Player Cayin N8 Review - Harsh Tube Audiophilia

Cayin celebrated its 25th anniversary last the market and in honor of this event, they decided to release several “maximum” devices in order to show all the experience gained during this time. One of these products was the flagship player Cayin N8, which we will talk about.

After the first photos, reviews about thisthe models turned out to be rather contradictory, not everyone liked the unusual design. However, after the start of sales and the appearance of the player in personal audio stores around the world, the reviews dramatically changed the tone, it became clear that the main component of the player, namely, sound, turned out. The company's engineers decided not just to release the most advanced device, they set themselves an almost unthinkable task: to make a portable with a tube output, the benefit of the company Korg presented their NuTube micro lamps. To achieve this goal, we had to solve a lot of difficult tasks, starting with a special mount that protects the lamps from vibration and shock, and ending with the clever system of heat removal necessary for vacuum devices. I think it will not be a spoiler to say that they managed to solve these problems, so the N8 users can choose between a “tube” and a “non-tube” amplifier. Of course, this only works for normal output, since it would be unrealistic to place 4 lamps in the housing for balance operation.

The price tag for all this luxury, of course, turned out to be considerable, about $ 3,300 plus or minus an amendment to local taxes and fees, but when did the audiophile stop the price?


  • DAC: 2 × AK4497EQ
  • LPF: 2 × MUSES02
  • Gain: 2 × Korg NuTube 6P1 or 4 × OPX1622
  • Volume control: PGA2311UA
  • Screen: 3.2 ″ IPS, 480 × 360, touch
  • Wireless interfaces: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 (SBC, aptX, LDAC)
  • Battery: 7000 mAh, 3.7V
  • Full charge time: ~ 6 hours with a regular charger, ~ 4.5 hours with QuickCharge
  • Working hours: from 7 to 9.5 hours depending on the mode
  • Built-in memory: 128 GB
  • External memory: Microsd
  • Inputs: USB-C for charging, USB-OTG, USB-Audio and digital coax output
  • Outputs: 3.5 mm headphone, 3.5 mm linear, 4.4 mm balanced headphone output combined with linear, I2S
  • Dimensions: 128 mm × 70 mm × 21 mm
  • Weight: 380 gr.

Normal output

  • Frequency range: 20 Hz - 20 kHz (± 0.2 dB)
  • Common harmonic distortion + noise: 0.0008%
  • Dynamic range: 118 dB
  • Signal to noise ratio: 120 dB
  • Channel separation: 75 dB
  • Output Impedance: ≤0.6Ω
  • Output power (maximum): 400 mW @ 32Ω, 50 mW @ 300Ω

Balanced output

  • Frequency range: 20 Hz - 20 kHz (± 0.2 dB)
  • Common harmonic distortion + noise: 0.0006%
  • Dynamic range: 120 dB
  • Signal to noise ratio: 122 dB
  • Channel separation: 110 dB
  • Output Impedance: ≤1.2Ω
  • Output power (maximum): 750 mW @ 32Ω, 200 mW @ 300Ω

Package and Delivery

Of all the "big three" players, it is Cayinis a record holder in package sizes, the company's product managers decided not to save on external advantage. The player is sold in a large box of cubic shape, on which a thin silver “dust cover” is worn on top. The main box opens diagonally, immediately showing the device itself to the impatient customer. As we continue to unpack, it becomes clear that we are also the holder of an absolute record and set of accessories. In the box you will find:

  • Leather Case
  • protective glass on the screen
  • high-quality USB-C cable
  • adapter with 4.4 mm output to two three-pin XLR connectors for using balanced line-out
  • headphone adapter with 2.5 mm balanced plug
  • two USB-C adapters for digital coaxial output (for RCA and for 3.5 mm jacks)
  • a couple of HighRes stickers

It is the delivery set that makes the Cayin N8 a leading candidate for the role of digital or analog transport for a stationary system.

Design and management

This item caused all (including me) maximumquestions immediately after the announcement. Frankly, the photo player looked strange, but it turned out live that he has his own, special charm. Cayin N8 is rather large, and in all sizes I would not call it a pocket device, unless, of course, we are talking about jacket pockets. At the same time, its case of polished steel looks interesting. I would say about the indestructibility of the device, but I'm not sure that any drop will not affect its back panel, made of rounded Gorilla Glass, so you should refrain from testing for strength and use a complete case. What is nice, the back panel has an oleophobic coating, so it almost does not collect fingerprints.

Of course, most copies are in virtualdisputes were broken around two pens on the right surface, more precisely, around their gilding. Live it turned out that they are not so brilliant, and they cope well with their tasks. The upper "twist" is responsible for the volume, and when pressed, turns off the player. The lower one works as a joystick that switches tracks when moving up and down, pressing it starts playback and pauses it. The only real complaint to these controls that I have left is their slight “wobble” and the overall ease of pressing, which once led to the spontaneous activation of the player in my backpack.

