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.
In The Box
1x USB-A to USB-C Cable
1x Quick Start Card
1x Instruction Card
- Digital Input: USB-C
- Formats: DXD256/11.3MHz, DXD 384kHz, PCM 384kHz, MQA Renderer
- DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by ESS
- Output: 2V Max
- Output Impedance: <100Ω
- SNR: ≥119dBA
- DNR: ≥115dB @ 0dBFS
- THD + N: ≥0.03% @ 0dBFS
- 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’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.
- Related: What is a USB DAC?
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.
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.
The back contains the RCA outputs and USB-C jack for use with your PC.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
With Your Console
Thanks to Carlos in the comment section who mentioned the Firmware update that iFi came out with in March!
I just got around to downloading it, and can confirm it’s now Plug-and-Play with my PS4!
Here are the steps to get it fired up:
- Follow this link to download.
- From the dropdown menu, Select “Uno.”
- Type in your 10-digit serial number found on the back of the box.
- Select “Firmware.” Click the orange button to download.
- Open The PDF and install the iFi_Too_v1.1 as instructed.
- Ensure the Uno is plugged in. It will show the current Firmware version.
- Click on File and find your download firmware.
- Find the new downloaded .HEX file for your device, select it, and click Open.
- Press the Start button to start the install.
- Press OK. Don’t disconnect the device, just wait.
- It should now say “Firmware update success!”
Now you can use it with a PS4/PS5.
Note: It should just automatically switch to the Uno once you plug it in and turn it on.
I like the Uno for gaming but don’t feel as though it’s going to make any difference at all in the actual sound. I look at this DAC as just another that can theoretically work.
In the case of audio fidelity, I look at the headphones making the strongest difference. I used the K702 and find it to be one of the best from the standpoint of directional cues, resolution, etc.
The Uno is simply the intermediary.
As 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.
- Related: Presonus Eris e3.5 Review
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.
I suppose at its price point this makes sense, but it would have been a nice addition regardless.
FiiO E10K vs. Uno
This comparison is a bit more interesting because the E10K is actually closer in price – around $75 give or take.
The E10K has pretty much all the same features as the K3 but doesn’t support DSD or a balanced connection.
It does however have more power than the K3 out of the single-ended jack to the tune of around 220mW.
So there’s that.
Soundwise, the E10K is slightly grainier but you likely either won’t care or won’t have them both to go back and forth with.
Put another way,
this is an incredibly subtle sound difference and may have just been my imagination.
All in all,
I don’t look at the Uno as a better value than the E10K as it doesn’t actually add any extra features.
Again, the 3-mode feature is nice in theory, but I don’t really find it all that valuable since there aren’t enough discernable sound differences to make it worthwhile.
In other words,
it seems more like a marketing gimmick than anything else.
Yes, the Uno supports DSD while the E10K doesn’t, but let’s be honest, the majority of people won’t be listening to DSD files as they’re uber-expensive and not really worth dropping a bunch of money on.
Now that we know the Uno is a slightly better value than the K3, is it still worth purchasing?
I would say no, and I’ll explain why.
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.
Update: Based on the firmware update that makes the Uno compatible with PS4/PS5, I will have to reconsider whether or not I will recommend it.
After gaming with the Uno for a bit, I still don’t think it’s worth a purchase over something like a K5 Pro or K7; both of which are more versatile units and work with all gaming consoles.
It’s not that the Uno is bad. It’s just not necessary in my opinion. You could even just get the iFi Zen V2 which is basically the same thing and works as a plug-and-play unit as well.
Still, my recommendation is the K5 Pro.
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!!
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Thoughts on the Uno? I’d love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,