iFi Audio's new iCAN SE review by Matt Poe (MattTCG on Head-Fi)

Having owned the original ifi micro-iCAN, I came into my time with the SE with high expectations. Previously, I used the ifi micro-iCAN to drive the hd800 and was surprised at just how musical and enjoyable the pairing turned out to be.  Would the follow up effort from ifi uphold the impressive first offering? Let’s take a look.

On paper, the SE shows some impressive specs:

*full 4 watt class A amplification

*improved power transformer

*same XBass and 3D featured on the original but with refinements

*trickle down tech from the Pro iCan with “boutique” component selections

The spec sheet looks impressive, but just how does it sound? I went through my usual playlist of test tracks to get a feel for how well the ifi micro-iCAN SE performed and then later how it compared directly to the original. The first impression that hit me with the ifi micro-iCAN SE was that it didn’t sound like a small or “transportable” amp at all. In fact it was driving my hd650 and Mr. Speakers Ether as well or better than many desktop amps that I’ve owned.  The sound it created was powerful and refined. Impressive. So far I had not engaged either the XBass or 3D sound feature. 

XBass has three settings: direct, level 1 and level 2. After spending a good half hour testing various tracks with the bass feature with both hd650 and ETHER, I was ultimately happy with the hd650 at direct and ETHER at level 1. I know that some audiophiles might snicker at a bass feature and I admit that I might have even been a little skeptical myself. But the proof is in the listening and the XBass feature delivers.  Level 1 with ETHER was smile inducing. It brought out just a subtle sub bass boost to make ETHER’s sub sonics wow me.  The 3D feature was more difficult for me to get a grip on. For some recordings direct sounded best, but with others I preferred level 1.  Regardless it was nice to have the choice.

Compared to the original iCAN, ifi has raised the bar and delivered a superb offering with ifi iCAN SE Micro. There certainly is no sophomore slump here. The SE impresses with its more powerful and elegant signature over the original. The SE drives both dynamic driver and orthodynamics with ease and musicality. If you liked the original or missed out on it, the ifi iCAN SE Micro should be on your short list if you are in the market for a versatile, powerful and feature rich headphone amp. 

Posted on January 17, 2016 .