Software

Platform

The N3 uses a system on a chip or SOC platform for its Hiby Music custom software delivery (Ingenics XBurst1). For those using the N5 or N6 the architecture is actually very similar and follows much the same UI functionality. In fact, this SOC platform is widely used on entry level DAP models in one form or another due to its matured stability and excellent speed.

It is not app or WiFi capable, it is not as advanced as the touch-based i5 Android platform but it is not as power or memory hungry as the i5 either. This is a pure DAP platform through with additional BT functionality via its BlueCore CSR8811 module.

Credits: Cayin 2017

Speed

Boot Times

Boot up time is still a bit on the slower side at 15 seconds compared to the N5 and N6 which booted in around 9-10 seconds. It is much faster than some of the new Android based DAPs. For instance, it is around 10 seconds faster to boot than the i5 and 30 seconds faster than the FiiO X5 3rd Gen.

Power down time is much the same levels as the N5 and N6 at 2-4 seconds max compared to the slower Android platforms which can take a few seconds longer.

Scanning

Scanning times was equally impressive though again not quite as fast as the i5. 2400 16BIT Flac tracks loaded onto a 64Gb Sansdisk microSD card took approximately 63 seconds to be scanned and entered into the Music Category database.

By comparison, the i5 took around 20-25 seconds though the FiiO X1 Gen 2 took a whopping 10 minutes for a similar process. Once updated, navigating the library was reasonably snappy with no noticeable lag between browsing, selecting and playback starting

Features

There are 3 groups of software features on the N3. Those that deal with media management, features for settings and those that deal with connectivity. If you have owned or used the N5 or N6 you should be familiar with the media management and settings tools. However, the connectivity features are relatively new in this OS platform due to the additional functionality of the USB-C output as well as the new BT aptX capable 4.0 module.

Media Management

This begins with a fairly familiar home screen on the N3 offering you 4 specific media management settings as well as one general setting option where some media management settings can be tweaked. The home page itself is a linear navigation system from left to right or right to left operated by the capacitive buttons below the screen. Again, previous Cayin DAP owners will understand intuitively what each will mean but for first-time users, you have Music Library, Music Category, Playing Now and Music Settings as your 4 main areas of media control.

Music Library & Music Category

Both essentially do the same thing and that is to allow you to browse your music files and select the desired track you wish to play. They differ though in terms of how the media is filed and presented. The Music Category is your classic tag driven media management tool and will show up once you have opted to update your music Library. The weird thing I have always found about this OS is that the updating or scanning option is not in the Category menu but in the Library menu where the tag driven database is not accessible.

Category Titles

Once your database is built (remember 63 seconds for 2400 FLAC tracks) you can opt to drill down into your media via a scrolling list of subtitles that appear the moment you select Music category. These include: songs, my favorite, recently played songs, album, artist, genre, and playlist.

Genre Drill Down

The drill down organizational mapping of the Music Category is something which I have long been a bit of a critic since the same traits are inherent in most every version and that is the genre category’s lack of organization. It is not new in this OS and I am not 100% sure this will ever change but if you have tons of song under one genre you won’t see any artist>album>song organization for faster track selection. Rather you simply get one huge long list of songs by title with no indication of which artist or album it belongs to. Thankfully there is a better drill down organization in the artist and album category.

Music Library

The Music Library is your basic file explorer took for memory cards and OTG flash disk or external power Hard drive sources. This is going to be incredibly useful if you are OCD on file naming convention and folder management or entirely useless if you rely 100% on tag management. It does, however, avoid the need to update your library since it is a live display of what’s on your memory cards.

Settings

There are two main settings controls on the N3. The Music Setting category and the System setting category. Both can be accessed via the home menu screen from boot up but some aspects of the Music Setting category can be called “on the fly” from the playback screen menu.

‘On the Fly’ Settings

During playback, you can press the top right capacitive button to bring up a short list of actionable items on the left side of the screen. Options include gain control, track deletion, headphone or line out control, playlist tweaking and adding to your favorites.

