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  1. DrummerLeo
    Tube Amp in A Box—CayinN6ii Portable Player Review
    Written by DrummerLeo
    Published Sep 13, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Very musical tonality, Nice detail for a warm player, Fairly nice build quality.
    Cons - Might be too large or not as portable for some
    Intro

    Cayin is one of my favorite brands in making amps, dacs and portable players. My experience with Cayin starts from 2014—my first flagship portable player N6. Later, I owned Cayin I5, portable dac C5, and off course my personal favorite HA300 tube amp. In a way, I am one of a few Cayin fans who has witnessed the revolution of Cayin’s tuning ideology.

    Back to the date, Cayin N6 to me was a crystal clear but cold and sharp reference machine. I5 on the other hand was an extremely warm, meaty but a little muddy player. However, both of them have a great inviting mid-range, at that point, the mid-range was the only remnant that maintained my faith on Cayin. Until last year, I tried and immediately bought HA300. That was a heavenly moment, HA300 gives all my headphones the sound I exactly want (I can’t stop myself every time talking about HA300, but that will be another review coming soon). Also, on that day, I noticed the revolution is done. Today, Cayin’s sound is very refined, smooth and elegant. It is a now a stable and comfortable sound instead of wandering between ice and flame.

    This year I purchased N6ii without hesitation, as for the confidence to Cayin and as a salute to N6 that has served for 5 years.

    Finally, thanks to Musicteck for the great shopping experience as always.

    Packaging and Accessories

    Cayin N6ii comes with a giant box, the player, type-C cable, 2.5mm(f) to 4.4mm(m) adapter and instruction handbook were lying in there quietly and safely. There is nothing special about the packaging or accessories, nice and handy.
    mmexport1568242750104.jpg mmexport1568242756424.jpg

    Build Quality

    Cayin is always superb in this section. Each part is very solid built onto the player. There are no wobble parts or rattles at all. Juncture are tight and smooth. The only problem I have with the design or build is it is a little big/thick for me.

    mmexport1568242772358.jpg mmexport1568242781213.jpg

    Sound Tests Equipment

    Headphones: 64 Audio A18t (BA, reference tuning, slight U) &

    Tia Forte (BD, slight V shape, treble concentrated),

    JH Audio Layla (BA, flat with bass concentrated),

    Rhines Stage 7 (BA, warm mid concentrated),

    Ultrasone Tribute 7(portable cans, V shape, slightly power consuming in comparison)

    Cables: 1960s 4 wires 2.5mm (A18t)

    Plussound Tri-copper 4 wires 2.5mm (TF)

    Plussound Tri-copper 4 wires 3.5mm(T7)

    TWag V3 8 wires 2.5mm (Layla)

    TWag V3 4 wires 3.5mm (for A18t, TF and S7, for single-end PO test)

    Other Players: AK SP1000m, Hiby R6, Echobox Explorer

    Records: Brian Culbertson—Live from the Inside (Funk, Smooth Jazz, test for EQ balance, micro-dynamic, separation and more)

    Erra –Neon (Metalcore, test for speed, separation and control)

    Hans Zimmer – Mountains (OST, test for soundstage and macro-dynamic)

    Céline Dion— My Heart Will Go On (Pop? , test for female vocal)

    Kane Brown—Heaven (Country, test for male vocal)

    Don’t be critical on me for my vocal records selections, I’m a drummer so I really don’t care about vocal that much lol.

    Bass:

    The music I used to test bass is called “so good” from the album “Live from Inside” by Brian Culbertson. In the middle of this song, there is a bass(instrument) solo performed by Lamar Jones. That part is ideal to test bass clarity, response speed and overall bass quality.

    N6ii is able to present every note very clean and with power. I was literally shaking my body when Lamar is slapping. When he was the doing the walking bass part, N6ii was able to present overtone the very well. I found the bass from N6ii is very lively and reaches very deep, it is not the cleanest bass I have heard but it is clean enough. Compare with my other players, N6ii’s bass is significantly more bodied with more weight and color. Overall, I will give it a 9/10.

    Mid:

    Mid is my favorite part of N6ii just like all Cayin’s device it is sweet, inviting and refine. Meanwhile, I found Cayin actually improved their mid which is already outstanding.

    I used “Get It On” and “All About You” also from “Live from the Inside” to test instrumental parts of mid-range, and those 2 vocal songs for vocal portion.

    In the “Get It On” there is a brass winds trio (tenor sax, trombone and trumpet) in the middle section which covers from lower mid to upper mid. N6ii is really good in separating each other when they are playing altogether, I can clearly get each instrument and the layer it is serving. The saxophone really stands out when N6ii was playing this entire album. No matter tenor sax or bari sax, no matter fast or slow, N6ii is able to give them a warm cozy feel, I was completely drowned by those attractive winds sounds. “All About You” is all about the interaction between piano and tenor saxophone. Although the piano part is not as beautiful as brass winds, it is still very enjoyable. Due to the overall warm signature of N6ii, piano sounds a little artificial to me.

