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Cayin iDAP-6 - versatile new desktop transport

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by project86, Oct 1, 2017.
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  1. project86 Contributor
    USB backlash!

    That's how I'd characterize the sentiment I've heard over the past year or so from a decent number of forum dwellers. Which I find very interesting... because if we go back maybe 5 or 6 years prior, we find people were thrilled about the advent of computer audio made easy. Thanks to advancements in asynchronous USB technology and dedicated software from Amarra, PureMusic, Audirvana, etc, folks were claiming their computer rigs could rival or even exceed megabuck CD transports, for a fraction of the cost - and with far more convenience involved.

    No doubt people are still totally sold on the idea of file-based playback. Having a huge library at your fingertips is now default, not luxury. Going back to spinning discs? Not an option for most.

    At the same time, there seems to be a growing discontent against USB as a method of audio transmission. The way I see it, there are a few reasons for this. First, USB quality can vary by device. On some DACs it may be the very best sounding input, while in other cases it takes dead last. Factor in the variability of transport quality (wasn't async USB supposed to solve this issue?) and it becomes hard to predict what you might get with any given computer or music server/streamer plus DAC.

    That's not the only issue though. Dealing with drivers can be problematic, especially when an OS update breaks your system functionality (especially if your DAC is no longer in production, making new drivers unlikely). Random gremlins can rear their head in the form of static and pops/clicks/etc - troubleshooting anything of that nature is no fun at all. Lastly, software setup can be a pain, particularly when trying to enable DSD playback - ostensibly a major reason why you chose USB in the first place.

    What's a music lover to do?

    USB to SPDIF converters (often called Digital to Digital Converters, or DDC for short) came along and solved some of those issues. They obviously won't save you from setup hassles or random audio gremlins, but if your DAC sounds better via SPDIF, a good DDC can help make the most of things. From the classic Audiophilleo to the newest from Singxer and Matrix Audio, there's plenty to choose from if this is your preferred solution.

    There do exist a few file-based playback devices that do away with the computer all together. Models from Soundaware, Aune, and QLS, among others, handle SD card or USB-drive playback and output a clean signal via coaxial, Toslink, etc. The Soundaware models in particular have become popular in some circles, owing to their excellent sound quality. This solves all the problems listed above and can be a good alternative for those who won't suffer an actual PC anywhere near their music rig.
    Cayin Audio enters this segment with their new iDAP-6 playback device. Designed to visually match (and stack with) their iDAC-6 and iHA-6, the iDAP-6 has most everything one might expect from a device such as this. SD card reader, plenty of USB ports, a large display, intuitive controls, and a plethora of outputs - all with exceptional sound quality to make the most of your DAC. At $799, this thing seems very reasonably priced considering the results it brings.

    104207kxhwxmixqqfwe23z.png 154844kx90ywx8z8c0v9x8.jpg

    With so many features on board, where to begin? Extras like Bluetooth, Airplay, and UPnP-based wireless playback (all featured on the iDAP-6) take a back seat to straight forward file-browsing from a USB drive. I simply plugged in a 256GB Sandisk and got to listening, using Cayin's own matching DAC and amp plus an HD800 (with balanced cable from Effect Audio) to complete the setup.

    My initial link from player to DAC came via the tried-and-true coaxial connection. I used the relatively low cost but high performance Better Cables Blue Truth to form a bond capable of 24-bit/192kHz PCM as well as DSD64. That meant all my SACD rips were ready to go, as well as my favorite hi-res PCM and good old fashioned Redbook quality too. No, it won't play DSD128 or above over coax, but that's not a huge problem for me considering the amount of music out there in double or quad DSD.


    The resulting sound was excellent. Surprisingly so, given the price of the iDAP-6. I'm used to far more expensive transports such as the Aurender X100L ($3500), BMC PureMedia ($5390), and my trusty SimAudio Moon Orbiter universal player ($7200). Despite the huge price delta, I wasn't missing anything at all with the iDAP-6 in the driver seat. I got all the resolution, detail, and articulation I could ask for, with an convincing sense of heft and a precise soundstage with particularly good depth - as only a really good transport can help unveil.


