xCAN also features iFi's important S-Balanced amplifier technology, which is found in its much more expensive Pro iCan big brother. Much has been written on the S-Balanced circuit (essentially a single-ended compatible balanced circuit) but succinctly put, the advantage of this technology lies in the fact that regardless of the user’s choice of headphones, he or she will get the sonic benefits of balanced amplification. Also notable as a tech inclusion is the addition of parent company Abingdon Music Research’s Global Master Timing memory buffer system, which makes the xCAN virtually immune to jitter.
In the several weeks I listened to the xCAN it continued to earn a space in my pocket owing to its simplicity and sonic effectiveness. The most exciting use I found was to use the xCAN with the various DAPs I had on hand from previous reviews. When connected with these DAPs, the xCAN rocketed playback quality to a stratospheric new level, delivering previously unheard degrees of precision, detail, accurately rendered spatial cues, and other pleasurable sonic enhancements across the board.
As an example, consider the organ bass notes in Felix Hell’s Symphony Concertante, Op. 81: 1. Allegro-Molto Moderato from Barber, Guilmant & Jongen: Orgel & Orchester [perc.pro]. With the aid of the xCAN the low range of the track seemed to be truly unearthed with a weighty, resonant, rock-solid bass performance not unlike what you would expect to hear when listening through a very high dollar desktop headphone amp. Disconnecting the xCAN after this experience revealed an auditory gulf that was painfully evident, so that I think most users would yearn for the added gravitas the xCAN provides.
In summary, while some might scratch their heads for a moment to wonder whether a product like the xCAN is necessary or beneficial, the proof is in the listening. To my ears, the xCAN delivers a sizeable sonic payoff beyond all proportion to its modest price.
iFi xCAN portable headphone amplifier
Type: Mobile headphone amplifier with high-end Bluetooth connectivity
Inputs: 2.5mm TRRS balanced input, 3.5 mm TRS input
Outputs: 3.5mm headphone jack, 2.5mm headphone jack
Frequency Response: <2Hz- >200kHz (-3dB)
THD + N: <0.006% Balanced, <0.005% S-Balanced
Power output: >7.6v/90 mW (@600 ohms) Balanced,
>3.8v/ 45 mW (@300 ohms) S-Balanced
SNR: >120dB Balanced, >121 dB S-Balanced
Dimensions (H×W×D): 19 × 67 × 95 mm
Price: $299 US, £229 UK
Manufactured by: iFi Audio
+44 (0) 1900 60195
Distributed in the UK by: Armour Home