Cayin N7

Sound Analysis.

I analyzed N7 sound performance using UM Mentor Multiverse and Aroma Jewel while playing a variety of my usual test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, Bob Marley “Jamming”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.  I kept N7 on playback loop for 5-days as part of the burn-in before I started analyzing its sound.

I prefer to describe the DAP sound based on the comparison to other DAPs and pair ups with different IEMs/headphones since the DAP by itself doesn’t have a “sound”.  What we hear is how it sounds through connected IEMs/headphones or the difference in sound relative to source comparison using the same pair of IEMs/headphones.  This is my subjective opinion, describing how I hear it while analyzing the sound of N7 and how it compares to other DAPs.

Relative to IEMs I tested, I hear N7 to have a big 3D soundstage with holographic imaging, probably one of the biggest soundstage expansions I heard from a balanced output.  Also, it has a natural resolving tonality with a very subtle coloring.  Bass stands out with a deeper rumble and a tighter mid-bass impact, a typical bass performance of many Cayin DAPs especially when it comes to the depth and the texture of the rumble.  Mids are more natural without being “more” colored, and the same goes for treble, though treble is more revealing.

I think treble rendition in N7 is what makes it stand out.  In comparison to other DAPs, N7 has a very natural and still quite detailed treble which helps with resolution and sound layering.  It does lose a bit of a sparkle in favor of a more natural tonality, but unlike some other daps, it doesn’t roll off the treble or adds coloring to the upper frequencies.  At the same time, if you are dealing with IEMs that have a hotter lower/mid-treble response, N7 takes the edge off it without compromising on the resolution.

When switching between Class A and Class AB, Class A adds more weight to the bass and more body to the lower mids.  It does benefit some IEMs, but I personally preferred to keep it in Class AB, especially since N7 will generate less heat and the battery will last longer.

Another big question is about PCM up-sampling to DSD512.  I setup a test with the same song (Michael Jackson “Billie Jean”) in FLAC, DSD64, and DSD512 formats, and copied these 3 files to N7 and RS8.  Each DAP has its own different sound tuning, so I was focusing more on technical performance differences.  I can hear some difference between DSD64 and DSD512 on both DAPs; it makes sense for N7 since it processes DSD directly without any up-sampling, and DSD512 sounds more expanded in soundstage, dynamics, and layering/separation of the instruments.  But when it comes to comparison of FLAC vs DSD512, I hear more difference with RS8 where each format is processed individually, while in N7 the FLAC and DSD512 versions of the same song sound closer in technical performance.  There was some difference in volume between playing FLAC and DSD on N7, so I had to make sure to match it.  But the overall expansion of the sound had more similarities with DSD512 rather than DSD64.  Just describing what I’m hearing.



This testing was done using Jewel and MM, volume matched in every comparison.  In my description notes below, LG/HG refers to gain setting and AB is amplifier type.  And I was using balanced output only.

N7 (HG, AB) vs N8ii (HG, AB, Tube, P+) – N7 soundstage expansion is a bit wider.  Tonality between these two is slightly different.  Their bass response is similar, both DAPs have a deeper rumble and more articulate bass characteristics.  With mids, especially when you focus on female vocals, you get a little thinner and more revealing tonality with N8ii while N7 adds more texture and body without compromising on retrieval of details.  Treble presentation is also slightly different, with N8ii having more airy sparkle and N7 having a more natural textured extension without losing micro-details.  If you want more shimmer in your cymbals, N8ii will get you there, but if you like more natural tonality while keeping upper frequency details, N7 does a great job.

You do need to be realistic, N8ii is still top of the line DAP and N7 not going to replace it.  N8ii is a true flagship with a great flexibility of many sound-shaping options.  But there are some pair ups where no matter what you try, it’s hard to get the treble under control without coloring the sound.  Here, N7 can give upper frequencies a more natural tonality without exaggerated coloring.  Also, both DAPs have a similar Android performance.


N7 (HG, AB) vs N6ii (R01 card, HG) – N7 soundstage expansion is a bit wider.  Tonality does have some variation, but it’s mostly in treble.  Bass response between these two is very similar, Cayin daps always stand out with a deeper sub-bass rumble and a tighter mid-bass impact.  Mids are not too far off either, having a more natural organic tonality, but N7 treble is a little smoother which gives its vocals more organic texture, while N6ii w/R01 treble has a bit more crunch which gives vocals a bit colder tonality.  You wouldn’t even think about it listening by itself to N6ii, but it becomes more apparent when you are comparing it to N7 which just sounds more natural.  Also, N6ii with its slower processor and older Android OS does feel dated in comparison to a faster performance of N7.

N7 (HG, AB) vs N7 + C9 (LG, Tube, AB) – with N7 LO going into C9, you adjust the volume from C9, and the tonality becomes very close to N8ii.  The bass and the mids are still close to N7 original tonality, but the treble now gains more sparkle and more air.  One interesting observation, I always enjoyed adding C9 to DAPs to improve the soundstage expansion, while here it doesn’t improve it as much because N7 by itself has a huge staging.  Switching N7 and C9 to Pre mode sets C9 at max gain with N7 controlling pre-amp input.  In this pair up the imaging gets even bigger, and mids and treble are a little brighter and a touch colder.  If you need more power, adding C9 is a great solution while still keeping your setup transportable.


N7 (Class AB) vs Hiby RS8 (Class AB, NOS, Turbo off) – These are very close in technical performance and the power output since volume setting was nearly the same (with Turbo off).  Perhaps, N7 soundstage is a touch wider.  But the main and the most noticeable difference here is in tonality of mids with RS8 having more body and a bit less sparkle in treble, while N7 being more transparent in tonality (less coloring) and having more treble airiness.  In a way, N7 tonality is between RS8 and N8ii.

N7 (Class AB) vs L&P P6 Pro – I can hear a few differences here.  N7 soundstage is a little bit wider, expanding more left to right, though P6 Pro is no slouch when it comes to the soundstage expansion, just doesn’t quite match the level of N7 width.  Tonality of P6 Pro is warmer, especially in mids which are smoother in comparison to slightly more revealing mids/vocals of N7.  Another difference is in impact of the bass.  With P6 Pro the bass hits a little harder, similar to N8ii, while N7 bass response is a bit softer.

N7 (Class AB) vs Sony WM1ZM2 – Right away I noticed N7 having a wider soundstage while M2 has more depth/height than width.  Tonality of N7 is smoother and more balanced while M2 has a bit more energy in treble, elevating it which takes some focus away from vocals.  Of course, this will depend on the pair up synergy between DAP and iems, but I noticed that with Mentor Multiverse the focus shifted away from vocals and I didn’t enjoy that as much.


Page 3 – Pair ups, Wired/wireless connections, and Conclusion.


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