Cayin N3Pro

Comparison.

In this test, I was using EE Odin and 64 Audio Nio to listen/compare between N3Pro and other DAPs, volume matched.  Each of these DAPs, besides a difference in tonality and pair up synergy, has its own Pros/Cons, all of which should be taken into consideration depending on your preference.

N3Pro vs iBasso DX160 – starting with a soundstage, when comparing N3Pro SS vs DX, the DX is wider, but when switching to N3Pro Tubes the soundstage is the same as DX, even a touch wider in N3Pro.  With tonality, depending on pair up, DX is a little brighter and leaner in mids, while N3Pro has more body and stronger and tighter bass impact with both SS and Tubes outputs.  With Tubes, TR mode of N3Pro gives sound slightly warmer and smoother tonality with a slower speed, while UL still sounds smooth but with more speed and articulation.  Also, keep in mind, DX is Android DAP with direct app support.

N3Pro vs Shanling M5s – with soundstage, when comparing N3Pro SS vs M5s, N3Pro is a touch wider, but when switching to Tubes timbre, the width improvement in N3Pro is a lot more noticeable.  With tonality, M5s is a warmer and smoother sounding DAP, so it actually has a tonality closer to N3Pro Tubes, while N3Pro SS sounds a little brighter.  Both have a strong bass impact, but N3Pro yields a deeper sub-bass rumble in various pair ups I tried.  Another interesting observation, the vertical dynamics of N3Pro SS is similar to M5s, but Tubes output of N3Pro improves the dynamics, making the sound more expanded and layered.

N3Pro vs Dethonray DTR1 – soundstage of N3Pro Tube and DTR1 are on the same level, having wide expansion, while N3Pro SS is a little bit narrower.  With tonality, both N3Pro Tubes and SS have a smoother tonality in comparison to more revealing brighter sound of DTR1.  Also, both tubes/ss outputs of N3Pro have stronger and faster bass impact in comparison to more neutral DTR1.  When it comes to a technical performance comparison, DTR1 and N3Pro tube (UL) have more in common with a dynamic layered sound which has the edge over N3Pro SS.  Another thing to keep in mind when comparing Pros/Cons, DTR1 has a non-touch screen.

N3Pro vs Lotoo PAW6000 – in this comparison I found LP6k to be somewhere in a middle, between N3Pro Tubes and SS when it comes to soundstage.  LP6k soundstage is wider than N3Pro SS, but not on the same level as N3Pro Tubes.  With tonality, LP6k is smoother and closer to N3Pro Tubes, though not exactly as textured.  Also, LP6k bass is softer in impact and not as fast as N3Pro Tubes/SS.  With technical performance, when it comes to layering/separation/dynamics LP6k has an edge over N3Pro SS, but N3Pro Tubes comes closer to it.

N3Pro vs Cowon Plenue R2 – this is another interesting comparison since I find PR2 to have a performance somewhere in between of N3Pro Tubes and SS as well.  With a soundstage, N3Pro Tubes is definitely the widest in comparison.  Plenue R2 is a little be narrower but still wider than N3Pro SS. With a tonality, I also noticed how PR2 is a little bit smoother, having fuller body when compared to N3Pro SS, but it is not quite there when it comes to comparison with N3Pro Tubes.  And I also noticed how in many pair ups PR2 bass has as much sub-bass rumble as N3Pro, but when it comes to mid-bass punch PR2 is a little softer and slower.  Technical performance, such as layering/separation of sounds in PR2 is nearly identical to N3Pro SS, while N3Pro Tubes is superior in comparison.

cayin_n3pro-31

Wired/Wireless connections.

In this section of the review I will go over various wired and wireless connections I tested and verified with N3Pro.

Digital usb-c out

You can use N3Pro as a digital transport which I verified connected to iFi micro iDSD BL using usb-c OTG cable.  I was able to adjust the volume from N3Pro and iDSD.  The sound was typical of micro iDSD BL signature with a natural smooth tonality.

