Cayin N8ii Review

Cayin Audio N8ii

Solid state – CLASS A vs CLASS AB

 

For me the Class A is the most refined and natural sounding output. You get a more relaxed and natural sound, with a sense of smoothness. It’s also the most spacious of both options and the decay and note timbre in the mids here are at their best.

Overall, you get a smooth delivery with some mid-warmth both in bass and mids. Bass impact is impressive but never too much. SS CLASS A is incredibly easy and fun to listen to. The treble section is dynamic and has enough energy to keep everything exciting, yet realistic.

In short: It’ very easy to listen to, with great pace and nice timbre. The vocals are somewhat more forward but never in a “too much” kind of way.

The Class AB setting to me is bigger and bolder. It’s the more direct “in your face” delivery. Less refined, precise, and spacious sounding but with more impact and contrast between the bass and highs.

The biggest difference for me is the way everything is presented. It’s cooler, less smooth, extended and less spacious. The mids are less present compared to Class A and as a result the focus is more on the bass and treble part. All-in-all CLASS AB to my ears it is less refined and dynamic than the Class A output, but better in regard to bass/treble contrast.

Cayin Audio N8ii

Tube – CLASS A vs CLASS AB

As we’ve just seen Class A is the most refined and precise one with the best timbre, detail, and decay. In tube mode you can add tube smoothness to this, but not overly so. You get just enough of warmth and smoothness to make it more relaxing, easy on the ear and extremely musical.

It’s the typical tube tuning with extra sweetness and softness. Body-wise the tube output in Class A is lighter (sounding) compared to that in Solid State mode, but you in exchange get gorgeous timbre with lovely decay and softness.

The treble section here is soft and easy-going on the ear, so take this into account when choosing your ear- or headphone you want to listen to. Pace-wise you lose a bit of speed regarding the solid-state mode. In return you get improved decay, timbre and note extension. If you like a more analogue, old-school type of sound and/or tube smoothness and richness, this setting is one you will be listening to a lot.

The tube Class AB setting is the least refined of them all. You get the big and direct approach from the AB but with the softness of the tubes. Think body and presence in a slower, fuller presentation. It’s not the combination with the best speed, dynamics, and precision. You get the tube warmth combined with low end weight and a slower yet more present top end. It’s a more condensed type of sound with less spaciousness and clarity. The mid part here is not the most refined, but there are some headphones and earphones that work well with this specific tuning.

In the end it’s all about personal preference, so if you get to chance to listen to the N8ii, make sure to try the 4 main tuning modes. If you’ve had the chance already to play with them, let us know in the comments which mode you prefer most with what IEM/headphone. Last, if you’re familiar with the C9’s sound signature you will recognize the 4 different tunings, as they’re very similar.

Cayin Audio N8ii

Comparisons

For this comparison part, all DAPs were using their local storage. The headphone used is the Arya Stealth in balanced mode.

The first DAP the Cayin N8ii absolutely needs to be compared to is the Astell&Kern SP2000T, selling for $2,499 USD. The SP2000T features a single Nutube but it has the advantage that it has a hybrid mode, taking the best of both worlds. The outputs (ss and tube) of the SP2000T sound more energetic and it isn’t as soft sounding as the outputs of the Cayin. In the SP2000T you get a cleaner and more clear sound, with more energetic and forward vocals and a spicier top end. Bass reaches down very low with both units, but the AK goes deeper with better layering. The mid timbre and vocal presentation of the Cayin have the upper hand on the AK’s. Both great high-end DAPs, both very different in tuning.

The second DAP I want to include in this quick comparison chapter is the Luxury & Precision P6Pro, selling for $3,899 USD. The P6Pro sound-wise is one of the very best DAPs on the market but as I stream a lot, it doesn’t get a lot of play time. Using it again for this article reminds me again of the extremely slow library update process of L&P. Anyway, It’s L&P CLASS A vs A/AB and L&P’s R2R tech vs the ROHM DAC chip in this head to head comparison. Usability-wise the Cayin N8ii if course is miles ahead of L&P, there’s no competition here. The N8ii sounds more spacious and energetic and brings more weight from top to bottom. The P6 PRO is sharper and more focused sounding and has a bigger focus on the upper mids and treble section. The Cayin is softer, smoother, and slower sounding, but it is also richer sounding. The N8ii in this comparison sounds more analogue than the P6PRO, and that’s quite the statement if you’re familiar with the L&P’s house tuning. What makes me choose for the Cayin N8ii here is the softer vocal presentation that suits the rest of the tuning more. In the L&P P6Pro it’s more abstract.

Cayin Audio N8ii

The third DAP in this section is the HiBy R8 TOTL DAP (of which the RS version will be available soon). It’s not the newest DAP but I still really like using it for reviewing. The R8 is the cheapest DAP in this comparison, and it is selling for “only” $1,899 USD.  The Cayin is newer and further advanced in a technical way even though the versatility, user experience and usability are on the same level. Sound-wise the N8ii is more relaxed sounding, with a more spacious and airy presentation. The extension below and on top, as well as the note extension is also better. The N8ii just does everything more effortless and better. Layering, depth, dynamics, separation, it’s all at a higher level in the N8ii. It’s just more exciting, energetic, precise, and as such, more musical. I am not saying the R8 is bad, I love it, they’re just playing in a different league at this stage.

Synergy

The ear- and headphones for this chapter were chosen based on technology, popularity, and technology. The Cayin N8ii is used in DAP mode, streaming from Tidal directly. Unless specifically mentioned, the balanced output on the N8ii was used.

Headphones

The Hifiman Arya Stealth – 32Ohm, Orthodynamic – is one of the most popular headphones of the moment and that’s easy to understand as is brings great value at an affordable price. With the Cayin N8ii I prefer listening to the Arya Stealth on Medium gain, as this hits the sweet spot for me for what power, dynamics, energy, and musicality are concerned.  My preferred mode with the Stealth is CLASS A, as you get the better extension, airiness, and spaciousness. The timbre just is the very best in CLASS A. The choice between tube and solid state is a little harder for me here, and I tend to switch all the time between both depending on the song that’s playing. Solid state brings a tighter, faster Stealth, where the tubes make it smoother and more extended, musical. It’s just a different taste but both are great. All-in-all I really like the Arya Stealth and Cayin N8ii combo, they really work well together. P+ mode is not needed here in my opinion.

The Comparisons continue on the last page, where you’ll also find the conclusion. Simply click here.

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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