Page 5 Hiss and IEM Performance

I don’t think any one DAP works as good with every type of headphone. Lots of factors such as power output and amp design will come in to play to decide how it works with an individual type of headphone. For me personally DAPs main focus should be IEMs and earphones. Now because they tend to be of low impedance and have multiple drivers with different impedance ratings, a low output impedance of a DAP is vital to not over dampen or skew the frequency response of the in ear monitor at hand (or should I say ear). Fortunately all four DAPs here a very competent rating, especially the iBasso which is said to be lower than 0.1 ohm. The lowest number I would be worried about is 5 ohms and as you can see we are well under that. If using IEMs it may benefit you to try the balanced output of the Opus to get it a little lower as you can see from the chart below.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 13.44.58

As Josh has some more standard DAP references in the AK240SS and AK380 while I only have a great sound but heavily modified AK120 which is not a very typical standard for people to go buy. I thought the sound section would be delivered better by Josh so I will let him take over from here.

Josh – Hiss is where we will begin, and to test this I always use the Vision Ears VE6 because it is one of the most sensitive IEM’s on the market and the most susceptible to noise floor that I own. The easiest way to test this is to set the volume to 0 and press play on any song. Considering these are all portable players built primarily for IEM’s the results were pretty disappointing but with varying levels of failure…

HeadDAPS-4

All of these players had too much noise, the iBasso was a higher pitched hiss than the others and it did clip every now and again, I don’t know why, but it did. The DX80 was the worst of the bunch tied with Cayin but the N5 didn’t clip or have any odd sounds going on, it was just a consistent hum.  Closely following was the Aune which was a lower pitched hiss like the Cayin, with no clipping or pops just a smooth hum. The lowest floor of all of them was the Opus; it was roughly the same as my AK240SS actually which is still a way from being perfectly silent. Opus had a couple of pops every now and again too. The closest device I have to silence with a VE6 is the Leckerton UHA-760.

With any normal earphone the noise floor is considerably reduced audibly on every player and becomes nearly acceptable with the poorer performers.

HeadDAPS

How about how they actually sound with controlling IEM’s in general? Well, here is far more positive as all of these players are able to sound authoritative with earphones. The general signature of the DX80 may lead you to believe otherwise but more on that later on. The Opus is the only other player that I will give a mention to here as well and that is only because initially it sounds incredibly thin and weak and therefore you start questioning if it is even suitable for IEM’s! This does change with every hour of listening put on it though and it handles IEM’s well after it’s loosened up a little.

Go Back to Page 1 for the Introduction

Page 2 will cover Features

Page 3 is UI

Page 4 is Build 

Page 6 is Headphone Driving Ability

Page 7 is Sound Quality

Page 8 is Our Summary

Sonny Trigg
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  • Michael Gunin

    Thanks for such a detailed and well-thought comparison. May I ask which IEMs you’d recommend to pair with N5?

    • Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed it. First of all I would say an IEM that is not super sensitive as the N5 is a little hiss prone. Once we are past that if you would like a recommendation then a price range would be great in helping me give you a few models to look at.

      In terms of sound signature it depends what you want as the end result. Because of the more fun signature of the DAP if you like the sound of that, then a fun sounding IEM will pair nicely. If you want to try and balance the sound you could get a leaner, dryer and more aggressive IEM with a faster bass and then this may plumpen the sound a bit. Due to its signature it is much easier to pair with compared to say the Opus with its thinner brighter sound, that was more picky.

      • Michael Gunin

        I see, thanks. Still choosing at $100-300 price range and a smooth, non-sibilant sound for jazz, soul, funk, classical. Dunu Titan 3, Echobox Finder and Trinity Atlas were among the options you’ve recommended me via PM, also considering Oriveti Primacy and Lear LHF-AE1d. I have DX50 as a source and think of N5/N6 as a possible upgrade, also ATH-ESW9 is in my stock already.

        • Oh sorry Michael, I did not put 2 and 2 together and realise we had talked over PM! All of them 3 IEM I recommended actually suit the Cayin nicely. I have the Lear coming very soon as well so look out for a review on that. The Cayin N5 IMO is certainly an upgrade over the DX50, sadly I have not heard the N6, but have it on good ground it is more analytical and neutral than the N5, which is a little warmer and more fun. I would put funds to a new IEM first though and do the DAP upgrade later.

          • Michael Gunin

            Yep, I guess you are often asked for advice which is reasonable 🙂 Also Dunu-2000 you’ve recommended as I remember now. So, will look forward for your review of Lear since the model is really interesting. And, will save funds for IEMs first and (as you recommend) only after that will proceed with upgrading the DAP.

