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Cayin N6 DAP: Dual PCM1792 / Dual Mono / 24-192 / DSD128 / SACD ISO

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by andykong, Nov 1, 2014.
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  1. Andykong
    I am Beta Tester of Cayin new DAP N6 and have received my testing unit on 30 October. I never owned any Cayin equipment as is not familiar with this brand in the past, so my participation was mean to be a nonpartial headfier offering an independent view to their new product. I didn’t plan to start a new thread on N6 initially as this is mean to be an internal testing process and the result was supposed to be for Cayin’s eyes only. Anyway, my initial impression to the N6 is very positive so I approached Cayin and get their endorsement to post the N6 information here on on HeadFi. I’ll take my time to work out the content gradually during the Beta test, so please be patient and come back once for a while to check out updates.


    To start with, I want to clarify that:

    1. The review unit is a pre-production version, it is provided by Cayin, I didn’t pay for it, and I need to return the unit to Cayin at the end of the Beta test.
    2. I am not an employee of Cayin, and Cayin didn’t pay me to do the Beta test or public writing, this is a volunteer process.
    3. I can free to comment and discuss on the audio performance of N6, but I cannot disclose the bud reports and functions under development to public.
    4. I can disclose photo of the testing unit, but I am not allowed to open up the machine and take internal photo.
    5. I maintain regular communication with Cayin and other Beta tester via QQ Chat-group, I can convey selected updates and progress notes as deem fit, but all price and sales information will be followed by Cayin officially, I am sure they’ll pop out in this thread occasionally.

    The Story of Cayin N6

    Cayin is a premium HiFi brand from China, has been a major player in local (Mainland China) market since 1993. Their focus has been always dedicated HiFi equipment covering every chain in the music reproduction path, from CD player to speaker, but the essence is no doubt their tube amplifiers. Their equipment ranged from around US$100 to just below US$10,000 per items, covering the needs of different requirements and budget.


    Cayin started to go into headfi market few years back and started with several desktop based Headphone amplifiers. They decide to venture into portable market as their new development focus in 2013 and setup several new project plan by early 2014. C5 portable headphone amplifier was their first attempt and has been well received since July 2014. Their second and the heart of their portable product plan is the N6 DAP. With close to a full year of hard-pressed development, the N6 is now finally at its dawn. Cayin published initial information about N6 on erji.net as early as late May 2014, and the official product announced was released on 2 September 2014. A N6 video clip was published on 15 September, and they spend more than a month to fine tuning the final sound signature of N6, and finally started the Beta test process by end of October 2014.


    PS: for detaila of C5 portable headphone amp, please refer to the following post:

    Design and Features

    Dual PCM1792A DAC

    While the specification might not be the most superior available, PCM1792A is consider one of the best sounding DAC chipset on market, and most important, in line with the sound signature that Cayin has carried for the past two decades. With a firm determination to offer the best audio performance possible for portable application, Cayin opted to use TWO PCM1792A instead of one. While similar configuration is no stranger on full-size mega dollar digital components, but to have two PCM1792A is an ambitious attempt that audiophiles should be looking forward to.


    Extreme Low Jitter (3xTCXO)

    Cayin wants their DAP to be musical and free from digital artifact as much as possible, and one of their primary design objective were to achieve a design with lowest possible jitter. For that, Cayin used THREE high precision Temperature compensate X’tal Oscillators (TCXO) from Japan (NDK/KDS), one for 44.1kHz based PCM signal (44.1kHz, 88.2kHz, 176.4kHz), one for 48kHz based PCM signal (48kHz, 96kHz, 192kHz), and the last one dedicated to DSD signal (2.8224 MHz, 5.6448 MHz). Cayin even developed their own coding and employed a high performance PLD (Programmable Logic Device), SA2000, to clean up all digital signal prior entering the DAC circuit and control signal routing base on the source file sampling rate, including the native DSD signal to DAC directly. This design certainly increased the cost and complication significantly, but to ensure N6 will set off from a clean ground for its first step of digital audio processing, Cayin will not compromise for less than the best.


    Classical BTL Amplification Design

    The power of dual DAC chipset will not be fully explored without an appropriate analogue circuit, and this happened to be the area that Cayin is excelled in. The analogue audio part of N6 is a classical Bridge-Tied Loads (BTL) Amplification Circuit, (aka. Bridged-Mono). This has been the choice of Cayin since Day 1 of N6 development, a choice that leads to multiple problems in subsequent product development. With literally two identical amplifiers inside a portable device, Cayin need to fight with issues such as power drainage, heat dispersion and much higher circuit complexity and components counts. The good news is N6 will offer the best possible channel separation with minimum crosstalk, doubled voltage swing at the same load, and extremely linear over the complete audio bandwidth.


