iFi's GO Bar Kensei promises to make your music sound magical

The outside may hark back to history but this cutting-edge DAC is sharper than any sword

iFi GO Bar Kensei
(Image credit: iFi)

iFi has announced a brand new ultraportable DAC that promises to bring the magic back to your digital audio. The GO Bar Kensei is the world's first ultraportable DAC to deliver JVC's K2HD technology, which is designed to reintroduce the rich harmonics that are sometimes lost during digitisation. Think of it is as upsampling the warmth of your sonic sources.

Rather brilliantly, iFi says that the GO Bar Kensei merges "artistry and Japanese swordsmanship with cutting-edge audio technology". But while the design definitely harks back to Japanese tradition, what's inside has more cutting edge than any sword.

GO Bar Kensei: key features and specifications

K2HD was developed by JVCKENWOOD, and it's a form of advanced audio processing that's designed to reverse a common audio issue: when music is being mastered to CD spec, the data is cut off for frequencies beyond 22kHz and the audio resolution is reduced. K2HD is designed to analyse the audio, identify what's been removed and recreate it, and it's also capable of upsampling to 192kHz/24-bit resolution. The model used in this new iFi DAC is brand new, and according to JVCKENWOOD it delivers a pure version of the K2 sound that should feel more airy and lifelike than the CD-quality original.

The rest of the specs are impressive too. There's a 4.4mm balanced out, a symmetrical twin-mono output stage and an impressive 477mW output power. iFi's iEMatch also tunes the output for IEMs while Turbo Mode adds an extra 6dB for more demanding headphones. There are four digital filter options (Bit-Perfect, GTO, Standard, and Minimum Phase) as well as Xbass+ and Xspace processing for more accurate bass response and a more spacious sound stage respectively.

The outside is almost as interesting as the inside: it's made from Japanese stainless steel with a design based on the famous Kensei blade, which I had to look up but which many gamers will be well familiar with: the term, which loosely translates as "sword saint", is awarded to a warrior with legendary swordsmanship that delivers a high degree of perfection.

This looks like it should be something special: when we reviewed the same firm's GO Bar in 2022 we gave it the full five stars, saying that "The effect the iFi Go Bar can have on the digital audio information stored (or accessed by) your smartphone or laptop is always significant and occasionally revelatory." So it'll be interesting to see what difference the K2HD tech makes to an already spectacular-sounding device.

The iFi GO Bar Kensei has an RRP of £449 / €449 / $449 / $AUD449 and it's available from today, 19 March 2024.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).