    As for vocals, especially these two singers, I think N6ii did a perfect job. Its powerful lower mid can hold Kane Brown’s sound nicely. The solid clarity performance in the mid-range allows me to get any detail from Kane Brown’s unique voice line. The warm signature of N6ii at here played a very important rule when I was listening to Céline Dion, the little extra thickness has made Céline Dion’s voice livelier.

    I would like to describe the mid from N6ii as warm, lively and attractive. Overall, I will give it a 9.5/10.

    Treble

    The treble from N6ii is on the darker side. The treble notes from trumpet, piano and cymbals are a little thicker than my preference. However, the treble from treble from N6ii is extremely smooth, even smoother than my sp1000m. After about 1-hour listening, I actually think the slightly darkness on treble is actually a good thing. It makes the overall sound from N6ii more coherent and musical. With more listening goes on, I feel myself really fell in love with N6ii’s treble, it reminds me a lot of Audeze LCD series headphones.

    Indeed, the treble from N6ii is dark, but in my opinion, it is in a good way. If I only pick out the treble from N6ii without considering other frequencies I will probably give it an 8/10, but on the whole “music” standpoint, I will give it a solid 9/10.

    Dynamic & Speed

    Dynamic basically describes how your device reflect the sound from none to loud, speed reflect the sound from slow to fast. Personally, I like to combine these two concepts together and review. Because often time these two concepts decide whether the device sounds “vivid” or not.

    Drum and strings are two great indicating instruments when measuring these two concepts.

    I usually focus on drum tracks when testing micro-dynamic. Drummers always play in different volume in a song or even in a bar of music. N6ii is able to pick up those tiny little changes pretty clearly when I was listening to drum solos. However, when I listen to “Mountains” the macro-dynamic of N6ii wasn’t very impressive. The volume changes of strings group were not that significant when compare to the sp1000m especially. It is a little bit rigid in some regard.

    Similarly, in speed section, due to the nice clarity in bass region, it can present a clear imagine even when double bass drums are really fast. But for some fast metal guitar riffs N6ii sounds a little vague to me, which in comparison sp1000m did a lot better.

    Therefore, in this section I would probably only give it a 7/10. N6ii still sounds very lively it has clearly more fluctuates than player like R6. I can notice there are changes in volume and speed, but just not significant enough to say it is beautiful (just imagine Dwayne Johnson dances like Michael Jackson).

    Soundstage

    The soundstage of N6ii is about average, again, not as outstanding as its EQ balance. It is significantly better than R6 and similar intro to mid-range players, but it is also not as large as sp1000m.

    In the similar price range, I recently tried Colorfly U8 and R6pro for a very short period of time. I would say N6ii falls in between of these two players, slightly smaller than U8 and larger than R6pro. N6ii is spacy enough for most genres, but probably not for OST and classic.

    I would give sound stage a 7.5/10.

    Additional Information about Pairing

    N6ii is very versatile in terms of pairing IEMs. It is very powerful, and I have to say it drives Tribute 7 better than sp1000m. I also find that it is quite BA friendly, all pure BA IEMs I tested are pretty good on N6ii, especially A18t, there are seems some magics. A18t sounds very musical on N6ii which is hard to believe (A18t was never a musical IEMs to me). The Tia Forte is not very good on N6ii. N6ii has such a power to drag the treble of TF down a little bit. However, TF was trying to push the treble back to where it was. In result, the treble of this pair usually located at a very weird region. I had the same issue with A18t and sp1000m.

    I cannot detect any background noise from these pairs, but I do feel the background is not as dark as sp1000m.

    (End of sound tests.)


    Operating System & Others

    The operating system is really clean and smooth. It is pretty close to Hiby’s player. Google Play Store is pre-installed. The download speed is actually faster than R6 when downloading Apps. It cost me 1 second or even less to download Tidal! The in-App download speed is faster than sp1000m too. I think that is because it has a better Wi-Fi signal receiver. I placed my router in my living room, I got full signal on Samsung S10, 85% on N6ii, approximately 75-70% on R6, a little less on sp1000m.

    For battery, I haven’t used a full cycle, but I played it overnight, it still has 38% when I woke up, so I would say at least 12 hours should be no problem. I haven’t taken it outdoor, so I don’t now how hot it can go to, for indoor use the heat is not a problem (I did read some review says it is a little bit hot when use outdoor in summer).

    I haven’t experienced any system failure. The screen is very smooth, nothing like dx200. I do have one lag when it was updating system and I was downloading music from Tidal and listening to local music. There was about 3 minutes lag, after the system was updated everything works just fine.

    Summary

    I think N6ii is a great release from Cayin. It keeps all the good traditions of Cayin, reliable build quality, mature and refined tuning. At 1k price range which is probably one of the most competitive battlegrounds in the portable player market, I believe N6ii has enough good features to stand out from others. I also believe Cayin will release some amps that can improve some current downside in sound. As for now, I’m kind of regretting paying double price purchased sp1000m. N6ii is good enough for me to enjoy the music while walking to wherever I want.
  2. twister6
    Pick a card, a modular card!
    Written by twister6
    Published Jul 30, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - natural musical tonality, modular DAC/amp design, Snapdragon CPU w/4GB RAM, fast Android interface, 4.4mm BAL Headphone and Line Out, 5900mAh battery with extended playback time.
    Cons - price, additional cost of new DAC/amp cards.


