iFi Audio iEMatch

Editor’s Note: iFi Audio provided the iEMatch free of charge for the review

What is the iEMatch and why would you need one?

Continue reading iFi Audio iEMatch

NocturnaL Audio – Hydra V2 Custom Cable

Editor’s Note: The cable used in this review was purchased at a discounted rate. Continue reading NocturnaL Audio – Hydra V2 Custom Cable

iFi Audio’s iUSB 3.0: Next Generation Power

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.

The successor to the iFi Audio iUSB Power is here.
The successor to the iFi Audio iUSB Power is here; looks nearly the same, but it has all-new internals.

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.

The iUSB 3.0 has an extra pair of filtered USB outputs, making it perfect for dual output purposes.
The iUSB 3.0 has an extra pair of filtered USB outputs, making it perfect for dual output purposes.

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.

The Auto/On toggle for automatic detection of an active USB bus can be useful for devices that do not have an on/off switch.
The Auto/On toggle for automatic detection of an active USB bus can be useful for devices that do not have an on/off switch.

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.

The Iso-Earth function is still there, as are the connection indicator lights. Familiar, yet improved.
The Iso-Earth function is still there, as are the connection indicator lights. Familiar, yet improved.

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.
(Full Author Bio)

Estron Linum SUPER BaX – Super Thin, Redefined

Editor’s Note: Estron provided the Linum SUPER BaX 2Pin Balanced prototype in this review, originally for internal feedback purposes.

Last September, I had the opportunity to test and review the upcoming Estron Linum Balanced BaX in-ear monitor cable (read review here). Since then, I’ve had opportunity to own a few single-ended Linum BaX cables that came as options with various custom in-ears I’ve purchased this past year. Linum cables are some of the thinnest, if not the thinnest, in-ear monitor cables on the market. They’re great for their light weight on the ear and almost invisible in use. However, there has been one big, consistent knock on them: The Tangles! Continue reading Estron Linum SUPER BaX – Super Thin, Redefined

Cable Round-Up!

Editor’s Note: This is a joint article between shotgunshane, TheDigitalFreak, and Mr. TOur staff has been planning this round-up for over an entire year — it took a long while to make its way around to everybody, but it’s done! It’s finally done! (Admittedly, it was a little bit of a fail…)

We must thank the manufacturers for waiting extremely patiently for this round-up to come out, and we apologize for our mishandling of details. For the portable audiophile, cables are a source of both exploration and headache. We searched the globe for the most interesting offerings from manufacturers both big and small. Unfortunately, a few of these products have now either evolved into better products, or have been discontinued for various reasons. We still hope that this round-up is insightful nevertheless.

Unfortunately, there were some lapses in communication, and we couldn’t maintain contact with all the manufacturers — it shows that we’re a little green at all this, and we do pledge to do better in the future.

An apology in particular goes out to LEAR — we accidentally lost the C2 cable in transit and thus were unable to procure proper photography for the cable, despite its being one of the more preferred cables out of all the ones we tried. Continue reading Cable Round-Up!

Estron Linum (Balanced) 2.5 TRRS: Think Thin, Then Think Thinner

Full Disclosure: Estron provided the Linum BaX 2PIN cable with 2.5mm balanced termination for this review.

By now many have heard of the Linum line of IEM cables from Danish manufacturer Estron. In case you haven’t, think thin, very, very thin — then think thinner.

The Linum line of cables is the thinnest I have ever seen, frankly thinner than I could have imagined, making all other cables seem fat and unwieldy in comparison. Linum cables are only 0.9 mm in diameter, resembling something you’d more likely find in a bait and tackle shop! Continue reading Estron Linum (Balanced) 2.5 TRRS: Think Thin, Then Think Thinner

iFi Audio iUSBPower & Kingrex uCraft (Y) Cable | Water for Your Espresso

Once in a while, curiosity will take over the logic circuits of every audio enthusiast. The audiophile will set aside common sense and proceed to justify bouts of practical insanity with the dubiously noble task of chasing audio perfection. The following article does very much the same thing — you’ve been forewarned.

Part 1 discusses the AMR iFi Audio iUSBPower, while Part 2 goes into more depth about the KINGREX uCraft (Y) USB Cable. Continue reading iFi Audio iUSBPower & Kingrex uCraft (Y) Cable | Water for Your Espresso