The Metal Jacket!
PROS: durable build, all-metal shells, premium removable cable, neutral-balanced sound with a natural tonality, wide soundstage, nice leather case, big selection of eartips.
CONS: can’t think of any substantial negatives, except (subjectively) if you wish for more bass or more treble presence.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
DAP manufacturers venturing into other audio product lines are very common today, especially with addition of IEMs. And some are getting it right after the follow up releases, learning from their freshman mistakes while improving the design and the tuning. But I haven’t seen one that got it 100% right from the get-go. Not until I got a chance to test YB04 from Cayin, their first IEM releases which checked a lot of boxes for me.
Aside from this release being an unexpected surprise, it was clear that Cayin put as much effort into this IEM as they do into their portable DAPs and desktop equipment. I’m probably getting ahead of myself in this Intro, but right out of the box YB04 felt like it carries the same build quality and house sound tuning DNA as Cayin latest DAP releases. Now, let’s see what I found after spending the last month with Cayin YB04 IEMs.
Unboxing and Accessories.
With their debut release, Cayin didn’t cut any corners, spoiling you with quite an impressive unboxing experience here. The large box it arrived in had a sleeve with nearly a 3D picture of YB04 popping out, and a gift-box inside the sleeve with iems placed on one side, securely wedged in a foam cutout, while a leather case and a box of eartips were on the opposite side. Perhaps, the size of the box was a bit of an overkill for just a pair of IEMs, but it did make the unboxing experience to be more enjoyable.
Included were a detailed users guide, a cleaning cloth, a shirt clip, a cleaning brush, and a leather storage case. The case is not exactly pocket friendly, but it looks beautiful with a Cayin branding on outside, and roomy space on inside for YB04, cable, and a handful of eartips. This case would be good for traveling. Also, included was a separate accessories box with a big variety of eartips, including pairs of S/M/L vocal eartips, S/M/L balanced eartips, S/M/L bass eartips, M/L memory foam eartips, and M bi-flange eartips. I will go over vocal, balanced, and bass eartips and how they impact the sound later in my review.
I’m happy to see more manufacturers taking stock cables seriously, offering better quality wires and more appealing design. Regardless if you do or don’t believe in cables as contributing sound factor, the comfort of cable design, the durability of its build, and overall appeal to match the design of shells are very important to make your IEM stand out from the crowd.
The stock YB04 cable has a standard 1.3m length, 2pin 0.78mm connectors, and 3.5mm TRS Single Ended headphone plug. The housing of the plug, along with y-split, have a matching gun-metal finish octagon shape and feature a clear plastic strain relief. Chin-slider is a small transparent rubbery-plastic piece, also with octagon shape. Toward the connectors, you have a clear heatshrink flexible earhook pieces. 2pin cable connectors have a plastic transparent housing which wraps around earpiece plugs, protecting the joint from moisture and dirt. Those also have red/black dot to indicate Right/Left sides. Due to a design of connector housing, this cable can’t be used universally with other iems, but you can use any 2pin standard cable with YB04.
The cable itself has 8 separate wires, with all 8 conductors braided together below y-slit and then split above it into 4-wire braided pairs going to the left and the right. This is a hybrid cable design with 4 wires being unidirectional crystalized OFC (oxygen free copper) and other 4 having a silver alloy. I like how 4 OFC wires have a brown cable jacket while 4 Silver alloy wires have a sliver cable jacket. This bi-color braiding makes it look more premium. And despite having 8 braided conductors, the cable felt light, very supple, and non-microphonic.
I’m aware that some people don’t believe in cables and have very strong opinions about it. It’s not my intention to trigger the argument, and instead I would like to share what I hear during my testing. What makes sense to me, a metal wire is a material with physical properties of resistivity, conductivity, purity, and unique geometry, all of which put together act as a filter between your source and headphones. Variations of these physical properties can affect the conductivity of analog signal, resulting in a sound change, from a subtle to a more noticeable level. If the talk about cables upsets you, please skip this section.
stock vs EA Virtuoso (SPC) – not much difference in bass or lower mids, but upper mids and lower treble are noticeably crisper now, especially lower treble which becomes a little more fatigue. I wasn’t too crazy about this pair up.
stock vs EA Maestro (Copper) – in this pair up the sound is more balanced, lifting up the bass impact and adding a little more rumble in sub-bass, mids sound a little more layered, and treble has improvement in extension with more airiness. Definitely enjoyed this pair up a lot.
stock vs PlusSound EXO Tri-Copper – here the sound becomes a little more v-shaped with extra emphasis on mid-bass punch and lower treble peaks. I welcome stronger mid-bass punch, but lower treble became a little harsher, and I wasn’t too crazy about this pair up.
stock vs DITA OSLO – this pair up was the most impressive with the sound being more balanced. I hear every frequency band to be enhanced with a little more rumble and better articulated punch, mids still sounding natural and also more layered and more revealing, and treble now having a little more sparkle and airiness while still remaining non-fatigue. I’m not talking about drastic sound changed, more like a very tasteful fine-tuning.
From this test, to my ears copper cables paired up better with YB04. And you really don’t have to spend a fortune if you want to finetune YB04 sound, example being budget EA Maestro copper cable which sounded pretty good.