Review: iFi Audio micro iCAN SE | The Master Switch

It can often be a challenge to choose an audio company that prefers rigorous engineering over marketing style. Judging by its website and staid, understated social media presence, it might be forgiven for overlooking IFI’s audio in favor of flashier companies like Schiit. that would be a mistake. they sent us their latest mini amp for testing, and we will say this: it has surprising depth. In this review, we break down the Micro Ican SE’s sound, design, packaging and accessories, specs, and more. For alternatives, read our list of the best headphone amps.

sound:

bass (bass) and mids

the ifi audio micro ican se amplifier (pronounced eye-fi, in case you were wondering) is a class a solid stage amplifier. the circuit, together with the aforementioned direct drive technology (a circuit design that results in greater transparency and very low output impedance), the bass boost function and the 3d stereo enhancer, meant that we quickly became addicted to the sound of this little beauty. gave us.

Reading: Ifi micro ican headphone amplifier

The micro iCAN SE reminds us of a science fiction coffin | The Master Switch

The micro iCAN SE reminds us of a science fiction coffin | The Master Switch

While it didn’t have the outright warmth and character of something like the Hafler HA75 (full review here), there was definitely plenty of character to the audio we put through it. It had real weight and heft: the bass always felt full and complete, even when we supercharged it with the surprisingly excellent bass boost. We found that the greatest improvement it gave to our basic headphone sound was in the mids, where it really filled out some of the gaps and brought the details to the fore. Very occasionally, when there was a lot going on in a particular mix, we detected a little bit of muddiness at the low end as the amp struggled to handle all the bass frequencies, but this didn’t occur too often. The amplifier also includes a 3D stereo enhancer effect. This didn’t make a massive difference, but there was definitely an audible change when we flicked it up to the max. In fact, we were so pleased by the combination of maximum bass boost and maximum stereo that we mostly just left it there.

The closest comparison we could make in sound was actually a portable amp: the oppo ha-2se, and not just because it has a similar suffix. It doesn’t have as much of an emphasis on tube character, but it makes up for it with clarity and has a similar quality bass boost feature. (It also has its own design issues, like a nasty leather cover that makes it look a bit cheap, but that’s neither here nor there.) It used to be that the ha-2se was the same price as the ican, $299, but that’s not the case anymore, and it’s actually quite hard to find cheap versions of the old ha-2se. for now, you can probably keep the ican.

high range (treble)

We tested this amp with a variety of different headphones, including our standard 250 ohm beyerdynamic amiron homes (full review here). this is a pretty neutral pair of headphones, and while the app had no trouble handling them, it did reveal a bit of a problem with the treble. very occasionally they could be harsh, even a bit fatiguing, with the sibilance of many instruments brought forward. it’s not a huge deal, and the creative eq sorts things out, but it’s worth bearing in mind that despite the solid level of detail, the sound of the amp is far from perfect. And while we are talking about tests, the amplifier predictably responded better to the mentioned idac2. they may not be able to be stacked, more on that below, but they work extremely well side by side, the dac gives its fellow amp a bit more crispness and poise.

The iCAN SE offers a good selection of inputs and outputs | The Master Switch

The iCAN SE offers a good selection of inputs and outputs | The Master Switch

Design:

appearance and build quality

The se in ican stands for special edition, and is the improved version of the original ican, one that has been “specially tweaked” so to speak. We admit it, we’ve never heard the original, but design-wise there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the two. and for the most part, the weird sci-fi design works just fine. Do you know what ican se makes us think of? it makes us think of spaceship coffins. you know what we’re talking about. In a sci-fi movie, every time some poor bastard is horribly killed by an alien or gets too close to the positron core, his crewmates pack his body in a futuristic box and toss him into the void. this is what the ican se looks like. one of those boxes. either that, or a chocolate bar designed by a steampunk willy wonka. Whichever image you prefer, you can see from the photos that there are very few headphone amps that come in such an eye-catching shape. the only other one we could think of that we could recognize from a distance would be the schiit magni 3 (full review here). Coincidentally, that amp is not only cheaper than the $299 ican but also much better.

The sci-fi coffin design is kind of cool | The Master Switch

The sci-fi coffin design is kind of cool | The Master Switch

See also: Best Earphones for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – iGeeksBlog

The amplifier is a slim, light silver box around the size of a couple of cigarette packets stacked in tandem, with multiple controls located on either end. The one we’ll refer to as the business end is where the main volume pot sits: a pleasing brushed-metal cylinder with a nice weight to it. On the other side, you’ve got a 6.3mm headphone jack, and in between them, two switches – one to control the bass boost, and the other to control the 3D stereo effect. The build is light enough and small enough that you could theoretically take it on the road with you, which we liked. In practice, it would probably be a bit fiddly, but we appreciated the idea.

inputs and outputs

on the other side, it has two rca inputs, a 3.5mm input jack and a plug for the power cable. there’s a self-explanatory set of indicator lights at the top: one for power, one for the direct drive function, and one to indicate the presence of audio. we don’t quite understand why direct drive needs its own indicator, it’s not like you can turn it off, but it doesn’t get in the way. At the bottom of the unit, there is a gain switch, and this is where things get confusing. see, it’s more like gain switches, with four complicated little switches that you have to flip in certain sequences to increase the gain by up to 24db. it’s quite possible that internal design demands meant the gain switch couldn’t be located elsewhere, but it’s still tricky to operate.

The micro iCAN SE

The micro iCAN SE’s oddly-placed gain switches | The Master Switch

And while we’re on the subject: for all its solid build and unique silhouette, there’s no denying that some elements of the design here are a mess. The bottom of the unit is not only home to the gain switch, but also to a host of marketing copy. We cannot think of a single incident – really, not one – where we’d want a list of what the amplifier can do written on its surface. That’s what manuals are for. Even though it’s hidden most of the time, it feels like iFi is trying just a little too hard, including placing a bunch of obnoxious logos on the casing. This cavalier attitude to labelling goes further, too, with indicator text shoved almost haphazardly next to the individual controls. Some of it doesn’t make sense, either. To maximise the bass boost, you position the otherwise faultless toggle in the center – but to do the same for the stereo switch, you need to push it all the way to the top. It’s a minor niggle, but an annoying one. Fortunately, this appears to be something that iFi have fixed for one of the newer models, the xDSD, which we will be reviewing soon – it not only boasts a new shape and new controls, but seems to have gotten rid of the marketing copy.

stackability

There is also a major oversight in the design of how the ican relates to its partner, the idac2 (full review here). they have an identical structure and are the same size and shape. The first thing we try to do with them, the first thing almost anyone would try to do with them, is stack them on top of each other. it didn’t work we could place one so it would stay in place on top of the other, by itself, but it was very clear that it could slip at any time and it hadn’t been designed with that in mind. that’s a bit flawed. in functional terms, the amp works extremely well. we have no complaints there, and like we said, we love its distinctive shape. but the masses of text cluttering the metal casing detract from what should be a flagship product.

(update: It’s been pointed out to us that if we make a dedicated component rack/shelf to hold all your micro/nano products. we still think the amp/dac/etc should be stackable on its own, but I’m happy to correct the error.)

The micro iCAN SE has a simple box, with a lid that easily slides off | The Master Switch

The micro iCAN SE has a simple box, with a lid that easily slides off | The Master Switch

Accessories & Packaging:

accessories

We admit it: we were a bit surprised here. most amps come with the power cord, and that’s it. that’s your lot. you supply the other cables, the headphones, the sound source. so imagine our surprise when we opened the package to find that our little ican came with a purple rca cable, a short one to be fair, but short is much longer than non-existent. it’s a great touch, and it blew us away with both the company and the amp. It’s also something of a policy if this is included – you’ll see something identical on the company’s much more popular idsd black label model. beyond that, you get a power cord, which comes with a wall wart designed to reduce noise. the manual comes on an oddly folded piece of cardboard, but is self explanatory and gets the job done.

