Cayin jumped into the personal audio space in 2013 and has been rather successful after a few road bumps with its first series of products. The Chinese manufacturer has become a real player in the DAP category and while they may not get the same kind of love from the audio press as Astell&Kern, their products need to be taken quite seriously if you’re passionate about high-end portable digital playback.
I’ve owned two generations of the N3, an N5, N6ii, and longed for an N8.
I’ve been fortunate to try the N8 on numerous occasions which has only served to fuel my lust for one; the $3,500 price tag makes it something that I could never possibly justify unless I want to sleep outside in the backyard. In another state.
The N8 was revolutionary when it came out; it offered both tube and solid state amplification modules, I2S output for those wanting a pure transport, and a host of features that pretty much covered everything from Bluetooth to balanced XLR outputs to a professional mixing board. The only thing you couldn’t do with it was record music.
Cayin offered it in a beautiful brass and black or polished chrome and brass finish with a touch screen bigger than some phones which only increased the lust factor. The N8 was a force to be reckoned with in the DAP market back in 2018 and 2019.
The headphone industry seemingly never takes a day off and Cayin did not disappoint during the pandemic with the introduction of their category leading RU6 Dongle DAC which we just reviewed.
Few products are truly the “best” in any category and that’s definitely true in the headphone space; if you asked 10 members of the Head-Fi community to pick one headphone they could own — you would probably get 10 different answers.
The RU6 would probably fare better because it is one of the “best” and that might be the case soon for the brand new Cayin N8ii DAP that is making its premier at CanJam NYC 2022 this weekend.
The $3,499 price has not changed.
So what’s different about the new N8ii DAP?
Updates include a more potent Snapdragon 660 processor and 6GB of RAM for better performance. The UI is based on Android 9 but has a bypass for all of the Android audio processing built-in removing the limitations typically seen in Android DAPs.
The DAC chips have been updated to Rohm BD34301 chips that while lesser known than the AKM of the previous model, are certainly not less capable with native 32-bit/768kHz PCM support, native DSD 512 and a measured SNR of 130dB.
Like its predecessor, the Cayin N8ii offers both solid state and tube amplification modules with twin Korg Nu-tubes visible on the left edge of the player when in use. This offers the choice of a neutral reference when using solid state or a more musical, if slightly less linear, tuning with the Nu-tubes.
The Nu-tubes sport a couple of big advantages over the tubes used in the Cayin N3ii. A portable device like a DAP takes a lot more abuse and these new tubes are a lot more durable; Nu-tubes can take a much larger shock than the glass miniatures and survive.
The second advantage is that they will last a lot longer; the Nu-tubes are rated to last over 10,000 hours of continuous use which means that they will outlast of the lifespan of the N8ii DAP for most users.
Add to this USB, I2S and Coaxial outputs, the ability to use the N8ii as a USB DAC for your phone, Hibylink, line out, and 4.4mm and 3.5mm output jacks, as well as LDAC and UAT support.
There are very few playback devices that can offer all of that.
The N8ii offers 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi connectivity which means that the N8ii is ready to take advantage of any streaming service supported on Android and with 128GB of internal memory and a micro-SD slot, those of us with file libraries are still welcome as well.
I will say that the N8ii lacks some of the high-end visual appearance of the original; the new model sports a more utilitarian look with controls blended into the body.
If the performance matches the internal improvements, the Cayin N8ii DAP will be one of the top DAPs on the market rivaling anything from Astell&Kern and Sony.
For more information: Cayin N8ii DAP
February 26, 2022 at 2:36 pm
Beautiful! Stunning! Gorgeous to behold as well as, dare I say it? (DARE Toad, DARE!) hold!
Was the previous version also desirable? Yes, but perhaps in the same way as the ’65 Corvette was, because that was the first year that the icon had disc brakes on all four wheels… But for some unfathomable reason, also dropped the fuel injected engine.
Personally, I can neither afford, let alone some how justify, buying this beauty but that does not prevent me from stating that I would that I could.
Do I “neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed” one?
Do I “WANT” one?
Thank you for your thoughts, sir!