ifi xCAN Review

Introduction

I would like to thank Karina at ifi Audio for loaning me the xCAN device for the purpose of this review.

I have been using the xCAN for a couple of weeks now and I must admit its like a credit card sized pocket rocket. In short, its a portable headphone amp with a built in DAC and Bluetooth with both single ended and balanced inputs and outputs.

ifi xCAN connected via Bluetooth to my Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus.

Test Setup Parameters

With this being a mobile solution, the only audio source that is needed is a line out so for the purpose of this review I will be using my Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus smartphone and my HiFiMan HE400i headphones.

The tracks I will be using for testing:

Club/Trance Tracks:
Clark Owen feat. Lena Katina – Melody
Lena Katina – Never Forget
Yanou Presents Do – On and On (DJ’s@Work Remix)

Orchestral/Electronic:
Evanescence – Synthesis Album

Small device with some big features.

Package Contents

Inside the box we have the xCAN device sealed in a protective bag in a cardboard moulded holder along with a small box with accessories included for connecting the xCAN to audio other audio devices plus there is a velvet pouch to safely transport your xCAN. There is also a USB cable included but you cannot use it to connect the xCAN to a PC like a sound card unfortunately. Operating instructions are also included as you would expect as well as a warranty card.

The ifi xCAN comes with plenty of accessories to get you started.

Build Quality

The xCAN feels really well made with the body being made of what I believe to be an anodised aluminium with a polished and mirrored finish. To some this may pose an annoyance as this type of finish is a notorious fingerprint magnet. The rear of the device is made of hard plastic and seems very well put together, nothing is loose and there are no rattles.

Front view of the xCAN with balanced and single ended outputs, a stepped jog dial to adjust the volume, LED indicators for 3D+ and XBass II settings and a button to adjust settings.

On the back of the xCAN you will find a USB-C connector used for powering the device and charging, singled ended and balanced inputs plus an adjustment switch to choose between XBass II presets. Although this device has an ESS Sabre chip on-board it is used to handle the digital audio Bluetooth signal conversion back to analog therefore the USB-C connector will not act as an audio input source.

Rear view of the xCAN with USB-C connector used for powering/charging, XBass II preset switch and lastly, single ended and balanced audio inputs.

Features

  • ESS Sabre 44.1/48k 16-Bit (AAC, aptX, aptX LL and SBC) Bluetooth input
  • 3.5mm (TRS or TRRS S-Balanced*) and 2.5mm (TRRS Balanced) inputs
  • Max output – S-Balanced > 3.8V / 45 mW (@ 300 Ohm)
    > 3.5V / 380 mW (@ 32 Ohm) > 3.1V / 600 mW (@ 16 Ohm
  • Max output – Balanced > 7.6V / 90 mW (@ 600 Ohm)
    > 7.2V / 800 mW (@ 64 Ohm) > 5.7V / 1,000 mW (@ 32 Ohm)
  • THD+N: S-Balanced < 0.005% (@ 100 mW/1.26V 16 Ohm)
  • THD+N: Balanced < 0.006% (@ 360 mW/2.4V 16 Ohm)
  • SNR: S-Balanced > 121dBA (@ 3.8V) / Balanced >120dBA (@ 7.6V)
  • Supports 16~600 Ohm impedance headphones
  • Output impedance: S-Balanced <1 Ohm / Balanced <2 Ohm
  • Max input: S-Balanced 3V RMS / Balanced 6V RMS
  • Gain: -95dB to +18dB adjustable in 114 1dB steps (using volume control)
  • Frequency response: < 2Hz – > 200kHz (-3dB)
  • Battery Life: 18 hours (analogue) or 12 hours (Bluetooth)
    (charging via USB port)

One interesting feature of the xCAN is ifi’s S-Balanced technology which essentially lets you enjoy balanced audio from a traditional unbalanced input audio source which further minimises crosstalk and noise whilst also providing a few extra mW’s of power.

The wireless side of things on this device is handled by an ESS Sabre chipset which is based on Bluetooth v4.2. While it provides useful features such as aptX and aptX LL, there is NO aptX-HD or LDAC decoding support as you would expect to find on a Bluetooth v5.0 enabled device which is a bit of shame and may deter some people.

Another interesting feature of the xCAN is the XBass II support which is mainly a bass boost setting but also allows to enhance the bass and lower-mids presence or simply just one or the other. The 3D+ feature is also worth a mention as it improves the imaging and enhances the soundstage.

Lastly the xCAN is a dual-mono headphone amplifier with 1000mW of power per channel which ensures you can get the full potential from your headphones.

Sound Quality

I have tested the xCAN using the standard 3.5mm single ended input and using the CD Quality Bluetooth input and I must admit for such a small device it certainly packs a punch. Thanks to the 3D+ and XBass II features your listening experience is further enhanced leaving you fully immersed in the music you are listening to. I personally enjoy listening with the bass+presence setting on the rear with XBass II and 3D+ enabled. To me it bring out more details in what is already perceived to be an already detailed sound.

Closing Thoughts

If you are in the market for a new headphone amp that is portable to enhance your listening experience or you need more power for your existing portable setup then this is the device for you. It’s a little on the pricey side which may put some people off but for all the features you get packed into such a small device it would be a welcome addition for the more avid portable audio enthusiast.

For more information about this product and other products please visit https://ifi-audio.com

ifi xCAN

£299
8.6

Packaging

7.8/10

Build Quality

8.5/10

Features

9.8/10

Sound Quality

9.0/10

Affordability

7.9/10

Pros

  • Bluetooth, single ended and balanced inputs
  • 3D+ and XBass II features for richer sound
  • Impressive 1W output power per channel

Cons

  • No USB audio input option
  • Lack of Bluetooth 5.0 means no aptX-HD or LDAC decoding support
  • Fingerprint magnet

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