First Look: iFi iDSD nano DAC/headphone amp & iCAN nano headphone amp

Digital-to-analog converters,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
iFi Audio iCAN Nano,
iFi Audio iDSD nano
First Look: iFi iDSD nano DAC/headphone amp & iCAN nano headphone amp

What Have We Learned About the Sound of the ICAN Nano Thus Far?

If you happened to read my earlier blog on the pilot production iCAN nano (click here to read), then please know that the full production model is at least as good as the earlier sample was (though I have not yet been able to compare the two units side by side to see if there is much, if any, difference between them). As before, the iCAN nano has left me wowed by both the refinement, robustness, and sheer “feistiness” of its sound; on first listen, it seems to offer quite a lot more output than its modest 150mW output specification would lead you to expect.

If you weren’t able to hold the compact device in the palm of you hand (with room left over) and if you judged it purely on sound quality, you might easily think the iCAN was one of today’s nicer desktop headphone amps. Yes, really.

About the only point at which you’ll discern the iCAN’s limitation (and, yes, it does have its limits) will be when you try using the iCAN to drive brutally power-hungry ‘phones such as the HiFiMAN HE-6. Then, things will be fine to a point, but when big dynamic swells or power-slurping heavy-duty bass passages come along you will hear moments when the iCAN nano abruptly and decisively runs out of power and distorts and/or runs into audio clipping. However, use the iCAN nano with headphone loads that fall within its wheelhouse and you’ll be a very happy audiophile indeed.