    The SimAudio Orbiter is a great comparison. The astronomical price can be somewhat disregarded as the device is over 10 years old by now. At 33 pounds, it's a substantial playback device, among the very best disc-based spinners I've encountered. With an exceptional power supply and a heavily modified Pioneer Elite transport mechanism on board, this thing is the real deal. I chose it as what will possibly be my very last physical media player after a recent search where I found it compared favorably from some heavy-hitters from Esoteric, Ayre, and McIntosh. I particularly like the fact that it features so many digital outputs - where most others have coax and optical, the Orbiter adds AES/EBU and BNC as well. The latter two are my preferred connections so I'm happy to have them on board.


    The little Cayin is dwarfed by the SimAudio in both size and weight. Aside from that, it stacks up rather well. It's got a similar array of outputs, plus we get I2S over HDMI which is compatible with the PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC and the Wyred 4 Sound DAC2v2 SE Limited Edition I have on hand. It supposedly allows for native DSD transmission up to DSD256 (if the DAC is willing), but I haven't had a chance to test that out yet. I2S over HDMI is not standardized so there's no guarantee every DAC will work with the iDAP-6. Cayin says they will include that type of input on a DAC of their own at some point down the road.

    On SQ, the Cayin sounds pretty much identical to the big Simaudio. I switched around from the Cayin DAC to a few others on hand from Resonessence Labs, Yulong, and the above mentioned PS Audio and Wyred devices, and my conclusion held fast. Based on prior experience, that puts the Cayin is up there with disc-spinners of yesteryear costing many thousands of dollars. Which I suppose makes sense considering the hardware on board here. There's a nice PSU, dual femto-clocks, and quality components carefully laid out through the entire design. Turns out, it's just less complex/expensive to do really good file playback as opposed to spinning a disc.


    The iDAP-6 user experience is pretty straight forward. Nobody will confuse this thing for an advanced Roon interface, but it gets the job done in a simple, direct fashion. Everything is accomplished by spinning and pressing the knob, along with a dedicated "back" button. It's perhaps not the most intuitive thing in the world, but you quickly get used to it. I do wish the "back" button was on the right side of the panel, closer to the multi-function knob. But that would unbalance the whole thing.... there's simply no room for it.


    On the plus side, Cayin's display is large and crisp, making small fonts easily readable. If you've used Cayin's portable players, or any number of other DAPs from Questyle, HiFiMAN, iBasso, Cowon, etc, the iDAP-6 is along those same lines. Those comfortable with organizing their music by folder will feel right at home.


    And that's where I have to stop for now. I simply haven't had the time to get the device connected to my WiFi, stream music from my NAS, play directly to my Bluetooth headphones, or any number of other options on board. According to the manual, the USB output should work with most DACs, so apparently this isn't just for folks who hate USB audio. But that's just one more feature I have yet to try. Thus far I'm thrilled with its performance via coax and AES, so anything else will be icing on the cake.

    Further to come as time allows.

    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
    PoSR77, gullivero, Mart and 4 others like this.
  2. project86 Contributor
    Also, forgot to mention... the iDAC-6 and iHA-6 both received new pricing today. Formerly $999 each (and highly competitive at that price), they now drop to $699 each. That's a killer buy!
    alphanumerix1 likes this.
  3. Andykong
    Thanks you very much for taking the time to review our iDAP-6. :beerchug:

    John is the first reviewer on iDAC-6 and iHA-6 and his review has been an ice-breaking introduction to Cayin's i-Series. We are most grateful to have John become the first reviewer to check out the i-DAP-6 again.

    iDAP-6 Sales Guide 1900_11.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
    alphanumerix1 likes this.
  4. project86 Contributor
    Minor update on the iDAP-6: I have been messing with using the USB output to connect different DACs. While SPDIF seems to be the main draw here, the USB output is also a useful option that some may choose to take advantage of.

    So far success with the Grace Design SDAC and the Audinst DX1, but no luck with the Wyred 4 Sound Anniversary DAC. The DAC seems like it locks on the signal, but doesn't output any sound. It also never changes on the display from 44kHz even if I play material with higher sample rates. I'll keep trying other DACs to see if I can find a common thread.

    AES/EBU connection to the Wyred Anniversary DAC is exceptional though... Really amazing SQ paired with the Pass Labs amp.
    alphanumerix1 likes this.
  5. simon740
    And where I can buy this iDAP-6 in Europe?

