The Cayin YB04 is the company’s debut universal monitor featuring a quad balanced armature driver configuration and CNC Aluminum design. It is priced at $499.
Disclaimer: The Cayin YB04 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank Cayin for this opportunity.
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A certain learned gentleman had been hinting, without telling, of a possible product earlier in the year. Had my attention not been so strained in the direction of an N6ii DAP engineering sample he had at the same time I probably would have picked up on what that product was.
So now, in the 3rd quarter of 2019, Cayin has gone in a completely new, yet unsurprising direction, with their debut portable in-ear monitor, the YB04. Priced at $499 and comprising of 4 balanced armatures this is an affordable mid-fi launch rather than a “bells and whistles” 4 figure priced flagship monitor.
Perhaps, if the YB04 is suitably successful, we shall see more Cayin monitors at different price points. For now, this one is aimed squarely at the likes of FiiO and iBasso’s hybrid competitors as well as more traditional IEM makers such as Noble and their quad BA Savanna.
The YB used is a designated product line branding tool with the words C-A-Y-I-N all studiously ripped apart and applied to unique product categories. The N is for DAPs, the C has been used for portable amps, I for their desktop gear (iHA and iDAC), and the Y is for IEMs. The B stands for ‘balanced armature’.
The YB04 is a mix of two dual armature driver brands. For the mid to highs, Cayin is using 2 dual-tweeter Knowles drivers and for the lows a single set of Sonion dual-sub drivers. The crossover is a 2-way resistor-capacitor crossover.
The YB04 is rated at 30Ω with an SPL of 113dB which places it at a medium efficiency level for portable monitors. That should mean it is easy enough to drive from most moderately power portable devices including smartphones but at the same time not so efficient to pick up on analog amp stage hiss.
True enough, our early testing with known higher noise floors such as the FiiO M11 do show a fairly quiet black background with the YB04. I would hazard a guess at this early point that the reference DAP for the tuning here is the Cayin N6ii.
Unboxing & Accessories
The YB04 package is on the large and elaborate side with plenty of accessories inside. It can be a bit shallow to equate size with the price these days, however, the YB04 box and accessories do go some way to injecting the perception that you are getting a bit of value for money here.
The box is nice and professional looking from the outside with a graphic vinyl slide-off sleeve showing the obligatory Hi-Res certification and a picture of the YB04 with the Cayin branding. Underneath is a flip-open display box with plenty of contoured foam passing holding the drivers, cable, case, and accessories.
A few things stand out immediately and that’s the beautiful tanned leather case and the excellent selection of tips that Cayin have supplied with the YB04.
The tips play a big role in the tuning of the YB04 similar to how SIMGOT and FiiO’s recent monitor tip selections. You get 5 different single-bore silicone types covering bass, vocals, and a more balanced sound signature as well as a single set of bi-flange and 2 sets of foam tips. Plenty here to choose from and we will go into much more detail on how they affect the sound in the main review.
The tanned and branded stitched leather case is substantial with excellent padding and plenty of space. Internally you get pockets for the tips, drivers, cable and most other accessories that come with the YB04. Everything is capped off with a nice fine-satin cleaning cloth more akin to those you find inside with a set of reading glasses. It is quality and then some for this price point.
When I first clapped my eyes on the YB04 my initial reaction was “Campfire” and indeed it does have a very slight nod to the CA aesthetic with its triple screw visual on its hexagonal faceplate. However, on further inspection, the overall design is different and perhaps sturdier also.
The YB04 is a 3-piece CNC machined aluminum shell with a matching contoured faceplate and finished with a stainless steel short “lippy” nozzle. Its dimensions are reasonably shallow with the majority of the length coming from the angular neck of the CNC body quickly narrowing into the stainless-steel nozzle. The lack of girth means it should sit flush to the ear with the rest of the work of sealing and holding in place done by the selected tip.
The YB04 finishing feels solid in the hand but also quite smooth on the angles. The curving is elongated and rounded rather than abrupt and sharp so its highly unlikely these will cause long-term discomfort.
