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Group Test: USB gadgets (AQ Jitterbug, Uptone Regen, iFi iUSB3.0, iPurifier, iPurifier2, UPDATE on p.15…)

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Group Test: USB gadgets (AQ Jitterbug, Uptone Regen, iFi iUSB3.0, iPurifier, iPurifier2, Intona, w4s Recovery any more …)

 

Disclaimer: For people who knew me, they all knew that I can be a bit critical, if you don’t like what you are reading, please simply ignore my reviews and enjoy the music.

 

IMG_4919.jpg

 

Background:

 

The title may be a little misleading, a few years ago, these groups of USB gears are surely classified as gadgets, but nowadays, I would say they are indispensable in a computer audio system, mainly because:

 

1. USB audio device is one of the primary music sources now; and

2. USB connection is horrible for transmission audio,

 

so something has to be done.

 

A couple years ago, I did a small group test of the USB DACs, link here.

 

With those I started racking up different USB gadgets over time (man needs new toys). Again, I tested those with my Macbook, Shure 535 and Sennheiser HD 800, also with a pair of QMS active speakers. I also included some noise measurements result I took with a friend at his office lab (with a EMU0404).

 

1. Computer USB port

 

Lab (Power Noise Measurement)

 

PC_Port_01.png

 

This is a measurement taken on the computer USB port with loading. In an idea world, the noise line should be around -140dB (~a few uV, the green line), but in reality, the computer USB port is a lot worst. In fact, the computer USB port is ~1000 times (60dB) worse than the ideal.

 

Sound

 

When directly connected to the computer, all the DACs had the hallmark of the “digital sound”, dry, edgy, flat, boring and basically horrible.

 

2. Audioquest Jitterbug ($49) and iFi iPurifier ($99, discontinued)

 

The discontinued original iFi iPurifier probably was the first of its kind filtering both the USB Data and Power, later came the Jitterbug which did a Chinese copy (minus the Aluminum case) at half the price. As those two are so similar I lump those two reviews in one.

 

Lab (Power Noise Measurement)

 

Jitterbug.png

 

Both of the iPurifier and Jitterbug’s graphs were so close, they basically overlap with each other, so I only posted one graph. they have almost no measurable effect on power supply noise in the range below 96kHz, above that they did reduce the noise spikes a little.

 

Sound

 

Put is simply, they work, but the overall effect is subtle (but any improvement on USB audio is nice). The sound is slightly more coherent and has a bit more depth, jazz vocal is reproduced with a bit more clarity. I found that the iFi iPurifier might have a slightly darker background than the Jitterbug, but it’s very close call.

 

Adding one more jitter bug into the system (one on the used port, one on the unused port), improve things a little but really not worth the extra effort.

 

Conclusion:

 

Overall, I will rate the Audioquest Jitterbug a score of 49 and the iFi iPurifier 50 out of 100, so so for the money and don’t expect miracle, they both had their days but it’s time to move on. I would not recommend getting any of them nowadays.

Scores:

50 iFi iPurifier (discontinued)

49 Audioquest Jitterbug

 

To Be Continued...


Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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Nice job so far! I look forward to reading your tests of the other USB gadgets. I had the ifi iUSB3 for about 6 months. I now have the JCAT USB isolator (it is the Intona Industrial in a nice aluminum case), and I like the JCAT/Intona much better. I will wait to see what your ears tell you about these two devices.

 

In my system, compared to each other, they had a noticeable difference in sound signature, type of sound.

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Intona is a very interesting little thing, on some of my DACs is worked wonder, on some it basically have no effect.


Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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4. iFi iPurifier2 (USB2.0, US$109)

 

ip2.jpg

 

This is iFi second generation iPurifiers, which belongs to a group of USB gadgets that all regenerate the USB in one way or the other, basically they all are glorified USB hubs. The aluminum chassis of the iPurifier2 has a very solid feel, it is quite a statement to have this kind of build quality at this price, also quite amazing is how did they able to pack an USB regeneration device in such a small footprint. It doesn’t use any external power so it is the easiest to use, just plug and forget.

 

Lab

 

i_Purifier_2.png

 

As it does not use any external power, it instead uses what iFi calls Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) on the power lines. We can see the improvement of at least 20dB noise reduction from the computer port alone, so the ANC works as advertised. However, as the overall power supply quality is depends on what you feed it in, this ultimately will vary system from system, but what we can see here is it does reduce overall power noise.

