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iFi iCAN headphone amplifier

Rating:
4.59375/5,
  1. DigitalFreak
    Review: The iFi iCAN Amp
    Written by DigitalFreak
    Published Jun 9, 2014
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Fun settings to play with, good amp for the new enthusiast looking for his/her first amp,
    Cons - can sound a little hot in the treble with some headphones when 3D boost is used, slight bleed into lower mids when max bass boost is used
    [​IMG] 
    1. View previous replies...
    2. KmanChu
      Nice video! It holds its own pretty well against even significantly pricier gear. One thing I found is that while its output power is listed at a rather modest 400 mA, that feels like a very conservative rating. It have used it with Alpha Dogs and LCD-3s and it does pretty darn well with both even at the middle gain setting.
      KmanChu, Jun 10, 2014
    3. jesse111
      When discussing the 3d toggle, what does ""basically" no effect whatsoever" mean?
      jesse111, Sep 10, 2014
    4. Tunkejazz
      Thanks for the review. I am considering this amp or the Vali for my HE400i. I am somewhat more biased towards the Vali, but I cannot demo it :frowning2:
      Please could you comment on how the ICAN micro compares to the Vali?
      Tunkejazz, Apr 25, 2015
  2. tdockweiler
    Near perfect and good with everything
    Written by tdockweiler
    Published Dec 11, 2013
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Small, Transparent but not cold/analytical, Smooth treble, RCA AND 1/8" input
    Cons - No power switch, Somewhat narrow soundstage, Price could be $50 lower, Weird switch labels
    This will be a short review based on maybe on 12-15 hours of use. If you think that's not long enough you can skip it.
     
    I was a bit worried that this would be some cheap gimmicky toy amp because of the name. This is instead a seriously good amp! I love it.
     
    1. Sounds great with ALL my headphones and does not add any major coloration to any of them. It works equally well with the HD-598, HD-650, K400, DJ100 and modded Q701. It sounded especially good with the hard to drive K400! All my headphones and music sounds as it should.
    2. Sounds transparent but it's not cold/analytical/thin sounding. There is a subtle touch of warmth in there. It will be nice for even a DT-990 or SR-325is. This warmth is only noticeable on specific headphones and harder on others. I noticed it on my DJ100 and HD-650. It never ever sounds thin unless it's due to the recording.
    3. The treble is well extended and not rolled off. It's much smoother than the treble of the O2 or Magni. About the same as my Headroom Micro Amp.
    4. Bass is well controlled and neutral. There is no emphasis I've heard in any area.
    5. Soundstage is lacking in width somewhat. With the HD-650 it's less spacious/open and airy sounding than with my O2/Micro Amp. The O2 is less warm though and has more treble sparkle (less smooth). It's possible my brain is just being fooled, but I'm pretty sure it's not. It's still pretty good and not as bad as it sounds. Nit-picking really. I got similar results on many difference sources.
    6. To my ears it's a better "all-rounder" amp than the O2/Magni/Asgard/Vali/E9. It does cost more though.
    7. It's the 2nd best amp i've heard. It's not as good as the Headroom Micro Amp + Astrodyne but that cost $350 new. It's the closest i've come to it's sound. The iCAN might be a tad warmer though.
    8. I have an O2 for my bedroom (backup) and it's not worth upgrading to this as a backup. If I didn't have my Micro Amp I'd be using this as my main amp. It's that good!
    9. I'm able to hear changes in all the sources I connect up to it. There is really no real coloration coming from the amp. Just that touch of warmth.
    10. If you found the O2 too sparkly, try this (or the Micro Amp)! Is it worth the $140 price premium? Well if you nit-pick about tiny things like me, then yes. If iFi can get it down to $200 in the USA it'd be a STEAL!
  3. hrene
    Amazing detailed amp!!!
    Written by hrene
    Published Jul 14, 2013
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Detailed, Exciting, Awesome Bass and Soundstage. Sounds much more than £225, feels like much more than £225
    Cons - No on/off switch
    IMG_1129.jpg
     
    IMG_1044.jpg
     
    In Audiophile world most people think then more expensive its better, iCAN proves its not always true.
    iCAN is a great performing small desktop amp with amazing features at its price point of £225. Anyone who wants more bass or more space and detail from their headphones will be happy.
     
    headphones used:
    HD650
    HD800
     
    Amp used:
    Graham Slee Novo £255
    Graham Slee Solo SRG II £377
    Lehmann Rhinelander £349
    Lehmann Audio Black Cube Linear £649 good sound but compare to price 3 times as iCAN
    Sennheiser HDVD-800 (but that the other story, I almost cry!!!) clear perfection!! £1499
     
    Comparing to amps in the same price range and above this is a true winner.
  4. mrinspire
    iFi Audio iCAN : Here Come the New Beast
    Written by mrinspire
    Published May 29, 2013
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound quality and price, performance and features.
    [​IMG] iFi iCAN reached Earmass!

