 hours on a single charge and I found that to be around what I was getting in my time with the tour unit. I never really felt the battery life was short and was quite pleased with the length of time the unit kept a charge, especially compared to the Cayin flagship N6.
     
     
    ButtonsClose.jpg
    The three buttons on the left face of the N5, Return, Right (up) , and Left (down).
     
     
    WheelCloseUp.jpg
    The inspired wheel with the centre select button.
     
     
    MenuButton.jpg
    The easy to access Volume Up (previous track), Volume Down (next track), and context sensitive Menu button.
     
     
    RightSide.jpg
    There are no controls along the right side of the unit. 
     
     
     
    Inputs and Outputs
     
    Top.jpg
    A generous full array of jacks on the N5.
     
    On the top of the unit next to the power button there are three jacks for outputting music to:
     
    1) Coaxial digital out to connect to an external DAC
    2) Share 3.5mm single ended headphone / Line Out jack.
    3) 2.5mm Balanced Out for balanced headphones/IEMs.
     
    The single ended (SE) headphone out is shared with the Line Out (LO). This seems like the best way for Cayin to cram so many options in to the limited chassis space and they have provided ample warnings IMO when using the Line Out option (selectable in the menus). You really don't want the LO volume level blasting in to your IEMs!! They could have shared the coaxial output with the LO in the same jack but this would require a special cable to line up with the unusual pin configuration like on the newer FiiO DAPs. I found the jacks to be solid with no 'wiggle' when headphones or interconnects were plugged in.
     
     
    BottomFlap.jpg   BottomDoorOpen.jpg
    The unusually long rubber cover for the N5 inputs.
     
    On the bottom you'll find two mSD card slots and the USB 3.0 interface for charging and data transfer. With 2 mSD slots it's currently possible to have just under 400gb of music stored on the N5 which is a very welcome consideration. I don't have any USB 3.0 ports so I just used a regular USB 2.0 cable that I had lying around to charge and load data to the cards that I had in the N5. While I appreciate the dust cover over the card slots and USB input the first thing I would do if I owned the N5 would be to cut the dust cover off. It's simply too long and did not want to stay in place when I had it closed. Not a deal breaker but certainly one of the things that I didn't like about the design. Once last nit pick about the rubber flap... Why not make it the same colour as the rest of the body?
     
     
    GUI (Graphical User Interface)
     
    The N5 uses a very similar user interface to the N6, and is also very similar to FiiO's wheel based DAPs and a few other Chinese DAPs on the market. The N5 is a non-touch screen device and the only way to navigate through the menus is to use the hardware controls. The menus are well thought out and there is a wealth of information on each screen, although at times the screen can get a little 'crowded' such as in the Now Playing screen. I didn't take a picture of any menus and there is already excellent coverage on the N5 menus and GUI from Head-Fi members @twister6 - LINK - and @nmatheis - LINK.
     
    What I really appreciate from Cayin is the four different themes to choose from. Also, I believe that custom themes can be made by users for the N5 as noted by @Andykong in the N5 thread but I haven't seen a specific toolset released yet. From my experience with doing custom themes it shouldn't be too difficult to do on the N5.
     
    While the screen itself is bright and vibrant I found that the off angle viewing is less than ideal. Please see the pictures below to illustrate what I see when looking at the screen at an angle other than straight on compare to the X5ii. I also found the white balance of the N5 screen to very cool (blue) rather than neutral like the X5ii. I do high-end VFX work for a living so while this is important to me others may not notice the cool white balance without a more neutral frame of reference, and it certainly looks more exaggerated in photos. The black and white images are to further illustrate the way the screen washes out and gets brighter when viewed at an angle. All camera settings are set to manual exposure with a fixed custom white balanced.
     
     
    ScreenTop.jpg   ScreenTop_BW.jpg
    Screen_45.jpg   Screen_45_BW.jpg
    Screen_Glance.jpg   Screen_Glance_BW.jpg
     
    All in all though I would say the screen on the N5 is sharp, bright and certainly usable in most cases as the user rarely looks at their DAP from such angles.
     
     
    Amplifier Section
     
    The amplification implementation in the N5 is very clean and powerful. Just like the N6 I find that I'm listening at much lower total volume in the volume range as opposed to other DAPs. I don't hear much grain and the details are passed through the amplifier section relatively cleanly.
     
     
    "One the most eye-catching new features in N5 is the 2.5mm Balanced Headphone output. This is one of the most frequently asked sound-related features when Cayin launched the N6 back in December 2014, and since you asked for it, Cayin goes for it.



    Cayin N5 supports both 3.5mm single ended headphone output and 2.5mm Balanced output. The analogue amplification section of N5 is comprised of TWO Dual Op-Amp for Voltage amplification, and FOUR Op-Amp for Headphone amplification. So we have put a fully balanced amplifier inside the N5, and you can enjoy all the benefit of balanced amplification in N5, namely significantly higher power, better control, better separation, and lower interference. In fact, the full output from balanced headphone amp of N5 was so high that we need to tune it down so that it can work with most IEMs."
     
    Although they say that they have turned down the amplification of their balanced output for sensitive IEMs I still hear quite a bit of hiss using balanced mode to my JH Angie IEM (17 Ohm impedance and 117 dB efficiency@1kHz). It's too bad because I really like the sound coming from the balanced output on the Cayin N5. Other users with less sensitive headphones/IEMs may find they don't hear hiss at all when using balanced output and if that's the case I'd recommend balanced over SE.
     
     
    AngieBalOut.jpg
    The Angie could sound great with the N5 balanced if not for the prominent hiss with the balanced output.
     
     
     
    DAC section
     
    The N5 uses the same DAC chip as the Astell & Kern AK380 in a single chip configuration, the AK4490EQ DAC. Cayin has done a good job implementing this DAC chip and I hear a very detailed and textured sound from the N5. Not quite top tier levels but for the price it's a good implementation.
     
     


    "Although N5 is the entry model of Cayin’s DAP lineup, we still opt for the best possible components that fit the design purpose. For this reason AK4490EQ was selected as the DAC core for N5. The digital capability of this chipset is nothing short from impressive and can natively decode PCM (upto 24bits/192kHz) and DSD (DSD64 and DSD128) at a very high specification, and it will read SACD ISO directly and extracted into individual track internally. We want to make sure N5 can handle all sorts of digital music format and standard to the best possible level at this form factor.



    The MCU of N5 is Dual Core 600MHz Ingenic Xburst JZ4760, a mid-class mobile phone processor. The processor offers hefty power for a small screen device like N5 and is the base of a smooth and swiftly operation. The processor supports DSP instructions, built-in SPDIF capability, and provides 24bit/192kHz digital audio output. In addition, the JZ4760 is a low-power processor that won’t disperse a lot of heat even when operate at full speed, this is important to N5 because low background noise and interference of all kinds are always appreciated.



    Cayin also developed their own coding and employed a high performance PLD (Programmable Logic Device), SA2000, to clean up all digital signal prior entering the DAC circuit and control signal routing base on the source file sampling rate, including the native DSD signal to DAC directly. This design certainly increased the cost and complication significantly, but to ensure N5 will set off from a clean ground for its first step of digital audio processing, Cayin will not compromise for less than the best."
     
     
     
    Cayin N5 Overall Sound
     
    This is where the rubber meets the road. All these details of the DAP and I still haven't described what the N5 sounds like! To me the first word that came to mind is ATTACK! The N5 has a very sharp leading edge to my ears and the impact of notes is crisp and clean. What you get is good bass impact, detailed mids and well extended highs. The highs are, for me, the standout feature and while there really isn't anything wrong with the mids or the bass the treble simply is the star in my opinion. The sense of air and soundstage are quite enjoyable and although not as wide as something like the FiiO X7 (which is also much smoother up top) the Cayin N5 performs well in these areas. The bass is good although the lowest extension could be a bit better. The sub-bass just isn't as fleshed out as the rest of the frequency range as I would have liked. The mid and upper bass is good, if not very slightly elevated. The mids have very good separation but the presentation is forward without much depth, but if it's in the recording the N5 will show it. In the end I'd call the N5 a worthy DAP in its price range and though I feel it's a little bright it certainly is an enjoyable DAP. As a matter of fact when I acclimated to the N5's signature I found the FiiO X5ii to be slightly dull in comparison.
     
    Please keep in mind that these impressions are from my perspective and depending on what headphones/IEMs you are using you may have a different view of the N5 than myself. Also please consider that perspective will change depending on what gear you are coming from. Like leaving a dark room and moving in to bright daylight it will take some time to adjust. Same for going the other way. So while I consider the N5 to be overall a little bright and sharp others may feel it's slightly warm and organic. It's all about perspective.
     
     
    Cayin N5 Sound Comparisons to Other DAPs
     
    DapComparison.jpg
    In these comparisons I tried to volume match as close as possible to help level the playing field.
     
    Cayin N5 vs iPod Classic - The N5 has much more detail retrieval than the now discontinued Classic. The micro detail in the recording is much easier to hear with the N5 and the iPod Classic sounds like it has a veil over the sound in comparison. The iPod driving power is no match for the N5 which means the N5 can drive a much wider array of headphones than the iPod Classic ever could. Not really a fair comparison.
     
    Cayin N5 vs iPhone 5S - The iPhone 5S is a decent player but again lacks the detailed presentation and the driving power of the N5. Still, the iPhone sounds pretty good in its own right but the somewhat high (for sensitive IEMs) 2.3 Ohm output impedance, and the lack of driving power for difficult to drive headphones keeps the iPhone 5S in Cayin's review mirror.
     
    Cayin N5 vs FiiO X5 (first generation) - I found the X5 to be warmer and a little flatter than the N5. The X5 is getting on in age and it's beginning to show in comparison to newer DAPs on the market. While the difference in detail retrieval isn't huge, and while the X5 is still a very capable DAP, I find that the N5 has better PRaT (Pace Rhythm and Timing) and presents a cleaner sound to the listener. The N5 is clearly more powerful than the X5 and I imagine the N5 would pair with a few more headphones better than the X5 can.
     
    Cayin N5 vs FiiO X5ii (second generation) - I enjoy the X5ii a lot and it took me a while to get with the sound from the Cayin N5. Both players sound very similar when volume matched and both are very capable with detail retrieval, but with my headphones/IEMs I found the N5 to be slightly brighter and still sharper than the X5ii. Again, the differences were subtle, not night and day, but after extended listening I could pick them out. When I did acclimate to the N5 sound it seemed that the bass had more focused impact but in the end I would put it down to the N5's sharper treble that helps the bass sound more impactfull. Overall both players are great in their price bracket and a definite step up in my opinion from something like an iPod Classic. I did find that I preferred the X5ii control scheme as outlined earlier, but that is something that may simply be a matter of getting used to the N5 hardware interface.
     
    Cayin N5 vs AK240 - For me I find the AK240 sounds warmer but at the same time more refined. It just presents the notes without as much aggression and yet is very enjoyable to listen to. I'm not surprised as the AK240 is in a completely different tier. However, the N5 is still a good performer and I would say that when volume matched the differences aren't a large as the price difference would suggest. As for the interface I vastly prefer the AK's touch screen to the hardware controls on the N5. Again, not really a fair comparison. I also couldn't really compare balanced output as my IEM hissed a lot from the N5 and was silent with the AK240.
     
     
     
    Headphone Pairings
     
    To be honest I don't believe that a certain headphones must be paired with a certain piece of gear or a certain genre. I believe in synergy with gear, sure, but if you don't like your headphone you should move on to a different set rather than wrestle with gear to compensate, or use an EQ.
     
    HeadphonePairings.jpg
    I've recently added the ETHER C to the stable.
     
    Vmoda M-100 - The N5 helps the bass heavy (though somewhat detailed bass) M-100 a little with the sense of space. Overall though the M-100 has so much bass that without an equalizer I prefer not to listen to it. The more energetic presentation of the N5 matched well with the M-100 and brought out a better treble response than I typically hear with this headphone. This helped quite a bit to balance the these headphones with regard to the frequency balance. An ok listen.
     
    AKG K550 - These headphones can sound a bit hot in the treble but the lower bass has a good kick to them and can punch hard when the music calls for it. I  found the K550 a bit too 'hot' with the N5's sharp sound but when I listened for an extended period I found the soundstage of the K550 with the detail retrieval of the N5 became very enjoyable. The only caveat is there are slightly recessed mids with this headphone which the N5 doesn't help much with. Overall a good match and a fun listen, if not a little bright.
     
    Audeze LCD-2.2 (non fazor) - The fact that these somewhat inefficient planar dynamic headphones can be driven from the N5 without using high gain and without raising the volume too much isn't surprising to me given how they performed with the N5's bigger brother, the N6. The N5 increased the sense of air and provides a good enough source for the LCD-2. It's not a match made in heaven though. The dynamics are somewhat crippled and it sounds a bit hollow to me compared to my desktop gear, or even a more powerful portable amp. This is expected though. Still you can use the N5 with the LCD-2 to drive it to good volumes when in a pinch. High gain was not much different except for needing to lower the volume to keep the listening level the same. The LCD-2 helped flesh out the bass presentation form the N5. A good listen.
     
    Audeze LCD-XC - The LCD-XC is a different animal than the LCD-2. It's much more efficient and has much faster drivers with more detail retrieval. The N5 paired very well with the XC and the more aggressive presentation from the N5 added to the amazing detail retrieval of the XC. The combination is enjoyable to listen to and the clear mids and treble with N5 sounded very good. Of course we are talking about some serious headphones but the N5 wasn't ashamed to feed them all the detail they wanted. Great dynamics and a relatively open soundstage.
     
    JH Audio Angie Universal IEM - The N5 to the Angie was a a very enjoyable pairing. There is so much detail retrieval on tap with every small nuance being thrown out for the Angie to reproduce, and yet it was only lacking a little weight to the presentation. I found that no frequency was fighting with each other to be heard. I did hear hiss from the N5 balanced output using the somewhat sensitive Angie (17 Ohm resistance and 117db sensitivity @ 1kHz), but SE was completely silent. I had to turn up the bass dial slightly on the Angie with the N5 but in the end it was a great pairing.
     
