Review: Cayin Audio N6ii – Moduled

The T01 with the Dual PCM1792A DAC chip

 

This is the more technically advanced combo and you get a very different signature, one which is more neutral but technically superior.

The sound stage is wider and deeper, the separation better, the level of precision and detail higher. You get a higher end kind of sound with way better technicalities. The presentation is spacious, airy and open and gone is that more intimate approach. The T01 and N6ii combo extends better in lows and highs but it does no longer have the thickness and full bodied presentation of the A01 module. The deliver still is musical but it is lighter and more neutral.

Bass is tight and fast and has a nice kick but it doesn’t have the bigger body. It’s the more neutral kind of bass presentation, but one with way better layering and detailing. The sub bass on the A01 might be better though.

The mids share the same characteristics as the bass and it is fast, precise and energetic. Cayin was smart to mix it up with the right amount smoothness, resulting in a technically higher, yet still musical approach. The mids are spacious, dynamic and have great detail retrieval.

The treble section fits in perfectly with the bass and mids and it is more clear, extends better and has more detail with the T01. It’s energetic, more spacious and delivers more detail.

Conclusion

We already get two very different signatures with these motherboards and it makes the N6ii extremely customizable. You no longer have to change IEMs to get a different sound, you can just tune your favorite IEMs to your liking with the N6ii.

I switch between motherboards continuously depending on the IEM I am using. The beauty is that you can mix neutral, technically strong inears with a fuller sounding, bass heavier module or you can enhance that neutral tuning by using the T01 board.

Many more boards with different signatures are to come and that makes this DAP very interesting as you can find the perfect sound for your favorite IEM of the moment.

If you still want to tweak the sound after changing cards, you can do so by using the HiBy Music and the integrated MSEB EQ. Personally I’m not a fan of this, but you might love it just like our own reviewer Nano.

Cayin YB04

A perfect example of how you can tune or improve an IEM’s sound is Cayin’s own YB04 IEM, which we reviewed here. Depending on your mood or preference you can hook it up one these boards and make it sound more the way you want. This of course won’t work as nicely with all IEMs but the YB04 is perfect to showcase the N6ii’s possibilities as it performs well with both modules. No surprise there as it was built with the N6ii in mind.

From the YB04 review:

The A01 module (the standard one) is a full sounding one with bigger body. It’s probably not the strongest one looking at technicalities, but the advantage here is that the YB04 has heaps of it. As a result you get the best of both worlds. The combo sounds strong and musical and it’s hard not to like this setup. At the same time it isn’t as performant as the LP6 & YB04 combo, but the LP6 is in an entirely different price category as well.

The T01 module is lighter but more precise sounding. The T01 and YB04 combo is very spacious and has excellent separation. It’s fast but it’s lighter in body compared to the A01 motherboard, so the bass and lower mids become more neutral. Voices are soft and natural but spot on. The mids are airy, the timbre excellent. It’s more like the YB04 pairing with the SP1000, but again at a lower level as the N6II and SP1000 aren’t playing in the same league. 

Select Comparisons

It’s a tough price level to be in for a DAP and the only two in my inventory which come close are the Colorfly U8 and Astell&Kern’s KANN CUBE. Not looking at the price tag the N6ii reminds me most of the Hiby R6PRO because of the Android OS and software similarities. The comparison was done with the Cayin YB04 IEM.

The Colorfly U8 is selling for $1,199, the exact same amount as the N6ii, but the differences couldn’t be bigger. Where the Cayin N6ii is extremely versatile usability, OS, connection and output wise, the U8 is very basic in its usage. Sound wise the Colorfly is really nice but compared to the other players on the market it’s very limited in use. With the U8 and YB04 combo you get a very spacious and natural sound with excellent timbre & decay. It’s at a superior technical level compared to the N6ii but the U8 also has a very light presentation from bottom to top, so the impact and fullness isn’t so much there. You get less bass and a more neutral presentation and that results in a less musical and engaging sound. On the other hand, the U8’s mids sound more natural and it overall is more spacious and extended with better timbre and decay. The U8 is a great sounding DAP but the player itself is rather limited in usability, something the N6ii excels in.

The Astell&Kern KANN CUBE is selling for $1,499USd for the moment and I absolutely adore it even though it’s huge. Because of its size and power I exclusively use it at home, but boy does it sound good with the ES9038PRO Sabre double DACs. Sure you’re limited to the AK user interface and versatility, but you can still do a lot within the AK firmware and on top of that you get great sound. With the Cayin YB04 you get a very dynamical and powerful sound with great extension in all directions. Compared to the N6ii you get a more natural sound, but also better extension, timbre, spaciousness and detail retrieval. The CUBE and YB04 combo excels in depth and dynamics and looking purely at sound, the KANN CUBE is playing at a higher level. Of course versatility wise the N6ii has the CUBE beat on all fronts. Usage vs sound, always an interesting discussion.

The HiBy R6PRO is selling for $699 at the moment and it for me is a mix of the sound signatures of both modules. It combines the full bodied, high impact sound of the A01 with the more spacious, open presentation and the extension of the T01. The R6PRO with the dual ES9028Q2M DACs sounds very good for the price it is selling for and it’s my favorite Hiby DAP up to now. It doesn’t have the tunability or versatility of the Cayin N6ii but it is quite a bit cheaper. The R6PRO is a very strong performer in the mid-fi segment while the N6ii is aimed at a higher technical and also higher end target group.

Conclusion

I think Cayin made a very wise choice with the Android OS, APK-openness, numerous connection options and the switchable motherboards. They have create a very modern do-it-all, yet still affordable DAP, which on top of it sounds good!

Because of the swappable motherboards you can tune the N6ii’s sound to your liking and make sure your favorite headphones and earphones sound even better. Sure each motherboard come at a price ($339USD) but if you compare it to the extra options it offers you in regards to synergy, that price is neglectable.

The Cayin N6ii on top of all that is well built, easy to use and looks very nice. What’s not to like? The only downside I have found is the battery life, which for my sample doesn’t impress. But that’s it really.

The Cayin N6ii replaces the Cayin N5ii on our best DAP list where you can find all our recommended buys. Well done Cayin!

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

1 Comment

  • Reply December 2, 2019

    Alessandro

    Thank you for the complete review.
    I really like it
    but ‘the only downside’ for me is I cannot consider to buy a $1000 audio gear without any proper technical assistance home (Europe). And this I am risking already with a great Hiby R6Pro. But regrettingly so enough.

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