The YB04 uses a protruding 0.78mm 2-pin connector system much like those used by Unique Melody and qdc, albeit without the slightly frustrating reversed polarity of qdc’s connectors. The logic behind these is the sheath type connector on the cable side adding some protection to the pins when inserted and preventing bending and accidental breakage.
Of course, if you are going to use aftermarket cables it will add a bit of length to the connection since most 3rd party cables do not use that sheath connector system. The connection will also be a touch weaker than the stock cable system.
The stock cable is a 1.2m 8-wire, (4×4), hybrid geometry of consisting of a blend of Furutech OCC and a silver alloy. That hybrid mix is reinforced by the translucent PVC jacket finish of the cable. You can clearly see the intertwining of the silver and copper in an attractive braided finish.
And it is quite an attractive lightweight cable at that. It has virtually no spring or memory retention and an excellent low microphonic performance, even above the aluminum splitter.
Both the jack and splitter barrels are crafted with the same material and design, differing only in sizing. These are gun metal aluminum builds and reasonable low-profile with the jack barrel using a screw lock rather than cheaper glue slide-in alternatives.
The cable is terminated with a gold-plated 3.5mm TRS jack so sadly, no balanced options out of the box. The translucent plastic chin cinch is a little on the cheaper side but functions pretty smoothly.
In The Ear
This is comfortable if somewhat shallow fit with the tips really doing the rest of the work to acquire a seal and keep things steady. The shallow design does mean it doesn’t really stick out of your ear and quite nicely, the YB04 main body doesn’t bear down on your ears pressure-sensitive points. That means it will not irritate the longer you keep them in your ear.
The protruding connectors also have enough ‘throw’ to keep the cable from pinching the edges of your ear which is another area that can often lead to annoyances.
In terms of passive isolation, there is not a huge amount of difference between the foam and silicone tips with perhaps the bi-flange the least effective on initial impressions. I actually think the single silicone tips were excellent, not just for sealing and isolation but also in terms of comfort and a steady fit.
The only ones I was not fond of were the additional stock medium-sized single silicone tips that come with the YB04 out of the box. They seal the least for me as they are a bit small.
Initial Sound Impressions
(Initial testing is with the stock cable, balanced single bore silicone tips, and the Cayin N6ii DAP).
My initial impression of the YB04 is of a slightly mid-centric natural to neutral presentation with excellent staging width and good height. Staging depth is controlled and clear but there is not a huge amount of power with a low-end tuning that seems tight and relatively neutral in quantity.
There is a slight mid-bass elevation that injects a bit of warmth to get that natural smooth but articulate sound as you hit the mids but its nothing substantial or overpowering. The elevation is more about timbral balance than injecting a heady bass fundamental into the YB04. As such the tuning feels more about note articulation, detail, and vocal purity than a driving high-level of PRaT.
Paired with the N6ii the YB04 does deliver a slightly analog and smooth presentation. I especially enjoy the vocal performance out of the box and even with 25-30 hours already on the YB04 the feeling is still the same. It is a sweet-sounding vocal timbre with a lightish yet precise tone and makes for a very easy listening experience. Instrumental timbre follows a similar path with a nice emphasis on detail and speed as opposed to outright power and physicality.
The YB04 seems to offer more of a hi-fidelity experience and is less brash, less bombastic but also more intricate and precise sounding. With the N6ii and Yb04 pairing, I am listening more to the likes of Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snizter Orchestra or Kari Brennes than Metallica and Deadmau5.
This will be a good comparison I think with the likes of Noble Audio’s Savanna and quite different to FiiO and Ibasso’s hybrid offerings which are priced in the same ballpark.
OK, already I feel the YB04 offers something quite different to the rash of hybrid monitors gobbling up the mid-fi market right now. It takes me back a little to the Noble Savanna sound but perhaps just a little sweeter and more spacious sounding. Aural memory can be a bit of a monster but I would not be surprised if that proves to be the case when we compare them in the main review.
As of now, if you are a hi-fidelity sound and like a bit of detail and a sweet and pure vocal performance front and center then the YB04 from Cayin seems to fit the bill immaculately. For a freshman debut, Cayin seems to know exactly the type of sound they are after. Stay Tuned!