Packing in sophisticated sonic technology that outstrips other USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapters, the latest addition to iFi’s GO series delivers superior sound at a super-affordable price.
iFi Audio expands its GO series of ultraportable DAC/headphone amps with the GO link – a headphone dongle that delivers supercharged sound when connected to smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs via a USB port.
Its purpose is twofold. First, to enable corded headphones and earphones to connect to digital devices that don’t have a 3.5mm headphone output. Second, even if a device does have a headphone socket, the GO link delivers a big sonic upgrade. This is because its sophisticated DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter) and headphone amp circuitry is superior to the audio tech contained within mobile devices and computers.
Even for a company known for producing class-leading audio devices at affordable prices, the GO link’s price is remarkable – claims its creator, with an RRP of just £59, it’s the most affordable DAC/headphone amp iFi has ever made. And yet, even at this price, iFi says it has delivered a device of high sophistication.
At one end of the GO link is a USB-C connector, at the other is the DAC and headphone amp circuitry, both housed in robust yet lightweight magnesium alloy enclosures. In between is a 6cm length of flexible cable – this aids practicality, allowing the DAC/amp section to be angled towards the listener and reducing stress on the USB port to which the GO link is connected.
iFi hasn’t skimped on the quality of the cable, which uses silver-plated copper conductors with individual polymer insulation in a ‘twisted pair’ configuration. This rotational twist helps to optimise inductance and capacitance and also aids noise rejection, ensuring the GO link’s sound isn’t affected by electromagnetic interference picked up from nearby electrical sources.
DAC’s the ticket
The GO link draws on the experience iFi has gained in developing a range of multi-award-winning DACs at a wide spread of prices. At its heart lies a power-efficient, high-performance DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Sabre HiFi series – the ES9219MQ/Q – benefiting from 32-bit HyperStream III architecture. This combines with Quad DAC+ and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator technologies, plus iFi’s dedicated clock circuitry utilising a specialised crystal oscillator, to deliver low distortion, excellent clarity and impressive dynamic range.
iFi has taken full advantage of the DAC chip’s advanced specification, unlocking high-end features such as DRE (Dynamic Range Enhancement), plus technologies to minimise THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) and crosstalk. Users can also select between different digital filters via downloadable firmware should they wish to do so, giving a degree of personal sonic tailoring according to taste.
Unlike other headphone dongles, the GO link doesn’t rely on the software-based volume controls in connected digital devices, which can adversely affect audio resolution. Instead, adjusting the volume on the connected device controls the volume level in the GO link’s DAC, not in the phone, tablet or computer – this hardware-based analogue volume control is another feature that helps to deliver the GO link’s superior sonic performance.
PCM audio data is supported to 32-bit/384kHz, alongside DSD to 11.2MHz (DSD256) and MQA (the streaming technology used by Tidal’s ‘HiFi Plus’ tier). An LED changes colour to indicate the incoming audio format – PCM, DSD or MQA – and the PCM/DSD sample rate.
The GO link’s headphone amp feeds a gold-plated 3.5mm socket incorporating iFi’s noise-reducing S-Balanced configuration, easily outclassing the headphone outputs built into phones, tablets and computers, argues its creator. This delivers a power output of 70mW/1.5V into 32 ohms, rising to 2V with higher impedance headphones – plenty to drive the kind of headphones and earphones with which the GO link is likely to be partnered whilst minimising drain on the connected device’s battery. As well as powering headphones, the 3.5mm analogue output can be used to connect a preamp or integrated amp, or powered speakers.
Adapters are included to convert the GO link’s USB-C connector to fit USB-A and Apple Lightning ports – whether owners are using the GO link with an Android or iOS device, a Windows PC or an Apple Mac, everything you need is in the box.