 

Sound

 

The overall sound improvement for most of the DACs I connected after gave improved bass and dynamic and had a more nondigital, transparent, 3D and musicians were both more precise and more expressive. It is definitely in a different league when compare to the first-generation gadgets (Jitterbug/original iPurifier). I think the main reason is the iPurifier2 (and all other glorified USB hubs) improves upon the 1st generation is twofold:

 

1. Better quality USB data

2. Better quality USB power

 

Conclusion

 

Overall, I will rate the iPurifier2 with a score of 70. So for the price, I think the price is justified by the significant improvement it brings and the build quality it has. If one wants an inexpensive USB gadget that actually works quite well and easy to use, recommended.

 

Scores:

70 iFi iPurifier2

50 iFi iPurifier (discontinued)

49 Audioquest Jitterbug

Edited by DM

Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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5. Uptone Regen (USB2.0, US$175)

 

regen.jpg

 

The Regen comes in a small nice metal case, a generic SMPS power supply. There are 2 things puzzling me a bit: (1) for this price, Uptone really can throw in a nice power supply and not a generic SMPS one, (2) for this price, can they not glorify a USB3.0 one rather than the ancient USB2.0 one. Having say that, let the performance doing the talking, shall we?

 

Lab

 

Regen.png

 

A very nice noise graph, actually I think the graph is now limited by our test gear (EMU 0404), as you can see later also for both iFi iUSB3.0 (nano and micro), they achieved very similar graph. So I would say the Regen does measure very well and provides a clean power supply.

 

Sound

 

Actually, the sound signature is very similar to the iFi iPurifier2, improved bass, dynamic, blacker background and improved space; guitar drums had more realistic impact and sax solos were cleaner. The Regen does give a darker background and a tag smoother than the iPurifier2, the difference is not huge.

 

Conclusion

 

For the nice improvements brought by the Regen, I would give it 75 out of 100. I would say if without the rest of the USB gadgets in this group test, Regen will surely rule the party performance wise. Whether it justified nearly doubling the price of the iPurifier2? may be ... but just I would say, cost/performance index here is not as high as other members of this group test.

 

75 Uptone regen

70 iFi iPurifier2

50 iFi iPurifier (discontinued)

49 Audioquest Jitterbug

Edited by DM

Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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6. Wyred 4 Sound Recovery (USB2.0, US$199)

 

recovery.jpg

 

I do like Wyred 4 Sound as they often have some interesting and original stuff, not one trick pony like many others. However the Recovery’s plastic endplates does let down the build quality somewhat, it feels a bit cheap next to the others. The small issue I had during the test was that the Recovery didn’t provide USB power, so most of my DACs didn’t work at all. Only the big AMR DP-777 which doesn’t draw power from USB worked. Also the Recovery is USB2.0 only.

 

Lab

 

no-sign-8.png

 

Sorry, no lab result here as the Recovery does not provide USB power.

 

Sound

 

When it worked, the improvements are very similar to the iPurifier2, fuller body, wide, open soundstage with improved image focus. I would put them neck to neck. However, at times, drum patterns could sound a little sloppy and loose when compare to the Regen.

 

Conclusion

 

I would give it 2 scores, 0 or 72. 0 if the DAC draws power from the USB, because the Recovery won’t work in that situation; 70 in a situation when it actually worked. The Recovery is currently in a bit of uncomfortable place, as for value for money, iPurifier2 at half the price with nearly the same performance; for pure performance, so far the Regen is a better choice.

 

75 Uptone Regen

0/72 W4S Recovery

70 iFi iPurifier2

50 iFi iPurifier (discontinued)

49 Audioquest Jitterbug


Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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Thanks, very interesting! I would like to know, how the small iFi iSilencer performs in comparison with the cheaper devices in the test. Do you have a chance to borrow one?

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FYI-Uptone claims the PS that comes with the regen is not a generic SMPS, but an off the shelf model they found that is low noise relative to other off the shelf supplies on the market.


Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>RPi4 9(dietpi)>Kii Control>Audiolense DRC>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: (1) CAPS Pipeline>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Schiit Freya>Kii Three .(2) CAPS>ifi iDAC SPDIF>Kii Control.

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup. Living Room/Kitchen: RB Pi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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If possible please include Schiit Wyrd. If not possible. No problem I am looking forward to see the rest of the tests.


[br]

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I own the Wyred4sound RUR, and it works great for me.

