I have been waiting for this iFi GO Blu for years. This is a review of a brilliantly small iFi GO Blu portable rechargeable Bluetooth headphone amplifier. For me this is such a great idea, first, it’s tiny and easily fits in your pocket for walking purposes meaning I can use quality wired headphones easily with the phone’s Bluetooth. Additionally, I can adjust music and podcasts on the go without getting caught up in the wires. Given many phones have removed the headphone jack, this is just brilliant, and it supports aptX HD. It even has a microphone should you receive a call.
a matchbox-sized portable rechargeable Bluetooth headphone amplifier for wired headphones
The iFi GO Blu is a small matchbox-sized, USB C charged portable Bluetooth headphone amplifier with aptX HD, which can transfer 24 bit/48kHz LPCM files to the iFi GO Blu. There is a Qualcomm QCC 5100 Series chipset doing the work in here with a Cirrus Logic 32-bit DAC chip. It is Bluetooth v5.1 compliant, this is currently the best Bluetooth format for range, stability, and performance.
Apt X and aptX HD are CD/HiRes ‘like’ because they use compression to transmit the data to the receiver, in this case, the iFi GO Blu. The maximum bitrate with any aptX HD, however, is 576kbps which is just a quarter of 24-bit data (24 bits times 48kHz times 2 channels = 2,304kbps). This is as good as Bluetooth can do at this time.
For the purposes of completeness, the iFi GO Blu supports these latest 24-bit-capable Bluetooth audio formats: AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, LHDC/HWA. iFi notes that future codecs can be added.
So, the HiRes sticker on the back of the iFi GO Blu is not quite as you would prefer it, but this portable Bluetooth headphone amplifier is still a handy idea. It must be said the DAC/headphone amplifier combination on offer here is of a higher quality than most, if not all, Bluetooth style earbud combinations.
The separate amplifier stage benefits from iFi’s S-Balanced circuitry which apparently cuts crosstalk and associated distortion. Output from the iFi GO Blu is to a 3.5mm jack or a balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn connector. The iFi GO Blu has a claimed 10 hours of battery life.
The iFi GO Blu is 27g in weight and is 55 x 34 x 13 mm. The claimed frequency range is 20Hz – 45kHz (-3dB).
The iFi GO Blu is widely retailing near £199.
The iFi has a lovely solid compact feel to it. The rear and side panels are that soft-touch rubber feel material that is very tactile and easier to grip. The ‘front side is a smooth metallic panel with the iFi logo on it. The is a chronograph style volume bezel on the top right side with a separate button to add a bass boost to the music and there is an XSpace option to ‘widen the soundstage’. On the opposing side is the on/pairing button.
iFi GO Blu Performance
I’m pairing the iFi GO Blu to my Google Pixel 4XL. This process happened very simply indeed. For the dog walks I’m using the Meze RAI Solo in-ear monitors. For desktop use, I’m using a pair of Oppo PM3s or the still excellent Meze 99 Neo headphones.
The key here to this iFi GO Blu is that you can set it up, if you’re going out, say with a big coat on and just pair to it and forget about it with your preferred wire in-ears or other earwear. It can all be controlled with your Bluetooth source (smartphone) which you will probably have in your hand or pocket anyway. This makes podcast managing or track selection very easy indeed.
The best and most accurate sound I get on the move is with my Audioquest Dragonfly Red, but this is still a faff in a pocket with the Dragon Tail and the wires everywhere and when the phone goes, everything gives up.
I have had no issues with connectivity in the last week of walking the dog and it is real pleasure not to have wires all over my phone, I’ve got the iFi in my back left pocket with the wires coming up inside my fleece and my phone is free in my back right pocket as it should be.
The one phone call I have had was great, just pull out the phone, collect the call and chat away. I was apparently ‘a bit muffly’ but when I pulled out the iFi from my pocket and used the microphone out of the pocket I was ‘as clear as anything’.
The volume button operates very nicely with a satisfying chronograph click and crucially it is in sync with Apps (Tidal/Qobuz/BBC Sounds) rather than bypassing the App in use, I think this is a good thing and enables decent volume control.
…resolution is on display and the dynamic presentation is well handled…
What does it sound like? Well, great, actually. With the Meze RAI Solos, their resolution is on display and the dynamic presentation is well handled in tracks like US3s Hip Hop track Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) featuring the famous Herbie Hancock sample. This dynamism makes you want to skip, once you have checked no one’s looking.
If you want to check out bass, or even XBass in a track, then Newton Faulkner’s cover of Teardrop (Tidal App, MQA Studio, 44.1kHz) has the resounding bass at 1’28”, this is where you are looking for significant bass response. The Meze Solos take that thunderous crescendo in their stride and the outcome is rewarding. The XBass will satisfy the Beats brigade. The GO Blu is transferring this response very easily.
There’s a reason why Dave Brubeck’s Take Five is such a popular piece of music. Aside from the rhythm and timing in the song, it is a nicely produced and presented piece of music. If it needed it, the XSpace function does seem to stretch things about a fraction and there is a sense of air by flicking the option on. If I’m honest about this, I simply don’t need XBass or XSpace, such is the quality on offer from the GO Blu in combination with my in-ear monitors.
This product is really about the idea, a portable rechargeable Bluetooth headphone amplifier for wired headphones is just a brilliant idea. The fact the audio performance matches the idea makes this a special product. On price, portable performance and just the idea, this is an outstanding product.
Ease of use
In-ear monitors without the faff
Future codex upgrades
Full details of the Specification are on the company’s site