ifi-audio pro iCAN - any thoughts?

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by AllanMarcus, Jun 3, 2016.

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  1. Torq

    Torq Retired from SBAF

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    This is somewhat going to depend on what headphones you're going to run, but, in general I would say that Jotunheim is closer to the Pro iCAN than the iCAN is to the WA5-LE (at least with the tube complement I'm running). To be specific I'd have to do the back-to-back testing with the Woo - but it was an apparent enough difference that I wasn't left in any doubt about it. The usual curve of diminishing returns means that's a little surprising for me, as I'd generally expect the differences to become a lot smaller as we go up the food chain. But, again, I think this is more indicative of how absurdly good value Jotunheim is - it's seems to have the potential to be one a genuinely disruptive product.

    Pro iCAN vs. Raganarok? More about taste/signature preference and what features you need than anything else.

    I think there's more than a couple of percentage points of available performance above the iCAN or Ragnarok if you've got TOTL headphones, but I'd be coming from the tube side of things in making that statement ... what can I say? I like tubes with headphones.

    I'd definitely recommend comparing them yourself if you have the ability to do so.
     

  2. loplop

    loplop Acquaintance

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    I've been quiet about the iCAN Pro, mostly because I thought the sound sucked, to be honest. Bass was wooly, in some configurations I heard obvious bass distortion, and I couldn't listen to the unit for more than 30-60 minutes without getting a headache. I worked back and forth with ifi for some time, eventually just returning the first one back to the vendor for a 2nd.

    The good news is the 2nd sounds fantastic. I'm still letting it settle in, so no real concrete thoughts at this time.

    The bad news is my 2nd iCAN Pro pops when switching XBass on and off. My first one did not do this. It's a very, very deep pop. Not very loud, but concerning nonetheless.

    Additional context: I ordered an iDAC2 to try in place of my iDSD BL as ifi says the RCA outs are better. That one arrived defective, as well... staticy depending upon digital filter setting (near hearing damaging pops/static) both on headphone and RCA out. I also purchased an iUSB3 nano at the same time, which works fine.

    So I'm 3 for 5 for poor quality control. Especially disturbing in a $1699 product, to be honest. Is my luck just sh|t or is this par for the course for ifi?
     
  3. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Almost "Made"

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    I was able to listen to the iFi iCAN Pro at a local headphone shop, back to back with the Mjolnir 2. Headphones used were the Abyss and Utopia. The DAC used was a Mytek Brooklyn. I thought the clarity of the iFi was absolutely great, and it has more than enough power for pretty much any headphone. It drove the Abyss with authority. On both the Utopia and Abyss the bass was clear and defined. The one thing I noticed with the iFi was that it was a TINY bit cold and sterile (and this was maybe more the DAC than the iFi.) Now, that is just my opinion, and I only tried it in SS mode, not tube or tube+. Those modes may be night and day, I don't know. Compared to my iCAN Micro SE, i found it had a bit better soundstage both in depth and width, and was obviously more powerful. It really seems like a jack of all trades, having tube and tube+ modes, XBASS, 3D sound etc... The problem with that is I feel it might be a bit of a case of jack of all trades, master of none. With that being said, if you are in the market for an amp around its price range, you could do a hell of a lot worse. It is one of those amps I would really recommend trying out if you get a chance, as you might love it, or hate it with all its extra features. I was very close to purchasing one for what it is worth, but ended up going for the Wells Audio Milo which fitted my needs and preferences better.

    I found the Mjolnir 2 severely lacking in comparison. It was muddy and undefined. It was my first experience with a "higher end" Schiit amp, and I was expecting great things but was very disappointed. The Mjolnir 2 was plenty powerful however, and if you need power and are on a budget it would definitely be an amp to check out. One thing to note is the Mjolnir 2 had the stock tubes installed, and it may change for the better with LISST tubes installed, or upgraded tubes, I really don't know. You definitely pay a premium for the iFi over the Mjolnir 2, but IMO, if you can swing the extra cash it would be worth it.
     
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  4. loplop

    loplop Acquaintance

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    I wouldn't characterize the iCAN Pro as cold or sterile, at all. That would be the Mytek...

