Cayin i5 DAP Review: Conclusion
The Cayin i5 master quality digital audio player is now available in the US and in UK. At the time I published this review, retail price is around $499 USD. The leather case is not included in the package and it’s an optional and separate purchase, as well as the CS-30TCR USB Type-C to Coaxial cable accessory which is priced at $69 USD.
Cayin or Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., Ltd is not new when it comes to audio components; they have been in the audio industry since 1993. They have released several portable digital audio players before, like the N5 and N6; however the i5 is their first ever “smart DAP” based on Android operating system. Many audio companies now are using Android as the base operating system for their audio players since it offers a wide range of functions and capability compared to Linux based. Although this is the company’s first Android based DAP, I have to say I am quite impressed with the i5.
The Opus#1 was a good mid-range DAP as well, but it lacks many features like third party app support, wireless connectivity options and many more. Admittedly, I don’t have a Fiio X7 and the Pioneer XDP-100R on hand so I can’t comment on which is better in terms of audio quality and overall user experience. But what I can say is that the Cayin i5 is a great mid-range DAP offering a plethora of features and functions and is priced competitively in the market. Cayin is also actively improving its firmware and releases updates from time to time, so I’m quite sure this isn’t one of those DAPs that right after it gets released in the market and after 1 or 2 firmware release then the project is forgotten. I think Cayin will fully develop the i5 to its full potential; besides I’m still waiting for them to fix the audio/video sync issue (hopefully they will). It’s not really a deal breaker but it would be great if they can fix this as well.
In terms of build quality, it’s pretty solid and sturdy. The body is made of CNC aerospace aluminum alloy with a nice shiny carbon fiber back plate. The buttons offer a good tactile feel when pressed, while the volume knob doesn’t wobble and doesn’t feel loose when turned. The 3.97″ 800×480 TFT IPS touch screen offers a generous display area, and is just the right size for a one-handed operation. Let’s not forget the number of connectivity options (both wired and wireless) the i5 has despite not having a 2.5mm balanced output.
When it comes to audio quality, where it really matters, the Cayin i5 doesn’t disappoint at all. Thanks to its AK4490EQ DAC paired with the different Op-Amp chips, the i5 is able to produce a smooth, rich, fun and engaging audio with superb detail and clarity. Overall, I find that the Cayin i5 is a very competitive portable audio player and offers great value considering the set of features against its price. If you are on the market looking for a “smart DAP” that won’t break the bank, consider the Cayin i5 on top of your list.