Cayin N8ii Review

Cayin Audio N8ii

In this review we take a close look at the Cayin N8ii. It’s Cayin Audio’s flagship portable player featuring Nutubes. The Cayin N8ii is selling for $3,499 USD.

 

Disclaimer: Cayin is not related to Headfonia in any way. The Cayin N8ii was sent to me to be featured on Headfonia.com and doesn’t need to be returned as far as I know.

 

Cayin Audio

Cayin was founded in 1993 (2023 is 30th anniversary of Cayin) and it is a premium Chinese high end audio brand. 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 $100 to just below $10,000 per item, covering the needs of different requirements and budgets. Cayin has developed over 500 products to date, and they have received over 70 awards.

“We deliver music diligently, and we are prepared to go a long way for that.”

Lately Cayin has strongly been focusing on the portable market as well with successful units such as the N5ii, the N3, the N6II, the C9, the RU6 and the reference N8. If you’re still interested in finding out more about the Chinese company, then you can do so here.

The last Cayin unit we reviewed was the HA-3A desktop tube amp, which on our Recommended Buy Award. Today however, we’re looking at something completely different, the high-end Cayin N8ii portable player, aka DAP.

As the N8ii isn’t a new unit and has been discussed all over the web already, so I luckily don’t have to cover every single detail. I have been using the N8ii since May, right before High-End Munich, so that means I can share my long-term use experience in this review. The N8ii sample was part of a review tour, so forgive me if the unit shows some usage in the pictures.

Note that this is a high-end DAP and so many things are important outside of the sound, so this review won’t be short. Let’s get started!

Cayin Audio N8ii

N8ii Intro

The Cayin N8ii DAP of course is the successor of the original N8 flagship player that was launched late in 2018. I do advise to read up on the original article before continuing here, as both units have a lot of similarities. You Can find the first Cayin N8 review here:

Review: Cayin Audio – N8

The Cayin N8ii’s dedicated web page can be found here. If you’re looking for all the N8ii’s specifications, simply click here or check out the last page of this article. As said earlier, look at this review as a long-term usage report.

Like with the original N8, the new N8ii comes with both CLASS A and CLASS AB amplification modes, and that with or without tube flavour. According to Cayin you in CLASS A get low distortion and a silky smooth, warm & lush tonality where vocals really shine. In CLASS AB mode, you get higher efficiency and better dynamics. The tonality is clean, tight, extended, authoritative and highly dynamic.

The N8ii – A closer look (Inside, looks and a lot more)

Build Quality

When we’re looking at a high-end device in this price range, we only expect the very best both on the outside and inside of the unit. But no worries here, as Cayin Audio has fully met our expectations.

The Cayin N8ii of course has a CNC’d Aluminium chassis and it comes with multiple tech features such as a flexible printed circuit to minimize shock transmission to and from the main PCB, a shock-absorbing silicon housing to hold and shield the Nutubes and a suspension pin to mount the Nutube and silicon housing into the designated chamber securely. There also a special Thermal Structure in place so the heat stays under control during long-term usage. Phew! There’s even more, but you can read all about that on Cayin’s website.

It’s not only the inside to which Cayin has paid attention. Everything on the N8ii screams luxury and precision. They even have a PVD gold-plated brass volume know engraved with a glamour 3[4] dodecagram. If you’re a fan of gold/brass coloured touches, the Cayin N8ii has you covered.

On top of that you also get a lovely leather case made from Blue EPI leather sourced in Italy. The case nicely protects the N8ii, though it does make using the side buttons a bit more difficult. The metal grill on the back of the case, enhances the heat dispassion.

Cayin Audio N8ii

Design & Lay-Out

The Cayin Audio N8ii’s design and form factor is simple but it’s easy to work with. The two design features that stand out most for me are the Nutube display window and the lovely volume dial. You either like the gold/brass themed design or not, but it is very well executed.

Lay-out wise the N8ii is simple and straightforward. On top you have the brass and gold plated volume dial. On the front you have the 5” touch screen with a hidden home button and sample rate LED. The back of the unit is simple with the Cayin logo and some model info.

