Disclaimer: The Cayin N8 was despatched to on mortgage and shall be returned to Cayin shortly after this evaluation. We thank Cayin for this chance.
To study extra about Cayin merchandise on Headfonics you possibly can click on right here. You can even learn our preliminary preview function on the N8 right here.
There was a joke operating round our native audio teams on what the final frontier might be for DAPs. Properly, not a lot a joke however extra of a wishful considering adopted by a “Yeah, not in our lifetime” wry smile.
The very concept that a set of tubes might be inside a DAP was each fanciful and lustful on the similar time. And but, right here we’re in 2018 and Cayin have kind of completed that with their new flagship DAP, the N8.
The joke is not any extra and at $3299 it’s definitely no laughing matter. This can be a assertion product, a “money-no-object” package deal and a DAP that sits proper alongside the Sony NW-WM1Z and the Astell & Kerns of this world when it comes to who may purchase this.
On the similar time, with the inclusion of the Korg tube know-how, the N8 is providing one thing relatively totally different to the present TOTL DAPS out there immediately and dare I say it slightly extra formidable.
- 1 Extra Than A DAP
- 2 Korg Nutube
- 3 Selection Of Amplification
- 4 Wired & Wi-fi
- 5 Dimensions
- 6 Design
- 7 Ending
- 8 Aged Aesthetic
- 9 Modest Measurement
- 10 Responsive
- 11 Why Small?
- 12 Touchscreen Controls
- 13 Bodily Controls
- 14 Wi-fi Controls
- 15 OTG
- 16 Comparisons
- 17 Charging
- 18 Case
- 19 Cables
Extra Than A DAP
To name the N8 purely a digital media participant can be somewhat large of the mark for my part. It has much more to supply than merely taking your music on the go and plugging in a set of headphones.
At a high-level, the N8 can be thought-about a potential system element in a lot the identical method because the Hifiman R2R, for instance. The design additionally negates the necessity to purchase high-priced equipment to transform it right into a system system as Astell & Kern would have you ever do with the likes of the AK380.
Every part it’s essential use the N8 as both a transportable gadget or a system element is true contained in the field; both as a part of the unit design and enter/output performance or in a variety of wiring equipment to hook it as much as your property system.
In fact, it’s a bodily impossibility for a compact and electrically complicated digital media participant to deal with conventional tubes in any significant method. In a means, our previous jokes stay protected because the N8 would not have a pair of bodily vacuum tubes protruding of it.
As an alternative, the large calling card has been using the Korg Nutube know-how which works on the identical foundation as conventional tubes, providing the identical vaunted “tube” sound however is designed in a completely totally different method. Critically, this can be a design that may fairly fortunately work inside digital media gamers utilizing a singular spring-loaded suspension system designed by Cayin to get rid of microphonics.
You’ll be able to see from the inventory photograph above how the Nutube NP61 inside a DAP can grow to be a bodily risk. This small flat piece of engineering truly has an anode filament construction and operates precisely as a triode vacuum tube would. Greater than that, the facility consumption of the Nutube is roughly 2% of that of a daily tube making it a transportable pleasant design.
Selection Of Amplification
You might be forgiven at this stage for considering the N8 is all concerning the tubes. There’s greater than that with Cayin pitching a selection of a minimum of three several types of amplification. The N8 not solely presents a tube stage however a solid-state various with circuit designs for each balanced and unbalanced SS outputs.
To make the expertise extra involving, features of their legacy design from the iDAC-6 or the power to distinguish energy output from low to excessive impedance can also be obtainable on the N8. The introduction of a what Cayin calls a High² (Excessive Impedance Excessive Output Mode) choice will permit the N8 energy provide to ramp as much as ship extra output wattage the upper the headphone load.
Wired & Wi-fi
I did point out the N8 was greater than a DAP and that all the things you have to go both moveable or desktop was proper within the field. The N8 can go system analog with some correct hifi line-out voltage numbers (2.1V unbalanced and four.31V four.4mm balanced). It could actually go digital built-in with each USB-C and SPDIF outputs in addition to I²S output for these techniques which have it.
For wi-fi, Cayin has beefed up the N8’s Bluetooth functionality with aptX and only recently added LDAC functionality. It additionally options HiByLink which permits the N8 to wirelessly sync with any system that has the power to obtain a BT sign in addition to permitting distant management by way of a smartphone. Should you plan on integrating the N8 into your system then you’ll be able to distant management it by way of your smartphone very similar to a CD Participant or AV receiver.