    The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with my readers on head-fi.

    Manufacturer website: Cayin. Available for sale on MusicTeck.


    Intro.

    Another DAP, another review? Well, maybe not just another DAP. Cayin decided to do something different to make their product stand out from the crowd. I have been using the word “crowd” a lot lately because DAP field is crowded (more like overcrowded) with lots of new releases. And on top of that, it's hard to miss a wide price gap between flagships where the price is no longer the indicator of DAP's superiority.

    So, how do you stand out from the crowd where even mid-fi audio players use premium AKM and ESS DAC chips? Of course, we all know that it's not about what you use but how you implement it, and that comes from years of design experience. But the audiophile enthusiasts constantly demand more, driving manufacturer to push the envelope further. Thus, Cayin decided to up their game and to introduce a DAP with a modular design where you can replace the whole audio motherboard which hosts a DAC and an amp.

    While typically a replaceable amp module (just like an external amp) affects the coloring of the sound, the idea behind N6ii audio motherboard is to let you replace a combo of DAC and amp in order to change the signature of the DAP. Hopefully when the next audio motherboard card becomes available, I will be able to test this sound change. But in a meantime, after spending a month with N6ii, let me take a closer look at this new Cayin DAP with its default A01 card.

    cayin_n6ii-x16.jpg

    Unboxing and Accessories.

    As expected, and seen in many Cayin releases, they put some extra effort into creating a premium packaging with a cool unboxing experience.

    cayin_n6ii-x23.jpg cayin_n6ii-x24.jpg cayin_n6ii-x25.jpg cayin_n6ii-x26.jpg

    Also, Cayin included quality usb-c data/charging cable, tempered glass screen protector, 2.5mm (female) to 4.4mm (male) right angled short adaptor (the same as in N8), a very detailed printed manual booklet, and a leather case. Btw, leather case has a nice secure tight fit, but not exactly the same high quality as Dignis or MITER cases which I hope to see one day for N6ii.

    cayin_n6ii-x27.jpg cayin_n6ii-x28.jpg cayin_n6ii-x29.jpg cayin_n6ii-x30.jpg

    The case.

    cayin_n6ii-x31.jpg cayin_n6ii-x32.jpg cayin_n6ii-x33.jpg cayin_n6ii-x34.jpg cayin_n6ii-x35.jpg

    Design.

    Once out of the box, the first impression was how solid N6ii felt in my hand. The main front focus is around 4.2" IPS (768x1280 resolution) screen, and overall dimensions are relatively compact at 121x70x21mm, though it is thicker than some other DAPs due to a bigger battery and assuming a sliding mechanism for internal audio motherboard. It's not too heavy, but you do feel a nice heft of its 290g. With a smooth sandblasted CNC aluminum chassis and glass back, I would strongly recommend keeping it in the included leather case to enhance the grip.

    The display placement is asymmetric with a thin left and top bezel and extended beveled right and bottom bezel. Under the visible portion of the display screen you have an outlined soft HOME button (tap for Back, hold for Home screen) which also has a breathing light LED circle when charging. Left side of chassis toward the bottom has spring-loaded micro SD card slot, tested and confirmed by Cayin to work with the latest 512GB cards, while internal storage is 64GB. At the bottom you have I2S digital port (mini HDMI Type-C to interconnect with compatible devices), USB port for charging, data transfer, and a digital transport interface, including S/PDIF coax cable connection when using Cayin custom USB-C cable (common with other Cayin DAPs).

    Right side of the DAP has hardware playback buttons with Play/Pause in the middle and Skip above and below it. Toward the upper right corner, you will find a Volume wheel with protective guards allowing access to the front and the back of the wheel. The volume wheel is easy to control with a thumb or an index finger, has a soft click feedback as you rotate it, a little mushy, and sometimes requiring two clicks to change a volume by a step (per review sample I received). It also has Push-button functionality as a Power button where you short press to turn the display on/off and long press to turn the power on or to bring up Android pop up for shutdown. The guards around the wheel protect it from accidental pressing when in the pocket. Overall, I find it very convenient and efficient to be able to control volume and display/power with a single button, using only a thumb.

    cayin_n6ii-x01.jpg cayin_n6ii-x02.jpg cayin_n6ii-x03.jpg cayin_n6ii-x04.jpg cayin_n6ii-x05.jpg cayin_n6ii-x06.jpg

    Under the hood.

    The top of the DAP hosts a replaceable Audio Motherboard card with 4.4mm BAL headphone port (530mW @32ohm, 1.2ohm OI, 121dB SNR) which can be selected as Line Out or Phone Out. Next to it is 3.5mm SE headphone port (245mW @32ohm, 0.6ohm OI, 119dB SNR), and a separate 3.5mm Line Out port. Each Line Out level can be adjusted. On the back at the top, there are 2 small screws which hold the Audio Motherboard in. The default stock A01 card comes with AK4497EQ 32bit DAC, quad OPA1622 op-amps, and other miscellaneous components. The rest of the common circuit is on the printed wiring board inside the main chassis, including low jitter clocks (covering 3 fundamental frequencies) and DSP FPGA dedicated to DSD/PCM signal processing with a support of many popular lossy and lossless formats up to PCM 32bit/384kHz and DSD256.