    MrSpeaker ETHER C - Although the ETHER C is relatively new in my stable of headphones I found them quite good from the N5. Not being as efficient as the LCD-XC they benefitted from the power of the N5 with good bass impact and an amazing soundstage for a closed back headphone. Detail retrieval was above par and the pair matched well. Dan Clark recommends over 100 hours of burn-in for his V-Planar drivers so I was not able to have them fully burnt-in when I had the N5 in my possession. From what I'm hearing of the ETHER C now I imagine it would sound even better with the N5 with a little more weight in the low end.
     
     
     
    Line Out From the Cayin N5
     
    LineOut_Rx2.jpg
     
    The Line Out on the N5 is very clean and it paired well with the ALO Rx. The Rx helped tame some of the sharpness and the detail retrieval from the DAC was top notch. I also tried the Line Out with the FiiO e12 portable amp and to the HA-1 desktop amp. In the e12/N5 stack the sound became a little more grainy and a little flatter compared to the built in headphone amplifier on the N5. The Line Out to the HA-1 was, again, very detailed and clean but the HA-1 was a clear step up in amplification, as expected.
     
     
     
    Digital Coaxial out From the Cayin N5 
     
    Coaxial_HA-1.jpg
    When connected through the coaxial output the N5 simply becomes a transport for your music.
     
    I'm so happy that Cayin went with a separate, non-shared, coaxial out with the N5. With the latest FiiO DAPs it's become increasingly annoying to deal with the shared coaxial pin-out configuration to something like the Chord Mojo. What I hear from the digital coaxial output of the N5 is precisely what I would expect, that is to say I hear the sound of the device it's connected to. I hear no noise or issues with the coaxial interface and REALLY appreciate the separate coaxial jack on the N5. Thank you Cayin!
     
     
     
    Final Thoughts
     
    I enjoyed my time with the N5 for the most part. Just to summarize I'd like to get the negatives out of the way first. The interface isn't really my favourite of the DAPs I've tested or owned. The scroll wheel would sometimes jump around a bit when navigating (yet other tour members have had no issues). The button layout is not the most optimal or efficient layout. There is an unacceptable amount hiss with my IEMs using the 2.5mm balanced output. Are these factors a deal breaker? Well, that all depends on your perspective and where you're coming from. I'm happy with my stable of DAPs (for the moment) and I prefer their control layout more than the N5. If you are just entering in to the world of dedicated music players then the hardware controls would more than likely not bother you, especially given the beautiful design Cayin has come up with. If you don't care about balanced output or don't have sensitive headphones/IEMs that will be used in balanced mode then the hiss shouldn't be an issue for you.
     
    One note I should mention is that Cayin has been very active on Head-Fi and they have been releasing FW updates at a respectable rate. They recently released firmware 3.0 which allows DSD over DoP through coaxial as well as a few other enhancements. I was on firmware 2.0 when I had the N5. There is very good support from Cayin and they are more than eager to help their user base with any questions or issues.
     
    For me the sound quality of the N5 is very detailed if not slightly aggressive, yet after I get used to its sound signature going back to other gear they sound less dynamic than the N5. For such a small unit the power output is impressive and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a player at this price that can drive so many headphones with this authority. As a player at the top end of the mid tier the Cayin N5 is a very good entry in the world of portable audio. It's on about the same playing field as the FiiO X5ii in terms of sound quality and I know that if I didn't already own a few DAPs the Cayin N5 would be on my short list.
     
    Washboard2.jpg
     
    Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!
     
     
     
     
    My ratings for the Cayin N5:
     
    ScreenShot2015-12-31at4.15.47PM.png
     
    Edit: Formatting
    1. View previous replies...
    2. BRCMRGN
      Very good review. I really like the N5 - great parts, design and feature set. It is a bit bright - I prefer Roxanne over Angie for the N5.  Good complement to the smoother, more analog sounding Cowon Plenue P1.  I made the mistake of putting the N5 under a pillow, listening (balanced, of course) while falling asleep. When I went to put it away, it was HOTTTTT!. The balanced amp section puts out a lot of power and heat - give this thing some space around it for cooling. 
      BRCMRGN, Jan 1, 2016
    3. PinkyPowers
      I must agree, the Carbon Fibre on the back does not strike me as genuine. It looks more like a 3D print.

      It's unfortunate you had accuracy issues with the scroll wheel. When I ran the N5 through its paces, the wheel was perfectly accurate. Just stiff.

      The Cayin N5 sure if lovely, though. It's appearance was my favorite thing about it.
      PinkyPowers, Jan 1, 2016
    4. Andykong
      A remarkable review, such an joy to read your sharing during the New Year holiday.

      N5's CNC aluminum chassis is designed to improve heat dispensation, you can consider it as a heat sink oif some form, so it does need some space in order to function efficiently.
      Andykong, Jan 5, 2016
  4. PsiCore
    Relax and enjoy - as simple as that
    Written by PsiCore
    Published Dec 30, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - gorgeous look, pleasant and musical sound, good UI
    Cons - no dynamic playlist, slight brightness on some tracks
    I was testing the Cayin N5 for one week as part of the world tour. As there are already plenty of pics, I decided not to take any by myself - they wouldn't be even close as beautiful as from other reviewers and this DAP just for its looks deserves some nice high quality pictures.
    Please also keep in mind, that I'm not a professional reviewer, so these impressions are from the perspective of an ordinary user, smooth sound lover and average basshead.
     
    Testing equipment:
    Phones: Unique Melody Merlin
    Amp: Cayin C5
    Comparisons: iRiver H320 Rockboxed, Fiio X5 1st gen, iBasso DX90
    Tested on low gain - on high gain there was too much hiss on my CIEMs
     
    Functionality:
    1. Good UI:
    1. clear menu and it's easy to navigate
    2. similar to Fiio DAPs, so you might feel very familiar
    2. Average button positioning:
    1. M button to close to volume adjustment buttons
    2. you need to get used to the wheel (although it's a lot better than the one from Fiio X5) – I prefer simple buttons
    3. Software:
    1. track skipping is not working when screen’s off (probably fixable with future firmwares)
    2. play/pause takes too long to initiate (probably fixable with future firmwares)
    3. couldn’t test DAC due to driver issues (probably fixable with future firmwares)
    4. missing dynamic playlist option, which is a big downside, if you’re used to Rockboxed players
     
    Sound:
    - on the warmer side
    - enjoyable and emotional – not for analytical fanatics :wink:
    - a bit harsh with bright mastered tracks, but in general quite smooth
    - with C5 – full bodied sound, adds bass power, a bit more warmness and soundstage
     
    Bass:
    - good extension and slam
    - pretty fast and detailed
    - good transition between subbass and midbass – nothing too dominant, nothing too shy
    - no bleeding into mids
     
    Mids:
    - smooth, musical
    - intimate, great female vocals
    - drowns you into the music – simply relax-and-enjoy kind of presentation
     
    Highs:
    - quite detailed and extended, but not boosted
    - crystal clear
    - rarely on the edge of harshness (there's some peak in the upper mids/lower highs, which I'm quite sensitive to)
     
    Basshead perspective:
    - good basshead levels, but not for extreme basshead lovers
    - no precut option like on Rockbox, therefore the bass distorts quickly with heavy EQing – I prefer using EQ, than bass boost on C5, which muddies the sound too much
     
    Comparison to other players:
    - from memory though, as I don't have the Fiio and iBasso anymore:
    vs Fiio X5 1st gen. – N5 is more neutral, more linear in bass, a lot better scroll wheel. X5 had no issues with DAC drivers from the beginning. Similar UI.
    vs iBasso DX90 – quite similar sound, but DX90 is a touch brighter. DX90 has Rockbox, although it wasn’t pleasant to navigate it with the touch screen.
    vs iRiver H320 (if it matters to anyone these days :wink: – similar sound, but N5 had a bit more sweetness in the mids. Due to Rockbox EQ capabilities the iRiver can be a true bass monster.
  5. wirefriend
    Enjoyable sounding DAP with very good price/value ratio
    Written by wirefriend
    Published Dec 3, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Solid build, plesant sound, good UI, cheaper than TOTL DAPs
    Cons - Sometimes too revealing highs, minor usability quirks
    I received a test Caying N5 as a part of the tour, used it for a week.
    I will not be posting a pictures because there are plenty of them already but will try to compare Cayin to my phone and other DAPs, describe what I heard and try to rate it.
    Of course all my opinions and rating here are subjective and you may choose to dissagree.
     
    I used low gain setting on the N5 as the presentation was "less in the face" which is something I generally prefer.
     
    Other equipment / settings used:
    - 1964 Ears Adel A12 CIEMs (TOTL)
    - Denon AH-D5000 closed headphones (easy to drive, bassy, quite wide scene for closed cans)
    - Samsung Galaxy S3 (i9300, Wolfson DAC) with Boeffla sound enabled in kernel
    - HiFiMan HM-901: low gain
    - iBasso: DX100: mid gain
     
    A12 / Allan Taylor - Colour to the moon
    vs i9300 much wider and a bit deeper scene, more organic and lively, more smooth, bit brighter
    vs DX100 less crisp highs, less organic, narrower scene, not so lively, equaly smooth
    vs HM-901 less crisp highs, less organic, a bit narrower scene, not so lively, equaly smooth
    ratings:
    - i9300: 1/10
    - N5: 5/10
    - DX100 9/10
    - HM-901 8/10
     
    A12 / Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - Please Baby
    vs i9300, N5 had: scene more consistent left-to-right, wider, tonality: a bit brighter, exposed / a bit tiring higher mids / lower highs
    vs DX100, N5 had: shallower scene, less differentiation of instruments tone, was much brighter, was a bit artificial
    vs HM-901,N5 had: a bit shallower scene, less diffrentiation of instruments tone, was much brighter, didn't hit so tightly
    ratings:
    - i9300 1/10
    - N5: 3/10
    - DX100: 9/10
    - HM-901 7/10
     
    D5000 / Allan Taylor - Colour to the moon
    vs i9300: scene more centralized but wide, more 3D, a bit too bassy, mids seem loosing in favour of highs and lows (V shape?), highlights left channel which is brighter than right on this recording
    vs DX100, N5 was: less 3D, a bit too bassy, less balanced left-to right (DX100 doesn’t highlight brighter left channel any more), feels less relaxed
    vs HM-901, N5 was: less 3D, less 3D, a bit too bassy, a bit less balanced left-to right (901 does highlight the brighter left channel less then N5 and more than DX100)
    ratings:
    - i9300: 1/10
    - N5: 3/10
    - DX100: 8/10
    - HM-901 9/10
     
    D5000 / Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - Please Baby
    vs i9300, N5 was: more lively, hits harder, feels much more in control, has wider scene, better tone of instruments, has higher scene (up/down)
    vs Dx100, N5 was: a bit less bassy (positive) , less relaxed, has narrower scene, has taller (up/down) scene, more “in the face” which is something I usually don’t like, but I liked it with N5 on this piece of music, brighter, a bit less veil clearer
    ratings:
    - i9300: 1/10
    - N5: 6/10
    - DX100: 7/10
    - HM-901: 8/10
     
    Software/UI stability ratings:
    - i9300 10/10
    - N5 10/10
    - DX100: 6/10,
    - HM-901: 4/10
     
    UI features/usability ratings:
    - i9300: 10/10 (Tidal, Spotify, music ratings, great display, long batter life)
    - N5: 5/10 (I missed music rating / playcount features I love on i9300 and DX100)
    - DX100 8/10,
    - HM-901: 5/10
     
    Other remarks:
    - places accent on highs
    - highs are revealing on harsh tracks, edge of harshness
    - the rest smooth and buttery
    - mids may be a bit recessed / foggy
    - nice subbass
    - shines on well mastered tracks
    - soundstage is wide and tall but not very deep,
    - plays a bit "in the face" but still pleasant,
    - is musical,
    - serious improvement over i9300,
    - more direct and crisper than DX100,
    - pause/play switch takes up to 4 seconds
    - one of SD slots didn't work at one occasion, the same card worked fine in the other slot; no problem with first slot on the second day
    - wasn't albe to test it as PC USB DAC due to driver installtion problem
    - control wheel needs some patience (a bit like on HM-901)
     
    In generall I find the N5 to be an enjoyable DAP which is not at the TOTL level however is definitelly a step up from a good sounding phone and has a very good price/value ratio.
      taffy2207 likes this.
  6. nmatheis
    Cayin N5: Retro-Cool Lovechild of Cayin's C5 & N6
    Written by nmatheis
    Published Nov 10, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - C5-ish sound. Two card slots. Solid build. Absolutely gorgeous. Balanced out. USB 3.0.
    Cons - UI inconsistencies. Decentralized buttons & wheel. UI inconsistencies. USB 3.0.
    500x1000px-LL-9c872377_N5Gray.jpg
     
    Photo courtesy of Cayin.
     
    INTRODUCTION
    While Cayin has been in the business of producing top-notch home audio gear for many years, they are a relative newcomer to the portable audio market. Prior to the N5, Cayin released a couple portable amps and the N6 DAP. I've personally tried their C5 portable amp and the N6 DAP. I've also reviewed their C5DAC (LINK to review). So as you can see, I've had some experience with Cayin's portable products. Out of that experience, I had some thoughts on where I'd like to see Cayin head. Regarding their C5 and C5DAC, I loved the sound signature with its warm, organic low end, sparkly highs, and great soundstage. However, both have a very powerful amp section even on Low Gain, which made it hard for me to fine-tune volume with sensitive IEM. Out of those two, I'd recommend the C5DAC for its increased versatility. Regarding the N6, I honestly wasn't a big fan and chose not to review it. It's quite large, has very unusual aesthetics which didn't click with me, and sounded more analytical than I prefer. After trying all that Cayin gear, some thoughts crystallized and I suggested that Cayin release a smaller DAP with more conventional aesthetics plus the C5's sound signature. It would be a hit! I'm glad to say that the N5 delivered on all accounts. Despite that, I do have a few minor nitpicks about the N5 that prevent me from giving it a slightly higher score. Some of these could be fixed in future firmware releases, while others are hardware design choices that will have to wait for the next iteration. I'd like to reiterate the word minor regarding these nitpicks. I've tried a lot of DAPs recently and have some experience as an end user for beta testing software, so perhaps I have stronger feelings on what I want out of the user experience than others. In any case, I mean for these to be looked at as suggestions for improvement rather than criticisms against the N5 which I think you'll find, I quite enjoyed. Okay, enough rambling, it's time to get on with the review!
     
