iFi Go pod wearable BT DAC/amp makes high-end corded IEMs wireless
The UK's iFi Audio has announced the Go pod, a pair of Bluetooth-enabled DAC/headphones amp modules designed to transform any in-ear monitors with detachable cables into high-performance wireless earphones.
The company has excellent form in enhancing the audio output from smartphones and computers in the shape of portable USB digital-to-analog converters (DAC)/headphone amps like the hip-dac, as well as bringing Bluetooth streaming to any hi-fi setup. The iFi Go pod caters to mobile listeners looking for sound that's "far in advance of any 'true wireless earbuds' or Bluetooth headphones."
Initially, the company is offering to match the Go pod with in-ear monitors from "some of the world's finest IEM manufacturers" but the DAC/amp solution is also being made available as a standalone product so buyers can choose to match with any IEMs that rock detachable cables.
Either way, there are two units in each package plus a charging case. The listener removes the cable from each IEM and attaches a 12-g (0.4-oz) IPX5-rated Go pod instead, which is then hooked around the corresponding ear. The Go Pods are reckoned good for up to seven hours of continuous Bluetooth playback per charge, with the case offering a total of 35 hours before its 1,500-mAh battery needs topping up over USB or Qi wireless.
So why plump for iFi's new gadgetry rather than a pair of TWS earphones? "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," explained the company. "From a high-performance audio point of view, this is not ideal; amalgamating critical stages such as Bluetooth decoding, digital-to-analog conversion and amplification saves space and reduces cost, but compromises sound quality. The iFi Go pod is distinctly different. Each of these critical stages is designed separately and optimized individually to ensure excellent sound quality."
Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity and processing is handled by Qualcomm's 32-bit, quad-core QCC5144 module, which is compatible with high-resolution codecs such as LDAC for 990-kbps bitrate for Android devices supporting Snapdragon Sound or 66 kbps for other LDAC-enabled devices. Qualcomm's 24-bit aptX HD and aptX Adaptive formats are also onboard, along with aptX Low Latency, regular aptX, AAC and SBC.
Though that chipset can handle digital-to-analog conversion, iFi has opted to leave such things in the capable hands of a 32-bit Cirrus Logic MasterHiFi chip in each pod. the company says that one reason the Go pod solution offers better sound quality compared to TWS buds is that the "hi-res DAC chip is dedicated to single-channel digital-to-analog signal conversion in the Go pod’s circuit design, combining with a jitter-eradicating precision clock to deliver ultra-low distortion and high dynamic range." Another is the hardware-based analog volume control. And five digital filter preset are also available to tweak the listening experience "to suit personal taste, musical style and format type."
The final ingredient in the enhanced listening recipe is an amp stage that boasts a power output of 120 mW into 32 ohms and an output voltage of 4 volts into 300-ohm loads, and which is able to automatically detect the IEM's impedance and adjust power to match.
The aluminum panel on the outer face of each pod is used for touch control, and a built-in microphone makes use of Qualcomm's cVc noise suppression technology for voice clarity during calls, video chats or when using a paired handset's digital assistant.
The Go pod + IEM flavors are limited to just 1,000 packages. The cheapest offering shapes up as the US$799 Go pod + Symphonium Meteor IEM. The Go pod + Meze Audio Advar and Go pod + Westone Mach 60 packages come in at $999 each. Next is the Go pod + Meze Audio Ria Penta for $1,199, then the Go pod + 64 Audio U4s for $1,299, and finally the Go pod + Craft Ears Aurum is priced at $1,399. Certainly a pricey prospect whicever way you look at it, but iFi says that the combined packages do represent a saving on individual product purchases.
The standalone Go pod will go on sale from early June for a recommended retail price of $399, which will include ear loops for MMCX and 2-pin IEM connections. Ear loops compatible with Pentaconn, T2 and A2DC connections will cost an extra $29 each.
Product page: iFi Go pod