It is not a new feature and has been deployed before on the N5 and N6 but my one comment is that it stays on the screen for a very short period of time meaning any hesitation and you have to call it back up again. A future firmware update should change this to a “button to call up the list” and the return button to terminate the list when finished.

Music Settings

Accessible from the home page, the music settings category controls the majority of the tonal tweaks you can apply to your tracks during playback. These include options such as gain for lossy and lossless tracks, a customizable 10-band EQ, the DAC digital filters, output to headphone or line out, SPDIF for DoP or D2P, gapless and volume controls as well as lyrics on or off.

Three Levels Of Gain

One new feature to note in the gain control is the 3-level gain feature which goes beyond the usual high and low options I have seen in previous iterations of this OS. Now you have a medium gain setting as well as a high and low gain setting giving you a bit more control on voltage output in the N3. This will be particularly useful for the wide range of IEMs in the market today from super-efficient Andromeda’s to 300-ohm earbuds from VE.

System Settings

These are generally the core settings of the N3 itself and covers most operational features such as language, themes, LCD brightness, capacitive haptic feedback and power related options such as idle shutdown and scheduled power off. You can also elect to upgrade the firmware from this the system settings and check the existing firmware and BT address from within the system settings. For those wishing to use the N3 as a DAC, you can also control that feature from within this category.

Connectivity

There are two main options for connectivity via this OS and that is wired (OTG and USB-DAC) and wireless (BT 4.0 aptX).

Wired

OTG

Wired, including OTG is heavily integrated already into the N3 OS and will automatically show up as a searchable drive under the Music Library/OTG option the moment you plug in your flash drive or HDD. Any OTG cable will work so long as it is terminated with USB-C or you have a USB-C converter tool. These are cheap and easy to acquire costing less than $5 in most outlets.

Duplex Bluetooth

What I love about the N3 BT connectivity is the duplex service and the capability of delivering aptX 4.0 level BT signal. This was a classification level that for some odd reason was left out of the mid-fi i5 and something which is not offered on competing DAPs such as the FiiO X1 2nd gen.

Wireless DAC/Amp

Also, not only can you connect to the N3 via a BT headphone or earphone you can also connect to another source via BT and transmit audio to the N3 from that source. Hence the concept of duplex or going each way.

On the software side setting it up to transmit BT aptX 4.0 is pretty simple. You can access the Bluetooth module via the home page BT option and setup whether to transmit via aptX or not on the same screen once pairing is complete. The only frustrating aspect of this process is the need to reboot once you have paired and selected the aptX service.

Controls

Once paired with the N3 your mobile phone (ZTE Axon 7) will show the N3 as a BT connected headphone whilst the N3 itself will show a blank screen with the BT logo. From there simply open up your music app on your remote source such as your mobile phone and press play. All being well the N3 should play your source file.

As a little bonus, the N3 hardware buttons will control source playback. So by pressing play/pause back or forward on your N3 right sided hardware buttons gets the required response on your source platform (e.g. smartphone). Kind of like a remote control, pretty cool!

Editorial Notes On Firmware

For this review the N3 firmware was V1.0, there will be a new Firmware out April 7th 2017 (V1.1) and will include the following:

1. Add new ReplayGain function to normalize the output level of different recording, making sure the volume output will maintain at minimum difference.

2. Add two set of UI themes, users can now select their preferred theme from System setup menu

3. Support multi-channel WAV format

4. Allow user to terminate Bluetooth scanning by the Return key.

5. Set volume to maximum and disable volume control when N3 DSD output was set to DoP mode, and N3 is in digital output operation (S/PDIF and USB Audio). When the player falls back to other operation mode (PO/LO), system will reset volume back to previous setting and enable volume control again.

6. Enhance file selection mechanism of shuffling playback mode

 

Page 3: Sound Impressions & Comparisons

111 Responses

  1. Nic Kallisti

    Excellent review Marcus. I was looking for a good dap for pairing with my 1MORE quad driver iems. N3 seems perfect. Do I have to buy an external micro sd card of, say, 32 GB to use as storage in the dap considering N3 don’t have on board memory?