    Before we start, here's a bit of information about Cayin from the About Us section on their website:
     
    About Cayin
     
    Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., LTD has been established since 1993 under the investment of AVIC INTERNATIONAL ZHUHAI CO., LTD for designing and manufacturing professional HI-FI audio equipments. We are devoted to design and research of hi-end level of audio equipments under our own brandname Cayin with our intellectual property rights. We are striving to build classical extrodinary audio equipments with cultural connotation and propel national audio brands worldwide and pace up with the rest of the world. With the development of more than ten years, Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., LTD has become one of the most well-known audio enterprises in Chinese audio industry and its brand Cayin has also become one of the most famous audio brands in China. Our products with its highest quality have been exported to more than 20 countries locating in Europe, North America, Asia, etc, which are very popular all over the world and have been awarded many times as "Most Popular Product". With a production and research foundation of more than 12,000 square meters we own a professional experienced research and development team and a high efficient management team. Today Spark aims to build CAYIN as one of the most world famous audio brand and it has become the development goal of our company. "Develop and reborn like a phoenix rising from the ashes" We are following our oath and working hard to build CAYIN the world famous audio brand.
     
    Since I was the second member on my leg of the N5 tour, there are already several excellent reviews and I'd urge you to read over those to get alternative viewpoints and better context for deciding whether the N5 is the right DAP for you. 
     
    LINK to Cayin's website.
    LINK to the dedicated Cayin N5 thread.
     
     
    DISCLAIMER
    I was provided the N5 as a review sample as part of Cayin's worldwide tour. There is no financial incentive from Cayin in writing this review. I am in no way affiliated with Cayin, and this is my honest opinion of the N5.  I would like to than Cayin for sponsoring the tour and specifically @Andykong for allowing me to participate!
     
     
    ABOUT ME
    I'm a 43 year old father who loves music.  From electronic (Autechre, Boards of Canada) to modern/minimalist composition (John Cage, Philip Glass) to alternative rock (Flaming Lips, Radiohead) to jazz (John Coltrane and Miles Davis) to metal (Behemoth, King Diamond) to classic rock (Eagles, Rush), I listen to a wide variety of genres and artists. 
     
    My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders (still have my Sharp DR7), and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-1xx, iPod 5.5, iPhones, and the newer crop of DAPs from Fiio and iBasso. 
     
    I typically listen with IEMs from my ever-growing collection from budget to mid-fi. Less often, I grab a pair of full-size cans.  Recently, I've been listening a lot with my AKG K553 and HiFiMan HE400, as well as the Alpha & Delta AD01 and RHA T20 IEM I had in for testing.  I do have a lot of other gear, though.  You can always check my profile for a reasonably up to date gear list. 
     
    As with a lot of people my age, I've got some hearing issues.  I've got mild tinnitus and suffer from allergies, which often affect hearing in my right ear.  I'll admit it, I'm not blessed with a pair of golden ears.  That said, I've been listening to portable gear for a long time and feel confident in assessing audio gear. I just wanted to be transparent up front. 
     
     
    SPECIFICATIONS
    CayinN5Specification.jpg
    Specifications graphic courtesy of Cayin
     
     
    PRICE: $350
     
     
    PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
    As usual, I'll cover packaging and accessories in pictorial format below.
     
    Front
    CayinN5-1.jpg
     
     
    Rear
    CayinN5-2.jpg
     
     
    N5 - Just Gorgeous!
    CayinN5-3.jpg
     
     
    Literature + Accessories
    CayinN5-17.jpg
     
    The User Manual is very well written and more comprehensive than most DAPs. I applaud Cayin for going the extra mile for their users instead of forcing them to rely solely on digital documentation. You also get a Quick Guide, maintenance record, and COAX and USB 3.0 cables. I put the USB3.0 cable in the Pro and Cons list above. I can see this being a pro for people with a USB 3.0 port on their computer, however I'm not one of them and for me having this connector mean I had yet another type of cable to carry around. I'd rather have a more standard micro USB cable. If Cayin's trying to be more forward-looking, a USB-C cable might have been more appropriate. 
     
     
    Conspicuously missing is a case or pouch of any sort. On one hand, I can see Cayin being very proud of the gorgeous design and not wanting to cover it up a la Apple. On the other hand, as you'll see below, a case (or rear protective film) would help prevent paint from rubbing off. As far as I know, I'm only the second person to use this N5, and the rear paint has rubbed off quite extensively. Some kind of protection would've prevent this. I understand Cayin will release a premium leather case for the N5, so if you're concerned about scratches keep an eye out for it.
     
     
     
    BUILD & ERGONOMICS
    The Cayin N6 is known for its unique "porthole" design. It was a strong move on Cayin's part and one that was a love it or hate it with little in between. Personally, I didn't care for it and was glad to see Cayin stamp their unique aesthetics on a more conventional design. I'll go over the N5's design with comments about things I like or think could use improvement in pictorial format below, so please read the captions. But first here's a picture that shows theN5 and N6 side by side so you can get a basic idea of how they compare.
     
    Comparo1.jpg
    Photo courtesy of Cayin
     
     
    Front
    CayinN5-4.jpg
     
    Here we can see several features of the N5's physical user interface. Along the left edge, you can see the volume rocker at the top with the M (menu) button directly below it. On the bottom edge, you can see the protective port cover, which keeps the USB 3.0 and dual micro SD slots dust-free. On the N5's face, we see the return, forward, and back buttons on the left side, the scroll wheel on the right side, and the display at top right. The display has a polarized look to it, which can be a bit of a double-edged sword. I found that while it was visible in bright light, I did have to look at it straight on. Deviating from a 90-degree viewing angle quickly decreased visibility while outside.
     
     
    Rear
    CayinN5-7.jpg
     
    Not much to see here. There's a carbon fiber panel on which you can see the paint is already rubbing off, as I previously mentioned. This was an issue with the tour Cayin N6 I auditioned earlier this year, as well. Again, I'd suggest Cayin look into better paint, a protective film, or case to prevent this from happening.
     
     
    Top
    CayinN5-8.jpg
     
    Here you can see the Balanced Out, shared Headphone / Line Out, COAX Out, and the Power / Screen button.
     
     
    Bottom
    CayinN5-16.jpg
     
    Here you can see the Reset hole and the uncovered USB 3.0 and dual micro SD slots. As others have mentioned, I think two protective covers would be better - one for the USB 3.0 port and one for the mSD slots. And again, I think either a more common micro USB or more forward-thinking USB-C port would've been preferable to USB 3.0.
     
     
    Top Left
    CayinN5-9.jpg
     
    I've got two suggestions for improvement here. First, I'd like to see the M button separated from the volume rocker. Second, the M button should be harder to push. In addition to acting as a secondary Return button in menus and opening the Quick Menus in song lists and the Now Playing screen, it also acts as a Play/Pause button when the screen is locked. I found it overly sensitive, frequently pausing play when I reached into my pocket to adjust volume. 
     
     
    Bottom Left
    CayinN5-14.jpg
     
    Look at that attention to detail. So gorgeous! The return button takes you back through menus and or directly to the main menu when held down for a long press. The Forward and Back buttons not only skip/scan through tracks but also double as navigation buttons in lists and, curiously, to adjust volume when the volume popover appears. As such, whenever you're in a list or in the volume popover, skipping/scanning through tracks isn't possible.
     
     
    Bottom Right
    CayinN5-13.jpg
     
    Here's the metal scroll wheel. It's stiffer than the scroll wheels on the FiiO and Shanling DAPs I've used. This makes scrolling a bit slower. I found it was also a bit jumpy, which to be completely honest happens with most of these scroll wheels. FiiO seemed to fix it in the X5 Classic in the latest beta firmware, so I think there's hope to make this scroll wheel more precise, too. The Play/Pause/Confirm button is smack dab in the middle of the scroll wheel. Right alongside the scroll wheel is a piece of smoked plastic which covers an amber LED that blinks to indicate charging status. This reminds me of the C5's battery indicators. I like this little nod to the C5. It adds aesthetic consistency across Cayin's product line. Nice!
     
     
    One last glamour shot!
    CayinN5-12.jpg
     
     
     
    And finally, here's how the N5 stacks up some other DAPs I had laying around (some mine, some in for testing).
    DAPlineup-1.jpg
    DAPlineup-2.jpg
     
    As you can see, it's fairly comparable in size to the FiiO 5 Classic, which puts it right in the middle of the pack for size in between smaller DAPs like the FiiO X3 & Shanling M2 and the larger DAPs like the Caying N6 & Shanling M3.
     
     
    TO SUM UP
    I'm sure you noticed the word gorgeous pop up a lot. Yes, the N5's design pushes a lot of the right buttons for me aesthetically. Beyond being a beautiful piece of industrial design, the N5 feels very solid in your hand with no flex. All buttons are well-centered, and the controls are marked with high-contrast paint. It's completely obvious to me that the N5 was a labor of love!
     
    All that said, I have somewhat small hands for a man and found myself wishing the controls were a bit more centralized. As it is, I found it a bit hard to use the N5 one-handed and maintain a stable grip. It required me to shimmy the N5 up and down in my hand quite a bit to reach the controls. Shimmy down to get to the scroll wheel. Shimmy up and over to get to the volume rocker. Shimmy back down and stretch my thumb over to get to the transport controls. It's not a deal-breaker, but I think it's an area where improvements could be made to make the N5 more ergonomic and allow for a more stable grip.
     
     
    GUI / FIRMWARE
    I'm a firm believer that user interface can make or break your experience with any piece of technology. I went over the physical user interface above, and now I'm going to go over the N5's graphical user interface. If you're familiar with the GUI on DAPs from Cayin, FiiO, or Shanling, you're going to feel right at home. They all share a common firmware base, so there's a lot of overlap, and I do mean a lot! I'll walk you through the GUI in pictorial format below.
     
     
    Main Menu + Themes
    CayinN5GUIThemes.jpg
     
    So we've got all the usual players in the Main Menu. From left to right, My Music, File Browser, Now Playing, Music Settings, and System Settings. Again, if you're familiar with Cayin, FiiO, or Shanling DAPs, this will look very familiar. Scrolling to one of the menu choices displays the name of the selection in the center of the topbar. In fact, if you look at the topbar, you'll see a lot going on - and I do mean a lot. What you don't get in this pictorial is motion, and all the text that doesn't fit into the small topbar space allocated scrolls endlessly. I found this quite annoying in this otherwise gorgeous design. Some suggestions would be to use LG and HG instead of LdB and HdB, HO or PO instead of displaying Phones, System instead of System Settings, etc. You get the picture. There are ways to display the same amount of information, getting the point across without using up so much of the precious topbar real estate.
     
    A couple general notes on navigation at this point. The first is that all lists are looping, so you can scroll up from the top item in a list to get to the bottom of that list. The second is that I found scroll wheel navigation and button navigation inconsistent. For example, in my preferred theme (the Cassette theme pictured in the lower right up above), the Forward button takes you down through menu items. In all other lists, the Forward button takes you up through list items. These should be consistent and in my opinion, the Forward button should take you down through list items. This is more consistent with the other DAPs I've used and feels more natural to me.
     
    To get back to the Main Menu from anywhere, you can either long press the Return button or the center button on the scroll wheel. Be forewarned that if you long press the center button on the scroll wheel, the N5 will clear out the song you were playing leaving you to navigate back to the track or find another. I'm not sure how useful this is and would rather see the center button simply replicate the Return button functionality, which leaves the current track playing when it pops you into the Main Menu.
     
    To get back to the Now Playing screen from the Main Menu, just press the Return button.
     
    I'm not a fan of the themes and would prefer to have a simple/plain, horizontal, high-contrast theme. Something like the Piano theme but charcoal gray and white without all the piano graphics would be nice. I guess we're lucky Cayin's firmware can be themed. If you like it, great. If not, crack it open and drop in some graphics files that better suit your taste.
     
     
    System Settings (Top) & Music Settings (Bottom)
    CayinN5GUISettings.jpg
     
    Here are System Settings and Music Settings options. It's all pretty straightforward stuff. One thing that separates this GUI from FiiO and Shanling's is Cayin's choice to put the Scan Card choice into the My Music section instead of the System Settings. As with most of the other DAPs (iBasso's being a notable, slow exception), the N5 scans cards quite quickly. Another difference is that with Cayin's EQ, there's no audible pre-gain cut. I know Cayin is dedicated to great sound, so I'm assuming the same pre-gain cut is applied even if the EQ is off to prevent distortion when cranking the EQ up to the full +6dB settings. Another differentiator is that you can only customize the Custom EQ preset, whereas with FiiO and Shanling's DAPs, you can customize all of the EQ presets. I really like having the option to customize all of the presets. I've used this on my FiiO X5 before along with modifying the firmware files to rename the EQ presets after my favorite HP & IEM. Doing this gives me a custom preset for those HP & IEM, which can help tweak the sound just the way I want and doesn't require me to remember if it's the Rock or Metal preset I customized for my HE400. I'd suggest Cayin change this, giving their users a more flexible EQ. 
     
     
    Music Categories + Folder Browsing
    CayinN5GUIMusic.jpg
     
    Again, this is all familiar stuff if you've been in the DAP game recently. Genres are handled correctly, with no weird Genres like "24" like I've found on my FiiO DAPs in the past. There is a My Favorites option, but no Playlist support yet that I can find. I'm not a My Favorites or Playlist kind of guy, so I'm not bothered by this, but I'm sure it will be a sticking point for some. However, I'm confident Cayin will add Playlist support in at some point. Personally, I use File Browsing and have everything well-organized on my daily driver cards. The card pictured here is for testing, which is why it's organized by resolution. Again, you simply scroll through the lists and use the center button to make your selection. Be forewarned, like many of the other DAPs, including those from FiiO and Shanling, if you have a large music collection and want to use Tag-based browsing, you're in for a lot of scrolling or button pressing! And I mean a lot!!! As with most of these non-iDevice DAPs, file browsing with a highly-organized folder structure is your friend!!!
     
