Review: Cayin N5ii – The Killer

Disclaimer: Cayin has been covered many times on Headfonia already. The Cayin N5ii was sent to us free of charge in exchange for this review.

 

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. Cayin has built over 400 products up to date and lately Cayin has been focusing on the portable market as well with successful units such as the N3, N5, N6, i5 portable players and the C5 portable amplifier. Now Cayin is back with the N5ii, an Android based DAP with extreme versatility and as the name suggests it is the N5 DAP’s successor.

This is a rather comprehensive review and it has a big part that’s not about sound. Why? Simply because all characteristics are very important in a DAP, and so is usability, etc. On top of that this is the very first Cayin N5ii Production version review on the web, and so it has to be detailed and complete.

N5ii aka N5 MK2

The new Cayin N5ii, just like the original N5, comes with a balanced 2.5mm output and it featured double MicroSD slots. Apart from that, the new N5ii is completely different from the original. The Cayin N5ii is a modern styled, perfectly built DAP that offers great value for money. If you haven’t seen anything on social media or Head-Fi yet about the Cayin N5ii you can discover all about it here on the Cayin website: http://en.cayin.cn/products_info?itemid=111

The Cayin N5ii in many ways is the same as the Cayin i5 Android DAP, and if you haven’t seen their Android implementation yet, I suggest checking out their i5 DAP first here: https://www.headfonia.com/review-cayin-i5-dap-the-do-it-all/

I, together with a selected number of reviewers, have been using a beta version of the Cayin N5ii for a few weeks already now, and Cayin has updated the production version of the N5ii based on our feedback. The Cayin N5ii was also covered in one of our first look videos:

The new Cayin N5ii not only looks very different from the original, it has been redesigned on the inside as well. The N5ii uses the ESS9018K2M DAC chip and they are running completely independent amplification paths for the single ended 3.5mm and the balanced 2.5mm output. A full overview of the Cayin N5ii’s internal mapping (framework) can be found a little further in this article.

The new Cayin N5ii is based on the Android 5.1 system and as a result it is fully customizable. You can download your favorite apps from the Google store and I myself have been successfully using it with Spotify, Tidal and the Last.FM scrobbler. More about this later. The original N5 – which I called “ribbed for your please” has now become a very modern, sexy looking DAP and it of course is perfectly built, just like the i5. The N5ii’s features a CNC aerospace aluminum chassis and a beautiful threaded stainless steel volume knob.

To protect the nice 3.65” screen the Cayin N5 comes delivered with a tempered glass screen protector. The “glass” backside of the player also comes with a pre-installed protector. The retail price for this new N5ii DAP is set at only $369, and that is very impressive.

The “Burn your music” moto is no longer present when starting the DAP and the N5ii moto – just like on the i5- now is: “Never be the same again”. I do think Andy and Cayin did good by changing it. Talking about Andy, we featured him on our “Fav album of” series (http://www.headfonia.com/blog-the-fav-album-of-cayin/) as well as on our Business Insider Interview series: https://www.headfonia.com/q-n-a-saturday-cayin/

The review continues on Page 2, after the click here or the jump below

Review: Cayin N5ii – The Killer
4.2 (84.16%) 77 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.

57 Comments

  • Reply December 12, 2017

    Charles Rievone

    Which Lastfm scrobbler app did you use that works with the stock Cayin player app?

    • Reply December 16, 2017

      Lieven

      • Reply March 22, 2018

        Indrajit

        Hey Mr. Lieven, I have a question. How does N5II in (bal mode) compare with an old Fiio X7 (single ended). Is it better to buy a newer player with balanced mode as opposed to buying an older, 3.5mm player of a more expensive league?

        • Reply March 22, 2018

          Lieven

          It will depend on the AM module used in the X7. It also depends on the IEM used and its driveability. I’m a big fan of balanced outputs, but why don’t you just buy a balanced module for the X7?

  • Reply December 12, 2017

    Edward

    Can you also make a comparison to the Shanling M3s?

