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Tag Archives: headphone amplifier

A brand new reference: introducing the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom

From the iFi Audio press launch:

iFi’s new flagship analogue headphone amplifier delivers reference-quality sound with all the things from hyper-sensitive in-ear screens to probably the most power-hungry electrostatic headphones 

Southport, England – Since its formation in 2012, iFi has persistently delivered headphone amplifiers which can be rated on the high of their class, from small and reasonably priced transportable gadgets to high-performance amps to make use of at dwelling. 

For the previous seven years, the Pro iCAN and subsequent Pro iCAN Signature have represented the head of iFi’s vary, extensively recognised to be among the many best headphone amps on the planet owing to their mixture of helpful versatility, wonderful circuit design and supremely participating efficiency. But summer time 2023 sees the Pro’s crown usurped by a fair mightier headphone amp champ – the brand new iCAN Phantom. 

iFi’s new reference-class analogue headphone amp takes the Pro iCAN, refines and enhances each aspect of its circuitry to additional elevate its efficiency, incorporates expertise from the Pro iESL – beforehand a separate part – for electrostatic headphones, and provides a brand new, superior person interface and network-connected management system.  

The result’s a headphone amp really worthy of its flagship standing, with exemplary construct high quality, subtle expertise, an unrivalled specification and memorable versatility, expertly engineered to drive each headphone sort to its full sonic potential. From ultra-sensitive IEMs, to the best dynamic driver and planar magnetic headphones, to probably the most power-hungry electrostatic designs, the iCAN Phantom delivers a really distinctive headphone expertise – exquisitely tailor-made to the necessities of the listener. 

Another string to the iCAN Phantom’s bow is its capacity to carry out as a high-end hi-fi preamplifier, enabling headphones and audio system to be mixed in a single high-performance audio system. Whether you utilize your favorite headphones to plug your self into an intoxicating non-public musical universe or interact your audio system to fill the room with wonderful sound, the iCAN Phantom is brilliantly engineered to put on the coronary heart of a house audio system for probably the most discerning of music lovers. 

What’s in a reputation? 

Ever for the reason that press dubbed a newly developed Rolls-Royce “Silver Ghost” within the early twentieth century, the well-known car marque has given its fashions ghostly names, evoking qualities which can be so extraordinary as to appear supernatural. There has been a “Phantom” within the Rolls-Royce vary since 1925, all the time revered for the exceptional high quality of its engineering, its distinguished look and eerily easy, quiet journey. 

These are qualities that iFi sought to mirror in its new flagship headphone amp, which is why the corporate named it the iCAN Phantom – the Rolls-Royce of headphone amplifiers. It exemplifies engineering excellence to ship distinctive, ultra-low-noise audio efficiency, coupled with a particular exterior design and dual-level black and silver end that echoes the two-tone color schemes adorning many Rolls-Royce automobiles for many years. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
Supremely constructed with a dual-level black and silver end, the iCAN Phantom is the Rolls-Royce of headphone amps.

Building a flagship 

A flagship audio part ought to be constructed and completed to an distinctive commonplace and the iCAN Phantom actually matches the invoice. It appears to be like in contrast to some other headphone amp; its design provides the looks of two items, however it’s in reality a single, dual-level system, the total peak of which is totally utilised by its multi-layer circuit design. Its enclosure measures 256x120x185mm (WxHxD) and is sturdily constructed from aluminium, with the underside layer sporting cable connections back and front, and the highest layer providing tactile controls and a vibrant OLED show. 

The high of the iCAN Phantom incorporates a flush-fitting smoked glass panel, via which the amp’s circuitry – together with its glowing audio valves – may be glimpsed. Circular aluminium vents protrude from the glass, guaranteeing the circuitry inside doesn’t overheat. Clever design touches abound; for instance, when not in use the sockets on the entrance or again may be hidden by a neat aluminium panel that attaches magnetically. (This panel additionally holds the info playing cards for the electrostatic bias voltage settings – these are described later within the press launch.) The iCAN Phantom additionally comes with a beautiful, straightforward to make use of aluminium distant management that places the handsets equipped with many audio parts to disgrace. 

Valve or strong state – a story of two enter levels

Like the Pro iCAN earlier than it, the iCAN Phantom sports activities a number of distinctive options that set it aside from different headphone amps. One such facility is the incorporation of two enter levels – one valve/tube-based, the opposite strong state – enabling the person to modify between the 2 in actual time. These enter levels are totally separate, which implies they are often stored quick and direct for optimum purity slightly than complicating the sign path (for instance, by switching tubes out and in of a single circuit). 

The totally discrete Class A solid-state enter stage makes use of J-FETs, whereas the all-valve Class A circuit includes a hand-selected, computer-matched pair of General Electric 5670 tubes (a premium variant of the 6922). This stage has two selectable modes – Tube and Tube+. The latter minimises general loop-gain and thus destructive suggestions, giving a distinct trade-off between the tube’s pure harmonics and the transient efficiency. The impact is like three amplifiers in a single, every with a distinct sonic presentation. 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The swap to the left of the OLED show is used to pick out between Solid State, Tube and Tube+

While it’s actually enjoyable to have the ability to examine the variations between vacuum tube and solid-state sound in actual time, the inclusion of those two separate enter levels is far more than a gimmick. With completely different supply gadgets, various music kinds and an abundance of headphone and speaker varieties accessible to listeners, every of those circuits come into their very own and could also be most popular at completely different occasions. For instance, the solid-state stage presents tempo and immediacy; the Tube mode provides fluidity and a free-breathing dynamic high quality; and Tube+ accentuates the sonic affect of the valves, delivering a spellbinding romantic heat which will go well with, for instance, acoustic and vocal musical kinds.

The equipped GE 5670 tubes have an anticipated lifespan of round 100,000 hours. When ultimately the time comes to exchange them, the iCAN Phantom’s glass high is definitely eliminated to offer entry. The amp can also be appropriate with 6922 tubes (an adapter for the 6922’s pinout is included). 

PureWavePRO – reference-class totally balanced circuit design for the purest sound 

Balanced circuit design has lengthy been thought of a righteous path to audio excellence in high-end amp design, however the time period ‘balanced’ is utilized in other ways and doesn’t all the time imply the identical factor. The iCAN Phantom takes balanced circuit design to the acute – totally differential from enter to output, minimising noise and crosstalk within the sign path for final sonic purity. 

Essentially, ‘totally differential’ circuit design – or True Differential Balanced, as iFi calls it – signifies that every channel (left and proper) is totally separated within the circuit design, and every of those channels has two separate indicators of equal degree however reverse polarity (optimistic and destructive). This requires 4 separate amp circuits, two for the left channel and two for the fitting channel – far more pricey and complicated to implement than single-ended circuit designs, however the sonic dividends are vastly worthwhile. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The iCAN Phantom’s meticulous, multi-level circuit board structure options True Differential Balanced design

 

The iCAN Phantom’s True Differential Balanced circuitry is coupled to a quantity management with six decks – two decks for every channel (optimistic and destructive) with the ultimate two decks used for monitoring the amount management operation. The motorised quantity management potentiometer is custom-made by ALPS in Japan and is of outstanding high quality. 

Because the 2 halves of the amount management and the 2 halves of the amplification function differentially, they successfully develop into a single stage. So, though the circuitry is elaborately carried out, it boils right down to the best design attainable for a headphone amplifier – a quantity management, a achieve stage and a present buffer. 

iFi has championed balanced circuit design for years and lots of of its present amp gadgets in any respect method of costs incorporate balanced circuit ideas. Since 2020, iFi’s most superior balanced circuit ideas have been collectively dubbed PureWave, referring to the sonic purity they obtain due to distinctive linearity and infinitesimally low ranges of noise and distortion. The iCAN Phantom’s True Differential Balanced circuit design, utilising the very best high quality circuit parts, is the last word expression of those ideas – that’s why iFi calls it PureWavePRO.

iESL expertise – for electrostatic headphones and extra

Most headphones create sound through the use of dynamic (or transferring coil) drivers to maneuver air. A smaller quantity use planar magnetic diaphragms, that are completely different in kind and operation, however nonetheless use magnetic fields to trigger movement. At the excessive finish of the headphone scene there may be one other, uncommon however fabulous sounding driver sort – electrostatic headphones. These incorporate an electrically charged diaphragm positioned between two conductive plates or electrodes; while dynamic and planar headphones are inclined to ship stronger bass response, nothing can beat the open soundstaging and magical excessive frequencies of a top-quality electrostatic design. 

