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iFi audio gopods: Enter The Wireless World




See a need - fill a need. Bridging the gap between wired Hi-Fi and TWS, these little adapters allow you to bring any IEM out and about - totally wirelessly. And the sound? Fantastic!




Pros:

- Surprisingly good sonics


- Great battery life


- Nice charging case



Cons:

- Touch controls are way over sensitive and button is badly placed


- Connection issues


- Bulky size


- Price




Greetings dear Head-fiers, and welcome to my review of the iFi GoPods! What a cool invention these are, find a need, fill a need; indeed. For anyone that has ever dreamed of bringing their IEMs out and about, about the house or room, in an airport or train, or just chilling on the couch watching a movie in epic surround sound, these are the way one would do so. With a lot of world’s firsts, like a Qualcomm chipset with DAC and amp, lossless codecs and even an IPX4 rating, they are tech packed. (Just don’t get your summit IEMs wet to test that last part.) They are essentially a small brick with a flexible cable that you plug into your IEMs, the housing goes behind your ears with all that Bluetooth tech inside, plus enough oomph to power most IEMs well enough to rock out. They come in a case that charges them, like traditional TWS sets would, and they function more or less in the same way as your AirPods or similar do. Take them out of the case, they connect, and you’re off to the races. You can use any IEM you want, with 2 pin and mmcx included, and others available to purchase separately. You can use any IEM you want, bringing true wireless playback that was previously not possible. Sound too good to be true? Not really, they do exactly as you described, and the results are quite good. Audiophile good? With the best codec (device dependent) and an IEM that is easy to drive - totally. Will they compete with your summit DAP and TOTL cables made of exotic materials harvested from a meteorite and infused with magic? No, they won’t. But you’d be surprised how close they do get. It’s pretty amazing. I’m not here to say that you would skip the wired DAP setup, these don’t replace, but they are good enough to bring your favorite (but maybe not the most power hungry) IEMs with you, wirelessly, making them infinitely more convenient. I found myself jamming out in the supermarket with my Traillii Ti, dancing down the aisles and head banging without a care in the world, almost forgetting that I was using a $8500 IEM with essentially a Bluetooth dongle wrapped around my ears and a phone in my pocket.




As a self professed extreme audiophile and purist, some of you may be saying I’ve lost my nerve and gone soft! These are fun, even awesome, but they won’t have you leaving the big boy gear at home for real critical listening. And I wouldn’t necessarily use them with my best sets, case in point the Traillii Ti was fun, but I would probably relegate these to a set of customs that I don’t use full time, not my #1. But they definitelty would have a place in my life, if I was to buy them. I had my Jewel CIEM on these for a week or and enjoyed it, though the Jewel certainly can sound better scaling up with better/more power. The earpieces aren’t super heavy, or super big, but I greatly preferred them with customs over universals. This way you just grab them and go, stick the case in your backpack and spend the day out and about. Seeing as I was able to try these out for several months, on 3 different tours all over the world, plus plenty of time at home and at my desk - I do feel I can be quite impartial about my extended experience. I tried them with as many IEMs as I could, with as many sources as I could, though since this is a BT device the source doesn’t really matter, only the codec does. A warning; this review will be shorter than my usuals, simply because for one I don’t have anything to compare it to, and there isn’t a need for in depth frequency impressions either. I will be the first to admit, that while I am a very techno-savvy guy, this is my first Bluetooth audio device. (I’m a super purist remember) So please be aware I don’t have a big history with these types of products, and if there is something in the functionality or setup I mention issues with, it could be that I am a super NOOB when it comes to BT and nothing more. Because of that, I will leave the tech details to someone else, and I will focus on the sound and the usability. There is one tech thing I do know: the GoPod is self adjusting for impedance, which means that it “should” perform equally well with all IEMs, as long as they aren’t crazy power hungry, within reason. This is a cool feature as the GodPods do this automatically with each IEM you use, so you’ll always get the closest value to each IEM you connect, and should help to negate possible synergy issues. You can find all the tech you’d ever want to know here: https://ifi-audio.com/products/go-pod/








Before I get into the details let me quickly do my usual testing gear rundown and disclaimer in favor of transparency:



-This is a demo unit, and will be returned to iFi after my review. I was asked to review these directly by iFi, and nothing was asked of me in exchange for my impressions, feelings and experience.



-To be clear, I review because I love doing so, it’s a great source of joy for me. I don’t do this for work, I spend an enormous amount of time on these. I take it very seriously, as I know people rely on reviews before they shell out cash, just like I do myself. For that reason I only review things that interest me, things I would maybe buy for myself. That doesn’t mean my reviews are in any way slanted by pure adoration, I pride myself on being very neutral and sharing my thoughts in a way that will benefit the community. Honestly and no fluff.



