iFi has been consistently behind some of the most successful DAC/headphone amps in recent years, with its more affordable portable and desktop options particularly admirable in their respective markets. The British brand’s commitment to improving sound quality on the go and/or for modest set-ups isn’t about to dry up either. Enter the pocket-sized iFi Go Bar, which the company says takes the ‘big sound in a small package’ concept to a whole new level.
Last year’s five-star iFi Go Blu proved effective in boosting audio quality when a source device was conveniently connected to it wirelessly over Bluetooth, and this time the goal is to achieve even higher sonic heights for source devices connected via USB.
Whether the iFi Go Bar is plugged into the USB socket of a PC, laptop, tablet or phone, it aims to be the audio-enhancing middleman between that device and your wired headphones; the sound-improving filling in a USB source and headphones sandwich.
At one end of the miniature DAC (which measures just 65 x 22 x 13mm and only weighs 28.5g) is an asynchronous USB-C input that can either connect directly to native USB-C sources using the supplied USB-C OTG cable, or to sources with other connections via other included cables or adapters. For example, there’s an iFi-engineered Lightning-to-USB-C cable included, allowing Apple device owners to bypass the need for Apple’s Camera Adapter dongle, as well as a USB-C to USB-A adapter.
At the other end of the Go Bar is a pair of headphone outputs – one is a fully balanced 4.4mm output that takes full advantage of the DAC’s balanced analogue circuitry and works with balanced 4.4mm headphones, and the other is a more traditional 3.5mm jack.
The Go Bar’s design centres around a 32-bit Cirrus Logic DAC chipset with advanced multi-bit modulation, coupled with a customised digital filter to reduce unwanted sonic artefacts, and the company’s GMT (Global Master Timing) precision clock system to minimise jitter and distortion. That chipset natively supports PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256 and double-speed DXD files, while also being able to fully decode MQA audio.
Four digital filters alongside iFi’s XBass+ and XSpace analogue processing modes are onboard to allow for some degree of sonic flavour customisation, too.
That’s not all: IEMatch works to attenuate the Go Bar’s power to suit high-sensitivity headphones and in-ear monitors, removing potential background noise and increasing the usable volume range, while Turbo mode increases gain by 6dB to accommodate more power-hungry headphones. Essentially, with a claimed output of 550mW (into 64 ohms) and 7.5V (into 600 ohms), the new iFi DAC/headphone amp should suitably drive any headphones you’re likely to plug into it.
You can tell iFi strived to make the Go Bar as practical as possible – not only by being pocket-sized but also by having on-unit controls and an LED display. The former includes volume buttons (which can be synchronised with the volume controls on the source device) while the latter lets users see the format and sample rate of the audio being played, and whether XBass+ and/or XSpace modes are engaged.
In a celebratory nod to its 10th anniversary this year, iFi has also produced a special ‘Anniversary Edition’ of the Go Bar – and of course it's gold! Limited to 1000 pieces, the gold variant swaps the alloy enclosure for a copper chassis, not just for added bling but also for added robustness and electrical shielding. Power supply filtering is further enhanced over the standard version too, and naturally that all attracts a price premium...
The iFi Go Bar is available from 20th May, priced £329, while the Go Bar Anniversary Edition model follows in June with an RRP of £499.
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