I analyzed N6ii sound with U18t and Solaris IEMs and T5p 2nd gen and Empyrean Headphones while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ariana Grande “Break up with your girlfriend”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.
Please keep in mind, the sound I’m describing below is how I hear my specific earphones and headphones paired up with N6ii during the testing.
I did collect sound impressions straight out of the box, then after about 3 days of continuous playback, and later after a few more days while running battery tests. I usually don’t preach about “burn in” effect and respect whatever people believe in, but based on my personal experience with N6ii I noticed the sound changing from more neutral to slightly warmer, getting fuller and more organic in body with treble taming down. Throughout this listening process, I was going back’n’forth with a few other DAPs, using them as my point of comparison reference.
Using IEMs/headphones mentioned above, I’m hearing N6ii as having a smoother tonality with a fuller body, especially in lower mids, and a less aggressive, more natural musical sound. It has a deeper, slightly elevated bass response which is a bit relaxed with a slower attack, natural more organic mids, and also smoother and more natural treble. In comparison to a number of other DAPs, the extra body in lower mids and tamer treble sparkle was quite noticeable, giving N6ii a more natural tonality even with a few of the songs where I typically hear a brighter leaner sound. As a result, instruments and vocals have a rich natural timbre.
It has a pretty good dynamics (vertical expansion of the sound), but I hear slightly less air between the layers since treble is more natural (less sparkly). Also, I hear a clean transient response of the note on/off transition from the black background, but the speed of how fast details pop out of the blackness was a little more relaxed, perhaps even a bit laidback. I spent quite some time comparing it to other DAPs, and I hear the sound of N6ii to be less aggressive, a little more relaxed, more analog, less digital.
The soundstage is wide, but not exaggerated. It’s not the widest I heard, and that of course will depend on earphones/headphones, recording material, your hearing, etc. But it was on par with many other flagships, having a natural realistic width and relatively accurate imaging with convincing placement of instruments and vocals. Of course, as already mentioned, a lot of this will be dictated by technical performance of your earphones and headphones, but I wanted to mention that N6ii as a source shouldn’t be a limiting factor here.
Originally, I was only planning to have a short first look preview to go over the features and first sound impressions. But as I was spending more time with N6ii, I was also getting more daily questions about comparison to other DAPs. That’s how I already accumulated many comparison notes. Of course, every DAP has their own Pros and Cons, and you will have to figure out which ones are at the top of your priority list when deciding on your next DAP. Just keep in mind when comparing: N6ii battery life, full open Android OS with access to Google Play, dual band WiFi, Bluetooth w/LDAC and aptX, 4.4mm BAL output and it’s power rating. Also, the comparison notes below were collected using 64 Audio U18t for sound monitoring, volume matched in every comparison.
N6ii vs iBasso DX228 (DX220 w/amp8) – DX228 soundstage is a little wider; doesn’t mean N6ii staging is narrow, just under my test conditions I hear DX228 having a little edge. N6ii sound has fuller body (especially in lower mids), smoother more musical tonality, with deeper sub-bass and a little more relaxed (slower attack) mid-bass impact, more organic mids, and smoother treble response in comparison to a more transparent, more neutral sound of DX228 with a faster, tighter bass, more revealing less colored mids, and a touch more sparkle in treble.
N6ii vs Lotoo PAW Gold Touch (LPGT) – similar soundstage width. N6ii tonality has a fuller warmer more natural body (especially in lower mids) vs LGPT being more transparent, brighter, leaner. Both have a deep low end extension, but N6ii bass has a little more impact, the bass (N6ii) sounds more analog with a slower attack and longer decay vs LPGT having a tighter faster bass. N6ii mids/vocals are thicker, warmer, more organic, while LPGT is brighter and more revealing. Also, LPGT treble is crisper and airier.
N6ii vs Cowon Plenue L – very similar soundstage width. There are a lot of similarities in tonality and sound presentation between these two DAPs. Both have a deeper, more relaxed low end with a more analog flavor. Both have a fuller body more natural mids, though I’m hearing N6ii sounding just a touch warmer and fuller. But one noticeable difference is in treble, where N6ii presents treble in a smoother, more organic way, while PL has a brighter, crisper, more extended treble.