    Thanks to Snapdragon 425 CPU and 4GB of RAM, the Android Oreo (8.1) performance is very fast, pretty much identical to Hiby R6Pro, including implementation of DTA (direct transport audio optimization to bypass SRC sample rate conversion of stock Android) which ensures playback from all the apps without re-sampling. Along with optimized Android OS, you will also get pre-installed Google Play, HibyMusic app, and Cayin's own Music app based on modified HibyMusic. With Google Play you can download any app, and within minutes I was streaming Spotify and playing YT videos. Furthermore, you will find support of 2.4G/5G dual WiFi bands and Bluetooth 4.2 with LDAC, aptX, and AAC, enabling the use of N6ii as a wireless BT DAC. Not the latest BT, but as long as LDAC is supported, I’m OK with it. HibyLink Remote control is supported as well.

    cayin_n6ii-x17.jpg

    I already mentioned that N6ii accommodates a bigger battery, 5900 mAh, which is quite impressive for an average size DAP. For me personally, the battery performance of N6ii is one of its strongest Pros. With WiFi off, playing 320kbps mp3s from 3.5mm SE output in mid gain, I was able to get close to 14hrs of advertised playback time. Switching to 4.4mm BAL output in mid gain while playing hi-res lossless FLAC files, I was getting over 12.5hrs of playback time. The standby time with WiFi and screen off was impressive as well, but once WiFi is enabled it drains a little faster, as expected from Android device with all its background processes. Furthermore, there is a support for Quick Charge QC3.0 (with appropriate charger) where you can expect to reach the full capacity in about 2hrs.

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    Sound Analysis.

    I analyzed N6ii sound using various earphones/headphones, such as U18t, Solaris, T5p 2nd gen, and Empyrean while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ariana Grande "Break up with your girlfriend", Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.

    Please keep in mind, the sound I’m describing below is how I hear my specific earphones and headphones paired up with N6ii during the testing.

    I did collect sound impressions straight out of the box, then after about 3 days of continuous playback, and later after a few more days while running battery tests. I usually don’t preach about “burn in” effect and respect whatever people believe in, but based on my personal experience with N6ii I noticed the sound changing from more neutral to slightly warmer, getting fuller and more organic in body with treble taming down. Throughout this listening process, I was going back'n'forth with a few other DAPs, using them as my point of comparison reference.

    Using IEMs/headphones mentioned above, I'm hearing N6ii as having a smoother tonality with a fuller body, especially in lower mids, and a less aggressive, more natural musical sound. It has a deeper, slightly elevated bass response which is a bit relaxed with a slower attack, natural more organic mids, and also smoother and more natural treble. In comparison to a number of other DAPs, the extra body in lower mids and tamer treble sparkle was quite noticeable, giving N6ii a more natural tonality even with a few of the songs where I typically hear a brighter leaner sound. As a result, instruments and vocals have a rich natural timbre.

    It has pretty good dynamics (vertical expansion of the sound), but I hear slightly less air between the layers since treble is more natural (less sparkly). Also, I hear a clean transient response of the note on/off transition from the black background, but the speed of how fast details pop out of the blackness was a little more relaxed, perhaps even a bit laidback. I spent quite some time comparing it to other DAPs, and I hear the sound of N6ii to be less aggressive, a little more relaxed, more analog, less digital.

    The soundstage is wide, but not exaggerated. It's not the widest I heard, and that of course will depend on earphones/headphones, recording material, your hearing, etc. But it was on par with many other flagships, having a natural realistic width and relatively accurate imaging with convincing placement of instruments and vocals. Of course, as already mentioned, a lot of this will be dictated by technical performance of your earphones and headphones, but I wanted to mention that N6ii as a source shouldn't be a limiting factor here.

    After the recent v1.15 fw update, I hear the sound to be nearly the same, just with a touch more transparency in mids which creates a slightly brighter perception of the sound. Obviously, I can’t do a real time side-by-side a/b comparison.

    cayin_n6ii-x12.jpg

    Pair up.

    Regardless if you are planning to use it with IEMs or full size headphones, I found N6ii to pair up well with everything.

    64 Audio U18t – wide expanded soundstage with an average depth, bringing you a little closer to the stage. Punchy fast bass, very articulate, layered, and well controlled. Neutral lower mids with a touch of extra body to give the sound a more natural tonality. Clear, detailed upper mids/vocals with a more revealing characteristics, but not too bright. Crisp well controlled extended treble without any harsh lower treble peaks.

    64 Audio Fourte Noir – very wide soundstage with a more intimate depth, bringing vocals closer to you. Bass has a deep extension with a meaty sub-bass rumble, and mid-bass has a strong slightly elevated punch, overall bass slams hard here. Lower mids are thicker, with a fuller body, giving the sound and the vocals a more natural organic tonality. Upper mids are clear and detailed, not as revealing, but more natural. Treble is crisp, well controlled, natural without any harsh peaks.