    I typically use the following format, although others have their own favorites: A-C -> Artist -> Year Album -> ## Track. This way, top-level folders break artists down into separate folders like A-C, D-F, etc. This makes it so you don't have to scroll too much to get to any of your artists. Artists are in alphabetical order inside the top-level folders. Albums are ordered by year of release. Songs are ordered by track number. It works very, very well for me, but I'm an album guy so your needs may differ from mine.
     
    If you do choose the Tag-based browsing path, also be forewarned that like the other DAPs the N5's Genres just contain massive song lists with no organization. This is meant primarily for shuffle play and isn't an effective way to browse Artists & Albums by Genre like you would with an iDevice.
     
     
    Now Playing + Volume Adjustment
    CayinN5GUINowPlayingVolume.jpg

    Here's the Now Playing screen with and without the Quick Menu activated. As you can see, I'm playing some DSD files and am even chilling out to some nice orchestral jazz instead of my usual electronic and metal. Again, the topbar is a bit cluttered for my tastes, and I think Cayin could clean this up a bit. One change I'd really like to see is for the Gain Selector to be moved to the bottom of the Quick Menu. Why? Because the M button not only activates the Quick Menu but also functions as the OK button. So imagine you're listening with some sensitive IEM, go to adjust the volume button, accidentally hit the M button and then push it again because it seems like that might get rid of it. Yikes, you just switched to High Gain, and it pretty loud with those sensitive IEM because you were already pushing the volume envelope with that killer new metal album you bought. It happened to me when I was using some 11Ohm IEM. Not cool! If the Gain Selector was at the bottom of the list, all you'd have to do is activate the Quick Menu, scroll up, and then hit either the center scroll wheel button or M button to switch gain. It would be an easy change, and I hope Cayin considers implementing this suggestion.
     
    As with most of the other DAPs I've tried recently, Gapless works flawlessly (and I do mean flawlessly) with FLAC files but has some issues with AAC and MP3 files, which have very slight ticks between some (but not all) tracks. 
     
     
    Volume adjustment, which should be pretty straight forward, needs a bit of work. As with other DAPs, when the Volume popover is activated there are three ways to adjust the volume. You can either use the volume buttons, the next/previous buttons, or the scroll wheel. I found this a bit odd. I can see redundancy, but don't see the need for triple redundancy. If that were it, I might be okay with it. However, I found that holding down the volume or next/previous buttons can cause massive volume overshoot. Again, not so good with those 11Ohm IEM! So be forewarned, please just click the buttons or use the scroll wheel.
     
    And finally, one more quirk that I'm sure Cayin will fix but is pretty annoying is that music playback takes roughly 2 seconds after pushing the Play button (or M button when the screen is locked). When I first got the N5, this was a source of frustration, as I was used to playback starting pretty much instantly and kept pushing the Play/Pause and M buttons repeatedly trying to get the music to play. instead I was stuck in a loop of pushing Pause before the N5 could start playback. I really hope this gets fixed soon!
     
    Hmm... What else? There's no Screen Lock mode, but like FiiO's DAPs the Volume buttons double-up as Next/Forward buttons when the screen is locked. Just hold them down to skip tracks. And as previously mentioned, the M button doubles up as the Play/Pause button when the screen is locked
     
     
    TO SUM UP
    Whew, that was a lot to cover! While the overall GUI is very similar to FiiO and Shanling's DAPs, there are little inconsistencies that pop up here and there that make it feel less polished. I'm sure this will get better as Cayin releases firmware updates, but for now I felt like the GUI was a bit of a mixed bag.
     
     
    BATTERY LIFE

    Using the screen quite a bit and with Low Gain, I found myself getting around 8-9 hours of battery life which is right in line with the specs. This is good enough for me to charge every other day, top off during the day, or charge overnight without worrying about fully depleting the battery. It seems like all the new DAPs are coming with Deep Sleep mode these days, and it's a great feature which keeps you from waiting through boot up every time the N5 goes to sleep. It's pretty responsive when resuming from deep sleep mode, too. Just push the Power button, and it comes back to life. Nice!
     
     
    DAC

    I'm not a big desktop listener, so this isn't a feature I see myself using much. I did try it to make sure it worked, and it was plug n play with my MacBook Pro. Of course, you Windows users will have to download and install some drivers first. 
     
     
    SOUND

    During my time with the N5, I mainly used the highly-tunable FLC 8S I had in for testing (review coming soon for these bad boys!). I also gave them some time with theHeir 4.Ai-2, VE ZEN 1.0 and HiFiMan HE400. IEM were on Low Gain, ZEN and HE400 on High Gain. I listened to a wide variety of music in mostly AAC and FLAC formats. I was just wrapping-up my review of the Shanling M2 around the time I started with the N5, so I have some brief listening notes from that review that will also be applicable here. This listening was volume matched, and the same songs were queued up on all the DAPs which were connected to my switcher.
     
    Before I start, I want to say that I find the differences between these DAPs pretty subtle. They're there, but as @Brooko would be quick to point out, you need to volume match to make sure you're not just hearing volume-related differences. And using a switcher to A/B the sources while they're playing the same song in parallel helps immensely. One thing that struck me was that the Shanling DAPs stuck out as being different than the others. I'll try my best to elaborate below. If this doesn't adequately describe things for you, there are plenty of other reviews that should help you understand the differences between the N5 vs. other DAPs. Okay, on with the show!
     
    After my Shanling M2 review wrapped-up, I started using the N5 as my sole DAP to become acclimated. As with the M2, I clicked with the sound pretty quickly but for completely different reasons. As the title of this review indicates, I found the N5 to be a good compromise between the warm, sparkly, spacious sound of the Cayin C5 and the more analytical sound of the Cayin N6 but definitely leaning more towards the C5. I can see this being too "fun" for some who prefer to let headphones to provide any sound coloration, but I really enjoyed it!
     
    VS FiiO X5 Classic: These share a similar sound but I found the X5 to be a bit darker and more closed in. Out of these two, I'd choose the N5.
     
    VS iBasso DX90: Again, more similarities than differences to my ears. DX90 has a more controlled low end but the top end sticks out a bit more. DX90 wins slightly in soundstage. Out of these two, I think I'd again prefer to go with N5.
     
    VS Shanling M2: The M2 sounds more neutral - cooler and airer. M2's soundstage is more distant, whereas N5's is more immersive. Out of all the DAP comparisons, the M2 stood out as being the most different. As such, it's hard for me to choose a winner between these two. This battle really comes down to what you want - something that makes you feel like you're in the band and has a more v-shaped sound (N5) or something that makes you feel more like you're in the audience and is flatter.
     
     
    DRIVING POWER
    Just for reference, here are the volume settings I got with Heir 4.Ai-s when volume matching various DAPs at ~80dB with a 1kHz test tone.
    1. Cayin N5 - 14/100
    2. FiiO X3 - 28/120
    3. FiiO X5 - 28/120
    4. iBasso DX90 - 164/255
    5. Shanling M2 - 14/60
    6. Shanling M3 - 10/60
     
     
    SUMMARY

    I found a lot to like in the Cayin N5 but also have some minor quibbles. On the plus side, I found it to be a highly attractive DAP. The design team really needs to be commended on producing such a beautiful piece of machinery. Just amazing! And beyond simply being beautiful, it feels quite solid in your hand. Buttons and scroll wheel feel built to last! The sound was just what I was hoping for out of the next Cayin DAP, so I was really happy to see that. I can see this DAP becoming a classic with it's great mix of industrial design and really appealing sound signature.
     
    On the flip side, I found that it wasn't as easy to operate one-handed as I would've liked. It required me to shimmy the DAP up and down in my hand a lot. If I hadn't just finished up with the Shanling M2 review, I don't know if I would've been so sensitive to this but the M2 is designed to work so well one-handed that all of other DAPs feel a bit clunky in comparison. Beyond that, I felt that there were several GUI / Navigational inconsistencies that, while not show stoppers by any means, did frustrate me from time to time. Fortunately, they're mainly software issues which can be fixed if Cayin desires, but there were a few hardware issues like the overly sensitive M button and stiff, jumpy scroll wheel that could be fixed with midstream changes or in the next iteration.
     
    If I were looking at DAPs in this rough price range today, I'd suggest looking into the Shanling M2 (LINK to review) and Cayin N5. Both are great performers and were the two DAPs in my recent DAP Battle Royale that I found myself coming back to over and over. The Shaling M2 for its more neutral sound, small size, and great ergonomics. The N5 for it's more energetic sound signature, beautiful aesthetics, and high storage capacity. Both are winners in my book!
     
    Thanks for taking the time to read this. Feel free to shoot me a PM if you've got any questions. 
     
    And finally, a big thanks to Cayin and @Andykong for letting me take part in the N5 review tour. It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing more great products from Cayin in the future!
      iano, Pier-Fi, Brooko and 8 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. catspaw
      Have you been able to crank up the volume to the max on the different DAPs to see if any of them have distortion at max output?
      Its one of the things I test first in any portable player :D.
      catspaw, Nov 16, 2015
    3. bolmeteus
      Intriguing review! As @glassmonkey pointed out, you can try a micro usb2.0 cable with the DAP. Just plug it to the wider part of the opening. I had a USB 3.0 HDD which had the same cable you have and it also worked with a micro usb2.0 cable, albeit at slower usb2.0 speeds.
      bolmeteus, Nov 19, 2015
    4. nmatheis
      Thanks for pointing out that you can use a micro USB cable with the USB 3.0 port, guys! This was my first experience with this type of connector, so I didn't know you could do that. I'll see if @x RELIC x can confirm that it works when he receives the N5 If it does, I'll edit my review to reflect that.
       
      @catspaw: You wanna I go deaf??? Cayin portable amps & DAPs are almost too powerful for their own good, man! Low gain on these suckers nearly reaches high gain levels with other portable amps & DAPs I've used. It's like "Ludicrous Speed" on Spaceballs, except with Cayin it's "Ludicrous Volume"!
      nmatheis, Nov 21, 2015
  7. hellfire8888
    Small size, big delivery!
    Written by hellfire8888
    Published Nov 8, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Dual Micro SD Card Slot, Solid build, Smooth interface, Premium Build quality, Smooth and warm sound signature, balance output, usb 3 interface,
    Cons - Memory/USB port cover fits poorly and mar the overall look,
    Disclaimer: The N5 I reviewed was a free loaner unit from Cayin, which will be returned to Cayin at the end of the review tour. I have not benefitted financially or materially from writing this review, with the tour unit provided in exchange for my true feeling and opinions towards the product. Cayin did not check review content prior to publication.
     
    My first journey into portable hifi world started with a modest iphone 4. Then when i join this forum, i keep on reading how a good portable music player can improve or elevate the experience of listening to music. When Fiio launch X3, the price performance ratio is too tempting to be ignore and Imade my first purchase into hifi portable music player. True enough my whole listening experience changed. Then my lust for gear grow just like the hobbits lust for the ring in lords of the ring. I added many headphones/iem such as Beyerdynamic 880, T90 , T1 2nd gen, Vmoda M100, Sennheiser Momentum, Hifiman HE400i, Vjay, Logitech UE900, JVC FX850, Fiio EX1, Hifisound Wooduo and the list goes on... So what does it mean?? Well simple...the Fiio X3 or X3k can power some of these portable headphone/iem but for the power hungry monster, i have to get at least a portable amp to bring out its true potential.
     
    Then my journey and search for a more powerful player continue..then Cayin N6 caught my attention cause of its marketing gimmick, a player which can cramp so many amp in fact 13 if i am not mistaken into a player. I research and hesitate for a while and then finally jump the gun again to purchase Cayin N6. Boy i was excited upon receiving it! It has everything i always wanted. A powerful player with stronger output which reduce the need for me to carry the portable amps. While I enjoy Cayin N6 very much, my only complaint is the size. I wanted something similar with smaller size just like Fiio X3. Then when the thread discussion for Cayin N5 pop up, i guess it generated a lot of interest because Cayin N6 has proven itself and everyone else is hoping this little monster can outdo its elder brother!
     
    Thanks to Andy Kong i was given a chance to be a part of the Cayin N5 world tour.
     
    The packaging!
     
     
    IMG_2153.jpg
     
    IMG_2154.jpg
     
    Cayin opt for the minimalist design. Nothing too fancy and yet not simple with a slight touch of mysterious with black emblen on the box marked against the black packaging.
    This is a pre production version and maybe the final product packaging may change.
     
    IMG_2158.jpg
     
    It comes with a coaxial output cable, usb cable, screen protector, manual and of course the player itself. Something obvious was missing in this world tour unit which is the rubber silicon case for the Cayin N5. I was told that the final version may have the silicon protector included.
     
    The looks and build!
     
    I guess everyone first reaction is to compare the size of N6 and N5. Well as you can see it is much more smaller compare to N6. Well i would say it is around 20% from the looks of it. The build quality is awesome. Solid and craft to perfection but there is a flaw which is the rubber protector which is used to cover the microsd card slot which does not really jive in.
     
    IMG_2159.jpg
     
    The back of the player still carry the DNA of its elder sibling. But i personally would prefer a brushmetal back plate but this is down to personal preference.
     
    IMG_2161.jpg
     
    The scroll wheel is very usable and with as you can see, it is crafted with some groove to give it some grip with scrolling.
     
    PA230488.jpg
     
    Overall build quality is top notch.
     
    PA230486.jpg
    PA230491.jpg
     
    Here is a size comparison between, Cayin N6, Cayin N5, Fiio X3 and Fiio X3K. While it is smaller compare to Cayin N6 but is still a tad bigger compare to Fiio X3 or X3K
     
    PA230498.jpg
     
    The line out and headout jack share the same port, It has a dedicated coaxial out and a balance out port. The power button is at the top too.
     
    PA230507.jpg
     
    The bottom of the player housed two micro sd card slot and a USB port and reset button. I think the design of the micro SD card slot can be further improve because if you have long finger nails then you could potentially break it...(i mean your nail :) ) The rubber flab used to cover the port is not fitting well too and come off easily.
     
    PA230508.jpg
     
    The sound!
     