The N8 is a reasonably hefty beast although not as heavy because the Sony NW-WM1Z weighing in at 380g in comparison with 454g for the 1Z. The 1Z can also be wider on the prime on account of its bulging jack ports however slimmer on the backside. The N8 is simply marginally longer than the iBasso DX200 however thicker. In case you are used to strapping the AK380 to its related amp it’s about 30% much less deep than that combo although a lot greater in all instructions in comparison with the AK380 by itself.
You’ll be able to function the N8 in a single hand although. It isn’t so lengthy or wieldy to require two-handed use. The corning on the N8 can also be clean sufficient to keep away from bodily consolation when dealing with and there’s an enhanced curvature on the left aspect of the N8 base for extra dealing with consolation. I might advocate slipping on the N8 provided leather-based case for extra grip because the SS physique of the N8 is slightly slippery in sweaty arms.
I have to differentiate construct high quality from the design at this level as a result of the design will polarize whereas the standard of the supplies used shouldn’t.
The design could be very a lot in keeping with Japanese considering and for somebody who has spent the final 12 years within the East, I can inform you that the N8 design circulate is in sync with design preferences of the area. The selection of supplies and ending will resonate as a TOTL gadget. Gold ending for a lot of right here is an indication of how costly one thing is at a look.
For a Westerner, it might appear on the gaudy aspect with its flashes of 24okay gold and the thick chrome steel PVD coated chassis distinction. I get the opposite aspect of considering additionally. Once you examine it to the slick curved uniform design of the Sony 1Z or the futuristic shaping of the AK DAPs it comes up a bit of brief within the harmonious aesthetic issue.
Whether or not you just like the design or not the construct high quality and ending of the N8 is simply wonderful. It feels extremely strong with an virtually retro fashion aesthetic to its PVD coated chrome steel housing. The quantity and command dials 24okay plating could be very evenly utilized with zero blemishes on it or the command button slightly below the LCD display. Labels on the N8 are etched into the metallic quite than printed to stop fading over time.
The rear panel of the N8 is a customized match Corning Gorilla three (AF and DLC coated) curved glass again panel. It’s completed in a black gloss paint moderately than the extra typical carbon fiber end or patterned end you discover on the previous N6 or the AK380. The glass seems to be fairly strong however it additionally acts as a extra porous defend for higher Bluetooth sign transmission. It’s going to retain a number of fingerprints right here and there throughout dealing with however nothing that a fast wipe with a material won’t clear up.
Once I was taking the pictures of the N8 I additionally discovered that fairly than depart a load of ugly fingerprints on the SS physique, it type of darkened the spots briefly the place my fingers rested. For some bizarre purpose, I discovered that smudgy look interesting, unusual as which will appear. It jogged my memory of the nickel alloy getting old impact on ALO Audio’s RX and V5 moveable tube amps of which I’m an enormous fan of.
The N8 makes use of a three.2″ IPS touchscreen with a 480×360px decision which in 2018 could seem slightly on the conservative aspect when in comparison with the likes of the AK SP1000’s 5″ 720x1280px and even the extra modest DX200’s OCA-bonded four.2″ IPS Display 768x1280px display.
That is nearly the identical LCD display used within the $230 HiBy Music R3. I appreciated it on the R3 mixed with the two.5D glass however my expectations are a lot decrease for the R3 given its worth level. The LCD decision slightly on the low-res aspect for me at this worth level and surrounded by an unlimited bezel. The viewing angle, nevertheless, is definitely excellent and you should not have any legibility points utilizing the N8 display.
The glass coating on the highest of the LCD is definitely a really good end with a slight curve to its edging so it isn’t utterly flush. I don’t assume that is 2.5D glass similar to you’d discover on the HiBy R6 or the R3 however it’s fairly shut.
The capacitive responsiveness of the N8 LCD is superb. I’ve no points there in any respect typically use when it comes to how fast it responds to my contact gestures. The one time I discovered any delays was extra because of the longer buffering of huge OTG related arduous drive media lists which isn’t a screen-related difficulty.
I had requested Cayin which such a smallish display for the N8 given the competitors and trendy consumer calls for that appear to place nice worth on high-quality giant LCD screens. They did certainly consider placing in a a lot greater display.
Nevertheless, the issue of doing so was associated to how the chassis design accommodated the Nutube on the decrease finish of the N8 housing. Extending the display would have made the gadget to thick in addition to hiding the LED mild to sign the NuTube is working. Whenever you activate the Nutube you possibly can certainly see a small 2-bar glow within the thick black bezel slightly below the LCD display.
