Cayin N3Pro

Cayin N3Pro – DAP with single ended or tube output stage

With the new Cayin N3Pro, Cayin Audio now offers a portable hi-res player that not only features a fine D/A converter but also the option of adjusting the sound characteristics to your own preferences through two differently designed output stages.


It is quite remarkable how the market for portable hi-fi players, so-called Digital Audio Players or simply DAP, has developed in recent years. The solutions offered by various specialists are more and more sophisticated, feature outstanding converters, impeccable output stages and extremely flexible application possibilities, and at the same time offer impeccable, convenient control. At the same time, prices are falling, so that the quality offered is available to more and more users.

One company that may not be one of the real “big players” in this segment, but is still able to come up with interesting products time and again is the Chinese company Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd. which offers its solutions under the name Cayin Audio.

Already last year they announced an outstanding DAP with the Cayin N8 HR player, which clearly took the role of the flagship. Cayin Audio called the Cayin N8 HR-Player a reference, because this player is to be classified as a Master Quality Digital Audio Player. The first is a D/A converter capable of processing signals with up to 32 bits and 384 kHz or DSD256, and the second is an output stage that can be operated either as a transistor or tube output stage.

Cayin Audio took the Cayin N8 HR player as a model when it came to the development of the latest offspring, the Cayin N3Pro, which on paper is the successor to the Cayin N3 but is much more similar to the flagship than a solution for beginners. As with its big brother, it features an impeccable DAC, impressive functionality and thus flexibility, but above all a feature known as dual timbre, i.e. an output stage that is designed in both solid state and tube.

As with the Cayin N3, the Chinese company speaks of a particularly compact DAP measuring only 115 x 63.5 x 18.9 mm and weighing only 195 g, but this is much more powerful and of a completely different quality level than the previous DAP in the entry-level class.

The new Cayin N3Pro is based on a completely symmetrical design, and this starts with the D/A converter, as two 32-bit AKM AK4493EQ are used. This allows data in Linear PCM format with up to 32 Bit and 384 kHz, and DSD with up to DSD256.

The DAC is not only available for content stored on audio data carried on microSD cards with a maximum capacity of 1 TByte, the Cayin N3Pro can also be used as an external mobile D/A converter via USB C.

Via USB C the Cayin N3Pro can also be connected directly to an external DAC, thus acting as a so-called transport, whereby Linear PCM with up to 32 Bit and 768 kHz and DSD up to DSD512 can be played back.

The new Cayin N3Pro can also contact the outside world via Bluetooth and WiFi, which the company refers to as a Hi-res Wireless DAC. For WiFi, for example, a module in accordance with IEEE 802.11n is available, while Bluetooth relies on a Bluetooth 5.0 module that supports LDAC as well as SBC and AAC, and thus duplex Bluetooth with up to 24 bits and 96 kHz.

For sufficient performance an Ingenic Semiconductor XBurst 1 GHz MIPS processor is to provide, as operating system one trusts also here in the particularly developed Cayin OS.

Once again, the operating concept focuses on a touch-sensitive 3.2 inch IPS display with a resolution of only 480 x 360 pixels. In addition, the player also has a number of “real” controls that guarantee basic functions such as playback control and volume control in a direct manner.

For those who want to control playback via smartphone while on the road the new Cayin N3Pro HiByLink Remote is available via Bluetooth.

Let’s now turn to the feature that makes the new Cayin N3Pro so special in its class, namely the output stage. Although the Cayin N3Pro is not the first portable player to offer a choice between two different technologies, it is the first one that allows this in this price class. For the big brother Cayin N8 HR player, for example, which the developers used as a basis, you have to dig much, much deeper into your pocket.

As already mentioned, the manufacturer himself speaks of a so-called dual timbre based on vacuum tubes and solid state, i.e. you can choose between a transistor and a tube output stage, whereby two Raytheon JAN6418s are used as tubes.

The Cayin N3Pro has several modes of operation, two of which use the tubes mentioned above. The manufacturer calls them Triode and Ultra-Linear, whereby both should have a rather warm character, once more, once more a little more subtle. Then there is of course the pure solid state mode, whereby not only a 3.5 mm stereo jack for unbalanced integration of headphones can be used, but also a 4.4 mm 4-pin connector for balanced headphones. This connection is not available for the two tube modes.

Via the balanced output the new Cayin N3Pro is said to deliver a remarkable 800 mW into 32 Ohm, with the 3.5 mm connector in Solid State there is still 250 mW into 32 Ohm available. Based on the tubes the Cayin N3Pro delivers 250 mW into 32 Ohm.

The Cayin N3Pro also offers two line out as well as a digital output in the form of an S/PDIF interface.

We have already mentioned that the new Cayin N3Pro is extremely compact and lightweight. This is due to the aluminium housing, which is also intended to ensure robustness and a fine feel. The appearance of the black player can be considered extremely elegant, especially since the controls shine in a noble brass tone.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the new Cayin N3Pro has a playing time of up to eleven hours, whereby this applies to operation in solid state mode. If you rely on tubes, the playing time should be up to nine hours.

The player comes with a USB C cable and a transparent case. Optionally, matching leather cases should be offered.

The new portable Hi-res player from Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd. is available right now. But it will probably not be too long. The price is quoted by the manufacturer as € 649,-

Getting to the point

Cayin Audio took the Cayin N8 HR player as a model when it came to the development of the latest offspring, the Cayin N3Pro, which on paper is the successor to the Cayin N3, but in terms of its equipment is much more like the flagship than a solution for beginners. As with its big brother, it features an impeccable DAC, impressive functionality and thus flexibility, but above all a feature known as dual timbre, i.e. an output stage that is designed in both solid state and tube.

Manufacturer:Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd.
Distribution:Cayin Audio Distribution GmbH
Price:€ 648,-

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