    PA230487.jpg
     
    Ok here comes the important part. The sound. I will skip the specification of this unit because it is all over the internet. I am not going to repeat it.
    I am not a professional reviewer nor a graduate in audio engineering. I will try my best to describe the sound because it is not easy to describe sound as it sounds different to different ear and person.
    Everyone perception of sound could be different. When i started my journey into hifi world, i notice everyone talk about hifi sound. So what exactly is hifi sound? After some soul searching i notice to some it simply means a sound signature which is giving the most accurate sound reproduce in the studio recording. Some describe hifi sound as having a neutral sound. I also come across some CD recordings which has been remastered to boost the mid and upper level of the frequency to give it the HIFI sound. ( so much of being neutral )
     
    But does it mean having a warm sound signature is not HIFI sound? Well to me sound is art. There is not such thing as correct sound or wrong sound. Is either the sound is pleasing to your ears or not.
    To me HIFI sound means the moment the frequency reach your ear and brain, I feel relax, calm and fun to listen. I want to enjoy my music and not becoming some mad scientist which keep on analyzing what is the best sound and whats wrong with sound signature.
     
    Do I enjoy Cayin N5 vs let say the new Fiio X3k? I used a Fiio HS2 Headphone output switcher to do an AB test between these two players.
     
    More power!!
     
    A blind test with the same volume level set at 20 for both player would immediately let you get which player has more power! 
    Set at high gain for both player, Cayin N5 is at least 50% more powerful than Fiio X3k. I will have to set the volume at Fiio X3k to 40 to match the Cayin N5 at 20.
    So most of the time you dont even need a portable amp to enjoy the music.
     
    Engaging Sound !!
     
    Similar to X3K, it has a warm sound to it with higher level of detail retrieval and music separation. But during the AB test you hardly hear the difference if you are unfamiliar with the track and with volume match. But it does make a difference to picky ear! 
     
    The track I used for the AB is from " Best of Vocal Works" - Kobayashi Mika
     
    IMG_2171.jpg
     
     
    The Cayin N5 is what i describe as giving you the warm and smooth sound. Here is my take on the sound description:-
     
    Bass: The player has certainly great amount of emphasize on bass and sub bass as well. It goes deep and hard. But not too overwhelming. 
     
    Mid and high: The mid is engaging giving you the in the first row of the stage feel and smooth high. If you have headphone with peaky trebble like Beyerdynamic T90 then this player should tame it :)
    I find it pair very well with my Hifiman HE-400i and FX850. The synergy is superb. I always like warm sound. The cymbal, string instrument is certainly there and it sound smooth and more refine.
     
    Soundstage and Imaging: You could certainly visualized where the instruments are coming from because it has good imaging. But soundstage could be wider and deeper just like Cayin N6.
     
    There is no hiss coming from this player as hiss can be annoying.
     
    Verdict!!
     
    The solid build of Cayin N5, warm and smooth sound signature certainly put it on par with Fiio X5 range. Most important of all, i certainly enjoy using it over a week period. I feel that Cayin is moving towards the right direction in building a name in the HIFI world. I would highly recommend Cayin N6 as your first portable music player if your budget permits :)
     
    (Note: I will come back and provide more details later when i am free and sorry if you are looking for a more analytical type of review. I am merely expressing my feedback as a consumer. Thanks for reading.)
    1. swannie007
      Nice review without being too analytical. Thank you.
      swannie007, Nov 9, 2015
    2. hellfire8888
      you are welcome swannie007
      hellfire8888, Nov 9, 2015
  8. hakushondaimao
    The Warmer, Friendlier Son of N6
    Written by hakushondaimao
    Published Nov 8, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Warm, detailed sound; intuitive UI and controls; build quality & design; double memory slots; hibernation function for extended battery life
    Cons - Memory/USB port cover inconvenient and fits poorly; combination headphone/line-out jack is finicky; lag on wakening from hibernation
    Little birds began twittering several months ago (early June, to be precise) about a possible little brother for the highly respected Cayin N6. Having just reviewed the N6 but not pulled the trigger on a purchase, the idea of a smaller, scaled-down, less expensive Cayin DAP excited me. I'm on the road a lot, so I'm always on the lookout for a truly portable, quality DAP (as opposed to TRANSportable, which is how I classify the N6).
     
    0.CayinN5.jpg
     
    With anticipation high, I started an N5 discussion thread, and quickly discovered that there were numerous other Head-Fi’ers who found the idea of a “baby N6” intriguing. Cayin was quick to jump in on the discussion as well, and was forthcoming with design and technical details about the N5 as these became available. As more and more details emerged, speculation on the N5 sound signature – clear and somewhat analytical like the N6, warm and engaging like the C5 and C5DAC, or somewhere in between – became one of the big themes, along with discussion around the balanced out capabilities and the somewhat steam punk inspired design.
     
    In late August, Cayin announced an N5 review tour, and I was lucky to be chosen one of the lead-off reviewers. My review unit arrived in early October (round about the time that the N5 went on sale internationally), and I got to spend two weeks with it before forwarding on to the next participant on the tour. And that brings us to this review.
     
    1.Product.jpg
     
    Disclaimer: The N5 I reviewed was a free loaner unit from Cayin, which will be returned to Cayin at the end of the review tour. I have not benefitted financially or materially from writing this review, with the tour unit provided in exchange for my true feeling and opinions towards the product. Cayin did not check review content prior to publication.
     
    I’m 50 verging on 51, and I have some “old guy” deficiencies in my hearing (in a recent, entirely non-scientific test I discovered I can’t really hear anything over about 15 kHz, with roll-of starting around 12 or 13 kHz, which I guess is pretty good for someone of my vintage but not perfect). My ear sensitivity is also pretty low, and so I listen at higher volume than the average bear. I listen to a variety of genres, in particular Classical (mostly chamber), Jazz (‘50s to 70’s), ‘70s Rock, ‘80s New Wave/Electro, and Trip Hop/Acid Jazz (90’s into 00’s). I like good sub-bass presence, tight mid bass, relatively linear, detailed mids and highs, lush and rich with a good level of detail. I’m not a bass-head, and am not a fan of anything boomy. I’ve been a music lover for decades, but am relatively new to Head-Fi (bought my first over-ear headphones in November 2014). I am not an expert in electronics or musical terminology. I spend a lot of time on Head-Fi, know what has been useful to me in reviews, and try to give useful insights to help others make decisions about items they are thinking about trying or buying.
     
     
    The Cayin N5
     
    Let’s dive into the review with physical attributes and specifications.
     
    Unboxing & Design
     
    The N5 comes in an understated yet sturdy black cardboard box. The packaging is not to the standards or the N6, but at half the price, that is not unexpected. The lid fits snugly, and patience is required (hard when anticipation is high) as the package is eased open. On removing the lid, the N5 (with pre-installed screen protector) is revealed in all its glory, held tightly in a foam-board insert.
     
    2.Unboxing.jpg
     
    Removing the N5 and insert reveals another box of light cardboard containing accessories and instructions. Accessories include a 3.5mm to RCA female coaxial cable, a USB 3 charging/sync cable, an extra screen protector, and an instruction booklet. Accessories are sparse, but there isn’t much need for anything else (though a silicon protective case might be a nice touch).
     
    3.Unboxing.jpg
     
    The N5 itself is a unique looking digital player. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I really like it. Design has a steam-punkish, retro feel, but is functional and build quality is excellent. The N5 is significantly smaller than the N6, but has a more satisfying heft that implies quality. The metal enclosure is a two-piece design, with one piece wrapping the front, top and bottom ends, and the other wrapping the rear and sides. Join tolerances are even and tight.
     
    4.Glamour.jpg
     
    Taking a tour of the N5 externals we find:
     
    Front:  The square display takes up most of the top half of the face of the player. The display is the same size as that on the N6, but seems more balanced in size on the smaller N5. To the left of the display are several indented channels, which create an interesting, retro design element. The bottom half of the front face is where the main controls are found, with a chunky, textured selector wheel on the right (with “enter” button in the centre), and three navigation buttons on the left (return button for menu navigation, forward/next button and reverse/previous button). The wheel is solid and relatively stiff, but responsive and accurate when selecting menus and folders; it takes some getting used to after babying other DAPs with flimsier control wheels, but I like the robust solidity.
     
    5.Front.jpg
     
    Rear: Like the N6, the rear of the N5 has a glass fibre plate embedded in the slightly protruding surface. Unlike the N6, there are no sharp edges on the rear, which makes for a pleasant overall tactile experience.
     
    6.Rear.jpg
     
    Top End: From left to right, we find the power button, 3.5mm Coaxial Out jack, 3.5mm combination Headphone/Line Out jack, and 2.5mm Balanced Out jack. The N5 is turned on and off with a long press of the power button; a short press turns the screen on and off. The combined headphone and line out jack is an interesting compromise to allow for multiple outputs while keeping size down; for ear safety, the jack reverts to Headphone Out whenever a jack is unplugged (to avoid the potential ear-frying experience of plugging headphones in when Line Out was the last setting selected). At the moment this is a feature that can’t be over-ridden, and I’m pretty sure there will be users who’d like to be able to turn this setting off.
     
    7.Top.jpg
     
    Bottom end: From left to right, we find the USB-3 port (10x faster than USB-2, for charging, syncing and signal input when using the N5 with PC as an external DAC), and two Micro-SD slots. These are protected by a single, plastic port cover, which connects on the right side and can be swivelled out of the way of the ports when access is needed. Above the ports in the centre is the reset button, which can be activated when required with a paper clip or pin of some sort.
     
    8.Bottom.jpg     9.Bottom.jpg
     
    Left side: From top to bottom, we find two volume buttons (volume up and down) and the “M” (menu) button. The menu gives quick access to a number of control settings, including switching gain up and down, adding tracks to the favourites playlist, and switching play modes.
     
    10.Left.jpg
     
    Right side: Not much happening on the right (and that’s not a political statement). Just a clean, empty space.
     
    11.Right.jpg
     
    Selected Specifications:
     
    Headphone Output:
    200mW+200mW @ 32 ohm (SE); 300mW+300mW @ 32 ohm (BAL)
    Outputs:
    3.5 mm Headphone, 3.5mm Line, 3.5mm Coaxial, 2.5 mm Balanced
     
     
    USB-DAC:
    Asynchronous USB up to 24bit/192kHz
     
     
    Volume Control:
    0-99
    Gain Selection:
    High/Low (+6dB)
    Equalization:
    10 bands, +/- 10dB
     
     
    Storage:
    2x micro-SD card (up to 256GB), no internal storage
    Audio Formats:
    DSD (DSD64, DSD128, SACD ISO), WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, APE, WMA, AAC, OGG, MPEG (MP2, MP3)
     
     
    Battery Capacity:
    4200 mAH
    Battery Life:
    ~ 9 hours
    Charging Time:
    ~ 3 hours (with 2A Charger, not provided)
    Power Saving:
    Auto Power Off, Backlight time off, Breakpoint Resume
     
     
    Dimensions:
    111mm x 64mm x 16.4mm
    Weight:
    195g

     
    My Experience with the N5
     
    As mentioned at the beginning of my write-up, I had the N5 for about two weeks, during which I used it as my primary DAP. The only time I really used anything else was while performing A/B comparisons. I have to say I really enjoyed using the N5, and honestly have very few complaints about it. I like the size and heft, think the ergonomics (placement of ports, jacks and controls) are excellent, and find the user interface intuitive and sensible. I don’t have any balanced headphones, so didn’t make use of this feature of the N5, and will not mention it again in my review.
     
    11.5Glamour.jpg
     
    Physical comparisons with other DAPs
     
    Comparing the N5 to some other DAPs in my possession at the time of this review, my observations and feelings on physical, ergonomic and interface elements are as follows:
     
    12.Stack.jpg     13.Stack.jpg
     
    Cayin N6:
    1. The N5 is about 20% smaller than the N6, which puts it firmly in the “pocketable” category of DAPs. The N6 is not what I’d call pocketable or portable; it’s just a bit too big and bulky.
    2. The controls on the N5 are also better laid out and more intuitive than the N6; when I use the N6 I constantly find myself pressing the wrong buttons, but that didn’t happen when I used the N5.
    3. The N6 has 8GB of internal memory (nice), but only one memory slot (not so nice). I much prefer the double-slot design of the N5.
    4. The N6 has an easy-moving jog dial, while the N5 has a stiffer, firmer scroll wheel. I didn’t have issues with either, and think both solutions for navigating through folders and options work well.
    5. The N6 gets quite warm when playing music and battery life is relatively short, while I didn’t notice overheating with the N5, and didn’t experience issues with battery drain, either.
     
    14.N6N5.jpg
     
    Fiio X5ii
    1. The X5ii is marginally smaller and lighter than the N5, but not to the extent where it makes much difference to pocketability or portability.
    2. While the controls on the X5ii and N5 are laid out differently, both are intuitive and I don’t hold a preference for either.
    3. Both N5 and X5ii have two memory slots and not internal memory, so no difference there.
    4. I prefer the N5’s scroll wheel to the X5ii’s. Poor correlation between scroll wheel activity and movement within the graphical interface is a common complaint with the X5ii, for me included; with the N5 I had no issues to speak of, and found scroll wheel movement correlated pretty well with interface changes. The N5 wheel is stiff and requires firm finger/thumb control, but at no time did I feel that firmness was going to cause breakage, and with some mental adjustment I became quite comfortable using the N5 wheel.
    5. An area I found I preferred with the X5ii over the N5 was the configuration of the audio out jacks. The N5 has a dedicated coaxial out and combination headphone/line out, while the X5ii has a dedicated headphone out and combination line/coaxial out. While I can understand why Cayin opted for the configuration they did, to me as a user I find the combined coax/line solution more user friendly as it’s less finicky for standard modes of operation.
     
    15.X5iiN5.jpg
     
    Hidizs AP100
    1. The AP100 is about the same size and weight as the X5ii, so marginally smaller and lighter than the N5. Differences are not enough for me to prefer one over the other.
    2. The controls on the AP100 and N5 are laid out differently, but both are intuitive and I don’t hold a preference for either.
    3. As with the N6, the AP100 has 8GB of internal memory (nice), but only one memory slot (not so nice). I far prefer the double-slot design of the N5.
    4. The N5 (and N6 and X5ii) has a fixed line out. The AP100’s line out volume is adjustable, which is very nice when using an external amp with IEMs.
     