-I used a very varied playlist of testing tracks to form my initial thoughts, and then spent several months with these simply listening to whatever inspired me like I normally would. I love all kinds of music, and to form an honest opinion for any piece of gear I think it absolutely necessary to test with lots of different kinds of music. If you’re taking a reviewer’s word about a piece of gear you want to spend your hard earned cash on, in my opinion, you absolutely should take how their musical tastes match or differ from your own. A few excepts from my latest listening roster



Jazz: Snarky Puppy, GoGo Penguin, Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Hunter, Avishai Cohen, Kandace Springs, Chris Potter, John Scofield, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Esperanza Spalding, Gregory Porter, Julian Lage, Funky Knuckles, Ghost Note, Aaron Parks.


Rock: Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Talking Heads, Rage Against The Machine, Eric Johnson, Michael Landau, Them Crooked Vultures, Tom Petty, Jackson Brown, Jethro Tull.


Modern Music: Jordan Rakei, Tom Misch, Lianne La Havas, Asgeir, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Glass Animals, Jacob Collier, Moonchild, Robert Glasper, Hiatus Coyote.


Electronic: Om Unit, Emancipator, Kryptic Minds, Bonobo, FKJ, Djrum, Synkro


Heavy Music: Animals as Leaders, Tool, Gojira, Polyphia, TesseracT, Meshuggah, Hacktivist, Trivium, Sevendust, Periphery, Sepultura, Intervals, Plini, Polyphia.




For my source I used primarily my iPhone 15 MAX, as well as my Sony WMZ1M2. For IEMs I used Aroma Jewel, Traillii, Traillii Ti, Supreme V3, Amber Pearl, and 64A 18t.




Without further ado, let’s get into it!







BOx, USE, ACCESSORIES



When I opened the box from iFi I was greeted to a batman style black protective case that doubles as a charger, and I was surprised how big it was. I read that many had the same first impression. Obviously it’s much larger than the pocketable ApplePods kind of case, but you have to remember that these are meant to hold IEMs. When you realize there is ample room inside to house IEMs, with the BT adapters installed, plus the battery, then it does seem like they made it about as small as they could. In fact, some of my larger IEMs made closing the lid difficult, and if they made it any less tall they wouldn’t fit at all. The case isn’t great for your pocket, but tossed inside a backpack/day bag it’s quite fine. When you open the case you’re greeted to a fancy trick, your IEMs are bathed in blue LED light, making the whole experience feel quite upscale, if ultimately unnecessary. I mean it’s cool, but I hope they don’t charge more for that. Some might be more enthused than I, presentation means a lot to many of us. Once when going through airport security they flagged my bag, and when the security lady opened them up she was visibly impressed! Like she was looking at some space materials laser ray in this fancy box, wondering what they might be. When I said they were headphones she handed them back to me with a nod of approval, maybe a touch of jealousy, and for a moment I felt like a jet-setting millionaire. If only I could have hopped off to the 1st class lounge for some champagne and cigars, but alas as impressive looking as the case is, I would need a vastly larger income for that type of fancy lifestyle!



I found the battery to last quite a while, so much so that I didn’t really think about charging them. iFi website says 7 hours, plus another 3 full charges from the case. I was on a week tour, used them for several hours a day, and I was able to top them up a few times with enough power in reserves without ever charging the case, so that tracks. In real word use I think there’s plenty of battery for these to go even a few days without the case, though I always stored them in the case because why not. This is basically the same, or better, than AirPods, and when considering they are powering real IEMs, I would say that the battery life is quite impressive. A word on build quality if I may. They seem well built, and the cable going from the GoPod to the IEM is rubber and fairly robust. It's pretty tightly curved, so you need to bend the cable a bit to slide it all on your ears. They say these are IPX5 rated, so they can take some sweat, but I don't think the IEMs feel the same way, so not really sure if this is a plus. As you can clearly see in the photos, despite my efforts to polish them up, they are quite scratched up. Maybe this demo has made the rounds for quite some time, or the finish is prone to scratches. Just so you know, these are probably meant to get a little dinged up.