For many headphone customers there’s a important disadvantage – electrostatic drivers have extraordinarily excessive impedance, which implies they want specialised amplifiers to spice up the voltage of the audio sign far, far larger than that required by different headphone varieties while additionally dropping the present of the sign to protected ranges. One manner of doing that is so as to add a separate unit known as an electrostatic ‘energiser’ to a daily amplifier; that is the method iFi took with its previous-generation Pro Series, which gave the choice of including the Pro iESL energiser to the Pro iCAN headphone amp. 

iFi has chosen to include its iESL energiser expertise throughout the iCAN Phantom, thereby making a single amplifier that may deal with each headphone sort with aplomb. But it’s not solely homeowners of electrostatic headphones who profit from this endeavour – the part high quality and intelligent circuit design required to ship such a excessive degree of efficiency with electrostatic headphones elevates the amp’s efficiency with different headphone varieties too. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The backside degree of the multi-layer PCB structure accommodates the PPCTs – seen right here on the left of their shielded enclosures

Transformer high quality is important to sound high quality, which is why the iCAN Phantom incorporates custom-made PPCTs (Pinstripe Permalloy Core Transformer). These incorporate a GOSS/Mu-Metal hybrid core and sophisticated multi-section winding with each vertical and horizontal sectioning, utilizing extraordinarily skinny wire that’s hand-wound with nice precision. This transformer is able to exceptionally large bandwidth, ultra-low distortion and excellent linearity. 

The consideration to each circuit element is excessive, from enter to output. For instance, gold-plated silver contact relays, stuffed with an inert gasoline, guarantee good efficiency over a protracted lifespan, and meticulously engineered semiconductors, shielded from noise in gold-plated copper circumstances, ship constant, distortion-free sound. 

Powerful amplification delivers musical gratification 

The iCAN Phantom is a very highly effective headphone amplifier, able to delivering greater than 15,000mW from its balanced outputs and greater than 5,760mW from its single-ended outputs into 16 ohms. In phrases of voltage, it might provide greater than 27V right into a 600-ohm load; with regards to electrostatic headphones, it delivers as much as 640V. 

The iCAN Phantom’s capacitive battery energy provide, initially developed for the Pro iESL and additional enhanced right here, is intrinsic to its excessive degree of efficiency. Rather than counting on a mains-powered switched-mode step-up circuit, a big battery of custom-made movie capacitors rated at 1,000V DC is charged and sometimes topped up utilizing mains energy. This ‘digital battery pack’ delivers pure DC, fully freed from AC and switching noise – the best high-voltage provide for electrostatic headphones. 

Two unbiased circuits ship the electrostatic bias voltage – one for 230V ‘regular’ bias and the opposite adjustable between 500V and 640V to ship an ideal match for each electrostatic headphone on the planet. (There’s extra details about choosing ‘{custom}’ bias voltages beneath.) 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
A neat choice of switches, buttons and dials permit the person to custom-tune the amp’s efficiency

Sonic tailoring for an immaculate match 

The alternative between solid-state and valve-based enter levels isn’t the one manner to make sure the iCAN Phantom’s efficiency completely matches your headphone choice and the music you play. A variety of adjustable settings allow you to dial within the good efficiency – right here’s a abstract: 

For dynamic and planar magnetic headphones and IEMs: 

  • Adjustable achieve Three settings – 0dB, 9dB and 18dB – allow the amp to exactly match the related headphones. Unity achieve (0dB) is beneficial to make sure low noise with extra delicate headphones and IEMs, whereas the upper achieve settings take advantage of harder headphone masses, delivering wonderful dynamic headroom. 7 
  •  IEMatch This proprietary iFi circuit attenuates the output to higher go well with high-sensitivity IEMs (in-ear screens), eradicating potential background noise and rising the usable quantity vary. This may be optionally utilized to the three.5mm and balanced 4.4mm outputs. 
  • XBass analogue processing This proprietary circuit may be engaged to boost low frequencies, its sophistication enabling it to take action while sustaining bass definition and with out muddying the midrange. This is beneficial with, for instance, some open-back headphones that sound bass-light; it ‘corrects’ the bass in order that the listener hears low frequencies because the artist supposed. The iCAN Phantom presents three XBass steps – 10Hz, 20Hz and 40Hz – or it may be switched out of the sign path altogether. 
  • XSpace analogue processing Another proprietary analogue processing mode, XSpace is designed to boost soundstage width and depth. The iCAN Phantom contains two XSpace matrices, one for headphones and the opposite for audio system, with computerized switching between the 2. XSpace for Headphones compensates for the ‘in-head localisation’ impact that may happen when listening to music that was combined utilizing audio system, widening the headphone soundstage to ship a extra spacious and speaker-like expertise. XSpace for Speakers will increase the width of the obvious soundstage past the width dictated by speaker placement. Both types of XSpace characteristic a number of ranges which may be chosen in line with choice or switched out of the sign path fully. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
Six information playing cards permit bias voltage to be set exactly for each pair of electrostatic headphones

For electrostatic headphones: 

  • Custom bias voltage playing cards Electrostatic headphones have various requirement with regards to bias voltage. The iCAN Phantom has two outputs for electrostatics – one set on the ‘regular’ bias voltage of 230V, the opposite providing variable bias voltage between 500V and 640V, chosen by the person. It is feasible to wreck the headphones if the fallacious voltage is chosen; to make this far much less seemingly, iFi has created a collection of knowledge playing cards that specify completely different bias voltages (these are equipped with the amp). Simply choose the cardboard that matches the headphone’s specification and pop it within the card slot – there are playing cards for 500V, 540V, 580V, 600V, 620V and 640V, every with a useful information on the again exhibiting which headphone model is appropriate with that voltage.
  • Load impedance The impedance response may be adjusted from 16 ohms to 96 ohms. Lower impedance settings create a better step-up and can produce a louder sound degree on the similar quantity setting. 
  • AC termination This low- and high-impedance setting for the shared node between the channels for bias impacts a posh set of parameters, however most noticeably the width and depth of the soundstage. 

iFi Nexus – network-connected management 

The iCAN Phantom is the primary product to include iFi’s Nexus module, which mixes with an app to offer a complete, scalable network-connected management system. The options that Nexus presents will develop over time; at launch, the Nexus app permits your Android or iOS system to behave as a ‘tremendous distant management’ for the iCAN Phantom, offering entry to further options not accessible by way of the amp’s fascia or commonplace distant management. 

The app can show diagnostic data and permit the person to watch the iCAN Phantom’s operational situation in actual time – for instance, voltages, the situation and projected life span of the vacuum tubes and so forth. It will also be used to use over-the-air updates to the iCAN Phantom’s firmware, downloading and putting in replace recordsdata by way of your own home Wi-Fi community. 

Nexus can be integrated into extra iFi gadgets over time – for instance, a number of new mid- and top-tier DAC/amps set to reach later this yr will assist it. As the variety of Nexus-compatible iFi gadgets grows and the app’s performance expands, a network-connected iFi ‘ecosystem’ will develop – one app for all of your necessities, like a concierge service for iFi prospects. It will allow further software-driven performance to be delivered and shared throughout current iFi gadgets, in addition to offering a direct technical assist service and even doubtlessly a web-based retailer throughout the app. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The iCAN Phantom’s black decrease part presents a plethora of connection choices back and front

 

Every connection – iFi’s obtained it coated 

The iCAN Phantom provides an array of balanced and single-ended connection choices. The headphone outputs are on the entrance, with the supply inputs and preamp outputs on the rear. Here’s a abstract:

Headphone outputs (dynamic/planar)  Source inputs 
1x 3-pin balanced XLR (L/R)  1x balanced XLR (L/R) 
1x 4-pin balanced XLR  3x RCA (L/R) 
1x 4.4mm balanced  Preamp outputs 
1x 6.3mm (optimistic section)  1x balanced XLR (L/R) 
1x 6.3mm (inverted section)  1x RCA (L/R) 
1x 3.5mm (S-Balanced) 
Headphone outputs (electrostatic) 
1x 5-pin regular bias 
1x 5-pin {custom} bias 

Price and availability 

The iCAN Phantom is obtainable from chosen retailers at an RRP of £3,749. Pre-orders are actually open, with retail inventory anticipated to reach on the finish of June. 

www.ifi-audio.com

Armour Home: +44(0)1279 501111

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The put up A brand new reference: introducing the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom appeared first on Hi-Fi+.

A brand new reference: introducing the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom

From the iFi Audio press launch:

iFi’s new flagship analogue headphone amplifier delivers reference-quality sound with every part from hyper-sensitive in-ear screens to probably the most power-hungry electrostatic headphones 

Southport, England – Since its formation in 2012, iFi has persistently delivered headphone amplifiers which are rated on the prime of their class, from small and inexpensive transportable gadgets to high-performance amps to make use of at residence. 