    16.AP100N5.jpg
     
    Other observations
     
    Besides comparisons with other DAPs, both in the same family (N6) and in similar price range (X5ii and AP100), some other random, non-audio observations include:
     
    Deep sleep/hibernation/deep standby mode: About ten days into my review period, Cayin released an update to the N5 firmware to version 2.0. The update included a deep standby mode, which increases standby battery life to 180 hours. This mode activates when the N5 has been inactive (not involved in some other operation, like playing music, formatting a TF card, in DAC mode, updating the song library) for 1 minute. This function is similar to the deep sleep mode of the Fiio X5ii, and it was something I missed in my first few days with the N5. The update was a welcome one; however, there is a bit of a lag on start from pause, which can have you imagining that your button press didn’t register, causing a second press of the enter button which in turn re-pauses music. This is something you get used to after a few times, but shorter lag on start would be welcome.
     
    Protective case: There isn’t one. All my other DAPs (X5ii, X3ii and AP100) came with a case of some sort. With Fiio, it was a black silicon sleeve, and with Hidizs a leather-like billfold cover. I appreciate that Cayin are trying to keep costs down and are including some high-end functionality in a mid-tier price range, but some kind of protection – even a cloth pouch like with the C5 and C5DAC – would be nice. That said, I understand that an after-market leather or leather-like case is in development.
     
    Bottom port cover: The port cover protects the memory slots and charging port from dust. While I love the idea of the port cover, two things about the cover on the N5 bothered me. First, the cover needs to be opened whenever you want to charge the device, use it as a DAC, or want to change memory cards, which means unnecessary wear and tear. This compounds the second issue with the cover, which is that it gets loose very quickly (within two weeks in my case) and doesn’t hold firmly when being used. I’d prefer separate covers for the USB port and the memory slots, made of rubber rather than plastic for better grip and hold within the port or slots they’re protecting. If and when I purchase an N5 (and I’m considering it), I’ll probably remove the protective cover altogether and get a case for the N5.
     
    17.LooseCover.jpg     18.DAC.jpg
     
    DAC Issues: N5 is plug-and-play with a Mac. It’s easy to hook up and use in this way. I did have a couple of issues while using the DAC feature. First, I couldn’t find a way to change the gain setting while connected (if I wanted to change headphones on the fly, for example); to adjust gain I had to unhook the N5, change settings and then re-connect.  Second, the N5 didn’t indicate the correct bitrate on screen for the files being played. 192 kHz/24 Bits PCM displayed on screen (perhaps the maximum quality possible when connected to MacBook Air?) when playing Redbook 44.1/16 music files in iTunes. Hopefully these are issues that can be corrected in a future firmware release.
     
    19.DAC.jpg
     
    The N5 Sound
     
    One of the things I’m discovering more and more as I experience a range of audio equipment is that differences between DAPs are far more subtle than between headphones or amplifiers, particularly within a given price tier. Quality across the board is becoming better and better, and often differences will only become apparent with repeated, focused listening. This opinion (and it is just an opinion) was reinforced with the N5.
     
    20.Glamour.jpg
     
    The N5 is a quality music player, with an engaging sound. Cayin seems to have paid attention to feedback about their more popular, existing portable equipment – N6, C5 and C5DAC – and incorporated this input in their design of the N5. Sonically, to me, the N5 falls somewhere in between the detailed, somewhat dry and analytical N6 and the warm and friendly C5 duo.
     
    1. Bass: Bass is robust and goes deep, with good levels of sub-bass. Transients are little loose, with a soft leading edge and extended decay, but not blended or muddy. I wouldn’t call the bass flabby, but it’s not the tightest I’ve heard. The extension of bass sound gives a warm feel to the low end, and also a sense of space and ambience. Musical pieces with a prominent bass heartbeat are very satisfying.
     
    1. Mids and Highs: There’s a good amount of dynamism to middle and upper frequencies. Textured instruments like sax and cello give a realistic sense of vibration, with layering and vibrancy, but with a roundness to the tail edge of notes that adds to the overall feeling of warmth. Guitars, piano and percussion (vibes, snares, high hats, cymbals) are bright and sparkling, with snap and shimmer to leading edges; that said, I didn’t notice any sibilance issues, and found the N5 sound non-fatiguing.
     
    1. Vocals: Vocals have warmth and ambience, with good micro-detail, texture and layering. Details of interaction between tongue, teeth and lips came through clearly when part of the original recording, and vocal idiosyncracies (rasp, air, quavering delivery) are accurately delivered. I have to say I prefer female over male vocals for the amounts of detail and clarity; not to say male vocals are poor, but female were just that much more impactful to me.
     
    1. Sonic Balance: My overall impression is of slight prominence to bass over other frequencies, but that is not to say other frequencies are overshadowed or deficient. Overall balance is good, with a warm, friendly feel overall (though not to the level of warmth offered by the C5 amps).
     
    1. Detail: I was impressed with the level of detail offered by the N5, particularly in mids and highs. When listening to cello, I was able to hear and differentiate layers to vibrations of strings, the cello body and the texture of bow stroking strings. With sax I got both the reeds of the sax itself, and the breath of the player. Bass lacks tight focus focus, but is satisfying. My only issues with detail were with busy, energetic passages where some blending and loss of definition occurred.
     
    1. Soundstage and Imaging: The N5 has slightly extended decay in bass and mids which helps create a sense of space and air. Soundstage has good width and height, but tends to be a bit shallow, which affects imaging accuracy as it compresses instrumental positioning from front to back.
     
    1. Hiss: I didn’t notice any with any of the IEMs I used.
     
    Sound Comparisons with Other DAPs
     
    Overall I enjoy the engaging, warm yet detailed sound delivered by the N5. It’s an attractive DAP in many ways, and one I definitely wouldn’t mind adding to my growing collection. Since I have a couple of DAPs already, do I really need another though?
     
    20.5Comparison.jpg
     
    To help me decide, I did some comparison listening, using my handy Line5 headphone output switcher. The switcher allows me to volume match, synchronize music on two DAPs, and then switch back and forth without having to unplug and/or plug anything in. Instant switching helps to hear sound differences as there’s very little memory lag.
     
    One thing to note about comparisons here is that less or more of something isn’t necessarily a bad thing. DAP-A could have better sub-bass, for example, but that doesn't mean DAP-B’s sub-bass is sub-standard. So take the comparisons with a grain of salt.
     
    1. N5 vs. N6: N5 is easier going and warmer, and N6 more detailed with better transient energy and speed. N5 has longer sustain to notes (bass and mids especially) which creates a sense of ambience, but there is also has some looseness to bass. N6 bass is more realistic, better balanced across frequencies and better defined instrumentally, with more open soundstage.
     
    1. N5 vs. X5ii: Found these very similar, and only really heard differences with concentrated listening. The N5 is a smidge more detailed in mids, but the X5ii has more robust and deeper quality to the bass. N5 mids more detailed and layered with more variation in tone than X5ii. N5 warmer with looser bass, while X5ii with tighter bass sounds cleaner. Someone with an X5ii already thinking the N5 will be an upgrade (unless planning to use the balanced out, which I didn’t try) may want to save their money.
     
    1. N5 vs. AP100: N5 has a bigger, warmer, weightier ambience than the drier (by a touch) AP100. N5 presentation of mids and highs is better on micro-detail than the AP100, which is smoother and drier. N5 more dynamic with larger soundstage; AP100 feels a bit spatially constrained in comparison.
     
    N5 used as DAC:
     
    Brahms – Symphony #3 (by Bruno Walter, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, 1960)
    1. MacBook + N5 + Noble 6: Warm presentation overall. Good balance across frequencies. Low end presented well, with good texture and rumble to bowing of basses and drum roles on kettles. Mids (horns, oboes, clarinets, strings) clear, detailed and well balanced. Highs (violins, flutes) have real radiance and shimmer. When violins and cellos play competing melody lines, both can be heard clearly, great definition to both, and musical interaction. Wonderful sense of space and vastness of the hall, good layering of sounds.
    2. MacBook + C5DAC + Noble 6: Warmer, fuller, more blended presentation. Bass weightier but flabbier, looser. Lose some of the instrumental definition and layering in mids and highs. Texture of strings smoothed. Less air and space, sound more pressed together, less coherent and more cacophonous.
    3. Preference: Prefer the cleaner, balanced, detailed and coherent sound presentation of the N5 as DAC over C5DAC.
     
    Comparison Listening:
     
    Cayin N5 vs. Cayin N6
     
    Mark Knopfler – Silvertown (from Sailing to Philadelphia)
    1. N5 + MSR7: Warmer, thicker. In first, quieter half of the song, there’s smoothness to guitars, sustained notes provide a roundness to sound of each note. Knopfler’s vocal is detailed but soft edged, smooth. Smoothness to guitars, sustained notes provide a roundness to sound of each note. Bass attack a bit slow, good sense of depth, balanced sub- and mid-bass. Song picks up energy mid-way through. Snare, high hat and toms detailed and natural, neither forward nor subdued, but very slightly muted and wooly compared to N6. Electric guitar bright but smoothed. Song starts to sound a bit busy, with some bleed of one instrument into another. Vocals (Knopfler and backing) maintain integrity, but somewhat overpowered by bass, guitar and drums. Soundstage compared to N6 a bit 2-dimensional, with good width and height, but comparatively less depth.
    2. N6 + MSR7: Cleaner, drier. Guitars and Knopfler’s vocal in early part of song crisp, detailed. Less sustain to guitar, vocal more textured. Clearer edges to attack and decay of bass, guitar and voices. Snare, high hat and toms detailed, and crisper than N5. Better isolation and definition of individual instruments in energetic second half. Balance of instruments and vocals better, bleed no longer evident. 3-dimensional soundstage compared to N5.
    3. Preference: Found the presentation of the N6 better balanced across frequencies, and better defined instrumentally. Also liked the open soundstage of the N6. Not to say I found the N5 unpleasant!
     
    Lana Del Rey – Black Beauty (from Ultraviolence, 2014)
    1. N5 + MSR7: Open, airy sense of space. Keyboard has synthy feel to it, with soft attack and long decay. Lana’s vocal breathy and nicely textured throughout song, smooth and atmospheric, with reverb giving smooth, airy ambience. Good level of micro-detail, to extent of hearing lip and tongue movements. Sub- and mid-bass have kick, sustained reverb envelopes song, but not to extent of drowning out vocals. Guitars, toms and snares are a bit recessed, high hat recessed. Soundstage feels a bit closed in (small room), reverb gives feeling of echo within smallish studio.
    2. N6 + MSR7: Keyboard at start sounds more piano-like, less muted, better edge to hammer hitting strings. Lana’s vocal brighter, less smooth and reverby. Micro-detail more defined, sense even the vibrations of vocal chords. Bass better defined, quicker attack, more textured. Drier, less echo/hollowness, no sense of boominess. Guitars, toms, snares and high hat more forward and balanced. Soundstage open and 3-D, feel of larger space, less echo.
    3. Preference: Less a preference than different presentation. N5 warmer, longer sustain works well with Del Rey’s voice, creates a real sense of ambience, but same sustain to low end makes bass a little soft. N6 bass more realistic, and overall feeling better balanced with more open, spacious feel.
     
    Kyoto Jazz Massive – Mind Expansions (feat. Maiya James) (from Spirit Of The Sun)
    1. N6 + Noble 6: James’ vocal clean, detailed and smooth. Not a lot of texture, but that’s her voice rather than the reproduction. Bass guitar is a big part of this piece – funky, rhythmic and quick – and it has great energy and texture. Speed is excellent, with crisp attack, excellent body to sub- and mid-bass, and controlled, non-echo-y decay… can almost feel the flex of each string as it’s plucked. Snares, high hat, synths are nicely presented with good definition. Overall sound signature is detailed and natural. Soundstage again 3-D with great sense of space.
    2. N5 + Noble 6: James’ vocal warmer, smoother and rounder. Bass ever so flabby; still pleasant, but attack less defined and decay longer resulting in less definition between notes. Snares, high hat, synths and vocal slightly recessed, though not to the point of disappearing. Overall sound more bass dominated than N6. Soundstage good bet more constrained than N6.
    3. Preference: Enjoyed both presentations. N5 easier going, warmer and N6 more detailed with better transient energy and speed. Differences are not overwhelming, and only really noticeable through A/B listening set-up.
    4. Side note: When I reviewed the N6 a few months ago, I didn’t like the combination with the Noble 6. Since then there have been firmware updates that I understand warmed up the N6 sound signature just a touch. Also, the Noble sound is tip-dependent, and with Spiral Dots the combination with N6 is superb. So, I’ve changed my mind…
     
    Cayin N5 vs. FiiO X5ii
     
    Steely Dan – Hey Nineteen (from Gaucho)
    1. N5 + Havi B3 Pro 1 (with KZ wide-bore tips): The B3P1 has a reputation for being a bit bass-light, with excellent but dry mids and highs (well suited for vocals), and open soundstage. The KZ tips add greatly to the Havi’s bass response, and give them a much more balanced sound signature. The combination of the somewhat dry Havi with the warm, relatively bass-forward N5 is gorgeous! Bass has good quality, though it’s more tight than weighty. Bass guitar detail is textured; you feel the vibration of the lowest strings. Mids are rich, detailed and nicely textured (reedy screech to saxophone, Fagen’s vocal has signature light, throaty rasp and air, backing female vocals are clear, keyboards bright, strummed backing guitar though subdued has some vibrancy). High hat, snare and cymbals have clear, metallic sparkle. Overall balance excellent, with neutral but dynamic presentation. Soundstage has depth, width and height.
    2. X5ii + Havi B3 Pro 1 (with KZ wide-bore tips): Wow. Virtually identical! Volume matched, and really couldn’t hear any difference switching back and forth with the Line 5 Headphone Output Switcher. Listened to the song several time, and very gradually began to hear a slight difference. N5 is ever so slightly more textured and detailed. The vibration of bass strings, reediness of saxophone, and shimmer of snares is just a touch smoother with the X5ii, and definition and layering of instruments infinitesimally better with N5. One other difference is in the bass; X5ii is minimally more controlled, quicker and deeper, but oh they are close!
    3. Preference: None. Whatsoever. The N5 is a smidge more detailed, but the X5ii has a touch better quality to the bass.  Splitting hairs here, as without intense A/B’ing I wouldn’t have noticed a difference. Someone with an X5ii thinking the N5 will be an upgrade (unless planning to use the balanced out, which I haven’t tried) may as well save their money.
     
