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.
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.
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.
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.
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.