Home Amps Revisiting the iFi xCAN: A Comprehensive Review of Past and Present

Revisiting the iFi xCAN: A Comprehensive Review of Past and Present

by Stuart Charles Black
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions, so…

I wrote about the xCAN some years ago, but it was a shootout and not an official review.

With so many Bluetooth Amplifiers hitting the market since the xCAN came out, I thought it would be interesting to revisit this old buddy and let you know if it’s worth a purchase today.

We’ll cover everything from build, features, sound, and more. By the end of this article, you’ll be better equipped to make a buying decision.

So without further ado, let’s dive in!

(All specs at the bottom!)

iFi xCAN

Price: Check Amazon

In The Box

xCAN Amp

2.5mm balanced interconnect cable

Standard 3.5mm interconnect cable

USB Type C Charging Cable

4 Velcro Strips: One for your phone and the other three attach to the ridges on the bottom

Instruction Cards

What Is It?

As we alluded to in the open, the xCAN is a Wireless Bluetooth Amplifier containing an ESS Sabre chip, OV4627 Amp chip, and it supports 16-bit, 44.1/48kHz audio files as well as AAC, aptX, aptX LL, and SBC codecs for your mobile device.

It does not contain a DAC, so keep that in mind. In this case, your phone’s internal DAC is used, while the xCAN serves as the amplifier and is paired wirelessly with said phone.  

Build & Features

iFi xCAN Review

The xCAN is built incredibly well; out of all the amps and DACS I’ve ever tried, it still stands out in my mind due to its heft and rugged nature.

It has some weight to it which feels great in your hand, and it’s small enough to where I’d be more than willing to use it on the go. For reference, it weighs around 127g.

Some of the newer pocket rockets are pretty long and a bit cumbersome, but the xCAN is nice and compact. It comes with built-in rubber feet at the bottom and, unlike a lot of other Amps & DACS, doesn’t move at all when situated on your desk.

Front Panel

iFi xCAN ReviewThe front contains a balanced 2.5mm headphone output, a standard 3.5mm jack which I’m using for this demo, the 3D+ and XBass II features, and the combo power/volume rotary button and dial.

The multi-function 3D+/XBass II button also functions as a Bluetooth pairing button (long press).

When pairing with your phone, the xCAN should show up as “iFi HQ (aptX) Audio.”

Back Panel

iFi xCAN Review

The back panel reveals a USB Type-C charging port, the XBass II section (more on that in a bit), as well as both the standard 3.5mm and balanced 2.5mm line outputs for use with separate active speakers.

The main difference between the xDSD and xCAN is that the xCAN is primarily an analog device while the xDSD is mostly digital.

The xDSD also has a measure/listen feature, a S/PDIF output, and an Optical Adapter for use with a console.


“Measure” is a filter for critical listening whereas listening is for just that. The only difference is pretty subtle:

The “Measure” setting provides a bit more detail retrieval and clarity while the “Listen” setting is a bit warmer and more enjoyable overall.


First things first: Charge the xCAN with the provided Type-C USB cable.

After it’s charged, hold the big button in the center and the unit will power on. You’ll notice that if you continue to hold the button after it lights up, it will cycle through Green (Wired) and Blue (Bluetooth).

Once you’re on the desired color, let go. Now you’re in that mode until you reboot the unit. When you power back on the xCAN, it will start in the last mode you were in.

The manual says you can press and hold the button on the right to pair as well. It’s the button that has a gear/Bluetooth icon above it. This is a multi-function button that also triggers some nice effects.

iFi xCAN Review

Press once for XBass, twice for 3D+, a third time for both, and a 4th time to cut them all off again. The same applies to the xDSD. A long press enters into pairing mode.

For wired, the xCAN comes with a standard 3.5mm interconnect cable for your PC/phone as well as a balanced 2.5mm cable.

iFi xCAN Review

Keep in mind that using the 3.5mm interconnect with your Laptop means that you’re actually using the internal Soundcard of the PC as the DAC.

The xCAN is only amplifying that signal. With my Lenovo X1 Extreme, amplifying this signal from the internal Soundcard is very good and very clean.

Your mileage may vary depending on what you have. I’ve found over the years that internal Soundcards in PCs/phones, etc. have gotten a lot better.

XBass II

While the original xDSD had XBass and 3D+ on the front, the xCAN has those + XBass II, which adds only Bass, only Presence, or both.

iFi xCAN Review

With Jazz recordings like John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” I found that a combination of 3D+ on the front and just “Presence” on the back make the album (and Jazz music in general) sound sublime.