For the previous seven years, the Pro iCAN and subsequent Pro iCAN Signature have represented the head of iFi’s vary, extensively recognised to be among the many most interesting headphone amps on the planet owing to their mixture of helpful versatility, glorious circuit design and supremely participating efficiency. But summer time 2023 sees the Pro’s crown usurped by a fair mightier headphone amp champ – the brand new iCAN Phantom. 

iFi’s new reference-class analogue headphone amp takes the Pro iCAN, refines and enhances each component of its circuitry to additional elevate its efficiency, incorporates know-how from the Pro iESL – beforehand a separate part – for electrostatic headphones, and provides a brand new, superior consumer interface and network-connected management system.  

The result’s a headphone amp actually worthy of its flagship standing, with exemplary construct high quality, refined know-how, an unrivalled specification and memorable versatility, expertly engineered to drive each headphone kind to its full sonic potential. From ultra-sensitive IEMs, to the best dynamic driver and planar magnetic headphones, to probably the most power-hungry electrostatic designs, the iCAN Phantom delivers a very distinctive headphone expertise – exquisitely tailor-made to the necessities of the listener. 

Another string to the iCAN Phantom’s bow is its capability to carry out as a high-end hi-fi preamplifier, enabling headphones and audio system to be mixed in a single high-performance audio system. Whether you employ your favorite headphones to plug your self into an intoxicating non-public musical universe or interact your audio system to fill the room with superb sound, the iCAN Phantom is brilliantly engineered to put on the coronary heart of a house audio system for probably the most discerning of music lovers. 

What’s in a reputation? 

Ever for the reason that press dubbed a newly developed Rolls-Royce “Silver Ghost” within the early twentieth century, the well-known vehicle marque has given its fashions ghostly names, evoking qualities which are so extraordinary as to appear supernatural. There has been a “Phantom” within the Rolls-Royce vary since 1925, all the time revered for the exceptional high quality of its engineering, its distinguished look and eerily clean, quiet journey. 

These are qualities that iFi sought to mirror in its new flagship headphone amp, which is why the corporate named it the iCAN Phantom – the Rolls-Royce of headphone amplifiers. It exemplifies engineering excellence to ship distinctive, ultra-low-noise audio efficiency, coupled with a particular exterior design and dual-level black and silver end that echoes the two-tone color schemes adorning many Rolls-Royce automobiles for many years. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
Supremely constructed with a dual-level black and silver end, the iCAN Phantom is the Rolls-Royce of headphone amps.

Building a flagship 

A flagship audio part needs to be constructed and completed to an distinctive normal and the iCAN Phantom definitely matches the invoice. It seems to be in contrast to every other headphone amp; its design provides the looks of two models, however it’s in reality a single, dual-level machine, the complete peak of which is absolutely utilised by its multi-layer circuit design. Its enclosure measures 256x120x185mm (WxHxD) and is sturdily constructed from aluminium, with the underside layer sporting cable connections back and front, and the highest layer providing tactile controls and a vibrant OLED show. 

The prime of the iCAN Phantom incorporates a flush-fitting smoked glass panel, via which the amp’s circuitry – together with its glowing audio valves – could be glimpsed. Circular aluminium vents protrude from the glass, making certain the circuitry inside doesn’t overheat. Clever design touches abound; for instance, when not in use the sockets on the entrance or again could be hidden by a neat aluminium panel that attaches magnetically. (This panel additionally holds the information playing cards for the electrostatic bias voltage settings – these are described later within the press launch.) The iCAN Phantom additionally comes with a gorgeous, straightforward to make use of aluminium distant management that places the handsets provided with many audio elements to disgrace. 

Valve or stable state – a story of two enter levels

Like the Pro iCAN earlier than it, the iCAN Phantom sports activities a number of distinctive options that set it other than different headphone amps. One such facility is the incorporation of two enter levels – one valve/tube-based, the opposite stable state – enabling the consumer to modify between the 2 in actual time. These enter levels are totally separate, which suggests they are often saved brief and direct for optimum purity somewhat than complicating the sign path (for instance, by switching tubes out and in of a single circuit). 

The absolutely discrete Class A solid-state enter stage makes use of J-FETs, whereas the all-valve Class A circuit contains a hand-selected, computer-matched pair of General Electric 5670 tubes (a premium variant of the 6922). This stage has two selectable modes – Tube and Tube+. The latter minimises general loop-gain and thus destructive suggestions, giving a distinct trade-off between the tube’s pure harmonics and the transient efficiency. The impact is like three amplifiers in a single, every with a distinct sonic presentation. 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The swap to the left of the OLED show is used to pick between Solid State, Tube and Tube+

While it’s definitely enjoyable to have the ability to evaluate the variations between vacuum tube and solid-state sound in actual time, the inclusion of those two separate enter levels is rather more than a gimmick. With completely different supply gadgets, various music types and an abundance of headphone and speaker sorts accessible to listeners, every of those circuits come into their very own and could also be most well-liked at completely different occasions. For instance, the solid-state stage gives tempo and immediacy; the Tube mode provides fluidity and a free-breathing dynamic high quality; and Tube+ accentuates the sonic affect of the valves, delivering a spellbinding romantic heat that will swimsuit, for instance, acoustic and vocal musical types.

The provided GE 5670 tubes have an anticipated lifespan of round 100,000 hours. When ultimately the time comes to interchange them, the iCAN Phantom’s glass prime is definitely eliminated to supply entry. The amp can also be suitable with 6922 tubes (an adapter for the 6922’s pinout is included). 

PureWavePRO – reference-class absolutely balanced circuit design for the purest sound 

Balanced circuit design has lengthy been thought-about a righteous path to audio excellence in high-end amp design, however the time period ‘balanced’ is utilized in alternative ways and doesn’t all the time imply the identical factor. The iCAN Phantom takes balanced circuit design to the acute – absolutely differential from enter to output, minimising noise and crosstalk within the sign path for final sonic purity. 

Essentially, ‘absolutely differential’ circuit design – or True Differential Balanced, as iFi calls it – signifies that every channel (left and proper) is absolutely separated within the circuit design, and every of those channels has two separate indicators of equal degree however reverse polarity (optimistic and destructive). This requires 4 separate amp circuits, two for the left channel and two for the fitting channel – rather more pricey and sophisticated to implement than single-ended circuit designs, however the sonic dividends are massively worthwhile. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The iCAN Phantom’s meticulous, multi-level circuit board structure options True Differential Balanced design

 

The iCAN Phantom’s True Differential Balanced circuitry is coupled to a quantity management with six decks – two decks for every channel (optimistic and destructive) with the ultimate two decks used for monitoring the amount management operation. The motorised quantity management potentiometer is custom-made by ALPS in Japan and is of remarkable high quality. 

Because the 2 halves of the amount management and the 2 halves of the amplification function differentially, they successfully change into a single stage. So, though the circuitry is elaborately carried out, it boils right down to the only design attainable for a headphone amplifier – a quantity management, a acquire stage and a present buffer. 

iFi has championed balanced circuit design for years and plenty of of its present amp gadgets in any respect method of costs incorporate balanced circuit rules. Since 2020, iFi’s most superior balanced circuit ideas have been collectively dubbed PureWave, referring to the sonic purity they obtain due to distinctive linearity and infinitesimally low ranges of noise and distortion. The iCAN Phantom’s True Differential Balanced circuit design, utilising the best high quality circuit elements, is the last word expression of those rules – that’s why iFi calls it PureWavePRO.

iESL know-how – for electrostatic headphones and extra

Most headphones create sound through the use of dynamic (or shifting coil) drivers to maneuver air. A smaller quantity use planar magnetic diaphragms, that are completely different in type and operation, however nonetheless use magnetic fields to trigger movement. At the excessive finish of the headphone scene there’s one other, uncommon however fabulous sounding driver kind – electrostatic headphones. These incorporate an electrically charged diaphragm positioned between two conductive plates or electrodes; while dynamic and planar headphones are inclined to ship stronger bass response, nothing can beat the open soundstaging and magical excessive frequencies of a top-quality electrostatic design. 