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Thanks Nic, glad you enjoyed it. You can use an SD card or you can BT link to your phone and wireless access your phone memory tracks.

      Reply
  2. Ryan

    Hi Marcus, based on sound quality alone which one do you prefer n3 , x5ii, or x5iii ?

    Reply
  3. Ryan

    Hi, can I pair the N3 with ha2-se via usb out ? so the N3 will be used as a transport only.

    Reply
    • Marcus

      It sure can, just tested it 5 mins ago. When you turn it on you should see “audio device connected” on the N3 screen and then off you go :)

      Reply
      • Ryan

        Hi, when using n3 as a transport with ha2se as dac amp, I can still adjust the volume through n3 and the h/o in n3 still produces sound when you connected a headphone. So this mean its not a bit perfect because the signal is not bypassed and go through n3 internal amplification.

  4. blazer

    which digital filter best for hard rock/extreme metal music?

    i see you have chosen sharp short delay in your music settings..would you recommend that?

    also how does the cayin n3 sound with mee audio p1 and grado headphones?!
    great review mate

    Reply
    • Marcus

      I really don’t mess with the digital filters that much as the tweak is so subtle. Instead, I opt for an IEM or headphone that matches the genre or the EQ. For metal, anything with clean lower mids, vocals and sub-bass performance normally works best for my own personal preference. Need some power in the guitar chord work. Grado should be nice and easy to drive out of the N3, anything from SR80e upwards

      Reply
  5. STR

    I just picked this up on Wednesday and sent it back on Thursday. My previous DAP was the Hidizs AP100 which is rated here 7.7, the N3 is rated 8.6. I disagree on your relative rating scale. While the software is superior on the N3 the AP100 is significantly better in most other areas, particularly sound quality. While the N3 is smooth sounding it lacks any semblance of soundstage – everything is flat, left to right. Separation of instruments suffers too. This makes the overall sound boring to me. The AP100 has significantly better buttons. I hate the mixture of capacitive and physical buttons on the N3. Vibrating capacitive buttons is just a bad idea on a DAP. The buttons on the sides are a very, very cheaply made plastic. The screen is smaller than the AP100 but quality is better on the N3. Another downside is the the N3 can’t play some good, harder to drive phones like my HD580. The sound is loud enough but the match suffers and the resulting sound is poor.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      The scoring is contextual for a number of reasons:

      First is the price, the AP100 when it came out was more expensive than the N3, though today it may have dropped in price from the earlier SRP.

      Second is the output power which you have alluded to by pairing it with higher impedance and more demanding headphones whereas the N3 is geared more to lower impedance IEMs and easy to drive headphones. Horses for courses but the AP100 has a higher noise floor making it less flexible for a wider ange of modern earphones.

      In our review when discussing power we noted the performance gap between a better powered i5 and the N3 and pointed out that the N3 is not really designed for pure power but rather excellent sensitivity.

      The HD580 is a 300 ohm headphone so there is no way I would recommend the N3 for this headphone at just 130mW per channel on a 32 ohm load. Even the i5 at 190mw on a 32 ohm load starts to show the gap once you go up the imedance chart.

      Of course Hidizs muddy the waters by citing 2.2Vrms output power instead of a like for like as well as not mentioning the load ratings on their testing equipment ot dummy loads so there is that to contend with but it is more powerful than the N3 and a better match for headphones that are less sensitive. The N3 will always lack dynamics at that level and hence more dynamics, less flatness and better staging.

      Reply
      • STR

        Please note HF that you rate matchability (as I understand your definition) for the far more limited N3 with an 8.8 while the AP100, which can easily drive a much wider range of headphones, including my HD580 and my Ety4s, as only a 7.2. Something is off there, relatively speaking.

