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Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier
Foto © Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd.

Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier

Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier, with this solution, a headphone amplifier will soon be available that not only performs at the highest level, but also operates basically any headphone effortlessly.


Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd., this company is known in this country with the Cayin Audio brand. Cayin Audio sees itself as a specialist for high-quality audio solutions, and the company already has a very long history. Since 1993, the company has been developing hi-fi components, and since 2013, it has also been working with great commitment on solutions in the area of personal audio devices, especially portable hi-res audio players, so-called DAP, as well as headphones.

The latest product of the Cayin Audio brand, the Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier, should prove to be the perfect partner for any headphone. The manufacturer refers to this as an optimally equipped mobile headphone amplifier that leaves nothing to be desired in terms of functionality and quality.

The special feature of the new Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier is that the user can freely choose whether to use a transistor circuit or a tube circuit, both of which are literally available at the push of a button.

Cayin Audio claims to have designed the new Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier as a fully balanced, discrete solution. With the just described choice between transistor or tube, the company speaks of a Vacuum Tube or Solid State Dual Timbre circuit or of Class A and Class AB Dual Amplifier Operation Mode. Both modes can be selected via separate switches on the front of the new Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier.

If you choose the Tube Timbre mode, the signal is processed by high-quality Korg NuTube 6P1 tubes. The Solid State mode uses a circuit based on four Toshiba 2SK209 JFETs.

The special, very sophisticated circuit design means that the new Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier is not really one of the most compact models in its class. With a length of 160 mm, a width of 80 mm and a height of 28 mm, this solution is by all means a powerful one, especially since everything is housed in an obviously once again impeccably manufactured aluminium casing, which has been anodised in discreet black. By the way, the two tubes are visible through small recesses – very elegant, in our opinion. By the way, this solution weighs 550 g.

The new Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier offers all relevant connection options. The inputs include an unbalanced 3.5 mm stereo jack and a balanced 4.4 mm jack. The outputs are designed in the same way, so here, too, you have the choice between unbalanced and balanced control of the headphones.

The volume is controlled by means of a rotary encoder, whereby two MUSES72320 potentiometers are hidden behind it. The rotary encoder is elegantly embedded in the front. A further selector switch allows the output to be adjusted between high gain and low gain to suit the headphones being used.

The volume control of the Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier can be completely deactivated via a pre-mode, which is advantageous when a D/A converter with an already regulated output level is connected as a source.

According to the manufacturer, the Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier delivers up to 4,100 mW at 16 ohms on a balanced connection, 2,600 mW at 32 ohms, and still 320 mW at 300 ohms. For the unbalanced connection, the manufacturer specifies 1,200 mW at 16 ohms, 700 mW at 32 ohms and 80 mW at 300 ohms.

The Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier is powered by a USB C cable, which is also included in the scope of delivery, as well as short connection cables with 3.5 mm jack or 4.4 mm jack. The corresponding connection can be found on the underside, where status LEDs are also available to visualise the charging status. It is interesting that a small screwdriver is also included in the scope of delivery. Why do we mention this here in connection with the power supply? Well, the new Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier does not rely on just any integrated battery, but rather on four replaceable 18650 batteries hidden behind a cover. Specifically, these are four Sony US18650VTC6 with 3,000 mAh 3.7 V each.

The battery life is said to be up to 15 hours in the best case with asymmetrical connection and Class AB, in the “worst” case around 5.5 hours with symmetrical connection, tube and Class A. The batteries can be charged after around 15 hours. The batteries are charged after about six hours with standard mains adapters, in about three hours via Quick Charge QC 3.0.

The new Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier should be available at least in some countries within the next few days, so it won’t be too long before it can be found in specialist shops here in Germany. We do not have an official price for this solution yet, so we use the price of US$ 1,999 quoted by the manufacturer as a guideline. As always, the actual price may differ significantly.

Getting to the point…

With the new Cayin C9 Reference Portable Headphone Amplifier, the Chinese company Cayin Audio presents a thoroughly exciting headphone amplifier that is probably aimed at purists. There is no D/A converter, no Bluetooth, nothing at all in the way of “extras”, but only a symmetrically designed, discretely constructed mobile headphone amplifier. It is exciting that you can choose between solid state and tube as well as between pure class A and class AB.

Manufacturer:Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd.
Distribution:Cayin Audio Distribution GmbH
Price:US$ 1.999,-

About Michael Holzinger

Michael Holzinger, founder and editor-in-chief of HiFi BLOG and sempre-audio.com, has been working for years as a journalist in the fields of IT, photography, telecommunications and consumer electronics.

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