IFI Micro iCAN SE Amp Review

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IFI Micro iCAN SE Amp Review

Yesterday I got a chance to experiment with IFI’s impressive iDSD Black Label DAC and today we’ll take a look at the less expensive IFI Micro iCAN SE Amp.  But with a price tag of $299, how well does it perform?

IFI Micro iCAN SE Amp Review

IFI Micro iCAN SE Amp Review

The Micro iCAN is packaged with an AC adapter, a 3.5mm stereo cable, an RCA cable, and a tiny screwdriver to adjust gain settings.

Encased in a lightweight aluminum shell, the unit itself is light to hold and feels solidly built.  Input options include 3.5mm stereo or RCA.  Included cables are robust and not likely to break.

Specs

Specifications:
Gain: 0dB, 12dB and 24dB user-selectable
Signal to Noise Ratio: >123dB(A)
Total Harmonic Distortion(THD): <0.003%(400mV/150R)
Frequency Response: 0.5Hz to 500KHz(-3dB)
Output Impedance: <1 ohm
Output Power: >4000mW(16Ω)
Output Voltage: >10V (>600Ω)
Input Voltage: AC 100 – 240V, 50/60Hz
Power Consumption: < 5W idle, 12W max.

As you can see from these specs, the iCAN SE offers more gain settings than other amplifiers in this price range, while the signal-to-noise ratio is also a bit more than normal.  Harmonic distortion is wonderfully low, and you can bet the clarity is going to be something special.  Finally, the power put out by this medium-sized amp is enough to drive anything between 16 and 600 ohms – allowing the iCAN to be used with just about any headphone.

Sound

With the inclusion of IFI’s cutting edge 3D HolographicSound System, and the XBass boost feature, the amp can be used to impart a more realistic and more emotive sound to any track.  However, for audio purists, these settings are adjustable to a certain degree:  both features can be turned off, or adjusted to a middle-performance setting where the effects are not as pronounced.

Gain settings are adjusted on the underside of the unit via tiny switches that can be flipped with the aid of the included flathead screwdriver.

Even paired with fairly efficient earbuds with a 50 ohm impedance, the qualities of the iCAN SE are noticeable.  With higher-impedance ‘phones, though, the versatile amp displays real value as it can power just about anything, while keeping the sound loud yet clean.  Add the boons of 3D sound and bass boost and you’ve got one doozy of a machine.

Compatibility

Headphone compatibility is very much wide-open on the iCAN SE, and there is a lot of fun to be had in trying out different combinations of headphones with this capable amp.  While lower impedance models are absolutely fine, the extra definition and oomph in the sound goes hand-in-hand with larger soundstage.  As such, this amp compliments high-performance, high-impedance headphones especially well.

With the included 3.5mm input, any source is viable to use with this amp, too.  For most of my listening sessions, I paired it with my portable FiiO X5 II.  Of course, dedicated RCA inputs mean you aren’t tethered to the 3.5mm stereo cable.  Actually, pairing the RCA input with the RCA output on IFI’s DACs would be an intense improvement in sound quality – albeit with higher costs.

Other Observations

Obviously, this thing is powerful.  The sheer level of volume can be staggering, and the iCAN has every base covered.  If you can find a headphone that this amp can’t power, you deserve an award.

Once again, I’m floored by the performance of the 3D sound and bass boost – particularly when these technologies are working in tandem.  Although you lose some detail with an analog connection (as opposed to the near-perfect digital input on IFI’s DACs), the effect is still an arresting one.

The price may be a bit expensive for those music junkies who already have a dedicated amp.  However, for those who haven’t invested in an amplifier yet, this one should definitely be on the list – Hell, it can power anything and offers different levels of sound optimization.  It’s simply awesome.

Final Analysis

The IFI iCAN SE Amp may cost a pretty penny, but the performance is top-notch, and still a bargain at $299.  With plenty of power, it’ll drive any headphone, while also offering the option to impart a more realistic and bassy sound to your music.  Our opinion?  The iCAN is well worth a look (or a listen).