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Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP

Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP
  • Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP
  • Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP
  • Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP
  • Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP
  • Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP
  • Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP
  • Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP

Cayin N3 Pro Hi-Res DAP

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Customers Reviews

Average customers review
5 of 5 Stars! (1 customer reviews)

Had Mills
Date Added: Thursday 29 October, 2020
5 of 5 Stars!
Like it's predecessor the N3, Cayin's N3 Pro is a highly versatile AKM-based DAP running the same mature HiBy operating system as their flagship N8.
Price wise, the N3 Pro is closer to mid-range competition from the likes of Cowon than the original ...Read moreN3 which was pitched at entry-level. Have Cayin made a mistake taking their budget model upmarket? What is on offer for the extra outlay and is it worth saving up for?
For this budget-concious valve-loving consumer the short answers are 'a lot' and 'yes, definitely'.
N3 Pro has multiple input / output modes, making it something of a Swiss Army knife among DAPs:
1. Single-ended 3.5mm solid state. Good for very active listening sessions, for example when cutting the hedge, where valve microphonics might be an issue (see below).
2. Single-ended line out on dedicated 3.5mm. Fixed volume, bypassing the headphone amp. 'Clean' output for the purists, for use with desktop or hifi systems.
3, Balanced 4.4mm solid state. Good when extra power is required e.g. for hard-to-drive planar headphones. Untested by this reviewer.
4. USB DAC mode - works with Windows native drivers up to 24-bit / 96kHz. Cayin drivers are available too but untested by this reviewer.
5. Digital out SPDIF over coaxial via USB C (using one of Cayin's proprietary cables, not included). E.g. to use as a transport for Chord Mojo, should you be so inclined.
6. Bluetooth out e.g. to wireless headphones. Untested by this reviewer.
Here's where the fun really starts:
7. Single-ended 3.5mm ultra-linear (UL) tube (valve) mode.
8. Single-ended 3.5mm triode (TR) tube mode.
Both UL and TR modes are very well judged IMO. In both modes the Raytheon sub-miniature pentode valves act as buffers and are followed by an op-amp stage. Which mode you prefer will depend on what you're listening to, the time of day and the general condition of your soul. I use maybe 80% UL and 20% TR, but when TR hits the spot, usually after dark, it's sublime. UL mode is expansive, detailed and harmonically rich with good frequency extension at both ends. TR mode is warmer, with slower bass and rolled-off treble but more forward-sounding mids - female vocals particularly have real presence. If you think, however, that valves are just about your grandad's jazz LP's then think again - cutting-edge electronica (Autechre - Sign) can sound alive, vital on the N3 Pro. Classic rock (Motorhead - Bomber) sounds like it might electrocute you at any moment.
The valves are suspended effectively - Cayin say they invested in R&D disproportionately, compared to the asking price, to get this right. If you tap the N3 Pro whilst it's playing you will get a microphonic ping, but you will be able to pocket it and walk around without concern.
The specs mention WiFi - note that this is for OTA firmware updates and file transfer only - N3 Pro is not a streaming device per se, nor can apps be installed. What you do get, on the other hand, is a very versatile Bluetooth implementation which includes the ability to stream from another device to the N3 Pro which takes over DAC and amp duties.
In practice, with an iPhone 8 Plus running Tidal, it takes a certain, repeatable, sequence to establish an AAC handshake between the two - get it wrong and default is the unacceptably inferior-sounding SBC codec. For this hitherto Bluetooth naysayer, the sound quality of Tidal HiFi over AAC is simply good enough to overcome any worries about Bluetooth and just enjoy the music; a revelation. Bluetooth technical performance appears excellent, with no drop-outs experienced so far, albeit at short range.
What else? EQ is fairly basic, compared to, say, MSEB available on other players and, maybe important to note, is limited by processing power to Redbook file format - no EQ for hi-res PCM or DSD then.
The optional-extra real leather gold-flecked green case fits like a glove.
There are a number of filter options to choose from; any differences are subtle and I expect will take weeks of listening with each one to reliably discern a preference.
HiBy Link, an alternative Bluetooth mode which allows remote control of the N3 Pro from a phone or tablet, worked well until the recent HiBy Link app update - now it drops out frequently. Hopefully this will be remedied by a future firmware or app update as it's a useful value-adding feature.
Overall then, I would call N3 Pro a powerful, well thought-out tremendous-sounding player offering real value. If you've never experienced valves before this is a fantastic way in to another dimension of this hobby; once you're in there'll be no going back.
5 of 5 Stars!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

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