Cayin has been around for quite some time now, being one of the leading manufacturers when it comes to headphone amplifiers, DACs, and DAPs. It’s as recent as 2019 when they started producing IEMs, and their first launch, the YB04 (review here) has been a marvelous entry into the IEM world.
Utilizing 4 Balanced Armature drivers, they offered a beautifully nuanced, coherent, and neutral sound signature sealed in high-quality and ergonomic shells. Now, Cayin has decided to step up their game by launching their new flagship, a single DD driver IEM called Fantasy. It uses a Beryllium-plated dynamic driver. The $799 asking price positions them into a very competitive price bracket, filled with many great IEMs, hence the Fantasy has a lot to prove to be a valid option to buy.
When it comes to the packaging and unboxing experience, Cayin has always been good, and with the Fantasy, they really made something great.
The IEMs come in a big box that has two compartments. After opening it up, you’re greeted with the IEMs displayed on top, and it really looks great.
Except for the IEMs themselves, you’re getting a soft pouch, that even though being of good quality, isn’t really protective when on the go. I’d much prefer the leather case that has been included with the YB04, as it’s of great quality, nice looking, and very protective. The soft pouch included with the Fantasy acts more like a scratch protector, but I would never throw it into a bag.
Next up you’ve got the cable, which is a 1.3m OCC-Copper with the silver-plated core. It uses extruded 2-pin connectors, and it is a good quality cable as for the stock choice. It’s comfortable to wear and the microphonics are minimal. It would have been nice to get a 4.4mm balanced cable in the box additionally, or at least as the stock cable with an adapter to 3.5mm included, but that’s more of nitpicking.
Other than that you’ve got plenty of choices when it comes to the eartips. Cayin included 12 different pairs of tips for you to choose from. Last but not least, you’re getting a cable clip, cleaning brush, and a cleaning cloth, which is actually not too good and I wouldn’t use it to clean the delicate surface of these beautiful shells.
Overall, all that makes for a premium unboxing experience which is always nice to see, especially in this price range. Sure, it would have been nice to get a hard carrying case, even the same as the one that comes with the YB04, and a balanced cable, but it doesn’t change the fact that the packaging of the Fantasy is really good.
Build quality and comfort
Here things get really interesting. Cayin Fantasy is made of Grade 316 surgical stainless steel which has been mirror polished. This style of IEMs is looking really spectacular…if they are clean and new. Take the Campfire Audio Andromeda S and Final A8000 as an example. You really want to keep them clean and you need to baby them to make sure you won’t scratch them.
Nonetheless, no matter how much you’d take care of them, some signs will show rather quickly. This is the price you have to pay for these absolutely marvelous-looking shells. Don’t worry too much though, as I’ve seen some scratched A8000 for example and they still looked fantastic.
Apart from the materials used, the design of the Fantasy IEM is inspired by stringed musical instruments. Its round edges and overall shape make them a very comfortable pair of earphones. Even though the shells have some weight, you won’t be having too many problems with using them for an extended period of time. Sure thing, because of the weight they are not the most comfortable pair of IEMs on the market, but the shape really helps.
Additionally, they utilize the protruding 2-pin connectors, which are both commonly used and really durable. It helps to reduce the stress of the connectors while using the IEMs.
The included cable is a 4-core unit using OCC copper wires with silver-plated cores. It’s well-made and very comfortable, as it’s flexible and rather lightweight, except for the splitter. It’s also really visually appealing, sporting that silver color together with the splitter and the jack connector both using the same material that you’ll find on the IEMs themselves.
Nonetheless, I actually recommend getting a nice aftermarket cable that’ll suit the Fantasy better. I’d go with something warm and thick-sounding.
The Fantasy IEM uses a Beryllium-plated bio-cellulose diaphragm. It is said to deliver an improved stiffness of the membrane. Also, the Beryllium plating reduces resonance, and minimizes deformance of the membrane.
