iFi audio Pro iCAN Signature

Adnan Firoze

100+ Head-Fier
But can you drive the Susvara? Yes iCAN.
Pros: - It drives the Susvara!
- Did I say, it drives the Susvara - with authority?
- Great build and aesthetically pleasing
- Gobs of power
- Tons of "meaningful" features (and it's no gimmick)
- Plays with much higher priced amps and does more
- Perfect amp for rock n roll
- It comes with the iPower Elite which is excellent (you don't need an LPS)
- S-tier fully balanced preamp functionality
Cons: - Difficult to tube roll
- One year warranty

iFi Pro iCAN Signature meets the TOTLs​


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In this review, I will try to draw a picture of how the @iFi audio Pro iCAN Signature (how-many-barreled-name is that?) performs under pressure i.e., when driving very difficult loads such as the Susvara, Abyss AB1266 TC, HE-560, HD800s. This is where the Pro iCAN Signature meets the TOTLs. For the uninitiated, this is the latest flagship headphone amplifier/preamp from iFi's Pro line.

The first thing I look for in any gear (source, amp, headphones, IEMs) is transparency and resolving capabilities. Once it passes that test, I look at character/tonality. Sometimes, having ‘no character’ and being fully transparent (wait, what?) is a good thing but sometimes, a well-clad coloration can elevate something from good to outstanding.

As for music, my favorite genres are grunge, hard rock, heavy metal, progressive rock, fusion, and jazz. I also occasionally listen to funk, country, and classical. What I almost never listen to is hip-hop, electronica, trance – so mostly processed music i.e., music that is made using computer and not played by hand/feet/limbs.

My favorite acts include Rage Against the Machine, Pantera (yes I see the irony of the first two – politically speaking – in case you know where they stand), Lamb of God, Jethro Tull, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Jaco Pastorious, Victor Wooten, Cory Wong, Porcupine Tree (and everything done by Steven Wildon), Dream Theater, Tool, Primus, Led Zeppelin, to name a few.

In the olden days they asked about PCs, “… but can it play Crysis?” and in headphone amps, it translates to, “… but can it drive the Susvara?”​


If you want a device tour and feature discussion, there are quite a few on Youtube but I will recommend the review right below mine or the one on Bloom Audio’s website as they are extremely well written and give very vivid descriptions of the features and describe the sound variations of different modes. So, I will not repeat what have already been said just for the sake of it, rather I will discuss how it plays with TOTLs of today (at least the ones I have been privileged to have). To bring the point home, I will compare/contrast it with the Benchmark AHB2 power/speaker amp – my “benchmark” amp to drive the Susvara. I have written a dedicated review on the AHB2, which you can check out at your leisure. So, I believe, this will be a good comparison to answer if the Pro iCAN Signature is really up to the task to drive the Susvara – and the rest can be extrapolated.

Some of the reviews have termed this as an expensive unit, which in isolation is true, but in this review, it will be pitted against a family of amps that trumps it in price. But I should say that I do not have many of the amps like the Bakoon 13r or Enleum 23r or the OOR+H on hand but going by my Benchmark AHB2 ($3000), I will share what might be expected. Enough disclaimers, yo, get to the point. I have one bit of it left.

I bought this unit from Bloom Audio and as a returning customer, I did receive a small discount. I was never asked to write a review on their behalf. So, this is being written of my own volition. There’s a reason I am a “returning” customer of theirs, and that is the friendly-neighborhood-brick-and-mortar store vibe they give out even as an online retailer. I cannot say enough good things about gestures like hand-written “thank you”-notes they put in for their customers. Personally, I really appreciate these gestures. To top it off, the Pro ICAN Signature came with a candy bar. Thank you, @Andrew DiMarcangelo ! Okay, on the business end, what differentiates good stores from great ones is their attitude when things go wrong. In this regard, they have been in the top two in the US in my experience. So, if you want to get one of these, you may consider buying from them.