        Also, in the tonality rating the N3 is rated 8.7 vs 8.0 on the older AP100. Tonality is hard to quantify with individual preferences varying, but the sound-staging to my ears, and to the extent it can be in headphones, is somewhat poor with the N3 and fairly good with the AP100. They are both smooth sounding and the N3 isn’t bad in any area, but I would not rate the N3 higher than the AP100 in this department.

        My search will go on for DAP replacement as my Hidizs is now somewhat disabled. Consensus indicated the i5 sounds very much like the N3 so I’m crossing this off my list. The question is finding one at a *reasonable* price which seems more difficult now than it was when I bought the Hidizs.

        I should indicate that most of my listening was done with the Focal Listen, which is very efficient to drive and was easily driven with the N3 on the medium gain setting.

      • headfonics

        Actually the AP100 is the more limiting as it’s noise levels make it a poor choice for IEMs and it supposed to be a good pairing for IEM’s. The Cayin N3 is the best at this price point with IEM’s and can drive a substantial amount of portable headphones.

        The N3 does its job, the AP100 partially does its job.

        It was not designed for high impedance headphones something I pointed out in the review.

        Again if you test any 300 Ohm headphone into a 130mw load physics will tell you you that it’s not enough power hence your perception of sound being poor. Please don’t skip that part of my previous response.

      • headfonics

        Never tried the focal listen but your original reply stated high impedance headphones so at this point I presume personal preference mixed with a desire to match higher powered headphones with a portable device. My recommendation always for this is a Mojo or a Oppo HA-2SE with your phone.

  6. sankalp kak

    Hi, Based on just the use of N3 as a standalone dac (for windows and android), which one would you prefer: N3 or audioquest dragonfly black ( I intend to use it with audio technica M40’s) and why? Thanks :)

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Never tried the dragonfly but if you want just a DAC then it seems the most logical purchase – sure you won’t need a DAP also?

      Reply
      • sankalp kak

        My phone has generous storage. My main concern is getting some sweet audio from my laptop and phone without burning a hole in my pocket. I can use both N3 and dragonfly black for these purposes and also for using streaming services from my phone if need to. So audio quality is the primary concern ? Apart from the Bluetooth connectivity and extra storage (which I’ll have to shell out extra douugh for) both devices provide the same functionality mostly.

      • headfonics

        Actually, with the N3 you have the additional bi-directional BT services and HiBy Link so you can use your phone’s storage to stream Bt to the N3 and vice versa which might be an advantage for your needs. Of course, if your laptop dies or your phone dies the N3 will happily take over :)

  7. Brock King

    Thanks for the answer definitely the cayin n3 has better sound than the lg v20

    Reply
  8. Brock King

    The cayin n3 has better sound than the lg v20?

    Cuál tiene mejor sonido cayin n3 o lg v20

    Reply
    • headfonics

      The chipsets differ with ES to the LG and AK to the N3 so your preferences may vary, however, the N3 amp is stronger than the V20’s own module.

      Reply
  9. applecom1de

    Hi, I see that you compared the N2 to the AP60 rather than to the AP100. Since I am deciding between a new N2 or a mint condition AP100 which would roughly be the same price – May I ask how these two would compete? Especially soundstage-wise, separation, detail?

    Reply
  10. Skysurfer

    Hi, very good review and it makes me try to get the N3. I come from a COWON D2 (from 2008-2011 when I lost it), and then COWON J3 (from 2011-2016 when the jack started to fail). I loved both for their sound signature, gapless playback and JetAudio equalizer. Woud the Cayin N3 be better?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      I haven’t had a Cowon in years, well the old ones you mention of but I do have an old X7. I think the noise floor on them might be a touch too high for today’s modern highly efficient IEMs and of course they lack features like DSD playback, bi-directional BT etc. I think for the price it is an upgrade.

      Reply
      • Skysurfer

        Those new features are worth the change. On the other hand, the N3 has gapless playback and a good Equalizer?

