AV Systems Guide

iFi Micro iCan Headphone Amplifier review

iFi Micro iCan Headphone Amplifier - Power to the People

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Launch SRP S$339

Overall rating 8.5/10
Design:
7.5
Performance:
8.5
Features:
9
Value:
9
THE GOOD
Great power and amplification
Excellent set of features
Very affordable
THE BAD
Unimpressive aesthetics
Unwieldy dimensions
Non mirrored flick switch settings


Performance - Part 2

Performance - Part 2

In our MP3 section we discussed in full the different settings for the amplifier and how they affected the Sennheiser HD700 and the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro. However with the CD and DVD testing sections we will be focusing more on the one optimal setting for the tracks in our opinion and bring you an evaluation of the performance of the iFi Micro iCan amplifier.

CD Audio Track Tests

We start off our CD Testing session with Fanfare For Louis. The manuals of the iFi Micro iCan recommends using the "Three Dot" 3D Holographic Sound for jazz and orchestral tracks, which is what we used for our listening experience as well. The expanded soundstage definitely helped the Sennheiser HD700 handle the track with even greater proficiency. Taking the sound projection from a strong central channel to a more surround sound atmosphere, the feature enhanced the effect of the volume swells present in the composition. The amplifier also ensured that the HD700 can stay true to the timbre of the instruments used, with the horns sounding extremely realistic and vibrant. Enhancing the bass via Xbass however resulted in a slight loss of brightness for extra warmth, which is why we kept this feature at the neutral "Direct" setting for this track.

Following up with Cutthroat Island, we were once again impressed with how the amplifier powered the HD700 and made its transient response shift to a whole other level. The percussion crashes sounded like they were occurring in our listening room itself. The Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro might not be in the same league as the Sennheiser headphones but it also does a commendable job with this track when paired with the iCan. However, the iFi Micro device's supposed "TubeState" amplifier quality was most evident on this track. The audio was not completely neutral and the sound had a slight warm tone to it. Furthermore, at the prescribed "Three Dot" setting we found the audio to be slightly muffled especially around the middle frequency spectrum. As such, we actually preferred the "Single Dot" 3D Holographic Sound setting while keeping the XBass at "Direct".

There are certain orchestral tracks however which benefit from the XBass feature on the iFi Micro iCan as well. For Dance of the Knights by Prokofiev we preferred the "Three Dot" setting for the XBass feature. The enhancements helped bring out the impact of the lower notes which are an integral part of the composition without overpowering the overall mix. At these settings the Sennheiser HD700 was a joy to listen. With the low registers making their presence felt without sacrificing the overall balanced sound, we would have to say that this was the best we had heard any headphones sound with this particular piece.

DVD Movie Test

In order to see how the iFi Micro iCan functioned with movies, we focused on the audio spectrum from Swordfish. The scene we particularly homed in on was the introductory sequence and the settings we used were "Three Dot" for 3D Holographic Sound and "Direct" mode for Xbass. On the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro, the iFi amplifier helped the headphones surpass its previous performance levels with the Audinst amplifier. As mentioned earlier, the Beyerdynamic product has a pretty good soundstage to begin with. But the iFi amplifier and its extreme soundstage setting gives the imaging more width and more directionality. The bass heavy nature of the cans however detracts a bit from the dialogue, which comes across as slightly muffled.

The Sennheiser HD700, which is a higher grade of headphones, did not face such problems. With the added height and width to the soundstage, the strafing ball bearing explosion sequences moves across the listener’s field of hearing with great dynamics and disturbingly accurate realism. In our opinion we would single out the extra height added by the 3D Holographic Sound for a healthy serving of praise. At the same time, even though the soundstage may have been expanded, none of the gloss from Travolta’s opening monologue is taken off and it is delivered with good audible clarity and menace. 

CD and DVD Test Track Scorecard
Headphones Sennheiser HD700 Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro
Audio Track / Amplifier Audinst HUD-mx1 iFi Micro iCan Audinst HUD-mx1 iFi Micro iCan
CD - Fanfare For Louis 9.0 9.5 7.5 8.0
CD - Cutthroat Island 9.0 9.5 7.5 8.0
CD - Dance Of The Knights No:13, Romeo & Juliet 9.0 9.5 8.5 9.0
DVD - Swordfish 9.0 9.5 7.5 8.0