iFi Audio - Official Brand Thread

This is the thread to discuss iFi Audio.

iFi is pretty well known for their budget friendly iFi Audio Nano iDSD Black label however they carry a whole lot more in their lineup of DACs/Amps.

Personally, I am not too familiar with their Pro line but I know some of you are.

What are your thoughts on iFi Audio?

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I’ve had, and indeed still have, a number of their products, from their “Pro” series to their smaller units and some of their accessories, over the last couple of years and have generally been quite impressed with them.

I’ve written some reviews/impressions of them as well, which are a bit too lengthy to simply repost here - but here’s a link to my thoughts on the Pro iCAN, though. That link goes to SBAF, which has a ton of useful information, but is a bit different in tone and purpose to many audio sites (think of it as a private club/group of friends, with a very broad and direct sense of humor) - so if you’re of a sensitive persuasion tread carefully.

If you poke about there, and use their search function, you’ll find my thoughts on some other iFi products in some more broadly-addressed threads.

To summarize a few of them, here, though:

iFi Pro iCAN

I found, and still find, this to be an excellent headphone amplifier and pre-amp. It’s loaded with features, and if you make use of all, or at least most, of them then it’s pretty good value. Though waiting for the occasional sale when it’s price comes down to as low as $1,299 makes it even better.

I think it’s at its best if you have a small stable of headphones to pair it with, since it’s chameleonic nature makes it an excellent fit

It has both solid-state and tube-input stages, and you can choose between them on the fly (short delay between switching). The tube input stage has two levels of biasing that affect how much “tube flavor” you get. It’s very powerful, with up to 14 watts on tap, which is more than enough to drive any headphone, including things like the AKG K1000 and the HiFi-Man HE-6 & Susvara.

It operates as a fully balanced unit, with both XLR and RCA inputs and outputs. It has remote control volume. Supports 4-pin XLR, dual 3-pin XLR, dual 1/4" TS, 1/4" TRS and 3.5mm outputs. The 3.5mm output has an auto-functioning “iE-Match” feature, which makes it a better fit with very low impedance, ultra-sensitive, IEMs.

Then there are cross-feed and bass enhancement functions, which you can control the level of, and multiple gain settings.

Overall performance is excellent, and it’s entirely at home driving even flagship/TOTL cans. No, it’s not the very last word in overall sonics, though there’s a compelling density to it’s musical delivery, but it’s a great little unit overall.

iFi Micro iDSD BL

This is a compact, feature rich, combined DAC/amp, that also offers basic cross-feed, bass enhancement, USB->S/PDIF conversion, USB-input clean-up, iE-Match capability, the ability to operate on USB power or it’s own, big, on board battery (that can be used to charge/run other devices), a ton of power (up to 8 watts), selectable gain/power levels, and filter choices for the DAC.

You can use it as an all-in-one unit or just a DAC or just an amp.

It has line-outs/pre-outs as well as both 3.5mm and 1/4" TRS connections and a 3.5mm input.

The DAC itself has a nice, smooth, detailed and rich presentation. It’s capable of high-resolution conversion and supports up to DSD 8x (DSD512). The latest firmware allows support for MQA rendering (your player must do the first level unfold/decode).

The amp section is very competent and pretty quiet, though you’ll need to engage the iE-Match function for very sensitive/hiss-prone IEMs.

In all-in-one usage I found it took a couple of hundred hours for the unit to go from a “rather exciting” delivery, to something a bit more neutral and natural. Using the DAC or amp sections independently didn’t exhibit this.

Other than the size of the unit, which is a bit inconvenient for real portable (vs. transportable) use, the only real negative I found with it was the the volume pot exhibited marked channel imbalance at low levels. Using something like the Fostex TH-X00 I could have one channel playing and the other silent, and it wasn’t until about 10 o’clock on the dial that this went away. That’s pretty loud on the TH-X00 …


This is a neat little inline adapter, that works with both balanced and single-ended headphones/IEMs and allows you to help match them with sources of varying output impedance (particularly useful with multi-driver BA IEMs), increase effective impedance to reduce/eliminate hiss in IEMs, as well as maximize the dynamic range of your source into super-sensitive transducers.

It’s something I find very useful - but it’s situational … very much a case of seeing how a given source/IEM interacts as to whether it’s a benefit or not. For example, with the CA Andromeda I found it fairly effective in eliminating the hiss you get pair them with many portable players - but at the same time it would sometimes rob the music of “life”, and then it’s a bit of a toss-up as to whether you’re better off with, or without it.

Pro iESL

I’ve not done much with this … because it was apparent quite quickly that it wasn’t really capable of driving as wide a range of electrostatic cans as I wanted to experiment with (before buying a proper amp for them). It was okay with the SR-009 and even the 007, but with the L700 or the Voce it was just not driving things to levels that I considered useful.