            BTW, any advice for some portable closed-back upgrade to ATH-ESW9? I’m thinking of Oppo PM3 and 2nd gen of Momentum as my top ideas.

          • I don’t know the ESW9 to well but for closed portables we just got through the Meze Classics 99 and Jays U-Jays. Meze seem ok but the U-Jays are currently blowing us away. Josh is handling the review on both of them but I have listened to both and would happily recommend the Jays. They sound good and are an all round solid package on top of that! Also if you have a DAP with some power the ZMF Master Model is always a safe bet, great planar sound, a bit on the fun side but sadly a little inefficient.

          • Michael Gunin

            Oh, thanks – didn’t consider any of these, will read more. And, some final thought: would you recommend N5 over Shanling M3/M2?

          • Yes we will have reviews of the jays and Meze soon enough. Yes I would, I prefer N5 has an all around player and in sound.

          • Michael Gunin

            Terrific. Will wait patiently, u-Jays do look!

          • Stuart Macgregor

            The Aune m2 has fantastic sq as good as the mojo and thats the basic player,oh and it has digital out(soon)

          • It does indeed sound fantastic. They are going to add a digital output? That would have to be a new model, I dont see how they could over firmware unless they just did not finish it in time for release and circuitry is already there?

  • baby turtle

    Cayin N5 does have line out.
    It’s combined with SE headphones output.
    You can choose which one to use via player settings.
    As for digital filters, Cayin N5 has 5 of them.
    http://cdn.head-fi.org/1/1c/1ccacf8d_img_keyFeatures_01.gif
    Just FYI
    Thanks for comparison. Nice work!

    • Yes I am aware of the line out option on the Cayin but like what the AK models have, it is not true as it still will go through the amp section of the device. A separate jack is needed for it to be straight from the DAC and unaltered, thats not to say I had problems with the Cayin Line Out option. Also my bad for the typo on the filter options, cheers for pointing that out (will go amend now) and that chart is nice, I had never seen it.

  • Clarence

    The opus sounds very musical to me, neutral with a tad warmness, not analytical at all.
    The bummer is not be able to use Tidal.

  • Luke Lee

    Hi, really enjoyed this detailed comparison. May I ask what type of ciem will pair with the opus #1 do you recommend?

  • Luke Lee

    Hi, really enjoyed this detailed comparison. May I ask what type of ciem to pair with the opus #1 do you recommend?

    • It depends what kind of sound you are after of course….

      The opus isn’t so far devoid from neutral that it warrants any crazy sonic changes from that of the earphone, obviously the opus signature will have an effect but it’s not going to make a bassy earphone like the Heir 8.A thin and reference class. I think it is a good place to start and let the signature of a CIEM do the talking so what sound are you after in a CIEM, then we can go from there!

      • Luke Lee

        I see thanks. The type of sound I’m after is warm,fun and detailed signature. I’m currently using aaw a3h pro with the opus and looking to upgrade my ciem in the future.

  • MR A RAHMAN

    Hi thanks for a very comprehensive review.i have a Aune m2 pro what headphones do u think would pair best
    I am after a fast fluid bass and lower bass
    Regards Ateeq

    • It really depends on how much you are wiling to spend. I guess you want headphones that go over your ears but what is your budget and do you want portability or open back?

      • MR A RAHMAN

        Hi i want to spend about 200 pound or cheaper but the main thing true to the original sound just like hearing the low and mid base .open back is fine i also use the Aune b1 headphone amp .have u had any experience with it .
        My current headphone is sony
        MDR-1A
        Regards Ateeq

  • Karol Kędzierski

    All the things written about the dx80 are actually crap. Is exactly the opposite way. The bass is well articulated, with full body and really nice extend. “The mid range continues the same way and I just struggle to enjoy what the DX80 offers, it feels so vague in every sense, I just don’t get what they have gone for here” — what?? The mids are actually the hero of dx80. Having the same DACs as the AK120II and AK240 it really sounds similar. The mids are forward and dominant, really defined, clear, and airy with great separation of instruments for this price range. The trebbles are actually a bit laid back, so it makes the dx80 warmer sounding DAP but even then, they are sparkling and detailed enough. Maybe u didnt have good pair up with headphones. I listened to dx80 with Pinnacles P1 (fantastic clear sound, great soundstage, very natural sounding, but lacking in subbas, no hiss at all), Sennheiser IE80 (enormous soundstage, even too big, deep but overflowing bass, too high level of hiss for me) and over ear headphones- Bang Olufsen H6 – amazing pairing, great soundstage for closed back headphones, superb defined bass, great female vocals.