For many headphone customers there’s a important disadvantage – electrostatic drivers have extraordinarily excessive impedance, which suggests they want specialised amplifiers to spice up the voltage of the audio sign far, far greater than that required by different headphone sorts while additionally dropping the present of the sign to protected ranges. One approach of doing that is so as to add a separate unit known as an electrostatic ‘energiser’ to a daily amplifier; that is the strategy iFi took with its previous-generation Pro Series, which gave the choice of including the Pro iESL energiser to the Pro iCAN headphone amp. 

iFi has chosen to include its iESL energiser know-how throughout the iCAN Phantom, thereby making a single amplifier that may deal with each headphone kind with aplomb. But it’s not solely homeowners of electrostatic headphones who profit from this endeavour – the part high quality and intelligent circuit design required to ship such a excessive degree of efficiency with electrostatic headphones elevates the amp’s efficiency with different headphone sorts too. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The backside degree of the multi-layer PCB structure accommodates the PPCTs – seen right here on the left of their shielded enclosures

Transformer high quality is vital to sound high quality, which is why the iCAN Phantom incorporates custom-made PPCTs (Pinstripe Permalloy Core Transformer). These incorporate a GOSS/Mu-Metal hybrid core and sophisticated multi-section winding with each vertical and horizontal sectioning, utilizing extraordinarily skinny wire that’s hand-wound with nice precision. This transformer is able to exceptionally broad bandwidth, ultra-low distortion and excellent linearity. 

The consideration to each circuit element is excessive, from enter to output. For instance, gold-plated silver contact relays, full of an inert gasoline, guarantee excellent efficiency over an extended lifespan, and meticulously engineered semiconductors, shielded from noise in gold-plated copper instances, ship constant, distortion-free sound. 

Powerful amplification delivers musical gratification 

The iCAN Phantom is a very highly effective headphone amplifier, able to delivering greater than 15,000mW from its balanced outputs and greater than 5,760mW from its single-ended outputs into 16 ohms. In phrases of voltage, it could possibly provide greater than 27V right into a 600-ohm load; in the case of electrostatic headphones, it delivers as much as 640V. 

The iCAN Phantom’s capacitive battery energy provide, initially developed for the Pro iESL and additional enhanced right here, is intrinsic to its excessive degree of efficiency. Rather than counting on a mains-powered switched-mode step-up circuit, a big battery of custom-made movie capacitors rated at 1,000V DC is charged and infrequently topped up utilizing mains energy. This ‘digital battery pack’ delivers pure DC, fully freed from AC and switching noise – the best high-voltage provide for electrostatic headphones. 

Two unbiased circuits ship the electrostatic bias voltage – one for 230V ‘regular’ bias and the opposite adjustable between 500V and 640V to ship an ideal match for each electrostatic headphone on the planet. (There’s extra details about deciding on ‘{custom}’ bias voltages under.) 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
A neat number of switches, buttons and dials enable the consumer to custom-tune the amp’s efficiency

Sonic tailoring for an immaculate match 

The alternative between solid-state and valve-based enter levels isn’t the one approach to make sure the iCAN Phantom’s efficiency completely matches your headphone choice and the music you play. A spread of adjustable settings allow you to dial within the excellent efficiency – right here’s a abstract: 

For dynamic and planar magnetic headphones and IEMs: 

  • Adjustable acquire Three settings – 0dB, 9dB and 18dB – allow the amp to exactly match the related headphones. Unity acquire (0dB) is helpful to make sure low noise with extra delicate headphones and IEMs, whereas the upper acquire settings benefit from harder headphone masses, delivering glorious dynamic headroom. 7 
  •  IEMatch This proprietary iFi circuit attenuates the output to raised swimsuit high-sensitivity IEMs (in-ear screens), eradicating potential background noise and rising the usable quantity vary. This could be optionally utilized to the three.5mm and balanced 4.4mm outputs. 
  • XBass analogue processing This proprietary circuit could be engaged to reinforce low frequencies, its sophistication enabling it to take action while sustaining bass definition and with out muddying the midrange. This is helpful with, for instance, some open-back headphones that sound bass-light; it ‘corrects’ the bass in order that the listener hears low frequencies because the artist meant. The iCAN Phantom gives three XBass steps – 10Hz, 20Hz and 40Hz – or it may be switched out of the sign path altogether. 
  • XSpace analogue processing Another proprietary analogue processing mode, XSpace is designed to reinforce soundstage width and depth. The iCAN Phantom contains two XSpace matrices, one for headphones and the opposite for audio system, with automated switching between the 2. XSpace for Headphones compensates for the ‘in-head localisation’ impact that may happen when listening to music that was combined utilizing audio system, widening the headphone soundstage to ship a extra spacious and speaker-like expertise. XSpace for Speakers will increase the width of the obvious soundstage past the width dictated by speaker placement. Both types of XSpace function a number of ranges that could be chosen in line with desire or switched out of the sign path fully. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
Six knowledge playing cards enable bias voltage to be set exactly for each pair of electrostatic headphones

For electrostatic headphones: 

  • Custom bias voltage playing cards Electrostatic headphones have various requirement in the case of bias voltage. The iCAN Phantom has two outputs for electrostatics – one set on the ‘regular’ bias voltage of 230V, the opposite providing variable bias voltage between 500V and 640V, chosen by the consumer. It is feasible to wreck the headphones if the flawed voltage is chosen; to make this far much less seemingly, iFi has created a collection of information playing cards that specify completely different bias voltages (these are provided with the amp). Simply choose the cardboard that matches the headphone’s specification and pop it within the card slot – there are playing cards for 500V, 540V, 580V, 600V, 620V and 640V, every with a useful information on the again displaying which headphone model is suitable with that voltage.
  • Load impedance The impedance response could be adjusted from 16 ohms to 96 ohms. Lower impedance settings create a higher step-up and can produce a louder sound degree on the identical quantity setting. 
  • AC termination This low- and high-impedance setting for the shared node between the channels for bias impacts a posh set of parameters, however most noticeably the width and depth of the soundstage. 

iFi Nexus – network-connected management 

The iCAN Phantom is the primary product to include iFi’s Nexus module, which mixes with an app to supply a complete, scalable network-connected management system. The options that Nexus gives will develop over time; at launch, the Nexus app permits your Android or iOS machine to behave as a ‘tremendous distant management’ for the iCAN Phantom, offering entry to further options not accessible by way of the amp’s fascia or normal distant management. 

The app can show diagnostic data and permit the consumer to watch the iCAN Phantom’s operational situation in actual time – for instance, voltages, the situation and projected life span of the vacuum tubes and so forth. It may also be used to use over-the-air updates to the iCAN Phantom’s firmware, downloading and putting in replace information by way of your own home Wi-Fi community. 

Nexus might be integrated into extra iFi gadgets over time – for instance, a number of new mid- and top-tier DAC/amps set to reach later this yr will assist it. As the variety of Nexus-compatible iFi gadgets grows and the app’s performance expands, a network-connected iFi ‘ecosystem’ will develop – one app for all of your necessities, like a concierge service for iFi clients. It will allow further software-driven performance to be delivered and shared throughout present iFi gadgets, in addition to offering a direct technical assist service and even probably a web-based retailer throughout the app. 

 

iFi Audio iCAN Phantom
The iCAN Phantom’s black decrease part gives a plethora of connection choices back and front

 

Every connection – iFi’s received it coated 

The iCAN Phantom provides an array of balanced and single-ended connection choices. The headphone outputs are on the entrance, with the supply inputs and preamp outputs on the rear. Here’s a abstract:

Headphone outputs (dynamic/planar)  Source inputs 
1x 3-pin balanced XLR (L/R)  1x balanced XLR (L/R) 
1x 4-pin balanced XLR  3x RCA (L/R) 
1x 4.4mm balanced  Preamp outputs 
1x 6.3mm (optimistic part)  1x balanced XLR (L/R) 
1x 6.3mm (inverted part)  1x RCA (L/R) 
1x 3.5mm (S-Balanced) 
Headphone outputs (electrostatic) 
1x 5-pin regular bias 
1x 5-pin {custom} bias 

Price and availability 

The iCAN Phantom is out there from chosen retailers at an RRP of £3,749. Pre-orders are actually open, with retail inventory anticipated to reach on the finish of June. 

www.ifi-audio.com

Armour Home: +44(0)1279 501111

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The publish A brand new reference: introducing the iFi Audio iCAN Phantom appeared first on Hi-Fi+.

Burson Soloist 3X GT

The personal corner of the audio market is abuzz as vendors compete to out-do each other in the measurement stakes. Some of the latest personal audio amplifiers, many from China, almost defy electro-physics with distortion artefacts that are not just inaudible, but a challenge to detect with even the most sensitive of test gear. They also defy commercial convention with prices as low as £500-£600. Yes. If we believe that measurements tell us everything we need to know about how an amplifier will sound, that really is all we need to spend.

Burson from Australia has long been the exception to that rule and its new Soloist 3X GT combined personal audio amplifier and line stage is an intriguing product because the Soloist 3X GT doesn’t exactly push the measurements envelope. And neither does it cost £500 or £600. More like £2,500.

Burson Soloist 3XGT

Burson made a name for itself by designing and manufacturing op-amps for studio and OEM applications. The latest generation of Burson op-amps, such as the flagship V6 Vivid, are notable for being built with discrete components rather than being on-chip devices. Alongside, Burson has developed its own range of finished amplifiers and DACs, currently starting with the £544 Funk Class AB speaker/headphone amplifier and topping out cost-wise with the Soloist 3X GT.

Pure Class A

The Soloist 3X GT is a pure Class A design. It has a claimed +/-1 dB bandwidth of DC to 48 kHz. Burson provides no figures for channel phase balance. THD into headphones is quoted as 0.0015% and SNR as 112 dB into 16 Ohms; not class leading, but not shabby either.

Burson’s design aesthetic is impossible to mistake for that of any other audio manufacturer. From the diminutive Funk upwards, the company’s finished products have ribbed aluminium cases with front and back plates of smooth aluminium, all electro-plated in the same light grey. The design is an efficient heat radiator in its own right, and so it tells us something that the Soloist 3X GT has an internal cooling fan. It needs one because it draws 90 Watts even when idle, and that translates into grunt, at least in headphone amplifier terms, with a capital G. The output of 10 Watts per channel into a 16 Ohm XLR load and 640 mW into 600 Ohms is more than twice that of some of its competitors. Output halves if the single-ended TRS socket is used.

Burson Soloist 3X GT

The review sample was left running for four weeks constantly. From a distance of a foot or so, the fan was audible between tracks when using an open-back headphone, but at greater distances the whirr disappeared into the nominal 31 dBA background level of the listening room. The fan is a standard low-noise computer device, widely available, so replacements should not be a problem.

The Soloist 3X GT’s internal switching power supply is fed by a wall-wart and operates at 170 kHz. Also inside the distinctive case are a pair of symmetrical mono amplifiers, each using three V6 Vivid op-amps. Gain is governed by two high-end volume control chips. On the back panel are XLR and RCA inputs, XLR and RCA outputs, plus a RCA sub-out that can be used for both headphone and line stage outputs. There are also three 12V trigger sockets and a microphone by-pass socket. On the front a dimmable white OLED display shows the gain selected by the rotary control, while buttons give access to input and output configuration, display orientation and a menu of options including line-stage balance, three levels of gain and three levels of crossfeed.

Flagship challenge

I used a LCD-5 headphone for most of the listening sessions. Audeze’s latest flagship planar model presents a load of 14 Ohms with a claimed efficiency of 90 dB. Even on its lowest gain setting the Soloist 3X GT comfortably drove the LCD-5, requiring a volume setting of 79 from a maximum of 100 to achieve more than loud enough sound pressure levels. On the highest gain setting a similar subjective volume was achieved with the control set to just 14. With no signal on the input, even on its highest setting and with the volume wound up to maximum, the review sample was silent into the Audeze LCD-5 and a Sennheiser HD650. It is safe to assume that with this level of sophistication, and an output impedance of 0.5 Ohms, it would likely be a good match for sensitive in‑ear-monitors too.

Burson’s designers have declined to just focus on stats but instead also paid attention to the key musical qualities of dynamic agility, dynamic expression, tonal density and timing. The payback for this approach is apparent within seconds of pressing the play button on the first quality recording of acoustic material. Teamed with the Audeze LCD-5, the Soloist 3X GT rendered the drum beats in the intro to the opening track of the Tingvall Trio’s 2017 album Cirklar [Skip] with a distinctly high-end and satisfying sense of texture to the skin tension and shell resonances.

Burson Soloist-3XGT-Cool-Stand

For much of the second track on the same album, double bass player Omar Rodriguez Calvo mirrors the melody that pianist Martin Tingvall plays with his left hand. In the last 12 months I’ve heard several headphone amplifiers that boasted absolutely stellar measurements… yet rendered the two layers as a homogenised, untextured and sterile sound.

In contrast, the 3X GT made it possible not only to hear each player’s subtle timing variations but also to discern the distinct tonal and percussive characters of their instruments. If we are wondering how the Burson might be worth five times the price of a £500 amplifier that measurers perfectly, then maybe there’s our answer. Or at least part of it. Because the Soloist 3X GT demonstrated too, on the same track and in the span of a handful of bars, that it is more than simply a detail machine. Several times Calvo pops out from under Tingvall’s left hand to play a dazzling fill before diving back under again to resume doubling on the main figure. Here, the Burson showed class-leading levels of both dynamic agility and dynamic expression, making listeners jump in surprise at the weight, power and texture of Calvo’s double-bass. In the intro of the same track, the Bonham-esque polyrhythmic pattern played by drummer Jürgen Spiegel was accurately nailed with speed and exemplary timing.

Philip Glass Philip Glass Glass Glass Glass Philip

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under Robert Shaw playing Philip Glass’s Itaipu [Sony] is a reference recording of a towering, majestic work. Shaw makes full use of the impressive resources to hand, and the huge dynamic range and raw power of the performance poses a stern test of the entire audio chain, sometimes sending weak components into spasms of intermodulation, dynamic compression and flattened sound-staging. The Soloist 3X GT driving the Audeze LCD-5 headphone did not break a sweat.

I have to confess to being caught out. During a quiet passage and marvelling at the amplifier’s ability to throw perhaps the best sound stage available at or near the price, I was lured into winding the gain control ever upwards. So deep in concentration was I that I had temporarily lost my bearings in the piece, forgetting that a few bars on Shaw asks the orchestra and chorus for full throttle. When it came, the massive dynamic peak had me lunging in desperate self-preservation for the pause button on the CD transport, but not before registering that while the volume was painfully loud, the Burson had not lost its impressive level of composure.

Burson Soloist 3X GT

Complaints? I have but two. Why is there no way to turn off the display? Much headphone listening happens at night. Do we really want the womb-like hygge of our listening room ruined by penetrating OLED white? And why offer a balance function only on the line output? Few people have symmetrical hearing. But in every other respect the Burson Soloist 3X GT is an impressive package. Its neutral, natural, expansive and dynamically expressive abilities, coupled to that class-leading level of spatial resolution, makes it a serious contender for our money, putting it in a similar bracket to the Sparkos Labs Aries and the Benchmark HPA4, two notably high-achieving alternatives.

The Burson Soloist 3X GT is proof indeed, if proof were needed, that measurements do not always tell the whole story.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Type: Class A dual mono headphone amplifier and line stage preamplifier
  • Inputs: 2× RCA stereo pair, 2xXLR stereo pair
  • Headphone outputs: 3.5mm stereo jack, 6.3mm stereo jack, four-pin XLR balanced
  • Outputs: 1× RCA stereo pair, 1× XLR stereo pair, 1× RCA subwoofer output
  • Headphone power: 10Wpc (XLR) and 5Wpc (single‑ended)
  • Gain levels: Three, matching headphones from 60db to 108db sensitivity
  • Volume control: 2 X MUSES72320 + V6 Burson Vivid op‑amp discrete buffer
  • Features: Speaker soundstage centring, three levels of hardware-based headphone crossfeed
  • Dimensions: 25.5 × 27 × 7cm
  • Weight: 5kg
  • Price: £2,499

Manufacturer:

Burson Audio

URL: bursonaudio.com

UK Retailers

Hifonix: hifonix.co.uk

Tel: +44(0)121 382 5444

HiFiHeadphones: hifiheadphones.co.uk

Tel: +44(0)1903 768910

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The post Burson Soloist 3X GT appeared first on Hi-Fi+.

Neil Young Archives Gets Cookin’ with Mojo

The following is a press release issued by Chord Electronics

23rd February 2021 | Kent, UK – In a new article posted on the Neil Young Archives, Neil Young and Phil Baker describe how they currently use Chord Electronics’ Mojo DAC/headphone amplifier with their phones and desktops. They created a web page dedicated to correct Mojo set up to help their members enjoy all that Neil Young Archives has to offer, at full resolution.

In the ‘Let’s Get Cookin’ with SOUND!’ article (neilyoungarchives.com), NYA author Phil Baker introduces the British-built Mojo and the simple recipe for ‘Xstream’ sound quality, which includes Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter and the Neil Young Archives.

Describing Chord Electronics’ Mojo Baker writes, ‘The Mojo, designed and built in the UK, is one of the best portable DACs/amplifiers available at any price. It’s what Neil and I use with our phones, iPads and computers to listen to NYA at its full resolution.’