    Campfire Audio Andromeda – wide soundstage expansion with a little more out-of-your-head depth. Bass is a little laid back with a slower attack and a bit longer decay, more typical of DD performance, but still with a decent control with nothing spilling into lower mids. Lower mids a little on a thicker fuller body side, but not congested or muddy, instead giving a more natural laidback tonality to mids. Upper mids are clear, detailed, also more organic, smoother. Treble is well controlled, with a nice sparkle, not too crisp, no harsh peaks, detected zero sibilance in lower treble. When idling or at a very low volume level, I do hear some “waterfall” hissing, typical of lower sensitivity Andro performance, but when volume is raised, it’s not audible.

    Campfire Audio Solaris – very wide soundstage with a great depth, giving the sound a more holographic soundstage expansion. Bass goes low with a deep rumble and hits hard with a punchy fast mid-bass. Bass is well controlled, articulate, nicely layered. Lower mids are closer to neutral, though they do have a little more body, giving the sound a natural organic detailed tonality. Upper mids have great retrieval of details, not analytical, but quite revealing in a natural way. Treble is crisp, airy, and with a nice sparkle, but not harsh or spikey; no traces of sibilance was found. Really enjoyed this pair up, Solaris really shines here with a natural resolving sound, serious analog bass slam, and crisp treble details. When idling or at a very low volume level, the “waterfall” hissing level is stronger than Andro, but hardly noticeable with volume up.

    cayin_n6ii-x13.jpg

    Empire Ears Legend X – wide soundstage expansion with an average depth. Bass slams very hard in this pair up, goes deep, and mid-bass hits hard, making the bass a bit overwhelming, booming, and not as well controlled; would definitely benefit from some trimming with EQ. Lower mids are warm and on a thicker side, a bit overshadowed by the booming bass. Upper mids are pushed more back, natural and detailed, but you need to shift your focus away from the bass to hear vocals better. Treble is crisp and well defined, comes through crystal clear, and along with the bass gives LX a more v-shaped signature. I wasn’t too crazy about this pair up, but that’s my personal bias since I find LX bass a bit overwhelming for my taste, and N6ii sound sig enhances its slam even more.

    Sennheiser IE800s – wide soundstage expansion with more out of your head depth. Overall sound is more v-shaped with a smoother less aggressive bass which goes deep with a noticeable rumble and has a laid back slower mid-bass punch. Lower mids are north of neutral, with a fuller body, but nothing muddy or congested. Upper mids/vocals are clear, natural, more on a revealing side, but unfortunately pushed a little more back, especially with more staging depth which pushes them further in space. Treble is crisp, airy, snappy, not harsh but still with crisp details.

    Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd gen – wide soundstage expansion with more depth in this pair up. Bass has a deep low-end extension but closer to neutral rumble, and mid-bass is fast and punchy; don’t recall bass of T5p2 being that fast in other pair ups. Lower mids are closer to neutral, with a nice touch of natural body, and upper mids/vocals are clear, detailed, on a brighter more revealing side. Treble is bright and crisp, very revealing, with a few peaks that can get harsh in poorly recorded song. Overall sound was a bit brighter than I expected.

    cayin_n6ii-x14.jpg

    Meze Empyrean – wide open soundstage with more out of your head depth. Great low-end extension with a slightly north of neutral rumble and a fast well controlled mid-bass punch. Bass is very nicely layered and quite articulate. Lower mids are closer to neutral, maintaining a natural body with upper mids/vocals being also natural, layered, with a great retrieval of details. Treble is crisp, airy, extended, well controlled, without any offending peaks. The overall sound is well balanced, natural, open, and quite resolving.

    cayin_n6ii-x15.jpg

    Comparison.

    Every audio player has its own Pros and Cons, and you will have to figure out which ones are at the top of your priority list when deciding on your next DAP. The notes below focus more on the sound characteristics, and I was using 64 Audio U18t for monitoring, volume matched in every comparison. But when comparing the rest, keep in mind N6ii battery life, full open Android OS with access to Google Play, dual band WiFi, Bluetooth w/LDAC and aptX, 4.4mm BAL output and it’s power rating.

    N6ii vs iBasso DX220 (w/amp8 & amp9) - DX228 soundstage is a little wider; doesn’t mean N6ii staging is narrow, just under my test conditions I hear DX228 having a little edge. N6ii sound has fuller body (especially in lower mids), smoother more musical tonality, with deeper sub-bass and a little more relaxed (slower attack) mid-bass impact, more organic mids, and smoother treble response in comparison to a more transparent, more neutral sound of DX228 with a faster, tighter bass, more revealing less colored mids, and a touch more sparkle in treble. When compared to DX220 w/amp9, I still hear soundstage of DX229 being a little wider, and now having a fuller body which brings it closer to N6ii performance. I actually hear a lot of similarities in sound between N6ii and DX229, but DX229 bass has a little deeper sub-bass rumble, and lower mids have a touch fuller body, making its overall sound a little smoother and warmer in comparison to N6ii.

    cayin_n6ii-x18.jpg

    N6ii vs Lotoo PAW Gold Touch (LPGT) - similar soundstage width. N6ii tonality has a fuller warmer more natural body (especially in lower mids) vs LGPT being more transparent, brighter, leaner. Both have a deep low end extension, but N6ii bass has a little more impact, the bass (N6ii) sounds more analog with a slower attack and longer decay vs LPGT having a tighter faster bass. N6ii mids/vocals are thicker, warmer, more organic, while LPGT is brighter and more revealing. Also, LPGT treble is crisper and airier.

