Review: Cayin Audio – N8

Battery

 

The N8 comes with a massive 7000mAH battery and that doesn’t come as a surprise looking at the size of the player. A 7000mAH battery is huge for a DAP. The SP1000 in example only comes with a 3400mAH battery. The Cayin comes with QC 2.0 quick charging and it in theory depending on the, file type, screen usage, output used and the gain level will give you between 6.5 and 9.5h of playtime. The N8, in 2h also charges from 20% to 80% with a QC charger.

In reality the N8, even though the battery is double the size of the AK doesn’t come close to the AK’s performance but then again the AK is king in that field (and so is Sony). Cayin will probably say it more or less has the same battery life but in I can’t get as much out of it as I can get out of my SP1000. Same goes for the WM1Z which easily outperforms the N8 looking purely at play time and not taking into account screen size, power delivery, etc. So the N8 basically needs a huge battery to come as close as it can to the competition.

Is this critical? No, it’s not problematic as the N8 will still last you many hours, it just isn’t the best. It does a decent job, let’s stick to that.

Internals

The N8 according to Cayin delivers outstanding digital audio with dual AK4497EQ which in the N8 does PCM decoded up to 32Bit/384kHz and DSD up to DSD256. It in theory this chip can do more as we can see in the SP1000 (yes, they use the same) but is it really needed?

The Cayin N8 has other strong points as in example a desktop grade line output that delivers 2.1V single-ended and balanced at 4.3V. The N8 does tend to get warmish when in use but Cayin has foreseen a special heat dissipation to keep the levels acceptable. There are DAPs that turn a lot warmer though (Colorfly U8, I’m looking at you) and there really isn’t anything to worry about here.

What I love about Cayin is the fact that they’re one of the only companies that make audio circuit design fully public, and they’ve done it again for the N8. You can find the full design right here:

Tube

It’s no secret that I’m in to tubes, but when it comes to Nutube, I’m no expert. The Korg tube inside the N8 is a Korg 6P1 tube and it looks nothing like a good old vacuum tube. Cayin isn’t the first brand to use such a tube and we’ve seen these successfully used before by companies such as Oriolus.

You can find out more about Korg’s new tube right here: https://korgnutube.com/en/

When you switch on the tube circuit in the N8, it takes the Cayin 5 seconds to preheat he tube. That might seem slow but that’s actually fast as you after only 5 seconds get an optimal performance. I really like the fact that Cayin decided to make the Nutube visible in the design, even though it’s only cool to look at in the beginning. When the Nutube is active you’ll see 2 little green-ish bars light up, it’s a cool feature but most important is of course the sound it delivers. More on that later!

Accessories

There’s absolutely no doubt that the Cayin N8 is the King of accessories. Not only are they nicely presented in the box but you get an almost unbelievable amount of connectors and cables which other brands most often charge quite the amount for. Cayin calls it “comprehensive” but it’s even better than that, it’s a world’s first. Let’s have a closer look at what your N8 comes with.

  • One 4.4 to 2.5 adapter
  • One 4.4 to XLR adapter
  • A type C to RCA Coax adapter
  • A Type C to 3.5mm Coax adapter
  • A qualitative leather pouch
  • A USB-C Charging and Data Cable
  • A screen protector – Tempered glass
  • A manual

Absolutely first class.

User Interface

According to Cayin the N8 has its own proprietary Operating System but of course Cayin has a lot of experience and a partnership with Hiby. Anyway the User Interface is very clear and it turns the N8 easy and a pleasure to work with.

The fact that the N8 can’t install aps combined with the fact that the UI is limited (compared to say the N5ii) just results in a simple, easy interface. We’ll go into the menus structure in a bit but once you’ve booted up the N8 it won’t take you more than 5 minutes to know where everything is hidden.

Basically you have a quick slide down menu with the most important shortcuts according to Cayin. Via that menu you can go into the Music and System settings. It’s very straight forward and you can do/control it all with just one hand.

Usability / Controls

So yes, the N8 is very easy to work with, the screen is very reactive and the buttons all work perfect. But this is the chapter in which I will complain and have several remarks. First, I have with the touch screen is that when you’re using the N8 in the leather case, the quick slide down/up navigation on the right side of the screen (the slider) is almost impossible to control.

Second, the buttons on the right side are very sensitive and easy to push and the N8 turns on very quickly by accident. I have had many bad surprises facing a drained battery when I wanted to start using the DAP. Maybe that’s me, I don’t know, but I prefer sharing the info.

My third comment is on the LED on the front of device which shows you what sampling frequency your file is. It turns out that when you switch to the tube output mode, this feature isn’t available. I’m sure there’s a logic reason behind it but I haven’t figured it out just yet. (Edit: Cayin has confirmed this feature will be added with a next firmware)/

Fourth, the Cayin N8 has integrated WiFi, but it only serves you to download FirmWare updates OTA, and imo that’s a missed chance. At he same time, the Sony WM1Z doesn’t even offer that

And then there’s the screen. So many people complain about it but here I have to defend Cayin there as the touch screen works really well and I really don’t need a higher quality screen, most of the time the screen is off when I’m listening to music anyway.

And yes, there’s a page three where it continues. Click HERE

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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.

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