Originally posted 11/11/21.
- 1/11/22. Build, XBass/Space impressions.
- 2/10/22. Recommendation change/article cleanup.
Thank you to Lawrance over at iFi for the demo unit!
Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!
Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…
At A Glance
In The Box
Go Blu Amp/DAC
USB-A to USB-C charging cable
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Apos!
- Chipset: Qualcomm QCC 5100 Series
- Input: USB-C/Bluetooth 5.0 (AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, LHDC, HWA Codec)
- Headphone Outputs: Balanced (4.4mm), Unbalanced (3.5mm)
- Power Output: Balanced – 245mW @ 32 Ohm; 5.6V @ 600 Ohm, UnBAL – 165mW @ 32 Ohm; 2.8V @600 Ohm
- Output Impedance: <1 Ohm (Balanced & Unbalanced)
- SNR (Signal-To-Noise Ratio): Balanced (111dBA), Unbalanced (106.5dBA)
- DNR: 120dB(A) (BAL/UnBAL)
- THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise): Balanced – <0.009% (6.5mW/2.0V @ 600 Ohm), UnBAL – <0.03% (100mW/1.27V @ 16Ohm)
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 45kHz (-3dB)
- Battery: Lithium-Polymer 450mAh approx. ~10 hours
- Power System: Charging via USB-C, BCV1.2 compliant up to 1000mA charging current and 6.3 volts
- Dimensions: 54x34x13 mm, 2.1″ x 1.3″ x 0.5″
- Weight: 27g (0.95 oz)
- Warranty Period: 12 Months
The Go Blu is another small, portable headphone Amp/DAC in a sea of many, but what, if anything, does it bring to the table that other similar items do not?
Today we’ll compare iFi’s Go Blu to a couple of other portable dacs that I have here and find out which sounds best as well as which is most worthy of purchase based on features.
For starters, the Go Blu’s volume potentiometer doubles as a multi-function button.
The knob controls:
- Volume control (turn)
- Play/Pause (a short click)
- Skip forward (two short clicks)
- Skip back (three short clicks)
- Wake up voice assistant (long press)
The Go Blu is similar in size to FiiO’s BTR3K, but it has something else going for it that’s missing in the 3k – The button right next to the Volume Pot.
- Click once for XBass (Yellow)
- Twice for XSpace (Cyan)
- and a third time for both (White)
These subtle musical enhancements may or may not matter to you, but they’re there.
To power up, long-press the button on the left side situated in the middle. Then either pair it with your phone or use it with your laptop via the supplied USB-A to USB-C cable.
To enter into Bluetooth mode, long-press the button on the left side of the unit.
Go into your phone’s Bluetooth settings and press search. “Go Blu” should appear. Click it and wait for it to pair.
After some weird lady’s voice says something indecipherable, we’re ready to go.
Now you can listen to “Pizza Guy” by Touch Sensitive. You can thank me later.
Let’s not make this any more complicated than it is. Though the Blu does connect via Bluetooth with your phone, you’ll still need to make a wired connection into the unit with your headphones.
It has both a 4.4mm balanced headphone out as well as your standard 3.5mm, and its USB Type-C connection allows for charging via the supplied cable.
You can also use some sort of OTG cable for your phone if you want to be hip. So it doubles as both a charging port and an audio input.
I personally listen to music more on my desktop than I do with my phone, so convenience is of the utmost importance if I’m out and about. This is why I prefer a simple Bluetooth connection, and even so, 99% of the time I’m simply using Bluetooth earbuds and my phone in the gym. Nothing else.
Your mileage may vary.
So, for Bluetooth:
- Off – Wireless Bluetooth (Connected)
- Blue (flashing) – Wireless Bluetooth (Awaiting Connection)
- Blue/Red (flashing) – Wireless Bluetooth (Pairing)
- Green = >60%
- Yellow = >10%
- Red = <10% or less
For a factory reset, long-press the small button to the left of the Type-C port. You’ll need something really small like a toothpick or sewing pin. The USB-C input plays up to 24-bit/96kHz.
It will take <40 minutes for a high-powered USB charger to fully charge the Go Blu. Use the included USB ‘Type A’ to ‘Type C’ cable, smart charger, or a regular charger up to 6.3V.
Lastly, there is a built-in mic for hands-free calls when paired with your smartphone.
The Go Blu feels good in your hand, and boy is it tiny – roughly double the size of an AA battery and about as heavy (around 26g).
That said, it doesn’t feel cheap.
The top face seems to be of the brushed aluminum variety (it’s actually soft-touch polymer), and it won’t gather fingerprints which you’ll agree is a welcome change vs. that of the BTR3K.
The rest of the unit boasts a black rubberized material, and I personally love how it feels. You may catch yourself running your fingers over it from time to time!
There’s a volume pot on the upper right-hand side, and I think I also prefer it over the button mechanism on the 3K. Your mileage may vary there, but overall, the Blu is sleek and stylish while not coming off as too flamboyant. The dial clicks as you turn it which you may or may not care about. I personally enjoy the give as it doesn’t feel overly fast or slow.
The knob itself is also just taut enough to give you peace of mind – as in, it doesn’t feel too loose and seems robust enough.
With that, how does it sound in comparison to the other dacs I have here?
Keeping in line with iFi’s traditional house sound, the Go Blu doesn’t deviate much from the ‘half-neutral, half warm-ish sound that I’m accustomed to.