However it was important to replace the small switch mode power supply with a linear power supply.

By the way, they have released a revised version, or you can fix/upgrade your version to be compatible with more DACs.

 

E

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Thanks indeed for your interesting tests.

 

I use iFi Gemini USB cables (twin legs) with the iPurifier 2's in my two systems. The DC power legs of the cables are not connected at all to the computers (Mac Mini and iPad), and are separately fed with DC from small 5v DC linear PSU's (Aqvox), which I happened to have. The DC from the Aqvox's is in turn fed through iFi DC iPurifiers to power the iPurifier 2's. A belt and braces approach in an effort to supply clean power to the iPurifiers and avoiding the normal USB power. In the case of the iPad it has the additional benefit of conserving it's battery.


LOUNGE: Lab12 Gordian Power Conditioner>Qobuz Studio>TP-Link RE650 AC2600 WI-FI Extender>Kasimo 3mtr. CAT 8 Ethernet cable>Lumin UI Mini Transport /Ext. PliXiR BDC Elite 12v 4amp Linear PSU>Bluejeans Belden 1694A BNC/spdif Interconnect>iFi spdif iPurifier>MHDTLabs Orchid DAC>Townshend DCT 300 RCA Interconnects>Amplifier Lab12 Integre4 (Tung Sol KT150 output tubes) >Townshend Isolda EDCT Speaker Cables>Audium Comp 7 Passive Speakers. Schumann Resonance generator. 

LIVING ROOM:- iFi AC iPurifiers x2>Bluesound Node2i (as streamer only)/Qobuz Studio>Bluejeans Belden 1694A coaxial interconnect>iFi Retro 50/LS3.5 Speakers. Schumann Resonance Generator. 

 

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I think he's got the early version that needs upgrading for compatibility. I would rate the W4S Recovery in the 90s compared to the Regen (that I sold on after getting the W4S). I've owned both and that W4S score of 72 makes no sense to me, but then I didn't use SMPS with either. Regen probably deserves 75.

 

Agree that these boxes need LPS or super-capacitor or battery to perform optimally.

 

 

I own the Wyred4sound RUR, and it works great for me.

However it was important to replace the small switch mode power supply with a linear power supply.

By the way, they have released a revised version, or you can fix/upgrade your version to be compatible with more DACs.

 

E


Source:

*Aurender N100 (no internal disk : LAN optically isolated via FMC with *LPS) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch - split for *LPS) > Intona Industrial (injected *LPS / internally shielded with copper tape) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > W4S Recovery (*LPS) > DIY 2cm USB adaptor (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > *Auralic VEGA (EXACT : balanced)

 

Control:

*Jeff Rowland CAPRI S2 (balanced)

 

Playback:

2 x Revel B15a subs (balanced) > ATC SCM 50 ASL (balanced - 80Hz HPF from subs)

 

Misc:

*Via Power Inspired AG1500 AC Regenerator

LPS: 3 x Swagman Lab Audiophile Signature Edition (W4S, Intona & FMC)

Storage: QNAP TS-253Pro 2x 3Tb, 8Gb RAM

Cables: DIY heavy gauge solid silver (balanced)

Mains: dedicated distribution board with 5 x 2 socket ring mains, all mains cables: Mark Grant Black Series DSP 2.5 Dual Screen

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DM - outstanding work, thank you very much for doing it, and for sharing it. Very much looking forward to reading about the other products mentioned in the thread title. Thanks again.

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If you are not getting any 5V output on your RUR, then it is probably broken, or was modified.

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Thanks, very interesting! I would like to know, how the small iFi iSilencer performs in comparison with the cheaper devices in the test. Do you have a chance to borrow one?

 

I now see iFi brought out two new item, iSilencer and iDefender ... what are the difference?

 

I will see if I can get my hands on them later ... more toys :D


Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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nano – iUSB3.0

Any change of a test of nano iusb3?

 

yes, coming VERY soon.


Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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If you are not getting any 5V output on your RUR, then it is probably broken, or was modified.

 

I think the one I had was the original one without the USB power output.


Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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If possible please include Schiit Wyrd. If not possible. No problem I am looking forward to see the rest of the tests.

 

I don't have the Wyrd, I will see if I can get my hands on one :)


Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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Thanks indeed for your interesting tests.