There are three forms of management techniques carried out on the N8 and it’s pretty according to most trendy DAP management platforms.
The primary is the three.2″ touchscreen the place you possibly can just about do all the things besides initiating quantity management. You’ll be able to nevertheless improve or lower quantity management by way of the touchscreen as soon as initiated by way of the bodily dial. The one different perform set excluded from the touchscreens command repertoire is the power to energy the N8 on and off in addition to flip the LCD display on and off.
The second mode of management is physical-based by way of two command dials to the highest of the right-side panel and the arrow-like button slightly below the primary display. You’ll be able to’t miss them, these are those coated in that 24Okay gold plating we talked about earlier.
Arrow Head Button
The arrow-like button to the bottom of the display has two instructions solely. The primary is a brief press to take you on to the playback display from whoever you’re within the OS. The second and a barely longer press will take you again to the house display with out interfering with playback.
The highest-right dial covers quantity, energy on and off and LCD display on and off. The second command dial slightly below controls all playback options together with play, pause, quick ahead, reverse, monitor again and monitor ahead. A small paddle on the highest lets you exert a exact management on how far you need to quick ahead or rewind on every monitor.
The highest dial has no such paddle opting as an alternative for a pimpled end to reinforce the grip. Personally, I feel the grip space could possibly be just a little, properly, grippier than it’s now. It nonetheless feels just a little too clean for my very own private preferences.
Each dials are inset into the primary SS physique for a component of safety however the one concern I’ve is the diploma to which the highest button protrudes out of the physique. Because the energy/display on and off is a pressure-based insertion movement it does appear fairly straightforward to by accident flip it on or reboot it in case you are not cautious. The flipside is that in case you are utilizing it as system element is tremendous straightforward to function with out having to raise or transfer the N8 off any shelving.
The N8 helps BT4.2 which suggests you’ll be able to hook up with greater than two wi-fi sources corresponding to a smartphone and PC and stream on to the Cayin N8 and management playback and quantity by way of your sources.
You may also use the HiBy Music app and their HiByLink choice to regulate your N8 remotely by way of a smartphone. This consists of options corresponding to media scanning and media administration, in addition to quantity and playback management.
This facet is tremendous useful in case you are utilizing the N8 in a system arrange although be warned that a conventional BT LDAC connection whereas utilizing HiByLink is just not attainable with a smartphone so LDAC high quality playback isn’t assured. It’s potential to activate developer choices in case you are utilizing Android and set LDAC manually however once more, no assurances.
Analog outputs on the N8 are housed within the prime panel and digital inputs and outputs are housed within the backside panel. The highest panel analog outputs are divided into three jack ports
- three.5mm unbalanced output which connects immediately with the Nutube
- Balanced four.4mm solid-state output which additionally duels as a four.4mm TRRRS balanced line-out (four.3V)
- Normal three.5mm line-out (2.1V)
You possibly can management the four.4mm TRRRS balanced jack performance by way of the OS drop-down menu bar the place it gives you the choice of PO or LO. Simply watch you don’t have headphones within the four.4mm jack if you change to LO as you’ll be hit with four.3V of max energy.
For digital on the base panel, you’ve got three core I/O’s as follows:
- A single I²S socket for connecting to suitable I²S methods such because the Cayin’s CS-100DAC
- A single MicroSD Reminiscence card slot
- USB-C port for charging, USB-DAC performance, OTG in addition to an interface for the Cayin N8 accent USB-C cable package which features a USB-C to three.5mm and a RAC Coaxial Adapter for S/PDIF coaxial output. The SPDIF output, just like the balanced four.4mm LO, is managed by way of the OS.
It is very important word that Cayin’s USB-C implementation is just not the identical as common smartphone USB-C sort ports on the N8 have 2 further pins activated to permit them to perform easily for SPDIF and OTG digital audio alerts. You can see these cables contained in the accent pack of the N8 field so don’t panic! For knowledge switch/charging and USB-DAC, you need to use any USB-C cable.
The Cayin N8 has an onboard reminiscence capability of 128GB which is simply 50% of the competing Sony 1Z and AK SP1000 capability. There’s additionally solely a single microSD slot however there are not any theoretical limits on how massive a microSD card you possibly can put in there.
In case you are considerably dissatisfied by the 128GB onboard you need to keep in mind the story I informed method again with the N3 in 2017. Storage entry to music shouldn’t be purely from the interior exhausting drive or the microSD slot but in addition OTG.