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An interview with me (aka the TL;DR of the review)

Can it drive the Susvara? Yes!

Can it drive it well? What does that even mean? What’s the point of reference?

Is it as dynamic as in the speaker amps? Do you get controlled bass? My ears say yes. I would have a very hard time telling the performance of it and the AHB2 apart (when it comes to driving prowess).

Does it sound similar to the AHB2? No. Please read on for elaboration.

So, are you saying you cannot tell it apart from a speaker amp? No, that’s not what I am saying. I can totally tell them apart with a blindfold on because of the very different sound signatures between the iCAN Signature and the AHB2.

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The Sound

Now that sound signature has come up, let’s tackle that. As described by the review right below mine, this amp is a monster when it comes to power (14 WPC) but it’s not a reference-sounding amp. If it were, I wouldn’t have bought it. It has character – in fact, it has several as you can see in other reviews (the classic iFi bass boost - XBass, the crossfeed feature they named X-space these days, a rather yummy "tube" stage, and “tube+” – which is “tube” but on steroids). But even in the vanilla solid-state stage mode, which I will use as the point of comparison, I echo everything the review below described. It is a more meaty and has a somewhat gutsy-feeling sound compared to amps like Burson Soloist 3X (which it replaced in my chain) or the venerable AHB2, which I keep bringing up when Susvara is in the equation as that is the best I have heard Hifiman's flagship on. And of course, you can choose to play with the XBass to push the bass level up (I loved two notches), or the tubes to put a layer of warmth under your music (both of which are welcome embellishments for the Susvara; you probably will know if you have one). A detailed description of what each mode does has been comprehensively done by other reviewers on this page. Let me break down what I heard with the headphones I tried it with.

w/ Hifiman Susvara: By no means, did I find it underpowered, but your mileage may vary. Again, I cannot stress enough that I have a power amp right beside it to compare. The sound was dynamic and full-bodied. On the solid-state, no-frills mode, it was clean but not as clean as the recent Burson amps or the AHB2, which is exactly what I wanted. It put more flesh on the bones in the midrange, which was a boon for hard rock, grunge, and heavy metal (three of my favorite genres). That’s basically the crux of it. The bass was well controlled and authoritative (which is the litmus test for Susvara amps). If you have a Susvara, and if you are a bass head, you know that Susvara is not exactly the champ when it comes to upper-bass quantity. The Pro iCAN Signature, while being mendacious (without DSP), will fix that, should you want that extra punch. That was one of the reasons I bought it in the first place. Secondly, if you find your Susvara to be somewhat dry (which it can come across in some chains), the tube stage can be that extra mayonnaise you were looking for. So there, I said it: if I had just one amp for the Susvara, would I keep it then, then the answer would be a resounding yes. I feel it doesn’t get enough credit for this (and it may stir up some debate in the comments) but I simply described what I heard in the past few weeks. On the volume pot, on high gain, I didn’t have to go beyond 4 O'clock (and it starts at 1 O'clock) at high gain, leaving plenty (more than half) of headroom. I give it an A+ for driving and shaping the Susvara without any reservation.

w/ Abyss AB1266 TC: Ideally, if it can drive the Susvara well, it should play the 1266 TC even better, right? Wrong! While I cannot describe objectively why this is, I preferred the TC on the AHB2 or even my beloved Schiit Mjolnir 2 more. That does not mean it was not a pleasant listen. It sure was but that “flesh on the bone” synergy is just not something the TC wants for dinner is what it seems. I really enjoyed the tube stage on the 1266TC and its bass kicks like a mule even without any kind of bass boost. Also, I feel you can literally shake the drivers off of your TC if you put the bass boost to its fullest degree, and believe me, these have been done in the past. So, be judicious. I’d give it a B+ for synergy with the TC whereas an A+ with the Susvara.