I just bought an Ifi iPurifier2 to try out. I can tell you this. It’s not going back. I can definitely hear difference with the iPurifier in the system. Better dynamics and deeper bass response. I know, it can’t be, but it is. I like it so much that I bought another for another system. This one is plugged into my KEF LS50W speakers and is fed from a microRendu.


I purchased the iFi Nano IDSD BL and have been experimenting for a couple days now. My full sized headphones and in-ear units both benefit greatly from the boost (impediance is high on both units). Once I downloaded the audio drivers to my laptop, it connected easily. It’s a compact unit, length and width smaller than a deck of cards, while the thickness is slightly thicker than a deck of cards. Very solid feeling unit telling me I won’t have to treat it with kid’s gloves when I travel. The only amp I can compare it to is an older HeadRoom Total Airhead, and it’s an improvement across the board. One issue i had with the Airhead was isolation noise that was noticeable when really cranking the phones (some music you just have to listen to at “concert” levels lol). This iFi eliminates that slight bleed over, making the music even better. At this price break I don’t think I could have done any better, without spending quite a bit more.


Need some suggestions or guidance on connectivity for the iFi Nano. Connecting it to computer is easy, but connecting to my phone (android) is making me wonder what options are out there. I’ve seen the 3.5mm jack to usb female adapter, and that would link my phone to the Nano, though it might be hit or miss as to whether the signal would actually transfer. There are many bluetooth usb adapters but i would also have to include a female to female adapter, and the more linkages you have, the more the signal degrades. Or am I missing something very simple??? Any input would be appreciated. Thanks.

As for why i prefer using an amp with my phone, the etymotics and full size headphones I use, both have high impedance levels, making the music sound weak and shallow (without an amp). The old Headroom Airhead was great for this, but alas…it’s gone from this world.

Well … the easiest (and best-sounding) way to connect it would be a USB “OTG” cable from the phone to the USB input on the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label. Just have to choose one with the correct USB connection for your particular phone (micro USB or USB-C).


I had looked at that option but didn’t know if it would also serve as a ‘stereo’ port. Thanks

Edit…ordered and on the way here. Thanks again.

I’m 100% not sure what you mean by “serve as a ‘stereo’ port”.

That cable will take the digital audio output from your phone, via it’s USB output, and send it to the iFi Nano iDSD BL. Which is the same way you’re connecting it to your computer, just that you need an OTG-spec cable to have your phone talk to the iDSD.

I have the Moto G5 plus and when i was researching it for connection options, I knew the micro usb could be used for charging and data…but wasn’t certain about music. As “music” is still digital, it shouldn’t be impacted, but i wasn’t certain. Coming out of the 3.5mm i knew i had stereo signal, which was why I was leaning in that direction. But I think the micro usb will give me a better signal. But…had i thought it through…since the music was downloaded to my phone via the micro usb… D’oh. Sometimes its the obvious ones i miss lol

I liked it quite a lot as well…posted some thoughts here a while back: https://blog.dsnyder.ws-e.com/index.php/2016/03/12/purifying-usb/

In addition to purchasing an OTG cable, you may also want to install a player that can take full advantage of the DAC. I’ve had pretty good luck with USB Audio Player PRO. It can stream from TIDAL and NAS in addition to playing FLAC and DSF from internal storage. It is limited only by the formats supported by the DAC…although some phones struggle with 24-bit, 352.8 kHz PCM or DSD256. In my case, it seemed to work best with the phone’s screensaver disabled.

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Anybody have experience with the iFi support ticket system?

I just searched through their knowledge base, and they seem to have nothing matching xDSD. Perhaps it is too new a model; iDSD gets lots of matches. They suggest that you sign in if you are going to check a ticket, but while there is a “sign in” to click, it does not give you an option to register.

This is different than registering the product - that went smoothly. I got email back thanking me for registering, but the process never asked for a password creation, so I can’t “sign in” to the knowledge base / support ticket system.

I did make an inquiry - trying to be very clear. It does not appear that English is the native language of the tech people. I used the same email and name as when I registered, so perhaps that will be enough. An automated screen response told me that I had successfully created an inquiry, and someone would get back to me

Edit 15 min later - I see I have email giving me a ticket number and the content of the ticket I created.

First, I’ll answer my own question. iFi has a surprisingly responsive support staff. After registering my xDSD, I asked several questions before I wrote my review. Support replied within hours to about a day with good answers. On one occasion, I had to get back for additional clarification, and the same support person wrote a detailed response. Larger companies should learn from this.


