Home Amps/DACS iFi Uno Review – Unbeatable Value In 2023?

iFi Uno Review – Unbeatable Value In 2023?

by Stuart Charles Black
iFi Uno Review

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Big Shoutout to Lawrance and iFi Audio for sending this demo unit, and for their continued support over the years!!

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…

In this iFi Uno Review, we’ll discuss everything you need to know in order to make the best buying decision possible. 

By the end, you should know what the Uno is, who it may or may not be for, its features, how it sounds, and more.

So let’s dive in.

iFi Uno

Price: Check Amazon | Check B&H

In The Box

1x UNO

1x USB-A to USB-C Cable

1x Quick Start Card

1x Instruction Card

1x Sticker

iFi Uno Review

iFi Uno ReviewSpecifications

  • Digital Input: USB-C
  • Formats: DXD256/11.3MHz, DXD 384kHz, PCM 384kHz, MQA Renderer
  • DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by ESS

Line Section

  • Output: 2V Max
  • Output Impedance: <100Ω
  • SNR: ≥119dBA
  • DNR: ≥115dB @ 0dBFS
  • THD + N: ≥0.03% @ 0dBFS

Headphone Section

  • Output: ≥2.6V/3.5V max at 32Ω/300Ω
  • Output Power: ≥211mW @ 32Ω; 39mW @ 300Ω
  • Output Impedance: <1Ω
  • SNR: ≥113dBA
  • DNR: ≥110dB @ dBFS
  • THD + N: ≤0.02% (1.27V @ 16Ω)
  • Channel Separation: ≥80dB (1kHz/600Ω)
  • Frequency Response: 10-80kHz(-0.5dB)
  • Power Supply Requirement: USB-C 5V/0.5A
  • Power Consumption: No Signal ~0.8W / Max Signal ~1.5W
  • Dimensions: 88 x 81 x 26mm (3.5″ x 2.8″ x 1.0″)
  • Net Weight: 92g (0.2 lbs)
  • Limited Warranty: 12 Months

What Is It?

iFi Uno Review

iFi’s Uno is an Amp/DAC combo for your headphones that also functions as a preamp to separate active speakers like the PreSonus Eris e3.5.

Build

To begin, one minor nitpick I have is that it’s very light and doesn’t really stay in one place on my desk.

The built-in feet on the bottom are nice, but I’m still finding the unit moving around a bit too much for my liking.

In other words,

it borders on cheap feeling, but the volume potentiometer feels pretty good to turn and all the connections/buttons seem solid enough.

You may simply find that the headphone jack tugs on the unit and pulls it around aimlessly wherever it happens to be situated.

Not a huge fan of this especially considering how hefty iFi products usually are.

That said, you may not care all that much but do keep in mind this unit feels kind of like a plastic toy you’d find in your MACKdonald’s Happy ass meal.

Front Panel

On the front, there’s an EQ button that cycles between Music, Movie, and Game modes. More on that later.

Next to that button is your power match (gain) for harder-to-drive headphones.

On the right side is the standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

Back Panel

The back contains the RCA outputs and USB-C jack for use with your PC. 

iFi Uno Review

Sound

  • Headphones Used: HIFIMAN Arya, more to come!
  • Source: Spotify, 192kHz+ via Audirvana/Blue Coast Music.

Let’s take a look at iFi’s explanation before we dive into my impressions.

uno – the key to great sound

  • Sophisticated ES9219 Sabre DAC chip with Quad DAC+ technology and premium amplification elevates audio to a thrilling new level.
  • Music, Movie, and Game modes – adjust the sound to suit your choice of entertainment.
  • Supports hi-res audio up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256, and MQA.
  • 32-bit HyperStream III DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator.
  • High-quality volume control and switchable gain to match your headphones.
  • 3.5mm headphone output, plus gold-plated RCA to connect to an amp or powered speakers.
  • USB-C input: connect PCs, Macs, tablets, smartphones, game consoles, TVs, and more.

If you’re familiar with iFi products, you’ll know they nearly always use the Burr-Brown chip and have been implementing it for as long as I’ve been demoing their DACs.

The Uno takes a new approach by using the popular ESS variety, but their “thrilling new level” claim is a bit of market speak since they’re kind of late on the whole Sabre chip craze.

For instance, FiiO’s BTR5 utilized the 9219 chip so I wouldn’t start doing backflips just because iFi has now finally caught up to the new millennium.

It’s not necessarily a knock on them, but let’s call a spade a spade: the whole Burr Brown thing was getting old.

There’s nothing special about that chip, but in reality, is there really anything special about the ESS variety?