More interesting are the sides and the bottom. On the left side of the unit, you will see the 4 green Nutube “lights” when Tube Mode is active. They’re very well positioned and nicely visible even during the day. At night, they emit quite a bit of light. On the right side of the player, you have the control buttons. From top to bottom we have the power button, back, play/pause and forward button.

On the bottom of the unit there’s a multitude of in and outputs. From left to right we have: 4.4mm balanced output and Line Out, the 3.5mm output, the 3.5mm Line Out, the USB-C/digital input/output and the I²S connector. All in/outputs have enough space between them so you can easily use larger sized connectors from aftermarket cables.

Memory & Battery

On the inside of the Cayin N8ii there’s a 128GB internal memory which I find to be too little for a reference unit. At the same time, you do get a single MicroSD slot to increase storage. On top of that, the N8II also allows OTG use (external drive). Like with the original N8, there is no DLNA possible.

Battery-wise Cayin implemented a 3.8V 10000 mAH battery, delivering 8 to 10 hours of play time (4.4mm)/11h (3.5mm). The battery quick charges from 20% to 80% in about 2 hours and it charges from 0 to 100% in around 4.5 hours. During the last 6 months that I have been using the N8ii, I never found the battery to drain fast and I’m actually very pleased with the battery performance. I took the N8ii with me on a 9h flight and it held up perfectly.

Internals

The DAC chips used in the Cayin N8ii are Dual ROHM BD34301EKV DAC chips. According to Cayin Audio, this is the first time this chip is used in a portable device even though I remember it being used in the iBasso DX320.

The N8ii sports dual Femtosecond Crystal Oscillators with extremely low noise to ensure high precision low jitter digital playback. There’s also a 2×2 Current to Voltage i-V Convertor network as a low noise high current output stage of the ROHM DACs. Cayin implemented a 6-Layer PCB delivering enhanced signal isolation for a lower background noise and interference to critical components such as the oscillators. To finish things off, there’s a nice 64 Bit Snapdragon 660 with 6GN DDR4 RAM.

The N8ii of course features a fully balanced discrete headphone amplification section with a 4-channel discrete circuit. The volume control is a 4-CH JRC Electronic volume control, and it’s precise and smooth to turn.

Next to the DAC chips, the most eye-catching feature probably are the dual Nutubes. Let’s take a closer look!

The article continues on the second page. Click here, or use the jumps below.

Page 1: Cayin, N8ii Intro, N8ii A Closer Look  Pt. 1

Page 2: N8ii A closer Look Pt. 2, N8ii Sound Pt. 1

Page 3: N8ii Sound Pt. 2, Comparisons, Synergy Pt. 1

Page 4: Synergy Pt. 2, Conclusion

Page 5: Technical Specifications

4.4/5 - (107 votes)

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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.

4 Comments

  • Reply November 8, 2022

    Rocket

    Any possibility of comparing this with DX 320?

    • Reply November 9, 2022

      Lieven

      Unfortunately that one is in another country

  • Reply November 8, 2022

    CLAUDIO

    I think the N8ii deserves better comparation with other DAP like ibasso dx320, Fiio m17, SP3000 (if possible), sony wm1zm2 (if possible) and previous model like wm1z, cayin n8 and SP2000. It’s very expensive and your review allow us to take pick an option in the DAP market bwcause in my situation i don’t have any chance to test this products first!! Even a comparision with a C9 combo would be great. I have the M17, SE180 (sem3), wm1am2, n6ii r2r and the sa700 ane with the c9 those DAP sound fantastic. But probably i will señl almost all my dap to get cash and buy the sp3000 or the n8ii.

    • Reply November 9, 2022

      Lieven

      As you know we are a team of reviewers. The DX320 and M17 are in another country. IAK still needs to send over the SP3000, but in that review, the N8ii will be compared. For me WM1Z and N6ii R2R are not really relevant anymore, and Sony doesn’t send over the newest version, so that’s not going to happen. The C9 is dead, must find a way to repare it. SE180 is in a different continent. I specifically chose the SP2000T and not the SP2000, you know Nutubes and all.
      Anyway, thank you for your comment, let’s be constructive and not negative

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