This year, iFi has been trying to make their gear more affordable. The Zen Air DAC was a way to make a budget friendly DAC/Amp for those looking for a simple entry-level device to get them started in the high-end audio game. To end off the year, iFi has decided to go even more affordable with the new Uno DAC/Amp. The Uno is a $79 miniature desktop amp that comes with a few different features to consider. Is this just a cheap device for beginners, or is it an actual contender that you can get for a fantastic price?
What You Get
- iFi Uno DAC
- USB-A to USB-C Cable
- Owner’s Guide
The Uno has a lot in common with the Zen Air DAC. Similar parts are used, including a plastic chassis for its main body makeup. It is almost like the Zen Air DAC was shrunk down and renamed to the Uno. Ifi has made smaller devices, but never for desktop use. With the Uno being this small and light, it will definitely move around a lot more that your usual desktop unit. However, this doesn’t become much of a problem with its extra sticky foot holders. It should cling to your desk well, and hopefully the stick doesn’t ware too quickly. As for its ins and outs, you only get a single 3.5mm headphone jack, but on the back you get both USB Type C and RCA.
This is one of the rare times you won’t see an iFi device implement their usual Burr-Brown chipset for their DAC. For the Uno, iFi has decided to go with an ESS chipset, which you’ll see on more Fiio products. Going for an ESS Sabre Hyperstream chip will surely change up the sound signature you might be used to hearing from iFi, but if this is your first DAC/Amp, you probably will not notice. On the Uno, you’ll be able to listen to stream audio at high-resolutions. It supports many different file formats, like PCM 32Bit/384kHz, DSD up to 1024, and MQA with Tidal. It is not specified if the Uno is a decoder or renderer for MQA.
Using the three filters on the Uno will give you different results to judge the overall sound signature on. A majority of my listening time was spent in music mode, but game and movie mode were tested for this review as well. Then there is the Uno without filters, which may provide a more uncompromised listening experience for some. There is actually the least amount of difference between when comparing standard mode to music mode, at least when you’re already listening in a high sample rate and bit depth. You’re supposed to get more revealing detail in music mode, and I think what it actually does it bump up the warmth in the mids. I sensed some marginal gain added to certain instruments centered on the low-mids. I’m not sure if this heightened the timbre, or added any significant fidelity, but the effect of the filter could definitely be felt consistently with music mode on. The Uno does show a noticeable improvement in soundstage though. Not only is the width extended, but the sizes of the tracks are enlarged. You can really feel the mix grow when switching the EQ on and off. If you’re looking for even more height to the sound signature, you’re going to want to put the Uno in game mode. Musically, this setting extends the treble, but its purpose is to bring background effect forward so you can easily hear everything you need to no matter what set of headphones you’re listening to. In movie mode, it is mainly going to be the midrange that is expanded. More gain is added to the region for better understanding of dialogue, but musically, this setting isn’t as enjoyable as the others.
For what it is, the Uno is a great little amp that will do everything you would need it to do. It enhances your typical desktop set up considerably for what is meant to be an entry-level DAC/Amp. Some of the modes may not give you exactly what you need, but their simple filter functions help bring variety to its sound profile. With its $79 asking price, the Uno feels like a no-brainer for those looking for their first desktop amplifier.
The iFi Uno is available here.