    iFi Audio stunned me from the very first time that I saw local distributor E1-AKG posted info regarding their products line-up in our local forum. Why? Because the line-up is quite special,and for me they are innovative enough and offer audiophiles line-up that is really important and useful in everyone setup,and those often been forgotten,such as iUSB and iDAC. I am actually interested to know more on the other products in the line-up,but start from the iCAN,I feel nothing but impressed from head to toe,what iFI have been produced here,at least iCAN (I have not yet experienced with iDAC and iUSB),is really astounding.
    I am a big believer of 'clean' power supply,
    Sincerely thanks Vincent from iFi for providing me this unit of iCAN to accomplish this review. I will be concentrate on the sound/audio performance in this write up.
    Description,Packaging and Outlook
    [​IMG] Fruit phone alike packaging box,good looking and simple.

    iFi website has stated the specification and description of the iCAN clearly. And this is what Vincent told me:
    [​IMG] Rear view of the box

    [​IMG] Box and iCAN

    iCAN come with a trendy,clean and simple box. The box reminded me some kind of fruit phone's packaging box. While the packaging box is quite good,opened up and the accessories included are also impressive,a Ultra Low Noise Ac/DC adapter (this unit is no ordinary adapter that you might find,this is a truly low noise and high quality Ac/Dc adapter according to iFi),RCA (Female to male) cable,3.5mm cable (Male to Male) and some sheet,impressive and well done! I should have mentioned that iCAN accept 3.5mm inline and RCA jack.
    [​IMG] Ultra Low Noise Ac/DC adapter,bravo for iFi to provide this good Ac/Dc adapter,clean power is everything!

    [​IMG] Accessories included are impressive as well,cable are accessories that most of the manufacturer won't be giving to you,I am not using the original cable as I have some better cable.

    From the price perspective, I don't think iCAN is a expensive headphone amplifier. All right,I do earn hard money but please consider this headphone amplifier is designed together/by AMR, the accessories included in the package, and the build quality of this amplifier is excellent,solid and built like tank.
    [​IMG] Front Panel
    From left,you can find a volume knob,'XBass' features toggle switch,'3D' feature toggle switch,and a 6.25mm headphone jack.

    [​IMG] Ignore the black round sticky,this is what I do to headphone amp to vent the hot air more efficient.

    The volume knob,and the toggle switch are all constructed by high quality and robust material, the design is simple and straight forward. I have some minor compain though,the volume knob is a little bit stiff to turn and the marking of XBass/3D level is not same and clear (I have to look closely to see,but I have get used to this after some short time,but I think this can be corrected by next product,first stage of XBass is 'off',but first stage of 3D is 'strongest',this is quite confusing at first,and I am wondered why they design iCAN toggle switch position like this),but these are all small problem,and nothing to do with audio performance of iCAN. I have 98% to like the iCAN,and only 2% to dislike.
    Audio Performance
    I have paired Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 250 Ohm, Focal Spirit One,Creative Aurvana Live!, Goldring DR150,Shure SE425 along with Yu Long D100II Dac section and Stoner Acoustic UD100 DAC. Connected through Monster RCA cable.
    [​IMG] Please see the marking level is different,sometimes it is a little bit confusing

    Now lets moved into the more fun and most important section of the iCAN.
    I know that some of you are getting really itchy to know how this beast sound,iCAN has some of the very good sound quality. Let me elaborate more below.
    [​IMG] Side view

    As I have already mentioned and maybe you have already know,iCAN has bass boost feature,which iFi named them 'XBass',well,this is a good and favourable feature. If you have followed my review,you must already know that I am a big fan of the bass boost function,I am not a basshead,also I hate those bass boost simply cut too much treble response or any closed sound signature,but for those bass boost that just boost the bass and give you good frequency response for mid and high,I am glad to tell you that iCAN bass boost is the kind that fits my and most of us liking.
    [​IMG] Rear view of the amp,from left,there is the power input,RCA input Jack and 3.5mm Jack.

    When I paired the Focal Spirit One with iCAN particularly,the bass impact and depth of the bass is remarkably good,it shakes my head with or without turning on the 'XBass' features,the bass is clear and whole spectrum is just nice,you won't get bloated or too much bass when the 'XBass' features are turned off,what you will get is clear and good presentation of bass. Turning on the bass boost features,it turn my world around and became a bass monster.
    [​IMG] Clean and simple design,operated easily as well.

    Afraid of recessed or bad treble response from iCAN? No worries! Treble is good and sparkly, I paired it with Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro250 ohm,played 鸭子拌咀 by chinese master 阎学敏,the response is good,with good sense of detail and response,not recessed at all. But this is not the best pairing for this song,I paired it with Goldring DR150 and this pairing give me much better and revealing treble. In short,high frequency and treble response is really good,added some warmth and richness to the music,blessed with enjoyable music experience. 
    [​IMG]
    I double confirmed this by playing Milestone (The Fred Hersch Trio Plays),the high frequency and treble is there with good presentation,it is never too much. Played 'The Fred Hersch Trio Plays' album,and I am immersed in the music.
    [​IMG]
    iCAN do give me some rich sound,this will be a great pairing if you have a thin sounding headphone just like DR150,make DR150 a truly enjoyable headphone than I thought it was really is.
    Smooth,rich and up-front sound
    [​IMG] When you switched it on,the indicator light will light up. There is no on/off switch.

