Cayin iDAC-6 - Review tour (USA only for now), impressions, discussion

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by project86, Feb 7, 2016.
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  1. project86 Contributor
    This thread, and a corresponding post over in the amplification section, is to introduce some new gear from Cayin. I've been playing with both models for a while and will eventually have a full review over at InnerFidelity, but that could take a while so I wanted to get some discussion going sooner than later. In this thread I'll be talking about their new iDAC-6. I've been auditioning the review unit for a while now and I've got to say I'm very impressed with it (as well as the matching iHA-6 balanced headphone amp).
    The iDAC-6 is a fully balanced DAC featuring a dual-mono pair of the relatively new AKM "Verita" DAC chips, along with 5 selectable digital filters, DSD via USB or coaxial (using DoP), defeatable volume control for preamp duties, and your choice of tube or solid state outputs. Pretty rich feature set, right? The chassis is small but dense, weighing in at roughly 8 pounds, and the look is a perfect match for the previously mentioned balanced headphone amp - though I'd say either piece could be used independently and still fit in just fine.
    Cayin didn't tell me the price until recently, and I had assumed it would be in the $1,500 to $2,000 range based on a number of factors - not least of which was the exceptional build quality. When they finally advised the price would be $999 I got excited, as that ends up being lower than much of the competition. I'm thinking Yulong DA8 mkII, Matrix X-Sabre, NuPrime DAC10, and the stuff from Benchmark and Grace Design among others. The iDAC-6 is very competitive in this field and surpasses some of its peers in certain aspects.... but I'll cover more of that as the thread develops, and ultimately in my full review. For now I'll just say that this is a versatile DAC which offers several different takes on sound signature based on which options are chosen. And now for some glamour shots - some courtesy of Cayin and some from me (you can probably tell which is which). 
    The sources: SOtM sMS-1000SQ or Aurender X100L via USB



    UPDATE - there's still a little time to sign up for the US Tour! Cayin is sending around the stack for qualified members to try out, asking for honest evaluation in return. See the thread about it HERE and don't wait, there's not much time left to grab a slot!
    Speaking of evaluations, HERE is a link to my review of the DAC and amp at InnerFidelity. Do I like them? You'll have to read it and find out. 
  2. WayneWoondirts
    have the iDAC-6 and iHA-6 at home, great combination. 
    the iDAC is by far the best DAC I have heard and the iHA is simply one powerhouse!
    both are extremely competitive in their price segment, I heard the PS Audio nuWave DSD recently, and the Cayin is definitely a step ahead.
  3. project86 Contributor
    Nice! I don't know how many of them are out there "in the wild" but I imagine other regions got them before the USA did, so there could be a bunch of users for all I know. 
    I give PS Audio credit for improving the original terrible NuWave with the very acceptable NuWave DSD. But you're right, the Cayin is still the better DAC in most every way. Do you end up using tube or SS out more often?
  4. WayneWoondirts
    All I could find was in Polish, and that wasn't very usefull for me, but the guys at Cayin have sent me some informations.
    Definitely right, the nuWave DSD is definitely an improvement over the nuWave DAC, but Cayin still beats them.
    It depends, I use tube out when connected to my iHA6, but when connected to my CDM or Stereo Box RS (both equipped with tubes) I use solid state output. How about you?
  5. project86 Contributor
    I'm still working out the different situations where I prefer tube or SS output. Seems like the iHA-6 is really transparent and gives a clear window into whatever coloration the DAC may provide. So far I think I like tube output with the iHA-6 driving HD800 and K812, while I prefer the solid state output with my HE-1000. But it depends on my mood and what music I'm playing. Always nice to have the choice, and I think between the output and the digital filters, this DAC has something for everyone. 
  6. IboHD800
    iDAC-6 user here, based in HK. As DAC goes I am more than satisfied with the iDAC-6 and my Violectric V800 has become obsolete. I am lucky enough to have quite a library of DSD audio and coupled with the iDAC-6 I believe my source now is as close to vinyl (albeit entry level) as ever, and considering the convenience (and investment) over actual turntables I couldn't be happier now. Afterall, I am not yet at the stage of life to be allowed hours of preparation before I can sit down and enjoy some music.
    For reference, I've picked tube out and SD slow/slow filter for more than 80% of my auditioning, as I presume Cayin's strength lies in tube and I am allergic to digital harshness. Some tracks certainly benefit from SS out, especially those with "effects" which require a brighter and/or quicker sound/response but to me, it gets tired too soon too easy.
    Without a shred of doubt, it is not the "Best" DAC in the price range, for example, my V800 has (much) better details, extension, transparency and positioning than the iDAC-6 (on SS out). However, I can't pin point any flaws in the iDAC-6 which is lethal for a particular kind of music, which means I can swap between Tony Bennett, Rachmaninoff and Canton Pop without changing the setup.
    Enough praise, now where's the frustration?
    Unless it has been resolved but if you are Win 10 user, you WILL run into trouble installing the USB drivers (comes with the dac) on your PC. Luckily I may have the solutions worked our for you. I got it working by disabling the driver signature verification during installation on my PC following these steps: Worked for me but try it at your own risk. Apparently not a trouble for MAC / Win7 users, so lucky you. [​IMG]
    Hopefully this DAC will get more review here, looking forward to the sharing and if my bilingual skill is helpful to you, feel free to let me know. 
  7. hugoboss
    this dac is very new can't find one even in taobao china online store
    will keep looking for this thing
  8. hugoboss
    one thing i dont like about cayin
    i own their famous tube amp at88mk2
    the potensiometer (volume knob) got scratch sound after one year use , i have to clean the potensiometer by opened the case
    i hope they use beter potensiometer now
    looking at the picture almost all cayin product use same volume knob
  9. Andykong
    Sincere thanks to John for taking the time to review the iDAC-6 and we shall wait for his full review in InnerFidelity patiently. We are certain that John will offer an accurate and comprehensive view to those who are in the market for a compact DAC for their personal audio system.

