First Look: Cayin N3Pro

Cayin N3Pro

Today we check out the $479 USD Cayin N3Pro portable player aka DAP, for the first time before the full review.


Disclaimer: This post is part of our First Look Sunday series, you can find all of the previous ones here. The Cayin N3Pro was sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion.

Cayin Audio

Cayin does no longer need a introduction anymore as the Chinese brand has been covered many times on Headfonia already and because they can be found all over the web nowadays. If you’re still not sure about who Cayin is and what they stand for, check out one of our previous Cayin reviews.

The last Cayin DAP we reviewed was the N6ii which has the interchangeable motherboards. It’s a highly popular and successful DAP, which we also liked very much. You can find the N6ii review we did here:

We also did a full review of all of the available Cayin motherboards for this player, and you can find that article here:

The player we’re reviewing today is the Cayin N3Pro, let’s dive in!

Cayin N3Pro


The new CayinN3Pro is the companies updated entry level DAP. The original N3 was released back in April of 2017, so it was about time to update this player. The original N3 won many awards, so we’re expecting a lot from this new player. In this preview and in the full review, we’ll find out if Cayin can meet our expectations.

One of the unique features of the new N3Pro is the use of tubes. It’s not the first time we see this and Cayin’s flagship player, the N8, already used Korg Nutubes . To check out the full story of the use on tubes in that DAP, check our N8 review here:

This time Cayin didn’t use the Nutube technology, but they’re using actual miniature tubes.

Cayin N3Pro


At the end of this preview we’ll list all of the N3Pro’s technical specs, but let’s check out it’s main features.

The Cayin N3Pro uses dual AK AK4493EQ DAC chips. You can find out all about the 4493EQ here. We have seen the AK4493EQ being used in the Xduoo XD05Plus and other popular gear already, the chip isn’t new.

But here’s more, there’s tubes! The Cayin N3Pro features a dual Raytheon JAN 6418 tube, so not only do you get a 4.4mm balanced output, you also get a 3.5mm output with a tube flavor and Triode or Ultra-linear tube modes. There also are 2 digital outputs and two line-outs. Very impressive at this entry level!

The N3Pro of course features BT5.0 and it can be used as a (wireless) BT DAC  and there’s the HiBy link remote via your phone. There also is a WiFi connection, but that can only be used for OTA and wireless music file transfers.

The battery used is a 4100mAh on, which in theory will give you 11h playback from the 3.5mm solid state output or 9h with the tube output and the balanced 4.4mm output.

Cayin N3Pro

Memory wise you can insert 1 micro SD card supporting up to 1TB or you can get your music via the OTG functionality via type-C (external HD).

Price & accessories

The new Cayin N3Pro will sell for $479 USD, so on the higher end for an entry level, or the lower end for mid-fi level. It’s a difficult place to be at with so many competitors around. In the full review we’ll find out if it can stand its ground.

In the box you will find:

– a user manual

– screen protectors (front has a pre-applied one)

– a USB-A to USB-C cable

-a silicone protective case

– two mini hi-res stickers

Our review sample also came with the gorgeous optional leather case and it’s gorgeous. The quality of this case is high, it’s almost identical to the Dignis one the new HiBy R8 DAP comes with. I fully recommend getting the optional leather case as the silicone one is rather awful looking. I unfortunately don’t have the price for the leather case at this time.

Cayin N3Pro

Design & Lay-out

The Cayin N3Pro is very simple in design but it’s a small and nice player, with a CNC-machined aluminum black housing.

The touch screen featured on the N3Pro measures 480×360 (3.2″ touch screen). It’s rather small but with the tube design I doubt there was another way, as the tubes are situated below the screen on the front. The N3Pro comes in at 195g which is quite normal and it measures only 115.2 x 63.5 x18.9 (mm).

On the front panel, as said, you have the touch screen, the tubes (they light up when in use) and the home button. The touch-sensitive “home button” has a small LED circle around it. The color displayed in this circle depends on the audio playback quality “in use”, there are 6 different colors available.

