Cayin N6ii HIFI Music Player In-depth Review 4

Cayin N6ii HIFI Music Player In-depth Review

Cayin N6ii has been in my hands for more than three months. I wrote a hands-on review earlier. It has been my daily player under intense usage since then. From the experience to the sound, I’m quite familiar with it for now.

Design

In term of operation and UI, Cayin’s effort is noticeable. Functions like online music streaming has been seen on I5 years ago. But limited to various reasons, the experience is not entirely ideal so that were not carried on passed down.

Now with Cayin N6ii here, it is completely a different product. We all know Cayin N6ii’s operating system comes from Hiby. Hardware wise, although the CPU model is not officially explained, we thought it should be the Soc platform of SnapDragon 425. The combination of 4G RAM + 64G storage is completely enough for a music player. The optimization of this platform by HiBy should bring similar experience like HiBy R6Pro and Fiio M11, which is silky smooth and among the best of Android DAPs.

In addition to the pre-installed HiBy music APP, N6ii also added a Cayin music APP. The interface is, at first glance, very close to the N5 2S. But the details are improved with dark UI. The basic operating logic is not much different. The playback interface has one more function to switch the look of progress bar.

The biggest difference between N6ii and the native HiBy system is that it does not have the traditional three buttons, it’s controlled through the circle at the bottom: tap to go back, press and hold to go back to the desktop, press and swipe up to switch between tasks.

In other respects, Cayin N6ii has a 5900 mAh battery, which supports QC3.0 fast charging protocol. The display of 768P screen is beautiful with hi-res album cover. The volume roller on the side integrates the lock screen function which is just right for one-handed operation. The feedback of the three physical buttons is also very clear.

Thanks to the smooth, stable and easy to use open Android platform, Cayin N6ii’s system UI and the overall control experience is among the first peloton of DAP industry. Although the details of the UI can still have room for improvement comparing to some Korean and Japanese brands, but at least during daily use, I have not encountered any bugs or things to complain.

Interchangeable board

Cayin N6ii HIFI Music Player In-depth Review 5
Cayin N6ii

The biggest highlight of Cayin N6ii’s hardware is definitely the replaceable audio motherboard design. Unlike the previous products which can only replace the amp, Cayin N6ii can change the DAC and amp at the same time. The only thing you need to do is take out the screw and insert the gold finger into the machine. The whole process is very convenient and fast.

The DAC of A01 board is an AK4497EQ, a very common voltage output type DAC. Without the need for I-V conversion circuit, the audio amplification circuit is completed with a amp circuit. The requirements for circuit design are low and the size and energy efficiency are great. The disadvantage is that conversion accuracy and latency are inherently less great which can be improved with better materials and design. AK4497EQ can decode PCM 768KHz/32bit and DSD for 22.4Mhz at 128dB of SNR and -116dB of THD+N, which are very good in portable DACs.

The other T01 board is quite different from A01. It uses two PCM1792A, which is a typical current output DAC. Its delay and accuracy performance are relatively better. However, i-V conversion circuit needs to be used for better power efficiency. This DAC is a classic chip by TI. Because of its relatively early introduction, it can only supports PCM up to 192kHz/24bit. Generally speaking, this is acceptable for common use. If you are a hardcore fan for DSD, PCM1792A may be insufficient. Compared with the general decoding power, the performance of PCM1792A was quite good in that era as DAC. A single PCM1792A can achieve 132dB SNR performance at 9Vrms output and can reach 129dB at normal 4.5Vrms with only 0.0008% of THD+N. Because it supports program mode, the chip is highly configurable, which means higher requirements for the manufacturer’s R&D power. T01 uses two PCM1792As, which are theoretically better (and naturally need more power). But from the data on paper, the performance of a single PCM1792A is not as good as Ak4497EQ on A01. 4497EQ is definitely a higher end chip in AKM product line. Its SNR and THD+N datas are overwhelmingly better than PCM1782A. More importantly, it only requires a AK4497EQ for multichannel balanced output, which giving it a huge advantage in circuit size and efficiency.