    Yes, from what I have listened, I do think that sound signature of iCAN is smooth,rich and up-front,iCAN can be a naughty and fun headphone amp if you slip your hand to the 'XBass' toggle button,without turning 'XBass' on,the sound is already enjoyable and bass has already in good presentation. Also,iCAN is clean sounding with good speed.
    So I played Patriot Games album by James Horner,I have been attacked by deep and robust bass,and surround by the fast pace music. Especially the forth tracks,the hits.
    3D
    [​IMG] Close view

    This is a feature that appeared on the iCAN,done very nice and I do heard some expansion in soundstage when I switched it on. But strangely,I do think that switch it off I can get better soundstage than turning it on,and I do get some audible noise when I turn it on,but nothing significant.
    I am one of the guy that appreciate simplicity,so most of the time I just turned it off.
    Wait!! How is the midrange and soundstage performance??
    Vocal is forward,not those will split right in your face,but vocal definitely has good presentation. Guitar sounded nicely as well,midrange performed nicely. I don;t find any of the frequency spectrum is boosted (When you switched off the 'XBass' feature). Really I have no complain for the performance of the iCAN as a desktop amp.
    [​IMG] Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 250 Ohm which I borrowed from audio buddy,Alan.

    Soundstage wise,tested with some live recording (Hell Freezes Over and Jack Cheung Live concert) along with Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 250 Ohm,it has some average width but decent ambience,the ambience is there,sound stage is quite good,positioning and imaging wise,is good. Instrument separation is great,when i played 'Paganini for Two' ,I can listen to each of the instrument clearly.
    [​IMG] Quite small in size when I compared to other desktop amp.

    When I played 'The Cleveland Orchestra Pierre Boulez - Strawinski -  Petrouchka Le Sacre du Printemps',each of the instrument get thier position and play with clarity.
    Vivere Album by Andrea Bocelli played with emotion and expressive,vocal is great. Vocal has enough of air and space.
    The Pairing and Synergy
    [​IMG]
    i thought this will be only a great paired for thin sounding headphone,but I am wrong as ICAN has gave me some really good and enjoyable music along with Creative Aurvana Live! and Focal Spirit One,which those two are quite thick and rich sounding
    What I don't like
    Well, they are good. But personally think that it lack some kind of spacious and width,I think that if iCAN can improve on this,this will be the top quality desktop amp. No,don't get me wrong, they are  good in this section,but it can be better,for the price, I have no complain though. I just hope that it can be better.
    [​IMG] Simply a beauty

    Nothing being created in this world come without shortcomings,so iCAN has shortcomings as well,don't look this with a magnifying glass,but just a note. iCAN might not be the most revealing and biggest,widest,open soundstage amp. it is good,but not the best,I do hope music can flow more free.
    Also,might be great for some,but personally I do think that we should have some gain control on iCAN,it is TOO POWERFUL for portable amp and most of the iem I threw at it. Even with the 250 ohm Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro, I don't have to turn the volume to 50%,35% of the maximum volum give me above listening volume.
    All of the 'flaws' I stated here not really the flaw,with the price,it is easily forgivable.
    Comparison
    [​IMG]
    I don't have headphone amp with me now,except iCAN,most of my item have been sent out to my friends and lend them. But when I compared iFi iCAN with YuLong Audio D100 II internal amp,iCAN has somewhat obvious more up front sound than my D100 II,I can't say which is better,but iCAN has more refine and warmer presentation. To be fair,D100 II's headphone amplifier section is just a bonus,the DAC is already worth how much it sell.
    And when I compared to Bravo Audio's Rock,which personally I haven't found love with,iCAN obviously is better. Refine and smooth,with good impact also insightful.
    I can add in few to compare,but pointless as iCAN has some kind of up-front and forward sound,which is very energetic. Meanwhile,I found the sound signature is really favourable.
    Conclusion
    [​IMG] iFi have done a good job!

    AMR have respectable experience in design audiophile stuffs,and iCAN didn't come with disappointment. It is good and up to my expectation,I thought the Class A performance might make it very hot after sometimes of use,but reality prove me that I am just worry too much,it do get hotter when I use it,but nothing really big deal.
    [​IMG]
    While I am actually like how iFi iCAN sounded,I am respect even more with iFi's spirit,they aimed to produce better sound for desktop,computer might be our next trend in audio world,every track of mine is in lossless digital files format,and iDAC,iUSB and iCAN in this entry,I can clearly see that iFi has created some stuffs that is great,especially they emphasised on what other manufacturer often forgot or refuse to give,such as the ultra low noise AC/DC adapter (and come with adapter that fit your country wall plug standard),also RCA and 3.5mm cable. The cable is nothing of the exotic material,but it is a bonus that iFi do including these cable to consumer,for starting,price of a good cable might burn some consumer's ass.
    [​IMG] iCAN and the box

    I am agreed that iCAN might not be a budget headphone amplifier,but it is worth the money in my opinion,in Malaysia it only cost RM1050 (330 USD),and our well known Malaysia and Singapore distributor have long time a good supplier,I am not worry on the back-up service. iFi do have some responsive and good customer service,and I hope they will keep this up,also produce better products in future.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The reason I love this headphone amplifier is simple though,good sound with good look.
    1. jaco61
      totally agree, very nice and pleasing amp, works great with AKG K401 and even more the K702. The smooth bass extension in the lowest region fits fantastic to them.
      jaco61, Apr 9, 2017
  5. Quadpatch
    A Headphone Amplifier that's great
    Written by Quadpatch
    Published May 8, 2013
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Transparent, Detailed, Exciting, Awesome Bass and Soundstage / Imaging Controls, Interesting Design
    Cons - No on/off switch, a little fiddly with sensitive headphones, order of tone controls could be a little more intuitive
    This review was pasted from my blog: http://noblehifi.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/ifi-ican-review.html
     
     
    [​IMG]

    Disclaimer: A big thank you to Ifi for loaning me the iCan for this review!