Coax out

You can also use N3Pro as a transport connected to iFi micro iDSD BL using Cayin CS-30TCR Type-C to coax cable.  In that connection, volume can only be adjusted from iDSD.  The sound tonality was a little brighter, soundstage was wider, and I was able to hear more air between the layers.  For me personally, I enjoyed COAX out better than USB-C with N3Pro.

cayin_n3pro-39

Line Out

Connected to Romi Audio BX2 amplifier, the sound tonality of N3Pro 4.4mm BAL Line Out, the output which is shared with phone out, is a touch warmer relative to N3Pro direct 4.4mm SS Phone out.  The sound quality of N3Pro 3.5mm SE Line Out, the clean unamplified dedicated line out, is a little warmer as well when compared to 3.5mm SE Phone out.  In both cases, BX2 does improve the soundstage expansion and I also hear some improvement in dynamics.  Based on these two tests and considering how transparent BX2 is, I can draw the conclusion that Line Out (output of DAC) is warmer, while internal SS amp ckt brightens it up a bit.  Of course, Tubes output is a different story.

cayin_n3pro-38

USB DAC

N3Pro was recognized right away on my Win10 ThinkPad T480s without the need to install any drivers. I was able to adjust the volume from laptop and from N3Pro.  N3Pro connected as USB DAC sounds nearly identical as playing the same file directly from N3Pro.

Bluetooth Wireless

Bluetooth Tx – tested with Hiby WH3 TWS, working 30ft away without a problem, and it sounds the same as paired up with other wireless sources.  The support of different codecs makes you appreciate the difference in quality as you step through them.  Also, you can control playback directly from wireless earphones/headphones.

cayin_n3pro-37

Bluetooth Rx – Paired up with my Galaxy S9 smartphone, using HibyMusic with UAT option enabled, N3Pro was connected using UAT codec and works flawless as a wireless DAC/amp paired up with my phone as a wireless transport.  If UAT disabled in HibyMusic, wireless connection switches to LDAC.  The sound quality was nearly identical to playing directly from N3Pro.

cayin_n3pro-36

HibyLink

HibyLink allows pair up of N3Pro with your smartphone running HibyMusic app to use it as a remote control/display of the DAP.  This is not a Bluetooth pair up to stream music, as some are mistaken.  You enable HibyLink under Bluetooth control on N3Pro and enable it on your smartphone in HibyMusic and then search for N3Pro to pair up from a phone.  This way you can keep N3Pro in your pocket or backpack with headphones connected, and control the playback and volume of the DAP straight from your phone.

Conclusion.

Relative to other DAPs in Cayin’s current lineup, N6ii and N8, N3Pro is considered to be entry level, but there is absolutely nothing entry about it.  I do understand that Cayin narrowed down their DAP product line to N3Pro, N6ii, and N8, where “ii” indicates Android audio player, and two others are not.  But each player is packed with so many unique features that I’m having a hard time putting a label on them.  There is no question flagship N8 will be superior in every aspect, but if you want to get a taste of a pocket DAP with Tubes, N3Pro is a scaled down version of N8 that will surprise a lot of people, especially those who still think BAL output is superior to SE.

Besides having a similar display and identical OS/GUI, this Nate Jr (as in N8 Jr) follows the same design architecture with selectable Solid State and Tubes timbre outputs, and its Tubes output has 2 unique operational modes, Triode and Ultralinear.  It’s not an Android DAP where you can install and run apps from, but its hi-res Wireless connection allows pair up with your smartphone to use it as a wireless DAC/amp to stream apps.  Overall, N3Pro packs a list of impressive features, but in my opinion, Tubes output is still the main attraction of this $479 DAP which makes it stand out from the crowd because you will not find another audio player with Tubes to compete with N3Pro in this price bracket.

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

    Like

    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.

      Like

      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

        Like

      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.

        Like

    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 😉

      Like

  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

    Like

    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.

      Like

  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.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s