ifi Audio UNO Review

iFi Audio UNO DAC review featured

In this article, I’m reviewing the iFi UNO DAC. The pint-sized UNO features an ES9219MQ DAC chip and 3 EQ modes. It’s priced at $79.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by iFi Audio for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.

ifi Audio UNO Review
Verdict
Compact and powerful, the iFi UNO DAC delivers exceptional audio quality. Customizable EQ, solid build, and versatile connectivity.
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Pros
Detailed, resolving sound signature
Wide soundstage
Versatile with multiple EQ modes
Tiny footprint
Preamp functionality
Cons
Mostly plastic body
Moderate power output
4.5
Our Score

iFi Audio UNO

iFi UNO design

Design

Taking inspiration from its older siblings like the Zen DAC, the iFi Audio UNO sports a familiar elliptical shape. However, UNO is a lot smaller; this time, it’s built with a mineral-filled polymer body but has an aluminium front panel.

Not only is this DAC/headphone amplifier small, but it weighs in at a mere 92 g. It literally fits in the palm of your hand and although you could technically use it on the go, it makes more sense to me as a little desktop unit.

iFi UNO rear panel

Features

One of UNO’s unique features is its EQ button on the front panel. This button cycles through 4 different sound profiles: neutral, gaming, video and music. Gaming mode emphasizes low-level sound effects (like footsteps) by boosting the upper midrange. Movie mode is optimized for dialogue clarity with a subtle cut in the bass and boosted midrange. Lastly, the music mode adds a hint of extra bass and lower treble.

Interestingly, UNO’s sound modes are all analogue by design instead of digital so there’s no loss of sound quality. Next to the EQ button is iFi’s Power Match. We’ve seen this before on the Zen DAC and it’s basically a gain switch with DRE (Dynamic Range Enhancement).

The main attraction of UNO’s front panel is the analogue volume pot which also acts as the power switch. Strangely, there’s a slight delay when adjusting the volume. I’m not sure why it’s there or if it’s intentional but I find it rather distracting.

The 3.5mm single-ended headphone jack incorporates iFi’s S-Balanced configuration to reduce noise and crosstalk. On the rear panel, there’s a variable-level RCA output, enabling UNO to be used as a preamp.

Finally, the USB-C port at the back of the unit delivers both data and power simultaneously. The UNO is plug-and-play on Windows and macOS and doesn’t require any driver installation.

iFi UNO top view

Internals & Power Output

iFi chose to forego its usual Burr-Brown DAC chip this time in favour of an ES9219MQ. The Sabre chip supports up to PCM 32bit/384kHz, fully native DSD256 and MQA. UNO uses a combination of TDK and muRata capacitors to maintain lower distortion and ensure the best audio quality.

In terms of power output, UNO delivers ≥211mW @ 32Ω from the headphone jack and 2V from the line out. The headphone jack’s output impedance is <1Ω, making it compatible with sensitive IEMs.

Now, I know you’re wondering if the UNO has enough power for headphones. Well, I can tell you – it can drive my Sennheiser HD650 (high gain) easily with plenty of headroom to spare. Don’t try it with anything super demanding but for most headphones, UNO has the juice.

iFi Audio UNO rear panel angled

Sound

Gear used for testing includes the Meze 99 Classics, Sennheiser HD650, Earsonics ONYX and Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite.

I primarily used UNO’s headphone jack but also tested it with the Topping L70 headphone amplifier via the RCA output. The iFi can’t match the steadiness or power of the L70 but this was a good gauge to test UNO as a pure DAC and it didn’t disappoint.

So how does the little UNO perform in regard to audio quality? It sounds neutral with a slightly attenuated treble. This is especially nice with brighter headphones as it takes some of the edginess off. Without EQ, it sounds a little flat but switching it to Music mode increases the dynamics and liveliness.

UNO is able to create a wide soundstage with sounds reaching out far to the left and right. Listening to Iamthemornings’ “Post Scriptum” I was surprised by the width and sense of scale on offer.

Playing Almunia’s “Space and Time”, the UNO delivered a full-bodied, thumping bass with the Sennheiser HD650. The soundstage is deep, the instrument separation great but most importantly – the tone of the music is just right.

iFi UNO compared with iFi ZEN DAC

Verdict

The iFi Audio UNO DAC is a compact and lightweight device that combines impressive features with excellent audio performance. With its analogue EQ modes, Power Match, MQA support and pre-out function, this little product offers a whole lot of versatility. Considering it costs less than a lot of dongle DACs on the market, you have to be impressed by the value you’re getting here. Recommended.

Recommended award
Specifications
Digital InputUSB-C
FormatsDSD 256 /11.3MHz
DXD 384kHz
PCM 384kHz
MQA
DACES9219MQ/Q
Line Section
Output2V max.
Output Impedance<100Ω
SNR≥119dBA
DNR≥115dB @ 0dBFS
THD+N≤0.03% @ 0dBFS
Headphone Section
Output≥2.6V / 3.5V max. at 32Ω/300Ω
Output Power≥211mW @ 32Ω; 39mW @ 300Ω
Output Impedance<1Ω
SNR≥113dBA
DNR≥110dB @ 0dBFS
THD+N≤0.02% (1.27V @ 16Ω)
Channel separation≥80dB (1kHz/600Ω)
Frequency Response10-80kHz(-0.5dB)
Power supply requirementUSB-C 5V/0.5A
Power consumptionNo Signal ~0.8W
Max Signal ~1.5W
Dimensions88 x 81 x 26 mm (3.5″ x 2.8″ x 1.0″)
Net Weight92 g (0.2 Ibs)

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TheAK-Kid
TheAK-Kid
6 months ago

My first amp and I love it! Only downside is I can hear some hiss at lower volumes when using the EQ and Power Match. It’s tiny and mighty!

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