Disclaimer: The iFi Audio xCAN despatched to us for the purposes of this review is a pattern and doesn’t need to be returned.
Thanks to iFi Audio for giving us this opportunity.
You’ll be able to learn extra about iFi Audio products we reviewed on Headfonics by clicking here.
The moveable amplifier market has had a troublesome time of late with the development of DAPs in both power and refinement. Increasingly individuals in moveable audio are shifting to delicate IEMs which require much less power however lap up extra resolving sources.
What meaning is it is advisable convey an “A-game” plan for any new moveable external amplifier if you want to seize the market’s attention. A key selling level if you’ll.
Historically, that meant a DAC/Amp combo with some killer options. Two of them final yr grabbed our attention, the FiiO Q5, and iFi Audio’s personal xDSD.
Now iFi Audio is back with a new ‘sibling’ to the xDSD, the $299 xCAN moveable amplifier and, true to our opening assertion, it has various key selling points which may make it a singular providing to audiophiles.
If there’s one factor iFi Audio is excellent at it’s together with plenty of fascinating options on their products.
- 1 xCAN New Options
- 2 Legacy Features
- 3 Construct High quality
- 4 LED Lights
- 5 Volume Colours
- 6 Performance Indicators
- 7 Inputs & Outputs
- 8 Rear Panel
- 9 Battery Life
- 10 Accessories & Packaging
xCAN New Options
Just like the xDSD, the xCAN is awash with features in true iFi Audio fashion but the two that stand out probably the most is the amplification stage and its potential to receive a wi-fi Bluetooth connection. The BT aspect of issues provides it a recent coat of modernity on an in any other case pretty conventional analog moveable amp setup.
It does have a DAC inside, a great Sabre chipset at that, however it is primarily for changing the BT signal into analog. There isn’t any pure DAC functionality inside the xCAN past that that may overlap with the most important xDSD feature-set.
So this is the first step when it comes to engaging features. The xCAN has a ton extra output power and connection choices than the xDSD. That is its forte with a dual-mono amp stage outputting as much as 1W into a 32Ω load balanced compared to the xDSD’s 500mW right into a lighter 16Ω load.
Even on the unbalanced output of the xCAN, you’re getting 600mW right into a 32Ω load which provides far more headroom still than the xDSD maximum output. That is loads of juice for demanding headphones and beyond what a variety of DAPs can provide.
But there’s extra. The xCAN not solely does balanced and unbalanced output it includes a balanced and unbalanced line-in additionally to ship a fully-balanced amplification stage. Additionally they throw in their legacy S-Balanced function from the xDSD to maximise their unbalanced three.5mm output even further for crosstalk, noise and some further mW’s.
More specifically Bluetooth four.2. and some fascinating features that make this greater than merely receiving a digital signal and decoding it to analog. The primary is the separation of the receiving and decoding with using an ESS Sabre chipset.
I am not completely positive which one is used however it ought to provide a better degree of dynamic range and lower noise flooring than built-in BT chipsets. It also needs to compensate considerably for the shortage of aptX-HD and LDAC decoding which I might like to have seen on the xCAN.
The second is the inclusion of aptX LL which is an important function for people who run video, gaming and probably video chat from smartphones. Audio out of sync is a killer for me on moveable streaming.
The xCAN does truly pull in a couple of legacy options from the xDSD, corresponding to their Cyber Drive battery system and their 3D+ Matrix and XBass know-how. 3D+ Matrix principally reinterprets the “in-head” impact of enjoying music recorded for speakers by way of a headphone or IEM. It does this by way of instrumental imaging and singer placement so it sounds more like a speaker setup and out of doors your head not inside.
At a high-level, the XBass II performance is primarily a bass booster but it is designed to isolate or filter the low-end in order to not muddy up the mids at the similar time. On the xCAN, iFi Audio has further refined the XBass function hence its II moniker and not the + icon.
The new XBass II now has a further choice to spice up the lower-mids presence region for a extra pure sound as well as older XBass + low-end boosting or simply low-end boosting on its own.
