Dark or Light
logo
Logo

iFi Go Bar Portable DAC/Amp Review

Big Things Come In Small Packages?

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

iFi Audio is one of the most respected names in the personal audio business and for good reason: it’s delivered some of the best, most popular DACs and amps you can buy, whether you’re listening at your PC or just want to experience the best audio quality possible on the go. Today, we’re looking at the iFi Audio Go Bar, a device that is the very definition of small but mighty. Coming in at $329, it doesn’t come cheap, but is well worth considering if you’re looking for a powerful soundcard that will work with virtually any device or headphone you own and is small enough to slip into a pocket. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: $329 (Amazon
  • Input: USB C
  • Formats
    • PCM: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/352.8/384kHz
    • DSD: 2.8/3.1/5.6/6.1/11.3/12.3MHz
    • DXD: 352.8/384kHz
    • MQA: Full Decoder
  • DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Cirrus Logic
  • Headphone Output: BAL 4.4mm/UnBAL 3.5mm
  • Power Output
  • Output Impedance: <1Ω (BAL/UnBAL)*
  • SNR: 132dBA / 108dBA (BAL/UnBAL)
  • DNR: 109dB(A) / 108dB(A) (BAL/UnBAL
  • THD + N
    • Balanced: <0.002% (6.5mW/2.0V @ 600Ω)
    • Unbalanced: <0.09% (100mW/1.27V @ 16Ω)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 45kHz (-3dB)
  • Power Consumption: <4W max.
  • Dimensions: 65 x 22 x 13.2 mm (2.6" x 0.9" x 0.5”)
  • Weight: 28.5g (1.0 oz)
  • Warranty: 12 months

iFi Audio Go Bar - What Is It?

The iFi Audio Go Bar is a dongle DAC on steroids. It’s a tiny device, measuring only 2.6 x 0.9 inches, but features excellent build quality, high-end components, outstanding sound quality and performance, and a shocking amount of power for its size. It’s able to decode all of your high-res codecs, including lossless formats like FLAC and ALAC, and supports DSD, DXD, and MQA with full decoding. Whether you’re listening to Spotify, Tidal, or just taking in the soundtrack of your favorite game as you grind through levels, the iFi Go Bar will ensure that you’re listening to the best possible version of that content. 

At $329, the Go Bar is very expensive. It’s a flagship product, without question, and demands a premium for the privilege of calling it your own. It comes alongside other premium DAC/amps in this space, like the Questyle M15, which I also reviewed and loved, but exists at the top of that price spectrum. The M15, for example, retails for $249, which was quite expensive on its own, but let’s break down what you’re getting for that.

First and foremost, power. The tiny device is able to output up to 475mW into 32 ohms and 7.2 VRMS into 600 ohms from its balanced connection. If you’re using its 3.5mm port, you can count on 300mW and 3.8 VRMS. That’s nearly triple the power of the Questyle M15 and means that you can comfortably listen to all but the most demanding headphones with ease. 

The Go Bar is also quite versatile. That level of power output means that it will 1) completely outmatch even high-end gaming computers with premium DACs, and 2) can replace full desktop listening setups. Within reason — the total power still falls short of most DAC/amp stacks, but this will easily drive most headphones to high volumes and won’t take up extra space on your desk. When you’re done, just unplug it and use the same cable to connect to your smartphone. 

That ability to shift between devices and unify your listening experience allows it to replace multiple devices. Expensive, yes, but begins to make sense when you dig into its capabilities and tiny size. 

Inside of its alloy shell, iFi has outfitted the Go Bar with top-shelf components. It features a bit-oerfect DSD and DXD DAC from Cirrus Logic. This works in conjunction with a custom programmed 16-core XMOS chip. It features a femto-precision clock and a combination of TDK C0G ceramic and muRata ultra low noise capacitors. Noise reduction and sonic performance is enhanced with another set of capacitors from Panasonic and Tantalum. 