packaging

There’s something strange here that bothers us: boxes where the top and sides completely cover the inside, leaving you to touch and open the internal compartments, or shake them on the table while you wait for the air to give you a bit of refreshment. grip. . It’s a strange thing, we know, but there are more companies to blame than we would strictly like. no Yes. god knows what magic they have with this box, but it slides clean and fast. It’s a very small thing, but welcome. slide off the cover and the ican will be housed in a white cardboard insert, with the wires underneath. like the manual, it does the job.

One of the only amps we

One of the only amps we’ve ever tested that comes with an RCA cable | The Master Switch

What We Like:

  • the ifi ican audio mic offers great sound and character.
  • has surprisingly excellent bass and stereo boosts.
  • ​the shape of the amp can be a a little uncomfortable, but we like it a lot. it is both fun and distinctive.

what we don’t do:

  • the ican is being covered in horrible marketing copy, which seems useless.
  • the amp controls are confusing and poorly designed.
  • ​a Despite the ican se’s amazing shape, it is not stackable with the idac2. you have to buy a separate shelf.

Really, iFi? REALLY? | The Master Switch

Really, iFi? REALLY? | The Master Switch

Comparison Table:

See also: How To Improve Headphone Sound Quality For The Best Experience? – Here One

*rhi = recommended headphone impedance **wpc = watts per channel ***dac = digital-to-analog converter ****currently used for sale for $564 for more detailed specifications see the product page of ifi audio.want even more master switch? sign up for our weekly newsletter!

the competition:

There are many very viable alternatives to the idiosyncratic micro ican se. the schiit valhalla 2, for example. It costs a little more, but also offers quite a lot. not only do you have access to all four tubes, but you can also use this compact unit as a preamp.

we’ll be honest: we prefer this to the ican se. we think it gives you a staggering bang for your buck, and doesn’t have the same design quirks. but in terms of sound, the two are comparable, and we think the ican may even have the edge, just a bit. if you have the extra cash, we say go for this one, but you’ll be very happy with either. the valhalla costs a bit more, at $349 vs. the ican se’s $299.

we already mentioned the oppo ha-2se. This portable powerhouse has at least one big advantage over the iCan SE in that it packs an amp and DAC into its leather and metal frame. It also has a couple of other nifty tricks, like acting as a portable power bank for your phone. we have to say that we prefer the sound of the ican se, and we think if you made the right choice by shipping the dac in a separate unit. But if you can spend $20 more and want something that’s easier to take on the go, then jump on the HA-2SE. just don’t say we didn’t warn you about that leather cover. and by the way, as we said before, you will definitely pay more for this now.

The micro iCAN SE

The micro iCAN SE’s ‘business end’ | The Master Switch

If you want a genuinely different alternative, try the Bravo Audio V2. We’ll sing the virtues of this little monster until the day we die. Why wouldn’t we? It’s a gorgeous, cute little tube amp, highly affordable, with great sound considering the price. Admittedly, the build quality and audio clarity isn’t a patch on the iCAN SE, but it does offer a similar experience. If you’re strapped for cash, but still want to experience some tube goodness, give Bravo’s little beast a go. Just watch out – it can be quite fragile, and that cool little tube is exposed to the elements. Don’t drop it.

We make many great amps and dacs, and one of the most popular is the micro idsd. This one is decidedly more expensive, at $449 new (the iCan is $299), but it offers a bit more and has become one of the company’s rarer models. it’s an amp/dac combo, with a digital input and lots of functionality, all wrapped up in the same coffin shape. you get some extra controls, as well as extra power, and the sound is great. It’s expensive, no doubt, but as an integrated solution, it works very well.

see the ifi audio mic i can see the best headphone amps

See also: [Warning] TikTok &039Headphone Challenge&039 Could be Sending a Dangerous Signal | Tech Times

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