Construct High quality
In case you are accustomed to the fashionable design aesthetic of the xDSD then the xCAN will come as no shock to you. The shape issue is nearly equivalent save for the rear and front panel input and output options.
I referred to as this a hip-flask sort design and I nonetheless consider it that method. The dimensions is diminutive sufficient, the load none too taxing at 128g and the finish and aluminum ripple-like curving are fairly cool save for the heavy fingerprint attraction.
The edging on the chassis, whilst not overly-curved shouldn’t be that sharp either. The overwhelming majority of the chassis between the back and front is superbly rounded so the xCAN could be very snug for each day handling.
All the knobs and buttons are just about flush which I discover important for exterior moveable amps. You will not end up by chance shifting the quantity dial (without some exertion) or switching on and off its 3D+/XBass II or BT performance. This can be a secure and pocketable type factor.
Very similar to the xDSD, the xCAN is crafted from an analogous mixture of a gunmetal chrome finished magnesium-aluminum alloy and hardened contoured matching plastics at the base.
It is a bit of a fingerprint magnet resulting from that shiny finish so convey a material if you would like it to look good. And excellent wanting is what you need because it is likely one of the nicest wanting moveable amplifiers I have seen for a lot of some time.
The stiffened matching contoured plastics on the base is for optimal Bluetooth transmission power. A pure aluminum case would diminish the signal substantially whereas the extra porous plastic cap is a lot better.
At a high degree, the xCAN LED mild system works in much the identical manner because the xDSD minus the pure DAC element. I do advise having a quick learn of the consumer guide to familiarize your self with the color system as a result of it impacts each performance and exact volume levels by way of the middle rotary dial.
Apart from the purple LED mild code, the db parameters for the quantity management on the xCAN stay the same as the xDSD. The precise parameters are as follows:
Observe that the purple LED now goes up to +12dB whereas on the xDSD it solely went as much as 0dB. You will now get a a lot wider range of amplitude on the higher colour setting on the xCAN quantity management.
When the xCAN starts in normal “wired” mode you get a tinge of green earlier than it goes out. By beginning and holding the central dial button from the facility off position you get a blue tinge to point BT pairing mode. If there isn’t a connection it’ll pulse blue on and off till you start the pairing course of.
By long pressing the far-left button on the entrance panel beneath the BT icon the primary rotary dial LED will flash blue and purple to point pairing. It is going to cease as soon as paired with a BT source. It should remain blue until you start rotating the dial where it’ll assume the quantity shade code sequence in the image above.
Apart from that, you could have a white LED for activation of the 3D+ and XBass II choices and a small diode to the rear underneath the charging port to point battery standing.
Inputs & Outputs
S-Balanced is technically a 3.5mm unbalanced socket with balanced output benefits utilizing dual-mono amp stage design. iFi Audio has been using this similar precept from their top-tier Professional iCAN by means of to last yr’s xDSD so it’s no surprise to see it within the xCAN’s array of inputs.
Primarily, the xCAN does away with the second amplifier channel that conventional balanced amp circuits deploy whilst retaining the destructive wire per channel to the star ground to attenuate crosstalk. Combined with their built-in IEMatch know-how, iFi Audio see this output as having all of the attributes of a well-designed balanced output however with less noise and distortion for sensitive IEMs.
For people who need ‘all the glory’ of a standard balanced output, the xCAN has that also on the entrance panel with a 2.5mm TRRS jack output. This was one thing missing on the xDSD final yr so it’s good to see it on the xCAN this yr. It is going to deliver a lot more energy also compared to the S-Balanced three.5mm various.
Multi-Perform Button Management
To the suitable of the front panel, you might have the identical triple perform button which controls the xCAN BT pairing and the 3D+ and XBass II function on and off. An extended press will go into pairing mode additionally for brand spanking new BT sources and brief presses will interchange between the 3D+ and XBass II settings.