N6ii vs A&K SP1000 SS – N6ii soundstage is a touch wider than SPK, under my test conditions. The sound signatures are closer in tonality, being more natural, more musical, not as revealing, but there are some subtle differences. SPK bass is a little faster while N6ii bass is a little more relaxed, with more analog texture. Lower mids in N6ii have a little more body, actually reminding me a lot of SPKM Gold tonality (or SPK CU), especially in lower mids, while SPK SS is a little more neutral in comparison. Also, I find that SPK SS has a little more sparkle in treble.
N6ii vs Sony WM1Z – N6ii soundstage is a touch wider than 1Z, under my test conditions. N6ii sound is a little more organic with a fuller body, while 1Z is a little more neutral. Both have a very similar bass extension and impact, and to my ears the bass in both has a touch of analog texture. But I do hear the bass attack a little faster in 1Z. Mids are a little leaner, more neutral in 1Z, while N6ii has a little warmer, smoother presentation of mids. Also, 1Z treble is a little crisper, brighter, slightly more elevated.
N6ii vs Hiby R6Pro – I hear a lot of overall similarities between these two DAPs. Soundstage expansion has a similar width, maybe with N6ii being just a touch wider. Both have a similar bass extension and bass impact, except N6ii sounds a touch more relaxed, while R6Pro is a little faster. Both have fuller body lower mids and more natural upper mids, but N6ii is a little smoother and more organic, takes just an edge off R6Pro. Also, treble is a little smoother and a touch less crisp in N6ii, giving it a little more natural tonality. One difference I did notice, N6ii has a slightly better sound dynamics with improved layering and separation of sounds. I mentioned this in a few other recent DAP comparisons; it doesn’t mean that R6Pro is congested/compressed, just that I find other DAPs to have a slight edge over it.
N6ii vs Cayin N5iiS – N6ii has a wider soundstage, a little smoother tonality, slightly more body in mids, and a little less sparkle in treble. Also, N6ii has a superior technical performance with better dynamics, and improved layering and separation of sounds. I wouldn’t say exactly night’n’day difference, but you can clearly hear the performance of N6ii being superior over N5iiS.
N6ii vs Cayin N6 – N6ii has a wider soundstage. There is a difference in tonality with N6ii being warmer, smoother, more laidback, while N6 being brighter, crisper, more revealing. N6ii has more sub-bass rumble, better extension, fuller body in lower mids, and smoother treble, while N6 sound has a faster bass, leaner mids, and crisper treble. It’s hard to believe how much this DAP evolved in 4.5 years from N6 to N6ii.
Every time I receive a new DAP for review, the first question I hear from my readers “which DAP sounds better?” The problem is while the price gap is still pretty wide, the sound performance among flagship level DAPs starting to get closer. One of the more noticeable differences is in tonality which will affect the pair up synergy with your favorite IEMs or full size headphones.
While testing N6ii, I found its sound to be different from many of my other DAPs, offering a smoother and more musical tonality, with more analog texture, slightly laidback presentation, and fuller body with a touch less treble sparkle. It makes no sense to describe it as the best or the better, when in reality it’s different and unique, and will be up to a personal sound preference.
What I can objectively say, N6ii has a fast processor with a snappy Android performance and access to Google Play to download your favorite streaming and other entertainment apps. It has a rather impressive battery life, and it features a more reliable 4.4mm BAL headphone output with 530mW of power (@32 ohm load), which also doubles as a balanced Line Output. It has a good design ergonomics, and I especially like the convenience of volume wheel and a power button combination (like in A&K DAPs). And last, but certainly not least, is the main selling point of N6ii modular design where you can replace its DAC/amp combo to update the sound signature.
I’m looking forward to spending more time with this DAP and updating my review with more IEMs/headphones pair up impressions, as well as testing it with other various wired and wireless configurations.