    Beethoven – Cello Sonata No. 3 (by Timora Rosler and Klára Würtz)
    1. N5 + FLC 8S (with stock silicon tips): Piano is bright and sparkly, with succinct front edge to sound as hammer hits string, on both right and left hand. Speed is good on runs and when both hands play together. Cello string texture excellent both down low and on high notes, you can feel the vibration of bow on string, and resonance of cello body.
    2. X5ii + FLC 8S (with stock silicon tips): Again, sound is almost identical. After repeated listening I notice that cello strings sound purer on the X5ii (pure, single tone) while N5 is less pure and more layered (more detailed variation in tone as bow pressure changes). At the same time, very low end slightly more robust and deeper.
    3. Preference: Again, can’t really state a preference. What differences I hear are only evident from concentrated A/B comparison.
     
    Cowboy Junkies – Dreaming My Dreams With You (from The Trinity Sessions)
    1. N5/X5ii + ATH-R70x (High Gain, N5 = 60/100, X5ii = 102/120): Both drive the 470 Ohm R70x with authority, though N5 has more room to raise volume further while X5ii is close to maxing out. Bass guitar is prominent in this track, X5ii goes slightly deeper and is more dynamic with better transients, while N5 is a touch bloomier. Again N5 has slightly better texture and layering, noticeable in Margot Timmins’ vocal where vocal chord vibrations and hesitancy (?) of phrasing is more noticeable.
    2. Preference: No preference. X5ii sounds cleaner due to the tighter bass. N5 more atmospheric due to ambience and sustain or bass and texture of vocal. Differences miniscule, and hardly worth thinking about.
     
    Cayin N5 vs. Hidizs AP100
     
    Grant Green – Idle Moments (from Idle Moments)
    1. N5 + Dunu DN2000J: Bass has good weight and goes deep. Standing bass notes provide a warm, mellow, thumpy palette on which rest the other instruments, without bleeding or drowning anything out. Vibraphone, guitar and piano, both in solo and backing modes, are bright and sparkling, with snappy, percussive edges to vibes, textured pluckiness to guitar and shimmer to piano. Note definition for all is excellent, even in quicker runs. Sax is played softly, but has good reedy texture, and detail of air and Hendersons’ breathing comes through well. Cymbals, high hat and snare, though played quietly in the background, are distinctly evident. Soundstage is cozy, but positioning is accurate.
    2. AP100 + Dunu DN2000J: Bass is less weighty, with shorter decay giving a slightly drier, less ambient feel to presentation. Mids and highs are ever so slightly smoother and drier, and just feel smaller to their N5 equivalents. As with other comparisons, these are not huge differences, and only really noticeable through direct A/B comparison. Imaging quality similar to N5, but soundstage minimally more constrained.
    3. Preference: Again, hard to say which I like better as they’re so close. N5 has a bigger, warmer, weightier ambience than the drier (by a touch) AP100. N5 presentation is better on micro-detail than the AP100, which is smoother.
     
    John Lee Hooker – Country Boy (from It Serves You Right To Suffer, 1966)
    1. N5 + TPEOS Altone 200: Detailed, warm presentation. Sustained bass notes add ambience and body to overall presentation. Excellent texture to Hooker’s voice and sparkle to guitar work, and shimmery detail in percussion.
    2. AP100 + TPEOS Altone 200: Hard to find anything different about the presentations here. Mids and highs are virtually identical. Only detectable difference is again in the sustain of bass and resulting warmth and bigness (feeling of space) from the N5.
    3. Preference: Without back-and-forthing with my Line5 switcher, wouldn’t be able to tell the difference probably. Whether warmer is better than drier is a matter for debate.
     
     
    Conclusions
     
    There’s a lot to like about the Cayin N5, and I think it’ll be a strong seller. The feature set at the $350 price point represents good value for money, providing a taste of what might be found in higher priced gear (like the balanced output). For me, N5 highlights are:
    1. Engaging, warm, detailed and fatigue-free sound signature. While some might prefer slightly tighter bass, I found the low end atmospheric and inviting.
    2. Attractive design and excellent build quality. I love the retro, steam-punk look and solid feel to the scroll wheel and buttons.
    3. Double memory slots. Not much to add to that.
    4. Hibernation function. Having had the X5ii for a while, I’ve become accustomed to instant start-up. This was a welcome addition with FW 2.0.
    5. Solves issues many users found with the N6. I prefer the N5 to the N6, especially the more portable size, more logical user interface, better battery life, and friendlier sound signature.
     
    22.Conclusion.jpg
     
    While there’s much to praise with the N5, there are a few things I wish Cayin had done differently. To summarize:
    1. I’m not a big fan of the single port cover on the bottom of the unit. I’d prefer to see separate covers for the USB port and the memory slots.
    2. I’m not a fan of the combination HO/LO port. It’s finicky to have to engage Line Out every time for those that typically stack their DAC with an external amp. That said, I do appreciate Cayin’s safety measures to ensure against frying of ears by defaulting to HO when jacks are removed from the port.
    3. I’d like to see a shorter lag when waking the player from hibernation.
    4. A case of some sort would be nice.
     
    My thanks to @Cayin for the opportunity to try out the N5, and @Andykong for organizing the tour. Thanks for reading, and I hope my impressions have been helpful.
      Pier-Fi, capnjack, x RELIC x and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Pier-Fi
      nice review, thanks. 
      Pier-Fi, Nov 11, 2015
    3. KC33
      I enjoyed your review very much. One question, I saw that you thought the N5 wouldn't be an upgrade to the Fiio X5ii, would you consider it an upgrade to the Fiio X3ii? Strictly regarding sound.
      KC33, Nov 13, 2015
    4. hakushondaimao
      @KC33, glad you liked it. It is an upgrade on the X3ii to a similar extent that the X5ii is an upgrade on the X3ii. I have both Fiio products, and purchasing the X5ii didn't result in me ditching the X3ii. Differences are there but they're subtle, and other factors (size and portability, 1 vs. 2 memory slots, ability to drive more powerful headphones) are more important in choosing which DAP I use on any given day.
      hakushondaimao, Nov 18, 2015
  9. PinkyPowers
    If Looks Could Kill - a review of the Cayin N5
    Written by PinkyPowers
    Published Nov 2, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Detailed sound. Fluid navigation. Great built quality. Beautiful exterior.
    Cons - Sound's not as smooth or refined as could be.
    N5IM03.jpg

    -::Disclaimer::-
    This is my first semi-legitimate review. Cayin was kind enough to send me a unit for their Midwest tour with the mandate that I report my findings openly and honestly, for good or ill. Very briefly I entertained the idea of suit-and-tie’ing my review, putting on a professional veneer in an attempt to tame my atavism. The primate in me clubbed that notion to death.

    I do not need or want a new DAP. The AK120ii is my principle player, and the X5 Classic, my backup. I am set. Still, the N5 was enough of a curiosity that I joined the tour. In my Astell & Kern review I write about how close I was to buying the N6, so I suppose I had to give the little brother a try.

    -::The Review::-
    After hacking away at the mad packaging for ten minutes, I arrived at the box. Upon opening the box, I was struck by the presentation. This is closer to Astell & Kern territory than it is to FiiO. You feel like you must’ve spent a grand to earn a show like this. Everything is elegant and gorgeous, the device itself, most of all.

    N5Box.jpg

    N52.jpg

    N5Back.jpg

    There is nothing really wrong with the FiiO X5 Classic. In fact, I quite like it. In my review I wrote some rather lurid prose on the aesthetics. The Cayin N5 is on another level. It is one of the most beautiful designs of any DAP to date. The execution of this design is very nearly its equal. By that I mean holding it and working it is about as wonderful as looking at it. Not quite, but almost.

    The same cannot be said for the FiiO X5. As much as I love it, the UI leaves a lot to be desired. On the other hand, my main DAP, the AK120ii easily bests the Cayin N5, in looks and interface. Well… to be honest, their looks are about equal in my eyes. Different philosophies govern their designs, yet they are both highly attractive. Nonetheless, in build quality and interface, the AK does come out ahead. For the price, I should damn well hope so.

    One must leverage some pressure on the N5’s scroll wheel to get it to move without your thumb slipping. This is not as awful as it sounds. You find your technique fast enough, and it operates smoothly once you do. I experienced zero overshoots or jitter. The wheel is MUCH better than the X5 Classic, and I even prefer it to the click’edy clacker of the 2nd Gen X3.

    Depressing Cayin’s buttons is a satisfying experience. They each have an elegant mold and a good click.

    N51.jpg

    A USB 3.0 cable is included. One end being standard USB, the other being the mutation known as microUSB 3.0. I’d never seen this before, and I grew afraid. None of my mobile devices uses 3.0, so when I saw the micro end of the cable, I thought it must have cancer and contacted an oncologist.

    With this ugly cable I plugged the N5 into my computer and turned on USB DAC functionality. It did not work. There are drivers you need to download from the Cayin website. It was quick and easy, and once installed my PC was playing music through the N5. This test was done purely for the review… because I’m a reviewer. I was wearing my reviewer pants, which means it’s serious time. A thorough investigation of the DAP’s feature-set is required. Except for OTG and EQ. I didn’t test those. The pants were chafing and I had to take them off.

    Ok! Enough of the boring tripe. There’s only one thing that can make a person subject themselves to a review this shambling. Desperation. You have a lunatic hunger to hear how it sounds, and feeding vicariously on other people’s written impressions is the only thing keeping you alive. I understand this. We’ve all been there.

    Pinky was not impressed at first. The Cayin N5 was too bright, with sharp edges all over the spectrum, and a metallic quality that would eventually lead to heavy metal poisoning.

    Then came the 2.0 firmware update. Wow. The player kept its great detail and sufficient soundstage, but was now warmer, smoother, and generally much more musical. All the unpleasantness vanished from the sonics. We are left with a device I can listen to with joy and contentment for hours.

    Most of this listening was done on my trusty Audio Technica IM03. I found this pairing the most splendid to my ears. Together they rendered a slightly warm, detailed, and spacious sound. With the new firmware there is an abundance of bass, while never failing to capture the airiness the IM03 is known for. Its layering underwhelmed me, somewhat. I’m used to the IM03 immersing me in waves of music. I didn’t quite get that on the N5.

    N5IM032.jpg

    When I tried the Cayin with Angie, of the Siren Series by Jerry Harvey Audio, I was surprised by how bright she sounded… even with the new firmware. I’m used to Angie creating a neutral yet warmish sound on the AK120ii. She is very bright off the N5’s 2.5mm Balanced-output. This goes to show how transparent she is, for each source asserts its own nature as though Angie isn’t even there.

    The Cayin>Angie combination sounds rather good, despite the brightness. There’s so much detail it comes off a little artificial, but I was easily swept away by the music. Sadly, there is terribly obvious noise on the N5’s Balanced line. You can hear it even when music is playing. Compare that to the absolute pitch black background of the AK120ii’s Balanced-out, and it’s difficult to accept.

    There is very little noise (if any) on the N5’s Single-ended output. Because of this, and the overly bright signature with Angie, I much preferred pairing the N5 with the IM03.

    My Klipsch Image X7i actually sounded better on the N5 than it did on the X5. This is the only phone that did, reckoned by personal taste. The Klipsch is perversely neutral, and detail-oriented. It found its mate with the Cayin N5.

    Attempting to drive something larger, say, the 300 Ohm Sennheiser HD600, Cayin performed as you might expect. Not well. The Astell&Kern fares no better, but the FiiO X5 has enough warmth and bass to almost make up for the lack of power. It’s the only DAP I own that makes the HD600 sound decent. The Senns normally stay hooked up to my desktop rig, where they are utterly euphoric.

    If you haven’t gathered by now, I still prefer my trusty X5 Classic over the Cayin. It has a smoother sound, perhaps a little wider staging and depth, and superior layering. Only by a small margin, mind you. After the N5’s 2.0 firmware, they possess more similarities than differences. The only areas the N5 champions over the X5 are in looks and its physical interface—buttons and wheel. I would love to add balanced output to that list, except the hissing corrupts any benefits balanced might provide the listener.

    N5X5.jpg

    Pitting the Cayin N5 against my AK120ii is not a fair fight. You know it, I know it, and Cayin definitely knows it. Yet it is my main DAP this last month and a half and I measure all contenders against it. Most of this review is a Cayin vs. FiiO battle because there is genuine competition. Astell&Kern, on the other hand, obliterates the N5. There is no facet where the AK120ii does not trample it. The 120 renders a precise, flourishing, and organic sound, with the most realistic soundstage and separation I’ve ever heard. When performing A/B testing, the N5 seems kind of brittle and tinny in comparison.

    TheGang.jpg

    A rich, warm sound is where my heart lay. Therefore, these impressions are biased by my orientation. If you lean towards a brighter, more detailed sound, the N5 may very well please you more than it did me. I cannot deny it sounds very good, all the more so after the update. The build and design are WAY above the competition at this price point. It makes the X5 look like a child’s play thing.

    N53.jpg

    -~::Pinky_Powers::~-
      capnjack, Light - Man, Jeff Y and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Light - Man
      A good review man, keep it up!
      Light - Man, Nov 3, 2015
    3. flinkenick
      Great read!
      flinkenick, Nov 3, 2015
    4. PinkyPowers
      I appreciate the nice words, everyone. Thank you.
      PinkyPowers, Nov 3, 2015
  10. Cotnijoe
    Cayin N5: A Worthy Performer
    Written by Cotnijoe
    Published Nov 1, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Solid Build, Enjoyable Sound
    Cons - Stiff Scroll Wheel, Lack of Playlist Option
    Introduction:
                Cayin is a company that has hit the portable audio market by storm the past year or two. Starting with their well-received and relatively budget friendly portable amplifiers, Cayin made their name known to portable audio enthusiasts. The same thing could be said with their entrance into the portable player market. The N6, while not free of its criticisms, proved to me a very good sounding piece with an interesting look and design. The N5 is Cayin’s answer to a slightly more affordable option for those not looking to spend upwards of 500 dollars for a player.
     
