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iFi Audio’s Go Link Dongle DAC Wants To Get Between You and Your SmartPhone

This $60 USB-C dongle DAC features analogue volume control with support for hi-res audio including MQA, DSD and PCM.

iFi Go Link Dongle DAC connected

It wouldn’t feel like Monday without a new Dongle DAC and leave it up to the folks at iFi Audio to take me away from my 300 calorie chocolate smoothie dinner on a cold night on the Jersey Shore. Choice is a great thing, and iFi Audio have not released too many inferior products in 2022. We absolutely loved the iFi Go Bar Dongle DAC which recently made our “2022 Best Dongle DAC” list. The brand new iFi Audio Go Link competes directly with the Helm Audio Bolt and that has us mildly excited.

If anyone can make a $60 Dongle DAC that doesn’t sound like every other product in the category under $100 — it is most certainly iFi Audio.

iFi Go Link

iFi audio has expanded its GO series of portable DAC/headphone amps with the GO link – a headphone dongle that delivers supercharged sound when connected to smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs via a USB port.

Its purpose is twofold. First, to enable wired headphones and earphones to connect to digital devices that don’t have a 3.5mm headphone output. Second, even if a device does have a headphone socket, the GO link delivers a big sonic upgrade.

This is because its sophisticated DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter) and headphone amp circuitry is superior to the audio tech contained within mobile devices and computers.

At one end of the GO link is a USB-C connector, at the other is the DAC and headphone amp circuitry, both housed in robust yet lightweight magnesium alloy enclosures.

iFi Go Link inputs

A 6 cm length of flexible cable allows the DAC/amp section to be angled towards the listener and reducing stress on the USB port to which the GO link is connected. iFi hasn’t skimped on the quality of the cable, which uses silver-plated copper conductors with individual polymer insulation in a ‘twisted pair’ configuration.

This rotational twist helps to optimize inductance and capacitance and also aids noise rejection, ensuring the GO link’s sound isn’t affected by electromagnetic interference picked up from nearby electrical sources.

The Skinny

The GO link draws on the experience iFi has gained in developing a range of multi-award-winning DACs at a wide spread of prices. At its heart lies a power-efficient, high-performance DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Sabre HiFi series – the ES9219MQ/Q – benefiting from 32-bit HyperStream III architecture.

This combines with Quad DAC+ and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator technologies, plus iFi’s dedicated clock circuitry utilising a specialised crystal oscillator, to deliver ultra-low distortion, excellent clarity and impressive dynamic range.
iFi has taken full advantage of the DAC chip’s advanced specification, unlocking high-end features such as DRE (Dynamic Range Enhancement), plus technologies to minimise THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) and crosstalk.

Users can even select between different digital filters via downloadable firmware should they wish to do so, giving a degree of personal sonic tailoring according to taste.

Unlike other headphone dongles, the GO link doesn’t rely on the software-based volume controls in connected digital devices, which can adversely affect audio resolution.

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Instead, adjusting the volume on the connected device controls the volume level in the GO link’s DAC, not in the phone, tablet or computer – this hardware-based analogue volume control is another feature that helps to deliver the GO link’s superior sonic performance.

iFi Go Link Ports

Hi-Res Audio

The GO link’s hi-res audio credentials are highly impressive given its diminutive price. PCM audio data is supported to 32-bit/384kHz, alongside DSD to 11.2MHz (DSD256) and MQA (the streaming technology used by Tidal’s HiFi Plus tier). An LED changes colour to indicate the incoming audio format – PCM, DSD or MQA – and the PCM/DSD sample rate.

But what about the headphone amplifier?

The GO link’s headphone amp feeds a gold-plated 3.5mm socket incorporating iFi’s noise-reducing S-Balanced configuration. This delivers a power output of 70mW/1.5V into 32 ohms, rising to 2V with higher impedance headphones – plenty to drive the kind of headphones and earphones with which the GO link is likely to be partnered whilst minimising drain on the connected device’s battery.

As well as powering headphones, the 3.5mm analogue output can be used to connect a preamp or integrated amp, or powered speakers.

Those familiar with iFi audio devices will know that the company uses discrete, high-grade components in its circuit designs, and the same is true of the GO link despite its small size and low price.

iFi Go Link Circuit Boards

Devices such as TDK C0G multilayer ceramic capacitors and inductors from Taiyo Yuden and Murata deliver qualities such as low ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance) and high linearity, paying great dividends in terms of sound quality.

Adapters are included to convert the GO link’s USB-C connector to fit USB-A and Apple Lightning ports – whether you’re using the GO link with an Android or iOS device, a Windows PC or an Apple Mac, everything you need is in the box.

Where to buy: $59 at Amazon | Audio46

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Dan Steinmeyer

    December 11, 2022 at 4:22 pm

    Ian – In your opinion, how does this compete in audio quality with the Dragonfly? With Apple adopting the USB-C format, when I get a new iPhone eventually I like that I wouldn’t have to use the Apple Lightning adapter that I have to use currently with my Dragonfly Black. Thanks and enjoy reading your content.

    • Ian White

      December 11, 2022 at 10:27 pm

      Dan,

      1. It’s been awhile since I compared the DragonFly Blue to anything because it has been bypassed in sound quality by the Questyle and iFi Go Bar based on my limited listening experience with both. I’ve never tried the Black.

      2. iFi has really had a great year with its Dongle DACs and portable DAC/headphone amplifiers and we have a lot of confidence in their products.

      3. Which headphones or IEMs? Easier to give some advice if we know what will be on the other end.

      Best,

      Ian White

      • Dan Steinmeyer

        December 12, 2022 at 4:49 am

        Thanks – I have some older AKG and older Apple IEMs that I use with the DragonFly, as well as some BeyerDynamic 770 Pros, but I mostly use those with my Schiit Modi/Magni stack.

        • Ian White

          December 12, 2022 at 2:30 pm

          Dan,

          The Beyerdynamic might be a hard load for it. I will ask Will to chime in as he’s used both.

          Ian White

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