The iFi Audio GO Link has a simple and utilitarian design. It has a small rectangular aluminium chassis with a matte finish. An LED on the front glows different colours depending on the current sample rate of the music being played.
The GO Link’s cable is fixed and I have no issue with that. However, the large USB connector is likely to cause problems for some people as it makes it difficult to fit with some phone cases.
Internally, the GO Link features an ES9219MQ/Q DAC chip and supports up to DSD256, PCM384 and DXD384. It has a modest output power of 70mW which is enough for IEMs and regular headphones but not high-impedance or demanding planar headphones.
I tested the GO Link on my Windows 11 desktop using foobar2000 to play some hi-res FLAC files. I also went through some Spotify Premium playlists on my iPhone 11.
One thing I’ve noticed about iFi DACs is that they all seem to have great soundstage depth, regardless of which DAC chip flavour they have inside. In addition, they tend to have a smooth presentation but still maintain high levels of resolution and instrument separation.
In the case of the iFi GO Link, the sound signature is neutral with some added warmth. It has some added mid-bass fullness which gives it engagement and body. The mids sound velvety but spacious. Vocals are presented with a richness that is silky smooth without sounding subdued.
Treble notes are crisp but never harsh but are slightly softened. This makes the GO Link easy on the ears, even if it’s not the epitome of precision and lucidity. And paired with some good IEMs or headphones, the GO Link is capable of creating a vivid 3D soundstage.
FiiO Jaedaudio KA1 ($49)
The FiiO KA1 (review here) comes with an ES9281AC PRO DAC chip and has a 3.5mm headphone jack. It has the same sample rate support and MQA unfolding. The power output is 45mW compared to the GO Link’s 70mW, making the ifi dongle compatible with a wider range of headphones.
KA1 sounds more neutral and leaner than the GO Link. It focuses more on detail and has a brighter edge to it whereas GO Link leans more towards resolution and smoother highs. KA1 is better suited to warmer IEMs while the GO Link has a wider compatibility with all types.
Truthear SHIO ($60)
The Truthear SHIO (review here) features dual CS43198 DAC chips, and onboard volume controls and has both a 3.5mm and 4.4mm output. It also has a calm, warm sound signature similar to the GO Link making it a good comparison.
I find the soundstage is a little narrower on the SHIO’s single-ended output but from the balanced output, it’s more in line with the GO Link. However, GO Link still has an edge in stage depth.
Apart from that, these two DACs perform pretty closely. They both have great bass depth and a smooth but resolving sound combined with silky mids. The SHIO offers more features for the same price in the way of onboard volume controls and its balanced output, making it a tempting proposition. On the other hand, if portability is something you’re looking for then the GO Link’s tiny size will be appealing to you.
In conclusion, the iFi Audio GO Link dongle DAC offers a simple design with a small aluminium chassis and informative LED indicator. While the large USB connector may cause compatibility issues with certain phone cases, the fixed cable is not a concern.
During testing, the GO Link demonstrated iFi’s characteristic soundstage depth and smooth presentation with high resolution and instrument separation. The sound signature is neutral with added warmth, providing engaging mid-bass fullness and silky smooth vocals. The treble notes are crisp yet softened for a pleasant listening experience, while the device creates a vivid 3D soundstage when paired with quality IEMs or headphones.
Overall, the iFi GO Link dongle DAC delivers impressive sound quality and value for money. Its compact size and high-fidelity sound make it a convenient upgrade for audio enthusiasts on the go.