w/ Sennheiser HD800s: Moving from low sensitivity to high impedance territory, it is just as good or maybe better. The sound was sublime on the 800s with this amp (I am tired of writing “iFi Pro iCAN Signature” at this point). No, you do not lose the stage that makes the HD 800s so special; in fact on the tube stages, you can rein in the upper mids and have a more pleasurable experience in that amazingly precise and wide stage without losing any of the detail. On tube+ mode, however, you do trade some of the precision or leading edge of tones for the tubey-ness, which is quite magical if you are into that kind of thing. I’d say it drives the HD800s like a champ and fixes many of its weaknesses like the sharp upper mid and somewhat weak bass response. So, all the bells-n-whistles features of the Pro iCAN Signature really shines when it tackles something like the HD 800s to tailor the sound to your preference. Power, in this case, is a non-issue as it has more on reserve to blow the drivers of the 800s.

w/ Hifiman HE-560 v1 (OG): I have had this headphone for over six years, and I love it for rock/metal music. It warrants a beefy amp to shine. The Pro iCAN Signature is as beefy as they come. For busy music, I am yet to hear any amp that performed as well as this. The grunt of the guitar riffs, the linear bass lines, the smooth treble, everything came through like it should, with that extra body one would miss out on THX amps. So, I surmise, it would do well with HE500, HE-6, and other cousins in this family.

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Where I would place it in my chain

I made some bold statements praising this amp in this review for sure. I even alluded to the fact that I can live on this over the AHB2 but that’s not the end of the story. While I surely love it for the sound signature, the power, the feature set it packs, I will place it as a preamp in my chain to the AHB2 (for the Susvara and TC specifically) so I know that I get the best of both worlds. But even while that is an honest statement, would I be perfectly happy with it as the sole headphone amp? Yes, absolutely!

Rooms for Improvement (my expectations)

The first thing to ask is, “does it do its job … as a headphone amp (forget about the novelty features)?" Ohh, yes, like a champ! What I would want from iFi in later iterations is to swap the tubes to a more accessible 6922 family, that are easy to roll. While on that topic, to tube roll, it needs to be fully opened up, which I prefer not to do, albeit the provided tubes do an excellent job. But since there is potential, why not take full advantage of that? That’s pretty much it except one more thing: it comes with a one-year warranty. These tubes are rated for way more than 4-5 years on heavy usage but still, those who are into tubes, know that tubes do have a lifespan. Given that, the Pro line of gears would make more sense to have a 3-years warranty on them.

Final Thoughts

The iFi Pro iCAN Signature is a formidable amp that packs gobs of power with very fun features to shape the sound without any DSP. This might sound like a caveat, but it really is not. If you know what you want out of your chain, this is probably the only choice in getting some things done. One example is, I always wished for some more midbass punch on my Susvara but I did not want to use EQ (which the Susvara doesn’t like anyway), and this is the “only” amp that accomplished it like a champ. So yeah, I would wholeheartedly recommend this amp. It warrants much more attention in the upper echelon of gears, and for its price, it competes with much higher priced specialized amps. This is a clear win for iFi. Good job, color me impressed, and boy, can it do some analog “coloring”!
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OCC7N
OCC7N
what was the high gain issue?
silversurfer616
silversurfer616
I am on Low Gain with balanced Susvara and can’t go above 12O‘clock. But then again it’s fed balanced from the DAC. Signature is considerably better than the original version. Might be the power supply.
adydula
adydula
Change out tubes it voids the warranty!
Warranty should be at least three years at this price point.
iFI has ignored this request while touting this device is a TOTL amp.
I own one and its a great amp...but come on iFi if its that good why the skimpy warranty ?????

