Editor’s Note: We thank iFi Audio and the Evergeneral Trading Corporation for their immense patience and coordination. We held onto the review loaner unit of the iUSB 3.0 for way longer than we’d originally intended, and their patience is much appreciated!
We reviewed the original iUSBPower by iFi Audio about two years ago (review link) and found it immensely useful for people who wanted clean power for their USB DACs — especially those powered solely by USB power. It was a tight, compact unit with no unnecessary frills but all the functionality anyone needs. For all intents and purposes, there was little need to improve upon it. The audio world has stayed with USB 2.0 (via the UAC2 standard) and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. AMR’s lead technical head Thorsten Loesche, however, is not one to sit idly. Seeing that the USB 3.0 standard had been finalized for some time, he set out to improve upon the iUSBPower, updating both the USB protocol standard and ergonomic features.
Two years later, the iUSB 3.0 is iFi Audio‘s futureproofed clean power solution; we won’t bother to list out the uses for cleaner power over USB here, as iFi Audio themselves have made this spiffy little video:
Given only a perfunctory glance, and the iUSB 3.0 would be mistaken for the last generation device; it is housed in the same exact housing as all the other iFi micro series cases — sturdy and utilitarian, just not quite luxurious. The real improvements are under the hood, and if you own more than one USB audio device and use both regularly — this is the device for you. For example, I personally own both my reference listening rig, the Resonessence Labs Concero HP (review) and a pair of KEF Egg speakers (link) for casual listening. Both can be plugged in and supplied by the iUSB 3.0, obviating the need for additional filtering devices or switches and hubs. Of course, traditional computer-specific USB components can also be connected as well, as the wider bandwidth of the USB 3.0 standard allows for the deprecated mode of UAC2 to take up only a fraction of the bandwidth, allowing for other uses like connecting an NAS, external SSD, etc.
Another subtle but significant change over the original iUSBPower is the Auto/On power sensing, which detects whether the computer’s USB bus is turned on and powers the device accordingly. Not only does this feature save on power consumption, it also prevents the passive components in a USB-powered DAC device from burning out due to overuse. The flipside, of course, is that components like TCXO/VCXO oscillators require quite a bit warm-up time to reach their most stable operating condition. The original iUSBPower was in an ‘always on’ state, but now the iUSB 3.0 gives users an option via a switch. Want your DAC to be constantly warmed up for instant musical enjoyment? Toggle the switch into the ‘On’ mode and let the power run constitutively. Don’t need that requirement? Put it on auto — it’s simple and painless.
For me, the extra pair of USB sockets, the future-proof 3.0 specification, and the auto power sensing — all without a penalty on cleanliness and stability of power — make the iUSB 3.0 a no-brainer. If you’re considering an USB power conditioner, look at this one — hard. AMR/iFi have definitely done their homework and made their iUSB 3.0 even more useful than the original iUSBPower device. As a clear product of evolution, it can supply two USB devices directly with full USB 3.0 Super Speed support, and auto-sense the USB handshake — all while remaining the exact same size in footprint.
If there’s one thing that could possibly be criticized about iUSB 3.0, it’s that it came out slightly premature and did not include support for the USB Type C connector and the USB 3.1 Gen 2 protocol extension that comes with it. From the way it looks, however, iFi will almost surely be coming out with an ‘iUSB 3.1’ next year, just as the next generation of premium USB DACs with Type C connectors (currently there’s only one USB audio device with Type C — the LG Hi-Fi Plus G5 Module) are flooding the market. For the time being, however, the iUSB 3.0 is already beyond sufficient for the way 99.9% of all USB DACs are connected (via USB 2.0). If you need to connect to two devices simultaneously, the iUSB 3.0 is the clean power module for you.
For more information regarding the iFi Audio iUSB 3.0, please visit their website: http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/micro-iusb3-0/
ABOUT MR. T
Mr. T is an in-ear fanatic by day, and writes SOAP notes by night. He pities the fool who actually has the patience to read through his stuff.
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