    Uncompromised Implementation

    A good design will only be meaningful with a good execution and Cayin has been extremely thorough in doing this. N6 starts with 4 layer Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold (ENIG) PCB in order to achieve excellent surface planarity and oxidation resistance. A total of 13 pieces of high quality Op Amp were used in the analogue circuit of N6, more then what you can find in desktop audio components. The Line Out of N6 is a copycat of Cayin’s latest eye-catching CD player CDT-17A MK2 (RMB 8,800 or US$1,500). In other word, Cayin is putting the N6 in par with their mega dollar desktop HiFi products when come to product design and audio standard.

    Take Volume Control as example, typical DAP design will either use ALPS or digital volume control inside DAC or MCU chipset. ALPS while is cost effective, will introduce channel imbalance at low volume. Digital volume in DAP typically will be achieved by lowering the bit depth at DAC or MCU and this will certainly compromise on resolution. Cayin won’t accept compromise as such so they decided to put in a “proper” volume control here, and they finally picked the PGA2311 from Texas Instrument, a programmable, digitally-controlled analog volume control that offers +31.5dB to -95.5dB with 0.5dB steps, -130 db Interchannel crosstalk (@ 1 kHz) and upto 0.05db channel accuracy. With this, volume control will no longer be a bottleneck any more.

    Cayin understand piling up large number of expensive components does not always result in good audio performance, but high quality components are indeed the foundation of good sound, and Cayin has certainly put in their best shot into N6, it might not be price-no-objective, but putting sound before cost consideration is something that has been gun-holding throughout the N6 design implementation.


    Comprehensive audio format

    On top of common PCM based lossless format, N6 can hardware decode DSD64 and DSD128, and it will read SACD ISO directly and extracted into individual track internally. While there are several portable devices offered hardware decode DSD64, N6 is the first ever DAP that can hardware decode DSD128 and SACD ISO in one package.


    Control and interface

    Cayin has put in a lot of attention to the control and interface design of N6 because they valued pleasant and effective user experience. The followings are some highlights of N6 design.

    Screen: Sharp 2.4” TFT 400x360 IPS screen, which is almost doubled the pixels of typical 320x240 2.4” screen, this will not only improved the album art resolution, but also enhance the clarity of all text instruction, and allow smaller fonts to be used and yet highly readable.

    CPU: Dual Core 600MHz Ingenic Xburst JZ4760, a mid-class mobile phone processor. The processor offers hefty power for a small screen device like N6 and is the base of a smooth and swiftly operation. The processor supports DSP instructions, built-in SPDIF capability, and provides 24bit/192kHz digital audio output. In addition, the JZ4760 is a low-power processor that won’t disperse a lot of heat even when operate at full speed, this is important to N6 because low background noise and interference of all kinds are always appreciated.

    Carefully planned button: N6 is non-touched-screen, button-based control. There is lots of button and some of them might be overlapped, but they server different people and different occasion. The buttons are organized into 3 groups:
    • Front plate: Large Up/Down and Left/Right button for general manipulations
    • Left side: Jog dial, very effective single-button control that covers 90% of the function with simple rotate and click action.
    • Right Sid
    e: Two buttons dedicated for Vol+/Next and Vol-/Pre, perfect for blind operation.
    Take Track selection as example, you can use the Up/Down button to go through the title list in a folder, or use the Jog dial on the Left to scroll through a track list quickly. If you were to wear the N6 waist bag, you only need to access the Right side panel and you can control volume and skip/repeat a track already.

    Effective interface Design: Appropriate graphical means have been used to at different level of interface. The opening and closing screen are animated GIF, the Home screen are icon based and the detail instructions and settings are organized into 5 menus. Based on the user experience from Beta test, the DAP is very user friendly, new users can move around without a manual within 10 minutes, and most functions are sell explained when they go through the menu.


    Impeccable workmanship

    There is no reason to settle for less on the final appeal and finishing after what Cayin have done to package all the goodies into a portable package. The main chassis is CNC out of a single piece of aerospace aluminum alloy and it takes 3 hours 24 minutes to complete one unit. On top of looks nice and feel good, the aluminum chassis is a very good heat dispenser, the machine will feel warm but this will keep the machine operate healthy. The rear panel is make out of a carbon fiber and flush fit to the back of the DAP. The final product will looks like a single solid piece without showing any assembly part or screws


    N6 Specification

    As Cayin N6 is still under development, the specification of N6 measurement is based on the Beta test unit and is subject to revise. Cayin reserved the right to change the specification without prior notice.