Well...?
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betula

Headphoneus Supremus
iFi iCan Pro Signature balanced solid state/tube headphone amplifier
Pros: excellent build quality
- choice of pure SS or tube mode
- full, weighty, dynamic sound with excellent texture
- analogue bass and 3D knobs
- plenty of output options
Cons: price (I would have given 5 stars at a 15% lower price)
- sound could be a bit airier
Disclaimer

iFi has always been excellent in keeping contact with their customers throughout the years. Time to time I receive a new product from them for review purposes; last time I had a chance to try the iDSD Diablo. I write these reviews because I enjoy hearing new audio gear, iFi is not paying me anything. This is all my honest opinion after listening to the new Pro Signature for six weeks.

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This amp is missing the brass 'Signature' logo as it was an early production unit

What is this amp?

This amplifier is iFi’s newest flagship headphone amplifier, an improvement on the predecessor iCan Pro. iFi adds the name ‘Signature’ to their top of the line/improved products.

So, what is exactly new in this amp compared to the regular iCan Pro? I asked the same question from iFi, here is the answer:

1, New parts in certain critical areas to further improve performance - OSCONS and Tantalums.
2, Clock crystal to further improve jitter
3, A sonically darker background and a punchier bass.
4, Upgraded power -supply components to lower the overall system noise by 300%.
5, Precisely matched NOS GE5670s tubes.
6, Added support for USB1.0 (PS4/PS5).
7, A new aluminium remote control.
8, A top-of the range
iPower Elite power supply included.

I will not list all the tech specs here to save space, you can find them here.

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Such a satisfying combo

Gear used, comparisons

I tested the Pro Signature with my Meze Empyrean and Final D8000. My DAC is the RME ADI-2 which I ran fully balanced to both amps. I used my extensive FLAC library as a music source.

It would be interesting to compare the new Signature edition to the original, or auditioning the original iCan Pro with the Elite power supply. In my opinion the Elite power supply probably plays a significant role in the sound improvement.

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I love those brass accents

I mainly tested the Signature against my Burson Soloist 3XP with the additional 3A Super Charger which is Burson’s new power supply for their gear. For the sake of the review I have to mention, I use the 3XP exclusively in power amp mode, as this way I find the Burson’s sound cleaner and more dynamic. This bypasses the whole volume stage in the amp so the volume is controlled by the DAC. The Super Charger also clearly improves the sound to my ears. (The 3XP in regular mode and with regular power supply sounds much warmer and less clear to my ears.)

How does it translate to cash?

I will use the RRP in the UK, but these can be found for much less on the slightly used second-hand market.

iFi iCan Pro Signature: £2249 (iFi iCan Pro: £1795)
Elite power supply: included with the Signature, £299 separately.

Burson Soloist 3XP: £1199
Super Charger: £249-£299

The Signature is still £750 more expensive than the 3XP with the improved 3A power supply.

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I do not easily get excited looking at power supplies, but this Elite is indeed a beautifully designed PSU


Aesthetics, build quality, functions

I think, by now it is safe to say that iFi is mostly known for the excellent build quality and plethora of knobs, switches that help you alter the sound or adjust the output power.

You have the well-known bass and 3D knobs which I did not use with my D8000 or Empyrean, but I can see the first two settings on each knob might be useful with other headphones: bit of a bass dial for the HD800 for example or 3D for closed back headphones. They are both subtle and perfectly implemented. The 3D to my ears mostly opens up the upper-mid/treble region a bit.

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A strong selling point of this amp is that you can use it in pure solid state mode, ‘tube 1’ and ‘tube 2’ mode. This is not a hybrid amp, these are completely separate circuits. All of this in such a sturdy and compact form which is indeed impressive.

SS/Tube mode:

With the headphones I used, my preference was the solid state mode. Both the Empyrean and D8000 benefit from the clarity and dynamism of the SS mode, at least to my ears with my music (mostly modern).

While the ‘tube 1’ mode definitely adds a pleasant warmth to the sound, I found that this comes at a price of slightly less details and insight, a reduced and less clear soundstage. This is even more apparent in ‘tube 2’ mode.