    I don't have many (active listening) hours on my second iCAN Pro, but so far I've found the SS and Tube mode to be around the same ballpark in sound. I've found tube mode to add body & weight to timbre, as well as some extra 3-dimensionality of images and depth to the stage. Perhaps losing some width, and a bit of microdetail. Tube+ loses significant width, gaining depth in trade, and if it plays well with your headphones (it does not with all) it can add some extra body & a palpable presence that is really enjoyable.

    I need to burn in my tubes more on this 2nd unit before final judgment.
     
  5. Torq

    Torq Retired from SBAF

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    Interesting.

    When I compared the Pro iCAN with both the Jotunheim and the Lyr 2 I wouldn't have gone as far as to say either of those were severely lacking. Certainly the was a bigger gap between the iCAN and the Lyr 2, but I would have expected Mjolnir 2 to close most of that gap. That said, Mjolnir 2 is the Schiit amp I'm the least familiar with at this point.

    Jotunheim was very close to the Pro iCAN. Close enough that, for me at least, the iFI unit doesn't make a lot of sense unless you're going to use all of it's functionality.

    My more detailed thoughts on the Pro iCAN are here.
     
  6. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    Did you use the Mjo 2 in balanced mode?
     
  7. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Almost "Made"

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    Yup. Maybe there was something wrong with it, I don't know *shrugs*.
     
  8. Masterlibrarian

    Masterlibrarian Rando

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    Hi there, nice review torq!
    I am also considering the Pro iCan among other amps for my cans and I would like to listen your opinion. For the record the cans I mostly use are either the HD800S or the LCD2.2F and my current rig is a Gungnir Multibit -> WA7 fireflies (single ended of course). As I would like to go fully balanced I am considering either a WA22 , a Mjolnir 2 (LISST and Tubes) or even an Rag. With my current setup and especially the amp part I think I am missing a lot in detail, openness and in general I feel the WA7 although a decent amp, is still pulling my cans and dac behind. What would you suggest considering I would love to be able to drive both bright and dark headphones to their best ?

    Thanks a lot !
     
  9. Torq

    Torq Retired from SBAF

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    Beyond saying I think those amplifiers are all worthy auditions, I'll defer to others for specific recommendations.

    It's been almost a year since I've heard a WA7 and Gungnir MB & Mjolnir 2 are the two Schiit products I am least familiar with, and I've only heard the LCD-2.2F via Ragnarok and an MHA100.
     
  10. Dino

    Dino Friend

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    We have a thread for such advise - The All Purpose Advice Thread
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/the-all-purpose-advice-thread.19/
     
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  11. Masterlibrarian

    Masterlibrarian Rando

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    Thanks guys , I 'll post on that thread as well !
     
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  12. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Too much posting, not enough reading

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  13. loplop

    loplop Acquaintance

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    Good deal, and I've seen this price more than once from Adorama. They often run discounts on the ifi gear, sometimes combined with Audeze. If you buy the iCAN Pro with the LCD3's when their $2299 combo deal is on, Adorama charges you ~$1050 for the iCAN Pro. You could either keep the LCD3 (of course), resell the LCD3 or see if Adorama would let you return the LCD3, netting the iCAN Pro for just over a thousand bucks is quite a good deal, IMO.
     
  14. neogeosnk

    neogeosnk Almost "Made"

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  15. murphythecat

    murphythecat Almost "Made"

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    Finally received my Pro Ican. special thanks to Torq and Bimmer100 for the recommendation as Im not sure I would have jumped...

    I dont have much experience when it comes to headphone amps sadly. Compared to my micro ican, the pro ican is at another level, Im surprised by how much details were lost with the micro ican. not sure there's any value comparing the micro ican to the pro ican, the pro ican is miles better.

    ive been listening to the pro ican all day as a preamp with my Harbeth and my Gainclone lm3875 amp. as a pre amp, its noticeably better then the micro itube I had and also quite a bit better then the pass b1 pre amp I have. Couldnt be happier as it really brings another level to my speaker system. My pass b1 + gainclone couldnt touch the sony ta 707 but now, with the addition of the pro ican as a preamp, its the other way around and now I really prefer the pro ican + gainclone over my sony. Time to recap my old sony!
     
