Today we compare and review all of the different Cayin Audio Motherboards for the N6ii Portable Player aka DAP.
Disclaimer: The Cayin N6ii Audio Motherboards were sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. They don’t need to be returned to Cayin as for as I know.
Cayin is a premium Chinese high end audio brand (since 1993) and their focus has mostly been on dedicated HiFi equipment, covering every chain in the music reproduction path, from CD players to speakers, but the essence is no doubt their tube amplifiers. Their equipment ranges from around US$100 to just below US$10,000 per item, covering the needs of different requirements and budgets. Lately Cayin has strongly been focusing on the portable market as well with successful units such as the N5ii, the N3, the N6II and the reference N8.
The Cayin N6ii DAP is their portable player which works with interchangeable Audio Motherboards. You can find the full review of the Cayin N6ii DAP right here: https://www.www.headfonia.com/cayin-n6ii-review/
The Cayin N6ii with its price tag of around $1,199 clearly is positioned in the higher end segment. Cayin is one of the first companies to launch a DAP in which you can change DAC and AMP modules. Sure we’ve seen interchangeable AMP cards before with Fiio, Hifiman and iBasso to name a few, but changing both the AMP and DAC? That’s special!
The Audio Motherboards aren’t cheap though, and they go for between $299 and $419 USD a piece.
So far Cayin has released four different modules. For all the specs check out the dedicated web pages linked below:
The N6ii is called the Master Quality Digital Audio Player and the original version came with Audio Motherboard A01. It was Cayin’s first Audio Motherboard and is sports the AK 4497EQx1 DAC chip. This is the same DAC chip as Astell&Kern’s SP1000 is using, as well as Cayin’s own N8 flagship. Tha A1 has a 3.5mm Line-Out, a 3.5mm single ended output and a balanced 4.4mm balanced output. The A01 can be bought for $299 USD. You can find out all about the A1 here: https://en.cayin.cn/products_info?itemid=119
The second Audio Motherboard version is the T01 and it consists of a DAC and analogue amplification circuit. It features Dual PCM1792A DAC chips that can hardware decode DSD up to DSD256 and PCM up to 24Bit/192kHz. It has a digitally controlled analogue volume and features a fully balanced design with parallel headphone amplification, using 4.4mm and 3.5mm outputs as well as a 3.5mm Line-Out. The T01 goes for $339 USD. You can find out all about this module here : https://en.cayin.cn/products_info?itemid=122
The third Audio Motherboard with discrete components architecture is the E01 and it features a single ESS ES9038PRO DAC Chipset. The E01 only has a 3.5mm output but it has a dual amp operation mode: Pure Class A and Class AB, instantly switchable via the menu. The E01 sets you back $419 USD. You can find out all about the E01 right here: https://en.cayin.cn/products_info?itemid=125
The newest Audio Motherboard is the E02 and it has 4.4mm balanced headphone output which also is a Line-Out. The E02 sports the dual ES9038EQ mobile DAC chips and a class AB discrete amplifier with a higher output. The E02 is so now it’s not even featured yet on Cayin’s own site, but you can find out all about it on MusicTeck’s site however, it sells for $419 USD like the E01. All the details are here: https://shop.musicteck.com/collections/cayin/products/cayin-n6ii-replaceable-audio-motherboard-e02?variant=31716614406206
Audio Motherboard Sound
You get a musically tuned N6ii with the perfect blend of neutrality and warmth. The N6II doesn’t sound overly warm and neither does it sound neutral but it delivers the best of both worlds. You get a good level of detail with great clarity delivered in a clean and smoother way.
The N6ii & A01 combo sounds full bodied from bottom to top and you get a nice impact and sense of fulness at each frequency. The sound stage is good but it isn’t the widest and deepest, and because of the closer presentation in regards to spaciousness and air, the delivery is more intimate. An inside your head presentation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the N6ii and A01 prove exactly that: it’s fun, musical and engaging, yet it’s not the technically strongest. Dynamics, separation and speed are good but the layering with this module is not as pronounced, except in balanced mode where this is more apparent.
The bass section has good body and a nice kick. Bass goes down low when needed and shows a good amount of detail but the fine detail and layering aren’t the most impressive with this motherboard, unless you switch to the balanced output. The mids are also full bodied and flow perfectly from the bass. The mids are smooth, natural and very musical. The spaciousness and airiness is the best in the mids and that combined with the excellent vocals make the midrange the highlight of this Motherboard.
The treble is energetic but not the furthest extended or most detailed/layered. It however provides more than enough detail and energy to create the sparkling, exciting contrast with the player’s low end.
The 3 other remaining Audio Motherboards are reviewed on the next page, click here or use the jumps below