If you’re familiar wit the sound of the Beryllium, then you definitely won’t be surprised. It delivers a very fast and accurate driver response, with very low distortions. Also, its detail reproduction is among the best of any technology, and it surely is apparent in the Fantasy.
These IEMs also use a Dual Cavity with Two-way magnetic technology. Here’s the explanation from Cayin:
- Additional rear cavity controls the sound wave to flow smoothly and reduces resonance. This will enhance the clarity and soundstage will be more holographic.
- Increased magnetic flux offers excellent control to diaphragm and reproduces low level details accurately and seamlessly.
The Cayin Fantasy is an absolutely gorgeous-looking and built IEM utilizing great driver technology. It is both comfortable and well-thought when it comes to its design. As far as the sound is concerned, it is definitely not a neutral or natural sounding pair of IEMs, but there are some people that will definitely like their tuning.
Let’s start with the bass. It is detailed, crisp, fast, and insightful. The Fantasy is a bass-light IEM, don’t expect a great kick or physicality in it, as it lacks weight, especially in the sub-bass region. While it’s mostly good with acoustic recordings some jazz recordings, the amount of bass isn’t ideal for rock/metal/rap/electronics.
While it will definitely satisfy those who like that fast, nuanced bass response, it’s definitely not going to be enough for bassheads or natural tonality fans. It is actually the same story regarding the rest of the frequency response.
It’s simply a bass-light Japanese tuning all around, focusing on fast transient response, textured mids and boosted lower-treble region. The amount of details and the crispiness of the low frequencies are both great, but its tuning will not suit a lot of people nowadays I’m afraid.
An album called “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk is really great to test the bass response with, so let’s dig into it.
The thing that I stated above is fairly easy to spot here, as the overall sound lacks weight and punchiness a bit. You are getting a very fast and nuanced response, but this somewhat light tone makes this album sound not as it’s really supposed to. You’re not going to be missing any detail or texture, but I wouldn’t expect your head to start bobbing to the rhythm.
The midrange does share some similarities to the bass response. It’s definitely tuned towards the upper-mid section, which allows female vocals to really shine. If you’re a fan of those, you’re most probably will love the midrange of the Fantasy.
Other than that, the lower-mid is yet again a bit lacking in weight, resulting in male vocals sounding a little bit on the light and unnatural side. While there’s a big market for thick and heavy-sounding midrange nowadays, it’s really good to see a different approach, especially with it being so consistent.
The Fantasy’s mid-forward presentation is especially great for wind instruments, allowing them to sound extremely textured, fast and engaging. When it comes to female vocals, they are very forward and airy sounding on the Fantasy. I know many people that actually love upper-mid forwardness, and they would definitely love this IEM.
While the sound signature here is definitely not for everybody, it does wonders with the soundstage, thanks to sounding so airy and open.
Let’s get to our classic here at Ear Fidelity, the Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks just happens to have such an amazing voice, and it’s recreated just beautifully by the Fantasy. She sounds forward, bright and beautifully textured. The same story goes with the likes of Melody Gardot, or Holly Martin from the legendary trip-hop band Archive. All of them simply sound so sweet, addictive and very nuanced on the Fantasy, that I believe every female vocal enthusiast should definitely give them a try.
The treble will most likely be a hit-or-miss for many. It’s definitely bright sounding, greatly layered and extremely fast, but the Fantasy is surely capable of sounding tiring. While the extension on the top-end is brilliant and very impressive, the lower-treble region is boosted by quite a lot.
Because of that, they could simply sound harsh and overly bright if you’ll simply plug them into anything you’ve got on your hand at the moment. They seriously require a very careful matching in terms of the source and the tips. If you’ll plug them into a bright sounding device, and you’re not a treblehead, then you definitely will be blasted by those high frequencies.
Nonetheless, if you’ll plug them into a thick and dark sounding device, they do tend to sound absolutely spectacular when it comes to detail retrieval and airiness. The Cayin N3Pro is actually a brilliant match with the Fantasy if you’ll use its triode mode.
