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Cayin i5 Master Quality Portable Digital Audio Player Review

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Cayin i5 DAP Testing and Subjective Listening

The Cayin i5 has been with me for several months already, using it almost every day and trying it with several IEMs and headphones that comes to my way. I’m not quite confident to give out my full review until Cayin has released a stable, fully functional and almost bug free firmware. The latest version v2.0 is the latest firmware version to date; and it introduces DAC functionality aside from fixing bugs and other issues. The overall performance is also now better with the v2.0 compared to the earlier firmware versions. The only fix that I have been waiting for is for them to fix the issue regarding videos not syncing with the audio; whether playing a local video file or watching YouTube videos. The audio is somewhat delayed by a second when watching videos, same goes for the UV meter effect. According to Cayin’s representative, they may fix this issue in later or future firmware updates, but it’s currently not their priority. It’s not big deals since this is basically a dedicated portable audio player. The feature which allows you to install third party apps on the i5 is already an added feature or value, which you don’t usually enjoy in most DAPs (except for some Android based DAPs).

I haven’t measured the actual battery life of the Cayin i5, since I don’t use it continuously in a day. And I use different IEMs and headphones with it, thus volume varies and so thus power consumption. However, I do feel that it was able to provide more than 6 hours of playback, just not sure if I reached the advertised 10 to 11 hours of play back. Like I said earlier, battery life varies from one user to another, depending on the use. Generally speaking I don’t have any issues with the battery life, but charging time is somewhat long. It takes around 4 hours to fully charge the battery with a 2A charger, which is not included in the package.

In terms of the overall system performance like navigation, browsing and interacting with the user interface, it is good but not 100% smooth. There are times when it becomes sluggish (specially when third party apps are involve, thus the task killer) and doesn’t feel very liquid. Good thing is unresponsiveness is a rare occurrence, at least based on my experience with my unit. I’m not sure if the 1GB memory is the limiting factor or the processor itself. When I tested it with the AnTuTu benchmark, it only got a score of around 14004, which is comparable to an entry level smartphone nowadays. Nevertheless, when it comes to audio performance I didn’t encounter any problems or experience any hiccups when playing music; whether it’s a simple MP3 file or a DSD file.

During my tests with the Cayin i5, most of my gear are highly efficient C/IEMs to medium efficient headphones; like Unique Melody’s Miracle V2, Campfire Audio Andromeda, Audio64’s A12, Ultimate Ears’ UE18 Pro, HiFiMan HE400s and Audeze EL-8. With C/IEMs, my listening volume is around 25 to 33 depending on the impedance of the C/IEM; and it’s around 45 to 55 with medium efficient cans both at low gain setting. I don’t have any hard to drive headphones on my inventory, like the Sennheiser HD 800 (S) at 300 ohms or Beyerdynamic’s T1 2nd gen at 600 ohms, so I can’t comment whether the Cayin i5 can drive those higher impedance cans properly or it can drive them but not to their fullest.

Hissing doesn’t seem to be a problem with the i5, at least for the set of C/IEMs I tested it with. I tried to listen carefully to every music I threw at it, and I observed that hissing could be observed with the Andromeda at high gain setting. But the hissing is very minimal and almost inaudible, and definitely negligible. Probably with some ultra-sensitive IEMs it may become apparent, but generally speaking hissing would not be a problem on the i5 (except of course if your music or the audio file itself is plague with background noise).

Comparing the Cayin i5 with the other DAPs I have was somewhat challenging, because they all sound good to my ears. The Cayin i5 was very clear, detailed, dynamic and generally speaking a warm sounding DAP. I think based on what my ears tells me, the Cayin i5 is fairly neutral sounding from top to bottom but is leaning towards the warm side. I don’t think that it’s an analytical kind of DAP and definitely not bright at all. It has this smooth sounding tone giving me that liquid and lush feeling whenever I listen to my music. It could produce deep sounding base with enough punch, rich and lush mid-range and a good amount of treble.

However, when I was listening to the Cayin i5 and the Jotunheim with dual AKM4490 (not a DAP but a desktop DAC/AMP) with the same set of music and IEMs/headphones, going back and forth; my ears are telling me that the Cayin i5 is a little laid back sounding and doesn’t offer that much layering and depth. Yes, I know that both are not on the same level and are different type of products, but just out of curiosity since some of you might be using the Cayin i5 as a DAC/AMP for your PC. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that the i5 doesn’t sound good, but just pointing out regarding its tonality and sound characteristics. After all, our ears are unique from one another and each one of us has his/her sound preference.

When comparing with other DAPs I have reviewed before, like the Opus#1 and L&P L5 Pro, I would say that the i5 is somewhat similar with the L5 Pro specially when it comes to the dynamics and warmth-ness. To my ears, the Opus#1 is a little bit less warm sounding compared to the i5, but probably with more treble presence. While all of them produce detailed, high resolution and great sounding audio, for me the Cayin i5 wins due to its user interface, set of features and overall capability.

Now to conclude this review…

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