    N6ii vs Cowon Plenue L - very similar soundstage width. There are a lot of similarities in tonality and sound presentation between these two DAPs. Both have a deeper, more relaxed low end with a more analog flavor. Both have a fuller body more natural mids, though I'm hearing N6ii sounding just a touch warmer and fuller. But one noticeable difference is in treble, where N6ii presents treble in a smoother, more organic way, while PL has a brighter, crisper, more extended treble.

    N6ii vs A&K SP1000 SS - N6ii soundstage is a touch wider than SPK, under my test conditions. The sound signatures are closer in tonality, being more natural, more musical, not as revealing, but there are some subtle differences. SPK bass is a little faster while N6ii bass is a little more relaxed, with more analog texture. Lower mids in N6ii have a little more body, actually reminding me a lot of SPKM Gold tonality (or SPK CU), especially in lower mids, while SPK SS is a little more neutral in comparison. Also, I find that SPK SS has a little more sparkle in treble.

    N6ii vs Sony WM1Z - N6ii soundstage is a touch wider than 1Z, under my test conditions. N6ii sound is a little more organic with a fuller body, while 1Z is a little more neutral. Both have a very similar bass extension and impact, and to my ears the bass in both has a touch of analog texture. But I do hear the bass attack a little faster in 1Z. Mids are a little leaner, more neutral in 1Z, while N6ii has a little warmer, smoother presentation of mids. Also, 1Z treble is a little crisper, brighter, slightly more elevated.

    N6ii vs Hiby R6Pro - I hear a lot of overall similarities between these two DAPs. Soundstage expansion has a similar width, maybe with N6ii being just a touch wider. Both have a similar bass extension and bass impact, except N6ii sounds a touch more relaxed, while R6Pro is a little faster. Both have fuller body lower mids and more natural upper mids, but N6ii is a little smoother and more organic, takes just an edge off R6Pro. Also, treble is a little smoother and a touch less crisp in N6ii, giving it a little more natural tonality. One difference I did notice, N6ii has a slightly better sound dynamics with improved layering and separation of sounds. I mentioned this in a few other recent DAP comparisons; it doesn’t mean that R6Pro is congested/compressed, just that I find other DAPs to have a slight edge over it.

    N6ii vs Cayin N5iiS - N6ii has a wider soundstage, a little smoother tonality, slightly more body in mids, and a little less sparkle in treble. Also, N6ii has a superior technical performance with better dynamics, and improved layering and separation of sounds. I wouldn’t say exactly night’n’day difference, but you can clearly hear the performance of N6ii being superior over N5iiS.

    N6ii vs Cayin N6 - N6ii has a wider soundstage. There is a difference in tonality with N6ii being warmer, smoother, more laidback, while N6 being brighter, crisper, more revealing. N6ii has more sub-bass rumble, better extension, fuller body in lower mids, and smoother treble, while N6 sound has a faster bass, leaner mids, and crisper treble. It’s hard to believe how much this DAP evolved in 4.5 years from N6 to N6ii.

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    Conclusion.

    Every time I receive a new DAP for review, the first question I hear from my readers “which DAP sounds better?” The problem is while the price gap is still pretty wide, the sound performance among flagship level DAPs starting to get closer. One of the more noticeable differences is in tonality which will affect the pair up synergy with your favorite IEMs or full size headphones.

    While testing N6ii, I found its sound to be different from many of my other DAPs, offering a smoother and more musical tonality, with more analog texture, slightly laidback presentation, and fuller body with a touch less treble sparkle. It makes no sense to describe it as the best or the better, when in reality it’s different and unique, and will be up to a personal sound preference.

    What I can objectively say, N6ii has a fast processor with a snappy Android performance and access to Google Play to download your favorite streaming and other entertainment apps. It has a rather impressive battery life, and it features a more reliable 4.4mm BAL headphone output with 530mW of power (@32 ohm load), which also doubles as a balanced Line Output. It has a good design ergonomics, and I especially like the convenience of volume wheel and a power button combination (like in A&K DAPs). And last, but certainly not least, is the main selling point of N6ii modular design where you can replace its DAC/amp combo to update the sound signature.