The quantity management shouldn’t be digital, it’s analog based mostly though with a W990VST digitally controlled stepped attenuation process over a 113dB vary in 1dB steps. The dial itself is slightly inset although not utterly flush with the slightly bulbous iFi branded bulb space appearing as a power on/off and BT perform button. It’s also possible to press it to mute however it doesn’t have any playback control.
The quantity dial does not have a guard to protect from unintentional bodily adjustments. Nevertheless, the stepped facet has a level of resistance to it so it isn’t terribly unfastened both. Until you’re very tough with it I can’t see too much unintentional movement. It’ll take about 5-6 knocks to get to an uncomfortable degree.
Hooray! The newest batch of xCAN’s has now switched to USB-C charging sockets. Thoughts you, the xDSD continues to be a micro-USB socket so it might be nice to see it get a change mid-production run also to match up. You’ll not discover any further USB ports on the back of the xCAN given it has no pure DAC functionality.
Also, on the rear panel is the switcher for the XBass II system offering three presets together with bass, presence and a mixture of both. Turning on the XBass continues to be by way of the front panel change on the xCAN.
The ultimate two inputs on the rear panel are line-inputs both balanced 2.5mm TRSS and unbalanced three.5mm TRS. The normal three.5mm LO is a completely important element of any respectable moveable amplifier.
I am also glad to see a 2.5mm line-in for hooking up to the likes of the Sony 1Z and the Lotoo PAW Gold Contact, (utilizing a four.4mm adaptor). It just about ensures you’ve a totally balances source and amp system in a wired setup.
Because of the shortage of pure DAC the xCAN will get an enormous increase in battery life numbers from the identical 3.8V/2200mAh Li-poly battery from the xDSD. From a reasonably common eight hours on the xDSD, iFi Audio is spec’ing the xCAN at a very wholesome 18 hours as a pure analog amp and a aggressive 12 hours when deployed wirelessly.
In case you are going super-efficient low impedance IEMs, that 12-hour wi-fi is fairly close. I feel my unfastened monitoring had it round 10-11 hours steady on aptX with a gentle signal. I think you possibly can go greater for those who use a lighter knowledge loading codec corresponding to AAC.
For the analog score, it will rely upon what you plug into the xCAN. For IEMs it is going to come shut but once you start going 50-150Ω and onwards it should drop pretty rapidly to underneath 10 hours for 300-600Ω dynamic headphones and extra demanding planar options.
Charging is by way of the USB-C socket, it does make the most of fast-charging however as to compatibility with recognized standards, it isn’t clear if QC3 or PD2.0 or both.
The Cyberdrive charging system also has a constructive and welcome function that ensures an extended battery lifespan. Say as an example you determine to power it and use it as a desktop answer so its “always on” a power supply.
The Cyberdrive charging system won’t max out that cost resulting in the untimely dying of the battery. As an alternative, it enters a “desktop” mode which maintains it around 70% and “maintenance mode”. That may be a wholesome degree for the battery if it is all the time on a charger.
Accessories & Packaging
The xCAN comes within the basic iFi Audio packaging chock filled with eye-catching slogans and a lot of the distinctive options of the xCAN. I type of prefer it, it seems like I am getting quite a bit for the cash and appeals to my inside nerd. Is that a bit shallow? Yeah, however the retail shelf can typically be like that.
iFi Audio all the time do a great accent line-up and while the shortage of pure DAC in the xCAN means there are usually not fairly as many cables it’s nonetheless fairly full of helpful stuff. Inside you get:
- USB-A to USB-C cable
- three.5mm to three.5mm brief interconnect
- 2.5mm to 2.5mm TRRS interconnect
- Storage pouch
- Dual locking velcro strips
- Guarantee / Instruction guide
The velcro straps remain from the xDSD and you may even work both the xDSD and the xCAN as a stack with the straps utilizing the 2V analog line-out of the xDSD into the rear three.5mm line-in of the xCAN.
The little pouch is a contact on the flimsy aspect though with the bottom of mine splitting pretty shortly upon preliminary use. Just be aware of that when throwing your xCAN into the pouch it doesn’t find yourself on the ground.
Click on Page 2 for Performance & Sound Impressions