PROS: Choice of Solid State or Tubes, 2 Tubes modes: Triode and Ultralinear, high power SS output, duplex (Tx/Rx) Bluetooth with LDAC and UAT support, responsive interface, balanced Line Out, solid build, price.
CONS: 5sec tube warm up delay (necessary, but still a bit annoying), no internal storage.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Manufacturer website: Cayin. Available for sale from various retailers like Musicteck.
There are magic words that can get attention of any audiophile, and Tubes is one of them. Now, if you add on top of that in a compact pocket friendly DAP and at lower mid-fi level price, this attention will be undivided. And that is exactly what happened when Cayin announced their latest N3Pro DAP. Actually, the undivided attention was a follow up to the initial confusion triggered by “N3Pro” name. With so many recent Pro releases, people assumed it is a refresh, similar to R3 Pro, M3 Pro, AP80 Pro, etc., without realizing N3Pro is a brand-new DAP.
Once you start reading the spec of N3Pro, you quickly recognize that it has nothing to do with the original N3. Instead, it follows dual Solid State/Tubes architecture similar to flagship N8. Cayin even took it one step further by offering Tubes output in two different operational modes. With all this new stuff under the hood, I was surprised they kept N3 name. But nevertheless, this reincarnation or reboot, or whatever you want to call it, is the focus of today’s review after I spent the last month testing N3Pro. Now, let’s take a closer look at what I found.
Unboxing and Accessories.
Considering this being Cayin’s “entry” level DAP, the packaging is less glamorous, in a smaller compact box inside of an all-black sleeve with an outline of N3Pro (and a hint of two tubes) on the front and a highlight of main features on the back. Inside the box you will find N3Pro surrounded by a secure foam cutout, and a collection of basic accessories such as a detailed manual booklet, screen protector, durable usb-c cable, and a clear protective TPU bumper.
It makes sense that Cayin keeping the number of accessories down to a minimum so it can distinguish its “entry” level model from mid-f and flagship. But nevertheless, usb-c cable was rather nice, and I would take this protective bumper over a cheap silicone case. The bumper keeps the front and the back open while protects all the corners and sides, has a generous cutout for ports at the bottom and the volume wheel, covers micro SD slot, and has playback control buttons covered as well, yet still easy to press. The bumper enhances the grip and will give you some level of protection if you drop it.
You can also get the optional leather case ($29) which IMHO worth every penny. With an aged green color finish and gold infused swirls, the case also features a cutout with a metal mesh on the back, similar to popular Dignis cases. N3Pro slides from the top with a case fitting the DAP like a glove. Micro SD card is covered, playback control buttons are covered as well and easy to feel and to press. Volume wheel has easy access, and all the ports are open and easy to access at the bottom.
Page 2 – Design and Under the Hood.
Page 3 – GUI.
Page 4 – Sound Analysis and Pair up.
Page 5 – Comparison, Wired/Wireless connections, and Conclusion.
20 thoughts on “Cayin N3Pro”
Alex, Nice moniker given N8 Jr. 😊
I have been using it too, fully agree with the article. It punches above its price segment.
Hi i cannot decide witch one to buy the dtr1 or the n3pro,
Can you help me it is my first dap as well.
Mostly i listen to heavy styles of music (tech death metal /deathcore etc…)
Especially fan of heavy distorted guitars
Witch one by your opinion will suite me better
Thank you in advance
They are both great DAPs, but DTR1 will be more suitable for hard to drive headphones that are demanding and need more power and for user who already have another main DAP, while as a first DAP for all around use and covering my genres of music – N3Pro will be more appropriate.
thank you but where did you heard better
sound quality / guitar sound
i dont care about the touch screen wifi
im looking for the sound
And the quality of the sound will depend on pair up. If you are using sensitive iems or some other easier to drive multi BA or hybrid iems, dtr1 might not pair up as well, and I would suggest N3pro. But dynamic driver iems and full size harder to drive headphones will shine better with dtr1.
Any comparison on the sound quality and depth of imaging vs. the N6ii with E01 or E02? Thanks for the review!