    Before I talk a little bit about the iCan, let me first address the company behind it. iFi-audio have a small, yet intriguing line of stylish electronics, aimed at computer audio and using technology licensed from Abbingdon Music Research. They make a point of environmentally friendly materials and packaging (which is always nice). Their tag line: "Small in size, big on performance" seems pretty spot on, boasting "Class A analogue circuitry, no DSP and ‘Bit Perfect’ signals throughout" for their entire line-up (where it's relevant). 


    In case you didn't know or hadn't guessed the iCan is a headphone amplifier. It costs £225 and is powered by a low-noise 9v power supply that provides 400mW of output power (@32 Ohms). Although there are no batteries inside the iCan Ifi are working separate on a battery unit to go with it. Audio inputs should cover most people's needs, with one 3.5mm audio jack and two RCAs. On the front you get a full size (6.35mm) headphone output only, which is my personal preference. It has a (S-NR) Signal to Noise Ratio of 117dB and a (THD) Total Harmonic Distortion of 0.003%. 


    OK now for the really fun Stuff - The iCan has two switches (next to the volume dial), these control low frequency (XBass) and soundstage (3D). There are no destructive DSP (Digital Sound Processing) effects in use here. This really interested me because I do sometimes play with EQ (which is destructive) to make my headphones sound better with certain music.

    [​IMG]

    The above image shows the bottom of the iCan, it neatly lays out the six options for it's sound controls and what music that they might suit. I thought this was a nice touch. It exemplifies the companies reasoning behind the sound controls and maks this a very versatile amplifier. Acknowledging the differences between headphones & music while offering the ability to manipulate that to the user's preference is a brave move since some audio enthusiasts shun this kind of control. 

       SOUND

    I am really impressed by the sound of the iCan! Ignoring the sound controls for a moment, I found the iCan's sonic attributes to be very nicely balanced. It has an impressive authority to the low frequencies without feeling bloated, there's a nice feeling of delicacy to the detail and a smoothness which brings very little fatigue. There is a great sense of air and detail and an abundance of power on tap, in fact everything that I could hope for from a headphone amplifier of this price is here. There are no nasty surprises in the signature and a great deal of excitement.

    If you find yourself looking for a different sound signature now and then, be it more weight to the low end or some control over the soundstage, then I urge you to take a good long look at the iCan. Adding extra weight to the low frequencies is nice touch even if you are pretty happy with the overall sound quality of your headphones. With a well balanced headphone I like the sound controls off when listening to most music, but switching to some Electronic music with heavy bass often makes me want to make that bass a bit more accentuated and normally I would look for a different headphone at that point. The beauty of the iCan is that it can bend a headphone to suit both needs, with no destructive EQ adjustment, just the flick of a switch and no need to take your headphones off. Of course this is doubly impressive if you only have the one pair of headphones. 


    The 3D setting is similarly interesting, the high holographic setting widens the stereo imaging effect quite noticeably (on most tracks), claiming best comparability with Classical, Jazz and Rock. This setting also made the high frequencies a bit brighter and more harsh with some tracks. This wasn't overly annoying, but in the odd case that it wasn't welcome a small volume reduction seemed alleviate the annoyance without ruining the experience. The low holographic setting is supposed to work better with most modern music. Although it's an interesting effect I have yet to find a good genre and/or headphone to appreciate this with as much as the high setting.


    Power wise the iCan is very well endowed. I was recently very impressed by the Schiit Magni by just how well it can drive demanding headphones and the iCan is just as good, possible a little more impressive actually and that's really saying something. The only down side to this is that on a headphone like the Sennheiser Momentum only the first couple degrees of turn are needed to drive the headphone to loud levels. This was a little fiddly at times, but I could still always find the desired volume position so it wasn't terrible. 

    [​IMG]

        SOURCES
    I decided to forego the usual list of music tracks to help explain how the amplifier affect the headphone's overall sound. There are a couple of reasons for this, firstly talking about specific  tracks took the focus away from the headphone's general signature. The second reason was an over-abundance of variables. In fact I want to keep the variables to a minimum, especially with this amp, I could compare the iCan connected to some smartphones and various DACs, but once I start talking about different headphones and then introduce the iCan's sound controls as well the possibilities and conclusions become pretty overwhelming. So for the bulk of this review I will stick to describing the iCan while using one good DAC.

    Despite not wanting to focus on it, I did try the iCan with a few different DACs. I started with the Arcam rPAC, played a little with the Arcam rLink, then moved to the Audiolab M-DAC and finally settled on the the Schiit Modi. The rPAC's DAC does not compare well to the Modi here, perhaps because the rPAC is already paired with an amp, or perhaps the synergy of that amp with it's own DAC makes more sense. The Audiolab M-DAC didn't make such economic sense as a combo, I can't see why you would pay all that money for a combined DAC and headphone amp only to bypass it's amp. The main reason why I didn't choose it though is that it just didn't sound as good as the Modi and I don't mean just relative to it's price. I think the ES9018 Sabre DAC pushes many headphone amps in the  wrong direction for headphones, for me it's just a bit too harsh, it over-emphasises unpleasant details and lacks smoothness. I was very impressed by the Modi and bought it straight after I reviewed it.


