Cayin N3 Hi-Res DAP with AKM4490 DAC, apt-X Bluetooth, and Line, USB & Coax Out for $150
Aug 12, 2017 at 5:16 PM Post #3,481 of 6,259

Robgo

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Just bought one after getting tired of problems using a dac with a mobile phone. I bought an lg g5 because of the B&O dac and that was a colossal failure. Typically I use a hrt microstreamer. Using either of these with a phone became a cumbersome and frustrating experience as the slightest bump will cause them to disconnect. Even with the B&O which was designed to fit seemlessly on the lg g5 phone. A slight bump would cause it to disconnect and stop playing music... Totally pathetic. The sound quality with the g5 B&O dac wasn't very good either. Weak and compressed. The sound of the hrt microstreamer is glorious but just too much of a hassle using with a phone, hence buying a dap.

My honest opinion of the n3 is that I didn't like it at first. Felt it was far too forward, lacking impact, small sound stage and very sibilant highs. Basically everything I hate about stock mobile phone sound or cheap dacs (though a step up still).

After playing around a bit and getting used to it I quite like it now.

The mid level detail is great but mid level is still a too far forward. Like a V shape where mids are pushed to the front and given a lot of detail while low bass and highs are neglected. Mid level bass is very detailed but low bass lacks impact and spread. Highs are too sibilant and harsh and become muddled and fatiguing.

I set the digital filter to the very slow setting and that's when I began to really enjoy this dap. It's still very forward and mid level seems forced to the front but it rounded off the sibilence without getting rid of the mid level detail and it's quite enjoyable now. Seems to have given more richness to lower bass also.

I'll probably get something better in the future but this is a good interim solution until I can get something else. For the price though this is quite nice.

I'm using this with shure se535 which are pretty warm and mellow for iems but still quite detailed with a medium sound stage.
 
Aug 12, 2017 at 6:42 PM Post #3,484 of 6,259

Robgo

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@Robgo Did you try to change gain settings? Medium gain should be the best.

I use low gain. With my se535 low gain is fine.

My review seems harsh but I actually think it's a really cool dap. The sound quality is "fun" because the mids are so forward and detailed. I miss the more expansive swing, impact and soundstage of my htc microstreamer compared to this but it's still really fun to listen. Comared to your average phone or mp3 player it has more of those qualities. (Typical phone or cheap mp3 player has pushed forward mids, conpressed, harsh highes, weak bass expansion and poor impact). But this is better than that by a good margin.

Cayin seems like a company that cares as well and you can tell they really put a lot of thought into this n3 with the limitations for a budget dap so I can't fault them.
 
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Aug 12, 2017 at 7:23 PM Post #3,485 of 6,259
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I use low gain. With my se535 low gain is fine.

My review seems harsh but I actually think it's a really cool dap. The sound quality is "fun" because the mids are so forward and detailed. I miss the more expansive swing, impact and soundstage of my htc microstreamer compared to this but it's still really fun to listen. Comared to your average phone or mp3 player it has more of those qualities. (Typical phone or cheap mp3 player has pushed forward mids, conpressed, harsh highes, weak bass expansion and poor impact). But this is better than that by a good margin.

Cayin seems like a company that cares as well and you can tell they really put a lot of thought into this n3 with the limitations for a budget dap so I can't fault them.
Yes, it has it's pros and cons. Getting back to gain, I have 32 ohm headphones and used with low gain as well at first. But then I noticed something about the sound is dull and a bit muddy. It was really subtle, so I thought I'll live with that. But thanks to my dad, he listened and probably heard it even better, so I thought "OK, I have low impedance headphone, but maybe it looks so efficient only on paper", changed to medium gain and reduced volume to have about the same loudness I had with low gain. Dad instantly said "now it's OK" and I found the sound more crisp and clear, dullness and muddyness were gone. Later I came across this article: https://www.headphone.com/pages/do-my-headphones-need-a-headphone-amp . The point is, low impedance can require more current. Maybe that explains this situation.
 
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Aug 12, 2017 at 7:38 PM Post #3,486 of 6,259

Robgo

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Low impedence with these se535 sounds best to me. I don't think the sound is muddy out the box. It's very detailed. Mids and mid bass sound really good with a ton of detail and fair amount of impact and swing. If I switch to mid gain or high gain the sound becomes more muddy and congested sounding with the shure se535s to me. I put the digital filter to very slow because otherwise I thought it was too bright on my slightly warm and already slow shure se535s. Haven't tried the n3 with any other headphones I own yet but I suspect it'll sound nice on high gain with a sharper digital filter on my akg reference headphones.
 
