The Cayin Fantasy is a $799 powerhouse of a dynamic driver IEM that just hit the market. I am elated to report on my findings and investigations of this little gal’.
While the current IEM market is extremely volatile and fraught with exceptional deals in this pricing tier, Cayin has decided to draw pistols and join the gunfight. A new player has entered the game! Let us see how it stacks up against the others in the sub $1000 category!
This Cayin Fantasy boasts a Beryllium plated diaphragm and 10.3mm dynamic two-way magnet drivers. This material is great for acoustic devices due to being lightweight and very rigid, lending itself to a high-quickness value in terms of audio reproduction in the chassis.
This type of material has an exceptionally low decay rate and is not at all prone to allowing tones to continue to ring out. Instead, those potential extra time spans of the sound waves emanating are relatively abruptly cut off, which produces what we in the Hifi world note as a “quick sound”. This is highly desired by most audiophiles, as it portrays a higher sense of purity across the board.
The Cayin Fantasy is milled out of solid stainless steel, so the build quality is nearly as good as it gets. What is left outside of that? Better metals, Gold? Rare mineral rocks? Space diamonds?
Anyway, the solid steel exterior is quite dense, so the set exudes a sense of premium tactility. They are quite heavy too, but more so, they do not feel hollow. They feel immensely dense, like a quality chunk of steel was used in its construction.
The 2-pin ports are also very snug fitting and do not jiggle at all when the cable is attached to each IEM housing. The nozzle sound port is also fantastic, that metal grill in there seems solid as can be and not cheaply glued in there.
Overall, the build quality is premium, and I am giving it extremely high marks. Solid Metal. Cannot go wrong there.
On a subjective level, I really enjoy artistically designed products and really anything that was designed with care. This Cayin Fantasy feels like a futuristic sculpture to my eye. It exudes a sense of high class from top to bottom, something like a stealthy spaceship or alien device of some type, with its sleek exterior that is reflective stainless steel.
The internal driver set is a 10.3mm dynamic single, but what pops out in audio makes it seem like it is much more than that.
The stock cable is twisted and feels nice. I really appreciate the custom 3.5mm adapter, which had the name Cayin sprawled across it. I have never seen one with a screw-on it before, this is a first.
That adapter feels weighted and dense as well, likely made of the same shell stainless steel, which also appears in a Y-piece splitter mid cable as well.
As far as exterior aesthetics go, this Fantasy really is a win for me. It is minimalist but is also feels like a little high-end sports car, like an Aston Martin, with its sudden curved angles. It is sleek, smooth, and powerful looking. I enjoy the visuals very much. Cyberpunk 2099 called; they want to show you their high-end IEM design of the future.
I consider this a comfortable IEM that fits my ear very well, however, the weight is such that it tends to slip out often and break the proper seal it should always have. I think most people will not have any issues, especially those with larger ears, who will appreciate these more than my ears do in a physical sense of the word.
While comfortable for all-day wearing, I have found they require adjustments often to reposition them into a full sealed placement. When walking or moving around, this is an issue. This is not an issue when sitting stationary for a while.
My experience will likely differ from yours, but due note the design of the shell is such that it glides nicely in the ear and rests without any weird or poking elements.
It fits really nicely, and I have found that the slippage is not so much of an issue when using the memory foam tips.
The Cayin Fantasy is rated at 26dB, but I feel like my experience with this iem, especially the particularly good seal of the Bass tips, of which I had the best isolation experience, was quite stellar. Perhaps it has something do to with the interior design, I really do not know. But I would expect a steel chassis to resonate more than it does.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that cars on the road nearby and TV chatter in the background were much more dimmed than I had expected. With no audio passing through the source or paused, the Fantasy offers good passive isolating qualities.
I found them more isolating than my Audeze Euclid, which I also found to have good passive isolating qualities. Maybe, the cut of steel is much thicker than I originally thought, or thicker than it might feel when you hold the IEM in your hand. Is it as good as active NC? Of course not. But, when the seal is proper and good, the isolation is equally as good.
Packaging & Accessories
Oh my. Lovely. The only thing they could have done better made it totally metal, or wooden. It does not get much better than this type of unboxing for us reviewers. Whoever was the brainchild of this design on the box, give them a raise. It is both adorable and awesomely functional.
It has drawers and comes jam-packed with extras. Inside the first drawer that pulls out, you are met with 5 different sets of tips:
Balanced Ear tips – SML
Vocal Ear tips – SML
Bass Ear tips – SML
Memory foam Ear tips (2 sets)
Bi-Flange Ear tips (1 set)
For a grand total of 12 different tips, you can choose from. Right next to the tip selection, you get a nice little storage box made of a cutout of leather-like soft material. I am not wild about this one, it is very thin and seems not to offer much protection at all. This is a storage box though, not a protective case, so I guess that is okay and I will not at all rate it as a carrying case.