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A peephole, for you tube nerds :)

I can see some brighter headphones benefit from ‘tube 1’ mode as it is a real treble tamer. ‘Tube 2’ in my opinion is just too warm and the loss of technicalities versus SS mode is simply too apparent, at least to my taste with the D8000.

The Signature in SS mode is not bright at all. I think the SS mode is already a hair closer to a warm sound leaving the neutral line, which I personally like. The sound already has a pleasantly warm and thick tonality, lacking any harshness. This amp is the most dynamic and most energetic in SS mode.

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Another excellent pairing. The Empyrean loves this tight dynamism and full textures.

Further impressions on sound and comparison to the Soloist 3XP

As I mentioned earlier, I do not have the original iCan Pro with me, but from memory the Signature is perhaps a bit warmer, more natural. I remember, the treble occasionally came across as dry and bright on the original version, but I never had that impression with the Signature.

The first impression when listening to the Signature is that it sounds full, thick, dynamic, strong and energetic. This fullness and thickness does not overshadow details though. All the details and resolution is there that you would expect for this price, yet the instrument textures and sounds are also full and rounded at the same time.

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This big, dynamic and full sound offers a very satisfying listening experience.

When I compare the Signature to the Soloist 3XP (power amp mode, Super Charger), the Burson definitely comes across as a thinner sounding amp. In a way it is not necessarily a negative or a positive for either of the amps, just a difference. Both presentations have strengths and weaknesses.

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The thinner sounding 3XP has the ability to sound airier, lighter and perhaps offers a deeper insight to the soundstage. The Burson also has a subtle but unique analogue taste to its sound presentation.

The Pro Signature on the other hand has a more masculine, weightier sound while stays pretty much equally detailed and dynamic. These thicker textures on the iFi amp carry more information which allows creating a fuller, more complete sound for each instrument. Perhaps it is the easiest to hear this with drums.

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Two excellent amps for slightly different needs and taste

In my opinion these are both excellent amps and they possess the more lifelike and more 3D sound associated with higher quality amplifiers, especially when we compare them to popular budget kings like the A90, Singxer and others.

The individual instruments definitely benefit from iFi’s thicker and richer texture, there is simply more substance to the sound. This often equates to a more lifelike, better defined sound, for example drum impacts. At the same time the bigger overall picture occasionally becomes a bit too thick and warm which only becomes obvious when comparing it to an airier and lighter but still higher quality amp like the 3XP.

While the impact of kick drums for example sound more real on the iFi, the lesser overall air does not quite allow this better texture to be completely expressed.

When I naively wish to combine the delicate airiness of the 3XP and the full/weighty/complete textures of the Signature, I am probably bumping into a wall that says ‘physically impossible for engineers’; at least in 2021.

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Please, Chord and other high-end audio manufacturers learn from iFi. This is, how a remote control should be made.

Conclusion:

I think, objectively the Signature is the better amp as it’s sound carries more information, even though it is not as open and delicate in its presentation as the 3XP. I would probably swap my Soloist for the Signature, but at the same time I will remain equally happy with my 3XP and spend that £750 elsewhere.

A big part of the Signature’s higher price tag is the different circuits (SS, Tube). If you do not have much space on your desk but you have multiple headphones and/or want to experience tube sound this amp is a great candidate. You effectively buy two amps in one with analogue bass and 3D(treble) controls.

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Also, if you like a masculine, thick, dynamic and impactful sound with TOTL resolution and clarity, you might want to buy this amp regardless those SS/Tube circuits.

While the price tag is rather hefty, technically this amplifier will definitely bring the best out of every TOTL headphone. Beyond this level of technical performance there are only different flavours.

