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iFi Audio iCAN Phantom - The new reference class

Said to be a new reference-class analogue headphone amplifier with solid state or tube preamplifier, iESL Energiser Technology, and new iFi Nexus Network Connected Control, the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom.

Story Highlights
  • It is the new reference class in headphone amplification that is ready with the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom, says iFi Audio.

It is a solution that is supposed to set new standards, which iFi Audio calls the new reference in its segment, the new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom. The company from England even goes so far as to claim that this is the Rolls Royce in the reference class, so high are the standards they set for themselves in the development of this new headphone amplifier.

There are already quite a few headphone amplifiers on the market, to put it positively, even in the upper price segment, in which the new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom is placed, so it definitely requires some outstanding features to stand out. The latest solution from iFi Audio should do this in any case.

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom Reference-class Analogue Headphone Amp

It is remarkable that the new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom is actually a purely analogue headphone amplifier, i.e. it does not rely on the usual combination of D/A converter and headphone amplifier.

One of the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom’s special features, however, is that they chose an extremely modern concept that even extends to app control.

Solid State or Tubes?

First of all, it should be noted that the new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom is a completely balanced solution, the manufacturer refers to it as a True Differential Balanced Circuitry, whereby an interesting feature concerns the Class A preamplifier. Here, the user can choose at any time whether to use solid state, i.e. a circuit based on transistor technology with J-FET, or tubes.

Here, General Electric GE5670s are used, for which the manufacturer states a service life of 10,000 operating hours. According to iFi Audio, the user can also opt for 6922 tubes, and the replacement is promised to be particularly easy.

For tubes, two modes are available: Tube and Tube+. The latter minimises the overall amplification and thus the negative feedback and offers a different compromise between the natural overtones of the tube and the transient response, as the manufacturer states.

iFi Audio describes the sound of solid state as immediate and exact, whereas tube provides more warmth, which is why they recommend this mode for acoustic music.

Suitable for all types of headphones

Another special feature of the new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom is that it can actually be used for all types of headphones, dynamic headphones as well as magnetostatic and electrostatic headphones.

The iFi Audio iCAN Phantom is therefore equipped with a special high-voltage concept in order to be able to operate the latter headphones.

In this context, we should also point out another special feature, namely the control of the so-called bias voltage, i.e. the bias voltage that an electrostatic headphone requires and which should be individually adapted to it.

The developers at iFi Audio rely on SD cards, which are included with the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom, and which are each designed for different voltages. SD cards for 500 V, 540 V, 580 V, 600 V, 620 V and 640 V are simply inserted, depending on the headphones.

The iFi Audio iCAN Phantom is said to be an extraordinarily powerful headphone amplifier, capable of delivering more than 15,000 mW via its balanced outputs and more than 5,760 mW via its unbalanced outputs at a 16 Ohm load. In terms of voltage, more than 27 V at 600 ohms are available, and up to 640 V for electrostatic headphones.

This is provided by a particularly sophisticated power supply, originally developed for the iFi Audio Pro iESL, which is based on a PPCT (Pinstripe Permalloy Core Transformer) and a capacitive battery. Specifically, it is a battery of film capacitors with a nominal voltage of 1,000 V DC, which is charged by the mains current when required. The manufacturer therefore also speaks of a “virtual battery” and promises a pure DC voltage, completely free of AC and switching noise.

Of course, a particularly high-quality volume control by means of a potentiometer from Alps is not missing, and iFi Audio’s well-known solutions in this area, such as iFi Audio iEMatch, iFi Audio XSpace and iFi Audio XBass, are of course also available. Three gain settings are available for optimal adjustment with dynamic and magnetostatic headphones, as well as in-ear headphones in particular.

iFi Nexus Network Connected Control

As already mentioned, the new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom is equipped with a special control system, which the manufacturer calls iFi Nexus Network Connected Control. It is the first product to have this feature, although iFi Audio plans to bring more solutions to market with it in the future.

It is a control via the network, which should also allow control of purely analogue solutions such as the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom by means of an app via Apple iOS and Google Android. In this specific case, this actually goes so far that all settings can be made via the app and the operating hours of the tubes can also be displayed. Ultimately, the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom is a purely analogue system in terms of signal processing, but “digital” in terms of control.

Countless connections

It’s remarkable how many connections the new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom has, because there’s really nothing missing. Inputs are provided in the form of three pairs of RCA sockets and a pair of XLRs, while the preamplifier out is also a pair of XLRs and a pair of RCAs.

For headphones, the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom offers a 3-pin XLR, a 4-pin XLR, a 4.4 mm Pentaconn, a 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack and two 6.3 mm stereo jacks (positive phase and inverted phase).

Exceptional design

The iFi Audio iCAN Phantom has a very unusual design, which gives the impression of two devices stacked on top of each other. The design of the upper part looks familiar, it’s the typical modern line of the English, with two rotary encoders and two selector buttons on the front. Centrally located is an OLED display, which is supposed to provide all information about relevant settings in a clearly readable form.

The base, on the other hand, looks like a massive amplifier with cooling fins on the sides. All connections can be found here, both on the front and the back.

Prices and availability

The new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom should be available in specialist shops within the next few days. The recommended retail price is € 3.749,-.

Getting to the point

iFi Audio is by no means modest when it comes to describing the new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom. It is a purely analogue headphone amplifier with state-of-the-art features that is considered the new reference in its class. In fact, there are several features of the new iFi Audio iCAN Phantom that make people sit up and take notice, such as the option to choose between transistor and tube, the ability to connect any headphones and, last but not least, the possibility of easy control via an app.

Price€ 3.749,-
ManufacturerIFI AUDIO
DistributionWOD Audio
More about this manufacturer at HiFi BLOG
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Michael Holzinger

Michael Holzinger, founder and editor-in-chief of HiFi BLOG and sempre-audio.at, has been working for years as a journalist in the fields of IT, photography, telecommunications and consumer electronics.

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