  16. khragon

    khragon Acquaintance

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    Wait until you swapped in those WE396A in place of the stock GE tubes ;)
     
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  17. loplop

    loplop Acquaintance

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    I still really enjoy my iCAN Pro. Recently, I've started using the SS mode more often; I find it very pleasing and well implemented. I'm normally a tube guy for hifi/speakers, so this surprises me a bit. I'm happy the iCAN Pro has the option of both and I'm enjoying exploring the differences between the three options.

    That said, I'm not happy with ifi's Quality Control; I've been on quite the ifi-buying spree as of late, and out of 9 devices, 5 have had problems. 2 were outright defective (one iCAN Pro, one iDAC2), one with a very minor issue (iDSD BL) doesn't always charge after it hits sleep (not really a big deal, but ifi says it can't possibly be happening), a new iCAN SE has grounding issues, and my 2nd iCAN Pro has some QC and build quality problems:
    1. a very deep sub-bass thump when I switch XBass on and off. ifi support says this is normal, although my first unit didn't do this and I am somewhat concerned it could damage headphones.
    2. the LED under the left preamp tube doesn't light up; the net effect is the round window doesn't appear to have a glowing tube underneath. This is cosmetic only, so I haven't pursued resolution.
    3. my input 1 RCA jack is loosening up a concerning amount. I have plugged/unplugged RCA's more frequently than normal while trying to settle on some cables for the iCAN Pro and/or moving it from room to room on occasion, but it's not like I'm plugged/unplugged hundreds of times... And the iDSD BL I've often had plugged into the iCAN Pro has tight jacks still. I've never had an RCA loosen up like this. My take: crap RCA socket, glad there's 3 of them, and I should really go balanced.

    Since ifi punted on #1, I'm not liking my current chances of getting a good unit if I returned this one now, and (most importantly) it sounds fanatstic, I'm currently thinking I'll just see what else breaks and send it in to get fixed near the end of the warranty period. I don't think ifi actually fixes these things at all, I believe they just replace with new. Hopefully that will give them some time to get their QC straightened out.

    I have had more QC/build quality related issues with ifi products in the last 3 months than in 3 decades of hifi products--all put together. Very disappointing. Yet, I like the sound...

    Anyone else had subpar QC or build quality on their iCAN Pro?
     
  18. Torq

    Torq Retired from SBAF

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    Always sucks when that happens ... hope it's not a streak that continues!

    My first iFi Audio purchase was my iCAN Pro, quickly followed by the iDSD BL and an iEMatch and they've all been fine with the only "issue" being the degree of channel imbalance on the iDSD BL (which is commonly reported). Otherwise the units I received have all been working properly and seem pretty solid.
     
  19. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    Sadly, there are lots of tales of faulty iFi gear of late- I wonder if they've changed something?
     
  20. loplop

    loplop Acquaintance

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    Hard to know if this means anything as my sample size is so small, but for the most recent stuff released by ifi I have had better luck. Maybe their factory slacked for some time. The new titanium finish Nano/Micro components have been great. Of the ifi stuff I've bought, in order of release from newest to oldest:
    iTube 2: OK
    nano iDSD LE: OK
    Micro iDSD BL: generally OK, although I think there is a firmware bug related to charging & ifi is telling me it might be hardware*
    iCAN Pro: 1st defective, 2nd has issues
    iCAN SE: has grounding issue
    nano iUSB3: OK
    iDAC2: 1st defective, 2nd OK

    I may be reading too much into my experience/data, though, which is one reason I posted here to see if others have had issues (especially with the iCAN Pro, which seems to have had a more problematic than most production run).

    *actually, ifi is telling me that it is impossible for my iDSD BL not to charge properly. If I had a nickel for every time a software developer told me a bug was impossible, I'd have a nice TOTL setup... and maybe some property I want in Hawaii in the midst of Zuckerberg's spread.
     

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