FiiO i1 Portable DAC and Amplifier for Apple Lightning Port with Built-in Microphone and IOS Remote Controls for IPHONE/IPAD/IPOD
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- Headphone Drive Ability - 16~32 Ω (recommended)
- Keeping your favorite 3.5mm Headphones Around
- High Performance DAC Chip for Better Quality than iPhone's Stock DAC
- High Quality Microphone Clearly Captures Your Voice
- Supported USB Sampling Rate- Lossless 48kHz, may change to up to 192kz pending changes to the LAM module
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The FiiO i1 is an Apple MFi certified, digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier designed for the Lightning connector. The digital audio signal enters through the Lightning connector end that can be connected to the Apple iPhone/iPod/iPad (and other Apple products), while the analog audio signals are pushed out through the 3.5mm output. The i1 also automatically detects if you are using a standard headphone or one with in-line controls. Just because Apple has ditched the headphone jack doesn't mean you have to ditch your favorite headphones.
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This product makes a lot of difference and gives the sounds a louder and rounder sound (many will experience differently due to the headphones used)
I only critic I would say is I wish the cable was thicker or tougher for better protection.
I wrote a negative review for the Fiio i1 a few months ago and I don't know what happened, but it's sounding pretty good. The bass is world's better, the midst and highs sound nice. I'm not sure if there's been a update or something, but it doesn't even sound like the same dac/amp. Before the volume was about the same as my phone and now I'm good at 75% and I usually like my music loud. I don't have to take my other amps around with me and it's so small people around me don't even notice it. I let a couple of my friends listen to it and they were both impressed enough to buy one and one of the guys is a world renowned DJ and he couldn't believe the separation. I was wrong Fiio, I'm a believer! I'm glad in didn't return it.
I could not pinpoint any volume difference; if there is the i1 is well within 1 volume increment on both sources. The i1 is a very transparent amp. I can’t say for sure there is any sound difference between the sources and i1; maybe there is a little mid-bass bump, and maybe the high-mids are slightly smoother, but I wouldn't put money on anybody in a true blind test.
The i1 is nicely built; lightweight but solid, the design is streamlined and attractive. The buttons have a satisfying click. The mic works fine for calls. The cord is pretty long, and it doesn’t really pocket very well when combined with headphone cables. I’m not sure if the intent is to clip the i1 and wrap up the extra headphone cables in a pocket?
The question really is “why”? Unless you’re in desperate need of the mic and buttons, there isn’t really a reason to buy the i1. The DAC isn’t a higher quality than Apple’s internal DAC, and the amplifier doesn’t provide much more power than Apple’s own Lightning adaptor, which provides plenty to drive the low impedance IEM the i1 is designed for (16-32ohm). If you are a complete stickler to the 1:8 output impedance to headphone impedance rule, the i1 does claim output impedance of <1ohm while an iPhone 6 has output impedance of 3.18ohm; so for headphones/earphones with impedance between 16-22 the i1 could make the difference. I have no idea on the science behind that, but $40 isn't much in the mobile audio world.
I do intend to keep the i1, but I'd be wary to claim anybody “needs” one, unless they just want to spend an extra $25 over the Apple adaptor or have headphones/earphones with impedance between 16-20ohm.
I'm sure many other audio companies will be covering down on the Lightning/Apple approved DAC/amp that are either a better amp, or more convenient package for being on the go, like cables with an internal DAC/amp that terminate to Lightning adaptor such as those that come with Audeze's iSine IEM, or that AAW is currently starting to produce for 2-pin and MMCX
tl;dr: The i1 isn’t a bad product, but the need for it is questionable at best