After owning the Cayin E01 for a little while now, I felt somewhat compelled to write down my impressions and share some of my thoughts.

The E01 card has managed to garner my utmost respect now that I have a firm grasp of what it is trying to achieve, however you MUST read this entire article to find out why.

I already have the amazing AKM A01 and the TI T01 cards, both have a unique and simply stunning, sonic presentation that never fails to astonish me. My personal preference over those two cards is the T01 for its sensual musicality and treble extension. It fits perfectly with the large range of earphones that I have on hand.

I was super excited to hear that the new E01 card was going to be Class A. Knowing the stereotypical house sound of Class A I knew that I was very likely to love the new card so an order immediately went in.

As soon as it came through my front door I immediately demoted my T01 back into it’s box and furnished my N6ii with her new shoes. Turning on the player I was greeted with a new “Class A” menu button which when pressed switches into Class A/B mode and instantly boosts the power output from it’s dedicated 3.5mm output. I slid in my earphones and began to listen to the euphoria about to hit my senses.

Mic Drop - Cayin E01 Audio Motherboard

Que the disappointment. E01 wasn’t A01 and it certainly wasn’t the T01. It sounded strange. There was no musicality, the tone was completely wrong, the treble was as harsh as hell and the sound was simply all over the place. I tried so, so desperately to begin to enjoy it, but it simply wouldn’t grab me. I tried turning it up to get the vocals to sound better, but sadly that just increased the treble and starting hurting my eardrums. I thought switching to A/B would sort it as power would help. It didn’t sadly and I was distraught. I had seriously hopes for the E01 and they had been dashed.

Over the course of the next few days I had tried to leave it playing, however it appeared my Samsung charger wasn’t powerful enough to continually keep it charged whilst simultaneously playing. Every time I returned to it, E01 was offering the same sound and I was close to giving up and resigning myself to the fact that the sound just wasn’t for me.

It wasn’t until I couldn’t sleep and the time was slowly passing midnight that I decided to give E01 one last go. And I GOT IT. Oh BOY I got it. Laying in dead silence with no background noise, E01 was initially far too loud in that environment and I had to turn it down, by a lot, ranging between 25-35 depending on the track. I certainly didn’t want to feel the wrath of my wife at half past midnight. What on earth was I hearing? The soundstage had returned, the treble wasn’t too excited, the vocals… the vocals, everything was settled and calm. I was at least able to listen without immediately removing my earphones and leaving with a grump. I began cycling my favourite songs of the moment and I was in sheer awe of what E01 was doing for me. Jumping through a wide range of tracks there were countless times where I literally chuckled to myself with what I was finally hearing and how idiotic I could have been to almost write the E01 off.

It was clear that by already having the A01 and T01 I had preconceptions of how I expected E01 to sound and it is completely different to both of the other cards. As I continued to enjoy my journey through my favourite music I was continually treated to a stunningly beautiful presentation. The single biggest revelation for me were the spoken voices. Whereas I can almost relate the A01 and T01 to a chocolate easter egg, the E01 is a chocolate easter egg where the middle is also made of solid chocolate rather than being hollow. In comparison to the other cards the E01 vocals are not as hollow and are so precisely pulled together that every single, tiny, incy, minute nuance can be heard from the voice. This in turn adds a tremendous amount of soul and richness to the music. These tiny details filter through into the surrounding instruments. The bass was bulbous and lush and treble extended perfectly into the ether. Put it this way I was in a dreamy state…..So much so this lasted till 4am when I finally decided I needed sleep.

I navigated my way through a host of songs from Joey Landreth, The Civil Wars, Boz Scaggs, Craig David, Gregory Porter (“Be Good” – F%^king amazing song), Luther Vandross, Bieber and even that latest and greatest Celine Dion album. Every change of song I was presented with an experience that completely enamored me. How beautifully involving and magical.

E01 was now easily my favourite card with just one caveat. E01 is not your average whack it in and go on a commute card. It is probably unlikely to fulfill your requirements in an environment where volume is required. E01 I find to be a bit like a car, there is a red line and a spot where the torque is at its optimal. IF you drive the card too hard and red line it you could lose it’s intimacy, headroom and be obliterated with treble. It is a 1976 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow rather than an Audi or Volkswagen. Take it on a drive and you don’t care about just driving to reach your destination, instead you can relax into the country lanes and enjoy the surrounding scenery. The A01 and T01 cards are much better for your commute and listening whilst not necessarily concentrating on the music being played. They offer the detail with the power to cut through the noise and can be thoroughly enjoyed without having to dedicate your time to the music.

E01 is best LISTENED to, close your eyes, ask the kids to be quiet and kick back and enjoy it’s luscious tonality and stupendous musicality. At the moment I am yet to listen to class A/B and get to grips with it yet, but for now I am absolutely in love with Class A.

NB. After spending further time running in the E01 I was able to get more power from it without it completely collapsing, however, for me when driven too hard I still found that the best quality of the E01 was lost and that was it’s gorgeous tonality and immense detail shining through the blackness of the music.