iFi GO pods might finally convince me that audiophile wireless earbuds are worth it

iFi Go Pod on a blue IEM earbud, placed in an ear
(Image credit: iFi)

iFi’s GO series of ultraportable headphone enhancers just got a new addition: GO pod, a pair of wearable Bluetooth DAC/headphone amps designed to make any pair of corded in-ear monitors (aka IEMs) wireless. 

Ah, but the war of wired versus wireless rages on. Bluetooth bandwidth is lossy, isn't it? Even higher-resolution codecs such as aptX are no match for the clarity, neutrality, and detail you'll get from a wired headphone connection. 

Just ask Apple Music, whose 2021 Hi-Res Lossless rollout can only be enjoyed at its fullest with one of the best portable DACs as well as a set of wired earphones (I'd go for the Audeze Euclid or Campfire Audio Trifecta if you're on the market there, although if Apple ever makes a set of wired AirPods, I'd be open to that). 

iFi has long championed better-quality portable audio for little outlay though – just look at the UK audio specialist's iFi hip-dac, Zen DAC, Uno and GO Link, for starters – and this is one particular innovation I'd . 

Using a pair of GO pods is simple, says iFi. First, detach the cable from your favorite IEMs and connect the earpieces to the left and right pods. Then, pair the pods with your source device (a smartphone, for example) and hook the ergonomically designed ear loops behind your ears to ensure a comfortable fit. The result? Unrivalled TWS (True Wireless Stereo) headphone sound, according to iFi.

So, hi-fi separates for your ears, then? Exactly. iFi claims that comparing even the best true wireless earbuds to its GO pod solution is like comparing a smart speaker to a hi-fi separates system with a pair of well-chosen speakers. Sure, a smart speaker is compact and convenient, but a separates system delivers sound quality in an entirely different league.

Why? That would be because true wireless earbuds – even the more expensive ones – rely on SoC (system on a chip) solutions to integrate the requisite tech into a tiny space. From an audio quality perspective, this is not ideal; amalgamating critical stages such as Bluetooth decoding, digital-to-analogue conversion, and amplification saves space and reduces cost, but compromises sound quality.

The GO pod is different. Each of these critical stages is, says iFi, designed separately and optimised individually. For Bluetooth, iFi's GO pod supports Bluetooth 5.2, with processing handled by Qualcomm’s top-tier 32-bit, quad-core architecture QCC5144 module. And Sony's proprietary LDAC hi-res wireless solution plus LHDC (HWA) are both supported to their maximum 32-bit/96kHz specifications, with LDAC’s highest 990kbps bitrate available to users of Android devices that support Snapdragon Sound (660kbps with other LDAC-enabled devices).

Qualcomm’s 24-bit aptX HD and aptX Adaptive formats are also covered, offering sample rates of up to 48kHz and 96kHz respectively, with the additional benefit of QHS (Qualcomm High Speed) providing an extra 300kbps of bandwidth. Other supported codecs include aptX Low Latency, regular aptX, AAC, and regular old vanilla SBC. 

And the GO pod even offers five DAC filter settings, user-selectable to suit personal taste, musical style, and format type – no true wireless earbuds offer quite such a perk. 

Opinion: I don't buy audiophile in-ear monitors to suffer Bluetooth quality audio, but iFi may have changed that

iFi Go Pods on red earbuds, on wooden background

iFi Go Pod: your favorite wired IEMs, but wireless!  (Image credit: iFi)

Whichever connection type your favourite IEM has, iFi's got you covered. Each pair comes with two ear loops catering for MMCX and 2pin IEM connections, but additional ear loops for Pentaconn, T2, and A2DC connections will be available at £29 each (so, around $36 or AU$54).

At just 12g, each pod is designed to be lightweight and comfortable, too. The ear loops are moldable to fit around your ears and the pods are water- and sweat-resistant (IPX5 rated), so there'll be no problem wearing them down the gym. 

A built-in mic uses Qualcomm’s cVc noise suppression tech for voice clarity, and the aluminium panel on the front of each pod works as a touch control. Simply tap to play or pause audio, skip forward or back, answer or reject a phone call, or engage the connected device’s voice assistant.

As you might expect, the GO pod comes with its own charging case and this one supports both Qi wireless charging and USB-C fast charging. A pair of GO pods will play for up to seven hours on a single charge, but the case provides multiple recharges to enable up to 35 hours of playing time.

And here's the kicker: rather than just launch the GO pod and leave users to choose the IEMs they think would work best, iFi has partnered with six of the world’s finest IEM manufacturers to make curated ‘GO Pod + IEM’ packages. The best bit is this: the first 1,000 GO pods produced will come packaged with a pair of IEMs from a carefully curated selection.

The six GO pod and IEM packages and their UK RRPs – which represent a saving on the individual prices of the GO pod and IEMs when purchased separately – are listed below:

GO pod and 64 Audio U4s £1299
GO pod and Craft Ears Aurum £1399
GO pod and Meze Audio Advar £999
GO pod and Meze Audio Ria Penta £1199
GO pod and Symphonium Meteor £799
GO pod and Westone MACH 60 £999

So, that pricing starts at around $995 or AU$1,479 for the Symphonium Meteor and iFi GO pods, which is the package shown in our main image. 

The GO pod launched officially on 14th April 2023 at AXPONA (Audio Expo North America) and the 1000 ‘GO pod + IEM’ packages became available to order from this date, direct from iFi or the selected IEM manufacturer.

iFi tells us that 60 days later – or whenever these packages have all sold out, whichever is sooner – the GO pod will be available from iFi’s usual outlets as a standalone product to combine with any pair of IEMs. At the time of writing, all packages are still available from iFi! As a standalone product, the GO pod will have an RRP of £399 (which is about $498 or AU$739). 

Usually, I might turn my nose up here. One doesn't drop a three- or four-figure sum on quality wired in-ear monitors only to restrict them to lossy Bluetooth audio. But given iFi's considerable talent in this area (and that spec-sheet) I'd love to see what iFi's GO Pods make of my beloved Audeze Euclid… 

Becky Scarrott
Audio Editor

Becky became Audio Editor at TechRadar in 2024, but joined the team in 2022 as Senior Staff Writer, focusing on all things hi-fi. Before this, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.