Disclaimer: I received the Nano iOne from iFi Turkey distributor (dukkanhifi) as a review sample. It'll stay with me for future reference. The Nano iOne goes for 200$ in the market.
When I think about iFi, all that comes into my mind is the Micro iDSD (review here). I bet most of you know the brand primarily because of the iDSD as well. But at the same time they have much more in their portfolio, starting from their flagship Pro lineup, to the Micro and Nano series.
iFi is a brand new line of electronics with trickle-down technology licensed from AMR and aimed primarily at the future, Computer Audio generation.
iFi is a strong and a recognizable brand in the market of DACs and amplifiers. They offer good performance for the price and also high caliber flagship units. They simply target audiophiles like us (headphone & IEM addicts) but also very much audiophiles using stereo/home systems. And although it can serve very well as a DAC for your desktop headphone system, the iFi Nano iOne is targeted exactly for home audio & stereo systems.
ONE DAC TO RULE HOME AUDIO
Basically, the Nano iOne is a standalone DAC. As usual from iFi, it has a solidly isolated circuit design with high quality components. The feature that stands out though -in addition to RCA & S/PDIF outputs- is the aptX Bluetooth support. That means you can use this device with absolutely everything you can imagine: Stereo & home systems, 4K TVs, gaming consoles, tablets, smartphones and PCs. And you get this flexibility in almost pocket size, therefore you can carry it to another house or office easily if you need to.
The nano iOne was created for both audiophiles and those who yearn for better sound quality from their existing home systems.
This all in one solution and ergonomic form factor makes this device very useful for home / office environments. Just connect it via USB to your PC and you have a desktop DAC. Or, just connect it with Bluetooth from your phone / tablet and stream your music using Spotify or TIDAL. Hook up an amplifier and you’re ready to go. If you have active speakers than it’s even better, you just need to hook it up to your speakers.
DESIGN & BUILD
The Nano iOne has pretty much the same design language as the other iFi creations. I like brands who consistently retain their designs with the majority of their products. For this reason, I certainly love the Nano iOne. Also, the compact structure and solid build are the other things that pop into mind when I think about it. They don’t call this “Nano” for nothing. This “looks-wise” is a classic iFi device and clearly it’s build to last.
This model is the 2nd version, the original model had a full metal body, but this one has plastic plates on the front and the back. Also it has “windows” on each side. This change in the design part was to improve the Bluetooth signal. As you know, full metal bodies are not very suitable for signal transmission. The original version looks more classy and cool, but I understand the concerns about the range and connectivity for the Bluetooth feature. Therefore, even though this version is a downgrade in terms of the premium look, it’s better to have good connectivity with a Bluetooth DAC. It still looks good and the build quality still is solid. And, you can see the colored light glowing inside the DAC through the windows which looks nice in the dark.
The device gets its power via a USB cable. I wish it had some battery power, that would be amazing for this compact and portable device, but again, the target is home audio use. The only thing I can criticize regarding that is the short cable it comes with. You need to plug the Nano iOne with the short USB cable supplied in the package but this cable apparently is designed for PC use, but that doesn’t makes sense if you consider the target audience. If you’re going to use it in home audio systems, you might need a much longer cable to plug it directly to a wall charger. If your wall charger is far away, then it means you need to buy a longer cable to power the device. I think iFi can update the package with a longer cable, or they can offer 2 different cables with different lengths as well. You get a USB power supply for wall chargers by the way so you don’t have to find another one.
Other than that, everything is smooth and flawless in terms of usage. Bluetooth connection is very easy to do with any device you can think of. Select the Nano iOne in your Bluetooth screen and it connects blazingly fast. On the front there’s the iFi logo which illuminates with different colors depending on the connection and file codecs. There’s the blue light on Bluetooth connection, and you have different colors for file types, such as cyan for 24/192 FLAC. Also on the front you have the source switch to select between Bluetooth, USB and SPDIF.
I absolutely loved using this DAC with Bluetooth, it’s just so convenient and works beautifully. Most of the time I used my Android phone and streamed from TIDAL. I connected it to the FiiO Q1MK2 portable amp besides my bed and I enjoyed the music before going to sleep. That’s the advantage of this DAC: it has all around features and it’s also ultra lightweight and compact so you can use it anywhere you want.