Cayin N3Pro

GUI.

Considering “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, N3Pro interface is nearly identical to their flagship N8.  This is a custom Hiby software, optimized for maximum audio performance, and it’s not Android based.  So, don’t expect running apps or streaming directly from this DAP.

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The N3Pro GUI is split into two main screens to simplify the navigation and operation.  The Home screen has a clear layout when browsing songs by Folders (to access micro SD card or attached USB OTG storage, as well as to scan the music), List (Recently played songs, tagged My Favorites, or custom Playlist), Songs (every song in alphabetical order), Artist (every artist in alphabetical order), Albums (all albums in alphabetical order), and Genres.  Underneath of browsing section, you have an area for the currently playing song with an artwork thumb (if one is embedded), name of the artist/song, file type and remaining time.  You can skip the song by swiping left/right.  By tapping on the song or pressing Home button, you will get to Playback screen.  To return to Home screen, press on back arrow in upper left corner.

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In Playback screen you have a more expanded view of embedded artwork if one is available.  If not, Cayin has their own picture artwork, or you can add and replace your own background image in Settings.  The artwork could be swiped to the right to display detailed song info or to the left to display lyrics (if embedded).  Above artwork you also have brief info about the file type and in the upper right corner 3-dots shortcut to bring up a menu with play mode selection, current playlist (by default shows songs in the current folder), tagging as my favorite, adding to a playlist, or deleting the file.  Underneath the artwork, you have a scroll bar to fast forward/back through the song and current time position / total song duration.  Below it you will find a song name, touch buttons to skip the track and play/pause button.  The screen and controls are very clear and easy to read.

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The Notification bar at top displays all the relevant info at a glance, including small icons showing volume level, playback and play mode, gain setting, digital output setting, EQ, and a battery status with a percentage.  When you swipe Notification bar down you have a set of 8 shortcuts to choose the Gain (low, med, high), switch between SS and Tube (when using 3.5mm output), switch between UL (Ultralinear) and TR (Triode) operation modes, Headphone or Line Out selection of balanced output, DSD output (D2P, DoP, or Native), Bluetooth enable/disable (long press to get into BT setting menu), USB mode (to switch between data or usb DAC), and enable/disable Idle shutdown.  Every shortcut has a clear label and a graphic icon for an easy identification when it’s enabled or disabled.  Underneath of the shortcuts you have brightness control slider and link to About where you can find a device name, micro SD storage info, WLAN/MAC address, FW version, and OTA version.

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When you swipe the display up, you get a link to Music setting and System setting.  Music Setting brings up a comprehensive menu with Play Mode (order, single repeat, random, list repeat), DSD output (D2P, DoP, or Native), DSD gain compensation (up to +6dB), breakpoint resume (off, song, or location), Gapless on/off, max volume, startup volume, Fade in/out, Replay gain, Line Out setting (Low, Mid, High voltage levels), L/R Balance, PCM digital filters, EQ (10band with +/-12dB custom adjustment, 8 genre specific presets which could be modified), Plays through folders and albums option, and displaying album art option.

System Settings starts with WiFi on/off, Bluetooth on/off (including HibyLink on/off and Quality with a list of all the codecs, Language selection, Font Size (small, middle, big), Background image, Backlight time, Lock screen (very useful to enable/disable), Key Lock on/off and Key Lock setting (with individual controls of Volume, Play/Pause, and Prev/Next – each one can be enabled/disabled separately), Led on/off (for home button), Idle shutdown and time, Scheduled power off and time, Reset, and System upgrade.

With any selected menu choice under Music and System Settings, the available options are displayed in a pop-up window at the bottom of the screen with a clear graphics and easy to read text, so you know exactly what you are selecting.  I found the GUI to be organized in a very logical way, everything is easy to find and self-explanatory, and the most important – you have text and graphic icons, so everything is easy to id.  Also, navigation is relative fast, I didn’t notice any lag.

Considering compact size of N3Pro, it is very easy to hold it in one hand and navigate touch screen with a thumb.  And no matter which screen you are in, tapping on home button always brings you back to the main Playback screen.

Page 4 – Sound Analysis and Pair up.
Page 5 – Comparison, Wired/Wireless connections, and Conclusion.

10 thoughts on “Cayin N3Pro

  1. 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

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    1. 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.

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      1. 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

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      2. 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.

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    1. 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 😉

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  2. 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

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    1. 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.

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  3. 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.

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