Page 8 Scores on the Door

I think the overall feeling of these players as been summed up pretty well from what me and Josh have had to say. As Josh noted the sound of these across the board was really impressive, surely approaching the much more expensive players but it seems the area they lack more than anything is with the overall package. Even then in some of these areas they outclass more expensive models such as with the iBasso feature set.

Without doubt the three signatures that the Opus, Aune and Cayin all possess could appeal to one of you or work better with your earphones in terms of synergy. With that being said it does seem that the Aune was at the highest in terms of overall technical ability. Sadly the iBasso was at the bottom.

Out of the three players that do seem viable the sound alone could be the big selling point, which I know some of you will base your opinion off. That being said when it comes to overall package things do change up a little. Josh said he would take the Cayin N5 if he could only have one and you no what, when I have been in a rush to go to the gym or walk over town, for simplicity the Cayin has been my pick. If in a more relaxed environment then I grab the Aune for sound pleasure and Josh is the same if it is purely for sound.

The Cayin has to be the best value, it is the cheapest player, it has a very functional UI albeit basic, a bucket load of features and while it did hiss a little with the more sensitive CIEMs, it had the trade off of being able to drive higher impedance cans quite well from its balanced output. Paired with a fun but not overdone signature it has a lot of merits to offer and at the price you will be getting an overall great price to performance ratio. I have not dealt with Cayin products before but as first impressions go this is pretty darn good. We have also decided to give the Cayin our Great Value award.

Great Value

The Aune was more expensive and all throughout the review wound me up for how basic it was. Low memory, tiny battery and sometimes frustrating control system could sometimes get me down. But then you look at how much effort Aune put into the internal design and listen to the result and you know they weren’t messing around. The scalability of the sound here was the best out of all the products we had here and with Josh likening it to his rare and expensive AK240SS it is not a product to be scoffed at. If you plan on just putting your music on shuffle and listening then you probably won’t see an issue on this player, but if you want to enjoy artwork and the smaller things, some of the not sonic things may work against you.

The Opus was the last to turn up to us and more of an unknown quantity than any other player, being from a company with no real audio background. In the nicest way possible this seems to be the cheap mans AK. It attempts to look like them, it uses similar DAC chips to them and I can even see similarities in the UI, which may I add could do with just a little tidying up. Since this seems to be the most modern of the players with its touch screen and chiseled looks, it’s a shame that it was not all out with WiFi, streaming, app store etc but instead it seems its biggest case to buy lies within its analytical sound signature which certainly will have its lovers and does stand its self apart from any other player here. Of course the price of this is a bit more than the rest of the players which it only stayed on the level of and never really exceeded, value is not as high as with say the Cayin.

The iBasso seemed well worked on paper and in design but the continuation of weird UI traits in the clipping and overall disappointing sound makes little left to be said on that player.

Here is a chart to at least have a go at quantifying the individual areas of each player.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 14.09.04

This article has certainly helped us gather a better insight into what is going on with all these new DAPs and the bottomline is we are impressed and are going to try and keep more up to date with the latest offerings. We already have the HiSoundAudio S6 in our hands for future review and will surely be looking at the stuff like Echobox Explorer which will soon see release!

Go Back to Page 1 for the Introduction

Page 2 will cover Features

Page 3 is UI

Page 4 is Build 

Page 5 is IEM Performance

Page 6 is Headphone Driving Ability

Page 7 is Sound Quality

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.
    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.


    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
        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.