        HEADPHONES

    The Sennheiser HD650 gave a beautifully clean presentation, with all the sound controls off of course. The amplification was so neutral in fact that it made me long for the slightly better balanced HD600 (slightly less plump in the bass) over the HD650, but it wasn't a dissapointing match with the iCan. Using the bass enhancements with the HD650 was very fun with Dubstep and other heavy Electronic music for a while, but it did get fatiguing eventually. Plus this bass boost came in handy for emphasizing movies and soundtracks so it wasn't completely . The 3D 

    I just got the new SoundMAGIC HP200 so really put it through it's paces with the iCan. Despite it getting the least use out of the sound controls it does sound really wonderful here. It's possibly the closest sound quality and signature to the HD650 and for it's price is an absolute steal. With most of the HD650's strong points and a little more excitement I can see some even preferring this over the classic Sennheiser, but I still just prefer the latter because it suits soundtracks a little better and that is my music listening staple. Either of these headphones make a great combination with the iCan, with or without the sound controls.


    When I started to fully realize the potential of the iCan's sound controls I ran to get the AKG Q701. These headphones have been left on my shelf for too long, only occasionally coming out for a review. I always knew there was something special about this headphone's sound, with it's clarity and flat response. I just couldn't quite appreciate the signature because of an extreme lack of bass body. I was hoping that the bass boost would make these headphones sound a lot more fun and wasn't disappointed!


    The Denon AH-D7000 was a very interesting unit to test here. It has a very powerful sub bass and to use the bass controls with this headphone bordered on the ridiculous, but I can see some people absolutely loving this. The D7000 is still one of my favourite headphones (for the price I bought it for), although it's rather difficult to find now I still like mentioning it because there are some other similar sounding headphones out there that are still available (like the Denon D7100 or Fostex TH600 / TH900). After a bit of experience with the D7000 I have found it a little demanding of good quality amplification. While connecting them to the iCan they really made me smile and not just because of the crazy bass setting, in fact I mostly had the bass control off with the D7000. With all the controls off it was a really impressive sound and the 3D setting on high I noticed a huge difference, it was extremely impressive with some music!

    [​IMG]

        BUILD + DESIGN
    Ifi Audio make a striking looking chassis, especially considering they have followed such a common design principle (essentially a tube with front and rear bolted panels), a la HRT, Audinst, Epiphany etc. All of Ifi's models share this same design too, which acts as a strong brand identity, but also looks to give a nicely stackable shape. This makes a lot of sense when you look at the possibilities of their catalogue, you could effectively stack up to three Ifi models together (USB Power - USB DAC - Headphone Amplifier). 

    The volume dial is solid and smooth, which is very much appreciated given that there's so much power available here, the more sensitive headphones can get loud with only a few degrees of turn, but I never had any problems controlling them to the desired volume. The sound control switches are also solid and provide a very satisfying click. Their positioning is a little confusing however. The '3D' switch being off in the middle, 'Bass' being off at the top. Then there's the fact that maximum bass is on the first position and the slight bass boost is on the bottom, that's odd, but off and maximum were the settings I used most, so it kind of makes sense when you get used to it. The effects of the 3D switches seem more progressively placed and having off (or normal) in the middle means that you'll usually be only moving it one position. With this theory it would have made more sense to put the Bass's off position in the middle also, but this is a pretty minor niggle. 


    With the amplifier being class A it seems a little odd that there is no power switch here, so if you are not using it you will most likely be yanking the power cable out all the time. Being a rather glaring omission, given the circumstances I wonder if having a power switch would have introduced some kind of compromise into the circuitry that Ifi just didn't want to make. That being the case I'm fine with it also, quality audio never comes easy.


        FINAL WORDS

    The iCan is a tough, well styled chassis with a nice volume dial and solid connections. Although I was a little dubious about the sound controls before I'd heard them, they are very well implemented and don't impact the final sound quality much (if at all). They not only fine-tune your headphones in general, but can be used to get the best from various genres of music and for me this was worth it's weight in gold!

    Even with these enhanced abilities turned off the iCan's sound is powerful, engaging, delicate, spacious and smooth. I would highly recommend the iCan to anyone on the hunt for a headphone amplifier, even if you have more to spend. Very highly recommended!

    [​IMG]

     
     
        EQUIPMENT USED
    Desktop PC, Dell Vosto Laptop, Audiolab M-DAC, Schiit Modi, Arcam rPAC, Arcam rLink, Denon AH-D7000, Sennheiser HD650, SoundMAGIC HP200, Sennheiser Momentum, AKG Q701
    1. hodgjy
      How is the 3D effect when using the Q701s? The Q701s already have a very large soundstage, and I was wondering what the 3D effect did to it. Thanks.
      hodgjy, Jun 12, 2013
  6. Nirmalanow
    iCAN Amp Review: A New Amp that Gives You More: More Bass, More Soundstage and More Detail
    Written by Nirmalanow
    Published Mar 7, 2013
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great sound. Amazing extra features
    Cons - None.
    Brief Summary: To get right to the point, the iCAN amp by iFi is a great performing small desktop amp with amazing features at its price point of $249. Anyone who wants more bass or more soundstage, space and detail from their headphones might find this affordable amp to be the answer to their prayers. The included "X-Bass" and "3D" features of this amp offer an effective bass boost and soundstage/detail enhancement that literally take the sound to a whole new dimension, while the overall sound of the amp itself is detailed, powerful and smooth.
     
