Review: The iFi xCAN
Aesthetics and Build Quality:
The xCAN is built much the same as the xDSD, with a metal housing that is a bit of a fingerprint magnet and a plastic rear cap where the Bluetooth circuitry is located. The xCAN looks superb in person with a great size and shape.
The build quality is superb and the volume control does not stick out, meaning it is well protected and all the sockets are tight. Everything just feels very solid.
Unlike the xDSD, the xCAN only have analogue inputs along with Bluetooth capability. You get a regular 3.5mm line-input, along with a 2.5mm TRRS balanced line-input. Outputs are the same, one 3.5mm and one 2.5mm TRRS balanced.
The xCAN has the XBass II and 3D+ adjustments. The XBass II is a completely analogue bass correction curve and can be switched to boost low frequencies or to correct the presence region, or both. The 3D+ is also an analogue circuit that aims to correct the holographic soundstage, making headphones sounds less like the music is coming from inside your head.
The volume knob changes colour depending on the volume, starting at blue for low volume going up to red at full output. The xCAN delivers more power from its balanced output as you would expect, so it is recommended to use balanced if you can.
Well, as the xCAN is mainly an amplifier, the quality of sound will largely depend on what you are feeding it. But feed it with a high-quality source and it will do its job of amplifying the signal without adding too much flavour. The xCAN is neutral and detailed. It may be a tiny bit on the smoother side so as to prevent it from sounding overly analytical, but it is not coloured to my ears.
When using it with Bluetooth you are relying on both devices; when using an AptX-enabled device, you get excellent audio quality. I really don’t know how iFi do it, but you really do not lose much in terms of sound quality when using this with an AptX device.
The xCANs dual mono amplification stage really is impressive, hiss free with sensitive IEM’s yet at a push it can power the Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Gen with good results (Volume on red). Not that anyone would buy this solely for use with the T1 I don’t think, but it is still a very impressive feat from this tiny amp.
The XBass is a really handy boost for when out and about in noisy environments or just for slightly brighter sounding headphones. The 3D+ works wonders for more closed in sounding headphones giving you a more realistic soundstage. The ability to choose between bass and presence on the XBass setting is actually really handy and allows you a little finer tuning than a standard bass boost.
The xCAN has all you need from a portable amp, perfect size, good battery life and easy to use. Add to that excellent Bluetooth implementation, balanced circuitry and overall sound quality is the only portable amp you will ever need. Another superb product from iFi that has our seal of approval.