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    1. gazzington
      How close to the n8 Sound is It?
      gazzington, Jul 31, 2019
      Rayzilla likes this.
    2. twister6
      @gazzington : Sorry, I only had N8 on loan for review last year. It has been too long to go by memory; I can only comment on side by side a/b comparison.
      twister6, Jul 31, 2019
    3. gazzington
      I have an n8 and the n6ii now. The n8 is better but the n6ii is great for out and about. Cayin are in rude health. Soundwise, they are number one for me now
      gazzington, Aug 17, 2019
      twister6 likes this.
  3. Rockwell75
    Cayin N6ii - Emotional Content
    Written by Rockwell75
    Published Jul 7, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Organic and emotionally engaging tonality, snappy intuitive Android interface, minimal lag, Google Play app included stock, battery life, responsive and effective EQ, hefty but reasonably portable
    Cons - It's a bit of a brick, not cheap, not as portable as some, screen attracts fingerprints easily
    Like a Finger Pointing Away to the Moon-- My Quest for the Perfect DAP

    First off let me say that I am somewhat new to the world of high-end portable audio and as such I probably lack the experience, perception and vocabulary to do a really thorough review. That said I have been passionate about great sound my whole life and I know what I like. In that spirit I will share a bit of my journey through the audio world in an attempt to describe and do justice to this amazing music player.

    It all began for me earlier this year when I picked up a pair of Campfire Audio Atlas IEMs and a Fiio M9. The Atlas totally blew me away with their massive sound, thunderous low end and crisp, sparkling highs. The M9 is a great sounding player and belongs on the "cooler" more analytic side of the spectrum. In this regard it was a great match for the naturally robust and powerful sound of the Atlas which was held in check by the subdued tonality of the player. As luck would have it (or tragedy if you talk to my wallet) I had an opportunity to demo the Campfire Audio Solaris and fell in love with them (the full story is recounted in my showcase review of that IEM). As it turned out, while great for the Atlas, the more balanced and "polite" presentation of the Solaris didn't come through as well on the M9. Detail retrieval and sound quality was excellent but the cooler more reference tonality coupled with Solaris' comparative lack of bass emphasis left a little to be desired. It didn't help the EQ on the M9 is absolutely useless...and thus I began searching for a better player to complement my IEMs.

    In terms of tonality DAPs tend to fall somewhere on a spectrum with neutral, reference, and cooler sounding players on one end and warm, musical and more organic sounding players on the other. After a lot of reading and research I came to the conclusion that my preferences were more on the latter end of things and with that I ended up replacing my Fiio M9 with a Sony ZX300. The ZX300 is an amazing player full of that 'je ne sais quoi' almost sexiness that characterizes the best Sony products. The interface is slick, intuitive and fast, the battery life is amazing, the player is eminently portable and most importantly the sound has a slightly warm, organic presentation that is clear and clean. Furthermore the ZX300 has a decent EQ and capacity for tweaking sound. Ultimately it was a clear step above the M9 in terms of synergy with the balanced and musical majesty of Solaris. My only qualms with the sound presentation of the ZX300 were that often (especially on older tracks) the presentation seemed slightly veiled, making it difficult to become fully immersed in the music; the higher frequencies tended to be a big fatiguing during longer listening sessions at times; and lastly there was some degree of hiss present (though not enough to really be distracting). For all I knew at the time this was more due to the tuning of Solaris than anything so I trudged on and, whether due to burn-in or my own psychology I eventually got over this and fully embraced the sound of the ZX300.

    If sound quality was the only factor I would probably have been totally content with the Sony player however the thing that eventually drove me nuts about it was its playlist functionality. In a word-- it sucks. I love to keep a favorites list going and quickly throw together playlists on the fly-- both of these things are impossible in Sony's ecosystem. At first I shrugged it off but got more and more irritating-- to the point that I eventually started browsing the marketplaces on Head-Fi and reading everything I could on up and coming DAPs. While all that was happening I had a chance to demo both a Questyle QP2R and Cowon Plenue R. Both had their strengths but were not for me. The Questyle in particular sounded amazing but it's user interface (both physically and software wise) were so frustrating that if I had to rely on it as my daily player I probably would have smashed it to pieces by now.

    (For those who are still with me and haven't given up while shaking your heads wondering why, this far into a review of the N6ii I haven't even mentioned it yet-- be patient, I'm getting there.)

    I came to realize that, for my needs and preferences, a quality DAP embodies a number of factors-- usability, battery life, playlist functionality, functional EQ and, most importantly, an organic and musical tonality and, as long as it's my main IEM, compatibility with Solaris (which for my tastes implies a DAP with a warmish and natural presentation with non-fatiguing highs). With that in mind I set out researching the latest slew of releases by Fiio, Ibasso, Astell & Kern and Cayin. A&K was out for me because at this time I'm more-or-less committed to 4.4mm balanced and they're still stubbornly relying exclusively on 2.5. Fiio was out because, based on what I'd read, I saw no reason to suspect that the presentation of the M11 would be dramatically different from the M9 in terms of overall tonality. Furthermore, I also read that, in a lot of ways the DX220, at least in its stock configuration, is close to the M11. This coupled with some early reviews I'd read describing its sound and battery life lead me to pull the trigger on the Cayin N6ii and, spoiler alert, I'm only two days in but am prepared to say that it embodies everything I've been looking for in a DAP, plus a few things didn't know I was looking for.