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I have certainly enjoyed my time with this excellent amp. Thank you iFi once again.
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jclyle
jclyle
Great review! What opamps did you use in the Soloist for your comparisons?
OCC7N
OCC7N
What amp do you think is better for the price, considered for susvara
betula
betula
You mean between these two? I would probably go for the iCan for the power and a thicker sound.

adydula

Headphoneus Supremus
iFi iCan Pro Signature Experience
Pros: Small Foot print
Solid state + Tube amp
Flexible
State of the art
Powerful
Multiple inputs and outputs
Extremely versatile
Cons: Price
Warranty only 12 months
High Gain Issue
I have been doing this headphone stuff for the past 10+ years fairly seriously. I am no youngster anymore and my hearing isn’t what it used to be but still for my age it’s pretty decent...up t 15khz still. I love music and hearing it reproduced well.... I want to listen with transducers and gear that makes me smile and often gives me the illusion of being there.

Gear that allows me to look into a recording and tell how well it was recorded, how well the musicians performed. Being able to hear the room, auditorium or open-air venue....

Being a purist, I have always wanted the least amount of stuff in the reproduction chain and coming from the analog vinyl world, to the cassette, then cd and now digital ripping and streaming world. In each transition there was a trust factor to be overcome.... what was good, what was bad, and was this a step up in the quest for the "perfect" hi-f sound. Speakers or headphones.

In the last 10 years headphones and ancillary equipment have come a long way. But I always wanted the least amount of stuff, connections and cables.... When the FLAC lossless format arrived on the scene I took the digital plunge and ripped all my CD's...spending hours getting the settings correct to have "perfect" rips....

Now I sit here with this iFi "stuff". Very complex, many choices far from simple. But its time.

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The iFi Pro DSD was obtained a few months ago before the Signature was announced and it really opened my "ears" to how well a good dac design could go in marching towards audio perfection. I sold my gold standard dac due to the arrival of the Pro DSD. Done. The Pro DSD is a perfect match for its sibling amp…a nice balanced connection and we are done looking for a better dac.

The I was tempted to try the iCan Pro, but could not find one new at a decent price and the rumor mill was telling me to wait something was coming...and here it is the iFi Pro Signature series. So, the new iCAN Pro amp has been here for a week now. Having reviewed and owned 30 + amps in the past few years it didn’t take long to figure out this is a marvelous little amp.

I used to do the traditional "review" specs, feeds and speeds but now look at these devices in a more subjective light....and think of these more as an "experience" than a review.

So here is my “experience” with the iFi ICan Pro Signature amp....

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First getting the thing out of the box was a chore! it’s a double boxed deal with the amp in one enclosure and the nice little iFi Elite power supply in another with both being wrapped in an overall wrapper. Then taking them out and unboxing took some time...seeing the little smiling "thank you" symbol was nice...."your welcome".... iFi.

Once out I took the time to read the manual, yes, I am experienced enough to cable up and power on...but this new toy has lots of selections and it’s good to take the time to read the manual....

In the package is a new remote with NO battery.... IMO Hey iFi for the cost throw in a battery please...I don’t care about any excuse about a battery being dangerous or getting old in the package...these things sell like hot cakes so please throw in a 3-volt battery!

The new remote works with this older PRO DSD dac for volume. I don’t use the PRO DSD for streaming so the other buttons do not work for me. They might with the phone app? iFi can chime in here. But the volume for both the older unit and the new amp work ok, this is good enough for me. Also, the older remote works with the new amp for volume as well.

The size of the new amp is pretty much the same size of the older stuff. Same aesthetics, same wavy enclosure, same style knobs and switches. Same vacuum tube lights or leds. The signature has this "gold" signature metal nameplate in the lower middle front and the selection and volume knobs have a gold circular surround...some don’t like this but it’s not gaudy at all when you have it in front of you.... Actually, now that I have it here in front of me it’s a really nice touch. One negative thing for my vanity is the brushed front plate is much "shinier" than the older Pro units. Same type of thing some us Schiit amp owners used to complain about. iFi should have done a better job here IMO. Again, a nit.

