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iFi Pro iCAN

  1. ostewart
    Master of all, from IEM's to HE-6 it does them all brilliantly
    Written by ostewart
    Published Oct 26, 2016
    Pros - Sound, Features, Build Quality
    Cons - It slides around on your desk
    Firstly I would like to thank iFi Audio for the loan unit for review, I have been using it for about 3 weeks and as always I will try to write an honest review.
    Gear Used:
    Dell XPS 15 / Marantz CD5400 / Audio Opus #2 > Matrix Quattro II DAC > XLR Out > Pro iCan
    Headphones: Hifiman HE-500 (4-Pin XLR Balanced) / AAW Nebula 2 IEM’s / Fostex TH-500rp
    Tech Specs:
    Very comprehensive list on their website: http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/pro-ican/
    MSRP: £1495

    Packaging, Accessories and Build quality:
    The packaging is similar to other iFi offerings just bigger, it is white, with actual size pictures on the side, and product info and specs on the back. Once you remove the outer sleeve you are greeted by a thick car box, which holds the amp in place well during transit, and underneath you will find the accessories. I really like the simple yet effective packaging, it doesn’t look cheap or cluttered. iFi is embossed in silver on the ends of the box, a classy touch in my opinion.
    Accessory wise you get a pair of RCA interconnects and a remote control which controls the volume only, you also get a very good user manual. Nothing else is needed to complete the package.
    Build quality is on par with other offerings, an impeccable finish on the amp itself all laid out in a very symmetrical manner. It is not the best looking amp, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in features, I like the more understated look. All inputs and outputs are built to a very good standard, the volume knob is very smooth to operate and the switches are tight so you won’t accidentally increase the gain for example. On the top of the amp there are holes which help keep it cool and lets you see a little of what is inside, there is also a small window through which you can see the GE valves. The only thing I would like improved would be the bottom, it has a big rubberised patch, but I find the amp is a little light and still moves quite easily on a desk, so you have to hold it tight when plugging anything in. I think soft rubber feet on each corner may have been better.
    This amp is packed full of features, and I don’t quite know where to start.
    Input wise you get 3 sets of unbalanced RCA inputs, and a set of balanced XLR inputs, the input is selected with the big knob on the left hand side of the amp.
    You also get a set of XLR outputs and a pair of RCA outputs, so you can use this as a pre-amp.
    On the front you have the source select knob, next to this there is a smaller knob which controls the Xbass boost, then you have a jack/XLR combi socket for normal stereo 6.3mm unbalanced output or as the L balanced channel (jack or 3-pin XLR). 
    In the middle you have a balanced 4 pin XLR socket, and next to this you have another jack/XLR combi socket for normal stereo unbalanced 6.3mm jack or as the R balanced channel (jack or 3-pin XLR). The next small knob is the 3D sound switch, then the volume knob.
    Underneath these there is another layer, with the mode select (solid state, tube, tube+), normal unbalanced 3.5mm output, a balanced 4-pole 3.5mm output and then the gain switch (0dB, 9dB, 18dB).
    As you can see it is packed full of features but they are easy to find and get used to their placement on the amp.
    So more about the Xbass, it is not a traditional bass boost, all analogue circuitry and it provides a minimum of 12dB boost at 10/20/40Hz (selectable). It works well in combination with the 3D sound and also for leaner headphones. It is not a big increase, and doesn’t muddy the sound, and obviously will affect different headphones differently. I personally didn’t find myself using it when using Tube or Tube+ with the HE-500, but if I engage the 3D sound at 60 (solid state) I used the 20Hz boost to fill the sound out a little.
    The 3D sound settings are also an interesting feature, I can’t really explain it so read on their website: http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/pro-ican/