I didn’t spend too much time comparing these, maybe in a near future I can update the review. But one thing I can comment on, N3pro SS output will be inferior in dynamics and soundstage to N6ii. Plus, N6ii gives you a lot of options of different dac/amp combos. If Cayin going to design N3pro at half the price to be better than N6ii, nobody is going to buy their N6ii 😉
I have the Hiby R5 and was thinking of upgrading. The R5 is a very nice sounding product, but it doesn’t quite work out for me because I find myself using BT headphones or IEMs sometimes (when I’m running around or walking the dog) and a wired connection if I am able to—usually rarely— have a moment to listen without multitasking. I mostly use the R5s android apps, particularly Qobuz. The problem is, and often discussed on head-if.org, is that the BT performance of the R5 is not great. You literally cannot put the R5 in a back pocket and not get constant drop outs. My iphone is rock solid in it’s connections. I also don’t love the size of the R5 screen, it’s small for my hands and the touch screen, even after removing the screen protector, is not always responsive. My iphone, on the other hand, has a terrific large and responsive touch screen. It sounds like the N3Pro might be a good step up for me because I can, as I understand it, use my phone as a transport and streaming device, and take advantage of essentially lossless transmission to the N3Pro, which will do the rest, including LDAC. I am I correct that this implementation is solid and that the N3Pro has a robust BT signal? Much appreciated. Dasa
You said you use iPhone? IPhone doesn’t support LDAC, the highest codec it support is aac, so not even aptx. N3pro doesn’t even officially support aac, not listed in the spec, even though a few people on head-fi mentioned they were able to connect using aac, so you might end up using only sbc codec. Also, with you running around and chasing after your dog, tubes output will be ringing when you shake the dap, unless you switch to solid state output (a good option in your case). If BT wireless is your main use, stick to your iPhone. Wireless transmission doesn’t involve dacs or amps or any other fancy features of higher end daps, it bypasses everything, and smartphones have the best implementation for wireless use, especially tws. Most of the dap wireless performance is average. R6Pro and N6ii have more solid wireless and R8 is one of the top Android and wireless performer, but the price goes up.
Thanks. I was under the impression that it was the N3Pro’s Bluetooth that was being broadcast to my headphones—therefore LDAC or something perhaps better than AAC would go to my headphones. Good to know about the tubes being not ideal if there is motion, even when walking? I am just trying to balance improved sound quality and the flexibility to go BT or not. I also like the “discovery” ability of using streaming services like. Qobuz. I don’t mind spending more, up to say around 1k, I just thought that the N3Pro was going to do the broadcasting to my headphones. I appreciate your thoughts.
Hi, I am in the market searching for an upgrade from my modded Zx507. I am interested in the n3pro, shanling m6 pro, m8, lotoo paw 6000 and the new hiby r6. I like warm and musical sound that is not overly analytical. Which would you recommend? Thank you.
saw you posted this question in N3pro thread. I’m not familiar with zx508, m6 pro or m8, so can only go by N3 pro, PAW6000, and new R6 2020 which I have tested. For the warm and musical sound, you can’t beat the tubes of N3 Pro, those are the real tubes, but it is not android DAP. PAW6000 is neutral smooth DAP, but not as musical as N3Pro, though it is more solid build. New R6 2020 is more revealing, brighter tuned. Now, I did read that M8 is also warm smooth and it has android, though you have to use a patch to get Google Play to work. But also, if you are looking into M8, Hiby R8 is also up there, being smooth and natural and with full android access.
Hey man how is it going?
As i told some time ago, i did purchase the DX120, very happy with its SQ.
But…this review makes me think of what im missing out of other DAPs. So, I’d sell my Dx120 on january. Considering i don’t care about wireless connections, is the N3pro better than the DX160? Or, does it have s different signature?
I covered comparison between N3pro and DX160 in my review 😉 https://twister6.com/2020/10/09/cayin-n3pro/5/ – 160 is a brighter DAP while N3pro is a warmer, smoother tube sound.
I’ll let you know if i have a question.
Merry Christmas (in advance) and stay safe.
Great review sir. Im looking to get the n3 pro to pair with moondrop s8 and since I saw u also reviewed those, I am interested to know how the waterfall hiss will be with the n3 pro since the s8 is quite sensitive.
I’m sorry, the Moondrop S8 was reviewed by another reviewer so I personally can’t comment on this pair up. But considering SS and Tube outputs and 2 tube modes it’s like you have 3 daps, and I’m sure you will find one will pair up better to your liking.
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Oh Im sorry I didnt realise that. Thank you for you answers. 🙂
I am wondering whether it acts as a wireless receiver (Airplay, DLNA). Hiby r3 pro can do so, actually, so I really hope this one does! Thanks for the review!
It does support BT Rx so you can use it as a Wireless tube dac, I tested that. But I don’t know if it supports airplay or dlna. Don’t think it was listed on cayin product page. You might want to double check it.