    Read the entire review here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/654405/ican-amp-review-a-new-amp-that-gives-you-more-more-bass-more-soundstage-and-more-detail
  7. blankdisc
    iCAN is a keeper. Paired with iDSD Micro you have got a winner combo. Highly recommended!!!
    Written by blankdisc
    Published Mar 26, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Very musical and smooth sounding. Great XBass and 3D implementation. Gain setting is very useful.
    Cons - would be cool to have internal battery and an off button
    Have been listening to my new iCAN Micro for couple weeks now. Before that I use the headphone output directly out of my iDSD Micro.
     
    First of all i just want to say that iDSD Micro is great. One of the best gears i have ever bought. I buy and sell headphone gears pretty often just to try different things. that's what this hobby is all about, right? iDSD Micro is one thing i think i will never let go. It is just so flexible and good looking. Not to mention that it sounds great. I don't know how iFi guys were able to pack so many great features in such a small and beautiful package and sell it for a very reasonable price. Btw, they weren't joking about using iDSD Micro to drive the mighty HE-6. I tried and it sounds pretty good for such a small device.
     
    Going back to the iCAN Micro. A lot of people will ask why one would even need the iCAN if you have already got iDSD Micro which has a very capable headphone output. After adding the iCAN Micro after iDSD Micro the sound becomes sweeter and warmer. The only complaint i had with iDSD Micro before is that it could sound a bit dry from time to time, and looks like iCAN is the perfect cure for that. I think it might have something to do with its Class A circuit. I am a Class A guy. My main stereo has a set of Pass Labs XA60.5 Class A mono amps, and i also use First Watt J2 Class A amp for my desktop system. To me a class A amp (well designed of course) just sounds more musical and more effortless. It brings you closer to the music. iCAN did exactly that. I also enjoyed the 3D and Xbass feature. For 90% of the time i listen at Xbass Mid setting and 3D Max setting. I really like iFi's implementations with both as their effects are subtle.
     
    I am currently using this set as my office setup. I am completely satisfied and have no intention to make any change, nor do i think that i can do any better without spending significantly more money. I highly recommend this combo to anyone who is looking for a good and flexible desktop setup as well as with some portability. (i just took this set to London for a business trip and they worked beautifully. They didn't take much space in the bag and you can use iDSD Micro on the plane. :))
     
    oh, forgot to mention that i use this set to drive my Yuin OK1 earbuds as well as Hifiman HE-560. Both were driven beautifully by this combo.
     
    Eric
     

      Music Path likes this.
    1. earfonia
      Agree! iCan micro is the cure for the dry sounding iDSD micro headphone output.
      Nice review! Thanks!
      earfonia, Mar 28, 2015
  8. Vartan
    My short review :)
    Written by Vartan
    Published Aug 15, 2014
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent warm sound, Powerful, Detailed, Transparent, Black silent background, Form factor and design
    Cons - I don't know why they didn't design the amp with an on/off switch, Slight interference at lowest volume
     There were many amps in 250$ range to choose from, but I liked iCAN's unique design and the shape. I don't have many headphones to do a comparison. I'm not a big fan of bass boost and 3D, but sometimes I do use bass boost on one dot position (by the way, I'd like the one dot setting to come after the direct setting). 
    The bass boost works perfectly and doesn't bleed to mid range (in one dot setting). The 3D holographic effect works fine with some tracks, you have to figure out on your own. 
    I'm very much pleased with this amp, if you are looking for an amp in 250$ range, do consider the iCAN micro, because it's very powerful and very smooth sounding amp. securedownload.jpg
     
     ✔ ifi audio makes Hi-Fi quality audio (or even audiophile quality) stuff for affordable prices!
      Wilashort likes this.
  9. CraftyClown
    A cracking little amp, with some fantastic extra features
    Written by CraftyClown
    Published Jan 16, 2014
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Powerful, transparent, fantastic soundstage
    Cons - No power button
    Let me first make it clear that I am using a demo version of the ICan, sent to me by Vince at IFi. The reason for this is that as well as being a part time audiophile, I also run a video production company and we will be working with IFi to produce some videos later this year. Vince sent me the unit to get an understanding of how their technology works. 
     
    So onto the device itself... Wow! I must confess I was expecting this to be a fairly standard amp, and that the extra features (X-Bass and 3D) would be nothing more than gimmicks... I am happy to be proved very wrong. The amp itself is powerful enough to run both my IEMs (Heir 8as) and my full size cans (HD650s) without a problem. It is also transparent, which I always favour in an amp, as I don't like unnecessarily colouring the sound of my headphones.
     
    The X-Bass works well, but to be honest with you, not something I use an awful lot as my 8as are bassy enough already. I do use the first setting on the HD650s though to add a touch.
     