    What I can say is that it is subtle but makes a difference, it takes a while for your ears to get used to the sound but is does become a little more like speakers, the centre image is more focused. Using the more extreme settings on headphones does make them sound a little leaner which is where the Xbass comes in handy. The main difference is when you switch the 3D settings off and the sound just sounds a little odd and panned right and left in comparison, also the sound is slightly less fatiguing with the 3D engaged.
    Now on to the main part, unfortunately I don’t have any other high end amps to compare this to, but I will try to describe this amp as best as possible.
    Lets start off with running it in SS mode, this is a very reference amp with no added flavour. This does mean it will show up any flaws in your music and also source, so I recommend pairing it with a good DAC. I am running it balanced from my Matrix Quattro II DAC, and I have not needed to increase the gain at all with the HE-500’s, and the volume knob is sat around the 9o’clock position.
    This amp handles everything with ease, never a hint of strain or harshness, it really brings out the best in the HE-500, you get the deep controlled bass that lesser amps cannot provide, but also the soundstage improves. Not artificially but one things the HE-500 lacked a little is width, which this adds, the layering is also superb. On some brighter headphones some people may find this a little fatiguing as it doesn’t take anything away from the highs, so be careful with bad recordings. But when paired with good headphones and good recordings it will let you hear every nuance and bring you sonic satisfaction.
    Now lets change it to the Tube mode, like this you get a richer sound, more body and it just sounds fuller. This works wonders on the slightly brighter headphones out there, or just those who want that smoothness of tubes but without sacrificing fine detail. I find the tube mode better for just sitting back and enjoying my music, the good thing about the tubes in this is that they don’t alter the overall clear sound of the amp, they just add a touch of warmth and body.
    So what about the Tube+ mode? Well with this sounds a little grainier than the Tube mode, and fuller too, but it sounds ever so slightly closer in presentation (the soundstage isn’t quite as wide) the differences are not huge between Tube and Tube+, and it will depend largely on the headphones you have and on your preferences. I find Tube+ to be a little richer in tone, and a little grainier, whereas the normal Tube mode offers the added richness I like with the HE-500.
    Conclusion: I don’t even know where to start, this is a feature packed amp that has an understated look but does not disappoint on the sound front. A few people have thought this amp is jack of all trades, master of none, but in my opinion iFi have made the perfect all in one amp for all headphones and have not failed in any area. Whether you want reference sound from the SS mode, or a richer sound from the Tube mode you have it all in one neat package. Add to that the possibility of using it as a pre-amp, and being fully balanced throughout and you have a very impressive array of features for the money.
    The price looks high, but if you factor in buying a good solid state amp, and a good valve amp, you are looking at the same price if not more, and most likely they won’t be able to drive pretty much every headphone on the market.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Pro iCan, and I wish it could stay in my permanent collection, it just works so well with anything you throw at it and has the perfect form factor too.
    Sound Perfection Rating: 10/10 (You won’t find this amount of power and features on another amp in this, or any other price range, and sonically this amp exceeds all expectations)
  2. Turrican2
    Like the Micro iCan, but much, much more so
    Written by Turrican2
    Published Aug 29, 2016
    Pros - Covers most peoples input/output requirements. Bags of power!. Has lots and lots of buttons and features, extremely configurable.
    Cons - Remote control is a bit 'cheap' and sometimes doesn't respond well. Maybe too much configuration for some? (stretching here....)
    Firstly, many thanks to iFi for the loan of this amp. I am not affiliated with iFi, just a regular Head-Fi addict to happens to be lucky enough to get loan units now and again from the generous iFi team.  As I've had this for a few weeks now it's time to jot down some brief thoughts and observations.

