Most of the time I’m listening to custom BA-driven IEMs and the balanced output certainly is my favorite on the N5ii. This is one of the best/most quiet 2.5mm outputs on the market now and none of the DAPs in this (and double the) price class are this quiet even with the most sensitive gear.
I keep repeating myself, but the balanced 2.5mm output will give you: more power, better separation, a wider sound stage, a higher detail level and certainly better dynamics. When I have a balanced port available I only very hardly use the 3.5mm output unless I have no other choice. Most of my cables are terminated in 2.5 and I use an Effect audio adapter if needed.
The Cayin N5ii definitely is a full bodied player and that is the case for the bass, mids and treble. When I say full bodied that doesn’t mean there’s too much bass or that the mids are overly thick, just so we’re clear on that. In this regard the N5ii is linear from low to highs and the sound is balanced. As said the N5ii has a completely black, noise free, background and it’s a pleasure to (not) hear that. The clarity level of the N5ii is pretty good but it’s not as clean sounding as say the 10 times more expensive AK SP1000, no one will find that weird either. The overall tuning is to the more neutral side, but as said with good body throughout. The delivery is smooth and soft without exaggerating either of these.
Especially when using the 2.5mm output you get great dynamics and a lovely sound stage. The width of the sound stage is really good (at this price level) and while the depth is good too, it isn’t as impressive as the width. What you do get with the N5II is great layering and to me this is one of the strongest points of the player. Especially the mids sound sublime but more on that in a bit. There’s a good amount of space between the elements and the presentation is spacious enough to give the overall impression of an open sound. You music will not be centered between your ears, and I would never label the N5ii as intimate sounding, yet at the same time you don’t get the out of your head experience you do with players such as the Sony WM1Z and SP1000. But again, that’s very normal.
Other great characteristics of the N5ii are its dynamic character and positive energy level. For a DAP in this class I personally find both of these out of this world. Cayin has managed to get the mix of detail retrieval, speed and dynamics just right and the result in an extremely engaging and musical sound signature.
Bass has great impact and is always present. While bass never is overly present or overpowering, it is always there. Bass goes deep when needed but it doesn’t go down really low. Bass has good layering but I find the layering of the mids to be better. Bass has good speed though and you get an energetic and punchy presentation. Bass isn’t the tightest ever but it is nowhere near loose, it simply is very good and enjoyable for both bass lovers and haters.
The mids probably are my favorite part even though I really like the bass section too. To me the mids are rich in detail and they have the best layering. Mids flow perfectly from the bass and make the N5ii an very musical player. The mix of spaciousness and separation is just right and combined with the lovely timbre, you get mids to die for.
The treble section was tuned like the bass section in the way that it’s easy to like by everyone. There’s enough air and detail for the treble fans but it at the same time has a smooth delivery and “non-peaky” presentation for those who like softer treble.
The whole mix simply works very nicely together and it makes the Cayin N5ii such a pleasure to listen to. Ever since it arrived, it’s the only DAP I’ve been using on the go and in the office. It hasn’t made it to my night stand setup but there I have the AK380, WM1Z and SP1000 to cover my needs.
It shows that Cayin invested time developing the Line Out-function. I myself have been pairing it mostly with my Lehmann Drachenfels and Audiovalve Solaris amplifier and the N5ii with its 2V line-out, delivers a detailed, non-forced, smooth sound from the Line Out. It’s just very easy to match up with your desktop components and it sounds so effortless, unlike with some other DAPs.
In order to use the Cayin N5ii as DAC you need to install a driver for Windows (4.11 version). Do note that the N5ii has been configured for optimal sound reproduction. That means there is a delay with the sound when watching videos or playing games. Of course you can modify this setting but do take this into account when you first hook it up. The Cayin N5ii gets recognized by Roon without any issue and to me the N5ii is more than just a back-up DAC. If you don’t have the room or budget for a desktop DAC, I’m convinced you can perfectly live with and enjoy the N5ii’s DAC instead.
Of course you can hook up your Cayin N5ii to your Mojo or Hugo2 using the optional USB-C to Coax 3.5mm cable as shown in the picture. Everyone loves the Mojo and so do we. Hooking up your Mojo to the N5ii with this cable is as easy as it can be, just click them in and that’s all. This combination certainly sounds very good but now you of course have the Mojo’s sound signature. So if you really only need a good source for the Mojo, you might want to look into the cheaper Cayin N3. But the N5ii and Mojo combo works smoothly, and a lot of people will be very happy to read that.
As the digital USB-C to Micro USB function isn’t available yet, I cannot comment on this connection. As soon as a firmware update opens up the USB to USB-function, the impression will be added here.
Click HERE to go to the last page of the review with the comparisons