    At the early stage of the iDAC-6/iHA6 project, we have set aside their roles distinctively: iHA-6 will have all the power and features to handle as many headphones as possible, and we developed the current control feature on top of the regular gain control. On the other hand, the iDAC-6 will offer a versatile span of tonal characteristic to pair with different headphones, that's why it is equipped with two distinctive output stages (designated as "Timber" control). Together with the FIVE digital filters, the DAC should offer more combinations for different tonal requirements and music preference.

    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.

  10. Andykong

    The iDAC-6 and iHA-6 is not available through on-line channels in China right now, we are restricting to sales facilities that can offer in-person demo to the clients. We believe the iDAC-6 and iHA-6 are offering something unique and we want to make sure our client can "experience" them before they paid for the DAC/amplifier.

    We used the same volume knob as a look-and-feel signature, but the components behind the volume knob is different for each equipment. The iDAC-6 employed an encoder behind the volume knob while the iHA-6 is installed with a 4-gang ALPS potentiometer as John has highlighted.
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.

  11. project86 Contributor
    The whole Windows 10 situation with DACs is a hassle. I'm lucky enough to have a dedicated solution from Aurender which runs Linux, and the iDAC-6 is flawless, even including DSD playback. But I sometimes use my laptop or Surface Pro 3, and in both cases I am avoiding Windows 10 until everything is straightened out. 
  12. hugoboss
    that was very fast response thanks.
    iam usually buy cayin in taobao. in my country indonesia it's hard to find your product . even if there is one , still the price difference is to far from taobao.
    i just hope your company have a distributor or dealer in INDONESIA with reasonable price, so i dont have to order it from taobao,
    got your tube amp from taobao last year with very good price.
    best luck for ur new dac
  13. Andykong

    The issue of Driver Signature Enforcement can trace all the way back to Windows 8, so all PC/notebook/tablet with Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 installed will run into similar problem. To most related parties, this is not a technical issue but a financial issue because the authentication process from Microsoft is quite costly. Cayin has considered the process seriously and will probably go for it when we have enough products to share the driver authentication cost effectively.

    On the other hand, Linux and Apple OSX (version 10.6.4 and above) does not have any driver problem because these systems support USB Audio Class 2.0, hence no need to install any device driver, everything is kind of plug and play. Windows, however, only provides support for USB Audio Class 1.0. To use a USB Audio Class 2.0 device under Windows requires a device driver in place, and that's the root of the inconvenient. It is amazing that Microsoft stick with USB Audio Class 1.0 only after all these years.

    Google "Windows Driver Signature Enforcement" and you'll find a lot of reference and instruction to get around the problem, but the issue probably will stay unless Microsoft removed the Driver Signature Enforcement or support USB Audio Class 2.0 natively, which is unlikely in foreseeable future.
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.

  14. Andykong

    Can't say much on the price issue, taobao is certainly a cheaper way out but you are taking the risk on after-sales support. I believe we have a distributor in Indonesia, but I don't have the detail with me at hand, will check it out when I get back to office next week.
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.

  15. Andykong
    Cayin will join CanJam SoCal later this Saturday (19-20 March), we'll display the iDAC-6 in the event. If you are coming to CanJam, please drop by and check out the this new DAC. The iDAC-6 is small, but it does has everything you need from a DAC. This is Cayin first DAC primarily designed for Headfi system, and the footprint is so compact that it will fit on a desktop or bedside very well, don't miss the opportunity to check out the DAC.


    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.

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