    Up until very recently, my main desktop rig consisted of iFi Micro iCan, Micro iDAC and Micro iTube housed nicely in the iRack.  I've been using this for a couple of years to drive my HE500s (now sold), AKG K3003 and laterally my Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2 so I'm familiar with the iFi sound.  These days I own the HUGO and Beyerdynamic A2 as my desktop rig and Lotoo PAW5000 with Mojo as my portable setup..

    The iCan Pro comes in the same type of packaging as the other iFi gear, just larger! so same great unboxing experience and enough accessories to get you going.  The unit itself is satisfyingly weighty and looks to be very well made.  I like the size and design quite a bit, everything is machined well, no rough spots and you immediately get the impression this thing is built to last. This amp also has some power, 14,000 mW @ 16 Ohms!  Also included in the package is a faitly basic remote which is not really the quality I'm used to compared to the Beyerdynamic A2's remote but it'll do the job.  If you plan to use the remote a lot you might be a little dissapointed as I found it didn't always respond if it's not in perfect line of sight but YMMV. The volume knob itself on the iCan feels luxurious and smooth, no worries there!
    Front Panel

    On the front you have an array of outputs, single ended 3.5mm, Balanced 3.5mm, Balanced 4-pin xlr and twin single-ended 6.35mm sockets, so plenty of options.
    There is a large input selector on the left (mirroring the Volume knob in the right). The amp accomodates 3 analogue inputs and a balanced input.
    Also on the front are what really sets this amp apart from others, knobs to tweak in the form of XBass and 3D settings. These are extremely well implemented on this amp, quite subtle but effective.  If you have a neurtal source or bright cans, the XBass can provide a nice balance to the audio. It jumps in 3 increments, 10, 20 or 40 Hz depending on how much you need.  Similarly the 3D has 3 'stages' depending on your preference.  Similar to my experience of the iCan (which has a 2 stage 3D switch) I found for accoustic tracks it works noticably better at bringing the audio to the forefront (like speakers) but it doesn't always work so well with other tracks, in fact it makes some tracks sound 'off', you need to experiment but when it works I like it a lot.
    There are also 2 slider switches on the front:
    - Gain - 0db, 9db or 18db.  I personally found 0db to be fine with the T1 (600ohms).
    - AMP selector switch  - Here you can select purely solid state amp, the tube stage or Tube+ mode which is a bit of a hybrid mode.  As I am used to the iTube and iCan in combination this is great to see. In my experience the iTube does not provide an immediate wow factor, but if I remove it from the chain, my enjoyment of the music appears to lessen.  It's difficult to quantify but noticeable to me never-the-less.  For this reason I chose to use the Tube+ output the most.
    iCan Pro feeding the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2 using the 4-Pin XLR Balanced output.  Source is Lotoo PAW5000 and Mojo.
    Rear Panel
    Here you will find everything you need:
    L + R Balanced 3-Pin XLR female input
    3 x RCA Stereo inputs
    L + R Balanced 3-Pin XLR Male output
    1 x RCA Stereo output
    Energiser output for 'stats (sorry no more info on this).
    Power Passthrough ( I assume for the energiser module?)
    Form Factor

    This unit is a good size for desktop needs, fairly shalow and not too wide.  It's actually almost identical in width and height to the Beyerdynamic A2 amp, less deep however:

    The first time I used the iCan (and most amount of time I spent with it) I had it paired with a Chord Hugo connected to my Gaming PC.  I also had a Jitterbug in the chain to attempt to compensate for USB noise.