    First off I wanna give props to Andrew and Musicteck for their impeccable service. All my questions were answered and the device was shipped to me promptly and arrived in record time. First impressions of the device-- it is unequivocally a brick. It's a little thicker and longer than a pack of cards and the device packs some serious heft. I'm not sure I'd want to bring it on an airplane for fear security would worry about my capacity to club someone out with it. While not the most portable, I would be (and have been) comfortable carrying it around my house, on shopping trips, on short trips about town. Where it might not work is for when I go biking, running, hiking, or on longer excursions as the impact of my exertion and the weight of the player would probably pull my pants off. In any case I am probably going to keep my ZX300 on hand for those purposes and it suits them perfectly. The N6ii feels great in the hand and can be operated with one hand very comfortably. The controls are intuitive and the screen is sufficiently responsive. One of the advantages of Android based DAPs is the ability to choose a music player that suits your needs. I have played around with Hiby Music, Neutron, Jet Player and Cayin's own app. On the whole at this point I am preferring the Cayin app-- the interface works well for me, it's easy to use and does everything I want it to. An added note the player comes with a nice leather protective case-- something I deem an essential for players at this level.

    Charging this thing is fairly easy as it is quick charge compatible-- it's nice to go back to USB C after dealing with (and worrying about losing) Sony's proprietary cable for the last few months. The battery life is decent. Based on reading around the average for flagship DAPs seems to hover around 8 hours. It's too soon to say unequivocally at this point but extrapolating from my current usage I seem to be burning about 8% per hour with occasional (<10 min/hour) of screen time while listening to FLAC files on high gain with the EQ activated and WIFI off-- which should net me about 12 hours playback total. Not bad at all. On my first night with the device I turned off WIFI and bluetooth and, after 7 hours overnight I awoke to find the battery had dropped about 15% while idling. On the second night, with WIFI and bluetooth off I also unplugged my earphones and when I woke up the battery life hadn't dropped at all-- so maybe having the earphones plugged in keeps something in the device active. Perhaps future firmware updates will address this.

    Now is where things get good-- the sound quality. An obvious caveat here is that when describing the sound quality of a DAP it's hard to know where to draw the line between whether you're really describing the qualities of the DAP, your earphones, or the synergy between the two...so take this as you will and, of course, YMMV. The sound of this DAP is robust and muscular and, I would say, leans slightly to the warm side. The whole presentation has a richness and weight that I haven't heard in other players. I would definitely describe it as analogue and organic-- it's got a density but at the same time plenty of air with everything having room to breathe. The EQ on this player is very effective-- my Solaris responded very well on all frequencies-- more so than on any other player I have tried. There are many people who deny that, after a certain point, increases in power make any difference or who claim that people who spend over $1000 on a DAP are just rubes jerking themselves with snake oil. Truth be told prior to hearing this DAP I had almost completed my application form for the club of people who don't think there's a significant difference or improvement in sound quality as you move up the power and price chain. My experiences with the N6ii have wholesale converted me in the opposite direction. The Solaris is very easy to drive but its 10mm dynamic driver responds very well to EQ. Now, that's not to say that the differences are huge, that diminishing returns aren't a thing, or that everyone will feel the same way with the same experiences-- but for me the past two days with this device have been a revelation and I am wholly satisfied with the money I have spent.

    So what places the N6ii in an echelon above the Sony ZX300 for me?

    Firstly the hiss is greatly diminished and this has lead to an increase in detail coming to the fore but much more importantly is that the slight veil I had experienced through the ZX300 on many tracks is wholly gone. Forgive the analogy but the best way I can describe this is to compare the difference between using condoms and not. It's still possible to have an amazing and beautiful experience with them but as long as even a slight barrier is present it prevents a total and complete connection. When you remove said barrier the level of intimacy and depth of connection you feel gets magnified in ways that can have a profound emotional impact. I've never felt this connected and in touch with my music before-- even with older and less ideal recordings. Everything just feels like it's right there around you. I've been sitting here listening to music while trying to write this review and so often I've been pulled away from writing because the sound coming out of my Solaris through the N6ii is so enveloping and engging that it captures all my attention. I feel fully immersed and one with the musical space and not simply a spectator to it.

    I can say with all honestly that I never really understood what the terms "emotional" and "musical" with respect to sound signatures meant until I heard the Solaris through the N6ii. This player is a perfect complement to the natural honesty and balanced tuning of the Solaris. I listened to a high res version of "Horse With No Name" and it brought forth a wave of emotion greater than I'd ever felt listening to that song before. A/Bing for a bit it felt that, on many tracks, my ZX300 indeed seems almost veiled and lifeless in comparison. Separation, imaging and holography-- already exemplary on Solaris-- are greatly improved, which leads to an increased perception of air, detail and soundstage. Couple that with the weighty and thick signature of the N6ii and you have winning combo. Extension is great on both ends, the low end is tastefully enhanced, mids are robust and the top end is presented in an engaging and non-fatiguing way...and yet none of this is really the point. I can imagine players that are better extended, that retrieve more details, that are more neutral and analytical-- but they still wouldn't capture the charm and beauty of the "Cayin sound" which seems to me to be the capacity to present the music as an organic, musical and engaging whole. If I had to sum it up in two words I would quote the late, great Bruce Lee and say that the essence of the N6ii is "Emotional Content".

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    (Will add more images as I get around to taking them.)