Cayin is a Chinese company well established in the world of traditional Hi-Fi for more than 25 years now. In recent years, she has become interested in nomad Hi-Fi and particularly DAPs, with gears providing very good services at the attractive prices at which they were offered.
Today, I’m gonna give you my thoughts about the N8, flagship DAP of the brand that I had the opportunity to test for 15 days thanks to a friend from Tellement Nomade. I was able to test N8 with Fearless S8Pro, InEar ProPhile 8, Itsfit Lab Fusion and Jomo Trinity.
Are the qualities of the N8 meeting the price expectations ? That is what we will see now.
Cayin N8 is available at 2999€ in France, 3299$ in the US.
Visual and Ergonomics
The Cayin N8 may or may not please, but it is a magnificent object with undeniable manufacturing qualities and a very high standard. You might have wanted something more discreet to go out ? Just go for the N6ii, but you’ll loose something somewhere !
Let’s linger on the ergonomics.
Given the size, the weight is ok compared to the WM1Z but you still wish it could weight less.
The interface is working correctly, with good pace and nice fluidity but a few things bother me a little bit while using the N8 :
- The screen could have been bigger in comparaison to the front pannel
- The covers display is slower than on the 1Z when you browse in your library.
- When you pause a song, when you press the back key you go back to the beginning of the song but it automatically restarts.
- The (relative) complexity of the menus due to "light" translation and an incredible number of options.
As far as sound is concerned, the N8 offers 3 outputs on its top which will allow everyone to fine tune the sound according to their needs and use :
- 1 lineout in 3.5mm
- 1 output in 3.5mm with either a transistor option or a Korg electronic tube option, world first on a DAP at the time of its release
- 1 transistor output in 4.4mm
Power is one of the big strengths of the N8. It simply seems unlimited thanks to the 3 levels of gain available on the 2 headphone / in-ear outputs.
The undisputed champion in this field is the 4.4mm output. Clearly designed for headphones, it gives a hormone boost to all headphones connected to it. It hits strong and the dynamic seems huge. But this is done, compared to the Sony WM1Z K mod Premium, at the expense of subtleties, details and resolution in the signature. On the other hand, the bass control is better than the 1Z (3.01), which gives a little more bass in comparison but not as tight.
The 3.5mm output with the Korg tube option has a much smoother and less dynamic reproduction. The bass is slower and fluffier, but present in the same quantities as on the 4.4mm output. The midrange is denser, thicker, on the slightly warmer side of the force. The resolution is equivalent, as is the level of detail.
The 3.5mm output with the transistor option is slightly different from the tube option. It has an equivalent dynamic range, with slightly faster bass but less than the 4.4mm output. The midrange is thinner than on the 3.5mm tube but still denser than on the 4.4mm output. The resolution seems to me on the other hand clearly higher than the other 2 outputs.
Regardless of the outputs used, I find that the N8 offers :
- a wide restitution, wider than the 1Z, but a little less deeper...
- detailed and precise highs quite close to those of 1Z
- bass in equivalent amounts on all outputs
- a slightly matter sound than 1Z
- groove and improved musicality when you activate the P+ option (I don't know what that is...)
- a lower resolution, even in 3.3mm transistor, than the 1Z but a slightly higher separation
- transparency and definition of the same level as the 1Z on the 3.3mm transistor output, less on the other outputs
- incredible power
Cayin has struck a big blow with the N8 by offering a product largely at the level of the market leaders that are the AK SP1000/2000 and the Sony WM1Z. Its warm and technical sound makes it a great choice, especially as it is capable of driving almost anything.
Let's say it, I fell in love with the 3.5mm transistor output. It's the output that offers me the best compromise between power, musicality and resolution, and gives me what I expect from the sound of an High-End DAP.
"Resolution is the ability to individualize a voice or instrument"
"Separation is the ability to feel space between the various sound sources"
"Definition is the ability to perceive as much information as possible"
"Transparency is the ability to transcribe the nuances and subtleties of music"
My topic on Tellement Nomade here : http://www.tellementnomade.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=671123#p671123