The article also features practical Mojo advice from Chord Electronics’ Sales Director, Colin Pratt: ‘Mojo unlocks the hidden data that other DACs just can’t reproduce… it brings a real sense of presence to your listening experience.’

Neil Young Archives, described by The Guardian as, ‘A revolution in fandom’, contains the complete archives of Neil Young. The site is designed for a chronological exploration of artist output including music, books, films and videos. Neil Young and Phil Baker recently co-authored a book about high resolution audio, ‘To Feel the Music’.

Price and availability

Mojo is available now priced at £399

The post Neil Young Archives Gets Cookin’ with Mojo appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

McIntosh MHA200 Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier

Tubes going in, and tubes going out Honey, they’ve shrunk the MC275 (or recently reviewed MC1502) and made it for driving headphones. If that’s not exciting news, what is? The McIntosh MHA200 is an all tube affair, and no you’re not seeing triple, that’s a pair of McIntosh’s Unity Coupled Circuit output transformers. McIntosh MHA200 Connectivity includes, A pair of 3-pin balanced and a single 4-pin balanced output, along with standard 1/4-inch stereo jack. Inputs accept both balanced and RCA. On the front, something interested which is detailed below, a load impedance knob. Shipping is expected to being in March 2021, and at a suggested retail price of $2,500 USD. More specific details and pictures are included in the press release below. Press Release Below McIntosh Announces MHA200 Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier Treat Your Headphones to McIntosh Vacuum Tube Amplification Binghamton, NY – February 4, 2021 – McIntosh, the global leader in prestigious home entertainment and ultimate-quality audio for 70 years, is proud to introduce the MHA200 Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier. The McIntosh MHA200 Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier is designed for discerning headphone enthusiasts who demand the most from their headphones. Its versatile set of connectivity options, including balanced inputs […]

CEntrance Updates HiFi-M8 Adding Four Outputs and Bluetooth

The following is a press release issued by CEntrance.
Chicago, IL | December 2020CEntrance has just announced the launch of the updated HiFi-M8, a portable headphone amplifier and D/A converter for audio enthusiasts on the move. The new version of the acclaimed portable device adds Bluetooth support, four headphone outputs, LED VU meters, USB-C, and many other features. The updated device fills an important gap for audiophiles, who like to listen to music with a variety of headphones. HiFi-M8 V2 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, offering audiophiles a choice of balanced or unbalanced outputs, but takes the expansion a step further. The new product has two balanced and two unbalanced outputs for extra flexibility while jumping between sensitive and hard-to-drive headphone models. 

“Our customers like to compare the sound of different headphones,” said Michael Goodman, CEntrance CEO. “They need a reference device, compatible with their entire headphone collection and offering great sound quality on the move. The new HiFi-M8 is that reference. Paired with a Digital Audio Player or a Smartphone, it is designed to deliver plenty of power and pristine sound quality no matter where you are and which headphones you use.”

Because HiFi-M8 V2 offers simultaneous use of the four outputs at once, it’s easy to compare headphones at a retail store or at home, or to listen to music or watch a movie with a friend, even on an airplane. The device features a digital volume control, offering perfect channel matching all the way down to minimum loudness. HiFi-M8 V2 works with smartphones and tablets running Android and Apple iOS, as well as MacOS and Windows-based computers. It supports all standard sampling rates including 24-bit/44.1kHz up to 32-bit/384kHz, and DSD. An ASIO driver is available for Windows 10. 

The original HiFi-M8, released in 2013, garnered critical acclaim from CNET, HiFi+, Part Time Audiophile, and many other respected publications. Inner Fidelity placed it on its ‘Wall of Fame’ for portable headphone amplifiers. The new model adds balanced Bluetooth connectivity for wireless use, STAMINA mode for longer battery life, and calibrated VU meters for visually comparing differently mastered music. CEntrance engineers worked very hard to offer “pitch-black noise floor” for users of Balanced Armature In-Ear-Monitors (IEM). Some people like to fall asleep while listening to music but nothing is more distracting than background hiss. HiFi-M8 V2 was designed to eliminate audible hiss by using low-noise D/A converters and amplifiers. All of this, combined with the ability to deliver high power for overhead headphones, makes it a flexible, unique portable tool.

HiFi-M8 V2 features eight amplifiers in total, four on the “cool side” designed for IEM use, and four more on the “hot side”, designed to deliver higher power to hard-to-drive headphones. On the cool side it features a 2.5mm balanced output and a 3.5mm unbalanced output. On the hot side, it features a 4-pin XLR balanced output and a ?-inch unbalanced output. Customers using IEMs can engage the STAMINA switch, to disable the “hot side” amps and extend useful battery life to 11 hours. The internal battery can be charged from a USB socket in about four hours.

To help survive the rigors of daily use, the chassis is made of lightweight aluminum. Operation is easy and intuitive, and the recessed controls are kept safe while the product bounces around in a backpack. HiFi-M8 V2 is ideal for active audiophiles who don’t want to compromise sound quality nor flexibility while moving about during their day.

HiFi-M8 V2 is shipping now and retails for $749.99 USD.

The post CEntrance Updates HiFi-M8 Adding Four Outputs and Bluetooth appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

FOCAL Stellia Headphone, Arche Amplifier | REVIEW

I don’t listen to headphones like the Focal Stellia (website). Okay, let me back up—I listen to headphones all the time, just not for pleasure, but rather to check my work in the studio and occasionally to make eq decisions on a master. Words by Dave McNair and Nan Pincus When Eric Franklin Shook asked me if I wanted to review some headphones, I said “Uh, I don’t think so.” “Wait, these are special ‘phones—the Focal Stellia AND their killer headamp the Arche,” he says. “Okay, I’ll give it a shot,” I reply since I know Eric to be the best at deciphering the fake news you can trust. Dave McNair’s Take So here I am with these gorgeous, French-made beauties. The Focal Stellia headphones look like they’d be at home on location at the season’s showing of the new Chanel or YSL line. Not too blingy but a certain unmistakable French elegance in fit and finish. After I whipped up a batch of Coq au Vin and got out a bottle of vintage Bordeaux, I sat down to listen to some Serge Gainsbourg. Tonight, the headphones will deliver you the words I can’t say The first thing I did […]

iFi NEO iDSD launches

The following is a press release from iFi.

An all-new design, state-of-the-art specifications and a sound that soars – iFi’s NEO iDSD hi-res DAC/headphone amp is every music lover’s perfect housemate

Southport, England – Since its inception in 2012, iFi has been at the forefront of DAC technology for home and portable use, delivering exemplary sound with digital music sources both online and offline. This autumn sees the launch of an all-new mains powered iFi DAC/headphone amp, sporting sophisticated circuits to supply scintillating sonics with every audio format in a home environment.

The NEO iDSD is designed for maximum flexibility, with sleek aluminium casework that can be positioned horizontally or vertically, the latter via a supplied stand. An informative OLED display flips automatically to suit the preferred orientation, while a smooth-acting multifunction rotary control ensures the NEO iDSD is simple to use, despite its sophistication and versatility.

Three operational modes ensure the NEO iDSD covers all bases with aplomb. It can be used as a pure DAC with a fixed-level analogue output to connect to a separate integrated amp or preamp in an audio system. Or, it can operate as a DAC/preamp with a variable output, ideal for connecting directly to a power amp or active speakers. And, of course, headphone users can make use of its excellent amp stage to create a fabulous ‘head-fi’ system.

Whether connected to source devices via cable or high-definition Bluetooth, the NEO iDSD’s next-level digital engine and fully balanced analogue circuits deliver captivating sound – brilliant with music, multimedia content or to enhance your next-generation gaming experience.

 

Custom-designed digital engine

The NEO iDSD’s ‘digital engine’ is based around a Burr-Brown DAC chipset that iFi uses extensively, selected for its natural-sounding ‘musicality’ and True Native architecture. iFi’s experience with this IC means it knows how to make the most of it; but whilst intrinsic to the resulting sound, the creation of an exemplary DAC stage involves much more than the selection of a particular DAC chip.

One such critical component is the XMOS chip that processes the audio data received via the USB and S/PDIF digital inputs. The NEO iDSD uses a new low-latency XMOS microcontroller with greatly enhanced processing power – compared to the current generation of eight-core chips, this new 16-core IC delivers double the clock speed (2000MIPS) and four times the memory (512KB), as well as the latest SuperSpeed USB standard. iFi’s in-house digital development team has programmed the XMOS firmware to optimise sound quality and ensure a perfect partnership with the Burr-Brown DAC.