Several words describe the new amp: Versatility, Performance, Flexible, High-Tech, Powerful, Clean, Neutral, Transparent, and Expensive. Yes expensive.

I could have easily forgone the cost of many amps etc. and just gone out and bought this type of amp. But I would not have the experience in actually telling how well amps across the board worked with my musical tastes and headphones etc....a long journey but I would do it all over again.

Let’s talk versatility/flexibility. Inputs: Balanced via 3 pin xlr, (3) RCA unbalanced inputs (three different dacs coming in potentially!). Outputs: Balanced line out via 3 pin xlr, RCA unbalanced out, DC loop out. On the front you have the iFi LOGO that changes color and on and blinking for the various modes. A large input selector knob, good feel to it. A Xbass Correction system selector with three selections and OFF. Several headphone output sockets.... Balanced 4 pin, the older left/right 3 pin xlr and SE via these as well for the 1/4 " phone plugs. 4.4 mm pentacom and a smaller 3. 5mm.....you got connectivity in spades!

Let’s talk performance/ power: SN >147 dB (A) balanced and SN >137 dB (A), THD pretty much down in the three digits down area...i.e. .0025% (example).... way down in the mud...the SE THD spec for TUBE + mode is the least at <= 0.07%...for a tube amp...well. Power: MORE THAN ENOUGH! 14 watts/4.8 watts Balanced vs SE. at 16 ohms. At no times with my Final Audio D8000 Pros and Sennheiser HD 650's could I even come close to using the power this amp can produce.... not even close. Warnings in the manual tell you to be careful especially using the Xbass correction system.... You can fry stuff if your not careful. I would hope folks spending this kind of money on "pro" stuff would be well aware of these things!! Read the manual please!

Let’s talk High-Tech. Well there is a lot here to talk about.... first this fancy Xbass Correction thing. iFi states it’s an analog signal processing thing 'ASP" vs a digital signal processing "DSP" thing. Tailored to correct the bass deficiency in a headphone or speaker and help achieve the desired level. Not the traditional bass boost thing we are used to. There is a 10hz, 20 hz and 40 hz selection and OFF. The maximum boost is 12db. Its described in the manual. For me with good recording and good headphones it’s not necessary. But I did play with it with my HD 650's with the 10 Hz setting and it did add a very nice increase in the low end and made the HD 650's have a really nice low-end response. Subtle but noticeable and there.... The 10, 20 and 40 hz correspond to headphones or speakers missing bass below 40hz, 80 hz and 160 hz...so depending on your headphones and what’s in the recording the settings you can play with and see if it helps or not.... When used it doesn’t seem to affect the overall sound quality...not like some more "gimmicky" bass boost circuits.

More Tech: A solid state J-Fet fully discrete Class A amp, a tube amp with 2 NOS GE 5670s that are well matched with the J-Fets circuitry switched out and the amp is a Class A valve amp, and add to this a Tube + mode where the negative feedback is reduced and the even harmonics are allowed to shine giving you that nice "tubey" sound....

More Tech: 3D Holographic Circuitry with three choices: 30 Degree, 60 deg and 90 deg selections. 30 degree is supposed to simulate a narrow loudspeaker placement like your computer speakers, the 60-degree selection is supposed to simulate the traditional textbook speaker placement (the old equilateral triangle setup) and the 90 deg selection is supposed to simulate a wide speaker placement which many 2 ch audiophiles like for a wide soundstage. iFi states this is not a typical cross feed arrangement implemented via a DSP but theirs emulates a speaker sound field without excessive reverb. IMO it does work...how well ...YMMV. For me several LIVE recordings made significant differences in the presentation....I was wowed with Live Dire Straits and some early Eagles Live at the LA Forum recording....was a very good experience here....for other recordings it wasn’t a vast improvement or difference.....the neat thing here is you can almost instantly try any of these setting and see for yourself.....it’s actually kind of fun being able to do this, even for a purist! LOL. I listened to the Byrd’s Greatest Hits from the 60's with the 90 deg selection and it was quite enjoyable and fun! I could turn this on and not tell you and you could not tell until you switched it off....it can be really good for some older tunes. The circuit is smart enough to detect using headphones or speakers and internally adjusting for the differences in transducers. Amazing stuff.

