About the iFi Audio Pro iCAN
iFi Audio's flagship headphone amp brings the power
I auditioned the powerful iFi Pro iCan headphone amp at CanJam NYC, part of a high-end stack of gear that the British audio experts had on display.
iFi Audio's flagship headphone amp brings the power
The first time I saw the iFi Audio Pro iCAN headphone amp in person, I had to wade through a crowd of people. At CanJam NYC 2019, personal audio enthusiasts were lined up deep at the iFi booth to hear this powerhouse in action. And there were plenty of high-end headphones on hand. Many top audiophile headphone companies had loaned iFi their latest and greatest wares, knowing the products would sound their best when driven by the Pro iCAN.
That's because this versatile amp features a bunch of balanced and unbalanced connections and serves up a LOT of power. Up to 14,000mW in balanced mode to be exact. That's enough to drive even the most power-hungry, high-impedance headphones out there.
Tube or solid-state amp? You choose.
It's an age-old amplifier debate: solid-state vs vacuum tubes. Each type of amp has its own distinct sonic footprint, and it really boils down to personal preference. Some want the clarity and detail that solid-state circuitry provides, while others dig the extra warmth and emotion that are often associated with tubes. And some of us change our mind every time we sit down to listen to music!
This is one of the few combination headphone amps I've ever seen that lets you choose between using solid-state circuitry or vaccum tubes. And iFi isn't just adding some sort of fake tube effect or processing. This amp uses two "new, old stock" (NOS) GE 5670 vacuum tubes inside — classic, reliable audio tubes originally developed for the military.
The top of the well-built Pro iCAN amp gives you a glimpse of the GE 5670 vacuum tubes under the hood.
There are three operation modes in all: "Solid-state," "Tube," and "Tube+" modes. The third uses the tube input stage, but special circuitry helps reduce feedback. When you're in a tube type of mood, just let them warm up for about 15 minutes and they'll be ready to play.
Works well with all types of headphones
The role of an amplifier is not always to deliver the most power, but to provide just the right amount of power for your headphones or speakers to perform their best. Audio guru and former Crutchfield writer Dave Bar once told me that it's like having a car engine with plenty of horsepower under the hood. "Even if you never drive 200 miles per hour," he said, "you might all of a sudden need some extra 'get-up and go' when you merge onto the highway."
Or in the case of headphones, you need them to handle large sonic peaks in your favorite songs with effortless grace. The Pro iCAN has a three-position gain switch on the front panel, so you can properly match up the power with your headphone impedance. Also, the two 3.5mm minijack outputs have been optimized for highly sensitive headphones, like in-ear monitors (IEMs).
PSA: turn it down before you turn it up
Here's a pro tip: always turn the knob to the lowest gain setting and lower the volume when you connect new headphones. That will help prevent this workhorse from overpowering your headphone drivers. Plus it can help protect your ears.
And I'll admit I get a kick out of adjusting that large Alps Electric volume dial. It gives you precise volume control and has an old-school, satisfying feel.
Built to perform
This heavy-duty amplifier fits in well with iFi Audio's other high-end desktop components, like the Pro iDSD digital-to-analog converter (DAC). iFi gear is always well-built and packed with sophisticated circuitry to deliver the sonic goods. The Pro iCAN's all-metal frame and chassis help keep vibrations at a minimum, while the isolation base keeps it sturdy and stable. That solid foundation is created by a "quad-damped" design that sandwiches layers of materials together to absorb unwanted resonance.
The Pro iCAN's back panel features a plethora of connections.
The back-panel ins and outs
The back panel of the Pro iCAN features balanced XLR and three sets of unbalanced RCA audio inputs for connecting music sources or other gear (like aforementioned Pro iDSD DAC). You'll also find ways to pass audio signal out of the Pro iCAN back there. There are unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR outputs for connecting a wide range of power amplifiers, and a proprietary connector for the iFi Pro iESL electrostatic headphone energizer (sold separately).
Several headphone outputs
The front panel offers several different balanced and unbalanced headphone outputs. In the center, you'll find an XLR 4-pin balanced output. To the left and right of that, there are combination outputs with both XLR 3-pin and 1/4" outputs. They can be used for balanced headphone connections, or to power two headphones with unbalanced 1/4" plugs simultaneously. (Use the right 1/4" jack if you're just listening to a single set of headphones.)
There are a number of balanced and unbalanced headphone outputs on the front.
Below, there are two 3.5mm mini outputs for both balanced and unbalanced connections. iFi ensures all the connections sound clean with what they call "S-balanced" headphone amp technology. Their dual-mono circuitry keeps the left and right audio channels separate for as long as possible to avoid cross-talk and distortion.
- compact all-metal chassis and panels minimize resonance for clean playback
- quad-damped isolation base mount provides solid foundation and absorbs vibrations
- high-performance fully-balanced drive headphone amplifier with front-panel volume control
- combination solid-state and vacuum tube amplifier
- includes two "new, old stock" (NOS) GE 5670 vacuum tubes
- power output up to 14,000mW in balanced mode (up to 4,800mW in unbalanced mode)
Audio performance features:
- select from three operating modes: "Solid-state," "Tube," and "Tube+"
- Tube+ mode uses tube input stage, but reduces negative feedback
- three-position gain switch to match impedance (0dB, 9dB, or 18dB)
- Alps Electric motorized rotary volume dial for precise volume control
- outboard "iPower Plus" power supply for clean, substantial power
- separated and shielded from audio circuitry to avoid interference
- preamp mode with balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA outputs for connection to an outboard power amp or self-amplified speakers
- "S-balanced" headphone amplification for unbalanced outputs
- iFi's dual-mono circuitry helps reduce crosstalk between the left and right audio channel
- sound control processing: XBass® (for boosting bass) and/or 3D Holographic® (for expanding soundfield)
- two 3.5mm mini headphone outputs optimized for sensitive headphones (like in-ear monitors) by iFi's proprietary iEMatch technology
- one set of balanced stereo XLR inputs
- three sets of unbalanced stereo RCA inputs
- one set of balanced stereo XLR audio outputs
- one set of unbalanced stereo RCA audio outputs
- DC power loop out and proprietary connector for add-on iFi Pro iESL electrostatic headphone energizer (sold separately)
Front-panel headphones outputs:
- one set of combination XLR/TRS 1/4" outputs
- balanced left and right XLR 3-pin outputs
- pair of 1/4" outputs for two unbalanced headphone connections, or a single balanced connection (using a custom cable)
- use the right 1/4" jack for a single set of headphones
- one balanced XLR 4-pin output
- one unbalanced TRS 3.5mm output
- one balanced TRRS 3.5mm output
Other info & specs:
- compatible with headphones with 16-600 ohms impedance
- frequency response: 0.5-500,000 Hz (-3 dB)
- solid-state THD: 0.0015% (balanced) 0.005% (unbalanced)
- tube THD: 0.002% (balanced) 0.005% (unbalanced)
- signal-to-noise ratio: >147dB (balanced) >137dB (unbalanced)
- 7-5/8"W x 2-1/2"H x 8-1/2"D
- weight: 4.3 lbs.
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # 301002
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