Friday, July 29, 2016

Cayin N5 Review. A solid performer!

Pros: Dual Micro SD Card Slot, Solid build, Smooth interface, Premium Build quality, Smooth and warm sound signature, balance output, usb 3 interface,
Cons: Memory/USB port cover fits poorly and mar the overall look,
Disclaimer: The N5 I reviewed was a free loaner unit from Cayin, which will be returned to Cayin at the end of the review tour. I have not benefitted financially or materially from writing this review, with the tour unit provided in exchange for my true feeling and opinions towards the product. Cayin did not check review content prior to publication.

My first journey into portable hifi world started with a modest iphone 4. Then when i join this forum, i keep on reading how a good portable music player can improve or elevate the experience of listening to music. When Fiio launch X3, the price performance ratio is too tempting to be ignore and Imade my first purchase into hifi portable music player. True enough my whole listening experience changed. Then my lust for gear grow just like the hobbits lust for the ring in lords of the ring. I added many headphones/iem such as Beyerdynamic 880, T90 , T1 2nd gen, Vmoda M100, Sennheiser Momentum, Hifiman HE400i, Vjay, Logitech UE900, JVC FX850, Fiio EX1, Hifisound Wooduo and the list goes on... So what does it mean?? Well simple...the Fiio X3 or X3k can power some of these portable headphone/iem but for the power hungry monster, i have to get at least a portable amp to bring out its true potential.

Then my journey and search for a more powerful player continue..then Cayin N6 caught my attention cause of its marketing gimmick, a player which can cramp so many amp in fact 13 if i am not mistaken into a player. I research and hesitate for a while and then finally jump the gun again to purchase Cayin N6. Boy i was excited upon receiving it! It has everything i always wanted. A powerful player with stronger output which reduce the need for me to carry the portable amps. While I enjoy Cayin N6 very much, my only complaint is the size. I wanted something similar with smaller size just like Fiio X3. Then when the thread discussion for Cayin N5 pop up, i guess it generated a lot of interest because Cayin N6 has proven itself and everyone else is hoping this little monster can outdo its elder brother!

Thanks to Andy Kong i was given a chance to be a part of the Cayin N5 world tour.

The packaging!






 Cayin opt for the minimalist design. Nothing too fancy and yet not simple with a slight touch of mysterious with black emblen on the box marked against the black packaging.
This is a pre production version and maybe the final product packaging may change.



It comes with a coaxial output cable, usb cable, screen protector, manual and of course the player itself. Something obvious was missing in this world tour unit which is the rubber silicon case for the Cayin N5. I was told that the final version may have the silicon protector included.

The looks and build!

I guess everyone first reaction is to compare the size of N6 and N5. Well as you can see it is much more smaller compare to N6. Well i would say it is around 20% from the looks of it. The build quality is awesome. Solid and craft to perfection but there is a flaw which is the rubber protector which is used to cover the microsd card slot which does not really jive in.



The back of the player still carry the DNA of its elder sibling. But i personally would prefer a brushmetal back plate but this is down to personal preference.



The scroll wheel is very usable and with as you can see, it is crafted with some groove to give it some grip with scrolling.



Overall build quality is top notch.




Here is a size comparison between, Cayin N6, Cayin N5, Fiio X3 and Fiio X3K. While it is smaller compare to Cayin N6 but is still a tad bigger compare to Fiio X3 or X3K



The line out and headout jack share the same port, It has a dedicated coaxial out and a balance out port. The power button is at the top too.



The bottom of the player housed two micro sd card slot and a USB port and reset button. I think the design of the micro SD card slot can be further improve because if you have long finger nails then you could potentially break it...(i mean your nail :) ) The rubber flab used to cover the port is not fitting well too and come off easily.



The sound!



Ok here comes the important part. The sound. I will skip the specification of this unit because it is all over the internet. I am not going to repeat it.
I am not a professional reviewer nor a graduate in audio engineering. I will try my best to describe the sound because it is not easy to describe sound as it sounds different to different ear and person.
Everyone perception of sound could be different. When i started my journey into hifi world, i notice everyone talk about hifi sound. So what exactly is hifi sound? After some soul searching i notice to some it simply means a sound signature which is giving the most accurate sound reproduce in the studio recording. Some describe hifi sound as having a neutral sound. I also come across some CD recordings which has been remastered to boost the mid and upper level of the frequency to give it the HIFI sound. ( so much of being neutral )

But does it mean having a warm sound signature is not HIFI sound? Well to me sound is art. There is not such thing as correct sound or wrong sound. Is either the sound is pleasing to your ears or not.
To me HIFI sound means the moment the frequency reach your ear and brain, I feel relax, calm and fun to listen. I want to enjoy my music and not becoming some mad scientist which keep on analyzing what is the best sound and whats wrong with sound signature.

Do I enjoy Cayin N5 vs let say the new Fiio X3k? I used a Fiio HS2 Headphone output switcher to do an AB test between these two players.

More power!!

A blind test with the same volume level set at 20 for both player would immediately let you get which player has more power!
Set at high gain for both player, Cayin N5 is at least 50% more powerful than Fiio X3k. I will have to set the volume at Fiio X3k to 40 to match the Cayin N5 at 20.
So most of the time you dont even need a portable amp to enjoy the music.

Engaging Sound !!

Similar to X3K, it has a warm sound to it with higher level of detail retrieval and music separation. But during the AB test you hardly hear the difference if you are unfamiliar with the track and with volume match. But it does make a difference to picky ear!

The track I used for the AB is from " Best of Vocal Works" - Kobayashi Mika




The Cayin N5 is what i describe as giving you the warm and smooth sound. Here is my take on the sound description:-

Bass: The player has certainly great amount of emphasize on bass and sub bass as well. It goes deep and hard. But not too overwhelming.

Mid and high: The mid is engaging giving you the in the first row of the stage feel and smooth high. If you have headphone with peaky trebble like Beyerdynamic T90 then this player should tame it :)
I find it pair very well with my Hifiman HE-400i and FX850. The synergy is superb. I always like warm sound. The cymbal, string instrument is certainly there and it sound smooth and more refine.

Soundstage and Imaging: You could certainly visualized where the instruments are coming from because it has good imaging. But soundstage could be wider and deeper just like Cayin N6.

There is no hiss coming from this player as hiss can be annoying.

Verdict!!

The solid build of Cayin N5, warm and smooth sound signature certainly put it on par with Fiio X5 range. Most important of all, i certainly enjoy using it over a week period. I feel that Cayin is moving towards the right direction in building a name in the HIFI world. I would highly recommend Cayin N6 as your first portable music player if your budget permits :)

(Note: I will come back and provide more details later when i am free and sorry if you are looking for a more analytical type of review. I am merely expressing my feedback as a consumer. Thanks for reading.)

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