Pros: smooth , pleasurable , comfortable for long hours of relaxation
Cons: an addiction.
Having the iDSD Nano & iCAN Nano from them, i was very impressed by the iFi's performance.
Making me trust my money to them, knowing they can provide what they claim it could, and deliver them so beautifully, sonically.
First thing i noticed when i held the iTUBE in my hand , i immediately noticed it was significantly lighter than the iDSD Nano and iCAN Nano , which felt pretty weird . Then i realised that the iDSD Nanoand iCAN Nano both have batteries in them, making them denser. In my opinion, the denser ones felt more premium as there's a certain quality feel to them.
That aside, the iTUBE also require a 3 pin power source, making them desktop bound.
I ran them as such;
Laptop(FLAC 16/44.1 & 24/192) > iDSD Nano > iTUBE Micro > iCAN Nano > Beyerdynamic T90
Alright , the positive points , upon setting up and warming them up , I took a while to play with the switches to try what each of them actually do to my music , but before I did so , I realised my there’s already a slight smoothness in my music which makes them quite enjoyable .
Flipping the Digital Antidote switch did little difference to my music , in all honesty , I could not hear much difference , but I have heard other reviewers stating that it allows mp3 files to sound better , im not sure , I do not hold a single mp3 file in my music list . Having said, I believed it does “significantly reduces ringing and digital distortion” as claimed by iFi & a placebo effect and trust in iFi has quite urged me to leave it on. If you are going to play poorly recorded file with sizzle, cracks and pops and expect the Digital Antidote cancel these flaws away, it won’t.
Then I flicked the 3D holographic to “wide” & “ultra wide” settings , surprisingly , they were not as satisfying as the iCAN Nano’s 3D holographic on my headphones , they felt different , even if I switched my iCAN Nano’s 3D OFF , and the iTUBE’s 3D ON , it still sounded different , very different. But before I make any conclusions, iFi website did mention that the iTUBE’s 3D wide was meant for Hi Fi Speakers & iTUBE’s 3D ultrawide was meant for desktop speakers. With that being said , it is unfair to conclude that the iTUBE’s 3D was of poorer quality than that of the iCAN’s , I have not tried them on speakers , but again , other reviewers online did mention that they found their speakers to be producing addictingly good soundstage with the iTUBE 3D settings , I decide to leave that setting at “zero”. Again, on headphones the iTUBE’s 3D sounds different as compared to iCAN’s. It is wide, but in a manner perhaps not meant for headphones.
The tube glows red and the aluminium case is warm to the touch and works comfortably well as a finger warmer in the cold. The settings was set to “0Db Buffer” , I adjusted it a few times back and forth to the “6Db Buffer” to compare their differences and noticed the 6Db buffer had a more warm and tubey sound , which I have found to love a lot . This changes the characteristic of the music, making it smooth like a warm cup of cappuccino, extremely satisfying & comfortable, Immediately, I know, this is something which I am going to enjoy for a long time. This is really up to preference but I like the 6Db buffer setting better. Sonically, it does not colour the sound much to make it sound choked, it does maintain its integrity. I’ve tried other critically acclaimed tube amps such as the Ocean Bravo which I feel is too coloured/ choked at the high frequencies & losing some of the soundstage & instrumental imaging from the iCAN Nano’s 3D holographic, since music is about preference, I enjoy the iFi iTUBE better as I moved to tubes, from a full solid state setup. But in all seriousness, if you haven’t got the iCAN Nano, please do get it. The performance is superb.
Speaking of those little white gain switches at the bottom. I broke my number 5 switch which is one of the switches that sets the 0db & 6db buffer. This was the only flaw I’ve discovered and was quite disappointed, however I will be heading down to one of their distributors which I have purchased them from to see what can be done to it. Other than that, the construction quality seems durable & solid.
I've changed the iTUBE for a new one today & redeemed warranty :) now im a happy potato !
In conclusion, this is a very good buffer that makes your music really smooth and enjoyable. If your budget isn’t an issue, this is definitely a tube buffer worth considering. Don’t forget about the iCAN too!
Here is my setup !
The Campbell coin bank was used to manage the cables :)