  11. Vicman

    Can this compete with the fiio x3 sound wise? Which one is warmer and thicker sounding? Thanks

    Reply
    • headfonics

      The N3 is more musical and possibly warmer in the bass response.

      Reply
  12. mike.mountaineer

    Hi, I’m thinking about of buying Cayin N3 or FiiO X5iii. If I can buy the X5iii at same price for N3. what would you recommend?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      X5iii, if you can get the same price then it’s a bargain or the N3 is over priced.

      Reply
  13. Indrajit Mishra

    I have a Cayin N3 that i want to use as usb dac on windows 10. Due to the unsigned nature of the drivers, N3 is not recognized as a DAC on windows 10. Is there any other signed usb dac driver for N3 that the window 10 permits?

    Reply
  14. Lantenac

    Would recommend Cayin n3 or Shanling M2s ? I cannot decide… they are almost the same…

    Reply
    • Nam Hùng

      N3 sound better(little difference, noticeable).
      M2s looks beautiful, better UI, scrolling fun.
      I bought n3 at the end :D.

      Reply
  15. Mirko

    Great review! So I am buying my first DAP. I am newbie… I was ready to give out max 200-300$, but after reading this, I see Cayin really rocks for much less money. Is there ANY reason to buy Fiio x5 II for example instead of Cayin? Or for this matter any DAP that has this features for 200-300$? What do you think?
    I want to buy headphones Marshall monitor which also have apt-x. Hope they would sound good with Cayin?
    Please tell what you think,
    THANKS!

    Reply
    • headfonics

      They stopped making and supporting the X5ii so it is a dead end. It’s more neutral sounding and not as dynamic in the low end as the N3. N3 has that awesome 3 step gain, bi-directional Bt AptX, and USB OTG. What’s not to like? :)

      Reply
  16. calvin

    hi,
    Im really impressed with the detailed review and responsive feedback on comments.
    Im a newbie on DAP and would like to try playing it around.
    To be N3 is sound like a mp3 player (ie. ipod), and all i need is just to plug in a headphone. Am i right ?
    If yes please kindly suggest what kind of headphone is best suit with it.

    Thanks alot

    Reply
    • headfonics

      The N3 is a player than playback all sort of file formats including mp3 so yes all you have to do is plug in earphones or headphones. A portable headphone with decent clarity and not too high of an impedance will play best. Earphones or IEMs would be my preferred option because of the stellar noise performance, i.e. quite low.

      Reply
      • Indrajit Mishra

        I have a Cayin N3 that i want to use as usb dac on windows 10. Due to the unsigned nature of the drivers, N3 is not recognized as a DAC on windows 10. Is there any other signed usb dac driver for N3 that the window 10 allows?

      • headfonics

        Use the following steps to disable driver signature enforcement.
        Click the Start menu and select Settings.
        Click Update and Security.
        Click on Recovery.
        Click Restart now under Advanced Startup.
        Click Troubleshoot.
        Click Advanced options.
        Click Startup Settings.
        Click on Restart.

      • Indrajit Mishra

        Thanks, i have already disabled the enforcement and in that scenario the Cayin N3 runs as a dac on windows in (test mode). But are there any other drivers for n3 and windows 10?

      • headfonics

        The creators edition has the standard 2.0 baked in you could try that.

      • Indrajit Mishra

        How does the Cayin N3 compare with Astell and Kern JR sonically ?

      • headfonics

        If you have heard the i5 you will have heard the N3. A lot more gusto and aggression.

      • Indrajit Mishra

        Thanks but i didn’t understand, i wanted to know how N3 competes against AK-Jr sonically

      • headfonics

        I said with a lot more gusto and aggression meaning the N3 is more impactful.

  17. Armazéns Lopes

    Hi guys,

    Im an absolute newbie and my sole interest is musical pleasure so i would like to ask where can i understand the difference between this N3 by CAYIN and an iPod classic (for example) in terms of sound quality?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      The N3 plays lossless high-quality audio files such as FLAC and DSD, even via BT. The iPod classic cannot.