    Immediately I felt at home.  This has the familiar sound I am used to with the Micro iCan/iTube only much, much more so.  Sound stage is a little fuller and it really drives the T1's well. I would never call the sound I acheived from the 'Micro' set-up 'thin', but this is a ritcher sound with more weight and more space.  I'd love to try some HE-6 on this, I have a feeling it would do them justice. After some time listening I settled upon my desired xBass setting , 20Hz, this seemed to sound about right with the T1/Hugo combo.  I tend to keep the 3D off until I know I need it (accoustic mainly). 
    I think the Beyerdynamic A2, to my ears has a slightly more detailed presentation and more 'real' bass tonality but I'm being super critical here, there is nothing wrong with either of these aspects on the iCan Pro.  It's really nice. The problem with comparing this with most other amps is the you can make a big or small difference to the sound just by tweaking some dials.  On the A2, aside from Gain control, you get what it offers, period. If you want to add flavour or change the presentation you need to add a warmer DAC or a Tube stage.  With the iCan it's almost too configurable, too tempting to keep pressing stuff! which can distract from the ultimate goal here, enjoying the music.  Maybe it's just me but I found it hard to stop playing with it, I guess that urge would lessen the longer I used it.

    If I didn't already have a top shelf amp, this would be on my shipping list.  Even though it's expensive, if you think about all the technology and configurability this brings to the table in one unit, it's pretty much in the right place.

    Thanks again to iFi for the loan, it was a great few weeks.  I would recommend this amp if it's within your budget. Very flexible, well designed and great sounding amplifier capable of driving hungry Cans or sensitive IEMs.
    1. smial1966
      Nice review Phil. Glad to hear that your A2 bests the iFi in some areas. :wink:
      smial1966, Aug 30, 2016
    2. Turrican2
      Thanks Andy, with my headphones, yes but the iCan is a splendid amp for sure.
      Turrican2, Aug 30, 2016
  3. thatonenoob
    [PMR Reviews] iFi Pro iCAN
    Written by thatonenoob
    Published Jul 21, 2016
    Pros - Excellent Sound, Build Quality
    Cons - Slides Around, Remote
    iFi Pro iCAN

    An Impressive Flagship Contender  


    iFi's Bid To Define A "Flagship Amplifier"​

    The Pro iCAN. An understated name for a product that politely seeks to be the alpha and omega of flagship headphone amplifiers.   The fully packed, bright red PCB is illustrative; according to iFi there is simply “no more ‘real estate’ left to develop” on the Pro iCAN.  Consider it an embodiment of the iFi philosophy.  One will not find a slick webpage for the Pro iCAN –instead be prepared to be confronted with a smorgasbord of tech and hardware specifications. Making a return at the top of the page is the rounded rectangle proclaiming the glorious 14,000 mW output power rating of the amplifier.  It’s all very impressive, in a uniquely iFi way. 
    It’s no secret that the Pro iCAN has been cooking for quite some time.  Well, at least one of the various iterations of the device. The development history of the iFi Pro devices (including the sister iDSD Pro) can be found in bits and pieces on the 87-page long thread here.  A more recent, dedicated thread for the Pro iCAN can also be found here.  Going through the pages, I realized just how much effort and time had gone into designing the Pro series.  In fact, the iDSD Pro went through an almost complete redesign in its still continuing development.  It’s a testament to just how far the iFi team will go to get it right.  There’s a lot of ground to cover in this review, and we’d better get started.  
    The iFi Pro iCAN was provided by iFi through Stereo for the purposes of this review.  I have now had it on loan for close to 3 weeks.  I am neither a paid affiliate nor an employee of iFi.  I’d like to thank the iFi team for this opportunity, and for answering my various questions.  In addition, I’d like to offer a shout out to @HiFiChris and @ClieOS, who both respectively helped aid my understanding of the finer points of RMAA measurements, especially the implications of its non-absolute nature and the scaling tendencies of the program.  It’s been a great experience with many things learnt. The Pro iCAN is truly an immense product –and one of the reasons why it took comparatively longer for me to get this review out was because there were simply so many features and combinations to test, and I didn’t want to formulate a representative opinion without first attaining a certain level of familiarity with the amp.  Thanks for reading folks, and I hope that at least some of y’all will find this helpful and/or meaningful.  Can also find it on my blog here.

