The ifi Nano Is the world’s smallest, portable digital to analogue converter that plays all high-resolution formats.
I was informed by the manufacturers that with this simple piece of equipment can convert the sound quality and power output of standard audio equipment to a much more premium, high-end system for a fraction of the cost of a really decent set of headphones.
In less technical terms, The Ifi Nano converts the digital sound from the output of your music playing device; be that an iPhone, laptop, Tablet, PC, back into the original analogue format and adds a lot more power to the output of whatever your listening to. You should in theory get a much better quality sound by using the Ifi Nano between your device and headphones.
As an avid music fan and regular attendee of festivals and gigs, I was excited to be invited to the launch of the Ifi Nano. I generally listen to music on a set of over-ear headphones that retail at around £300.00 and to be honest, these outperform much more expensive rivals.
I arrived at the launch fashionably late in the day and just as the crowds of journalists were leaving. And after a brief introduction, I was introduced to the Ifi team and the Ifi nano.
Presented with a set of over-ear headphones, I was asked to select a track on a standard android phone. Being a drum and bass fan I opted for’ Klax – Hotline’ a proper bassy track that would really test the limits of Ifi’s claims. The headphones were of premium quality and the sound quality was, as expected, pretty good. I was then invited to plug the Ifi nano in and play the same track through the same set of headphones.
The effect was immediate. The background music and chatter fell silent as the audio filled my head with crystal clear sound. Each vocal, beat and melody intertwined with the other instruments and samples that form the track was as smooth as liquid and punchy. My mouth involuntarily grinning like a Cheshire cat and my head slowly bobbing, I could see the guys from Ifi genuinely looking excited as my eyes lit up as I mouthed ‘OMG’….The difference was entirely tangible.
So, my immediate question to the team at Ifi was: what is this little black box actually doing?
The ifi Nano is a mobile digital to analogue converter and a headphone amplifier. Its job is to turn the digital signal you’re your device back into the original analogue recording and increase the power output of your headphones without compromising on the quality of the sound
As the Ifi guys explained “when you speak or record music through a microphone in a recording studio, the computer cannot understand you because as yet computers are unable to understand humans. So it has to go through a translator. Which in other words is a convertor. So it converts the frequencies that the recording picks up to a digital signal. When you play that back through a digital to analogue converter it’s converting it back to the original sound, therefore reversing the process and vastly improving the listening experience”
“When you play your music on your phone or device its doing one of three things; It’s storing the file, it’s converting it from digital to analogue and its also doing the application playing the music. So your phone or device is doing stages 1, 2 and 3 all at once and therefore the quality of the audio is diminished. So when you insert the lead from your headphones into the black label (Ifi) your phone will send the audio file, the Ifi Nano will then separate the stages 1, 2 and 3 and do stages 2 and 3 much better.
By separating these stage’s of the sound becomes much more like the original audio file. And a hell of a lot more powerful”
Living in a busy household, sometimes the only respite I get from noise is to grab a device and stick my headphones on whether to listen to music or watch a movie
When travelling, I generally use standard phone company issued inner ear headphones due to their size but the sound quality is never as good as the over ears. I was therefore intrigued to see what difference a little black box could make to the sound quality of both these devices and keen to test out Ifi’s claims that the Nano does what it says.
The Ifi Nano comes neatly packaged in a tight-fitting cardboard box and has all the required leads for charging and connection to your PC/Laptop as well as the required jack leads to connect to your device. It does not come with the actual leads to connect directly to your phone as these are normally issued by your phone supplier. The matt black and orange detailing of the device complement each other perfectly and you get a black velvet carry pouch for travel.
Having already tested the device on a set of over-ear headphones at the launch, I was keen to see how they worked in my home environment. Listening to ‘Alberosie – Natural mystic’ , was as always a pleasure. Keeping the volume on my device to around halfway, I plugged the jack lead into the Ifi Nano. I was not quite expecting the difference to be so apparent. Plug and play are straightforward and with little effort, you are immediately launched into a world of sound. You can literally hear everything that the track has to offer and the volume was only halfway with a lot more to give.
On the inner earphones issued by my phone supplier the, the difference was entirely mirrored. Clear, bassy and the surrounding sound pretty much cancelled out. The usual poking in of the inner ear earphones not required as the music took me into my own arena. As I switched to watching a movie, the Ifi Nano helped drive the experience of fear, adrenalin and excitement as every footstep, door creaking and dialogue were as clear as day.
Having never played my music through such a device and being a complete novice when it comes to high-end hi-fi equipment, I was actually quite gobsmacked of the effect this little black box had on my overall listening experience. A serious Jaw-dropping difference.
As a regular traveller and commuter, the Ifi Nano is now an essential piece of my audio kit. In terms of practical use, the Ifi Nano is tiny, only measuring around 75mm x 100mm x 30mm deep and is light yet robust. It has a 10 hour charge time and will fit neatly into any hand or man bag.
Retail price £200.00