Extensive jitter-eradication technologies are applied to the digital stage, including iFi’s GMT (Global Master Timing) femto-precision clock and intelligent memory buffer. The NEO iDSD also comes with iFi’s GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimised) digital filter installed; alternative digital filters can be loaded as firmware updates if preferred.

 

Every format at the highest quality

Hi-res audio support is state-of-the-art, handling PCM data to 32-bit/768kHz, all levels of DSD up to DSD512, and single- and double-speed DXD.

Thanks to the Burr-Brown DAC chip’s four-channel True Native design, PCM and DSD take separate pathways – this enables DSD, as well as PCM, to remain ‘bit-perfect’ in its native form right through to analogue conversion. This is often not the case with DAC devices from other brands – even if DSD compatibility is stated, many such DACs convert DSD signals to PCM.

MQA ­– the hi-res streaming codec, as used by Tidal’s ‘Masters’ tier – is also supported through the USB and S/PDIF inputs, with full decoding of MQA files up to 384kHz thanks to the processing power of the new 16-core XMOS chip. This means that the full ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to only the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’. Globally, MQA has become an important consideration for any comprehensively equipped DAC; for Tidal Masters subscribers, the NEO iDSD is a brilliant way to make the most of the superior sound of which this streaming service is capable.

 

Bluetooth as you’ve never heard it before

As well as digital cable inputs, the NEO iDSD offers the convenience of wireless Bluetooth reception. But this isn’t Bluetooth as you’ve heard it before – not unless you’ve heard iFi’s ‘ZEN Blue’ Bluetooth receiver or ‘Aurora’ wireless music system, at any rate.

iFi was the first audio brand to deliver products using Qualcomm’s new QCC5100 Bluetooth processing IC when it launched the ZEN Blue and Aurora, combining this chip with proprietary circuits to develop an audibly superior ‘Bluetooth engine’ now also built into the NEO iDSD. While Bluetooth’s convenience and wide device compatibility is well recognised, many people don’t realise how good Bluetooth can sound because they’ve only experienced it at base-level quality using basic and outdated implementations.

All the current high-definition Bluetooth audio formats are supported, including Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive and aptX HD, Sony’s LDAC and HWA’s LHDC. Other codecs covered include regular aptX and aptX Low Latency, AAC (the favoured format of Apple iOS devices) and SBC (the ‘plain vanilla’ Bluetooth codec). This means that every possible source device is covered at the highest audio resolution its Bluetooth specification allows. iFi’s ‘Bluetooth engine’ can also be updated over-the air, so future codecs may be added to the NEO iDSD’s specification.

The NEO iDSD ‘remembers’ up to seven paired Bluetooth source devices, making it easy to switch from one device to another, with impressive reception range thanks to the latest Bluetooth 5 specification. The DAC stage handles sampling rates well in excess of the maximum delivered by current hi-res Bluetooth formats – of the 24-bit-capable codecs, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD support up to 48kHz, while LDAC and LHDC reach 96kHz.

PureWave circuit design – the balance of power

The digital stage is only half the story in any DAC/headphone amp; when it come to the crucial analogue circuitry, many such devices fall short. Balanced, differential analogue circuit design has long been championed for its ability to reduce noise and cross-talk within the signal path by fully separating the left and right channels. However, this is more complex and costly than single-ended circuitry, and so has traditionally remained the preserve of high-end hi-fi components.

iFi has gradually introduced fully balanced circuit design across its range – first in the flagship Pro Series components, then in the entry-level ZEN Series devices. The NEO iDSD, which sits between the two in terms of price, features a new, balanced, symmetrical dual-mono topology with short, direct signal paths, developed specifically for this model – iFi calls this circuit design ‘PureWave’, referring to the sonic purity it achieves thanks to exceptional linearity and infinitesimally low levels of noise and distortion.

Renowned high-end audio electronics engineer John Curl, best known for his pioneering balanced circuit designs and now a technical consultant for iFi, has worked closely with iFi’s in-house technical team, headed by Thorsten Loesch, to perfect this design. High-quality components are used throughout, including custom ultra-low-distortion op-amps, multilayer ceramic TDK C0G capacitors, MELF thin-film resistors and inductors from Murata and Taiyo Yuden. These are more costly than commonly used equivalents, but class-leading qualities such as low ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance), high linearity and low noise pay great dividends in terms of sound quality.

The headphone amp stage maintains an engaging balance between sonic power and poise, no matter what it is tasked to drive – from high-sensitivity in-ear monitors to current-hungry planar headphones – with a continuous power output of more than 1000mW into 32ohms available through the balanced headphone socket. To retain maximum resolution, volume is adjusted in the analogue domain via a resistor ladder, under precise microprocessor control.

The NEO iDSD’s low-noise, high-bandwidth power supply circuity sports linear regulation and delivers excellent PSRR (Power Supply Rejection Ratio) performance. BiCMOS semiconductor technology using a PMOS device achieves ultra-low distortion and excellent transient response. This couples with iFi’s iPower AC/DC adapter, which engenders significantly less noise than other similar devices and is included with the NEO iDSD (£49 when sold separately).

The OLED display, which indicates audio format, sampling rate, volume level and input mode, offers user-adjustable brightness and SilentLine design, ensuring there is no electrical noise to interfere with the audio signal. Even the way the NEO iDSD switches between settings has been engineered to ensure sonic transparency – FET-based switching is handled by a microcontroller, which only ‘wakes up’ when the user changes a setting, thus eradicating any sonically deleterious interference.

In terms of measured performance, all this painstaking attention to detail results in THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) of <0.0015 per cent and SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) of >120dB – highly impressive at any price. To the ear, this translates as more clarity and texture, and a more dynamic and engaging performance – quite simply, you hear more of the music, just as the artist intended.

Well connected

For cable connections, the NEO iDSD provides three digital inputs – asynchronous USB Type B, as well as both optical and coaxial flavours of S/PDIF. Three devices may be connected simultaneously via these inputs, plus a fourth via Bluetooth, with the desired input selected via the front-mounted rotary control.

Balanced outputs are supplied, to make the most of the NEO iDSD’s fully balanced circuitry. To the front, alongside a standard 6.3mm single-ended headphone socket, resides a 4.4mm Pentaconn output for headphones offering balanced connection. An increasing number of high-quality headphones and in-ear monitors either come so equipped or give the option of detaching the cable and upgrading to a 4.4mm Pentaconn connector (this output is particularly recommended for tougher headphone loads). Around the back, to connect the NEO iDSD to an amp and speakers (or active speakers), single-ended RCA outputs are accompanied by a pair of XLR sockets ­– the standard balanced connector for high-end hi-fi.

With an RRP of £699, (€749, $699) the iFi NEO iDSD is available from selected retailers from Friday 6th November 2020.

 

The post iFi NEO iDSD launches appeared first on Dagogo.

iFi introduces micro iDSD Signature DAC/headphone amp

The following is a press release from iFi Audio.

Sporting a host of enhancements both inside and out, one of the most highly acclaimed hi-res DAC/headphone amps on the planet just got even better–meet the micro iDSD Signature.

Southport, England –iFi audio, the acclaimed maker of audio devices for home and portable use, has redesigned one of its most popular products to createthe micro iDSD Signature, delivering a host of improvements to enhance performance and usability.Since launching in 2017 as an upgraded version of the original micro iDSD, the micro iDSD Black Label has been iFi’s top-of-the-range battery-powered DAC/headphone amp. The new Signature edition builds on its predecessor’s reputation for exceptional sound quality and versatility with enhanced circuitry in critical areas and a new 4.4mm Pentaconn headphone output, among other upgrades.

The new model is housed in the same 177 x 67 x 28mm extruded aluminium enclosure as the Black Label version, as all products in iFi’s longstanding ‘micro’ range have been. But, rather than black, the micro iDSD Signature sports a Space Blue finish –a new colour reserved for ‘Signature’ versions of some of iFi’s most popular products, of which there will be more in the months to come.

Although powered by a built-in rechargeable battery, the micro iDSD Signature is more of a desktop-sized device than pocket-sized one –a transportable DAC/headphone amp that can easily be moved around without requiring a mains socket. Being battery-powered gives it a performance advantage over mains-powered products, too –ultra-clean and stable DC power, negating the issues that can be introduced by AC mains electricity with its dips, spikes and noise-inducing RFI/EMI pollution.

The battery delivers 6-12 hours of playing time, depending on the type of headphones connected and the performance mode engaged. If thebattery runs low whilst in use, it can be plugged into a power source to charge and play at the same time.