  6. Barbapappa
    Really interesting product. Looking forward to more impressions, especially of playing files from a nas and from a control perspective. Does this device come with a remote application which allows media browsing and the creation of playlists etc? It would be great if it also contains capable (software) volume control, so I can put my dac in dac only mode.

    Also wonder if it has smart power functions, such as auto power down after x minutes of inactivity.

    As for the question above, I have found this shop in France that seems to be a distributor: http://audiogarden.fr/streaming-hi-res/328-cayin-idap-6-source-lecteur-reseau.html

    Edit: PitBul34 had a not so positive experience with audiogarden. Best not to order from them untill we know if they are legit.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2017
  7. project86 Contributor
    There's an app for Android devices called HiByLink. Cayin uses it as an optional control method for their N3 device, and the iDAP-6 is designed to use it as well. Connects via Bluetooth. I have not had a chance to use it yet but I intend to shortly.

    There is no volume control though... just bit perfect output.

    I want to say there is a selectable auto shutdown timer but I can't recall for sure. Will double check this evening.
    PoSR77 and Barbapappa like this.
  8. PitBul34
    I have placed my order 18.09.2017 at audiogarden.fr and just spent my money and wasted my time ((((


    Conversation with audiogarden.fr:

    19/09/2017 Audiogarden.fr
    Cher client,
    thanks for your mail and noted ! We'll send you a mail as soon as the product will be shipped.
    A très bientôt
    Le service client Audio Garden

    Hello! Is it shipped? Provide a tracking number please! Thank you

    21/09/2017 Audiogarden.fr
    The product hasn’t been shipped yet. The stock should be available on next Monday and will be shipped at the same time.
    Best regards

    Hello! So, it's monday. Is Cayin iDAP-6 shipped as you sayd before? Provide a tracking number please. Thank you.

    28/09/2017 Audiogarden.fr
    Hello Mikhail,
    Sorry for the late reply, due to some circonstances we were closed until today.
    I’m gonna check the stocks right away, we didn’t processed the new arrivals yet.
    We’ll be back to you this afternoon !
    Best regards

    So, can you tell me, what happen with my order? I'm waiting 14 days.. When it will be shipped? If you can not ship it, please return all of my money.

    03/10/2017 Audiogarden.fr
    Dear Mikhaïl,
    Thanks for your mail, unfortunately we are still waiting for the next stock to arrive.
    We contacted Cayin HQ to check what’s going on. If I can’t get a final date this week we’ll refund you.
    With our apologies.
    L’équipe Audio Garden

    Conversation with Cayin:

    Hello! 18.09.2017 I've ordered one iDAP-6 at your dealer in France - www.audiogarden.fr. Today is 28.09 2017. My order still does not shipped...
    Can you clear what happen with your dealer? I'm very disappointed and worried for my money... Thank you!

    28/09/2017 Cayin
    I'll email Audio Garden to find out the latest status of your order, will keep you posted when I receive update from them.

    29/09/2017 Cayin
    I would like to draw your attention to our price revision on iDAC-6 and iHA-6. This is the earliest possible timing to keep you informed.

    I have send email to Audio Garden to request for their explanation on this transaction. We haven't receive any feedback before we break for our National Holiday, will pursue again as soon as we resume office on 9th October 2017.

    Thank you! Still no information about shipping of ordered 14 days ago iDAP-6.
    Have a nice National day!

    30/09/2017 Cayin
    Off the record and please don't quote me: if the price is not right, cancel it and look for other source. If the price is updated, I'll help you to push them as soon as our Sales Manager resume office.

    Today is 07.10.2017 - no money, no Cayin iDAP-6...
    Fantastic service! Never again!
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2017
    chsas75 and Barbapappa like this.
  9. simon740

    thank you for this warning. And I really holp that you will get your iDAP-6 or money back.

    PitBul34 likes this.
  10. Barbapappa
    Agreed. I have edited my post to reflect your experienced. Sadly I haven't found another shop that seems to sell the Cayin (just yet) in Europe.

    Edit: the audiogarden site seems to state "pre-order". Guess there is no stock yet.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2017
    PitBul34 likes this.
  11. project86 Contributor
    Sorry for that bad order experience. I don't know the exact release schedule for the iDAP-6 yet, but it appears to be available at Music Teck in the USA. But I might consider emailing them prior to make sure they have an item available prior to ordering.

