Cayin C5

REVIEW: Cayin C5


Power output: 800mV+800mVRMS 32Ω
Frequency Response: 20Hz~100kHz±1dB
THD: ≤0.02%1kHz
S/N ratio: ≥101dBA weighted
Sensitivity: ≤500mVgain H
Lithium Battery Capacity: 1000mAh/11.1V
Battery life: 12 hoursRMS 32Ω
Charge limit voltage: 12.6V
Charging time: 4 hoursoff state with DC5V/2A charger
Charge Out: Output specification DC 5V/1A
Size: 136*63*15mm
Net weight: 185g

MSRP: $170


2x rubber bands
4x silicon pads
1x 3.5mm to 3.5mm short cable
1x Micro to Micro USB short cable
1x velvet carrying pouch
User Manual


Build & Design:

The C5 features a more than decent overall build quality; nothing outstanding or tank-like built as some higher models, but for the portable use it was meant to, it looks very solid. The amplifier is all aluminum from the outside, slim and relatively lightweight despite its looks, quite design is quite discreet, yet elegant and smooth. On the front panel, under the (removable) plastic cover, are the volume knob and the two input and output connections. The gain and bass switches are located at the sideway, and on the rear panel two MicroUSB connections; 'Power in' for charging and 'Charge Out' for the C5 to be used as a mobile power source to charge other mobile devices.


Gain, Hiss:

The C5 features two gains options, low and high. The low gain already has plenty of power and should be enough to drive most drivers up to 150ohm or even more. 64 ohm full cans only asked for a 4 level at the volume knob and already sounded loud enough. Unless driving really high impedance/low sensitivity headphones, the High mode isn't needed. Also, the jump from L to H mode is quite high.
Fortunately, the C5 showed no hint of hiss even with the more sensitive in-ear models (at least on low gain).
The Bass boost switch is located just under the Gain switch. (More details in the following section)



Source: Sansa Clip+/Zip, Hifiman HM-700
Amplifiers: Panda AMP-S, Firestone Audio HDB, Audinst AMP-HP
The interesting feature of the C5 amplifier is that it's capable to drive the Hifiman TRRS Balanced IEMs, such as RE-600 and RE-400B.

Let me start by saying that the Cayin Company has managed to make a very powerful and excellent sounding portable amplifier. The C5 provides a very well balanced sound with great clarity and the optional bass boost will add a noticeable extra warmth and richness to the whole sound without clouding the details.

With Bass gain 'off', the C5 sounds pretty neutral to slightly bright. Bass is very clean, flat and well layered. It shows a relatively natural character with a good balance between attack and decay. There is practically zero of coloration in this mode, but simply will improve the quality and mainly the layering, extension and depth to a higher level.

The midrange is somehow the more source dependant on the C5. Best scenario, the mids are a tad more forwarded and very clear and mainly more effortless and better articulated. The C5 puts the HM700 neutral positioned mids a step or half more forward and open, and while also take some of the DAP warmth out, they will gain an extra higher-end character and timbre. Upper mids show extra energy that contributes to bring forth more details and eliminate some dullness that smoother sets may have.
Vocals are pushed more forward, really clear, more open and effortless and more energetic. While better separated and layered, they might still show some sibilance with certain brighter phones and be less forgiving.

With the Bass boost 'on', the low-end jumps from a rather flat and neutral presentation to a much warmer and thicker response. Different results depending on the head/earphone in use, but definitely elevated offering a more fun and very powerful yet deeper response. While the stronger bass is not bloated, do not expect the C5 to make a miracle with already boosted earphones; they do show more control and a better behavior, but you can't change their dominating character. On the other hand, I found the bass boost to show great results with softer sets such as the KC06 (and to a less degree, the KC06A) and the Steelseries BA In-Ear Pro.

The extra warmth is not limited to just the low frequencies, but rather mixes into the midrange in an exquisite and exciting way, providing a boosted warmth, and more importantly, a fullness through the whole mids. Many users would find this as more engaging, other might consider it even aggressive; in the end it's a simple matter of personal taste as any EQ is.

Even in this Bass 'on' option, the Cayin C5 still sounds smaller and not as full, extended or dynamic as the Firestone Audio HDB. The HDB has a more natural and full bodied bass response, sweeter texture through the midrange (even though it is less forward), and better decay overall. The C5, on the other hand, sounds brighter and crispy than the more laid-back and forgiving HDB. Both are still far from the ultra hyper detailed Panda AMP-S.

As for the highs, they remain pretty much unchanged regardless of the bass gain option. The C5 can be easily considered as a slightly bright amplifier, with a far extended and refined treble response. While the Cayin C5 can't match the more expensive Panda Audio AMP-S in 'purity', extension and refinement, for its current price (about half of the AMP-S), it's more than impressive and well worth the price. Against the similar priced Audinst AMP-HP, the C5 is flatter and definitely more resolving, although the AMP-HP has the opamp rolling tunable option.
As expected, soundstage is improved by a noticeable scale, but it's more the 3D-ism and dynamics that are worth praising, along with the overall coherence and imaging, what give the C5 a more "hi-fi" 'air'.

As a final note, it's worth mentioning that C5 shows much better results with a better source. In fact, so far it is the only amplifier that was really worth matching with the Hifiman HM700, instead of the budget oriented Sansa Clip DAP options. It's kinda surprising, as it's usually the other way around, being the Clip the ones that really benefit from extra amping, and the HM700 showing just a small improvement. It could be considered as an advantage for the C5.


In terms of sound quality alone it's already a fantastic product for the $150-200.  Add to this the build quality, portability friendly design and the USB charging option and we get an amazing buy, and probably a menace to higher priced amplifiers.