The remaining controls are distributed bydifferent sides of the player. Top placed outputs: 3.5 mm linear, the same "headphone" and balanced Pentaconn, which can act as a headphone output and a balanced option for linear output. Perhaps, the beginning of the transition to 4.4 mm output in the role of "balance" I like, it is mechanically more reliable, and a large contact area will not hurt anyone. The pros also include the ability to make a “real” balanced linear output, which, by the way, was used by Cayin.

On the underside there was room for a hole.reset (I already forgot what it is with other players), memory card slots (built-in 128 GB is good, but it is still not enough), I2S MicroHDMI output format and USB-C connector. The latter, as always with Cayin, is universal: charging, working in DAC mode, outputting audio to external DACs, working with USB OTG discs, and even outputting “numbers” on a coaxial - all this player can do. By the way, about charging, the player has a huge battery, 7000 mA / h, but because of the high power of the records for the operating time, the G8 does not beat. It varies over a wide range from 9 hours at the normal output in the “normal” power mode to about 6 hours at the balanced output in the HIGH2 mode. Fully charging the battery with a regular dual-amp charger takes a little more than 6 hours, fortunately, the player supports QuickCharge, allowing you to charge it from a couple of hours from 20 to 80 percent or 4 hours 40 minutes to charge "from zero to a hundred."

Most of the front panel takes the screen. It’s not as impressive as the other players of this segment, “only” 3.2 inches, but it copes well with its tasks: viewing angles and color rendition are normal, there is a margin of brightness for working in the sun (although you may have to cover the screen with your palm) clicks are recorded normally. Due to the relatively small size of the display, the frames around it can be shaken by the elegant taste of lovers of frameless design, but we, the harsh audiophiles, are not inclined to such sentiments and are ready to change from the SuperAMOLED needle of the screens to the player with a tube output. Especially considering the fact that the Cayin designers made an insidious step: right under the display there is a small window through which, after turning on the lamp output, you can observe the mystical light installed in the NuTube player. Under the salivation window is a triangular button with a multi-colored LED indicator. The indicator shows, as expected, the resolution of the files being played, disgracing those who are not listening to HighRes with red and yellow colors, a button with a short press returns to the playback screen, with a long one brings it to the main menu. By the way, if the LED bothers you, you can turn it off in the settings.

Perhaps I will not sum up any results of this.This section doesn’t argue about tastes, but after a close acquaintance I liked the player rather than not, it looks like a solid, albeit vintage, audio device, rather than a fairly replenished smartphone.


Although the player's software on the site is called Cayin OS, you can seethat HiBy was once again engaged in development: the presence of the HiBy Link function speaks for itself, and the rest of the firmware is similar to what we saw in the Cayin players of the pre-android era. As you may have guessed, Google’s player’s operating system isn’t. Good news for haters, bad for streaming lovers. However, regarding the latter, Cayin said that in their opinion, streaming services can be listened to from a smartphone, transferring them to the player via LDAC, since it works for N8 in both directions and is good enough.

In general, the firmware is familiar and masteredjust a couple of minutes. Immediately after switching on, we get to the menu screen, at the top are the media library buttons, below them is information about the current track with the ability to go to the playback screen. Media Library familiar: folders, playlists, artists, albums, all the songs in a crowd and genres. Different styles are assigned random icons, so watching metal with a cocktail glass, and jazz with a violin is quite funny. The rest of the media library works as you would expect, there are operations for deleting and adding to playlists (including group ones), non-Latin ones are processed more or less normally. Updating the library could have been more lively, but it shouldn’t be called particularly slow either.

The playback screen does not carry any surprises: Largely displayed album cover, playback control buttons, swipe left-right allows you to see the text, if it is recorded in the tags, or detailed information about the track. There is a button to call the context menu: the playback order, delete the track, add to the playlist.

Svaypas work on the main screen. With a gesture from the top edge down, you can open the quick settings panel, there are mainly different sound switches: lamps / op amps, gain, power and so on. There is also available to adjust the brightness of the screen and view information about the player.

Swiping up from the bottom you get two buttons.settings: music and system. There are no special surprises here, on both points. The music settings change the order of playback, remembering the volume and position of the current track when it is turned off, the playback mode without pauses, the digital filter and other settings related to the sound. In the system options are the management of Bluetooth and WiFi, timers off, firmware upgrade, the choice of which buttons work when you lock the screen, the choice of language. Russian language is available, but localization suffers from some roughness. As you probably guessed, the use of WiFi here is limited solely by updating the firmware.

In general, the firmware is stable and functional; I have not found any major problems with the Cayin N8 all the time I use it.


To listen to the device usedThe following headphones: iBasso IT04, Meze Empyrean, Audio Zenith PMx2, Noble Kaiser Encore, Campfire Audio Andromeda and Solaris, Unique Melody Mason V3, HUM Pristine and others.

