Cayin’s exceptional engineering department have pulled out all the stops to introduce their stunning C9 portable headphone amplifier to their product lineup. The battery powered behemoth is capable of running 4w into your headphones from the balanced output, meaning that it can drive even the most taxing of headphones. The C9 however, unlike many headphone amplifiers has been designed to work with a large range of earphones including those now using harder to drive electrostatic or planar technologies.The C9 uses two modes to deliver you the very best of your music, with both a best in class solid state and also tube output using a custom KORG design.
The C9 is the companion product to their N6 ii A02 combination which provides a line level output to supply the C9. The C9 amplifier has a range of inputs and outputs so that it can be used with and pre amp source. The new C9 can be switched from volume bypass to pre amp mode so that you can either completely bypass the volume control or use it to control the volume into your headphones.
Cayin was founded in 1993 and is one of the largest audio tube amplifier development and
manufacturing facilities in the world. We have developed over 400 products to date,
ranging from CD players to speakers, all of which provide the same high-quality
benchmark, but our amplifiers have been particularly well-received within the audio
community. That’s why when we venture into Persona Audio back in 2013, we started with
C5, a portable headphone amplifier, because amplifier is always our purest achievement.
The N8 DAP marked Cayin’s milestone in Personal Audio and laid down the foundation for a
flagship portable headphone amplifier. The 2018 N8 was Cayin’s first cost-no-objective
product in Personal Audio, but that does not mean we can ignore the scientific (physic and
electronic engineering) constraints, so by the end of the N8 R&D, we pondered: what if there was a way to relax the physical constraints? What if when there is more space, more
battery power, more room for heat dispersion, …., Cayin knew they needed to apply the law of
subtraction and take away some features in order to stay focused. There were several
ideas on the table: C8, C8DAC, ….etc, eventually they started off with C8 and today delivered the C9.
As the model number has implied, C9 is the top model in Cayin product lineup. When they
developed the N8, they decided to use “8” because that is a lucky number to Chinese and also
visualized that there might be technology advancement to DAP down the road. For C9,
they didn’t need to reserve that leeway because Cayin know the analogue engineering inside
out, it’s very mature and as far as Cayin’s concern, this is their ultimate.
Highlights of Cayin C9 Portable Headphone Amplifier
1. Choice of Timber: select between Vacuum Tube and Solid State timber on the
faceplate. This is no doubt the most attractive, most discussed, and most sought after
feature of C9.
There are several portable tube headphone amplifier in the market, most of them
are low power and with limited portability (microphonic effect from shock and
vibration). C9 is a truly portable headphone amplifier, you can put it your backpack
or hold it in your hand and walking around while listen to it.
C9 is designed around the KORG Nutube. This is a new generation vacuum tube
developed by KORG in Japan. It is a Direct Heated Triode (DHT) but KORG
replaced the traditional filament by LED technologies. It offers some advantaged
that makes it a very good candidate for portable audio applications (flat form factor,
low power drain, generated very little heat, …), but it maintain the microphonic
problem of DHT vacuum tube, so the Nutube was not widely adopted in portable
Cayin N8 DAP is the first successful implementation of the Nutube in portable
music player. We have developed a custom silicon housing and a spring-loaded
suspension system to resolve the vibration, shock and impact, C9 has incurred the
technologies from N8 (with modification). On the other hand, Cayin N8 used only
one piece of Nutube so you can only listen to the Nutube with 3.5mm single-ended
headphone, this is an inevitable limitation of N8 given we need to operate it as a
DAP, but C9 has use a pair of Nutube so the Timber selection function is
available to both single-end and balanced circuit, making C9 the first fully
balanced portable tube headphone amplifier, to the best of our knowledge.
We didn’t overlook the important of Solid State option. We designed a discrete
audio circuit around two matched pair Toshiba 2SK209 JFET as the alternative to
Nutube in the Timber Circuit.
2. State-of-the-Art analogue amplification for both earphones and headphones: C9 is
probably the most sophisticated portable headphone amplifier in the market. Cayin
firmly believe that when the amplifier excels in control and equipped with appropriate
volume management, there is no such thing as over-powered. Even IEMs will perform
at a different level when we have ample power. Unfortunately, from what we observed,
most, if not all, high-end headphone amplifiers are designed with full size headphone in
mind, portable amplifiers are mostly DAC/Amp with emphasis on the digital audio
technologies. Given the rapid development of high-end IEMs in recent years, Cayin
believes there is a market for ultimate portable headphone amplifier that can bring out
the best of these high-end IEMs, especially when they are equipped with demanding
dynamic, planar magnetic and/or EST drivers, and yet versatile enough to cover a lot of
full-size headphones in portable scenarios.
One of the very few fully Balanced portable headphone amplifier in the market
Dual Amplification Operation (DAO): allow users to switch between Pure Class
A and Class AB
In-house developed Amplification circuit with discrete components, not IC or
Selectable High/Low gain that is widely applicable to both input modes (LINE
and PRE) and all amplification operation (Class A or Class AB), offer extra 6dB
headroom when needed and enhance paring with different earphones and
High-precision and highly linear 99 steps volume control system that composes
of a 4-channels ALPS potentiometer with a pair of MUSES72320 low noise, low
distortion resistance ladder based stereo electronic volume.
High Power portable headphone amplifier (4100mW to 2600mW per channel
at 16-32ohm loading, and same rating for both Class A or Class AB)
Special attention to make sure C9 can work with most, if not all, IEMs in the
market satisfactory. Design a premium high power amplifier requires
engineering and experience, but is attainable in general, make it enjoyable with
both IEM and headphones are way more challenging.
3. Dual input mode: on top of regular LINE input mode, C9 can also operate in PRE-
amp input mode (or known as pure power amplifier mode), with volume control
disabled and all stages operate at full capacity.
When operate in LINE input mode, which we presume will be the primary input
mode of C9, it will receive audio signal from the line level output of DAP, DAC,
or from any reliable audio source.
The PRE-amp input mode is designed to work with variable level inputs (e.g
PRE-amp or DAC with variable-level line out).
Alternatively, if you have a DAP with high quality low distortion phone out but no
line out, you can use the phone out as PRE-amp output. Switching between
Line input and PRE-amp input is an unique feature, the first of its kind to the
best of our knowledge.
4. Versatile input and output options: C9 supports 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm
balanced for both input and output, the amplifier will also optimize balanced inputs
to single-ended headphones, and from single-end input to balanced headphones.
Single-ended Portable Interconnect CS-35C35 (3.5 to 3.5) and balanced
Portable Interconnect CS-44C44 (4.4 to 4.4 with GND) are bundled.
5. Replaceable battery: the removable battery module houses 4 x Sony
US18650VTC6 (3000mAh 3.7V) lithium batteries. You can charge the 18650
batteries while the battery module is attached to C9 or after you detached it from
the amplifier. The battery module supports standard, PD and QC3.0 battery
charging through USB-C connector.
Users can acquire and replace the batteries conveniently to extend the battery
duration when needed.
User can acquire extra set of battery module.
In case the original battery are run down after extensive used, user can replace
the battery conveniently, making sure the C9 can serve a very long time without
worrying the 500 charge cycle of lithium battery.
Changing to different make and specification of 18650 battery might introduce
small changes to the sound signature, audiophile can enjoy battery rolling as an
additional tweak to their system.