Portable audio boosters
iFi has added another two a ordable and well-kitted-out portable DACs to its extensive portfolio. The first is the Go Link, said to be the British company’s first “super-a ordable” model, which it certainly is at only $99.
The pocket-sized dongle promises to deliver “supercharged sound when connected to smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs via a USB port”, so if you are looking to upgrade your desktop or on-the-go sound without upending your finances, this could be a solid starting point. The Go Link also doubles as an adaptor, enabling wired headphones and earbuds to connect to digital devices that don’t have a 3.5mm output.
Despite its eye-catching price and diminutive size, iFi has packed in some impressive technology, including a high-performance and powerecient DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Sabre HiFi series. This combines with time domain jitter eliminator technologies and iFi’s dedicated clock circuitry to reduce distortion and enhance dynamic range.
The Go Link supports hi-res audio: PCM 32-bit/384kHz, DSD 11.2MHz (DSD256) and MQA. Handily, an LED on the device’s magnesium alloy case changes colour to denote the decoded audio format and the sample rate.
iFi says that, unlike other headphone dongles, the Go Link doesn’t rely on the software-based volume controls in connected digital devices which can adversely a ect audio resolution; adjusting the volume on the connected device controls the volume level in the Go Link’s DAC as opposed to in the phone, tablet or computer.
The flexible 6cm cable between the Go Link’s USB-C connector and DAC has been designed to reduce stress on whatever USB port the Go Link is connected to. Adapters are included in the box, so you can convert the Go Link’s USB-C connector to fit USB-A and Lightning ports if required.
Given that most phones rely on a DAC that is built into the main SoC (System on a Chip), adding a dedicated DAC — even one as a ordable as the Go Link — should provide a decent bump in sound quality.
If you can accommodate something slightly pricier that is more desktop than pocket friendly in size (8.8 x 2.6 x 8.1cm), you might want to avert your attention to the new $135 iFi Uno instead. It shares many attributes of the GO Link. The Uno’s main connection is also a USB-C input, meaning it can connect to Windows PCs, Apple Mac computers, and the latest smartphones and tablets, and it too draws power from the device it’s connected to, eliminating the need for an extra power cable. It also features an ESS Sabre DAC chip, jitter elimination technologies and iFi’s dedicated clock circuitry, and supports 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256 and MQA files.
Its larger size and price tag do facilitate extra functionality, mind you. The 3.5mm headphone circuit includes switchable gain for 6dB adjustments to better accommodate a wide variety of headphones, and a pair of RCA stereo outputs let you connect the Uno to an amplifier or pair of powered speakers if you wish to broaden its use past the desktop.
There are also three pre-set EQ modes for music, movies and games that have been designed to tailor the sound according to the material being played through it.