CanMania 2014: iFi and the stack of portable awesome

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CanManiaiFi Audio is a fascinating brand, focusing (almost) exclusively on portable personal audio. Audio-Head‘s Brian Hunter took a look at some of their earliest offerings for Part-Time Audiophile last year and has another stack of their components in for review right now. They are, in short, really nifty.

The hottest thing off the iFi press are the new DSD components. There’s the Nano iDSD, a palm-sized battery-powered DSD256-capable device. And there’s the even-newer Micro iDSD, about 2x the size of the Nano, that can be driven via USB and can natively decode up to DSD512. I’m pretty sure that the latter just set some kind of record.

I haven’t had a chance to sit down with the new DACs as they’re brand spanking new, but stay tuned as I think we’ll be getting that chance sooner rather than later.

The iFi lineup right now is rather robust. There are solutions for headphone amplifiers, portable DACs, preamplifiers, cables, USB converters and “scrubbers”, and more. Happily, not a single component falls anywhere near $1,000, so I suppose all of these components fall on the “high-value” side of the audiophile line, which give me a happy.

Interesting side note, many of these components are best run in serial — a scrubber into a converter into an amp, &c. Which means a lot of little components scattered across the desk. But wait! They now sell a mini shelf system for keeping all these little dudes organized.

iFi, FTW.

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  • It’s great to see ifi get more positive press. In my opinion, they certainly deserve it. Unfortunately, there are many statements in this report that are not completely accurate, including, “iFi … focusing exclusively on portable personal audio”, “the Nano iDSD … DSD128-capable device”, “the Micro iDSD … can be driven via USB or an external low-noise wall wart PSU”, “haven’t had a chance to sit down with the new DACs as they’re brand spanking new”, “not a single component falls over $1,000”, and “a scrubber into a converter into an amp”.

    A few minutes spent talking with someone who has had direct experience with iFi’s products could have sorted all of these issues prior to publishing. iFi makes an excellent phono preamp and some desktop gear (including the iRack mentioned) which most folks would not consider “portable personal audio.” The nano iDSD is now a DSD256 capable device (thanks to a firmware update). The micro iDSD runs off of its internal battery which can only be charged via USB (not a wall wart PSU); however, both the nano and micro iDSD DACs (well, any USB DAC for that matter) can be connected to the iUSBPower for a cleaner power feed, and the iUSBPower does have a wall wart PSU. While the micro iDSD is very new and in short supply, the nano iDSD has been available for several months and is easy to buy from a number of different suppliers. I believe that the current ifi nano/micro line-up has no components above $500. The typical digital audio chain for iFi gear is (PC/smartphone to output): Mercury USB cable to iUSBPower to Gemini USB cable to iPurifier to DAC. Past the DAC, you could add the iTube and/or iCAN headphone amps, but the combination of the two iFi USB cables (Mercury and Gemini) and the power and signal conditioning (iUSBPower and iPurifier) seem to significantly improve the performance of about every DAC and PC transport that I’ve tried.

    • Part-Time Audiophile

      David, appreciate the feedback and clarifications.

      Text cleaned, but I’ll leave your comments as you offered them. You’ll forgive my transgressions, I trust.