As mentioned earlier, I am a BT noob. But even I was able to pair the GoPods with my iPhone quickly and easily. Just hold the buttons on both transmitters until the light flashes blue and red, connect with phone/device and voila. When you take them out of the case they reconnect automatically, put them back in and they automatically start to charge. A pretty seamless experience, for the most part. I did in fact have some issues with connection, but it could fully be my fault. Sometimes I would take them out, put them in my ears and nada. I tried tapping the button on both earpieces, I would hear a chime and then they would be connected. Sometimes that wouldn’t work, and I would have to reconnect them again, and this got frustrating. When I used them all day this seemed to disappear, so perhaps this is a BT thing? (Again my first BT device). Not the biggest deal - I would imagine that if you use them all the time with only one device they would connect automatically every time. In daily use the connection was stable, I even walked to the other side of my apartment without realizing it and the music never missed a beat. I would occasionally get this weird effect where one side’s volume would be lower for a few moments, or both, but it would right itself quickly. When connected to the phone it was quite seamless, but I did get some weirdness using my Sony WMZ1M2. Sometimes tapping the touch button, instead of pausing the music, it would disconnect the GoPods and I would have to go into settings and reconnect. A few times I touched the button on one of the earpieces trying to pause the music, suddenly there was no sound, but only on that side. I touched the button again and it started up, very weird. Maybe this is a bug with the Sony, a bad demo unit, or maybe this is normal for BT gear? I really have no idea. Seems kind of wonky, but what do I know. Chock this one up to user error most likely. 95% of the time it was stable, automatic, and quite enjoyable.










I personally never found the size or physical aspect of the GoPods to be bothersome. Their small weight helps to hold the IEM in place, they nestle back there and don’t feel overly hindering. They are fairly big, and bulky to boot, but the only time I really noticed them negatively was if I leaned back in my chair or into my pillow, and then it was hard to find a spot where my head could relax. Walking, sitting, moving around, no issues. It’s certainly easier and faster getting the music going compared to my usual wired setup. I usually do my listening on the LP6 Ti AE with some heavy duty cable like the Orpheus, so this was a breath of fresh air when I was in the mood to just grab and go. Open case, insert and rock out, repeat. I do see the appeal here, even if honestly I’m more of an analog guy who prefers physical dials, and the feel of an actual device in my hands. But that’s just me, I’m always at the dead-center of the minority when it comes to form over function. The GoPods do look a bit funny wearing them, my wife always snickering at me when she passed by during my testing, but that’s hardly new for me. It was no different than me plugged into my usual summit rig, as she gives me that sweet understanding smile that says “I know you love it, and I love it because of that, but I don’t really get it”. She’s awesome.



My only real gripe with these is (the aforementioned) touch sensitive buttons. I know this feature is all the rage with BT gear, you can tap and control everything from your earpieces, which is cool. But the placement of the GoPod button at the tail end of the device, and its eerily touch sensitiveness made for a lot of accidental touches, some stopped/skipped tracks and a whole lot of my Netflix movies pausing without my intention. I realize this is a normal BT feature, but since the button isn’t on the actual earpieces like in AirPods, you have to feel around for it on the brick part behind your ears. That means wandering your finger around looking for it, and most of the time I would graze it by accident with the side of my finger before finally finding the spot. I would have greatly preferred a physical button here. You could feel for it, find the spot, and then execute your desired command while being able to rest your finger on the button itself. Controlling the volume requires a press and hold, but it would usually just pause the track instead, holding onto it long enough to make such a touch input I found strangely difficult. If I put the GoPods back in the case, just handling them would usually restart my music or movie and I’d have to get them seated in the case, then double check to see that everything was off. Taking them out of the case was the same, I had to be very careful or I was greeted with music before I even got them in my ears. Even adjusting your IEMs, if you aren’t careful, you’d touch the button. Also, the textured plastic surrounding the button, and the section right next to it, have the same feel, so this makes it hard to do this based on haptic feedback.



Maybe if I used them every single day I would have better control. Maybe if I was used to BT headsets this would be second nature. Maybe I’m just old school, but I ended up not using the touch buttons at all. Maybe I’m just a noob. I’m sure for others this isn’t an issue, but I would wish for a physical button here, there is certainly enough real estate there. Vintage guy rant over, small potatoes.