This hardware is paired with iFi’s own audio-enhancing technologies. While it features 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm single-ended connections, the unbalanced connection uses iFi’s S-Balanced tech to reduce crosstalk in half compared to other single-ended connections. It also features IEMatch, which automatically adjusts the gain and impedance to match the IEM you’re currently listening to, eliminating white noise from very sensitive IEMs. There’s also iFi’s X-Bass and X-Space enhancements, adding bass and soundstage to your listening experience when turned on. 

There are also some hidden functions accessible by holding the settings or volume buttons. You can also send the Go Bar into Turbo mode and add +6dB to the volume by holding volume down for two seconds. You can synchronize the gain between the device and your phone by holding the settings button. Hold it longer and you can cycle a set of digital filters to slightly adjust the sound profile or automatically upsample your music to 32-bit/386kHz.

The outside of the unit is simple, refined, and robust. It is made of durable metal alloy and has LED indicators to show the current audio quality, MQA, and if X-Bass or X-Space are enabled. Around the side are dedicated switches for IEMatch and independent gain control to adjust volume separate from your phone or PC (though they can be synchronized as described above). 

The Go Bar also comes with appropriate cables for USB Type-C and Type-C to Lightning for iPhones (no special camera kit required) and a leather travel case. 

iFi Audio Go Bar - Listening Impressions

Versatility is the name of the game for the Go Bar and that makes it easy to use as a daily carry. The ability to connect any headphone or IEM I’d like has been freeing. I know I can slide it into my pocket, connect it to any PC, smartphone, or tablet and that it will work and deliver the same excellent sound quality across every device. It’s unifying, freeing, and fun.

The robust build quality also earns it major marks. The Questyle M15 sounded great and looked just as good, but its glass side panel was a constant worry in a pocket or bag. The Go Bar is ready for whatever life throws at it. It’s also easy to use without looking at. I was able to reach down and adjust volume through the fabric of my pocket easily and without thinking twice. 

The word that comes to mind with the Go Bar is black. There is no background noise to speak of, even on very sensitive IEMs that would otherwise exhibit it. Even a light hiss will mask details, and that doesn’t happen here. You can hear everything from the quietest detail or trail to the texture and timbre of individual notes. 

That works to its benefit when gaming, because you can accurately hear and pinpoint details before you can see them. You’ll be able to hear enemies coming from around the corner before putting eyes on your enemy, which can be a real competitive advantage. 

The device has a certain warmth to it, but it’s not overdone by any means. When I listen to earphones through the Go Bar, they retain all of their original character, attack, and sonic performance but with a bit more oomph. There is plenty of detail in the bass, so kick drums and explosions are tight, punchy and articulate. Vocals sound natural and textured. Highs aren’t sharp and have the same realistic presentation and decay as with iFi’s larger DACs, which is impressive.

iFi’s technologies are welcome and well done. X-Bass adds a noticeable and fun boost to the sub-bass. X-Space strikes me more as a slight treble boost but does enhance the sense of space somewhat. The Go Bar isn’t going to replace a 7.1 surround system, but plays nice with spatial audio like Dolby Atmos for Headphones, which is another boon to gaming. 

The biggest issue facing the Go Bar is really its high price. At $329, I would have loved to see Bluetooth functionality added to the mix and really blow the versatility out of the water — though that would certainly eat into the Go Blu’s territory.

Final Thoughts

At the current price, the iFi Go Bar exists firmly in the audiophile space and is more of a limited sell than I wish it was. This device is perfect for audio enthusiasts that have demanding headphones and IEMs they want to play to their fullest, no matter where they are. It’s also perfect if you want to unify your listening experience across devices. 

The other use case is the most interesting. The Go Bar is an exciting option if you’re looking to make the jump to high-resolution listening, but don’t want to limit yourself to sitting at your desk. If you can only afford a few hundred dollars, the Go Bar becomes the kind of all-in-one solution that can be very compelling. In that use case, it works wonderfully and is bound to impress.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, the Go Bar is a flagship product designed with top-shelf components and delivers a superlative listening experience. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some articles may contain affiliate links and purchases made through this will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or related to compensation in any way.

8.5Great
Pros
  • Small and easily pocketable
  • Outstanding power for the size
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Versatile enough for portable audio AND to drive listening at your PC
Cons
  • Very expensive
  • No Bluetooth capability


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight