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Review: iFi Audio iCan headphone amplifier (neutral with 3D sound and Bass Boost)

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I would like to thank Vincent at iFi for sending me this sample for review, I will try to write an honest review, this unit received well over 100hrs of burn-in.

 

The iCan was tested with various headphones including the German Maestro GMP 8.35D + GMP 400 and also IEM's like the Westone UM Pro30 and Final Audio Design Piano Forte X-G.

 

I used many different configurations, just the iCan, just the iDAC + iCan, the iDAC + iTube + iCan and the iTube + iCan (most used when not at a computer).

 

 

Packaging, Build Quality and Accessories:

Packaging is a simple white box, very elegant and simplistic, it has a picture of the iCan on the front, on one of the sides it has a list of the features, on the other side a picture of the side of the iCan, and on the back you will find all the technical information. This is just a sleeve, out of this slides a white box with iFi in silver pressed on the top of the box. Once you open this you are presented with the iCan in a card in tray, and underneath this you will find the accessories included. The packaging is a little Apple-esque but I do like the simplistic design.

 

Accessories included are just the necessary, 4 adhesive rubber feet, a RCA-RCA cable, 3.5mm - 3.5mm interconnect, 6.3mm to 3.5mm adaptor, power supply (ultra low noise, nice to see they don’t forget the small details) and a little flat head screw driver for changing the iCan's gain settings.

 

Build quality is good, the casing is aluminum, and feels great, I really like the finish, semi matte and it also doesn’t scratch easily which is great.  The switches on the front are high quality and actually quite stiff, the volume knob is custom built for iFi measuring better than the equivalent Alps pot. One thing that is missing is an on/off switch, which some people have already mentioned. This is the only fault I can find with this device.

 

 

A little info:

The  iCan has a gain switch for 0dB, 10dB and 20dB, it is a class A amplifier and has Xbass bass boost and 3D sound switch. The 3D settings are tuned for headphones on the iCan, it is a very well implemented, the low setting makes the sound more coherent and less hard L and R, mids take real centre stage and the instruments surround them, without messing up the sound or taking any detail away. It gives you a bit more of a speaker like sound.

 

On the high setting the sound becomes a tad brighter (remedied with the Xbass if needed) but the sounds do come from further apart and are very well separated with excellent sense of air and space, it does create a wider perceived soundstage. For most listening I prefer the low setting, but using the high + lowest bass boost, it does sound very good.

 

 

Sound:

Well this amp may not put out as much current into the same load as my O2 or Bravo Ocean but it does have a lot more gain options and also has 3D sound and Xbass. With no settings applied it sounds nearly identical to my O2, compared to the O2 it may have an ever so slight hint of warmth (not a problem) and maybe a slightly smaller soundstage. That is it, so it is as good as the O2, which is very impressive, if it isn't loud enough on unity gain just switch it to 10dB or 20dB gain and this will power a lot of headphones without problems. So we have established that the sound is very linear, it also has very good soundstage but not quite as expansive as the O2's.

 

Where it has the upper hand is in features, this is a desktop amp that cannot be used with batteries, it has RCA and 3.5mm inputs, it has a 6.3mm headphone output and more gain settings than the O2. It has the 3D setting which has been explained in the info section above, now what about the Xbass, well as all the other features are all well thought out and implemented, it is no surprise that the Xbass also is. The lowest setting adds a little sub-bass presence with a little added mid-bass thump, it adds a little warmth and body without affecting the mids or veiling the sound. I love this setting on my German Maestro GMP 400 and 8.35 D as both lack a little body (8.35 D has velour pads).

 

The high setting now brings out the rumbling sub bass with excellent realistic mid-bass punch, the only problem with the higher setting is that it now encroaches on the lower mids, but it still doesn't veil the overall sound. Bass guitars have excellent articulation and are in your face, kick drum punch with authority, a very fun energetic bass boost without sacrificing the mids or veiling the overall sound.

 

 

So there we have it, an excellent amp that is transparent and has added features over the O2.  It is no surprise that this is now ranked #1 in the Desktop amp section of Head-fi, it has been getting a lot of good reviews and this is another, the only thing I would change is putting a on/off switch on it.

 

Sound Perfection Rating: 10/10 (pairs well with everything and has many great features)

 

 

Tracks Used:
Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox) (320kbps MP3)
Paramore – Franklin (320kbps MP3)
Diana Krall – The Girl In The Other Room (FLAC)
Deolinda – Passou Por Mim E Sorriu (live) (ALAC)
Suicide Silence – Unanswered (FLAC)
Massive Attack – Angel (ALAC)
Eat Static – Dzhopa Dream (ALAC)
The XX – Crystalised (FLAC)
Funeral For A Friend – Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings (ALAC)
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (FLAC)
The Scene Aesthetic – Humans (259kbps MP3)
A Hero A Fake – Swallowed By The Sea (254kbps MP3)
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring Allegro (ALAC)
Johnny Craig – Children Of Divorce (161kbps MP3)
Deadmau5 + Kaskade – I Remember (Caspa Remix) (320kbps MP3)
Black Uhuru – Utterance (ALAC)
We Are The In Crowd – Never Be What You Want (226kbps MP3)
Silverstein – Discovering The Waterfront (320kbps MP3)
Concept Of Thought – Our Thought (FLAC)
Nirvana – Something In The Way (Unplugged) (ALAC)


Edited by ostewart - 1/23/14 at 4:26am
post #2 of 5

Does it have gain settings for IEMS??

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Yes it does, it has 0db,10db and 20db gain settings.
post #4 of 5
I think first rev. was missing the gain selectors.
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
True
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