Prior to the introduction of ESS9018, the PCM series DACs were preferred by DAP brands. After 9018 takes up most of the market, there are many people reject the “digital taste” of its sound and miss the PCM sound, which is why TI PCM/DSD series DAC chips still have a lot of fans. But I think old fans would miss the old DAC chips with R2R architecture more, such as PCM1704. PCM1792A is actually still a new 1bit DAC. How much of the old sound can be hear depends on the specific performance.

From A01 to T01, PCM decoding ability decreased and the after performance of two-chip DAC are basically the same. The circuit consumes more power, resulting in shorter battery life with the same battery. Is the compromises worth it? We need to judge by the actual sound.

Sound performance

The first time I listened to Cayin N6ii I was a little addicted. Because I liked to listen to N52S then. Switched to N6ii, I felt bigger soundstage and more advanced sound. Although I did not have contact with N6 before, N6ii’s sound is very consistent with the impression in my mind. At that time I focused on listening to the single-ended port. The middle is like Cayin N8 with the tube mode off. Soft, smooth and relaxed with great layering and details. The vocal is also full of emotions, that can be listened for long time without feeling tired.

When I got the machine, I began to listen carefully. I found Cayin N6ii’s sound quality with the default A01 board is quite good. Especially the balanced port has a broad soundstage with decent shape and depth. As a result, I recommend it to my classical-loving friends and they are all satisfied with the performance of Cayin N6ii.

On overall tone style, N6ii’s transparency is not particularly high. The brightness of treble is moderate, unlike many other mainstream players. It’s towards the warmer end. The transient and attenuation speed is not the particular kind of extremely bright and clear. The overtones of instrumentals are abundant. The spacious reverberation of middle part is rich. As a result, the overall atmosphere is very sufficient without the dirty feeling. Vocals and instrumentals is basically showing their own style without much modification. It can be called a very healthy musical type.

When coming to the disadvantage of Cayin N6ii’s sound, in fact, clever readers can find clues from above. The performance of dynamic and transient still has room for improvement. In addition, the texture of bass and treble end is relatively mediocre, especially in the bass aspect.

Cayin N6ii with A01 board has distinct style and excellent hardware quality. But it is not dominant at the same price point. It pays more attention to the expression of music, even has a little tendency towards HUFI. The structure and dynamic of overall figure is not weak. What Cayin N6ii interprets best is pop, jazz and folk songs with emotions. But there is a clear gap between some of the flagship players on dynamic classical or OST tracks.

T01’s sound is different from A01 in some ways. I think it’s an total upgrade from A01.

First of all, transparency has improved a lot. The quality of bass and treble is greatly enhanced. The dive, strength and elasticity of bass have made significant progress. The details of treble is also better. The instrumental performance has very significant improvement. With the right combination, you can get a wider, slightly higher soundstage at a slightly higher position.

So where’s T01’s short board? Cayin official has actually published some information. Its PCM data is lower than A01. So is the signal-to-noise ratio. The excellent battery life of A01 (14h/13h) has been reduced to 8.5h/7.5h for single-ended and balanced port respectively. Given Cayin N6ii’s excellent standby power consumption, it’s perfectly adequate for my daily use. But compared to A01, the decline is really quite massive.

Summary

Till now you may understand that I am not afraid to express my personal recognition and love for Cayin N6ii. As a regular music lover, I’m glad to live in an era when the HIFI player industry is progressing rapidly everyday. As a result I can enjoy the very satisfying experience if the second-generation N6.

Cayin N6ii may be not the perfect machine in some aspects. But the exquisite design, smooth and easy-to-use open system, pioneering interchangeable audio board design and Cayin’s commitment on music-oriented tuning have brought a new classic, whose life cycle will definitely be longer than the last generation.

Cayin N6ii HIFI Music Player In-depth Review
Cayin N6ii HIFI Music Player In-depth Review 6

Cayin N6ii may be not the perfect machine in some aspects. But the exquisite design, smooth and easy-to-use open system, pioneering interchangeable audio board design and Cayin’s commitment on music-oriented tuning have brought a new classic, whose life cycle will definitely be longer than the last generation.

Editor's Rating:
4.5

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