After you’ll find the right companion for them, you’re gonna be rewarded with one of the most detailed and sparkly sounding treble you can get for the price. It sounds exciting, razor-sharp, and detailed at the same time.
The soundstage is both deep and wide. Not to the extremes, as its stage is definitely not as big as the one found in UM MEST, or Final A8000 for example.
It’s very enjoyable and natural sounding though, with really good imaging. It just feels right, not being overly intimate, nor too big, just spot-on for most of the records I’ve tried with it.
Thanks to using a single driver, the overall soundstage feels natural and very coherent, providing a good room between the instruments. It is not as informative or superbly-crisp as some hybrids or tribrids, but as for a single DD IEM, the Fantasy stages really good.
What’s worth noting is that every instrument sounds physical and well exposed, giving us a sharp and accurate show around the head.
VS Final A8000
The influence of the A8000 in the latest Cayin’s release is very prominent in almost every term. The build quality and included accessories are going head to head, with the Fantasy winning in terms of comfort. The sharp edges of the A8000 may result in some fatigue after an hour of the listening session, and you won’t be having this kind of problems with the Fantasy.
When it comes to tuning, the A8000 offers a more mature and more natural frequency response. Its bass is definitely more prominent than in the Fantasy, and the upper-mid to lower-treble transition, even though being quite elevated, isn’t as sharp and accentuated. When it comes to the raw technical performance, the Fantasy keeps up surprisingly well, considering the 2x price difference. The A8000 still has an edge in detail retrieval and overall resolution, but it’s not as big as I expected it to be.
I’d like to call the Fantasy as the “mini A8000”, but because of its very distinct tuning, I don’t believe it to be true. While both offer a very fast transient response and really crisp sonic reproduction, the A8000 is just a way more natural and cohesive sounding IEM.
VS Campfire Audio Dorado 2020
While I saw some similarities between the Fantasy and the A8000, the Dorado 2020 by Campfire Audio is as different as It possible could be.
First of all – while the Fantasy is a really comfortable IEM, its shells are quite a bit larger than the Dorado, resulting in a better overall comfort in the latter.
Secondly, they share absolutely no similarities when it comes to the tuning. The CFA’s bass response simply sweeps the Fantasy up, being way bigger, bolder and more physical. These two just simply cannot compare, as the Dorado 2020 is a bassheads dream, and the Fantasy is simply a bass-light IEM.
The transition between the midrange and the treble in both is quite boosted, but it’s definitely not as dramatic in the Dorado. It’s vivid enough to sound crisp and open, while the Fantasy takes it to the extreme, giving us a brighter and harsher presentation overall.
VS Fir Audio VxV
These two are also very differently tuned. While the Fantasy is a very extreme sounding IEM, super-fast, bright and insightful, the VxV is all about chill and safe frequency response.
The overall presentation of the VxV is warmer, more delicate, and calm, with a very pleasant, smooth tone. The Fantasy on the other hand is colder and brighter sounding, and its elevated lower-treble response results in a sharper and more textured sound.
While the VxV is a perfect example of “Everyday Carry”, the Fantasy is a specialistic tool, for the person who is really into this kind of tuning.
Cayin Fantasy is a specific IEM that’s tuned for the Asian markets. It offers a very fast and crisp sound, but its frequency response is not neutral. If you’re a big fan of bass-light, crispy, and bright-sounding IEMs, then this could be the best buy for you. If you are more into a natural, smooth, and easy-to-listen-to experience, you should look somewhere else.
Apart from that, you’re getting a superb build quality, quality accessories included, and an overall premium product from top to bottom. Definitely give them a listen before pulling the trigger, as they are surely not for everyone.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Unique Melody MEST, Campfire Audio Dorado 2020, Ara, Solaris 2020, Final A8000, Fir Audio VxV, Hifiman HE1000se, HEDDphone, Hifiman Ananda
- Sources– Cayin N3Pro, iBasso DX220, SMSL SU-9 + SH-9, LittleDot MK III SE,, JDSLabs ATOM+,
- Cables – Erua Tawa, Erua Miro