The N3Pro by Cayin is one of the most impressive DAPs that has become available on the market, and it has already received a lot of praise. At a relatively median price, and with a huge range of modes, features and capabilities, the N3Pro is a compact powerhouse that should be on your list if you’re serious about getting a quality unit.
What’s in the Box?
Upon delivery, you’ll get packaging that is nice looking, but also clean and efficient without many frills. When you open up, you’ll see a black envelope with your usual manual inside, and just beneath that is the player itself.
There is a second layer beneath this one which contains your USB to USB type C cable. There’s also a transparent shell case that is a little flimsy, to be kind, The good news on this front is, if you buy the N3Pro from audio46 you can get the much more substantive official protective case for FREE along with your purchase - which is certainly much better here.
As is evidenced by the Spartan nature of the packaging and the monochromatic black features all the way around, everything about the N3Pro is pretty minimal in design - but this is not to say that it’s at all unattractive. It has a great smooth feel to it and the shape is neither too big or too diminutive, fitting perfectly in the palm. The lettering and buttons throughout also have a great subdued gold color for nice accents.
The front of the device is glass, with about two thirds used for your display touchscreen, and the bottom portion houses the vacuum tube, as well as an LED indicator light.
Ins and Outs
You have a variety of places to plug in available to you, all of which are located on the bottom. The first is the USB port which can be utilized for two way audio, to connect to outboard gear, or to use the device as a DAC. Next to that you have a 3.5mm SE line-out headphone connector with a selectable output level. Then a standard 3.5mm headphone out with 3 level gain control. And finally, there is a 4.4mm balanced line out.
Functionality and Interface
While the size of the display screen may be a little small for some, I found it to be suitable, which I would also say of the interface as a whole. The big volume nob on the side also doubles as the power button if you hold it down. The other buttons below perform simple pause, play and switching between next and previous track.
The touch screen is responsive enough, and the menu that appears when you power up is pretty clean. I will say, it took me probably a little longer than it should have to access the settings and other features, which you can reach by just scrolling the top down like you would on your smart phone.You can also scroll up from the bottom for system settings or music settings.
Also, when you are on your track, you can swipe left to get all your track metadata, such as all your identification info,file size, format, bit rate etc. Also a fun touch, the led light that I mentioned before also functions as a home button, and the color of the light will reflect your file quality - the yellow is for 44.1 CD quality.
As far as all your data, this can hold 1TB of music on it, which can easily be transported via a USB hard drive - and there’s also a micro sd card slot right here on the side. Once you have all your music in, you can quickly go to the folders section here and click scan music, to load it all up, and from there you can easily make playlists and favorites and all that good stuff.
You can also watch our video review to get a visual perspective of Cayin N3Pro
Wireless and Battery
Another bonus here is that the N3Pro uses bluetooth 5.0 technology for high res playback via wireless speakers or headphones. You can also connect to the bluetooth via your phone and use this as a wireless DAC for streaming services like TIDAL or QOBUZ.
The battery life is pretty sollid here, offering a total of 11 hours of playback while for the solid state mode, and 9 hours using the 4.4mm connection or while using the tubes.
Dual Timbre and Tube Modes
Now let’s talk about the big feature here, which is the much touted dual timbre, which refers to the presence of both of a solid state mode as well as the two honest to goodness vacuum tubes - which is very exciting for a compact portable DAP.
The solid state output will emphasize separation and transparency for more dynamic tracks, and this is supported via the 3.5mm or the 4.4mm connections. The tube can only be used with 3.5mm connection and is designed for creating smoother, more liquidy textures and a shine to bring some emphasis to elements like pop vocals. You can also see the tubes light up when in use through the transparent glass facing, which just looks really cool. The inclusion of these two options is one that puts this DAP in its own category of innovation among others out there, and is probably the best feature full stop.
Beyond this, when using the tubes you have the further option to change your output power and sound signature by toggling between two different mode options.
The Triode mode offers a bit more compactness. The soundstage will tighten up just a tad, but the image will also come into a sharp focus and be brought to the front of the mix. Mid range will tilt a little forward here, which is great for really bringing out the most nuanced qualities of both male and female vocals. On a nice rich and warm headphone like the Sivga Phoenix, which I did use here, this is an extremely pleasant quality.
The second mode is the Ultralinear mode, which right away becomes much more neutral. As a result of this, the stage opens up just a bit wider, you’ll get bigger variations between dynamics, and faster transient response and decays. It still has a good amount of the sweetness afforded to it by utilizing those all too wonderful tubes, but is just a bit more natural, and doesn’t have the same level of richness. In songs that are heavily polyphonic and rely on lots of instrumental parts, this mode will deliver a good balance of dynamics, punch and control.
Because of the versatility of the unit both in terms of power options and sound signatures, these work extremely well with a wide array of different headphones and IEMs. I expect half the fun for many of you will be cycling your collection through this device and seeing what kinds of sounds you can get. You can get really granular here and explore a wide range of sounds and timbres thanks to all the customization afforded here For a DAP at this price, this really offers a great amount here.
The N3Pro will be great for you if you want
- easy to use interface and functions
- superb and versatile sound quality, thanks to solid state and tubes
- a nice looking, compact unit
You can order Cayin N3Pro (comes with a $29 worth FREE emerald green leather case for a limited time) at Audio46.