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Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player – DAP with tube output stage and new converter

It’s a portable hi-res audio player that’s not just called the Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player, but actually plays in the reference class, Cayin Audio says of this new solution, which comes with a number of exciting features.

Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player, with this the company Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd. with the brand Cayin Audio once again expands its product range in the area of personal audio devices, whereby one wants to fulfill particularly high demands with this, as the name of this solution reveals. The new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player bears this name quite rightly, according to the manufacturer, because it provides a DAP that clearly plays in the reference class.

A completely newly developed D/A converter, which forms the heart of the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player, is to contribute significantly to this. But the structure of the output stage also appears extremely exciting, as well as some other features that distinguish the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player.

Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player – DAP with tube output stage

So, of course, first and foremost stands out an output stage in tube technology, which the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player features. In this case, it is not really a surprise in the case of Cayin Audio, because the company already presented a DAP equipped with an output stage based on tube technology for the first time in 2018, namely the Cayin Audio N8 H-R Player, i.e. a predecessor of the new, now current Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player.

The new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player is the result of years of development, according to the manufacturer, with this generation once again undergoing a fundamental revision and thus optimization to provide users with the best possible high fidelity audio performance with the latest digital and analog audio technologies, as described by the manufacturer itself.

New D/A Converter – ROHM BD34301EKV 32 Bit Current Mode DAC from ROHM Co. Ltd.

The central component of the new DAP from Cayin Audio comes from the Japanese specialist ROHM Co. Ltd. and is called ROHM BD34301EKV DAC. The Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player uses two of these D/A converters, which are always operated in dual-mono mode and are supported by dual femtosecond oscillators as clock generators.

Cayin Audio points out that the ROHM BD34301EKV 32-bit current mode DAC chipset has never been used in a portable device before, and that the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player is a first.

It was an immense effort to realize this, the manufacturer states on record, because they had to develop the chipset defacto from scratch.

“We spent a lot of resources learning, experimenting and tuning the supporting system for this new ROHM DAC chipset. We developed six rounds of engineering PCBs in four months to explore the potential and implementation options for BD34301EKV. We captured massive raw data via I2S and compared it to data from numerous analog output stages we experimented with and matched it to the ROHM demo board to validate the improvements we made. We see a lot of potential in this chipset, as it excels in both technical measurements and listening impression.”

Ye Maosheng, Lead R&D Engineer Cayin Audio

The Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player’s D/A converter is capable of processing signals in Linear PCM at up to 32 bits and 768 kHz, as well as DSD up to DSD512.

Foto © Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd. | Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player
Foto © Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd. | Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player

Output stage with Korg Nutube

The output stage of the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player is a state-of-the-art, particularly sophisticated solution, according to the manufacturer. It relies on an implementation with fully discrete, fully balanced tube amplification by a matched pair of Korg Nutubes. In addition, the output stage has two innovative functions. First, there is the so-called Dual Amplifier Operation, also known as DAO for short, which allows the user to choose between Class A and Class AB. Also available is the so-called Dual Output Mode, which the company abbreviates as DOM, and which allows the choice between Standard P mode and High Power P+ mode.

In keeping with the balanced design of the output stage, there are of course two connection options available, so in addition to an unbalanced 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack, there is also a balanced 4.4 mm PENTACONN. Incidentally, a line out is also available, this is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.

Google Android 9 as a basis

The new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player once again relies on Google Android as its operating system, which ensures a high degree of flexibility. In addition to playing your own content from the portable hi-res player’s memory, you can use it to access almost all streaming services; it’s just a matter of having the appropriate app installed.

Of course, you can also access content from your own network directly. Via Direct Transport Audio (DTA), all third-party apps are supposed to bypass the SRC in Google Android and facilitates bit-accurate playback with all streaming content.

The manufacturer itself equips the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player with the apps Cayin Music and HiBy Music and also offers HiByLink support.

  • Foto © Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd. | Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player
  • Foto © Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd. | Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player
  • Foto © Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd. | Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player
  • Foto © Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd. | Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player

Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC

The new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC, which is actually an ARMv8-based SoC for tablets and smartphones. However, this offers manufacturers in the DAP sector the immense advantage that all relevant components are mapped on one platform.

The new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player thus also features integrated WiFi according to IEEE 802.11ac as well as Bluetooth 5.0 including support for SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD and LDAC.

USB is of course also available, whereby it is a USB 3.0 interface, implemented as a USB-C port, which is of course designed for simple data exchange, but also as an audio interface and thus allows the direct connection to a PC or Mac to use the Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player as a portable D/A converter. Since the Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player also supports OTG, direct connection via USB to a corresponding external DAC is also possible.

It should also be emphasized that the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player also has an I2S port to connect the DAP directly to an appropriately equipped D/A converter. The aforementioned 3.5mm stereo mini-jack can also serve as a coaxial S/PDIF interface.

The memory is equipped with 6 GBytes as direct system memory plus another 128 GBytes as internal memory and can of course be expanded at any time with microSD cards up to 1 TByte.

The central control element is of course a generously sized display, which has a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels with 5 inches and is designed as an OLED.

In addition, there are several buttons for direct playback control and, of course, first and foremost a rotary encoder for controlling the volume, whereby a particularly high-quality solution in the form of a JRC NJW1195A is used.

High-quality aluminum housing

The new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player presents itself with a sand-blasted housing, CNC-milled from a block of aluminum, with dimensions of 147 x 77.5 x 25 mm. The portable hi-res audio player weighs 442 g.

By the way, the manufacturer specifies a playing time of eight to eleven hours for the integrated 3.8V 10,000 mAh battery, which seems quite remarkable in view of the tube output stage in particular. Charging is, how could it be otherwise, via the USB port of the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player, whereby this supports Quick Charge 3.0.

“Besides designing a high-performance audio circuit, the biggest challenge with the N8ii is fitting the two Nutube tubes into a DAP enclosure that is properly damped, isolated and “suspended” to minimize microphonics from movement and EMI interference in various scenarios along the way. With the screen and battery already occupying the main space, we designed a unique compartmentalized CNC-machined enclosure that allows for two isolated chambers to house the Nutube vacuum tubes separately.”

Bin Liang, CEO of Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd.

Pricing and Availability

The new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player was first unveiled these days at CanJam New York 2022 and is expected to be available as early as March 2022, according to the manufacturer. So far, we only have the price, which the company quotes in its international release. Accordingly, you have to factor in US$3,499 for the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player.

Getting to the point

There are indeed several features that distinguish the new Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player, first and foremost, of course, once again the fact that Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd, Cayin Audio’s parent company, relies on a tube output stage here. In addition, the Cayin N8ii Reference Digital Audio Player has a D/A converter, which is used for the first time in a DAP, so it is a premiere. And an alternative to those solutions that relied solely on components from ESS Technology Inc. due to the market situation in recent years.

PRODUCTCAYIN N8II REFERENCE DIGITAL AUDIO PLAYER
PriceUS$ 3.499,-
BrandCAYIN AUDIO
ManufacturerZhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. Ltd.
DistributionCayin Audio Distribution GmbH
More about this manufacturer at HIFI BLOG

Michael Holzinger

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

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