    The 3D setting... now this is the bit that impressed me! It really does expand the soundstage in a realistic manner, which I just didn't expect. I guess this is the bit I thought would be all gimmick and no substance and at best that it would add an unrealistic effect, at worst it would degrade the audio quality. Nothing could be further from the truth, to the point I now listen to most of my music with the highest setting on :wink:
     
    One slight omission in my opinion (and has been stated by a few others) is a power switch. I just don't like having things switched on all the time and without this the only other option is to unplug it from the mains. This is nitpicking really though and could be a consideration for an updated design later on down the road. 
     
    So do I like the ICan... Err, yes! This little box of tricks has delivered way above my expectations, with some great features I just hadn't anticipated. In fact I like it so much I am now planning to buy the new nano portable version to pair with my AK120 :D
      Wilashort likes this.
  10. TheGame21x
    Plenty of Power, a Warm Sound, Sound Enhancements and a Reasonable Price Make this a Great Amplifier
    Written by TheGame21x
    Published May 29, 2013
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Flat Frequency Response, Warm Sound, Excellent Sound Enhancements, Well Built, Plenty of Power
    Cons - Slight Interference at Lowest Volume, High Gain Not Suited for IEMs,
    [​IMG]

    Introduction

    I’d like to thank the folks at iFi Audio and Avatar Acoustics for the review sample.
     
    iFi Audio is something of a newcomer in the mainstream consumer audio market, but one that has had its roots firmly planted in the professional audio industry for years, British firm Abbingdon Music Research, which produces a range of audiophile grade (read: expensive) sources, amplifiers and whatnot. iFi Audio was created with the promise of offering top quality products at much lower prices and has created a number of products since their inception. Up for review today is the iFi Micro iCAN headphone amplifier.
     
    Does the iCAN measure up to the stiff competition in the budget amplifier market? Read on to find out.
     ​

    Technical Specifications

    Signal to Noise Ratio: >117dB(A)
    Total Harmonic Distortion(THD): <0.003%(400mV/150R)
    Frequency Response: 0.5Hz to 500KHz(-3dB)
    Output Power: >400mW(32Ω)
    Output Voltage: >5V (>600Ω)
    Input Voltage: AC 100 - 240V, 50/60Hz
    Power Consumption: < 4W idle, 10W max.
    Dimensions: 158(l)x68(w)x28(h)mm
    Weight: 216g(0.48lbs)

     ​
    [​IMG]

    Accessories

    Alongside the iCAN Amplifier, iFi includes a number of accessories, including standard instruction manuals and documentation, a white, flat cabled 3.5mm mini to mini cable, an RCA cable, a set of four rubber feet, a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter and, something iFi makes a big deal of, an ultra-low noise AC adapter, promising cleaner power to the iCAN amplifier. Now I’m not sure how big a deal this is, if it matters at all, but the fact that iFi has included the ULN adapter in the case that it does matter is a nice touch.

    Design and Build Quality

    With a long but sleek aluminum chassis, the iFi is an attractive addition to a desktop audio setup that blends in nicely, especially if you favor Apple computers and their aluminum designs. I don’t, but that’s another issue entirely.
     
    The iCAN features gold plated and nicely spaced RCA connectors and a 3.5mm jack for audio inputs along the rear and, of course the DC 9V input jack. Around front, there’s a gold plated 1/4” (6.3mm) output jack, a polished metal potentiometer and two metal flip switches to control the XBass and 3D sound enhancements. These switches are nice and serve their purpose well but it is odd that the switches themselves aren’t mirrored. What I mean by that is the neutral position for the XBass and 3D are different, with the XBass being neutral or “off” with the switch all the way up while the 3D switch is neutral at the middle position. Not really a big deal, but worth mentioning.
     
    The polished metal potentiometer is quite good, with the absolute smoothest tracking of any potentiometer I’ve ever used, which aids in making tiny volume changes, a welcome addition as the volume on the iCAN ramps up quicker than any other amplifier I’ve tried. But more on that in a moment.
     
    Also, the iCAN lacks a power switch, which means the only way to power down the unit is to unplug it, and you’ll probably want to as the amplifier can consume up to about 4W while idle.

     

    [​IMG]

    Sources Used

    iPhone 4S/iPod Classic – Pure i-20 DAC – iCAN
    iPhone 4S – Fiio L3 Line out – iCAN

    Gain and Amplification

    One thing I know for certain about the iCAN is that it can drive headphones to ridiculously loud levels. Even with my most power hungry headphones, the Sennheiser HD 600, I rarely found myself going beyond 10 o’clock or so on the potentiometer. Suffice to say, I doubt anyone will run into problems powering all but the most demanding headphones on the market like HiFiMan’s HE-6 or other particularly hard to drive planar magnetic orthodynamic headphones and even then, I can’t imagine even those will be much of a problem for the iCAN at least in terms of pure volume.
     
    Because of the high power output and high gain, the iCAN is not the best choice for use with in ear monitors in general, especially those that have low impedance and/or high sensitivity. With my RE-400s, I was barely able to move past 8 o’clock before they were more than loud enough for me.
     
    One strange thing I noticed about the iCAN is that, with the volume at its lowest, instead of dead silence, I get, not only a low level hum, but…voices. Peculiar. I barely heard the hum with my HD 600s and there was no way to boost the volume on what I was hearing as raising the volume to normal listening levels got rid of the interference. So, I broke out my most sensitive IEMs, the Creative Aurvana 3, which I regularly use to test amplifiers and sources for audible hissing and lo and behold, I was tuned in to the local Christian radio station, 103.5 FM – The Light.
     