Well, yes and no. I talked at length about why the Sabre chip is my personal favorite, but you may not really care.

To me, it does tend to sound better than most other chips, but that could be a placebo.

I feel as though it tends to come across as crisper, more lively, with a greater sense of spacing, decay, realism, and air and openness, but again, it’s kind of subtle and could come down to other factors – namely the source file in question and how well it was recorded, mixed, and mastered. 

So the Uno gives off that same sort of vibe and I really have no complaints. It’s super clean and reliable, with a very low noise floor and a neutral profile. 

Power

is sufficiently excellent here, as I’m almost never going to utilize the gain switch but it’s nice to have all that extra headroom just in case.

Features

  • Game Mode. Seems to add some bass and “meat” for lack of a better word. Could just be a matter of a pure volume increase or a bass boost if I’m being honest. I’m not sure this is going to be ideal for FPS, but it could work for single-player games with lots of cool explosions.
  • Movie Mode. Seems to constrict the overall sound and comes across as slightly boxed in. This may come in handy for those intimate types of scenes, but I probably won’t utilize this mode that often.
  • Music Mode. You may prefer this mode out of the 3 as it sounds the most “true” to the source and is in fact the default mode AFAIK.

All in all, I appreciate the sentiment but not sure the modes are all that useful as I may just stick to the music mode 99% of the time.

iFi Uno Review

iFi Uno ReviewAs A Preamp

I do like the Preamp feature quite a bit, as I can connect these to powered speakers rather easily and listen that way if I wish.

You too will find this a great benefit if you like to chill out and watch some sports highlights over lunch or some random fishing videos like me.

In this way, it functions much like my K3.

Speaking of the K3,

I thought it might be useful and/or interesting to compare these units as they seem to target a specific demographic and have a few of the same features at a somewhat similar price point.

FiiO K3 vs. iFi Uno

From a price standpoint, the K3 is around $30 more and comes with a balanced 2.5mm jack, the standard 3.5mm, as well as a bass boost and gain switch.

The back contains a 3.5mm output, a coaxial out as well as an optical out in addition to the standard USB-C jack that the Uno also utilizes.

So both can be used as preamps into separate active speakers, both support up to DSD256 and to my ears, both sound very similar. 

The real difference between these aside from price is that the Uno only has RCA outputs and no balanced jack, but does have the multi-function mode (Music, Movie, Game) and is also more powerful.

The K3 unbalanced is significantly underpowered so I think overall, the Uno is a better value at around $79.

The Uno also advertises less than 1 Output Impedance vs. 1.04 for the K3.

Not a huge difference but should be noted.

I was disappointed to learn that the Uno is not plug-and-play with my PS4 and I was fairly shocked iFi didn’t include this feature – especially considering the whole “game mode” thing.

Whatever.

I suppose at its price point this makes sense, but it would have been a nice addition regardless.

Final Verdict

iFi Uno Review

Now that we know the Uno is the better value, is it still worth purchasing?

I would say no, and I’ll explain why.

My recommendations for people starting out are the ATOM, K5/K7, or G6.

I’d much rather someone get a K5/K7 and have a bunch more versatility than get an Uno and upgrade later anyways.

With the K5 Pro,

you can pretty much connect to whatever you want and you’ll likely keep it around for the long haul as I have.

The G6 is something I recommend for FPS gamers specifically (separate mic/headphone jacks), as it has all of your bases covered there as well.

There’s nothing you can do with an Uno that you can’t do with the others, so I’m inclined to just bypass it this time around.

Interested in my top recommendation?

Learn More:

NEXT: BEST BUDGET DESKTOP DAC?!

 

Well, that’s about it for today folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed this iFi Uno review and gained some valuable insight.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

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Thoughts on the Uno? I’d love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Be sure to check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

Photo Gallery

iFi Uno

4.05

Sound

5.0/5

Features & Connectivity

3.8/5

Build

3.5/5

Value

4.0/5

Pros

  • It's cheap and gets the job done
  • Can be used as a preamp
  • ESS chip

Cons

  • Feels like a toy
  • Pretty bare bones

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2 comments

Federico January 19, 2023 - 11:09 pm

Hi Stu, nice review as always! I believe that a good contender against the uno would be fiio’s e10k, right? They have so many similarities and are $5 bucks apart. I’m from Argentina and the difference between the two here is around $20 so IMO is not worth it but in the US it could be. It would be great if you make a comparison between those two for the budget audiophiles. Thanks a lot for your insight into this product 🙂

Reply
Stuart Charles Black January 29, 2023 - 2:06 am

Federico,

Thank you for the comment! Nice call. I will certainly add that one in soon. -Stu

Reply

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