    Fairly standard stuff.  The iFi Pro iCAN comes in nice matte box with a high quality photo on the front.  Opening it up, one sees the amplifier packed nicely into medium density foam.  It's nice to see that there is also foam on the box cover, and that the amplifier is fairly well shielded against the trials and tribulations of general shipping. included accessories are fairly straight forward:
    1. RCA Interconnects
    2. Power Supply
    3. iFi+ Native DSD Free Albums
    4. User Guide

    One would be hard pressed to find an amplifier that captures the spirit of utilitarian practicality better than the Pro iCAN.  The first thing that struck me out of the box – the amplifier was pretty darned heavy.  Okay, maybe not as heavy as the Feliks Audio Espressivo sitting next to it, but a heck of a lot heavier than the Micro iCAN.  Think Rocky Balboa vs Ivan Drago.  The design of the amp is immediately striking –the wavy top surface collides with the concentric arcs around an off-centered magnified viewing window. It’s something that looks like it came straight out of my old multivariable calculus textbook.   My only gripe is that the front panel has not been machined to match the cross section of the “waves” on the side panels.  It’s a small detail.

    The front panel is symmetrical and absolutely packed with knobs and switches.  It’s hectic –and yet it all makes sense.  On the far left is input selection, followed by the XBass selection (off, 10Hz, 20Hz, 40Hz).  Directly underneath the XBass selection is the amplification mode switch (SS, Tube, Tube+).  In the center are a total of 5 headphone output options. For balanced outputs there are 2 x XLR 3-Pin, 2 x 6.3 mm TRS (iFi’s Single-Ended Compatible system), 1 x XLR 4-Pin, 1 x 3.5 mm TRRS (AK style).  For single-ended outputs, there are 2 x 6.3 mm TRS (XLR 3-Pin doubles up), and a 3.5 mm TRS.  On the far right is the volume pot, and on its left is the 3D Holographic selection (off, 30/+, 60/30+, 90/60+), with the gain switch right below it.   The back panel of the iFi Pro iCAN houses an equally impressive number of input and output options.  There’s a balanced input, 3 x unbalanced inputs (RCA), a balanced line output, and an unbalanced line output.  In addition, there is also a DC Loop-Out and a connector for iFi’s Electrostatic Add-On Module (for Stax users).
    The Quad-Damped Isolation Base Mount seriously had way more engineering in it than I had expected.  It features a 4-layer sandwich comprised of dual layer elastomers (fancy talk for a polymer with elastic properties, i.e. a rubber-like material) and a dual-layer of metal alloys.  Specific details about the composition of these layers can be more easily found on the iFi Pro iCAN user-manual.   However, I second an observation brought up by @Koolpep his respective review of the amplifier.  This brick slides around far too easily. Heavy weight and low friction on a smooth desktop surface are not necessarily the best characteristics to have together, especially not in an expensive flagship amplifier.
    Starting up the amp is fairly simple.  There's various glowing colors, and a protection circuit will be activated if something were to go seriously wrong. Glaring issues – none, except the remote control for the volume pot.  This bothers me.  Now, I’ve used Beyerdynamic’s flagship amp, which I believe has a solid implementation of the remote control idea.  The iFi Pro iCAN on the other hand has some issues.  For example, it takes me close to 15-16 separate clicks to traverse 18 degrees on the volume pot.  That’s about 75 – 80 separate clicks to traverse from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock!  In case you’re wondering, holding down the button doesn’t do much either.  Now I’m not sure if this is because the remote is for fine-tuning, but this isn’t workable by any stretch of the imagination. I do believe that other users have reported similar issues with their units, and I hope that this will be resolved soon.  As a final note –this amp runs hot (not that this should be surprising).  



    The iFi Pro iCAN is filled with a fair bit of technology.  Let’s start with the balanced capabilities of the amplifier. I’ll preface this by saying that for this review, I did not have any balanced headphones to run the Pro iCAN with. My Fostex TH-900, Audio Technica R70x and Beyerdynamic T1 are all currently wired for single-ended use. That said, I’ve gotten excellent results out of the single-ended output on the iFi Pro iCAN (more on that later), and if experience is anything to go by, the balanced will be just as good, if not better than the single ended option.  Returning to the matter of balanced circuitry, iFi is quick to point out that they have implemented a “true differential balanced” system for the Pro iCAN.  That is to say, there is no combining of signals into a single-ended path post amplification, and then splitting again for the output.  Instead, the Pro iCAN maintains two separate signal paths from end-to-end.  It’s a straightforward implementation that keeps fidelity in mind.
    At the heart of the iFi Pro iCAN is the ability to switch between the tube/ solid-state modes almost instantly.  Granted, prolonged use in solid-state mode will cause the amplifier to turn off the tubes to prolong operational life. One of the questions that I had was regarding what had changed between the Micro iCAN and the Pro iCAN from a technical perspective.  Like one concerned member brought up (and I paraphrase), it wouldn’t have been okay for a Micro iCAN to be combined with an iTube and put into a fancier enclosure.  Rest assured, no such thing occurred. The tech guys at iFi explained that the Pro iCAN is a ground-up, fully discrete design.  The Micro iCAN on the other hand utilizes a discrete gain-stage followed by a monolithic IC as a current buffer.  Passive components are shared, but that’s where the similarities end. From a sonic perspective, the difference is fairly obvious (more on that later).   The tube of choice employed in the iFi iCAN is the GE 5670.  Its implementation is also unique in the sense that there are two-individual input circuits for solid-state and tube operation.  But it’s no gimmick.  This isn’t a two-for-one that achieves nothing overall.  Consider it a refinement of operation.  Also returning are the XBass and 3D functions, which I’d like to cover in greater depth in the sound section of the review.
    Now for some basic RMAA results. RMAA results are only as good as the equipment used to perform the tests, and there has been a decent amount of coverage on its limitations and weaknesses.  Consider it as a broad proof-reading of published technical specifications.  And in this sense, the iCAN achieves, checking out fairly comfortably given the limitations of my rig. THD was 0.0048% and IDM + Noise at 0.013 %. Currently, I am utilizing an Asus Xonar U7 external sound card (line-in mode).  The ADC is a Cirrus Logic CS5361-KZZ that is capable of 24/192 w/ a 114 dB dynamic range.  It uses a 5th order MBT Delta-Sigma Modulator, and attains low levels of noise and distortion.  For those curious, the DAC is the equally capable CS4398-CZZ.  At any rate I’ll get to it below.
    Gain:0dB, 9dB and 18dB user-selectable
    Frequency Response:0.5Hz to 500kHz(-3dB)
    Total Harmonic Distortion (THD, Balanced/Single-Ended):

    Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR, Balanced/Single-Ended):>147dB(A) / > 137dB(A)
    Output Power (16Ω, Balanced/Single-Ended):>14,000mW / >4,800mW
    Output Voltage (600Ω, Balanced/Single-Ended):>23V / >11.5V
    Input Voltage (Pro iCAN):DC 9V/6.7A – 18V/3.35A
    Input Voltage (iPower Plus):AC 85 – 265V, 50/60Hz
    Power Consumption:≤ 22W idle, 50W max.
    Dimensions:213(l) x 192.5(w) x 63.3(h) mm
    Weight:1.93kg (4.3lbs)
    Test conditions:
    Gain = 0dB, 0.775V(0dBu) with 300 Ohm load unless stated otherwise
    SNR Balanced re 23V, SNR SE re. 11.5V

    Solid-State FR (No Boost, No 3D, Gain 9 dB)
    XBass FR
    Solid-State, Tube, Tube Plus Compared (Scaling Pushed to Extremes, No Meaningful Discernible Difference)

    The Pro iCAN is a subtle and perceptive amp in my mind. It’s powerful, and yet humble in its sonic presentation. Why do I say this?  The Pro iCAN is a resolving and clean sounding amp, one that prefers to be authentic rather than dramatic in its presentation of sound.  Switching between the solid-state and tube modes, you never get the sense that you’re listening to three different amplifiers.  In my listening experience, the changes were more often than not, subtle.  And this is a very good thing.  It indicts a strong sense of sonic direction, that the team at iFi knew just how they wanted their amp to sound.  The feature set, while extensive (XBass, 3D, etc.), always complements the Pro iCAN in an intuitive manner, and represents why they cannot be discounted as gimmicks. 
    The XBass functionality has returned in both 10, 20, and 40 Hz options.  It relies on analog signal processing (no DSP), and provides a minimum 12 dB boost at the previously stated levels (see RMAA results).  It is a clean boost that depending on the level can add a slight to moderate emphasis at subbass levels.  It’s well-executed, and can make some tracks significantly more fun to listen to. 
    The 3D Holographic System (also no DSP) makes a return as well on the Pro iCAN, and is even better implemented than before.  In a retrospective comparison, the Pro iCAN’s implementation makes that of the Micro iCAN look a tad unrefined and even a bit brash.  The 30˚ Loudspeaker Angle simulates narrow loudspeaker placement, and it really works on some of the crazier stereo recordings.  Running ACJ’s Stone Flower, I found that it worked decently to tame the rather extreme placement of instruments (my right ear is ever thankful).  The 60˚ Loudspeaker Angle is meant to simulate an equilateral triangle placement and I often found that it was a good center ground to listen at.  The 90˚ Loudspeaker Angle is quite impressive.  While listening to the Vangelis’ Antarctica OST on this setting, I encountered an overwhelming spatiality that made for an awesome experience.  Of course, it won’t be suitable for all recordings, and one shouldn't expect it to do so either.
    What follows are my general observations on the differences between the Pro iCAN’s various operation modes.  To start, the perceived difference between the SS and Tube modes was less immediately obvious than between the Tube+ mode. The Tube+ mode reduces negative feedback, and thus allows the musical even order harmonics that play nicely on tubes to take precedence.  Naturally, there is a corresponding increase in distortion.  I think that it is important to note that you will not encounter any major roll-off on either end of the frequency spectrum while using the Pro iCAN in both of its tube modes (see RMAA).  The SS mode was obviously the cleanest, and represented an excellent mix of dynamics and resolution.  It is speedy and responsive, and sounded excellent.  Compared to the Micro iCAN, it sounds much more refined, airy, and generally more transparent.  Consider this to be the pinnacle of the “iFi sound”.  Switching over to the Tube state, the tonality more or less remains the same.  There is a weightier bass and a slightly increased mid-range presence.  The way I’d describe this increase in presence is as if the “shadows” of sounds had increased in size (a little abstract I suppose).  In other words, the sound space had been “filled up”. The Tube Plus mode was interesting.  It’s perhaps the “tubiest" of the three states.  It’s a luxurious, smooth sound that still maintains the resolution and soundstage performance of the prior two settings. In a bit of a wildcard match up, I threw the Feliks Audio Espressivo into the mix.  I feel that the latter has excellent synergy with the T1, and I was interested to hear how it would fare against a much more expensive Pro iCAN.  This is where I felt the iCAN could have used a slightly more dramatic presentation.  Compared to the Espressivo, the iCAN sounded at times a bit too smooth and even restrained.  Granted, it wins squarely on technical performance and soundstage/ imaging, but the result isn’t quite as powerful sounding as the Espressivo.  I recognize that there is a need to stay within certain sonic boundaries (and I mentioned this as a strength at the start of this section), but there is a lingering feeling that just a bit more shine could’ve been added.  Overall, I loved the SS and Tube modes, and occasionally did enjoy dipping into the Tube+.
    Now are some of my thoughts on how the Pro iCAN performed with a selection of tracks.
    Orchestral - Princess Mononoke OST (Joe Hisaishi)
    The Pro iCAN did stunningly on this.  The sound is very big, and the lower frequencies have great presence and physical impact.  The highs are not in the least bit limited and it feels like I've managed to hit the limit of my T1's vertical soundstaging capability.  Trombones are brought to life with an excellent portrayal of the instrument's ability to sound incredibly metallic and dramatic when played at forte. Similarly, the traditional Japanese Koto never lost its place in the mix with the help of the Pro iCAN's detail retrieval/ separation.  I found presentation to be mostly on par between the three modes with slight variances in line with my original impressions above.
    Bossa Nova/ Jazz - So Nice (Wanda Sa)
    The bass line is very tight, and well-controlled with just enough quantity. Wanda Sa's voice is nicely textured, and contrasts well with the rest of the band.  I did not enjoy this on Tube+ as much though. The lower frequencies, while being quite lush, almost felt a tad too bloomy.  The slight edge on the instrumentals, especially the plucking on the bass, was lost and it demonstrated an instance where the Tube+ didn't do as great as I'd have hoped for.  
    Chill-Out/ Downtempo - International Flight (David Snell, Thievery Corporation)
    This is a congested track if not properly handled.  There are simply a lot of instruments playing at once.  However, the Pro iCAN navigated it brilliantly. Between the drums and the harp, the Pro iCAN simply breezed through the track, keeping the bassline at a comfortable distance and placing just the right amount of emphasis on the harp.  The one thing I did note was that in SS mode, the harp tended to get a slight bit peaky, especially on the T1.  But apart from that , it was a great showing from the Pro iCAN.
    Pop - Goodbye Stranger (Super Tramp)
    Hey, you can't beat some cheesy pop from the 1970s/80s.  The wonderful synth tracks were well executed, and the vocals felt clean and clear amidst the Wurlitzer Piano, electric/ bass guitars, keyboards, and percussion.  The one thing that I did note was that the sound in SS wasn't as euphonic as I would've liked, but switching into the Tube modes fixed this.  It wasn't a huge difference, but it helped "push" the Pro iCAN nicely in a direction that I wanted it to go while still maintaining its base performance/ core sound signature.