      Reply
      • Armazéns Lopes

        What about simply playing the same MP3 file in both devices, N3 and iPod Classic, will there be a difference in sound quality?

      • headfonics

        IN short yes, N3 should have better dynamics and a lower noise floor.

  18. Matus Kalisky

    Great review, thanks. I got the N3 yesterday. It is my first DAP which I got to use it iwth my Custom Art Music two CIEMs and they work together wery well (I can hear no hiss, though I am not expert on the topic.). I would wish for a more solid build quality, but at this price I find it perfectly fine. I am still playing around with the settings to get the most ouf of it, but it plays fantastically straight out of the box (and it arrived 92% charged, so I could start right away). So much better than my Samsung Galaxy S4 (which appears to have some issue as it hisses incredibly). I

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Yes, the new low gain setting on the N3 is excellent for noise control.

      Reply
  19. Harry Sihombing

    How does the N3 sounds compared to the Fiio E18 kunlun (used as DAC combo with phone) ? which one has the better soundstage?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      I think the E18 has an excellent soundstage but the better resolution goes with the N3 as well as efficiency.

      Reply
      • Harry Sihombing

        Just received my N3 a few days ago, and your impressions are spot on. the E18 have a bigger perceived soundstage and more V shaped sound, while the N3 is better in resolution and better forward mid. right now I’m enjoying connecting the line output of the N3 to the E18 for more or less the best of both worlds. thanks!

  20. Indrajit Mishra

    Hi, i have a question. Can you tell which is sonically better – (Fiio x1+Q1) or lone Cayin N3 ? I have an audio technica m50 x, thanks

    Reply
  21. Nizam F

    Hello, How is the N3 compare to Shanling M2S. Looking for my first DAP.
    And how does the N3 pairing with Beyer C1Pro?
    Thanks and great review :)

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Good question and something we will be able to answer shortly when we do the M2 review :)

      We do not have a C1PRO to be able to give you any insight sorry.

      Reply
  22. Jef

    Hi, i want to ask if the N3 can act as a Bluetooth receiver from a PC/Phone source and then connected to an external dac to preamp – amp – speakers? Thanks

    Reply
    • headfonics

      If you mean connect via USB-C to external DAC (wired) and receive BT signal from the source I believe this is possible.

      Reply
  23. Dennis Ang

    Hi, is it advisable to have a DAP like N3 if using a BT Headphone (Bose QC35 / Sony MDR 1000x, etc)? Or better to use a wired headphone? Sound quality wise. Thanks.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Wired will always better than wireless for audio, however, aptX is available on the N3 so if your Bt cans can receive an aptX signal then you get the best signal out there.

      Reply
      • Dennis Ang

        Thanks for the fast response. One more question please. If using a BT headphone, will the equalizer still work on Cayin N3 or does it have any effect on the sound sent to the BT headphone?

      • headfonics

        It is likely but I cannot confirm, at least not yet as there are no BT headphones in the office right now.

  24. Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    Cayin n3 + fiio A5 could rival the Cayin i5 and Fiio X5iii?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      I think the N3 on its own is good enough as it is. Adding an A5 will certainly offer more power for hungry headphones but the N3 is better without for IEMs.

      Reply
  25. DDOG

    Does it have any built in memory in to it? Or does it just purely run off SD-CARD memory?

    Reply
  26. Umbu

    Any chances of comparing it to Fiio E17K? Really want to know if there’s any improvement sq wise.
    Anyway thanks for the great review, really make me wanna grab one at a local store!

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Well this is presuming you are using the E17k in a stack since it is not a DAP? E17k codec capability is lower, the sound floor on both are good but the N3 has more options. Tonally the N3 is more musical sounding and a bit warmer. Also let’s not forget it does not need to be stacked and can take up to 256GB memory cards.

      Reply
  27. Kris Han

    whether good if in combination with M50 x ath?
    this time I just use a note 4.
    how it compares to the sound. whether it is better?