 

I use iFi Gemini USB cables (twin legs) with the iPurifier 2's in my two systems. The DC power legs of the cables are not connected at all to the computers (Mac Mini and iPad), and are separately fed with DC from small 5v DC linear PSU's (Aqvox), which I happened to have. The DC from the Aqvox's is in turn fed through iFi DC iPurifiers to power the iPurifier 2's. A belt and braces approach in an effort to supply clean power to the iPurifiers and avoiding the normal USB power. In the case of the iPad it has the additional benefit of conserving it's battery.

 

Yes, twin headed USB cable does help, will post a side note regarding this later.


Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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Great tests so far! I look forward to more results.


2014 Mac Mini -> (LPS-1.2) ultraRendu -> (LPS4) 20G -> (LPS-1.2) SU-1 -> Spring KTE -> KGGG -> SR-L700
Debut Carbon DC -> Freya -> Stealth 8

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7. iFi nano iUSB3.0, micro iUSB3.0 (USB3.0, US$199/US$399)

 

IMG_4923.jpg

 

The iUSB3.0 from iFi, one is from the nano series, the other is from the micro series, those two are very similar so I concentrated two reviews into one. Not sure about others, I do get bloody confused with the iFi offerings as they have very similar names and looks! :(

 

The micro is the bigger brother with 2 USB outputs and the nano the smaller one with one USB output; the nano has a very respectable 0.5uV noise, while the micro claimed an amazing 0.1uV noise. The micro does has the IsoGround system build-in, for me that didn’t do much, but in one of my friend’s system, it totally eliminated the persistent hum that was always presented in his system.

 

Both in full aluminum chassis with heavy metal toggle switches and gold-plated USB sockets, they both are fully USB3.0 products and both can use dual-header USB cables. This does make the other entries look a little dated, like comparing an Intel Core i7 to Pentiums. They both come with the very quite iFi iPower (1uV) power supply.

 

Lab

 

i_USB_nano.png

i_USB_3_0_micro.png

(upper one is nano, lower one is micro iUSB3.0)

 

We have seen similar graph with the Regen, nice and clean. Again, I think we were hitting the capability of our measurement rig (EMU0404). If one really want to look hard, the noise spikes of the iFi ones may be just a tag lower than Regen, say 1-2dB, but I can’t reliable tell them apart. So if the Lab test are nearly identical, do they sound identical?

 

Sound

 

The overall sound signature of the improvements was the same, sound was more smooth and flowing, enhanced immediacy and details, the dynamic transients were larger and cleaner. The difference was that the nano iUSB3.0 had more of them when compared to the Regen, the micro iUSB3.0 not only had more of them, but had an extra sense of muscularity, weight, and solidity that were not really presented in the rest of the group.

 

Put it in another way, both the Regen and nano iUSB3.0 is Mercedes-Benz C-Class machines, the Regen is a C200, while the nano iUSB3.0 is a C300, both very nice indeed. Having said that, the micro iUSB3.0 is an E-Class machine, it is in a different league.

 

Conclusion

 

The nano iUSB3.0 just seems to have more refinement than the Regen, may be it is the USB3.0 chipset iFi is using compares to the USB2.0 chipset used in the Regen.

 

I would give nano iUSB3.0 a score of 77 and 83 for the micro iFi iUSB3.0, both excellent value for the money and both recommended. For most people, I think the nano iUSB3.0 will be more than sufficient; if you do want the best, go for the micro.

 

A side note about the IsoGround function, my friend has a Chord Hugo and he always had hum in his system, we called his system the “Hummer” :D. By switching on the IsoGround function, the hum was gone! BTW, the Intona also killed this hum.

 

Score:

83 micro iFi iUSB3.0

77 nano iFi iUSB3.0

74 Uptone Regen

70/0 W4S Recovery

68 iFi iPurifier2

50 iFi iPurifier (discontinued)

49 Audioquest Jitterbug


Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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8. Intona High Speed USB Isolator (USB2.0, US$348)

 

IMG_4927.jpg

 

This is a little gem that does things slightly differently, it is a regeneration device with galvanic isolation. We audiophiles just love the word “Galvanic”, don’t we? :D It was designed for industrial use (that’s why the 2.5kV voltage rating), but picked up by the audiophiles.

