Your first DAC: the $79 iFi Audio Uno

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Want to take your listening experience to a level beyond that of the average laptop or smartphone’s internals and for very little outlay? iFi’s new £79/US$79/€79 Uno could be just the ticket.

Sitting in the palm of one’s hand, the Uno isn’t large but at 9cm x 2.6cm x 8cm, neither is it pocketable; at least, not when in use. The new iFi unit is more transportable than portable. Its shell is made from ‘mineral-filled polymer’ and the front plate is all aluminium.

The unit gets its digital audio feed (and 5V power) from a USB-C socket on the rear and according to iFi, it will play nicely with PCs, Macs and smartphones.

Analogue output comes either via rear panel RCA sockets – that in turn feed an amplifier or pair of powered speakers – or the 3.5mm front panel headphone socket, which the Southport company has reportedly designed to minimise crosstalk and noise. Here we get 211mW into (the average headphone’s) 32 Ohms or 3.5V into 600 Ohms. It’s not clear why the press materials specify Watts for one and Volts for the other.

The Power Match button optionally adds 6dB of gain to thirstier cans and the neighbouring analogue domain-executed EQ settings reportedly add clarity to dialogue when in ‘Movie’ mode and enhance the presence of low-level details in ‘Game’ mode; ‘Music’ mode returns us to a more neutral EQ profile.

The Uno’s internal D/A conversion is built around an ESS Labs ES9219MQ/Q chip and a ‘specialised’ crystal oscillator (clock) to “deliver ultra-low distortion, excellent clarity and impressive dynamic range.” The unit supports PCM up to 32bit/384kHz, MQA (Tidal Masters) and DSD up to 11.2MHz with the illuminated ring behind the (non-software!) volume wheel changing colour according to the input format and its sample rate.

If you’ve never tried an external DAC / headphone amplifier, the Uno could be a solid first step.

Further information: iFi Audio

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