Firstly I would like to thank iFi Audio for sending me this loan unit to review, as always I will try and write an honest review. This unit received over 50hrs of burn-in with no noticeable changes.
Gear Used: HP Laptop / Audio Opus #2 > iFi Nano iOne > Marantz PM-44 SE > Denon SC-M50
Packaging, Build Quality and Accessories:
The packaging is the same as most of iFi’s range, a slim white box with a picture of the product on the front, and details on the sides and the back. The box provides more than enough information with tech specs, and is a well thought-out design. Inside the box you get a manual and the DAC is held tightly in place by a foam tray. Overall excellent packaging that isn’t bulky, and looks great.
Build quality again, the same as most of iFi’s range, with an aluminium outer case and very solid connectors and switches. The build quality is superb.
Accessory wise you get some rubber feet, an optical SPDIF adaptor, and cables (USB and a pair of RCA interconnects), this is all that is included and all that is needed.
This is a brilliant all in one device, it is small yet packed full of features. Here are the key features:
USB to Optical conversion – When you select the USB input, the optical connection automatically becomes an output so you can hook it up to an external optical only DAC.
Multiple inputs – USB, Coax/SPDIF and Bluetooth
LED indicator – The LED logo on the front changes colour depending on what is being played (Bluetooth status when used with Bluetooth, and the sample rate when used with USB or Coax/SPDIF)
aptX Support – for near lossless quality over Bluetooth with compatible devices.
Ease of Use:
This DAC is super simple to setup, on a PC you will need to download and install the iFi USB Audio driver, then it is just plug and play. Bluetooth was very easy to pair with my Opus #2 DAP, and played flawlessly, and optical/coaxial was easy too, plug and play, just remember to select the input via the 3 way switch on the front.
iFi always get this right, I don’t think I’ve had any sub-par product from them, ever. This little DAC is simple, versatile and just works, the sound is far superior to the output of most devices and for £199 it simply cannot be beaten.
The sound is very natural without harshness, it has a slight tint of warmth to it which makes it very easy to listen to and fits perfectly into most HiFi systems. I really have very little to say about the sound quality because it doesn’t add its own flavour, it gets out the way so you can enjoy your music, movies, gaming in higher quality than straight out of your console/TV/Phone.
There is a definite improvement over plugging your TV/Console/PC/Phone into your HiFi system and using an external DAC. I have gotten used to using a DAC all the time, so am a bit spoilt in that sense, but if I remove the DAC from the chain everything sounds compressed and flat. An external DAC is one of the most important upgrades you can invest in, and if you invest in the Nano iOne you won’t be disappointed,
The filter is very subtle, the Measure filters sounds ever so slightly more linear, and ruler flat, the Listen filter sounds a little fuller and also slightly wider (separation doesn’t change though).
This little DAC offers so much in a small package, it has nifty internal features such as Galvanic Isolation for SPDIF, Global Master Timing (reduced Jitter), and also Active Noise Cancellation (for the power from USB). You may not hear them, but they all work together to create a better listening experience for the end user.
Conclusion: iFi just keeping bringing out excellent product after excellent product, at all different price ranges. I can tell you now that you won’t find a better DAC for this price, and possibly even under £400. This does not have a headphone amp section, which means they focused on making the best possible DAC for the price, and for £199 the sound quality and features punch way above their weight.
It is detailed, immersive and has a slight hint of warmth, it is a very easy to use, easy to listen to DAC that is perfect for the everyday consumer looking for better sound from their system, along with the discerning audiophile. If you are in the market for a standalone DAC, put this on your list.
Sound Perfection Rating: 10/10 (feature packed, and not lacking in SQ either)