 

It is a USB2.0 design again, why everyone in audio is still stuck in USB2.0? I do understand that most audio gear is still USB2.0, but nowadays most computers have more USB3.0 ports than USB2.0 ports…

 

Together with the micro iUSB3.0, they two are the most expensive items in the group. Well, US$300ish is actually penny money in an audiophile world, just look at what an audiophile cable will cost. I guess the plastic is necessary for the 2.5kV industrial rating but it is really ugly, my friend said it looks like a US$19.99 cable TV isolator from Bestbuy. Well, looks aside, it is the performance does the talking.

 

Lab

 

Intona.png

 

We were a little bit surprised of the findings, the Intona noise was as good as the computer USB port! Which means it was bad … even the cheap iPurifier2 beat it hands down. Also during testing, we encountered a few operational issues:

 

(1) it could only provide around 300mA of juice, if we up the load to 400mA, the intona drops to 4.57V (should be 5V), so if the DAC need a bit of juice (e.g. LH Lab Geek Out), it just didn't work.

 

(2) sometimes the intona just won’t to connect to the system at all, need a good few retries to get it working. In one of my friend’s system, it still won’t connect as of now. But in my system, it sometimes refuse connection on a rainy day, but normal use is largely fine.

 

So in the Lab department, the intona is probably the worst one, it is obviously a product design for industrial use and not for home audio use. Will the woeful lab result translate 100% into the sound?

 

Sound

 

This is why audio is so much fun, although Intona failed quite miserable in the lab department, it actual sounded very good in the right system! We have tried the Intona is a few different systems, in some systems, it’s effect was similar to Regen/nano iUSB but a bit worse; in other systems, it could be as good as the iFi micro iUSB3.0 but in a very different way.

 

For the few systems (including mine) that Intona sounded similar to a lower grade Regen/nano iUSB3, it improved the sound to a smaller degree, sound was smoother but still have some rough edges, details enhanced but still a bit haze.

 

However, in a couple other systems, the improvement brought by the Intona was quite significant, similar level to the micro iFi iUSB3.0 but in a different way, I would say it is an Audi A6 vs the E-Class. The Intona achieve a slightly darker background, the iFi iUSB3.0 has a more real and musical presentation, there was a trace of “haze” or “whitening” still left in the system with Intona.

 

Conclusion

 

For systems don’t need galvanic isolation, the Intona is just an inferior Regen/nano iUSB3.0, a score of 70.

 

For system benefit from galvanic isolation, the iFi micro iUSB3.0 has the IsoGround function, which also provide ground isolation, it seems the Intona is doing a slightly better job in this regard, may be 15-20% better I would say. So the Intona has better ground isolation, the iUSB3.0 has much better power supply. In those particular systems where isolation is of benefit, I would give Intona 81, only let down by the poor power implementation.

 

Overall the micro iUSB3 is ultimately a better device (better performance, more useful features, better built), but the Intona will shine better in a system that is suffer for grounding/isolation issue.

 

To prove our theory further, we added the iFi micro iUSB3.0 after the Intona… Bingo! We had the best system config ever, super dark background, musical and sensual, no trace of “haze” nor “whitening”, I will give this system 90!

 

Score:

90 Intona + iFi micro iUSB3.0

83 iFi micro iUSB3.0

81/70 Intona

77 iFi nano iUSB3.0

74 Uptone Regen

70/0 Wyred 4 Sound Recovery

68 iFi iPurifier2

50 iFi iPurifier (discontinued)

49 Audioquest Jitterbug

Edited by DM

Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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Group Test Summary

 

After the group test, seems that the following 3 items affect USB audio quality significantly:

 

1. Clean Power

2. Regenerated Data

3. Isolation

 

The one item in the group test that dealt with all 3 is the iFi micro iUSB3.0 (with the IsoGround function ON), although the Intona did a slightly better job at isolation.

 

Of course, one can also mix and match the system to get all 3, for example:

 

Regen/nano iUSB3.0/Recovery + Intona

 

So here is my suggestion (as of now):

 

Cost no object system:

Intona + iFi micro iUSB3.0

 

Highend System:

iFi micro iUSB3.0

 

General use:

Regen or iFi nano iUSB3.0

 

Value for money:

iFi iPurifier2

 

System (hummer) needs isolation

Intona or iFi micro iUSB3.0

 

Score:

90 Intona + iFi micro iUSB3.0

83 iFi micro iUSB3.0

81/70 Intona

77 iFi nano iUSB3.0

75 Uptone Regen

70/0 Wyred 4 Sound Recovery

68 iFi iPurifier2

50 iFi iPurifier (discontinued)

49 Audioquest Jitterbug

Edited by DM

Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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