Palm powerhouse C9 makes the giant step for portable amplification

This big preview is actually rather small. Depending on the way you look at it.

From an achievement standpoint, Cayin Audio’s C9 palm-sized, portable, flagship headphone amplifier is a big deal. Built without compromise, fronting a discrete solid-state power stage with a pair of Korg’s Nutubes, and delivering the numbers. 

125dB of signal-to-noise ratio and over four 4 of actual Class A power speaks for C9 itself. That won’t stop us from making its case further. Without ado, here’s a little spiel before launch:


Cayin's famed amplification packs up to join you back on the road with the launch of C9, featuring 4.4mm and 3.5mm inputs and outputs.

This battery-powered, tube and solid-state hybrid lands in time for use on your office desks and in living room lounges, establishing your reference headphone listening anywhere you so choose. C9 is a fully-balanced, truly differential amplifier built upon the essentials establishing a device as basically thoroughly engineered.

A high operating voltage of more than eight volts and a reliance on discrete parts for over 90 per cent of the design means C9 is not only capable of putting out over 4 watts per channel, but also ensuring it is the cleanest, most linear kind of signal possible.

Achieving 125dB of signal-to-noise ratio would not have been otherwise possible in a discrete design, with all the benefits that brings, without exacting layout. The input section exists on the popular Nutube. C9's dual timbre circuit revolves around two of Korg's fluorescent triodes or toggled solid-state FETs, the philosophical transistor alternative.

The delicate input signal is then passed to a discrete solid-state output stage that can be switched between working in pure Class A mode or Class AB. Built with individual transistors of Cayin's choosing allows great control over tuning and an innately linear open-loop circuit, with minimal negative feedback, to be fashioned, while producing genuine current for demanding headphone loads.

C9 is a brute in ballet shoes, confirmed by the big volume pot controlling precise dual MUSES resistor ladder attenuator parts occurring after the driver stage, kept far from the input signal for maximum integrity. 

Line outputs from Cayin's own N7HiBy Music's R6III plus RS6, and iBasso Audio's DX320 will never be better pampered than via C9. Use it in a mobile stack acting as the platform for Hedd's HEDDphone®MYSPHERE 3.2Rosson Audio Designs, plus any ABYSS or HiFiMAN, to shine.


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Significant about C9 is the blurring between desktop equipment versus modern super music players, and flagship battery-powered portable amplifiers. Especially when the merits of battery power is still lauded as the purest form of power supply possible. C9’s four Sony 18650 low internal resistance, high current, lithium batteries cost a mint.

But the extent to which they negate the former advantages of linear power supplies, especially in lower cost desktop equipment, becomes appreciated. The C9 battleship is built without compromise.

It dares to do what no previous portable amp has never done: put a fully differential tube and discrete solid-state hybrid in a single chassis, biased into Class A with a resistor ladder volume control. Truly, its anticipated competition isn’t other portable amplifiers. Stationary, transformer-based amplifiers, are in C9's sights. 

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Portable Mass-Kobo amplifiers have credibly been sold in this way before. The brands change – the principles, don't. Cayin are driving the fact that portable solutions don't have as much to envy from their desktop stablemates any longer. Neither in resolution, nor in output power.

So one small palm powerhouse release for Head-Fi, and one giant step in portable technology, and your enjoyment. Rewards aplenty. So spread the news. C9 is about to be big.