For those who have yet to dip their toes into the world of high fidelity, the iFi Uno DAC/Amp combo may be an ideal introduction. Priced at $79, this little DAC might offer some impressive capabilities for folks who are looking to improve their current audio and video setup. What can you expect from iFi’s latest release?
In the Box
iFi Uno DAC
USB-A to USB-C Cable
(Note that if you’re looking to connect this device to your phone, you’ll need to buy a separate USB-C to lightning connection if you’re using an iPhone, or a USB-C to USB-C cable if using an Android.)
Look and Feel
Anyone familiar with iFi’s popular Zen DAC may notice the Uno’s similarly shaped design in miniature form. However, it is less solid with a mostly plastic shell, and is very light. Although the Uno is primarily designed as a desktop device, it’s small enough to sit in a coat pocket. The volume dial is nice and solid with a decent weight to it.
Design and Functionality
Unlike the larger, more expensive iFi Zen DAC, which sports the ultra smooth sounding, Burr-Brown DAC technology, the Uno employs an ESS Sabre Hyperstream DAC chipset. So, although it may look like the Zen DAC’s little brother, it presents a different sound quality. With respect to inputs and outputs, the Uno offers the standard 3.5mm headphone out as well as RCA. The DAC has a USB-C input, which is also used to power the device. So, if your mobile device is your music source, the DAC will be also be utilizing the device as its power source.
One advantage of this fairly priced DAC is its hi-res format capabilities. The Uno supports PCM (up to 32bit/384kHz sample rates) as well as DSD and MQA.
The Uno comes with some added functions, including three equalizer presets that are optimized for different applications – gaming, video and music. The DAC/amp also offers a power match function that ensures you have the ideal amount of power for the headphone you’re using. Another nice touch is the analogue volume control, which, unlike a digital volume control, allows you reduce the volume while maintaining quality.
For the purpose of this test, I kept the EQ on “music” mode, but the Uno does offer slightly different characteristics depending on which one of the three equalizer settings you choose. The first thing you may notice is a wider soundstage. The Uno doesn’t do much to change the imaging, but it does add a grandness to the sound. The Uno also infuses some saturation into the overall profile. So, this DAC will work well for those looking to add some color and warmth to their sound, rather than for those who prefer an entirely neutral presentation. I didn’t hear a significant improvement to the resolution of standard Spotify tracks, but this DAC’s value lies in it’s ability to deliver hi-res formats, including MQA, which Tidal subscribers will appreciate. In terms of power, the Uno can comfortably drive a headphone of up to about 300 Ohms. However, one may want to note that there is an audible noise-floor, which becomes particularly noticeable when listening through sensitive IEMs.
Alhough the Uno may not work miracles on your standard Spotify tracks, for the price, there is little to complain about here. You won’t find a huge number of hi-res DAC/amps (that include MQA capability) of this class under $80, which can also drive relatively high impedance headphones. Add to that a power match function, equalizer presets and RCA outs, and you’ve got a nifty little device from one of the highest quality brands on the market. So, if you’ve never owned a DAC, and you’re looking to upgrade your sound, the Uno is a solid entry-level option.
You can find the iFi Uno DAC/Amp at Audio 46.