    DAC Dual PCM1792A
    MCU Dual Core 600MHz Ingenic Xburst JZ4760
    PLD SA2000
    Volume PGA2311

    Headphone 180mW+180mW @ 32 ohm (to be revised)
    USB-DAC Asynchronous USB up to 24bit/192kHz
    Volume Control 0-99
    Gain Selection High/Low (+6dB)
    Channel Balance -10~+10; +/- 10dB
    Equalization 10 bands, +/- 10dB
    Power Saving Auto Power Off, Backlight time off, Breakpoint Resume

    Interface and Storage
    Display 2.4” TFT 400x360 IPS screen
    Analog Output 1x 3.5 mm (headphone)
    1x 3.5 mm (line)
    Digital Output 1x 3.5 mm S/PDIF (coaxial)
    Physical Control 1x Multipurpose Jog Dial
    4x General Navigation Button
    Volume +/Next
    Volume -/Pre
    Language English, Chinese (Traditional, Simplified)
    Storage 1x micro-SD card (up to 128G)

    Audio Format
    WAV Up to 24bit/192kHz
    FLAC Up to 24bit/192kHz
    ALAC Up to 24bit/192kHz
    APE Up to 24bit/192kHz
    WMA Up to 24bit/96kHz
    AAC Supported
    OGG Supported
    MPEG MP2; MP3

    Battery Capacity 5600 mAH
    Charger 1.2A (to be revised)
    Power LED Green: Standby, Flashing: Charging
    Battery Life 6 ~ 8 hours (to be revised)
    Charging Time 2.5 hours ~ 4.5 hours (to be revised)

    Dimension (L) 68mm~72mm
    (H) 126mm
    (W) 17.6mm~19.7mm
    Weight 230g


    Official N6 Photo

    For those who are interested in N6, please also check out the following thread, there are some interesting and very useful user opinion regarding N6 over there, definitely worth reading while you are putting N6 in your wish list.

    Firmware Upgrade

    Cayin has released v1.1. firmware on 22 Jan 2014, details as follows:

    (Please be reminded that the correct upgrade procedure is to hold "Up" button and "Power" button at the same time until the player find the firmware file and go into firmware upgrade mode.

    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
  2. Andykong
    I shall post more photo and impression with different headphone or comparison with other DAPs as my testing progress. I shall repeat them here and keep page 1 as updated as possible.

    I only received the N6 for 2 days, it was fresh from Cayin workbench so I'll put the machine in 20 hours per day run-in exercise, and will start some serious listening next week, probably Wednesday onward. I am happy to share my early impression but please don't gun-hold on my opinion at this stage, especially on listening impressions.

    1. The N6 is a fairly big DAP, it is still a brick, but I'll call it a "thin" brick in order to differentiate it from the "regular' brick such as iBasso DX100 that I used regularly.
    2. Workmanship is first class, definitely the best Chinese DAP I have laid my hands on so far. The CNC aluminum chassis is carefully executed, all corners and curved area are smooth and consistent, the carbon fiber back panel is flushed fit, you won't seen one screw at all when looking at the DAP. The gap between aluminum and carbon fiber is straight and tight, but a little bit edged when you fill it with your finger. It is still not in par against AK or Calyx if you look closely, but I am excited that Chinese DAP are catching up fast.
    3. The 2.4" screen is similar, if not identical to the one used by X5, it is consider high resolution when compare to other Chinese DAP, both album art and text are displayed with high clarity and detail.
    4. User control is noting short of big relieve, I owned two iBasso DAP and I definitely won't go near an iBasso again in the first three months of their product launch. I as a bit hesitate to serve as beta tester for a Chinese DAP and I am happy to proven wrong. The N6 commands are well organized, respond is stable and fluent, and the buttons are firm but sensitive. The job dial on the left side is a joy to play with and it is actually easier and more efficient then the scroll wheel of my X5. Cayin will continue to refine the user interface as this is one of the main purpose of the beta test, but the starting point is a lot better then I anticipated.
    5. N6 is hot when your push it hard, I put it on High-Gain, Vol. 80/100 and you can feel the DAP is revving on your hands, I guess the DAP will stable at around 40C so better don't put it inside a sealed bag if you were to listen for long hours.