                Cayin has been very generous in terms of sending review units to interested Head-Fiers and the N5 is no exception. I’ve loved seeing the trend of companies interacting more and more with the community and I’m happy to see Cayin getting on board with that. I received the N5 as part of Cayin’s N5 review tour, and have had the pleasure of spending a week with it.
     
    Packaging and Accessories:
                True to the Cayin tradition, the packaging of the N5 review unit was a freaking bomb shelter for the N5. Once you peel away layers upon layers of take and cardboard, you are welcomed with the sight of a plain but nicely designed black box. The back side of the box goes over details of the DAP such as the DAC chip inside, the supported files, as well as the specs and size of the player. In addition, there are a couple Q Codes (which is kind of cool to see) with info such as Cayin’s WeChat contact on it.
     
    Inside, the N5 is beautifully displayed with the accessories hiding underneath. You get your warranty card inside along with a manual, USB cable, a screen protector, and a 3.5 mm to coax interconnect. Interestingly, there wasn’t a silicon case included – which I’m more than ok with since I hate silicon cases and never use them myself.
     
    DSCN0135.jpg
    The N5 on Display
     
    Construction and Build:
                When the first sneak peaks of the N5 were leaked on Head-Fi a few months back, my God, I though the N5 was ugly. Now that I have the N5 in hand, I retract that statement to some degree. While the N5 still doesn’t compete with some of the nicest looking DAPs in terms of physical appear, it does have a very nice looking finish to it and isn’t nearly as unattractive as I thought they would look.
     
                The N5 is constructed almost entirely of metal and feels very solid and well-built. Every piece is fit tightly in place and there are no signs of a piece not fitting perfectly in the housing and clicking as a result like the issue I found with the C5DAC. While not heavy by any means, like my Sony NW-ZX2, the N5 does have a decent heft to it that makes it feel like a product built of premium and high quality materials – the carbon fiber back plate is, of course, an added bonus.
     
                The only real concern I found with the build of the N5 is the screen. From the look and feel of it, the screen seems to be made of plastic as far as I can tell, and it does feel much more pliable compared to something like that of the Lotoo PAW 5000’s screen. I only noticed this issue with the N5, but it makes me wonder what the screens of Fiio DAPs I’ve reviewed in the past are made of, as I haven’t really paid too much attention to that in the past. Bit of an oversight on my part. Besides that, the only other small thing I found was that the Cayin logo on the back carbon fiber plate seems to have started to scratch off a bit. Not a big deal, but could have been done better I think.
     
    DSCN0128.jpg DSCN0131.jpg
    Front and Back of the N5 (Sorry Picture Didn't Turn Out That Great)
     
    Functions, UI, and General Usability:
                The N5 offers a lot of versatility for its price. On the top side of the device, you have 2.5 mm balanced out, 3.5 mm line out and headphone out, as well as a coax out. On the left side is a volume up and down (which also functions as a fast forward or rewind) as well as a menu button. On the bottom side is a USB 3.0 jack that allows for charging, file transfers, as well as USB DAC function. In addition, two microSD slots and a reset button are also on the bottom side of the N5. Finally, in the front are a back button, a fast forward and a rewind button, a scroll wheel, and a display screen that offers good resolution. In fact, I think it’s actually the same screen used in the N6 if I’m not mistaking.
     
                I personally feel that the N5 is well-designed and easy to use. The scroll wheel is comfortably accessible by one’s thumb (assuming you’re right handed) and the other three buttons are also easy to reach. My only issue with the N5’s exterior in terms of usability is the scroll wheel – which, to me, has two issues. The first issue is that there isn’t any sort of rubbery grip material on the scroll wheel. Ok, it’s not that big of a deal, as I recall that was a small complaint I had for the Fiio X1 as well, but it wasn’t a big deal. However, for the N5, it does become a bit annoying for me because of the second issue I have with the scroll wheel, which is that the scroll wheel is a bit stiff. The N5’s scroll when has a good bit of resistance to it compared to something like the scroll wheel from Fiio’s product line. Factor in the lack of a grip to it and you have a scroll wheel that takes way more energy than it should to scroll through song lists.
     
                In terms of the software, I thought the N5 was good and certainly functional without too many hiccups. I won’t get into too much detail with the UI itself as I find that most companies have figured it out at this point and most UI are very similar and have a relatively low learning curve. First off, the N5 gives you the choice of a few themes for your device. I stuck with the default theme A, which has buttons like your settings and music library attached to the strings of a string instrument. What’s cool is when you scroll from one to the other – the strings vibrate as if they are being plucked. It’s a very small little thing but I think the attention to detail such as this makes the UI feel much more mature. Good job to Cayin on the attention to detail.
     
                Another great thing about the N5 is that scanning is super quick. While I only carry a 64GB microSD card with me, I thought the N5 scanned it impressively fast.
     
                A complaint I do have is that the songs seem to be listed by file name, which is always something that annoys me. That makes finding files a bit of a pain for me as lots of my songs are named with their track number first. Something else I noticed is that there seems to be a lack of a playlist option. There is a favorites playlist that you can add your favorite music to, but I think that’s it. As someone who doesn’t really use playlists all too much, it wasn’t all that much of a problem to me. But if you’re someone who
     
                One other little gripe I have is that the front buttons don’t work when the screen is off. I can see the merit in this, as you could very easily push the forward or back button on accident when the N5 is in your pocket – plus, the volume up and down doubles as the forward and back button. I actually found the forward and back a bit counter intuitive. Volume up is back, while volume down is forward. To me, it just seems like it should be switched. Oh well, back to the point, I would love to see Cayin give the user the option to choose whether they want these buttons active or not when the screen is off.
     
                Again, this isn’t really an overview of the UI, as I find that most companies have figured it out by this point, but just some observations and thoughts I came across.
     
    Specification:
    Cayin provided quite a big list of specs for the N5.
     
     
     
    Phones Out
    (Bal)
    Power rating
    300mW+300mW(@32Ω)
    Frequency Response
    20-20kHz(±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz)
    5-50kHz(±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
    THD+N
    0.006% (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    Dynamic Range
    108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    SNR
    108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    Phones Out
    (Single End)
    Power rating
    200mW+200mW(@32Ω)
    Frequency Response
    20-20kHz(±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz)
    5-50kHz(±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
    THD+N
    0.006% (1kHz时,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    Dynamic Range
    108dB (20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    SNR
    108dB (20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    Output Impedance
    0.26Ω
    Line Out
    Output Level
    2.0V (@10kΩ)
    Frequency Response
    20-20kHz (±0.2dB,Fs=192kHz)
    5-50kHz (±1dB,Fs=192kHz)
    THD+N
    0.005% (1kHz,Fs=44.1kHz;20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    Dynamic Range
    108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    SNR
    108dB(20Hz-20kHz,A-Weighted)
    Battery
     
    4200mAh 3.7V Lithium polymer
     
    ~9 HRS
    Charging
    ~3 HRS (with 2A Charger, not provided)
    Charging Current
    <=1500mA when charge with 2A Charger,
     <=500mA when charge with computer USB port
    Recommended Headphone impedance Range
    16-300Ω(recommended)
    Dimension
    111*64*16.4(mm)
    Net Weight
    ~195g
    Music Format (Local Storage)
    DSF
    Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
    DFF
    Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
    SACD-ISO
    Native hardware decode  DSD64 and DSD128
    APE
    Upto 192kHz/24Bit(Support Fast and Normal compression only)
    FLAC
    Upto 192kHz/24Bit
    WAV
    Upto 192kHz/24Bit
    AIFF
    Upto 192kHz/24Bit
    ALAC
    Support
    WMA
    Support
    AAC
    Support
    Mp3
    Support
    USB Audio
    (DAC)
    USB Mode
    Asynchronized USB Audio 2.0 Class
    DSD
    Support DoP (DSD64)
    PCM
    Upto 192kHz/24Bit
    Windows
    Support (Driver required)
    MAC OSx
    Support
    iOS
    Not support
    Android
    Not support

     
     

    Listening Impressions:
                The Majority of my listening impressions and comparisons were done with the Unique Melody Miracle, which is a fantastically capable IEM. I’ve included music of all genres and qualities (mostly CD quality and up) in my test tracks and have also included a couple DSD files. Unfortunately I don’t personally own any DAP that utilizes a 2.5 mm TRRS cable, and so I’m unable to listen to the N5 with its balanced headphone out.
     
    General Sound Description:
                I currently have quite a few DAPs with me so I decided to focus the sound impressions of the N5 on comparisons that I feel are most relevant. However, I have included my general description of the N5’s sound.
     
                I find the N5 to be a smooth and slightly warm sounding device that’s geared more towards an enjoyable sound rather than an analytical and revealing sound. There’s a slight bump in the mid bass with an ok bass extension. The UM Miracle is a surprisingly well-extended IEM that’s capable of extending down below 30 Hz with no issues, but I do find that you miss the last bit of sub bass texture with the N5. The midrange is well separated, has good presence, and the most competitive aspect of the N5 to me. Not all of the detail is there in comparison to driving the miracle with higher end products, but you get a warm and smooth sound that does provide good detail at its price point and portability. The treble is very non-fatiguing but is still clean with an impressive level of detail and texture to me. However, I do find that the treble can lack a little bit of air, again contributing to the overall smooth and warmer sound of the N5.
     
    Comparisons:
     
    Cayin N5 and Lotoo PAW 5000
                Both priced around 350 USD (the 5000 seems to fluctuate a bit), comparing the two seems pretty reasonable and intuitive. The N5 is both larger and heavier than the 5000 while also feeling more solidly built than the super lightweight 5000. Both devices are solidly built though. The 5000 doesn’t have the benefit of functioning as a USB DAC like the N5 does, but also has other functions that the N5 doesn’t have like Bluetooth functionality, ATE/PMEQ to slightly alter the sound, a playlist function (for some reason…), and an armband dock (with an armband of course).
     
                In terms of comparing the two in terms of sound, I think it’s quite close, but the overall presentation of the two devices are pretty different. The N5 has a much richer and dynamic sound, while the PAW 5000 has a leaner and flatter sound overall. The 5000’s bass doesn’t extend all that well and its mid bass also doesn’t have the impact that the N5 has. The midrange of the 5000 is drier than that of the N5 with slightly more forward vocals and with more treble energy and extension.
     
                At first glance, it feels that the 5000 has an overall flatter response and more analytical sound in comparison to the richer sounding N5, but I do feel that the N5 has a more natural tonality overall. I feel that the treble has better balance and control on the PAW 5000, as the treble is just a bit too smooth for me on the N5, but I think the N5 has a bit better soundstage and layering overall, despite having a less open sound.
     
                I think both products are pretty good and it comes down to what you need. The PAW 5000 is really the epitome of portability, being fairly durable and very lightweight and small, while the N5 is a little bigger but has the fuller and more natural sound.
     
    Cayin N5 and Lotoo PAW Gold
                The PAW Gold is currently the best sounding DAP (IMO of course) currently at my disposal, so I decided to use the N5 vs. PAW Gold comparison as a way of describing the N5’s sound in comparison to what you can expect from a TOTL player.
     
                In terms of soundstage, imaging, and just sheer sense of space, I’ve found that mid-fi DAPs simply cannot compete with what TOTL players can do – the N5 is no exception. Gallant’s “Weight in Gold” has sort of been my flavor of the month song. The guitar in the intro of the sound has a cool sort of effect that you get when you turn on the surround sound on your player. The Gold is able to produce the sense of space and presence in the studio incredibly well that the N5 can’t come close to. Most obviously, the N5 is lacking in the sense of depth and layering that the Gold is able to create.
     
                Comparing the overall color of the two, the N5 is a bit smoother and warmer in comparison to the more reference (but still relatively smooth) PAW Gold. Bass extension isn’t as good as the Gold, there’s more of a mid bass punch, and the treble has a good bit more crispness, texture, and air with the Gold.
     
                I really tried to find something where I feel that the N5 demonstrates that price isn’t everything, and that it can still perform very well in comparison to something 6 times its price. Unfortunately I don’t quite see the two being remotely close in any aspect. It’s not to undermine the N5 in any way, it just shows that you do have to fork over a good amount of cash for something like that PAW Gold.
     
    DSCN0133.jpg
    Lotoo PAW 5000, Gold, and Cayin N5
     
    Other Pairings:
     
    Cayin N5 Pairing with ZMF Omni
                The N5 has enough power to drive the likes of the HE560 and ZMF Omni to reasonable volumes without too much trouble in high gain. I would also say that I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Omni with the N5. Compared to my desktop setup, you lose some micro detail, soundstage, and extension – particularly in the low end. The N5 isn’t quite able to produce the sub bass authority that the Omni is capable of, but the N5 does have a bit more of a mid bass bump that gives the sound a bit more impact but at the cost of losing a bit of tightness. The biggest downgrade going from the Essence III to the N5, though, is difference in imaging. The Omni is fantastically capable when it comes to instrument separation and giving very clean and precision imaging to instruments. With the N5, you don’t quite get as tight and clean of an overall sound.
               
                While the N5 certainly doesn’t drive the Omni as well as a 2000 dollar desktop setup (go figure), I think it does do the Omni justice when you look at its price and its portability. I personally don’t plan on using my Omni on the go all that often, if at all, but for those looking to drive a respectably power hungry headphone (the HE560 and Omni aren’t power hungry beasts by any means), expect the N5 to be capable, but not stellar.
     
    Ending Thoughts:
                I think the N5 is an overall solid product. It has its little flaws like the scroll wheel or the inability to make a playlist outside of a favorites list, but I think it fits the bill nicely for a portable mid-fi player. It has a very easy-to-listen to sound that has a good overall presentation. I also do think that it sounds a little better from what I can remember of the iBasso DX90. However, the DX90 will be hard to replace for me in terms of overall usability. Other than its horrendous battery life, the DX90 is really just an incredible piece at its price. No product has kept me away from upgraditis like the way the DX90 did. Nonetheless, the N5 does a lot right and is certainly a product to keep in mind for those looking for a good but relatively affordable player.
    1. Light - Man
      A very informative and helpful review!
      Light - Man, Nov 2, 2015
    2. raif71
      Can this player connect to an external DAC so that the music from N5 can be played through the DAC?
      raif71, Dec 5, 2019