On the right side of the player you from top to bottom have the power/volume button, the previous, pause and next button. On the left side you only have the single micro-SD slot. The bottom from left to right has the USB-C connector, the 3.5mm output, 3.5mm headphone out and the dual function 4.4mm output. The top and back have no functions.

Cayin N3Pro

The review continues on the next page with “usability” and “Sound”.Click HERE or use the jump below

4.5/5 - (146 votes)

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.


  • Reply August 24, 2020

    Kenneth Costello

    Swing and a miss. The Tidal set up sounds really wonky.

    • Reply August 24, 2020


      You run it on your phone and use the BT dac of the N3Pro. It’s not the easiest but it’s a solution

    • Reply September 5, 2020


      I don’t think they’re aiming this primarily at people who stream music. It’s more for those who still like to own their own music and play it from a micro sd card. As someone who doesn’t want to deal with Android when listening to music, I’d say it’s a hit, not a miss.

    • Reply September 15, 2020

      Steve Costello

      How are you my cousin LOL agreed with the hit and miss love those tubes really compelling Factor

    • Reply September 15, 2020

      Kevin Smith

      I dunno. I’ve had headless devices & DAPs with full Android…or some amended level of it (Vorzuge amp/Mojo/Poly combo, Hiby R6 Pro, Fiio M9). I’ve recently fallen back to devices that can stream via use of your phone as I’m never without my phone in hand.

      I’ve found overtime that streaming has various sound quality limitations whether it’s a portable device, dedicated desk top rig, or 2 channel stereo…MQA’s supposedly top tier (arguably of course). I will say…streaming has definitely improved notably.

      The user interface of a DAP seems to be behind that of the experience of a smartphone…so I don’t value ‘em in that way.

      For portable needs…I’ve found…if streaming’s chief…then a phone & headphones will likely do equal measure/duty…without adding a 3rd wheel (DAP or amp).☺️

      My main rationale to carry a DAP is the ability to carry a Hi Res library file OTG (barring storage limitations). It’s a portable format…so I don’t have a real need to carry my entire PC library.

      For now…I’ve settled on the Shanling Q1 when I want to go for a jog or cycling due to its small size format. I also have the Cayin N3 Pro. It’s a swiss Army DAP of sorts…uniquely offering solid state & tube output. Hiby link is onboard as user interface for pairing with a phone. I find this superior to a Android based DAP or any UI for that matter…along with BT coupling (for playback control and streaming). It also has the latest BT codec for wireless HP pairing & DAC output….with wifi file transfer…all for under 500 bucks. I remember having a CD player Walkman…so…not too shabby.

  • Reply August 25, 2020


    What about vs N3?

    • Reply August 26, 2020


      That’ll be in the full review!

  • Reply September 15, 2020

    Steve Costello

    so am very interested in this I love tubes was really interested in the ibasso dx160 shangling
    M6pro. Decisions decisions please help me I want Sound stage and depth Imaging

    • Reply September 15, 2020


      Hmm, from our first impressions, this doesn’t look like the one for you then.

  • Reply October 13, 2020

    Steve Costello

    Then which one dap would you recommend 4 soundstage depth and imaging? Please help I see the shanling m6 for a little bit over $400 or M6 Pro for about 700
    Or ibosso dx-160 $400

  • Reply November 23, 2020


    You didn’t includes this DAP in you recommendation list but you keep the fiio m11 and added the m11 pro. So, the fiio m11 it’s better DAP ib your opinion?

    • Reply November 23, 2020


      It didn’t make the list mostly because you can’t install any streaming aps

      • Reply November 24, 2020


        I understand. You meant that its a good product but their competitors offers more options. But if we only talk about sound can you say it’s better sounding than fiio m11 or shanling m6? Thanks

        • Reply November 24, 2020


          The big advantage of the N3 Pro is that it offers 3 different sound signatures. Non of the other DAPs do this, that’s it strongest point. But to say it is better is not correct, it’s different with more options

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