The ‘less than 1 Ohm’ Output impedance (as advertised) gives it away, but this is iFi’s sound through and through – warm-ish, but not overly warm or overly sterile.
I’m not going to get into it much here as I’ve discussed their sound ad-nauseam.
One thing I love about the Go Blu vs. the BTR3K is the pairing process.
iFi has always built rock-solid products that work without a hitch, and it’s one of the main reasons why I continue to maintain my relationship with them even despite my ever-growing disdain for Amps and DACS.
In other words, I truly believe in their products and have for over 3 years now.
As I sit here attempting to swap connections over, FiiO is giving me a hard time. You may encounter a “FiiO BTR3K declined your pairing request” which is incredibly annoying and makes me not even want to recommend this thing anymore.
When I first received the unit, I had no issues and could always pair quickly and easily. Now? It’s hit and miss, really. The unit is very finicky and temperamental.
I thought maybe the issue was the number of devices I currently have paired (5), but despite unpairing 2 of them, I’m still getting the same issue.
Update: If you’re having trouble with the 3K, you can do a factory reset as outlined here, but it’s still a bit of a hassle considering I’ve never had to do the same with any iFi products that I’ve tested.
In other words, the Blu pairs immediately.
FiiO BTR3K vs. Go Blu
Upon first listen, the 3K seems to sound a bit warmer than Blu. It’s either that or the 3K gives off a slightly more closed-in, muffled sounding profile whereas the Blu sounds cleaner and a tad more refined.
With the Blu, instruments and voices seem clearer and tauter if you will. They snap and hit crisper than they do with the BTR3K.
Make no mistake though; the difference, as I’ve harped on in countless articles and videos, is subtle but it’s still there.
Does it matter much?
In my mind, not really.
I will say that XBass this time around seems a lot more subtle than I remember from iFi.
In other words, I have to really concentrate to hear a difference. To my ears, it sounds like a bit of a mid-bass rise and some extra meat, but the difference is slight. I think I prefer this vs. a bloated response, as it will help give some extra thump without going overboard like you drank too much and fell off a cruise ship.
XSpace is the only clear misstep with the Blu as there’s almost no difference with it on vs. off. It may help with the separation a smidgen, but it’s almost completely indiscernible.
In other iFi products, XSpace is always one of my favorite features because it does open things up considerably. Here, not so much.
But how do these 2 compare with the DragonFly Red?
FiiO BTR3K vs. Go Blu vs. DragonFly Red
I didn’t do an in-depth features comparison with the Red for obvious reasons: aside from the colors changing depending on source file, there are none.
It’s not a Bluetooth unit, but you can connect it to a phone via OTG cable.
The real question is that of sound. Does the Red sound better?
As written many times in past articles, the Red does indeed sound crisper, with a wider Soundstage and a slightly more detailed presentation.
Voices sound more present and intimate (meaning they’re slightly pushed forward), and the staging of instruments feels more true to life.
This notion has remained one of the few examples of a DAC sounding almost markedly different than others, and I’ve said as much for the last 2+ years.
It’s one of the few cases (perhaps the only case) in which I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the DragonFly Red does present an argument that not all DACS are created equally.
Some won’t like the somewhat overly sterile presentation here, but I’ve always enjoyed it and personally prefer a more neutral profile vs. that of a warmed/glossed over one.
This is another reason why I keep recommending the Red despite a barrage of dacs hitting the market in recent years.
It does the job incredibly well, and there are basically no others I would take over it in terms of sound and convenience at my desktop.
Features-wise, it doesn’t do anything fancy but I really don’t care much as I can use it as a DAC into any amp with RCA inputs or line input.
So to wrap up, I’d say the DragonFly Red is the most neutral/sterile, followed by the Go Blu and then the BTR3K.
In my mind, this is how I’d personally rank them in terms of sound, but the Blu is very close to being just as good as the Red. In other words, it still doesn’t matter much at the end of the day.
Out of these 3, the 3K certainly comes in last because its sound isn’t quite as good as the others + it also doesn’t have the extra musical enhancements that Blu has, so there’s that as well.
In terms of price, the Blu is a much better value than the Red because of its extras + it’s a Bluetooth DAC which is the main draw for some.
If I was okay recommending the Red at $200, I have to be okay with the Blu at a similar price point since it’s actually a better value and provides more features.
So I’m not going to complain too much here. I think that overall, it’s worth it for the majority of people.
Since I wrote this article, I fixed the pairing issue with the BTR3K by just doing a hard reset. For that, press the two volume buttons simultaneously and it should rectify the problem. I had done this in the past, forgot about it, and then remembered.
I’ve also since gotten a BTR5 here and I believe that it’s likely the best value out of the 4 that I have here: DragonFly Red at $200, Go Blu at $200, BTR3K at $70. This is because while the 3K is the cheapest, you’ll likely just end up wanting more power and upgrade later regardless. Related: FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5
The BTR5 sits in a comfy price range and I think it provides a nice balance of power and versatility without getting too close to that $200 line.
So my recommendation is to go with the BTR5. I like Blu, but I don’t think Xspace and XBass are worth $70 more – especially since XSpace is essentially useless and provides no difference (as mentioned earlier).
I love the sound of the DragonFly Red and keep one around, but it doesn’t have Bluetooth and seems a bit expensive with all these new Bluetooth DACS coming out lately.
Interested in a well-priced portable?
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this iFi Go Blu Review and came away with some valuable insight.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
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Which of these DACs seem like the best investment to YOU? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,
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