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.
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.