Usability / UI
The new Cayin design lays good in the hand and it’s extremely easy to use. Even when used blind with the player in your pocket. Before you get to that point however, you’ll have to use the touch screen to set up the player the way you want and to select your play list. All that however is extremely easy, and scanning your SD-cards goes really fast. Cayin has taken the Android implementation of the i5 DAP and as a result working with this new N5ii is extremely easy. But even if you’re not familiar yet with this Android version, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
The N5ii has a very clear menu-structure. The horizontal menus will let you select your music, while the vertical menu is more for your settings and preferences. Next to that there also is the swipe down Android menu that allows you to control the unit itself (not the software). I won’t go into detail about the different screens and options as these are straightforward and easy to use, but this is the main structure:
1. Status Bar
At the top of the screen, display the battery reading and volume information etc.
2. Quick Playback Bar
At the bottom of the screen, display playback information
3. Application Menu
Pull out when swipe from left (edge) to right, third party applications and music setting.
4. Pull Down Menu
Pull down from top to bottom, a phase-in design, the first section is the Notification Center, pull down again, you’ll arrive at the Quick Setup Menu, and when you click at the gear pm top right, you’ll enter System Menu.
Of course the Cayin N5ii plays through folders and does gapless without issues.
Some things I do want to quickly touch are:
1. Audio Priority Mode (AP mode)
Like Fiio, Cayin has a mode where you turn off WiFi and BT in order to get the very best musical quality possible. In this mode you can use the 2.5mm balanced and 3.5mm single ended output. That does mean that for now you can’t use any streaming apps in this mode. The N5ii automatically switches to AP mode the moment you connect a 2.5mm player. You can of course activate the AP mode as well by manually selecting it in the drop down screen menu. In AP mode, the EQ setting will be disabled as well just so you know.
So this is a bit of a downside and I have strongly suggested Cayin to rectify this in an upcoming Firmware update. And from then on you’ll be able to use your 2.5mm terminated earphones in combination with Tidal and Spotify, etc.
2. Customizable screen
Once you’re playing a track, the DAP will switch to the typical “play screen” we know from the i5. The nice thing here is that you can actually change the bottom (button) lay-out of this screen by pressing the little t-shirt in the middle of the screen on the left. Cayin has implemented 3 different play-back screens and by touching the “hidden” button you switch between the regular screen and two variations on that theme. I myself tend to use the second (or middle) lay-out as I find it easier to skip ahead in songs. Anyway, it’s a nice option to have.
3. Artwork, Lyrics or VU-meters
The top part of the screen is also customizable but then again most of the Android DAPs nowadays are (just look at Fiio). For the top screen you can chose between the regular art work, the lyrics or the VU-Meters. I myself tend to turn off the screen once I start listening, but the VU-meters always are nice. Do note that the VU-meters only work with multi-bi formats such as PCM, DSD is not supported.
Usability-wise, the Cayin N5ii comes very close to be the perfect DAP, however some people might say it isn’t the fastest DAP reactivity-wise. I have to admit that some DAPs in my collection have a quicker response time, but all those players are a lot more expensive as well. For the price, the N5ii is a very normal behaving and reacting DAP. There are far less reactive DAPs in my collection and to be honest, the reactivity hasn’t bothered in me in any way. There is only little thing that does bother me though: the N5ii perfectly remembers the last track you were playing and the position in this track, but when you press play the song will start from zero seconds. It’s not very important but I do feel it’s worth a mention.
Cayin – like with storage – knows what audiophiles nowadays find important and just like the i5, the N5ii is an incredibly versatile DAP. Here’s a quick overview:
- A 2.5mm balanced headphone output
- A 3.5mm single ended headphone output
- A 3.5mm 2V Line Out. Because of this you get a smooth and non-forced sound when the LO is used with audio equipment with an input impedance higher than 10k Ohm
- BlueTooth 4.0
- USB to S/PDIF Digital output over USB. For the USB to S/PDIF, Cayin has embedded the native S/PDIF bit stream to the redundant pin of the Type-C connector, so there is no conversion involved. This adapter cable can be bought from Cayin. See later.
- USB OTG. You will soon be able to hook up your favorite DAC (such as the Mojo) directly to the N5ii by using the USB OTG function 5USB-C to Micro USB). For this you of course also need a specific cable.
- OTG input (extra storage can be directly hooked up to the N5ii. A converter cable might be needed)
- USB DAC (after installation of the latest driver)
- The N5ii has no issues finding my NAS drives and streaming music from then. The only downside here is that the N5ii doesn’t have a remote control function like AK Connect. That means you can’t hook up the DAP to your speaker setup and control it over your phone. Cayin has informed me there are no plans in this direction for that at this time.
- I have tested and used Spotify and Tidal all the time and you can even save the Tidal tracks locally.
- If needed there’s a 10-band EQ available. You can either ruse one of the nine presets or set it yourself. Do note the EQ doesn’t work when Audio Priority Mode is activated.
And all that for only $369, if that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is anymore.
The part on Sound starts on the next page! Click HERE
The part on Sound starts on the next page! Click HERE