Cayin RU-7 1-Bit DAC Impressions

The RU7 is the newest innovation from Cayin. This new portable DAC/Headphone amp dongle is a trickle-down tech gadget that features a similar 1-Bit DAC architecture that was featured in their N7 digital audio player that came out last year. This is a different implementation than the R-2R-based RU6 portable DAC that I own and love using. 

The RU7 was actually purchased by my colleague at work, after he finally listened to my RU6, fell in love with it after borrowing it for a while, after I kept trying to get him to listen to it. This happened to correspond with the announcement and eventual release of the RU7, which caught both of our attention, and he decided to pick one up, and then we have done our own comparison of the two DACs independently. He allowed me to borrow the unit this week, and gave me an opportunity to provide some impressions of this unit.

The RU7 main feature is it upscales everything to DSD. This is a significant upscaling that far exceeds what typical DACs do. Following this upscale, they go through a resistor ladder (but not an R-2R one), and outputs to your headphones. The RU7 features a fully-balanced output, does create a little more heat than the RU6. Both of these will consume more battery than a typical dongle like the Apple dongle.

I spent the past 2 days listening to this unit primarily on in-ear monitors, switching off between the Hidition Viento CIEM, Unique Melody MEST CIEM, and the Empire Ears Odin. These are my trio of daily drivers, and I know them quite well. 

My first sonic impression of this was that it was quite impressive. I quickly found that the RU7 maintains the warmth or relaxed treble of the RU6, but is noticeably more resolving and punchier. I found it's low end to have a little more impact and punch, but also sounds a little leaner than the very warm and thick RU6 presentation. 

I listened to a variety of tracks -- including Tracy Chapman, Neil Cowley Trio, Lo Moon, Go Go Penguin, Jakob Karlson, and The Ataris. In each, I found the RU7 to have also display a slightly large soundstage, and a more incisive sound, yet smooth in the upper end.

In general terms, and by auditory memory (which isn't that great of a basis), the RU7's presentation reminded me a bit of a Chord DAC, which in also general terms, I find to be incisive, yet warm. It has a lot of the same characteristics I like about the Mojo and Qutest, and perhaps is a smattering of the two. 

The RU6, on the other hand, is still quite enjoyable, and is even more smooth, more warm and lush, and more engaging in some ways, but can also sound lower resolution at the same time. It definitely sounds more "analog", if that was a descriptor of things.

I enjoy both in the end. Cayin has done a great job of showcasing an alternate take on what a lower cost audio DAC/Amp solution could sound like. They have gone a path away from the industry standard of releasing a perfectly measuring unit, and instead, are going with a different audio presentation that probably measures horribly, but the sound, to me, synergizes with my gear and audio preferences quite well.

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  1. I recently heard the RU7 as well and I'll share some thoughts here too instead of making a new post (based on a reddit comment I made).

    The RU7 is honestly quite impressive. I'm personally quite source agnostic, having on heard minor changes from exotic set-ups. 95% of the time when I try a difference source and properly A/B it, I don't hear a difference at all.

    But when I tried the RU7 at a demo shop, I was really surprised to hear that the difference was immediately noticeable. I A/B'd it with another source (one that I can't tell a difference to the Apple dongle) and still clearly prefered the RU7. Using the Sony M9, the stage depth increased a bit, the bass felt fuller and richer, and imaging felt a little more layered. I guess if I had to compare it to food, it's like the difference between a cheap boxed pasta to more a premium brand. It not a night and day difference like homemade pasta is but there's just a bit more nuance and flavor that makes it just more enjoyable.

    I don't even know what settings I used; just plugged and played with the shop's demo. The RU6 I tried previously, I didn't feel like it made any real difference. Though it could be because I wasn't using a familiar set-up that time around. I'm hoping I can sit down and review these two properly at home some time to see if my impressions were actually accurate. For $400, it's still pretty expensive compared to the basic dongle. But in the world of sources, it's actually very affordable considering I've heard stuff that's like 8x that had less of a difference (if any).


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