[Reviewers Wanted] Cayin N3 – Compact Hi-Res DAP: 32Bit/384kHz, DSD256, DoP128, BTv4.0, USB/Coaxial Output

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  1. ngoshawk
    Video review of this fine little Bluetooth critter...to say thank you to @Andykong would not be enough; but thank you for what you do! Written review is close...oh, so close...

  2. Andykong
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
    ngoshawk likes this.
  3. Mshenay Contributor
    Some good news, I got my HM601 up an running again! Now I have something old but gold to compare to the N3 [I died on my about 2 weeks ago, finally got around to getting it back up and running]
    .Sup likes this.
  4. Wiljen
    My review is posted as of today too. The N3 is Cayin's 4th generation or 5th technically speaking? Either way, I can say they learned a lot quickly as the N3 shows great usability which is something that usually isn't present in immature products.
    ngoshawk and Mshenay like this.
  5. Andykong
    Cayin Stay updated on Cayin at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
  6. Mshenay Contributor
  7. Wiljen
    Get ready to feel like you overpaid for the Chord Mojo if you have one.
  8. Layman1
    Do you mean the Chord Poly? That's the product that enables this functionality with mobiles..

    In any case, no big deal I guess.. I'll be reviewing the N3 in the next couple of weeks, but I imagine it's safe to say (based on current reviews) that whilst it's undoubtedly an excellent DAP, it would be unreasonable to expect it to be in the same league (sound quality-wise) as the Mojo. So Mojo/Poly owners probably won't need to be wailing and gnashing their teeth any time soon :p

    But it's great to see that kind of functionality becoming more widely available, especially so when it occurs at the price point of the N3 :)
  9. Wiljen
    Mojo and Poly really. By the time the N3 can be used as a USB dac or with hibylink for command from mobile it really competes on either front.
  10. Mshenay Contributor
    I've gotten the N3 from Onix and I've confirmed it's fully functional since then!

    I've been listening over the last few days, thus far I'm impressed with it's size and power! I'm comparing it Volume matched to my RockBoxed HM601, and I've found it's actually got a little more headroom than my 601, plus it's smaller. Volume control is also more precise on the N3 as opposed to the old analog wheel I've got on my 601.

    For critical listening, I I've played Igor Levit — Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - Aria with 30 Variations and So What by Miles Davis, each matched to a 74.2 dBs listening level.

    The sound though... isn't as impressive as I'd hoped. I played with the different filters, I found that with the Sharp filter there was better tactility better impact but it caused the sound stage to sound a bit disjointed. While with slow, you have a softer sound but a more cohesive image, super slow proved even softer... I eventually settled on slow, though even with the slow filter the timbre remains a bit cold and the sound lacks impact and sufficient body.

    How ever, the N3 is more dynamic and has a better detail retrieval, so while I wasn't impressed with the presentation of percussion or stringed instruments, the presentation for horns really caught my attention! Noise is another advantage the N3 has, it's much blacker than the HM 601 which has an audible hiss that's apparent during rests in the music, certainly the three adjustable gain positions help keep the noise down! While I don't own IEMs for those that do, the quieter and more precise volume control of N3 will certainly be appreciated!

    I've been listening to DaiQing Tana for about 2 hours now, with both players. For this track, the mix is already very thick, so the clarity of the N3 is doing a much better job with layering the different instruments. I prefer the vocal only intro with the HM 601, but as soon as the acoustic guitar enters the mix, it get's too thick and I'm no long able to really follow the big drum as well. For me that big drum really makes the track! An the N3 is resolving it more cleanly than the HM601, even with a thinner headphone the warmer thicker sound of the HM 601 is a poor compliment to this track. Again, both tracks volume matched, though at 79.1 dBs this time around.

    My listening thus far has also been with my Superlux HD 668B, with stock pads. Both of the amps were ran on High Gain. I frankly like to use entry level headphones with entry level sources. Since chances are customers buying a $150 DAP will most likely also be listening with a headphone priced similarly. How ever I do have a very organic sounding Nhoord Red V1 that does NOT like my Hm 601, so I intend to see how my impressions change as I move from entry to mid range level headphones. I imagine the blacker background and more apparent macro dynamics will really shine on the Nhoord Red V1

    I did listen to both my HM 601 and N3 with my Modded Audio Technica ES 10, I appreciated how the N3 pair'd with my ES10 really brought a few of my quieter jazz tracks to life! Listening with the HM 601 is more technically correct, but it's a little more relaxed. The N3's overall better dynamics and top end clarity really brought some EXCITEMENT to Mile's Davis So What
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
    ngoshawk likes this.
  11. Mshenay Contributor
    Some fun news, I got the blue Tooth output hooked up, honestly the feature is AMAZING! I max out the Volume on the N3 and just use my phone to adjust the volume from there

