My point is that both XBass and 3D Holographic Sound systems are pragmatic solutions to real-world sonic problems. If you like what the circuits do, then by all means use and enjoy them; if not, just engage the “Direct” switches and carry on in purist mode – simple as that.
How does the iCAN sound? It sounds surprisingly muscular and dynamically alive – especially so for an amp in its price class. Many lower cost headphone amps have merits but also a few caveats, especially in terms of somewhat limited capabilities for driving today’s most demanding and amplifier-sensitive headphones. But it is in precisely this area that the iCAN excels; quite frankly, the aptly-named iCAN really can drive pretty much any headphone you’d care to throw at it, up to and including the notoriously power-hungry HiFiMAN HE-6s. I mention this point because the superb but demanding HE-6 is widely considered one of the most difficult-to-drive headphones on the planet. Imagine my surprise, then, when the little iCAN grabbed hold of the HE-6s (and every other headphone I tried) and simply made them sing in a rich, vigorous, and dynamically expressive way. With the iCAN in play, there will be no sonic whimpering, whining, or pouty bouts of edginess or stridency. Instead, there’s just rich, free-flowing power and plenty of it. Granted, if you push volume levels to the extreme with the HE-6 (not recommended in the hope of preventing hearing damage), you might hear signs of clipping from the iCAN, but at more sane volume levels it’s a stouthearted powerhouse of an amp.
To hear what I mean, try this acid test: plug a pair of HiFiMAN HE-6’s (or other tricky-to-drive ‘phones) into the iCAN and then put on a compelling electric blues track like Hadden Sayer’s “Back to the Blues” from Hard Dollar and note what happens. You’ll find that Sayer’s warm but also slightly gritty-sounding vocals are just as rich and evocative as could be, while his scorching hot electric guitar solos have real fire and expressiveness. At the same time, Ruthie Foster’s earthy yet achingly beautiful vocals form a perfect complement, in part because they are infused with the iCAN’s uncanny qualities of warmth, three-dimensionality and depth. But perhaps the most surprising part of all is that the electric bass and kick drum have serious extension, weight, definition, and slam. As you listen to the iCAN, then, you might feel – as I did – that its sound would be praiseworthy in an amp two to four times its price. It’s that good.
In terms of timbre and overall presentation, the iCAN has a contemporary amp’s emphasis on wide bandwidth and extension at the frequency extremes, but tempered with what I consider a characteristically British emphasis on such essential musical priorities as natural warmth, smoothness, midrange subtlety and finesse, and over-arching three-dimensionality.
While there might be a few comparably priced amps that could give you slightly more detail or more crisply delineated transient sounds, you will be hard pressed to name a like-priced competitor that can even come close to the iCAN in terms of real-world power, versatility, or overall musicality.
I consider the iCAN a new benchmark in its price class and would add that it makes a perfect entry point for high-enders who would like to experiment with top-tier headphones, yet without investing an arm and a leg in dedicated headphone electronics. Enthusiastically recommended.+
Accessories: Low-noise wall-wart-
type power supply, 1/4-inch phone jack to 3.5mm mini-jack adaptor, two interconnect cables (1 terminated with RCA plugs, 1 terminated with 3.5mm mini-plugs), four adhesive rubber feet
Inputs: Two stereo analog inputs (1 via RCA jacks, 1 via 3.5mm stereo mini jack) |
Output: One stereo headphone output (via 1⁄4-inch phone jack)
Frequency Response: 0.5Hz to 500kHz (-3dB)
Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.003% (400mV/150R)
Power Output: >400mW @ 32 Ohms
Dimensions (H x W x D): 28x68x158mm
Weight: 216 grams (0.48 lbs.)
Tel: +44(0)1900 601954