The second drawer contains the standard 3.5mm cable with 2pin adapters, and well as a cleaning cloth and a shirt clip. So, as far as the box experience and accessories go, I rate the package extremely well. This is really cute. The pull-out drawer design is really fun and interesting, I like to see things like this implemented in my Hifi products.
Interestingly, the Fantasy has the potential for good bass experiences if you EQ it properly. Perhaps that has something to do with the Beryllium coated diaphragm? The texture of the low end is rock solid and very firm.
This is a stark contrast to the likes of the Shozy Black Hole, which feels softer, looser, and totally different in the physical setup. This Fantasy feels rawer and purer, like an old-school Planar from Audeze or something, and very unlike a typical dynamic IEM driver.
My gripe is that 20Hz to 40kHz frequency response seems less adept with deep bass on a disabled EQ setup on your source. What does that mean? The low end does not reach deep until you EQ it, and when you do, it is rather good and retains excellent control even at extremely high +10dB of low end.
Typically, I run with +5dB and some EQ on my MSEB function on my Hiby apps/portable players. Without that function active, the low end feels overshadowed by the very plentiful treble.
Overall, the quality of the bass is lovely, right on the level of the Shozy Black Hole and not too far off the one-tier up Audeze Euclid. The sound will change depending on the tips used, so generalizing with 12 tips available means I had to review 12 different products technically.
This review was extensive. The end result was if you like bass, of course, use the bass ear tips. They are noticeably heavier on the low end.
Mids and Vocals
The Cayin Fantasy is mid-forward and highly engaging. If you like vocal bloom a ‘la Audio Technica ESW series for reference, then this is a great IEM for you. I really enjoy my old-school Jazz and I have sat hours and hours at a time just letting Seth McFarlane’s albums play. I loved every second.
The intimacy factor is not overwhelming, but the vocal presence is well into the forward field of view and physical placement. So, if you like forward mids, great! If you want a more physically relaxed position for the mids, then you might want to pick up the Shozy Black Hole instead.
What I enjoy most is the offered high energy in the upper midrange area. Treble energy is good, but that golden upper midrange zone getting it right is even better. In this case, the experience is immensely satisfying and fun.
I do not consider this a neutral product; it clearly has some fun to it and offers something I consider more musical than highly sterile or clinical. There is definitely a bit of slam up there, but not enough to annoy me. I call this engaging.
And in slow jazzy tracks, those with slow or Sinatra-like vocals, the clashing drums, and background sounds are elevated with excellent separated qualities.
What I mean by this is that some instruments that are lower recordings in the background, things behind the vocalist that still remain in the mids (but on the top side of it near the treble spectrum) are immensely yummy, firm, and enjoyable.
Physicality is excellent on this IEM. It is highly engaging in the best way. Having some energy in this upper mid area is ideal, without going overboard or undershooting quantity factors is rare and hard to achieve. But, this Fantasy has done marvelously at this.
I have one gripe, which is entirely subjective when it comes to treble in audio products: bite factor and slam effect. Too much harsh impact is something I hate. And this is really hard to avoid if the set is also on the bright side up top.
In this case, the Cayin Fantasy is joining the group of a few of the last IEMs I have had on hand to talk about in this price tier, those who have managed to be a little bright, but also on the smooth side in terms of physicality.
The Fantasy does not impact harshly, yet I consider it a little on the bright side too. This combo is immensely rare. With that said, The Fantasy still offers an enjoyable slam effect without sounding weak or overly soft. I do not consider it relaxing, I do consider it musical and interesting in a physical sense of the word.
The top side brightness factor is what I consider enjoyable, I like a bit more quantity and sparkle but not at the cost of physical pain and wince factor. Thankfully, this set does not feel like a bother, but it also does not sound like something you would be bored by.
Top End Sparkle
Many of us in the HiFi community look for an excellent sparkle factor, hoping someone will get it right eventually. I think Cayin had that in mind, and I feel most that listen to the Fantasy would agree with me.
The top side reaching 40kHz is evidence that treble is prominent and will be very noticeable. I think that is certainly the case. However, as mentioned a bit ago, in the slower-paced tracks, this IEM really shines.
Soft impacts of drums and cymbal strikes in jazz tunes are immensely enjoyable. I really enjoy that dynamic behind the vocalist artists that I tested with. If I had to compare this to anything, the Audeze Euclid would be comparable to the physicality factor offered that I have on hand to compare with.
The bite factor is there, but due to plentiful quantity, the slower and well-recorded tracks are oh so yummy. I mention this only because it is so rare to find the right mix of bright, slam, and quantity, all without going into the annoying territory. Cayin tuned this set well.
No, the set will not sound as expansive as the Shozy Black Hole open-back IEM that sells for almost the same price. But the imaging depth of field is still rather good on this Cayin Fantasy. I would score staging above average overall, with the depth of field besting the width and height factor by a noticeable degree.
Stage-forward realism is genuinely nice and separation qualities are just good overall. Some sets out there do it better, no doubt, but most lack the intimacy factor this Fantasy had.
