Review: Cayin i5 DAP – The Do It All

Disclaimer: Cayin Audio sent us the Cayin i5 for review free of charge. The unit doesn’t need to be returned and Cayin isn’t a site advertiser.

 

Cayin

Cayin is a premium Chinese high end audio brand (since 1993) and their focus has mostly been on dedicated HiFi equipment, covering every chain in the music reproduction path, from CD player to speaker, but the essence is no doubt their tube amplifiers. Their equipment ranges from around US$100 to just below US$10,000 per item, covering the needs of different requirements and budgets. Lately Cayin has been focusing on the portable market as well with successful units such as the N5 and N6 portable players and the C5 portable amplifier. Now Cayin is back with the i5, an Android based DAP with extreme versatility.

The Cayin i5 is not the little or big brother of the N6 and N5, it’s a completely new DAP which is available for around $499USD on Amazon. One of the other Cayin products I really like and which I am testing for the moment is the HA-1A MK2. It’s a full size tube based headphone amp with double Single Ended headphone outs and it sounds incredibly smooth and tube-ish. Its review won’t be online right away as this is a long term test unit but it certainly should be up somewhere in Q1 of 2017.

For launching the i5, I feel like Cayin reinvented and modernized themselves. They launched a brand new English website and they even maybe a really nice promotional video about the i5

The “Burn your music” moto is still present when firing up the DAP but the i5 moto now is: “Never be the same again”. I still haven’t figured out their “Burn your music” thing, Maybe Andy can explain this in the comments section. Talking about Andy, we featured him on our “Fav album of” series a few weeks ago, you can find it by clicking here: https://www.headfonia.com/blog-the-fav-album-of-cayin/

I5 Inside & Looks & The Rest

This section is going to be very comprehensive as there is so much to say about the new i5 DAP. The i5 is made out of CNC aerospace aluminum and it has a carbon fiber back plate as we often find on many DAPs.  The materials used are top notch and the build quality couldn’t be better. The only thing I am not 100% satisfied with is the leather case, the case itself is very nice but the i5 sits very loose in it and it’ll even fall out wen help upside down.

Lay-out & Usability

On the top of the unit you have the Line-Out on the left end the 3.5mm headphone output on the right. I really would have liked to have a 2.5mm balanced output as well but Cayin explained it simply wasn’t possible in the way they designed their i5. I have a feeling though their next DAPS will be offering a balanced output, at least I hope so. On the left side of the DAP you have its power button and that’s it. In the top right corner you have the volume control which I will get back to in a bit. On the right side you have the Play/pause and both forward and back buttons. A little lower is the MicroSD slot which takes cards up to 256gb (tested and confirmed by Cayin). On the bottom of the unit you’ll find the USB-C connector which allows faster communication with the i5. The USB-C connector also serves as USB-DAC port, Coaxial Output and soon USB out for OTG use with other DACs.

cayin-i5_5

The front of the unit has the 4 inch 800×480 TFT IPS Touch Panel and the home button. I quite like the screen size and the touch screen works perfectly. It’s not as sensitive as the Fiio X7 or AK70 imho but it is a whole lot better than the iBasso DX80. For most, me included, this touch screen works perfectly and the maximum brightness is more than sufficient. Mine always is at minimum most of the time. The only two things I dislike about the screen is how there is light leaking at the bottom and the screen connectors at the bottom, right above the home key, are visible. On the back of the unit you have the gorgeous carbon fiber plate, although it isn’t visible when using the leather case.

It just shows that the i5 is made of top quality components and I think it looks really nice. It isn’t the smallest and lightest of DAPs measuring 126 x 64 x 14mm and weighing 196gr (especially compared to the AK70) but at the same time it allows you to work all the buttons with just one hand without issue. I haven’t had any issues carrying it around in my pockets when on the go. Some people don’t like the fact that the volume buttons is not the softest to turn but at the same time it does prevent accidental volume changes. The volume button has good grip and it turns very smoothly, it just takes a little more power. Those who don’t like it can always use the on-screen volume control as well.

