Reviews

Reviews: iFi Audio iSilencer 3.0, iDefender 3.0, iEMatch and Groundhog

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We’ve tested the iFi Audio iSilencer 3.0, iFi Audio iDefender 3.0, iFi Audio iEMatch and iFi Audio Groundhog. Four accessories designed to enhance the musicality of hi-fi and portable audio devices.

iFi Audio iSilencer 3.0

The iFi Audio iSilencer 3.0 adapter is a passive device which eliminates interference in the audio signal generated by the USB port of a computer. It could be described as a USB filter which also reduces jitter, a phenomenon leading to the irregular delivery of data packets and resulting in cold and aggressive audio restitution.

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The iFi Audio iSilencer.

Impressions

We weren’t surprised to find that everything worked like a charm, as the Audioquest Jitterbug we tested when it was first launched is in no way different from the iSilencer, and both transform the listening experience. Clearly, the restitution is smoother. Background noise, which was already very low thanks to our Encore mDSD DAC, was reduced even further.

What does this change? A lot, since micro-information suddenly becomes audible, bringing the music even closer to its true nature. The sound seems “simpler” and more transparent.

If your DAC seems to harshen highs, compress mids, and narrow the soundstage, the iFi Audio iSilencer 3.0 is worth a listen.

iFi Audio iDefender 3.0

The iFi Audio iDefender 3.0 adapter is meant to be placed between a computer and a USB DAC. It eliminates ground loops which keep the DAC from functioning properly and compromise the transparence of the restitution. Note that for ground loops to occur, the computer and the DAC must both be grounded. In other words, this elimination of ground loops only concerns DACs with external power sources and three-pin mains plugs (with one grounding pin). There is another function of the iFi Audio iDefender, which is of (great) interest for DACs powered by the USB port of the computer to which they are connected. In fact, the iDefender 3.0 can block the computer’s power supply and replace it by an external power supply. iFi Audio proposes the iPower 5V, a high-quality power supply, but using any other 5V external power supply can considerably improve the listening experience. It is important to not forget that the power supplied by computers is susceptible to interference and responsible for most of the harshness encountered when using a USB DAC for audio playback.

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The iFi Audio iDefender.

Impressions

After having listened to the Encore mDSD with our desktop computer and the USB iSilencer 3.0, we replaced the latter by the iDefender 3.0, paired with a 5V/2A power supply for a Xiaomi smartphone. A revolution. The dynamism of the restitution increased spectacularly. Channel separation is much more noticeable, and instruments placed on the outer reaches of the soundstage are much easier to hear. Sound masking (of one sound layer by another) is completely absent.

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The iFi Audio iDefender and iSilencer.

iFi Audio iEMatch

The iFi Audio iEMatch adapter is an analog dampener, which means it reduces the headphone amplifier’s output level to match one of two levels of attenuation: 12 dB and 24 dB. What’s the point of this? Why would reducing a headphone amplifier’s output power be beneficial? The iFi Audio iEMatch is essentially useful for in-ear headphones with high sensitivity, as these usually force their user to set the volume of the headphone amplifier (or the headphone amplifier of a smartphone or DAP) close to minimum level.

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The iFi Audio iEMatch.

In fact, the high attenuation applied to the analog signal is a common occurrence in the world of analog sound, where some components degrade the quality of the signal and thus considerably reduce its dynamic range. iFi Audio has fitted the iEMatch with audiophile components to prevent this from happening. With this adaptor, it is possible to turn the volume of the source up significantly–as the latter will no longer generate loss in the audio signal–and entrust attenuation to the iFi Audio iEMatch. The iFi Audio iEMatch comes with an adapter for planes, isolating foam earplugs (to take a nap in the plane, for example) and a transport pouch.

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The iFi Audio iEMatch and its accessories.

Impressions

We obtained different results with a smartphone and a DAP. With a smartphone, the benefits were clearly audible and the restitution more balanced from lows to highs. The smallest dynamic differences seemed more audible. With a DAP (Onkyo DP-X1), it’s more debatable. The DAP we used clearly manages volume very well.

iFi Audio Groundhog

An assortment of cables for grounding amplifiers, DAPs and DACs, with the objective of improving audio restitution, if not transcend it: this is the purpose of the iFi Audio Groundhog. The Groundhog principally aims to serve hi-fi installations affected either by interference from the grid or by a grounding problem. Four adapters are included in the package: one IEC14 male cable (with a single grounding pin) to male mono RCA jack, one female mono RCA jack to USB A, one female mono RCA jack to spade and one female stereo RCA adapter to male 3.5mm mini-jack. To use the iFi Audio Groundhog accessories, connect the mains adapter to a mains cable (connected to the mains), then combine different adapters depending on the electronic device to be connected: turntable, network players, DAP, etc. One caveat: the RCA, USB or mini-jack grounding connector cannot be used.

Impressions

So, does the groundhog deliver on its promises? With a turntable, no problem, the benefits are obvious: interference is totally eliminated. With a DAP, we didn’t hear much of a difference. Conclusion, the iFi Audio Groundhog only leaves its burrow when the ground shakes.

L'iFi Audio iDefender et l'ampli DAC Encore mDSD, un couple gagnant.

The iFi Audio iDefender and Encore mDSD DAC/amplifier make a perfect pair.

This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

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