    Don’t consider that an advertisement. I’m just pointing out what I was hearing and, for the record, I didn’t like it.
     
    My best guess as to why this was happening is due to inadequate shielding from radio interference. The amplifier itself must be acting as an antenna of some kind and some of the radio signal is being dumped into the audio path. Peculiar but, all in all, a minor annoyance.
     
    [​IMG]

    Sound Quality

    The iCAN has a slightly warm sound thanks to what iFi refers to as "Class A TubeState amplification", claiming that it blends the warmth associated with vacuum tube amplifiers with solid state technology. With both sound enhancements off the sound is indeed slightly warm and "Tubey" but it doesn’t skimp on detail. It sounds perfectly flat to my ears, as an amplifier should. There isn’t much to say about the iCAN’s performance. It sounds like a quality desktop amp, no buts about it. So, let’s move on to the more unique aspects of the iCAN, the two sound enhancements that one can activate with the flip of a switch.

    XBass

    Oh I love this feature. No qualifications, no ‘buts’, I just…love it. On a basic level, this functions similarly to bass boost options on other amplifiers I’ve used like the CMoy BB and just about every Fiio amplifier I’ve used but the iCAN has the best implementation of a bass boost that I’ve ever heard in the XBass switch. At its first setting, it boosts the sub bass regions (IE 100Hz and below) significantly adding to the sub bass presence and rumble while the second setting, for bass shy headphones, boosts sub and mid bass regions without negatively impacting upper frequencies or low end resolution.
     
    The result is an extremely satisfying low end performance in every headphone I’ve tested with the iCAN. I’ve never heard a cleaner bass boost on any amplifier I’ve tried and as a result, I couldn’t be happier with the XBass option on the iCAN. It boosts my bass-light (which might be bass adequate for anyone else) headphones like the Sennheiser HD 555 and IEMs like the HiFiMan RE-400 to levels I find just perfect and with my Audio-Technica Pro700MK2 and M50 headphones, sent them into the realm of truly seismic, almost headache-inducing levels of bass, which has always been a guilty pleasure of mine.

    3D Holographic Sound

    Now this is an interesting addition, as it claims to widen the sound field and create a listening experience that’s more akin to listening to a good speaker setup than a pair of headphones. The low setting is claimed to be best for “naturally spacious recordings” like classical, jazz and rock music while the higher setting is best for “flat sounding recordings” like more modern music.
    Generally, I found these claims to be accurate. The holographic effect is akin to what many know as “crossfeed”, but rather than being a standard DSP, which can be destructive to music, it isn’t a DSP, so resolution remains unaffected. One thing I will note is that the highs were a tiny bit more sibilant with either of the 3DHS modes engaged but that’s a rather small annoyance that most people might not even notice, especially once they got absorbed in the music, as I did.
     
    Both settings are fun to play with in different combinations and they do indeed make the iCAN a surprisingly versatile amplifier that pairs well with just about any headphone.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Now comes the inevitable question I always knew was going to come up sooner or later. Is this as good as the Objective 2? Well, I don’t have the measuring equipment to properly examine the two amps on a purely technical or “Objective” level (sorry) but to my ears, I’d say the iCAN and O2 are about equal in terms of resolution and overall performance. The iCAN is a bit warmer than the O2 but, as I explained earlier, that’s by design.
     
    But with each amplifier comes a tradeoff. The iCAN offers those very nice sound enhancements (if you’re into that sort of thing) and may sound a tad more “musical” than the O2 because of the warmer tone but due to the high gain, it doesn’t work as well as the O2 with IEMs. Most iterations of the O2 are a good bit cheaper than the iCAN for the amp only, is more portable (actually, more “transportable”) because of its battery powered design and probably offers the most objectively accurate sound you’ll get from an amplifier below $1000 but many versions lack the RCA input and 1/4” output some audiophiles swear by (I don’t) and isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the iCAN.
     
    So picking a winner between the two is far from clear cut, so I’ll let you decide which suits your specific amplifier needs better.
     
    [​IMG]

    Conclusion

    I like the iCAN. I like it quite a bit. It has a flat frequency response, ample power and gain for just about any headphone you can think to throw at it, a slightly warm and pleasing sound and a couple of sound enhancements that don’t compromise resolution when active. Its downsides are relatively minor (though the interference could be a problem if you have especially sensitive headphones) and while I can’t say this is the best choice for IEM users due to the massive gain, this is a very versatile amplifier that should suit a wide array of headphones and user preferences.
     
    The going rate of the iCAN is $249 but finding one might be a bit difficult if you’re based in the Americas. Personally, I think that’s a good price and a reasonable one for the kind of performance you’re getting in the iCAN, especially for the sound enhancements. I really do like what they do to the sound in pretty much every case and I usually listen with at least one engaged at all times because they work so well. So, if you’re in the market for a new desktop amplifier, give the iCAN a look.
     
    This review was re-posted from my site Musical Musings
      rocksteady65 likes this.
    1. mikemercer
      Excellent review!
      I've been using one lately to drive my LCD3's - and I can't believe it!
      I'll be writing a review for Positive Feedback soon.
      mikemercer, May 29, 2013