    Regarding how it sounds, I tried it with Beyer T5p, Sony EX1000 and Flat1-Kuro so far, The N6 can handle all three cans very well. The N6 is not a power-house type DAP, I don't know its output rating but I guess it probably is on the low side when compare to the X5 and DX100, but it drive and control the cans that I tried very well, and to me, control is a lot more important then sheer power for music enjoyment. WIth two PCM1792 working back to back, you won't need more details but N6 will not urge to show off its high resolution by throwing everything to your face, its warm, smooth and laid back, smooth. To compare with my current DAPs, the N6 bests the X5 hands down even when it is fresh out of the box, I like the violin on N6 but I prefer the piano on DX100. I want to state again this is is a very early impression because on a few hours of listening only. I'll let N6 warm up a few more days before I start my listening sessions.

    30 October 2014,


    According to Cayin, this is temporary package for beta test only, they'll provide full set of accessories and a "proper" packing when the products officially released.

    I have the letter of instruction plus 4 pages of tables that I need to fill in during the beta test. The letter said I need to return the N6 by 5th November, but as this is the only beta unit that goes out of People Republic of China Custom, I am kind of safe from Cayin's reach and I intend to keep the unit a bit longer until Cayin is very unhappy about me. :deadhorse:

    31 October 2014





    Took several photo with mobile phone, will find time to take more photo down the road.
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
  3. Andykong
    Reserve for links to Cayin announcement, impressions and highlights

    FIrst Impression on Cayin N6 with Flat4-Kuro

    Hands on Experience with Cayin N6

    Cayin N6 vs Calyx M

    Cayin N6 vs QA360

    Official release of Cayin N6
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
    earfonia likes this.
  4. H20Fidelity Contributor
    There's already a thread for this here with more info: http://www.head-fi.org/t/735365/cayin-n6-new-audiophile-dap-updated-with-new-pics

    Unless of course, you want to keep this for your own beta testing thread. [​IMG] 
  5. Andykong
    I would like to keep page 1 updated as the beta test in progress, that'll include my impressions, more photo, and change/update that Cayin confirmed in due course, thats why I prefer to start a new thread.
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
  6. Thomas Cayin
    Thank you very much ANDY, I think the time I come faster than you think. Oh, anyway, you give the N6 within a limited period of time, this will be our faith, so that we can do one of the best state greet N6 is officially listed.
  7. foollin
    Thomas, could you give publicity to the price of N6.
    Thank You

  8. Luvdac
    Thanks Andy. Look forward to your views on the sound particularly with DSD 128 files!
  9. Audiophile1811
    This looks great! I can't wait for more impressions [​IMG]
  10. CosmicHolyGhost
    Subcribed. Thanks for taking the time, Andy.
  11. kova4a
    You surely did a mighty fine job cramming everything about the N6 in here and I'm totally fine with this thread turning into the main N6 thread.
  12. Thomas Cayin
    No matter who you are, thank you for sharing N6 and expectations.
    We just simply want to N6 in the official release has a near-perfect condition, so we were the product of beta .ANDY is one of them, also a member of the most enthusiastic and gave us a lot of practical advice, thank you very much.
  13. Luvdac
    Hangin" out for an indepth review with hi res sources!!!!
  14. Andykong

    Wow, I am flattered, thanks for your good word.

    If anyone want to raise any questions or suggestions regarding Cayin N6, you can post it here and I'll try my best to respond of follow up for you. But the fact is I am a slow writer and I am not good in keeping a discussion going, it takes me 12 days to complete the overview of N6, and probably takes me as long to write up my Beta Best observations, so please don't put all the egg in my basket immediately, I might not be able to carry them through very well. The reason that I started this thread instead of posting the details in the original N6 thread is mainly because of my pace of writing and update pattern, if I were to do this in an existing thread, I probably will never be able to finish the writing as my post will probably buried way behind by the time I finished my first draft.

    I think the readers can just feel free to participate in both thread. I am sure Thomas will be a regular in both thread so you don't need to double post to make sure he read it. From what I recalled, the Fiio X5 beta test thread has co-existed with the main thread pretty well, so there is no need to stop what you have done in past two months.

    By the way, please don't treat this as "MY" thread, everyone is welcome to ask, share, or even spell out your dislike if there is any. The last thing we want in a public forum is to take things personally, both for the good side and for the bad side. Lets just say we are here because we have common interest that is too good to keep in our own pocket, so lets just share our thought and happiness as-is, the audiophile spirit will finds its way, as always.
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
  15. Andykong

    I actually has written my first impression on the beta unit and submitted to Cayin already, but that is in Chinese and is based on my favorite IEM (Flat4 Kuro) that is not very popular over here. My next impression will be on Beyer T5P which I thinks a lot of headfier will know it fairly well, will try to get on with it ASAP.
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
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