If you don’t have the 3D+ on the front, it tends to pan instruments hard right and left, which sounds a little bit unnatural to me as it leaves the middle image kind of hollowed out. I love this feature because it kind of makes everything sound crisper and more intimate.

Battery Life

Because the xCAN is only an amp, battery life is improved over the xDSD using the same 3.8V/2200mAh battery. Instead of 8 hours, we’re now getting 18 as a pure analog amp, and 12 hours wirelessly.

  • White = >75%
  • Green = 74% – 25%
  • Red = 24% – 10%
  • Red (Flashing) < 10%

Note: On the xCAN, the LED indicator is on the back.

Rotary Knob/Volume.

  • Red = -9 to 0 dB (100 – 91%)
  • Yellow = -27 to -10 dB (90% – 73%)
  • Green = -45 to -28 dB (72% – 55%)
  • Cyan = -63 to -46 dB (54% – 37%)
  • Magenta = -81 to -64 dB (36% – 19%)
  • Blue = -101 to -82 dB (18% – 0%)
  • Off = Mute (Press once to mute – flashes red)
  • White = Line Output Mode (2V)


iFi xCAN Review

Paired with the MDR-V6

I would say there aren’t many differences in the sound of both of these amps. I think the xCAN is a lot more intuitive for the average user, but the raw sound is more or less identical to the xDSD from my own experience. 

With good headphones and a good source file, the xCAN soars to new heights, but I’ll always caution you to emphasize the former (HP/Source) rather than the latter (The Amp).

Overall, my original impressions of the xCAN were a mostly neutral outfit with a touch of warmth.


With the xDSD you’ve got the 3D+ and XBass, but not the XBass II section at the back.

Both the 3D+ and XBass on both provide some nice enhancements.

I’ve noticed that this 3D+ switch is not only useful for Jazz but pretty much all other genres as well. It just makes the music sound more intimate, present, lively, engaging, articulate, and clear. There’s a certain crispness about the track that is kind of lost without it, to be honest.

I noticed that, like Jazz, the panning is also a little off with other types of music. There’s a muddy character with certain headphones like the Bluedio T4, Sony MDR-V6, and HD600 that is sort of “corrected” with these wonderful features present on the xCAN.

xCAN/xDSD vs. Chord Mojo

AudioQuest DragonFly Red vs. Cobalt vs. Chord Mojo

I’ll never look at music the same way again.

My stance on the “sound” of DACS has shifted quite a bit since I first demoed all 3 of these units, but FWIW, the Mojo is still my second most valued DAC out of the 70+ I’ve demoed at this point.

Put simply, it’s slightly warmer than the xCAN/xDSD and may provide a bit better performance.

That said, nowadays I’m hesitant to claim it was solely responsible for how good the music sounded in 2018 (the moment was captured in the image above).

For many years I attributed that mind-blowing experience I had to the Mojo exclusively, but, as it turns out, the Dan Clark Aeon was likely responsible for how realistic everything sounded.

I vividly remember feeling like the artist was singing in front of me, and, after discussing the phenomena with some others, we agreed that the Aeon does a near impeccable job of convincing you that you’re actually in the same room with the artist. It only happened once, but I swear it felt like I could reach out and touch the person’s face.

This is a feeling I haven’t experienced since, and I’ll never forget it for as long as I live.

Final Verdict

As much as I loved the xCAN, I think the FiiO BTR5 is better (you can also check out the updated BTR15).

It’s smaller, has a DAC, can easily connect to your phone wired, is more convenient and portable, supports higher resolution files (if you care about that), and costs a lot less.

The xCAN is overpriced at $299, but the BTR5 provides perfect value for the money and won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Learn More:


Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this iFi xCAN 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!!

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.

Is The xCAN still worth a purchase today or is it overpriced? I would love to hear your thoughts and/or experience. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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Power Output

  • S-Balanced: 45mW @ 300 Ohms, 380mW @ 32 Ohms, and 600mW @ 16 Ohms.
  • Balanced: 90mW @ 600 Ohms, 800mW @ 64 Ohms, and 1,000mW @ 32 Ohms.
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: S-Balanced: <0.005% (@ 100 mW/1.26 V, 16 Ohms), Balanced: <0.006% (@ 360 mW/2.4 V, 16 Ohms)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: S-Balanced: >121 dBA (@ 3.8 V), Balanced: >120 dBA (@ 7.6 V)
  • Impedance: 16 – 600 Ohms
  • Maximum Input: S-Balanced: 3V RMS, Balanced: 6V RMS
  • Gain: -95 to +18 dB, adjustable in 114, 1-decibel steps (using volume control)
  • Frequency Response: <2 Hz to >200 kHz (-3 dB)

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