AAC (Advanced Audio Coding)

AAC is one of the most commonly-supported Bluetooth codecs in the wireless headphone and speaker markets. It’s also the default audio compression codec used by Apple’s iTunes and YouTube, and is supported across both iPhone and Android smartphones.

Active Noise Cancellation

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is a technology devised by iFi for reducing unwanted sound by the addition of a second sound wave specifically designed to cancel out the first.

Active 'v' Passive Speakers

So, what's the difference?

Active speakers have an in-built power amplifier and just need a power cable (or battery) to operate. Passive speakers require an external power amplifier to operate.

In short, you need an amplifier for passive speakers, you don't with active speakers.

Airplay

Apple AirPlay is found on all Apple devices. It lets you share videos, photos, music, and more from Apple devices to your Apple TV, favorite speakers, and some smart TVs.

Analogue 'v' Digital Signal Processing

Most modern systems use Digital Signal Processing. DSP samples analogue soundwaves into a limited set of numbers and records them. The overuse of DSP can result in an overcompressed unnatural sound and the translation and reassembly of data make digital devices prone to loss of quality.

All iFi products use Analogue Signal Processing as we believe it is better suited to audio. ASP does not cause signal quality to be lost as it records waveforms as they are and produces a more natural sound. 

Analogue 'v' Digital Volume Control

For cost and convenience, modern DAC chips have a built-in digital volume control. The drawback is that a digital volume control works by 'truncating' the signal. Or 'chopping Bits' of resolution. For a 16-Bit music file at 50% volume level means the listener is actually listening to 14.5-Bits!

All iFi products bypass the digital volume control and use a separate analogue volume control which does not 'lose Bits' so a 16-Bit file stays unchanged which delivers maximum resolution.

Losing Bits of resolution (quality) is like having missing pixels on a computer or TV screen.

Apple CCK and Android OTG

So, why don't we provide these two cables with our products?

The Apple CCK cable can only be purchased from Apple. We can't make one ourselves as it has a special chip in the cable that we'd need to use for them to actually work with Apple hardware. Sadly, Apple has not released this chip to anyone. 

We can and do make two versions of an Android OTG cable - Type C and micro.

aptX

aptX Bluetooth transmission is found in most Android phones, media players, Apple computers (macOS on iMacs and MacBooks) and on higher-quality Bluetooth headphones. It is not available on iOS (iPhones and iPads use Advanced Audio Codec).

aptX LL

aptX™ Low Latency audio ensures your Bluetooth® wireless enabled device can deliver sound in sync with visual media. It reduces delay and improves end-to-end speed of the audio transmission, resulting in a high-quality, synchronised user experience.

With aptX™ Low Latency you can enjoy the freedom of wireless for applications such as gaming and watching videos.

Balanced 'v' Unbalanced

Let's talk headphone cables.

An unbalanced headphone cable has a left + and right + wire, for each respective side. The other, the third - wire is shared by both left & right channels. As this is shared, this gives rise to undesired coupling noise which is commonly referred to as 'crosstalk.'

A balanced cable has the same left + and right +. But it has a separate left - and right -. With totally separate wiring 'crosstalk' is negligible.

Therefore, a balanced connection is the superior headphone wiring configuration.

Bit-Perfect

If a file is "Bit Perfect' it means it has stayed the same. For example, if a PCM file is played through a DAC to improve the sound quality and the DAC does not change the file format. The file is 'Bit Perfect'.

CD Transport

A CD transport concentrates on reading the information held on a compact disc without expending effort in turning that digital signal into an analogue output, unlike a CD player. All you need to do is add an external DAC.

Class D Amplifier

A class-D amplifier or switching amplifier is an electronic amplifier in which the amplifying devices operate as electronic switches, and not as linear gain devices as in other amplifiers. Just like SMPS (Switch Mode Power Supplies), standard Class D amplifiers have an inherent noise issue due to their 'switching' nature.

Common Noise Filter

The common noise filter cuts out most noise gremlins found in typical audio systems such as RFI/EMI.

DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter)

DACs convert digital information, stored or streamed by computers, into music we can hear through speakers or headphones.

Every device that's a source of digital sound has a built-in DAC (TVs, games consoles, CD players, phones, portable music players etc). Dedicated external DACs sound much better than standard DACs used in digital devices such as phones.

DAP (Digital Audio Player)

A DAP is a device like an iPod or an MP3 player that stores and/or plays back music digitally.

DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic device or application used for recording, editing and producing audio files. It's basically a mixing desk.

DC Offset

DC offset is a naturally occurring phenomenon of the electrical system. It is a potential source of clicks, distortion and loss of audio volume.

DSD (Direct Stream Digital)

DSD is a very high-quality digital audio format that's even better than CD quality. The higher the 'DSD rate' – DSD64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024 - the greater the amount of music information available, which means better sound quality.

Files can be remastered to higher file rates to improve sound quality. The pinnacle of this is DSD1024. Not many machines out there are capable of this feat.

DSP (Digital Signal Processing)

Digital signal processing (DSP) is the use of digital processing, such as by computers or more specialized digital signal processors, to perform a wide variety of signal processing operations. When it comes to audio the overuse of DSP can result in an over-compressed, unnatural sound.

EMI (Electromagnetic Interference)

EMI is a type of interference caused by errant and unwanted electromagnetic waves that are received and amplified by an audio system. They cause some of the annoying 'audio gremlins' often talked about.

F.A.S.T (Full range And Super Tweeter)

This is basically a super tweeter. A speaker driver intended to produce ultra-high frequencies in a multi-driver loudspeaker system. They are used to supplement the sound of tweeters by reproducing frequencies which the tweeter may produce only with a narrow polar output, or perhaps with distortion.

File formats

MP3 – this is the most popular format, every device in the world can use it.

DSDDirect Stream Digital is a very high-quality audio format, better than CD quality. The higher the number (sample rate), the better the recording - DSD64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024.

PCMPulse Code Modulation is the most common format for CDs and DVDs.

DXDDigital eXtreme Definition is a very high-quality PCM format. It was developed to edit hi-res (high quality) recordings recorded in DSD.

Filters

Filters are used in music to alter the harmonic content of a signal, which changes its timbre or sound.

Just as using a coloured filter on a camera lens will alter the look of the resulting photograph to set the right mood, filters work in a similar way in audio.

Gain

Gain is the amount of increase in audio signal strength. Gain is often expressed in decibels (dB).

Galvanic Isolation

Galvanic isolation is a design technique that separates electrical circuits to eliminate stray currents that contain noise. Signals can pass between galvanically isolated circuits, but stray currents, such as differences in ground potential or currents induced by AC power, do not pass. This means little or no noise interference to the audio signal from stray currents.

Ground Loops

In an electrical system, a Ground or Earth loop occurs when two points of an audio system both have a ground reference which causes a 'potential voltage difference' between them. Ground loops are a major cause of the noise, hum, and interference in audio, video, and computer systems.

IEMs

IEMs stands for In-Ear Monitors.

These fit inside your ear. You've been using them for years. You just called them something else.

You will also see these referred to as earphones, ear buds and CIEMs. CIEMs are Custom In-Ear Monitors - IEMs made specifically to fit your ear shape.

Lossy v Lossless

Lossless and lossy compression are terms that describe whether or not, in the compression of a file, all original data can be recovered when the file is uncompressed.

With lossless compression, every single bit of data that was originally in the file remains after the file is uncompressed.

On the other hand, lossy compression reduces a file by permanently eliminating certain information. Lossy audio files do not retain the natural authenticity of the original.

MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)

MQA is an award-winning British technology that delivers the sound of the original master recording. The master MQA file is fully authenticated and is small enough to stream or download. More here.

NAS (Network Attached Storage)

Network-attached storage (NAS) is dedicated file storage that enables multiple users and client devices to retrieve data from centralized disk capacity.

Users on a local area network (LAN) access the shared storage via a standard Ethernet connection. NAS devices typically do not have a keyboard or display and are configured and managed with an app.