    • Reply December 16, 2017

      Lieven

      Different reviewers

    • Reply March 22, 2018

      Indrajit

      Thanks, I was wondering what happens if a bal output of one price league competes with SE output of a once flagship league. Moving from se to bal output needs an entirely different setup with plugs and headphones, I live in India, where there doesn’t yet seem to be a market for turning 3.5 into bal

  • Reply December 13, 2017

    Carlos

    Great review Lieven. I have been looking for a dap that matches or resembles the Luxury & precision L5pro sound. Are we talking about something similar here or am I asking too much from a mid-tier dap? ¿should I look somewhere else? Thanks

    • Reply December 16, 2017

      Lieven

      The L&P sound still is special, sorry 🙂

  • Reply December 13, 2017

    Luke

    Totally agree that Cayin need to implement the ability to use the 2.5mm socket with Tidal – please listen Andy/Cayin. Great review thank you.

    • Reply December 16, 2017

      Lieven

      Thank you. they will do that I was told.

  • Reply December 13, 2017

    Rob

    Does the player has a limitation on the number of files that can be played?

  • Reply December 13, 2017

    Rob

    Can you also make a comparison to the Aune M1s?

    • Reply December 13, 2017

      Rob

      Soundquality wise!

    • Reply December 16, 2017

      Lieven

      I don’t have that one, sorry

  • Reply December 14, 2017

    Danny

    Does it support aptx?

  • Reply December 14, 2017

    Michael

    How is the detail reproduction and the instrument separation of the N5ii compared to the AK70?

    • Reply December 16, 2017

      Lieven

      As said they’re at the same level concerning the detail and separation.

  • Reply December 18, 2017

    Ortega

    Hi Lieven
    Can you also make a comparison to the Pioneer XDP-300R?

  • Reply December 18, 2017

    Bots

    Good quality review, as always. Cheers!

  • Reply December 21, 2017

    Irvin

    where can I download the windows driver so I can use it as a DAC also, there is none on their website thanks

    • Reply January 19, 2018

      Lieven

      the Cayin site is a good start.

  • Reply December 21, 2017

    Elric

    Good review and sooo good dap, i’ve got it and for me N5ii is just a amazing NSK ( Natural Sound Killer ).

  • Reply December 26, 2017

    Tim

    Hi – I wonder if anyone can help. The updating FW instructions are a little unclear on the CAYIN website – The instructions on the Cayin website say:

    1. Download firmware upgrade package from Cayin website, you should receive a compressed document N5MK2-ota-XXXX.zip
    2. Copy the UNCOMPRESSED firmware upgrade package to the root directory of internal storage or TF card of N5ii.

    But if I uncompress/unzip the file on my computer I get a folder called:

    N5MK2-ota-2.1en

    This big folder contains a lot of other folders and files. Do I need to transfer the whole big folder or a smaller file/folder from inside?

    Also, number 5 in the instructions says:

    5. You can move up and down to select xxxxx.zip via volume or previous/next buttons and press power button to activate the upgrade process.

    This is confusing because the earlier instructions (point 1) says I have to uncompress the zip file before installing – so I don’t understand how I can install a zip file If I have been told to uncompress it first. Anyone tried updating and could offer some guidance.

  • Reply December 26, 2017

    Lieven

    1. Do NOT uncompress the zip file. Put in the root.
    2. Shut down
    3. Reboot with going to the boot menu by pushing power and the down button at the same time
    4. Then use the buttons to navigate and power to select.

    It’s fairly easy

  • Reply December 26, 2017

    Scott Peterson

    Would this be an upgrade to my AK120 Titan other than streaming?

  • Reply December 26, 2017

    Scott Peterson

    Also, any comparison with the hiby R6?

    • Reply January 19, 2018

      Lieven

      not in my possession, sorry.

  • Reply December 31, 2017

    Tim

    Hi,

    How would you rate treble extension against the Bit Opus 1?

    • Reply January 19, 2018

      Lieven

      Don’t have that one, sorry.

  • Reply January 6, 2018

    Michael Gunin

    May I please ask you t compare N5-II to iBasso DX80 in terms of SQ?

    • Reply January 19, 2018

      Lieven

      no offense but the DX80 sucks so much I didn’t even review it. It’s the King of noise and slow UI.

  • Reply January 12, 2018

    Pierre

    Hi Lieven,
    Many thanks for this great review!
    Do you think the N5II will sound well with a HE-400i or do I need an extra (portable) amp?
    Also, which one would you recommend between the Hiby R6 and the N5II?

    • Reply January 19, 2018

      Lieven

      No you’re good without amp. I don’t have the R6, sorry.