Fortunately you’ll be able to slot in a powered exterior HDD or flash reminiscence card and additional increase by way of a daily USB-C OTG cable You need to use a micro-USB OTG cable additionally with a USB-C adapter which tends to work out lots low cost and I’ve a couple of of these mendacity round.
Utilizing an 8GB cheapo flash drive the N8 had no points choosing up the cardboard and the contents inside (round 30 16BIT/44.1k FLAC tracks). At that measurement, you’ll have zero buffer points and playback must be close to prompt. When you begin loading up a lot bigger multi-TB drive libraries the entry time shall be a bit longer on the N8.
Contained in the N8 Cayin has slipped potential the most important battery ever to be inserted right into a ‘portable digital media player’. A minimum of a three.7V 7000mAh Li-poly battery is packed inside and does account for a few of that girth and weight consequently.
Earlier than you begin leaping up and down on the considered infinite hours of enjoyable, that huge battery is there for a cause. The N8 tech inside, mixed with the amp staging output energy/voltage and the plethora of wi-fi connectivity choices signifies that it eats battery juice for breakfast.
On paper, you get simply eight.5 hours with the unbalanced three.5mm tube output and 9.5 hours with the solid-state unbalanced output. Balanced numbers are aggressive given the extra energy at 9.5 hours. All numbers drop by an approximate hour off the lead time when you go into High² mode.
In comparison with the AK SP1000 12 hour rated life cycle the N8 has marginally much less battery life when evaluating its solid-state numbers. The tube numbers actually convey the N8 battery life down however it’s maybe unsurprising given the Korg tech inside. It is going to be fascinating to see if anybody can enhance on that if competing Korg-infused DAPs come out.
In fact, it utterly pales compared to the Sony 1Z’s whopping 15-20 hour (mixture of Flac and DSD) common battery life. Granted, the charging time is for much longer at 7 hours but when I’m going to commerce exhibits all day and testing gear it’s the Sony that has historically gained out as a result of I want the DAP to final for 12 hours. The N8 won’t give me that which is a disgrace as a result of tonally I favor the N8 by a rustic mile.
On a quick cost (USB-C) the N8 takes round four.5 hours for a full cost and 6.5 hours utilizing a daily 5V 2A charging connection akin to your PC USB port. That’s technically not that sluggish. Keep in mind, you’re charging a battery twice the dimensions of loads of different DAPs out there and in comparison with the Sony 1Z it’s virtually twice as quick. Notice, N8 helps QC2.zero solely. Different Fast Cost applied sciences corresponding to PD and QC3.zero are usually not supported.
If there’s one factor that dissatisfied me once I slapped down one thing like $2500 on a model new Sony NW-WM1Z it was the lackluster packaging and accent line-up. It didn’t really feel premium, felt like several common Sony retail presentation. That isn’t a nasty factor, they’re strong execs at this presentation factor however it simply lacked the wow issue.
The Cayin N8 retail packaging and the accent line-up is the exact opposite of Sony. I might not classify it as being as delicate because the AK SP1000 picket field ensemble nevertheless it does have a method of its personal that’s in line with the TOTL pitch.
First, it’s massive, a lot greater than any earlier DAP package deal I’ve seen earlier than. Slid it off and the irregular curving of the field with the N8 sitting on prime provides off a very nice presentational vibe. Second, it has 2 layers of equipment beneath that make the N8 attainable probably the most full accent package deal for a DAP I’ve ever come throughout. It consists of:
- four.4mm to 2.5mm Balanced Adapter
- four.4mm to XLR (Male) Balanced Adapter
- Sort C to RAC Coaxial Adapter
- Sort C to three.5mm Coaxial Cable
- USB-C Charging and Knowledge Cable
- Leather-based Protecting Case
- Display Protector
The leather-based case is sort of good this time from Cayin. The unique i5 leather-based expanded and usually loosened as much as the purpose the place it slid out of its personal volition. They tightened it up on the N5ii to the purpose the place it was virtually too tight. This lies someplace in-between being delicate to the contact however usually a cosy sufficient becoming that feels safe with the N8 in it.
The cable line-up, particularly, is off spectacular high quality with gentle nylon jackets wiring, chrome completed barrels and gold-plated jacks. There actually is nearly the whole lot right here you want for portability, system integration each analog and digital. Nitpicking? Why sure, thanks very a lot. A three.5mm to twin RCA cable for single-ended amps can be the icing on the cake.
Web page 2 for Hardware & Software program Impressions
Web page three for Sound Impressions & Matchability
Web page four for Choose Comparisons & Our Verdict