And second, I think I made the right decision for my needs with the xDSD. I have read the thread on the iDSD Nano Black Label, which I had also considered, but I wanted more power than it seemed to provide, I was also ready to step up a bit to try and ensure something more versatile than my Dragonfly Black. The iDSD Micro Black Label was very tempting, but it looked to be a bit large to put in my go bag,

Additionally, that metal case the xDSD shares with a few other iFi products is very solid.

As this is the general brand thread, I’d invite others to opine on how iFi is positioning their line.


I love my “NiBL” I know you didn’t go with it, but I honestly have a hard time not using it with more things…It honestly is probably my favorite thing under $400 in my Audiophile kit. It is always in my bag next to my camera now… and it will travel with me everywhere.


I could tell by your traveler’s guide review that you like it. A very capable device that shares a lot with the other MQA iFi DACs. It’s probably the best value for the money. I just wonder about what you really get upscale of our choices.

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I generally like iFi’s stuff.

I’m not very keen on their marketing angle a lot of the time - there seems to be a tendency to claim as benefits somethings that are just due to what they’re doing/what they’re using and is in no way “special” nor unique to their product, brand or implementation.

But, in general, I do like their end-results.

I do think they have too FAR too much overlap in a lot of their products. That’s fine in entry-level stuff. But it can dilute the value proposition for some of their options. If you use all the features of the Micro iDSD Black Label, for example, it’s excellent value. If you just want the DAC portion, it’s a lot less so.

This issue, for me, comes to a head in their flagship products.

The Pro iCAN is an excellent amplifier. You do need to use both tube and solid-state modes, as well as need it’s capacious-power-capabilities to get the most value from it (if you just want solid-state OR tube operation, you can get similar performance for less money), but it’s not totally out of whack if you don’t.

But the Pro iDSD is a confused product to me, which seems like the product of about 3 years too many in “design by committee” (I think it was over four years from initial announcement to first units shipping). Depending on what questions you ask about it, and in what context, you get difference answers about it that either attempt to downplay the cost of the included amplifier, or streamer, and upsell the DAC implementation - or that portray the amp as just a less-powerful version of the Pro iCAN … making that unit unnecessary.

What I wanted from them was a form-factor matching balanced output DAC to pair with the Pro iCAN.

What they shipped was an all-in-one device with built-in streaming (but omitting the single most interesting streaming interface for me), and local media replay, with an unnecessarily elaborate amp stage that is completely redundant if you already have a Pro iCAN (or similar that you’re happy with) - but still not quite good enough to make one unnecessary if you have more demanding cans.

Now, I haven’t done a formal audition (i.e. in my system, with my gear and music) of the Pro iDSD, but nothing I have heard from it in more casual settings makes me think it’s the equal of other well known DACs around, or below it’s $2,499 asking price as a DAC.

If you’re going to use ALL of it’s functionality, well, then it starts to look a LOT more reasonable.


I’m an iFi fan as well. I think most of their line represents excellent value for the dollars spent. Having said that, I think the xDSD and xCAN probably are the best examples of price/performance gear in the iFi line. The xDSD is kind of a swiss army knife for the travelling music enthusiast and does good work as a computer DAC as well. The xCan right now is the amp to pair with the Opus #1s or #2, the Cayin N5ii as well as the AK70mk2. Pairing the xCAN with those portables gives me the option of using HD600s or Beyer 990s with the portables that normally are uncapable of really opening those up.


I use the xDSD daily in office but now that I will get the THX 789 AAA end of september, I wonder if I could use the xDSD as balanced DAC with its Line Out over 3,5 TRSS s-balanced
I already have an adapter from male 3.5mm TRRS balanced to 2.5mm balanced female for some iems and my sennheisers
now I have ordered an adapter from 2.5mm balanced to 2x 3PIN XLR
this should work, or not?

I will get the SMSL SU-8 as balanced dac. But I wonder if I could also use the xDSD as mqa capable dac with the 789

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You can certainly use the xDSD as a DAC to feed the THX AAA 789.

You will want to use it’s line-out into the RCA inputs on the THX AAA 789, however. The xDSD is not “balanced” in the traditional sense. It is a single-ended amplifier that has separate ground lines for each channel. iFi called this “S-Balanced”, on account of it using a balanced headphone connection.

When driving headphones directly this has definite benefits and is worth using if you can.

When driving an external amplifier it’s another matter. For a start, you’ll be amplifying the output of the xDSD amplifier, including any noise and distortion (all amplifiers have both). And you won’t get any additional power, since the signal is +/GND not a differential +/-.

In fact, using an S-Balanced connection to a true differential 3-pin XLR input will likely result in you only getting half the available power out of the amplifier, since it will only be driving one phase of each channel with a music signal.

So, again, you’ll be better off using the line-out of the xDSD into the RCA inputs on the THX AAA 789. And you’ll still get the balanced differential output from the THX AAA 789 in doing so.