the SOUND

Let’s get into the sound shall we? Bottom line, they sound great! This is as close to a pure audiophile experience as you can get without the wires. Does it sounds the same as when you sit with your DAP and cable in a quiet room with your eyes closed? No it doesn’t but it’s really really close. I mention the eyes closed/quiet room because why would you use these for critical listening in a nice perfect environment? These are for trams, travel, walking about, vacuuming the house, your daily life kind of stuff. Working on the computer and moving around my studio getting a shoot ready was very convenient and freeing. Put in this context they sound awesome. Like a small DAP, or even a good dongle type of good. I was testing back and forth many many times, and when using a device that supports LDAC the results were amazingly good for most styles. For some unknown reason, Apple, in their infinite wisdom, didn’t put LDAC (or any lossless codec) into the iPhone, spoiling an otherwise perfect device. I’m sure this has to do with some feud they have against another company, ala Flash from distant memory, but it’s a shame nonetheless. But my wife’s Android has LDAC, as well as my Sony M2, which I used for my AB testing since I can use the same track wired and wireless in Hi-Res. In general, compare to wired, I notice in the mids there is less texture, detail seems very similar but the timbre is a bit off. This is not to say it’s unnatural, but it’s not quite the same. And there slightly less bass reach, and similarly less top end extension. I found the sub bass to rumble just a bit less, and the treble was slightly stunted, and perhaps a bit less natural sounding with a smidge hint of artifacts. But this is really nitpicking. Other than these small differences the SQ is really quite remarkable for a BT TWS setup. While the difference between AAC and LDAC isn’t enormous, the latter does sound more natural and less compressed over AAC’s lower quality. If I had to try and explain, while listening weird to Tidal MAX wired, going to LDAC sounds like coming back to HQ, and AAC down to 44.1 or something like that. And it depends on the source material too. I found with anything that was spacious and open, the GoPods sounded great with little loss. When I switched to more compact and crowded music, or fast and complex stuff like metal, things got a bit more murky. Definitely still good, but not as convincing. So pop, vocals, lighter rock, electronic, and anything open and cleanly recorded will sound quite natural, albeit with a slight loss in timbre and texture. Metal, heavy rock, orchestral and anything really crowded less so, but still ok.



One thing I thought about a lot was how the GoPods sound really good with great sounding IEMs. Perhaps that was confusing. What I mean is, if you have amazing IEMs to begin with, the GodPods provide enough power to bring out their innate goodness. If your IEMs are just ok then the GoPods won’t add the magic that an amazing source or amp could provide. IEMs all scale with better gear - this isn’t really any different. If I use a dongle with my phone, or a good DAP, or add an amp, or use a desktop rig, the performance will increase along with the upgrades. The GoPods sound great, but you should expect performance based on the size and power they provide. Add that to the uber convenience they provide, and you have a super product.








CONCLUSION

So who are these for? Well for a BT device they aren’t super cheap, coming in at ~$400. That includes the GoPods, charging case, and two connector cables in 2 pin and mmcx. That’s as expensive as any high end TWS set currently available, and then some. But the possibilities here BY FAR surpass the performance and SQ of ANY TWS on the market for sure. When framed as a TWS device they are fabulous, really. The fact that you can use them with any IEM in the world makes for an extremely flexible setup, and one that can be swapped and upgraded with new IEMs at any time, even multiple times in a single day. The sky is the limit here. How cool of an idea is that?!! And as I said at the beginning, most IEM’s work quite well with the GoPod. While the experience won’t be exactly the same as wired, it’s really quite close. The simple fact that I have to continuously mention how good these are “for a TWS device” should clue you in to what’s going on here. They won’t replace your wired setup, they’re not supposed to. They are simply a way to bring your fancy IEMs with you, greatly enhancing the possibilities for a wireless audio experience anywhere you might find yourself.



For ease of use I found them far more convenient just using my phone, regardless of the lack of Hi-Res codec. I always have my phone, and somehow using a DAP with these seems unnecessary. I did a few times setup for a shoot and get all my gear prepared using the Sony M2 and it was quite fun. I found the iPhone to be much more stable, and the touch commands, as sensitive as they are, worked correctly. AAC sound pretty good too! For fit and comfort, customs are my preference, but any IEMs with “regular” power needs do well. And since the GoPods adjust impedance automatically, you should have quite balanced performance from your whole collection. For me Traillii and Amber Pearl were powered just fine, 18t too. Jewel was fine, but it needs more power to really shine. Stuff like Sup V3, Creator, or Storm wouldn’t be ideal at all, but honestly who is going to use GoPods with these crazy kilobuck summit IEMs anyway? Remember that volume and power are NOT the same thing. So while the GoPods will get basically any IEM up to the volume you’d want, that doesn’t mean they are giving your hungry IEMs enough juice to perform at their best. But who would be expecting that anyway - this a TWS set meant for one thing: bringing your music with you, anywhere you go, in the best quality possible for a wireless setup. And at that they excel, a great idea turned into a great product. See a need, fill a need. Indeed! Well done iFi



That’s all for me, I hope this review has been helpful. I realize that I ask a lot of gear, and I’m probably more critical than most. But these surpassed my expectations, and I really enjoyed myself with them. BT is pretty cool! So, if you’re in the market for bringing your fancy IEMs into the wireless world, this is your ticket. If you understand the limitations of wireless, these are fantastic. They’re pricey, but I will definitely miss the demo unit once I send it back. Thanks for reading!





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