So, it is really nearly impossible to get a forward midrange and highly intimate and engaging feeling IEM that also has a huge sound field. Air factor is quite good, thanks to the excellent upper midrange and treble experience, but that only goes so far in the soundstage game.
Overall, I rate the Cayin Fantasy as an above-average player in terms of imaging.
CEntrance M8 v2 and AP80Pro
I really love the CEntrance M8 V2. It performs so well with sensitive products but also dishes out immense power too. With bass boost active on that M8 v2 as well as in the source player, I feel the Cayin sparks to life a bit more than usual.
It is not power-related; I have found that a lot of power does not do much for this set that is rated at 37Ohms. Dropping 1w or more into this IEM does not do anything for it, this is an efficient dynamic driver product and not planar. So, I do not see the value in chasing high output.
However, quality certainly is heard improving between my Hidizs AP80 Pro and the M8 v2. And then M8 v2 to the Burson Conductor 3 DAC and Desktop Amp. So, that means this Fantasy scales rather good overall. Great to hear that.
The experience on the lower end DAP I have is still really enjoyable, sitting outside in the garage while it rains is one of my favorite me-time things and using the Fantasy recently during a horrendous downpour of cold rain, and having a space heater blowing on me was one of the most enjoyable experiences I had all year so far.
The Panther is a unique little amplifier and DAC, one that sounds quite expansive for such a small little thing. I wanted to see how much the Fantasy improved in realism and stage depth, as I find that imaging experience to be particularly good on the Panther by Ultrasone.
And without surprise, the Panther makes the Fantasy feel closer to the experience I have with my desktop Burson Conductor, which itself is a company known for excellent imaging properties too.
The Fantasy can really alter depending on what you use as a source or amplifier so be careful there. My recommendation is something like the Panther, something with amazing and aired-out stage-forward sound.
You do not need anything in particular for the width or height factor; in fact, you will not notice any difference there.
For example, my ridiculously cheap AP80 Pro sounds no different in physical width or height factor on the same track with the same volume output vs the Panther or the M8 v2. They all sound pretty much the same and are each max the potential of the specific imaging area.
However, depth of field and that ‘reach out and touch the artist feel’ is drastically improved if you have a great DAC or amplifier that houses excellent imaging in the depth of field factor. Beyond that, I am happy as hell right out of my phone’s 3.5mm output.
The Fantasy is a can-do all IEM. You can go for a walk and just use a standard low-tier 3.5mm device, then go home and plug into a high-end amplifier, and then back to a trash source and still have a lot of fun.
Overall, I rate the Fantasy as an above-average player in the land of Imaging. Another powerhouse in the sub $1000 tier is the open back Audeze LCD-i3. This is another personal favorite of mine. The open-back design of the Audeze LCD-i3 exudes more of an effortless, natural appeal in the context of width spaciousness.
The left to right width factor of the Cayin Fantasy is still rather good overall, but certainly out of reach of the expansiveness of the LCD-i3. In my opinion, both offer a similar stage depth, as I’ve found this Cayin Fantasy to offer exceptional depth of field that can rival great IEMs out there in the void.
Shozy Black Hole
The last year or so has generated a few sets that became exceptional in the realm of realism in closed design IEMs. I also feel that Cayin has a natural response to Shozy in this Fantasy model. Truly, the realism and density factor are sublime. We are entering an era where the upper mid-tier can finally offer something truly special for the price.
While the Black Hole from Shozy offers superior openness and aired out left to right width factor, once again, the depth of field is relatively on par between this Black Hole and the Cayin Fantasy. On a side note, the height fact is noticeably taller on the Fantasy in comparison to the Black Hole’s more widescreen style of imaging.
Empire Ears Nemesis
The only IEM I have that sounds similar in staging to this Fantasy is the Empire Ears Nemesis. I feel like these two products from different companies are related, one is the big brother (Nemesis) and the other is the little brother (Fantasy).
I feel the Fantasy is a mid-forward sound, as is the Nemesis. The width factor is generally the same to my ear between these two, as is overall airiness. The height factor feels identical through my sources and amps between the two.
And finally, the depth of field and realism factor is nearly the same as well. The biggest tonality differences between the Nemesis and the Fantasy are that the Nemesis is much bassier and a little tamer on treble.
Cayin shot for an IEM that offers great and yummy upper mids and amazing depth of field factor. They hit the mark. That build quality is stellar and just so sexy.
The Fantasy is one of the best-looking IEMs that I own, without a shadow of a doubt. They offer visually pleasing waterfalls of awesomeness. So stylish, powerful-looking, as well as sculptured with artistic value.
If you like bass quantity, you will need to boost it a fair bit to achieve, but that is okay because it retains excellent control at high boost levels.
The Fantasy is a chameleon and sounds great on any device, from a trashy low-end phone output to a good low-end DAP, to a higher-end desktop amplifier. This is a can-do-anything IEM and a solid generalist in the sub $1000 field.
Cayin Fantasy Specifications
10.3mm Dual-Cavity Two-Way Magnetic Structure Dynamic Driver Unit