Aug 12, 2017 at 7:54 PM Post #3,487 of 6,259
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Low impedence with these se535 sounds best to me. I don't think the sound is muddy out the box. It's very detailed. Mids and mid bass sound really good with a ton of detail and fair amount of impact and swing. If I switch to mid gain or high gain the sound becomes more muddy and congested sounding with the shure se535s to me. I put the digital filter to very slow because otherwise I thought it was too bright on my slightly warm and already slow shure se535s. Haven't tried the n3 with any other headphones I own yet but I suspect it'll sound nice on high gain with a sharper digital filter on my akg reference headphones.
Fair enough. As far as I tested with PSB M4U1, the most universal digital filter is "Short Delay Slow". But if I never listened to electronica, I'd pick "Super Slow".
 
Aug 12, 2017 at 8:14 PM Post #3,488 of 6,259

mbwilson111

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Fair enough. As far as I tested with PSB M4U1, the most universal digital filter is "Short Delay Slow". But if I never listened to electronica, I'd pick "Super Slow".

My N3 just arrived today and I was trying to decide what to choose. I have it set to "Short Delay Slow" tonight. Maybe I will try "Super Slow" tomorrow. This is a very nice DAP.
 
Aug 13, 2017 at 3:08 AM Post #3,490 of 6,259

gLer

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I use low gain. With my se535 low gain is fine.

My review seems harsh but I actually think it's a really cool dap. The sound quality is "fun" because the mids are so forward and detailed. I miss the more expansive swing, impact and soundstage of my htc microstreamer compared to this but it's still really fun to listen. Comared to your average phone or mp3 player it has more of those qualities. (Typical phone or cheap mp3 player has pushed forward mids, conpressed, harsh highes, weak bass expansion and poor impact). But this is better than that by a good margin.

Cayin seems like a company that cares as well and you can tell they really put a lot of thought into this n3 with the limitations for a budget dap so I can't fault them.
I find Low Gain too dull, regardless of sensitivity. Even on my Rock Zircons that are dead easy to drive I set the N3 on Medium Gain for the extra headroom. It makes the qualities of the earphones shine, while on Low Gain it feels like it's always pushing uphill, even on 70 or 80 volume. With my P7s I don't even bother with Low Gain, straight to Medium at 60 or 70 depending on the source file. And on the Fostex X00, High Gain 70 is a push, even though they're meant to be an 'easy' 25ohm can.

There's a reason powerful portable and/or desktop amps make headphones sound full and lush, even at low volume. And some headphones are particularly sensitive to what you pair them with. My Sound Blaster E3, for example, makes the Rocks sound harsh and sibilant, and yet they're as smooth as butter on the N3. Switch cans and you'll likely enjoy the N3 much more.
 
Aug 13, 2017 at 8:32 AM Post #3,491 of 6,259

Sylean

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Maybe this can help :)
 
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Aug 13, 2017 at 1:22 PM Post #3,492 of 6,259

docholliday

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Maybe this can help :)
That chart actually doesn't mean much. There's more to it than that AKM "designers" arbritrary filter def. For example, "Sharp Roll Off" says that the edge is Slow, yet it is the fastest transient sound on high frequencies, hence cymbals are short and tinny. Yet, with "Super Slow", the cymbals are full, harmonic, and clear despite the edge saying it's Ultra Sharp.
 
Aug 13, 2017 at 3:26 PM Post #3,493 of 6,259

gLer

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That chart actually doesn't mean much. There's more to it than that AKM "designers" arbritrary filter def. For example, "Sharp Roll Off" says that the edge is Slow, yet it is the fastest transient sound on high frequencies, hence cymbals are short and tinny. Yet, with "Super Slow", the cymbals are full, harmonic, and clear despite the edge saying it's Ultra Sharp.
Personally it doesn't matter what the charts say because try as I may, I can't hear a reasonable difference between ANY of the filters. Either I'm doing something wrong, but I've even deliberately played several songs while switching slowly between filters and...nothing. Literally nothing changes. Not cymbals, not vocals, not bass, not soundstage. What am I missing, or are the changes just so small that they're generally negligible?
 
Aug 13, 2017 at 6:37 PM Post #3,494 of 6,259

docholliday

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Personally it doesn't matter what the charts say because try as I may, I can't hear a reasonable difference between ANY of the filters. Either I'm doing something wrong, but I've even deliberately played several songs while switching slowly between filters and...nothing. Literally nothing changes. Not cymbals, not vocals, not bass, not soundstage. What am I missing, or are the changes just so small that they're generally negligible?
I've noticed that the filters don't change while a track is playing. I've had to pause, change, and restart the track to get the change to take effect. The thing to watch for is little things like cymbal reverberation at the tail end, snare drum hit decay, and high guitar strings. With the sharp filters, the decays sound more compressed and "ding" like. With the slower filters, the decays are longer, smoother, and more accurate.

With keyboards, the slower filters sound warbly while the sharp filters are more accurate. However, when an actual acoustic piano is used, the sharp filters make the resonance of the strings disappear and sound more keyboard like.

I've noticed that some headphones (and/or amps) smooth out the differences too much and produce a more "consumer" (fake) sound to make the music more mainstream. I notice the minor differences like crazy with the UERR or JH13s. But with the JH5s and MDR-7506, I don't hear the same differences as noticably.
 
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