    Reply
  28. Sulbh Chopra

    How does it compares with smartphones like lg v10 and zte axon 7?

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Stronger amp than either, better dynamics with harder to drive gear. Tonally the Axon 7 is quite close as I own one also but just a touch softer because of its weaker amp.

      Reply
      • Sulbh Chopra

        Thanks, do you think N3 is worth buying even if you have these smartphones?

      • headfonics

        Voltage is not the same as output power – volume is one thing, being driven properly is another thing. In this case the N3 has more output power than the 7. However if you have an Axon 7 why not just buy a Mojo or portable OTG amp and stack it?

      • Sulbh Chopra

        Mojo is way out of budget and amp with phone is too clumsy.

    • headfonics

      It should be fine though you will have to change up the low gain to medium/high gain

      Reply
  29. Matthew Sykes

    Any chance you’ve done a comparison with the X5ii. Great write up, and thanks!

    Reply
    • headfonics

      If its tonal quality then it’s already done – just read the X5iii review where I compare it to the i5 for sound quality because the N3 is almost the exact same tonally as the i5. I think it doesn’t make sense to compare other features since the X5iii is double the price etc.

      Reply
      • Matthew Sykes

        That was xii (2nd generation), but I will read your review of the x3

        FWIW, I have not found a feature set (per documentation) on the X5ii over that of the N3. Actually, with bluetooth, the N3 has more. But yes, I am curious of your take on tonal qualities, and moreso, reliability of the Fiio product.

      • headfonics

        My apologies – X5ii is more neutral than the N3 for sure.

      • Matthew Sykes

        Understood! And thanks.

        Can you comment on the x5ii’s reliability. I guess my concern is based around quite a few reports of the unreliability of the feature set. For example, one youtube reviewer claims the coax out function produces nothing, even though he has made the necessary setting change and is using the provided 4-band adapter.

        More prevalent are reports of the device running hot to the touch and batteries dying in a very short time (< year).

        I am very close to picking up the N3, but the architecture in the x5ii is awfully attractive. I have seen the x5ii sub $200 from authorized resellers, recently.

        Your input is greatly appreciate, and I hope I've not overstayed my welcome :)

      • headfonics

        Both share similar architecture and same OS so these reports are at best anecdotal. I would pick the N3, if anything remember the X5ii is last gen with a slower processor chip, and also FiiO are unlikely to be adding much in the way of new features or tweaks as they focus on their latest gen.

      • headfonics

        My pleasure, hope you get the right one for you :)

    • headfonics

      It should have no issues driving it with a low noise floor. If you are after a musical signature then it should be just fine.

      Reply
  30. Swaroop Anil

    Can you please throw some light on how this pairs with the im02. I’m looking at this as my first dap.
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Been a long time since I hear the IM02 but the pairing should be excellent given the IM02’s tight bass and sparkling highs matched with the warm to neutral N3 and its dynamic low end and natural highs.

      Reply
  31. Kristian Lindecrantz

    How would you compare this to the Axon 7? I know this is a dedicated music player whilst the Axon is a phone ;) However I own the Axon and wonder what benefits I could expect.
    Great read as always!

    Reply
    • headfonics

      I actually have the Axon 7 also and yup its the exact same AK4490EN chip inside. It is also a smooth musical performer as you know just the amp is not as strong in the Axon 7 as the N3 and the volume control on the jack out is quite limited with its rather large dB jumps per step. The key difference between the 2 for me is the dynamic range of the N3 – there is more pop and snap in the N3 presentation whereas the Axon 7 is a little more compressed sounding. If you want to use the Axon 7 as a pure transport that might even things up a bit.

      Reply
      • abbazaba976

        Thank you for this! I LOVE the sound out of the Axon, but the volume jumps are too much for me. Also, they seemed to have mapped the I/V transform in the most non-linear place. Ugh. I purchased the N3, but was going to have it sent back when I heard it was the Axon chip. Now, I am looking forward to it. It’s the little things some times.

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