Native playback

Native playback simply means that the file format has not been changed.

You wanted to listen in PCM, you'll still be listening in PCM. The DAC does not change the format of the original file.

Noisebusters!

Reference to the 1984 film Ghostbusters. Four guys, a girl and ghosts. And proton guns that would destroy the world if you crossed the streams. Watch this.

Omotesando

Omotesandō is known as one of the foremost 'architectural showcase' streets in the world, featuring a multitude of fashion flagship stores within a short distance of each other.

These include the Louis Vuitton store (Jun Aoki, 2002), Tod's (Toyo Ito, 2004), Dior (SANAA, 2004), Omotesandō Hills (Tadao Ando, 2005) and Gyre (MVRDV, 2007), amongst others. More here.

Pulse Load

A 'load' refers to a current drain that is applied to a battery. For example, charging the flash in a camera. The term 'Pulse Load' indicates that the load is automatically applied for a specific period of time, then disconnected without user intervention.

Shigeru Ban

Shigeru Ban (坂 茂 Ban Shigeru, born 5 August 1957) is a Japanese architect, known for his innovative work with paper, particularly recycled cardboard tubes used to quickly and efficiently house disaster victims.

He was profiled by Time magazine in their projection of 21st-century innovators in the field of architecture and design. Find out more here.

Solid-state 'v' Tubes

A solid-state amplifier uses electronics such as diodes and transistors to amplify the music signal. A tube amp uses valves/vacuum tubes to do the same job.

There is a noticeable sound difference between the two methods. Some feel that tube amps create a warmer, more musical tone. Some companies choose to build 'hybrid' models that combine the two methods.

Soundstage

So, what is soundstage?

Imagine yourself in a small theater, 10 rows from the front, dead center, watching an orchestra perform on stage. Now close your eyes. This is the 'sound stage'.

In audio speak, it is an imaginary 3D space created by the high-quality reproduction of sound in a stereo speaker system. In other words, the soundstage allows the listener to hear the placement of the orchestra vis-a-vis instruments when listening to a given piece of music.

Spotify Premium

Spotify Premium allows you to listen better quality music. It's all about bitrates. The bitrate is the amount of data processed over a certain amount of time. The higher the bitrate, the better the quality.

On normal Spotify you listen at 96kbps, the 'standard' bitrate on mobile or at 160kbps, 'standard quality' on desktop and 'high quality' on mobile.

With Spotify Premium, you get 320kbps which is 'high quality' on desktop and 'extreme quality' on mobile. Basically, more bitrates for your buck.

Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando (安藤 忠雄 Andō Tadao, born 13 September 1941) is a Japanese self-taught architect whose approach to architecture and landscape was categorized by architectural historian Francesco Dal Co as "critical regionalism".

Read more here.

Tidal Masters

Tidal is a subscription-based audio streaming platform, similar to Apple Music and Spotify, but with lossless-quality audio. Tidal Masters is the section with the highest-fidelity music streamed including some files in partnership with MQA.

Lossless-quality means that no music quality is lost in this format.

USB Audio

USB audio is a digital audio connection used to send digital music from your computer to a digital to analogue converter (DAC). Usually computer manufacturers spend most of the overall budget on the processors and screen, leaving minimal budget for the built-in DAC and audio outputs.

Volumetric Efficiency

In electronics, volumetric efficiency quantifies the performance of some electronic function per unit volume, usually in as small a space as possible.

iFi audio xCAN

xCAN

The xCAN simply makes your music sound better, whether you are listening via ear buds at home or chilling with tunes on the go.

Our portable headphone amplifier is sure to give your music a superior sound.

The mother of all amplifiers

The xCAN is a portable amplifier above all else and is for anyone who enjoys good sound.

Using a high-end DAP that has an adequate onboard DAC but lacks power? Happy with your existing source but need more juice?

Just add the xCAN to drive bigger and better headphones and boost your tunes.

Blinding Bluetooth

The xCAN delivers CD-Quality Bluetooth via AAC, aptX and aptX LL with added iFi magic.