    I forgot to check for the shutdown timer last night. Sorry! I did make a discovery though - hard drives are capped at 2TB in size due to FAT32 requirements. My library (barely) fits on a 4TB drive, so I'd have to split it across multiple drives (or just use a NAS). There are 3 USB ports so the max is 6TB for local storage, not counting the SD card slot.

    Speaking of USB ports - the front panel provides up to 1A and can power portable hard drives directly. The pair of rear panel ports are both 500mA which isn't enough for standard portable drives, but does work with external SSD drives as well as USB sticks. And of course external hard drives which use their own power bricks are fine too.
    PoSR77 and alphanumerix1 like this.
  12. Andykong
    Since I don't exactly know your location, I'll refer you to Cayin's dealer network list in our website:

    From what I know, our Britain and Spain dealer only carry our desktop products, and our France, Poland and Italy dealer carry both portable and desktop items (i.e., iDAC-6 and iHA-6). Audio Garden from France and Audiomagic from Poland has ordered iDAP-6 from us already, Polaris Audio from Italy are still pending for their first iDAP-6 order, so all three dealers are "possible" for Europe customers.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
  13. Andykong
    I have followed up with our staff immediately after we resume from our National Day Holiday. It is most unfortunate that we were not alert about the instance until 28th September but our National Day Holiday started at 1 October and lasted for 8 days. We cannot provide a definite answer to the inquiry before we break for holiday.

    Audio Garden has placed their iDAP-6 order with us, and Cayin had send out the product as soon as Audio Garden had fulfilled their order requirements. I have reviewed the dates and can guarantee you that our dispatch service was extremely responsive to this order. The iDAP-6 is in regular supply right now, we have not delayed or holding up any dealer order on iDAP-6.

    From what we have traced, our iDAP-6 shipment to France has not been released by China Custom office yet. The 8 days National Holiday does not only apply to Cayin, its is a nation wide holiday recommended by government and is strictly enforced across all government service. Given the timing of the transaction, the holding up is unavoidable in my opinion.
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
    PitBul34 likes this.
  14. PitBul34
    Thanks for your explanation. I hope all be Ok and I'll receive iDAP-6 this month. Please keep me informed.

    BTW, our guys goes to Cayin HQ today, be ready to welcome :)

    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
  15. Andykong
    You can use HiByMusic App to control Cayin iDAP-6. HiByMusic app has introduced a new feature called HiByLink in the recent v3.0 release, it will communicate to all device that support this communication profile, read the file headers, manipulate the file in the App, and gain full control to the connected device, which is the iDAP-6 in this case. The followings are example of what you can do with HiByLink
    1. Regular playback control: play, pause, stop, next track, previous track, ...
    2. Browsing: browse folder tree and file information, including metadata and album art of music files
    3. Database function: search, sort, categorize, create playlist, ...
    4. File Management: move, copy, paste, delete files on selected storage

    HiByLink is conducted under Bluetooth, so you don't need to connect the iDAP-6 to a network in order to make it work, this will make it a lot easier to get start when compare to a proprietary app on mobile phone as that will require a network connection before the phone gain any control to the iDAP-6. On the other hand, HiByLink is miles ahead of BT remote control because it goes beyond the regular playback features in (1). The HiByLink is operated under a file sharing concept, the HiByMusic App will read all the file header information through Bluetooth and then manipulate the files directly, so you are using the UI and features of HiByMusic App, and control the iDAP-6 with features and logic that is not originally available on the device. Last but not least, since HiByLink only communicate the file header but not the file content, so the final playback quality will have nothing to do with the Bluetooth connection, once the iDAP-6 start to play a song, there is no different between a HiByLink controlled playback vs local iDAP-6 controlled playback.

    The iDAP-6 does not have auto-shut-down features right now. We have this features available on our portable device mainly for power saving, we don't assume this feature is important to desktop application so we have skipped it in iDAP-6 firmware. Technically this is feasible because iDAP-6 share the same MCU with some of our DAP, so we have the code to implement idle-shut-down already.

    iDAP-6 Sales Guide 1900_07.jpg
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
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