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Not everyone knows about DACs, but every device that acts as a source of digital sound has one. Smartphones, computers, TVs, music systems - they all need DAC circuitry to convert digital audio data into an analog signal which is amplified to drive speaker (or headphone) diaphragms and generate sound waves (for more understanding of DACs and why they are important, check out our easy, in-depth article "What is a DAC and Why Do I Need It?")
The iFi Uno is a first-rung audio upgrade: it's a DAC/headphone amp for people who may not know what a DAC is but know they want better sound quality when they listen to music, stream movies and TV shows, play games, and enjoy other forms of audio and AV content, from podcasts to YouTube.
Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the Uno’s cute, curvy case is made from tough, mineral-filled polymer and contains sophisticated DAC and headphone amp circuitry to upgrade the basic audio tech in all sorts of digital devices. The onboard USB-C input connects to Windows PCs, Apple Macs, and all manner of smartphones and tablets. It doesn’t require its own power source, receiving both power and audio data from the device to which it’s connected. And it delivers a perfectly processed, optimally amplified analog audio signal to headphones, powered speakers, or an amp and separate speakers.
The Uno draws from the experience iFi has gained in developing a range of multi-award-winning DACs at a wide range of prices from under $250 to over $3500. At its heart lies a power-efficient, high-performance DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Sabre HiFi series, the ES9219MQ/Q. It benefits from 32-bit HyperStream III architecture and combines with Quad DAC+ and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator technology along with iFi’s dedicated clock circuitry with specialized crystal oscillator.
iFi has taken full advantage of the DAC's advanced specification, unlocking rarely implemented high-end features such as adjustable analog gain with DRE (Dynamic Range Enhancement), plus technologies to minimize THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) and crosstalk. A choice of digital filters is accessible via the front-panel buttons, enabling users to fine-tune the DAC’s sound according to taste.
The Uno’s hi-res PCM audio data is supported to 32-bit/384kHz, alongside DSD up to 11.2MHz (DSD256), and MQA (Tidal’s ‘HiFi Plus’ streaming tech.) An illuminated ring behind the volume control changes color to indicate the format and sample rate of the incoming digital signal.
The Uno’s headphone amp feeds a 3.5mm plug incorporating iFi’s S-Balanced configuration for noise and crosstalk reduction and a stereo line out RCA output at the rear. All the analog outputs are gold plated to resist corrosion and maintain conductivity over time.
A volume knob sits up front for high-quality analog adjustment in the DAC itself rather than relying on the software-driven volume controls from connected devices. Adjacent is the PowerMatch button for gain adjustment by 6dB to match connected headphones - choose the higher setting for more current-hungry loads, and the lower setting for more sensitive types.
Another proprietary circuit provides three specially tuned analog EQ modes:
Music Mode: delivers a detailed and engaging sound with all types of music.
Movie Mode: enhances dialogue clarity with films, TV shows, and other audio/video content.
Game Mode: makes low-level sound effects crystal-clear, so you always hear your enemies coming.
A button at the front cycles through these settings with illuminated indicators on top.