  • Reply January 19, 2018

    Larry

    Hi Lieven, I own the Sennheiser 800S. Do you recommend using an external amp with the N5II to do the 800S justice and if the answer is yes, what amp do you think would be a good synergy? Thanks

    • Reply January 19, 2018

      Lieven

      I do recommend an amp. Something like the Crack to start. It depends on your budget though.

  • Reply January 29, 2018

    Victor

    Hi Lieven.

    Great review for Cayin N5ii
    I have Question :
    Would this be an great upgrade from ak100 1st generation? Focusing on sound quality.
    I like natural and clear sound.

    Thanks.

    • Reply January 29, 2018

      Lieven

      if it’s pure SQ you want, I still recommend the X7ii over it.

      • Reply January 29, 2018

        Victor

        But regarding the price to performance. Is cayin n5ii still good choice to upgrade from ak100 mk1? Is it noticable improvement from ak100 to N5ii?
        Using same 3.5mm output.

        Last time I try X5 3rd gen. But I’m still love my ak100 over it. Ak100 feels more natural for me compared to X5 3rd gen.

        Thanks

        • Reply January 29, 2018

          Lieven

          How about X5II?

          • Reply January 29, 2018

            Victor

            I never heard the X5 II. My friends have X5 II and they said it have problem with the OS.
            Previously i have the X5 1st gen. After that i change to AK100. For me X5 1st to AK100 is totaly different in term of SQ. AK is more fluid and natural.
            My choices for upgrade right now are
            Cayin N5II
            AK70
            After i read your review that ak70 and N5II are similar, than i’m interested with this new cayin.

            Would you recommend to upgrade my AK100 which is quite old, to this new Cayin N5II? The price is reasonable and it also have some additional feature.

  • Reply January 30, 2018

    Brian

    How do you think the N5ii sounds compared to the Opus #1? I have the Opus and think it sounds decent with ATH-M50’s and 1More Quad IEMs.

    What about both of those vs a Mojo?

    My taste in sound is a v-shape…more bass and high treble with less mids.

  • Reply February 4, 2018

    Roberto

    Where can I find the user manual in English as in their website can only find the one in Chinese language.

  • Reply February 6, 2018

    Tim

    Hi,

    Thanks for your excellent review. The comparison with the x7ii was very useful.

    Could I ask, though, about your thoughts, regarding sound quality versus the older FIRST generation X7 (with AM2 amp module). The older X7 is often available at quite a discount on-line. Side by side, what would be your preference sound-wise: 1st generation X7 + AM2 amp module or Cayin N5ii?

    Hope you can help – as I have found some good X7 deals on-line so would like to see if I should snap it up :-).

    All the best,

    Tim

    • Reply February 7, 2018

      Lieven

      Tim,

      when it comes down to sound the X7 is more refined than the Cayin. But when it comes to usability, the Cayin > Fiio. so that’s a tough one. I personally never seem to pick up the X7, but I do use the N5ii

  • Reply February 20, 2018

    Tim

    Hi There,

    Thanks for your advice. I can also see a lot of 2nd hand IBasso Dx90 units around – would you say that the Cayin N5ii is a step-up soundwise from the DX9?

    Based purely on sound only which one do you think is superior for you?

  • Reply April 5, 2018

    Bert

    Hi thanks for review and congratulations.
    Do you think Cayin N5II sounds better than Chord Mojo ? Or what DAP (with big storage) could be sounds better than Chord Mojo ? (because its easier to take DAP and hear music than plug DAC into PC+launch PC+ launch Foobar + set-up good mode usb-direct, etc.)
    Thanks in advance.
    Best regards.

  • Reply April 5, 2018

    oliwek

    Bert, you probably should look at iBasso DX200, or with less budget at Hiby R6 (of course this has only sense with qualitative headphones or CIEMs, or else you should begin to upgrade from there).
    The problem is also a question of synergy with said or said source (device and also recording), and said or said headphones, I’m afraid 🙂

    • Reply April 5, 2018

      Bert

      Thank you for your opinion. I have Chord Mojo and it is fantastic but less practical than a DAP. That is why i’m questioning to resell the DAC.

  • Reply April 13, 2018

    Juan Luis

    Hi Lieven,

    This time that the N5 has only 2 digital filters, which was the best for you?

    • Reply April 16, 2018

      Lieven

      always the one with the sharp and/or fast roll off

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