British audio specialist iFi seems to be on a miniaturization mission, with a new "super-affordable" GO Link portable DAC measuring the size of a regular USB stick.
Coming hot on the heels of the palm-sized iFi Uno, this new dongle-style headphone amp connects to your Mac, PC or smartphone via USB-C with a 3.5mm headphone input at the other end.
As well as allowing you to improve your sonics and listen to hi-res audio, the device also doubles up as a 3.5mm adaptor, making it particularly handy for those with devices that aren’t blessed with a headphone output (we’re looking at you, tenth-generation iPad).
Perhaps even more useful is the GO Link’s decidedly diminutive price tag, with the unit available from today, December 5, costing a mere £59 / $59 / AU$87.
Inside the GO Link's lightweight magnesium alloy case there’s a DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Sabre HiFi series, Quad DAC+ and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator tech, along with iFi’s dedicated clock circuitry for reduced distortion and enhanced dynamic range.
There’s a flexible, polymer insulated 6cm cable connecting the Go Link's USB-C connector and the DAC for reduced stress on device ports, while the unit comes with a selection of adaptors including USB-A and Apple’s Lightning connector.
Analysis: iFi's tiny DAC is a perfect stocking filler for on-the-move audiophiles
A travel-friendly DAC is the perfect gateway product to hi-res audio – the way to go for upgrading your portable listening experience, but the options too often either stretch the limits of the word “portable” or come with some sort of concession on the audio offering.
Despite its entry-level price point and small size, there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of compromise with the Go Link on either front, though. Well done, iFi…
You see, the GO Link’s headphone amp feeds a gold-plated 3.5mm socket incorporating iFi’s noise-reducing S-Balanced configuration, which easily outclasses the headphone output built into even the best smartphone, tablet or computer. This boasts a power output of 70mW/1.5V into 32 ohms, rising to 2V with higher impedance headphones – plenty to drive the kind of audiophile headphones (the Meze Audio Liric, perhaps) and earphones (let me nudge you towards Campfire Audio's Trifecta) with which the GO Link could well be partnered, whilst minimising drain on your connected device’s battery. Win win, then!
And as well as powering your wired headphones, the 3.5mm analogue output can be used to connect a preamp or integrated amp, or powered speakers.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding and we’ll reserve full judgment until we get our hands on the GO Link and hear how it sounds, but if it lives up to its spec sheet, iFi appears to have released the DAC to beat for on-the-go audiophiles.
In the meantime, you can find out how to up your audio game with our current list of the best portable DACs.
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Kevin Lynch is a London-born, Dublin-based writer and journalist. The author of Steve Jobs: A Biographic Portrait, Kevin is a regular feature writer for a number of tech sites and the former Technology Editor for the Daily Mirror. He has also served as editor of GuinnessWorldRecords.com and has been a member of the judging panel for the BAFTA British Academy Video Game Awards. Alongside reviewing the latest AV gear, smartphones and computers, Kevin also specialises in music tech and can often be found putting the latest DAWs, MIDI controllers and guitar modellers through their paces. Born within the sound of Bow Bells, Kevin is also a lifelong West Ham fan for his troubles.