Stream wirelessly from your smartphone. Bluetooth from your TV to the xCAN. No need for wires. Just plug your headphones into the xCAN at your side.

Give soundtracks extra energy. Add oomph to your gaming! Hear the whoosh of an arrow or the full throttle of F1 car in all their glory.

Wicked wiring

Connect via a digital SPDIF or via analogue 2.5/3.5 connection. iFi’s exclusive S-Balanced technology means that you gain the advantages of a balanced connection even when using an unbalanced one.

On headphones this means lower distortion, less interference and less crosstalk.

And it enables you to take advantage of the growing number of balanced sources, such as high-end DAPs.

iFi audio xCAN

A pure power house

The xCAN is a dual-mono headphone amplifier with 1000mW of power per channel. It will happily drive your favourite headphones.

And we added our signature sonic extras as well.

3D+® opens up your music to give you the spaciousness of a live-concert atmosphere.

The XBass Ⅱ® analogue bass correction system corrects headphone/speaker bass response to deliver a more natural sound to the midrange frequencies.

Clever. Curvy.

The xCAN smart battery provides up to 18 hours of playback time (analogue) or 12 hours (Bluetooth) depending on your choice of headphones. That’s one very long train journey!

And finally, check out the curvy chassis and lush LEDs. The xCAN is one lovely lady.

The unit boasts a dual-mono headphone amplifier with 1000mW of power per channel which can unleash the full potential of both 32ohm through to 600ohm headphones. It offers balanced in/out to take full advantage of the growing availability of balanced sources and headphones. The 2.5mm balanced headphone jack means the it can be used to boost the amplification of high-end DAPs.

Read more here.


iFi’s exclusive S-Balanced® circuit delivers maximum performance from single-ended and balanced headphones alike.

See our Tech Note to dig deeper.


This unit features the iFi Cyberdrive® headphone amplifier stage. You won’t find it in Star Wars or Star Trek. Unravel its mysteries here.


Our 3D+ Holographic® delivers an immersive, deep soundstage. Check it out here.

Our new XBass ® adds even more musical satisfaction. The XBass ® analogue bass correction system corrects headphone bass response to deliver a more natural sound to the upper bass frequency band. More here.


We use our parent company AMR's Global Master Timing® (GMT)/ Memory Buffer System. It represents a total ‘out of the box’ systematic digital solution that solves the problem of digital SPDIF jitter once and for all.


With a separate power input (USB Type C) to charge the internal battery, it does not draw from your smartphone or playback device.

Playback time is 12 (via Bluetooth® as input) to 18 (as analogue amplifier only) hours.

Specifications

Inputs Wireless ESS Sabre 44.1/48k 16-Bit (AAC, aptX, aptX LL and SBC)
Wired 3.5mm (TRS or TRRS S-Balanced*) and 2.5mm (TRRS)
*ONLY found in iFi components such as nDSD BL. Do NOT feed using normal TRRS Balanced output sources.
No USB audio input
Max Output S-Balanced > 3.8V / 45 mW (@ 300 Ohm)> 3.5V / 380 mW (@ 32 Ohm)> 3.1V / 600 mW (@ 16 Ohm
Balanced > 7.6V / 90 mW (@ 600 Ohm)> 7.2V / 800 mW (@ 64 Ohm)> 5.7V / 1,000 mW (@ 32 Ohm)
THD & N S-Balanced < 0.005% (@ 100 mW/1.26V 16 Ohm)
Balanced < 0.006% (@ 360 mW/2.4V 16 Ohm)
SNR S-Balanced > 121dBA (@ 3.8V)
Balanced >120dBA (@ 7.6V)
Recommended HP Impedance 16~600 Ohm
Output impedance S-Balanced <1 Ohm
Balanced <2 Ohm
Max. Input S-Balanced 3V RMS
Balanced 6V RMS
Gain -95dB to +18dB adjustable in 114 1dB steps (using volume control)
Frequency Response < 2Hz – > 200kHz (-3dB)
Playback Time 18 hours (analogue)
or
12 hours (Bluetooth)
(charging via USB port)
Dimensions 95 (l) x67 (w) x19 (h) mm
Weight 127g (0.28 Ibs)
Warranty period 12 months