    To my understanding when you push it to 100, there's a seperate opAmp that amps at that point correct? One with just fixed gain,

    Either way, I'll be doing some comparitive notes on how the N3 compares with my V20 stand alone and how it compares with the Geek Out v2+ SE today. In terms of function though, I'm really loving the blueTooth connectivity! I can keep the N3 in my pocket with a cable attached, and operate my phone without any cables. Super handy
  12. Layman1
  13. Mshenay Contributor
    My thoughts on the N3 are as follows did all of my listening with a modded ATH ES 10.


    Headphone Sound Quality

    The HM 601 as the best for me, most natural timbre, excellent weight to the sound, most expansive imaging, great dynamics and macro detail. It glossed over some of the micro detail up top, the neat little background noises, though it did an amazing job with transients! Pretty good given the price, NOT on par with the Geek Out v2+ but for $125 pretty darn good!

    The N3 on the Short Delay Filter was second best, brighter, more micro detail and less resolving of transients, amazing dynamics but it lacked impact and weight, often a little thin, but very fast, pulled out textures that the Hm601 often smooths, which can work against the N3, and other times works in it's favor

    UCA 202's headphone out is terrible... very soft, REALLY deep but exceptionally narrow

    Line Out Quality

    The UCA 202 and HM 601 where excellent, the UCA 202 had a deeper wider more precise image overall but was still a little soft where as the 601 kept it's amazing timbre and weight with the sound stage opening up a little more, it lacked a little depth an precision compared to the UCA 202

    N3 line out is a big improvement! Added body and better transient resolve, alongside better precision in imaging, but still thin sounding compared to the other 2 and not as expansive as either

    Headphone Power Output

    UCA 202 is appalling, hm601 isn't as impressive beside the N3, the N3 has 3 gain options and offers the widest range of power out options alongside having the most raw power on tap

    User Interface

    All HAIL ROCKBOX, seriously though I love it, it's faster than the N3 GUI and has more options, The N3's button configuration is easy enough to figure out, but I still find my self accidentally hitting back when I want to scroll down, though the two differ fundamentally. The N3 has a graphic user interface, where as rockbox is purely text based. Surely in today's day and age a GUI is more approachable and welcomed than a big list of text menus.

    N3 really surprised me here! The blutooth dac connectivity is a little noisy, but it's a good convenience. For what it's worth the N3 sounds better than the onBoard output of my LG V20... but I liked how many connectivity options the N3 offers, it's a Digital Jack of all Trades! The UCA 202 on the other hand is more of an analog jack of all, and the HM 601 has caveman level functionality... it play music or it not play music,

    The N3 also offers a USB dac/amp function as well, allowing it to be pair'd with your computer as well as your cellular device, though I didn't get a chance to use it. As in my experience sound quality does not differ via the USB input vs playing files stand alone on a DAP

    Battery Life
    I charge my HM 601 like once every 2-3 weeks. An I get around 30 hours of playback time! The N3 I charged every 2 days and got maybe 8-9 hours tops...

    Ultimately, for now the N3 and HM601 both have my recommendation, more so the Cayin N3 seeing as finding a Rock Boxed hm601 is going to be difficult and it has next to zero support, where as with Cayin we get amazing customer service and a warranty. The HM 601 isn't really a practical recommendation, though pair'd with Rockbox it's a tough combo to beat for just a super basic digital audio player, but I was really excited to have had a chance to listen to the N3! I love the digital filters, and all the awesome functionality it offers, overall it's a better for portable music than the simpler hm601. Cayin took extra effort to integrate with and improve the existing cellular options, as opposed to standing against them as the HM601 and devices from that time often do

    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
  14. Pewterlocks
    I'm holding off a bit with getting the N3 as I am hoping to find out how it sound with full sized phones( Focal Studio Pro) As I'm half deaf and only hear in the right ear, so I need something with power to drive them,as I do play it loud.
    As for Headphone speak,still learning the terminology.so I don't understand as much as I would like, sorry.
    As for the N3 I hear ( pun intended)) good things about it. But how does it compare to to the Shanling 2 the first version which, from what I understand it's more powerful than the " S" version.
    I appreciate any help.
  15. Mshenay Contributor
    As of today I've delivered the N3 to @Howlin Fester

    I'm finishing up my edits for a full written an voice over review
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