More Tech: It comes with an external iFi Elite Power Brick....Not going to go into this but the claim is better cleaner, less noisy power.... read more on iFi’ s site. A really nice professional looking, heavy and solidly built wall-wart of sorts.

So how does it sound, or really IMO and amplifier should NOT sound, it should be the old "straight wire with gain" device. But like all things the subjective side creeps in and our brains tell us they do sound abit different from each other.... your brain will have to tell you how much if any and is this real or not. I am down to 6 major amps in house and they do indeed have differing flavors. From neutral and transparent to slightly warmer and less transparent, more musical. Depending on my mood and music I often select one of these amps and change out to experience these often hard to detect differences. I believe the iFi amp is a direct coupled amp, no caps in the output to affect the tonality. It’s really a very clean, neutral amp, just ever so slightly warm.... using the tube mode. The SS amp is very clean, open and transparent...pretty close to being a perfect amp. Seriously. I could easily be happy with this amp. Easily.

The amount of raw power available allows for tremendous fast transients to shock you at times. With the Final Audio D8000 Pros I am often taken aback at the powerful, accurate sound that comes across using this amp. It also makes the lower cost HD 650 absolutely sparkle, with bass that I never thought these Sennheiser’s could produce. I only use the low gain setting to date, I did try the middle gain but way too much for 60-ohm cans and even for 300-ohm cans for me......I like loud but I like my hearing to be intact for a few more years as well!! Warning to youngsters DONT play music LOUD for LONG periods of TIME!! :>)

When using the SE output vs, the Balanced I do not hear a real discernable difference in sound quality overall. The only difference I hear is in the higher amplitude that using the balanced output provides vs the SE output at the same volume setting. This may be a good thing depending on the sensitivity of your cans, using a lower power output to get the volume control more in the “sweet” spot.

Having a Pro DSD and iCAN Pro amp, the (2) units add a “ton” of versatility and allow you to try many different settings and this can open your “ears” to music in different ways….really fun to explore the many setting these two can provide.

The highest positive comment I could give an amp is that it allows what’s coming in to be exactly what comes out of the amp...allowing me to hear what the source sounds like both the music and in the digital world the "dac". This amp will allow you to hear it all if you have a headphone that has very good resolving attributes. The icing on the cake here with the iFi ICAN Pro Signature amp it does what I just described but adds a few things that do affect the sound, spatially with the 3D magic circuitry and helping deficient transducers on the low end without messing up the overall tonality of the music.

Are there other amps that are good? Yes. Some cost less some even cost more. But at this price point the iFi new Signature amp is a winner and should last you a lifetime. The tubes in the box are said to be rejuvenated and should last for a long, long time...well I grew up with tubes and they don’t last forever so we shall see on this point.

The only other kind of negative thing is for a unit at this price level a 12-month warranty is a bit "skimpy" to me...with folks like Schiit giving a 5yr warranty on their mid and high-end stuff I think iFi should step up to the plate and offer a better warranty. What say you iFi???

The final question is often "Would you buy this again"...the answer in this short time is "Yes".
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jclyle
jclyle
Thanks for your review! The specs for the iDSD and iCAN Signature show they differ in height by almost and inch. Your pic of them side by side makes them look identical. Do you have the iCAN on aftermarket feet?

EDIT:
It looks like iFi has the mm dimensions correct on their site, but the inches data is wrong.
adydula
adydula
They are the same height.
jlemaster1957
jlemaster1957
Very good, detailed review @betula! Would be interested if any users have compared this to some portable tube- hybrid rigs especially the Cayin C9. This one seems to have more features and price is comparable.
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