Digital engine

The micro iDSD Signature’s ‘digital engine’ is based around a Burr-Brown DAC chip that iFi uses extensively, selected for its natural-sounding ‘musicality’ and True Native architecture. Here, as with the previous Black Label version, two of these DAC chips are installed in a custom ‘interleaved’ configuration. This enables four pairs of differential signals –two pairs per channel –which lowers the noise floor, improves channel separation and enhances the DAC’s ability to resolve fine musical detail and micro-dynamics.

Hi-res audio support is state-of-the-art, handling PCM data to 32-bit/768kHz, all levels of DSD up to DSD512, and single-and double-speed DXD. MQA–the hi-res streaming codec, as used by Tidal’s ‘Masters’ tier –is also supported. Thanks to the Burr-Brown chip’s True Native design, PCM and DSD take separate pathways –this enables DSD, as well as PCM, to remain ‘bit-perfect’ in its native form right through to analogue conversion. This is often not the case with DAC devices from other brands.

Extensive jitter-eradication technologies are applied to the digital engine, including iFi’s GMT (Global Master Timing) femto-precision clock and intelligent memory buffer. The micro iDSD Signature also comes with iFi’s GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimized) digital filter installed; alternative digital filters can be loaded as firmware updates if preferred.

Circuit training

The outgoing micro iDSD Black Label’s amp stage remains widely recognised as the finest available in any battery-powered portable DAC/headphone amp, able to drive all manner of headphones with aplomb, from highly sensitive in-ear monitors to current-hungry planar headphones. For the new Signature version, the circuitry has been fine-tuned –it still delivers the same prodigious power (up to 4100mW) and dynamic ability, but the signal path has been refined to maximise sonic texture and detail.

High-quality components are used throughout the micro iDSD Signature’s circuitry, utilising its larger form factor in comparison to pocket-sized DAC/amps. Custom ultra-low-distortion op-amps feature in both the digital and analogue stages (part numbers OV2028 and OV2627 respectively), together with a hand-selected range of capacitors including the multilayer ceramic type TDK C0G, polyphenylene sulphide film type Panasonic ECPU and aluminium-polymer solid type Panasonic OS-CON. MELF thin-film resistors and inductors from Taiyo Yuden and Murata also feature in the circuit design.

These are all more costly components, but class-leading qualities such as low ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance), high stability and low distortion pay great dividends in terms of sound quality. Many hours of listening tests, alongside rigorous analysis in the lab, has determined the optimum circuit design to deliver maximum musical enjoyment.

An important aspect of the circuit design is its direct-coupled nature –no coupling capacitor is present. This is achieved without a conventionally applied DC servo; iFi calls this design Direct Drive Servoless.

Versatile sonic tailoring

With the huge variety of headphones and digital music platforms available, all with different technical characteristics, the ‘one size fits all’ approach offered by many DAC/headphone amp manufacturers fails to deliver the versatility many users require to make the most of their music. iFi designs its products to be more flexible, delivering precision sonic tailoring via switchable settings to match any headphone set-up, the variation in quality of digital audio files and, of course, personal taste –the micro iDSD Signature offers this versatility in spades.

The digital stage benefits from a variety of filter settings: ‘Standard’, ‘Minimum Phase’ and ‘Bit-Perfect’ for PCM files, and ‘Standard Bandwidth’, ‘Extended Bandwidth’ and ‘Extreme Bandwidth’ for DSD. The amp stage also has three settings to adjust power and gain: ‘Normal’, ‘Turbo’ (ramps up the level of drive for current-hungry headphones) and ‘Eco’ (dials down the power to suit high-sensitivity in-ear monitors and/or extend battery life).

Further optimisation for sensitive in-ear monitors –an area of weakness for many DAC/amps –is supplied via iFi’s IEMatch technology, which adjusts the output level to suit. Once engaged, two levels of IEMatch are available –‘High Sensitivity’ and ‘Ultra Sensitivity’.

Those familiar with iFi headphone amps will recognise the company’s XBass+ and 3D+ settings. These proprietary circuits have been performance-tuned for the micro iDSD Signature and may be switched in or out according taste, fine-tuning the sound in the analogue domain to maintain sonic purity. XBass+ adjusts frequency response to enhance low frequencies –useful with ‘bass-light’ headphones, such as some open-back designs. 3D+ compensates for the ‘in-head localisation’ effect that often occurs when using headphones to listen to music that was mixed using a pair of speakers, effectively widening the headphone soundstage to deliver a more speaker-like experience.

Get connected

At the back of the chassis lie two digital audio inputs: USB Type A and an S/PDIF socket that accepts both electrical and optical signals, the former via a 3.5mm connector and the latter via a supplied adapter.

Unusually, the Type A USB input features a ‘male’ connector, rather than a typical ‘female’ port. This arrangement provides greater mechanical integrity than the USB/Micro USB ports commonly found on DAC/headphone amps from other manufacturers. It also offers an advantage to users of iPhones and iPads with Lightning ports, because it accepts Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter directly without requiring an additional female-to-male USB adaptor.

Between the digital inputs reside a pair of RCA analogue outputs –the micro iDSD Signature can be connected to a pair of powered speakers, or a power amp and passive speakers, to act as a DAC and preamplifier. When used in this mode, a different version of iFi’s 3D+ analogue signal processing may be engaged if desired, specifically designed to create a more spacious soundstage with speakers rather than headphones. Whether in preamp mode or driving a pair of headphones, volume is controlled by a precision analogue potentiometer delivering the quality expected of full-size hi-fi equipment.

On the front panel, beside the volume knob and XBass+ and 3D+ switches, are a pair of headphone outputs –a 6.3mm output for headphones that have a standard single-ended connector (headphones with a 3.5mm jack can be connected using an adapter) and a 4.4mm Pentaconn output for headphones offering balanced connection. An increasing number of high-quality headphones and in-ear monitors either come so equipped or give the option of detaching the cable and upgrading to a 4.4mm Pentaconn connector –this output makes the most of them.

Both headphone outputs utilise iFi’s ‘S-Balanced’ output circuitry, delivering the sonic benefits associated with balanced connections with all headphone/earphone types –even those with single-ended connectors –cutting crosstalk and associated distortion in half.

Ch-ch-changes

While the most obvious changes from the previous Black Label version of the micro iDSD are the fine-tuned audio circuitry, the 4.4mm Pentaconn headphone output and the new Space Blue finish, numerous other enhancements have been applied to the new Signature edition.

The faceplates at the front and rear have been trimmed for a sleeker look, with a redesigned volume knob and new switches for XBass+/3D+. A multi-coloured LED to indicate the sampling frequency of the music being played is now also sited on the front panel, while the IEMatch control has been moved from underneath the unit to the side.

A USB-C charging port now resides on the right hand side, next to a new battery status indicator. Damping feet now adorn the underside of the unit, too –it all adds up to a range of improvements that make this the best-ever version of iFi’s much-lauded micro iDSD.

The iFi micro iDSD Signature is available later this month from selected retailers, at an RRP of £649, (€699, US$649). Only a limited number will be made, so those wishing to get hold of the Signature edition of iFi’s landmark transportable DAC/headphone amp should act fast to avoid disappointment.

iFi is the sister-brand of Abbingdon Music Research (AMR) and is headquartered in Southport, UK. The two brands respectively design and manufacture portable, desktop and lifestyle audio products and high-end hi-fi components. Combined in-house hardware and software development teams and a ‘music first’ approach enable iFi and AMR to create advanced audio products that deliver new levels of design, functionality and performance at their respective price points. Since iFi’s formation in 2012, its products have earned many awards around the world, helping it to become one of the fastest-growing brands in its fidelity.

The post iFi introduces micro iDSD Signature DAC/headphone amp appeared first on Dagogo.

iFi introduces Micro iDSD Signature

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND (PTA) — I’ve been a fan of iFi Audio electronics for some time now. iFi always has a great presence at audio shows, and their booths do more than impress. Currently I have an iFi Zen Blue in for review, and my experience with it is revelatory. But I won’t give away too much there. Recently Nan Pincus and myself have been going strong down the head-fi rabbit hole and have developed a lust for new and exciting headphone related gear. iFi’s iDSD products have been on our radar for some time now, and this new Micro iDSD Signature surely tantalizes. Do check out the detailed breakdown of ports, inputs, and outputs on the iFi Micro iDSD Signature at the bottom of the press release. Press Release Below iFi serves up micro iDSD Signature dish Sporting a host of enhancements both inside and out, one of the most highly acclaimed hi-res DAC/headphone amps on the planet just got even better – meet the micro iDSD Signature iFi audio, the acclaimed maker of audio devices for home and portable use, has redesigned one of its most popular products to create the micro iDSD Signature, delivering a host of improvements […]

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