    This is a great amplifier.  I really don't have much else to say, except that if you enjoyed iFi's previous offerings, this will definitely be a hit with you.  It's got a clean, resolving, and technically excellent signature which can be adjusted ever so slightly with a myriad options, ranging from a simple bass enhancement (XBass) to completely changing the core operation of the amplifier from solid state to tubes.  And speaking of XBass, the traditional iFi set of features has returned in this new amplifier in a refined and upgraded form. As a flagship, the iCAN Pro has got just about everything that I'd expect and hope for, and if you put aside its remote control issues and its tendencies to slide around, you have a real winner.  Congrats iFi!
      earfonia, peter123, Hisoundfi and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. dpump
      I understand your dilemma of having so many irons in the fire. Not sure from reading your intro but It seems you got the amp from a dealer? If that is correct, they should probably have provided you with balanced phones to use. None the less, you did a great job with what you had. I'm in the same boat as you being retired and on a meager fixed income. I think the iCAN Pro would be endgame for me, but it's way out of my budget. I sure would like to try it though to see if it would be all I would want.
      dpump, Jul 21, 2016
    3. thesheik137
      nice review (and measumerents!) , but what types of headphones and IEMs (if any) did you use to test this equipment and what were the differences? that would be good to know, thanks
      thesheik137, Jul 22, 2016
    4. h1f1add1cted
      @thesheik137 He wrote in the review about his used gear: "...Fostex TH-900, Audio Technica R70x and Beyerdynamic T1 are all currently wired for single-ended use..."
      h1f1add1cted, Jul 22, 2016
  4. Koolpep
    One amp to rule them all - 14,000mW dual mode amp
    Written by Koolpep
    Published May 31, 2016
    Pros - Drives EVERYthing, from HE-6 to IEMs, plenty of connections, customizable sound, fully balanced, incredible sound quality
    Cons - slides around flat surfaces
    REVIEW: ifi Pro iCAN
    Equipment used:
    Headphones: Sennheiser HD800S, Hifiman Edition X, Hifiman HE-560, AKG K7XX, Audeze LCD-2f, Sennheiser Momentum, HD-650, Oppo PM-2, PM-3, Aurisonics ASG 2.5, Noble K10U, LZ-A3, plenty of other IEMs.
    All images are full-size and can be clicked and seen full screen.
    The HD800S leans heavily on the Pro iCAN below:
    Music used:
    From Röyksopp to Amber Rubarth, Diana Krall to Apoptygma Berzerk, Tom Jones to Sphongle, Yello to Camouflage, mostly FLACs 24/96 or 16/44.1 - some mp3 320kbps, some AAC 256kbps
    Depending on headphone high or low gain - no EQ
    Disclaimer: samma3a.com and @Mazen4samma3a provided me with a demo unit of the ifi Pro iCAN. I am not affiliated with ifi or Samma3a.com Though I really highly appreciate what samma3a is doing for the audiophiles in the region!! Thank you so much for letting me test and review this amazing amp. I do own the iUSB2, iDSD nano and iDSD micro from ifi. 
    Conclusion: I called the ifi iDSD micro the Swiss Army Knife of portable/desktop DAC/amps. The Pro iCan is that times 1,000 in the desktop amp range. Versatile, tube-sound, solid state sound, tube+ sound, power to drive an HE-6 and highly sensitive 8 Ohm IEMs, fully balanced mode, connectors for ANYthing. And a sound quality that you usually have to pay at least double the amount for. I so want this amp. This amp is pure endgame material. There is no reason to own anything else. If you can afford this beauty.
    Now, the longer version:
    Packaging & Accessories
    As usual - clever packed by ifi with all essentials in the box. Power supply (iPower Plus) the amp it self, a remote, manual, warrantee card and a set of cable (RCA cable).
    Technical Highlights
    Balanced headphone amplifier. Two system amplification stage, one tubes, one pure class A solid state. 2 GE 5670 new old stock tubes are the heart of the tube stage, ultra low noise, J-Fets are the core of the solid state stage.
    14,000mW @16Ω (peak, constant 4,800mW) 
    240mW @600Ω
    Dynamic Range: > 117 dB
    THD: <0.003%
    Analogue processing: X-Bass in 3 levels, 3D Sound in 3 levels
    Gain: 0dB, 9dB, 18dB
    Headphone outputs:
    3.5mm single ended
    3.5mm balanced
    6.35mm single ended
    3 pin XLR balanced (left and right) right connector works as well as single ended 6.35mm)
    4 pin XLR balanced
    balanced 3pin XLR (left /right)
    RCA output - single ended
    3 x RCA single ended in
    3 pin XLR balanced input
    DSC01535.jpg       DSC01536.jpg
    Sound effects:
    X-Bass in 3 levels (OFF, 10Hz, 20Hz, 40Hz)
    3D Sound in 3 levels (OFF, 30, 60, 90 headphones)
    DSC01531.jpg   DSC01529.jpg
    Usability and Build Quality
    Build quality is great. every knob feels solid and every dial is weighty and smooth. The volume knob is motorized and can be operated via remote (I didn’t have the remote for the test though).
    The iCan has a special power supply unit that is of the ultra low noise variant. You can’t fault ifi on their power supplies, they are always amazingly clean. Another add-on part for this amplifier will be the Electrostatic Headphone Energizer. A separate box that can be connected to the Pro iCan that delivers up to 1,700V Peak - with Bias selectable for Stax, HiFi/Pro, Sennheiser and other manufacturers. It’s not yet clear when it’s coming.
    The switches and knobs from left to right:
    • Power button:
      Press it and the iCan starts the boot up procedure. Relays click, laser needle stitched logos light up and change color, once in operating temperature, depending on mode (solid state or tube) the light changes and let’s you know it’s ready.
    • Input selector:
      Large dial on the left. The same size as the volume knob on the opposite side. Choose between 3 analogue inputs and balanced input.
    • Bass selector:
      Switches the XBass from OFF to 10Hz,20HZ,40Hz - increases the bass response of headphones or speakers to your liking purely in the analogue domain.
    • Amp mode switch:
      3 mode switch that selects solid state operating mode of the amp, tube mode or a tube+ mode.
    • Headphone outputs:
      3.5mm single ended, balanced, 6.35mm single ended, 3pin XLR and 4pin XLR
    • 3D selector knob:
      Selects the analog 3D/soundstage enhancement effect in 3 levels plus OFF
    • Gain stage selector switch:
      0dB, 9dB and 18dB selector.
    • Volume knob:
      motorized knob turn it to change the volume.
      DSC01527.jpg     DSC01497.jpg
    Build Quality
    The enclosure is aluminum - it feels great to the touch - Interesting cutouts that let the lights of the LEDs and tubes shine through the housing as well as ensure the device has enough heat escape ports. It does get quite hot in operation.
    Everything feels solid and nice - however my only real negative with this amp is: it’s too light. Yes, I really mean it. You cannot plug in a XLR or even a normal headphone without making sure you hold the amp with your other hand. It has a large antiskit rubber pad on the bottom of it but thanks to it’s really low weight it happily moves around very easily. A small pull from a headphone cable and it moves. I believe this amp should be at least 1kg heavier. It’s meant for desktop use, so really shouldn’t slither along like a snake. But that is it. That’s all of my criticism. 
    Bottom anti-skid rubber could be stickier....
    Sound Quality Comparisons & Usage
    Using the Pro iCan
    For an amp that is as powerful as the iCan Pro - it’s important that it’s save. You can switch everything while the amp in in operation without causing anything to break. Changing the gain, makes some relays tick and before the new gain engages you have a few seconds to react to your input before your ears might get blasted with too much power :wink: 
    Switching from solid state to tube mode, creates a small break of 20-30 seconds until the tubes have reached operating temperature. When switching from tube mode to solid state mode the tubes don’t immediately switch off - they stay on for some time longer, to not expose the tubes to many on/off cycles. Only when not used in a longer period do the tubes switch off. Every other command is done immediate and you hear the result.
    Sound quality
    Overall: how did they mix detail, smoothness, rich and satisfying sound, with precise imaging and soundstage?
    Solid state mode:
    Detailed, neutral and balanced solid state mode. Plenty of power to even drive the most demanding headphones. I was quite impressed that this little thing can drive the HE-6 well and loud. In general Hifimans seems to sound better to me in this mode while Sennheiser and Audezes sounded better in tube mode. 
    Tube mode:
    In tube mode you get that addictive bottom end. Just recently I declared that the WA8 from Woo audio drove my T90 best ever. Now I have to announce that my LCD-2 never sounded better than on this ifi amp in tube mode. Brilliant mids, lovely bass, the way Audezes should sound. Confirmed on LCD-3 - just magical. slightly warmer sound in general with a tad treble (but not detail) roll-off. Silky smooth, sound. Like velvet. 
    Hybrid mode:
    Sort of best of both worlds. You have the highs form solid state with the bottom end of the tubes - a slightly silkier version of solid-state alone - a wining combo.
    In all modes the iCan Pro drives IEMs as well when connected via 3.5mm plug. I also connected plenty of headphones at the same time - the iCAN didn't break a sweat.
    EDIT: I previously called this mode: hybrid mode. That was wrong. It's tube+ mode - not a hybrid mode. ifi describes this like that:
    We are tube lovers and we appreciate sometimes there is a need for even more tube-like sound, there are two tube settings – Tube and Tube+. The Tube+ position reduces overall loop-gain and thus negative feedback to the minimum. This gives a different trade-off between the tube’s natural harmonics and the transient performance.
    Conclusion & Issues
    Having just reviewed the WA-8 and found it to be one of the best sounding amps, I have yet another absolute hit product to report on. The crazy thing is that this time we have an amp that costs about the same - offers crazy amounts of peak power (up to 14,000mW peak and more than 4,800mW constant) - so it can drive even the most demanding planar magnetic headphones with ease. It also offers 3.5mm outputs with IEM match technology so you can run sensitive IEMs from it without hiss. This amp is a technological marvel. It’s well put together and sounds just brilliant. 
    It also saves you a lot of money as you have a tube amp, a class A solid state amp and a hybrid amp in one. you can drive everything from IEMs to Planars (and with an add-on in the future even electrostatic headphones).
    Here is a tear down video I found: https://youtu.be/qla2KXNXfdw
    Take a look at the design and how well the PCBs are designed. The lovely tubes in it….it’s a joy to look at such a well put together amplifier in such a small housing.
    ifi came out to assault the “state of the art” and to my ears - they fully succeeded. It’s an amp that can seriously push any kind of headphones to its limits. 
    One very welcomed consequence from using this amp: Having heard my headphones with this amp: PM-2, HE-560, LCD-2f etc. made me appreciate them even more. I thought I am ready to move to TOTL (top of the line) headphones, like the Edition X or HD800S. Now I know there is still so much life in my current headphones and so many areas I haven't yet explored - I should rather keep them and listen a few months or years longer with an endgame amp like this one. And an endgame amp this amp is (of course, my humble opinion for my humble setup and budget) . I am pretty sure there is not much in the same price range (and probably double the price) that comes close. And if it comes close sound quality wise, it won’t offer the versatility. 
    As an alternative and if you don’t have really hard to drive headphones, or you don't need balanced outputs, the WA-8 is in the same price range and also sounds sublime, has a smaller footprint but lacks the versatility and future proofing to a certain extent.
    Rating: Full 5 stars (would give it 7 if possible).
    THANKS to www.samma3a.com and @Mazen4samma3a for the review loaner! So sad to see it go back :frowning2: This is my new dream amp (again).
    1. View previous replies...
    2. punit
      As usual great job Koolpep.I have spent quality time with this amp (had a loaner for a few days) & I agree fully with this review. It really surprised me with HE 6. This is a TOTL amp.
      punit, Jun 7, 2016
    3. obsidyen
      Great review as always, German precision. :) I really want to try this amp.
      obsidyen, Jun 15, 2016
    4. cjs001
      Damn, wish it had come with speaker level output for passive speakers.
      cjs001, Jul 2, 2016