By creating a player in the Cayin took seriously, andWe decided to implement our own sound, unlike other "tops". As a result, they got a player who stakes on emotions at any cost, sometimes even slightly to the detriment of neutrality. It should be understood that with this player you get three sound options. The balanced output sounds like 3.5 mm in the “solid-state” mode, the main difference is in higher power (and the resulting background noise) and a slightly wider scene. More interesting is the situation with a 3.5 mm output, for which lamp amplification has been implemented, which is not available for a balanced connector. The sound option is switched via the menu, the lamps “start” with a five-second delay, demanded by them for entering the operating mode.

The difference between "lamp" and "opamp" is nothuge, but quite noticeable. If by default the N8 offers an emotional, underlined dynamic sound with an emphasis on macrodetail, then NuTube does exactly what is expected of the lamps: soften the sound, tidy up a little at the high frequency and make the flow warmer. In general, I like the “normal” version of the sound, and the description below will deal with it, but about 10-15% of the music (mainly for some reason jazz and blues) benefit from the inclusion of the lamp mode.

I do not even know whether to talk about the "low"things like resolution and detail, the player clearly corresponds to its top status and by these parameters it has no problems. Perhaps I will not even be particularly focused on this.

Bass perfectly conveys texture, hasbeautiful dynamics, depth and energy. Cayin N8 slightly adds to the weight of the woofer, because of this, low-frequency instruments sometimes seem to be pushed forward a little. The player, of course, is not “basshead” and close, but the woofers are “convex”, providing not only an excellent basis for the melody, but also pleasing the listener with an impressive development of strokes and rolls. Of course, all the instruments also delight us with pleasant corporeality and monumentality, the control of the bass makes it possible to demonstrate this well.

At mid frequencies, there is a slightsacrificed "microdetails in favor of macrodynamics. Naturally, with the N8's contrast, everything is fine, simply because of the underlined emotions and the general “scale” of the MF submission, the smallest nuances remain unnoticed by the listener. However, some subsidence of small parts does not prevent the player from playing naturally and with a good transfer of the nuances embedded in the record. Although, of course, his fad is tracks that take not with equipment, but with emotions, unbridledness and boldness. Imaginary scene Cayin N8 builds well, the depth is close to the maximum, sometimes the player even increases its artificially, the width is slightly less than the maximum, but also one of the largest in the world of portable.

The upper frequencies are close to ideal, for onesmall exception. It is the upper part of the range that is what distinguishes top devices, so I treat it more meticulously than anything else (unless, of course, we are talking about flagships). Naturally, there is a great length, good detail and amazing, pleasing lamination (to put it simply - the source’s ability to separate high-frequency overtones of timbre-saturated instruments). Of course, HF sounds very natural, with excellent attenuation and their only drawback, which, probably, would not be worth mentioning, if it were not about the flagship, these are shortened attack fronts, adding a bit of aggression to the “tops”. However, I would venture to suggest that this was done on purpose, this very much falls into the main outline of the player’s feed.

As for comparisons, this time, a reviewdo without them. Cayin N8 is better than players of more accessible segments. The same Lotoo Paw Gold (non-touch) version is similar in feed, but slightly inferior in the same macro dynamics, so there is no sense to paint the difference with more accessible devices. The other two participants of the “big three” in the face of the SP1000 and LPGT offer a different sound concept, with a smaller accent of emotions and a bit more naturalness, therefore there will not be much meaning in the detailed comparison.


As you understand, the player will have almost enough powerfor anything, including tight one-piece. As for sensitive headphones, they should be listened to from a non-balanced output, in order to avoid background noise, such is the price paid for power. With a player, it is better to choose more neutral-sounding models, but this is already a matter of personal preference.

Stylistically, the player is universal, although, of course,on emotional genres, from vocal to "heavy", he will show himself to the full. However, this also relates more to the subjective choice of the owner. The quality of the N8 recording is sensitive, like any top, I would say that on a 10-point scale of “pickyness” it deserves somewhere 9.

Traditionally, several tracks as examples

Dream Theater - This is the Life Progressive metal is always a test forplayer. On the one hand, it is necessary to play technically, on the other - emotionally. But, of course, this is an ideal task for the Cayin N8, which, while underlining the emotions a little, brings the drama of this track to the utmost level.

Röyksopp - In Space Somehow often lately steelcome across these northern geniuses of electronic music, maybe this is a sign? That's just to understand what it is. Another track perfectly suited to the hero of this review: a little underlined bass combined with a beautiful scene give the effect of immersion and convey the atmosphere of the recording.

Steven Wilson - The Day Before You Came Gorgeous, just great cover. Stephen brilliantly turned the lyrical disco-thing into an elegant rock ballad filled with some kind of inexpressible melancholy. "Eight" in lamp mode perfectly complements the minimalist design of the track, adding liveliness to the guitar, and a bit of naturalness to the vocals.


Cayin made not just a top player, theyrealized their vision of what should be an uncompromising portable sound source. As with any bright product, the result will not appeal to 100% of the audience, but those who are able to appreciate a truly large-scale approach to creating gadgets will not remain indifferent, especially if you add to this the love of emotional flow.

Buy Cayin N8

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