Memory

The Cayin i5 has 1 + 4GB of internal memory for music playing and 32GB of internal. The MicroSD slot accepts cards up to 256GB! so there’s plenty of storage. At the same time you over Wifi or USB-C can connect to other storages in the cloud (Dropbox), LAN or on DLNA network sources. While I haven’t tried myself, you should be able to connect a mini drive straight to the UCB-C input. I had no issues connecting to my 2nd laptop and network storage over DLNA.

If that’s still not enough you can simply download your favorite streaming software such as Tidal, Qobuz or Spotify just to name a few, and you can stream directly from their servers. That’s a big advantage of running Android, of course. I haven’t had any issues streaming Tidal Hifi to the i5 over Wifi at all.

Scanning your MicroSD card goes really fast and going through a 128gb card doesn’t takes dozens of minutes like on the DX80. It’s also scanning faster than the AK70 for that matter.

Battery

The i5 uses a large 4800mAh battery that gives you around 10 to 11h of playback. I was pleasantly surprised with the I5’s battery life and I mostly only charge it once a week when it’s used only for commuting. Battery life of course does depend on the use of Wifi, BlueTooth, Screen Brightness, file types played, etc.

It continues on Page 2 right after the click HERE or the jump below

Review: Cayin i5 DAP – The Do It All
3.8 (75.2%) 25 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

12 Comments

  • Reply December 13, 2016

    Swaroop

    Would you recommend this over the Fiio X7? I currently have an AK Jr and I am planning to upgrade. I am having a tough time deciding between i5 and the X7.

  • Reply December 13, 2016

    Lieven

    X7 has the advantage of the AM Modules. UI is comparable

    • Reply January 10, 2017

      Ateeq

      I have had both fiio x7 and i5 ,I like the sound from i5 a lot more ,rich mids
      good bass a good dap ,x7 is good on paper but still sounds to robotic .
      regards Ateeq

  • Reply January 17, 2017

    Gilang

    I’m torn between the i5, Dx80 and Cowon’s Plenue D. which one would you recommend?

    • Reply January 17, 2017

      Lieven

      I5, as it’s the most versatile and Android.

  • Reply March 9, 2017

    Patrick Murray

    Was wondering if the Cayin i5 would be suggested for IEM use, I currently have the new flagship from Audiofly, the AF-1120, 6ba driver IEM rated at 10ohm impedance, and wanted to know if this neutral and balanced IEM would be usable with the caying i5 without any issues in hiss and distortion? Thank you in advance

    • Reply March 9, 2017

      Lieven

      Send it to me and I’ll tell you 😉

  • Reply May 9, 2017

    rey

    how does i5 compare to pioneer xdp100? thanks

  • Reply July 7, 2017

    mark reed

    Would Westone W40 get hiss, they are a bit higher, think 30-32ohm.

    thanks

  • Reply July 14, 2017

    Brad

    Hi Lieven, If you run to an external amp through line out on the i5, would you still get hiss with sensitive IEMs or could that be counteracted by the amp (I’m using a Tralucent T1 if you’re familiar). Thanks….it ticks every box apart from sensitive IEMs.

  • Reply July 27, 2017

    Jonathan

    Has anyone compared the Cayin i5 with the Sony NW-ZX2? I know the ZX2 is much more expensive but they have come down in price quite a bit on the used market. Thanks!

  • Reply August 10, 2017

    mark reed

    I have the Cayin I5 and just got LCD-2f.

    Now to me it sounds amazing, but I keep seeing people saying LCD-2 could do with power to make them happy, but wonder if anyone with better knowhow, knows if Cayin I5 drives them as intended.

    I mean will a dac/amp standalone make a world of difference, or does the Cayin I5 do a good enough job (to me it does)

    Dont want to be missing out, but at the sametime, dont want to spend money if the gain is very small.

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