Reviews

xCAN – iFi’s New Analogue Headphone Amplifier – with Bluetooth

At the xCAN’s heart is a high-spec, low-noise, dual-mono headphone amplifier of proprietary design, capable of delivering 1000mW per channel to make the most of any headphone type, from sensitive in-ear monitors to high-impedance on- or over-ear designs.

iFi’s Cyberdrive amp stage combines the sonic purity of analogue operation with the convenience and precision of digital control. Volume attenuation occurs entirely in the analogue domain, for maximum resolution at all volume levels.

(Click name to read original review)
More reviews…

Overview of the portable amplifier iFi xCAN: a reference to the gain!

“The device is ideal for those who are accustomed to listening to music using modern streaming services (TIDAL, Spotify, Deezer and others) using a smartphone, tablet or laptop, as well as simply throwing your favorite songs on the phone, grab an auxiliary device and go on a journey.”

“The sound of xCAN is well balanced, rich, smooth and very musical. The device delivers the material whole, melodic, with a slight touch of warmth, good detail and high-quality study of low frequencies. This is a smooth and unobtrusive processing without any apparent failures in a particular area of ​​the frequency response. There is a small color, mainly in the midbass area, which makes it sound cozy and slightly thicker than its predecessor xDSD. Such mannerism only gives the sound of richness and charm.”

(Click name to read original review)

IFI AUDIO XCAN – IT CAN

“They’re wavy, flashy, eye catching and cool.”

“The iFi xCAN provides a very clean and tight bass response with a fast decay and good control.”

“The iFi xCAN provides you a big power, a BAL setup for your BAL system, a great BT DAC/Amp performance with good quality, very nice build quality and a design which is very portable and light. As a result, I think it deserves a spot on our Best Amplifiers List in the portable category. Congratulations to iFi Audio.”

(Click name to read original review)

XCan: Better Than Maldives…

Pros – 1) Amazing sound signature
2) powerful enough for a portable device… 6XX Here I come…
3) Bass bass bass even without xbass
4) Good battery life for an opamp device
5) Balanced input – output
6) s-balanced output
7) The lights are less intrusive than xDSD for night listening
8) Fine tuning of volume with the knob for sensitive headphones like Meze 99
9) ifi renowned Bluetooth implementation – recloking signal although is not clear to me how the femto clock is implemented with the sabre DAC ship, however it sounds as it implemented beautifully…

(Click name to read original review)

iFi Audio xCAN Headphone Amplifier

As I listened to music, the Sennheisers and AKG earbuds sounded very good driven by the iFixCAN.

The HD 800s present a relatively difficult load of 300 ohms, but the xCAN had plenty of gain to drive them to uncomfortably loud levels, even when I played an album of very low average loudness through its single-ended output. And with all its sound enhancements disengaged, I found the iFi effectively transparent.

Most of the enhancement options provided by the xCAN proved useful in maximizing my enjoyment of music. The 3D+ setting is yet another implementation of a crossfeed circuit, which tends to bring the soundstage forward while narrowing it.

iFi Audio’s xCAN is a great product for those looking to improve their smartphone listening experience. Without its enhancements engaged, its sound was thoroughly transparent, providing enough gain for most any pair of headphones without any colorations or ill effects.

More than that, it’s the feature set that matters. XBass II sound enhancement couldn’t be easier to use, and provided serious improvement in sound quality through two clever options: Bass and Presence. And iFi’s 3D+ crossfeed circuit is available for those who enjoy this sort of effect, or find long-term headphone listening fatiguing.

(Click name to read original review)

The iFi audio xCAN: A Pocketful Of Dynamite.

  • Desktop power in a pocketable format, able to drive demanding cans with ease
  • Fully-balanced topology
  • Aptx Bluetooth a nice bonus
  • Useful, if somewhat blunt EQ functionality
(Click name to read original review)
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