iFi Audio iEMatch Headphone Travel Accessory

General Information

With great power, comes great hiss Many headphones and in particular, IEMs are high-sensitivity in nature. This coupled with the relative high-power of modern Smartphones, (never mind dedicated headphone amplifiers) and listening enjoyment is heavily compromised as 'loudness and/or hiss' becomes excessive. Making listening fatigue an all too common issue. The solution: Source > iEMatch > Headphones By inserting the iEMatch in between the Smartphone/Source and the Headphones, the result is sound quality that has greater warmth, resolution and dynamic contrast. Reduced background noise/hiss Improved dynamic range Optimised volume control Product Features: Ultra (-24dB)/High (-12dB) sensitivity adjustment S-Balanced connection for Single-Ended and Balanced operation 6N Copper/Silver matrix signal cabling with Final 6063-T5 aluminium-magnesium alloy shell Gold-plated circuit board with premium components (eg MELF resistors) Gold-plated 3.5mm male/female connectors Input impedance: > 16 Ohm Output impedance: > 2.5 Ohms (High-sensitivity); > 1 Ohm (Ultra-sensitivity)

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MundoHiFiOz

100+ Head-Fier
IFI iEMatch+ REVIEW
Pros: Easy to use
Light and small design
Performance
Cons: No 4.4mm version
About me:
Music lover and earphone enthusiast, most of my previous reviews are in spanish.

Disclaimer: iFi graciously lent me the IEMatch+ in exchange of my opinion

Gear used:
Elemental Watson II amp, Ifi Zen Can, Fiio Q5s, Final Sonorous II

About iFi:
iFi audio is a company with headquarters in the UK that since 2012 has launched more than 30 high quality audio products with one aim in mind "to improve your music enjoyment." You can find more in https://ifi-audio.com/about-ifi/

Specifications:

Input Impedance> 16 Ohm
Output Impedance< 2.5 Ohms (High-Sensitivity)
< 1 Ohms (Ultra-Sensitivity)
Weight12.8 g (0.45 oz)
Total Length116 mm (4.6")
Warranty period12 months
Travel accessories includedGold plated airplane adapter
Soft foam contoured ear plugs (-37dB)

What is it?
The iematch+ is a 3.5mm headphone sensitivity matching device that eliminates hiss without any loss in sound quality. It can be used with any device that has 3.5mm audio output so laptops, tablets, cell phones and not just special audio equipment is included.

This product also reduces volume from our devices helping us to achieve the desired volume level. This is very useful with powerful amps in which the minimum volume is excessive. For this purpose, it has 2 settings: High (-12dB) and Ultra (-24dB).

One interesting feature of the iematch+ is that it prevents the 2 bits loss of resolution by letting us turn up the digital volume of our devices to high levels without reaching harmful volume levels in our headphones. To be honest, I hear no difference in sound with or without the 2 bits gain.

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Accessories and construction:
The iEMatch+ comes in a small white box that additionally contains a gold plated airplane adapter, the warranty card, a fabric travel pouch and one pair of soft foam contoured ear plugs. These accessories are a good addition to the main product.

The iematch+ is a very small and light device, it has a solid aluminium-magnesium gray shell that looks durable and it's not easy to scratch. The cable has a minZ Helix construction, it also presents extra plastic protection in both ends and it's very flexible. I would like to see a removable cable system in future designs that achieves the same cleanes and increases life time of this kind of device. I know it's not that easy but it would be a big upgrade.

In both extremes of the device we will find the common gold plated 3.5mm male/female connectors as you can see in the pictures.

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Daily use:
The iematch+ promises to reduce hiss from any kind of device and it achieves this purpose with no sound changes based on the devices i tested. The following gear was used to test its capabilities.

HP Envy PC: My laptop has a severe hiss problem, it's supposed to have a Bang&Olufsen audio system but it sounds mediocre. With the iematch+ the 3.5mm output is noise free now.

Fiio Q5s: When we use the bluetooth mode, this portable dac-amp has hiss/noise with sensitive iems. The hiss problem is solved with the iematch+ and the sound keeps as usual.

Zen Can + Final Sonorous II: Sonorous II is a very sensitive headphone that needs a silent source to sound at its best. When I use the Zen Can and the Sonorous II, I'm not able to achieve a comfortable volume level because the volume increases very fast with minimal movements in the Zen can´s potentiometer. Once I use the iematch+, the volume wheel is smoother and now I can reach the desired volume level.


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Elemental Watson II + almost any iem on the market: I haven´t found an iem that can be used with the elemental Watson tube amp. It produces a lot of distortion, hiss, the minimum volume level is too high and it has channel imbalance making it impossible to use with iems. When I use the iematch+ in the high setting, there's still hiss and distortion in both channels, the volume is much lower now but it is still very uncomfortable to listen to. Then, if I change to the Ultra setting everything changes: the hiss is gone and distortion is only present when I bring my phone close (very common even with Sennheiser HD650).

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Conclusion

The iematch+ is the kind of device that can be recommended not only to the audiophile community but the regular audio consumer that uses only its laptop for listening to his favourite youtube playlist. It completely eliminates noise and I didn´t experience changes in sound with the gear I own. Finally, I would like to see a 4.4mm version of this device for using the rest of my iems without using a 2.5mm adapter.
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Sebastien Chiu
Sebastien Chiu
Thanks for the well-written review, sir!
iFi audio
iFi audio
Great stuff, much appreciated!

goodyfresh

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: --Completely eliminates background-hiss/crackle from my laptop's audio output to my IEM's, so it did exactly as I intended and needed it to.

--Unlike what some people say, this does NOT truly "alter" the sound-signature; see review for details
Cons: --Pretty much nothing for my purposes (home-use on a computer from which I will rarely unplug it). However:

--The build-quality may be too fragile for portable use with devices like phones and DAP's
First, some background on why I purchased this product: I recently got a new gaming laptop (an HP Omen 15-dc1062nr), and while I love it a lot, I discovered to my great dismay that the onboard audio from the headphone-jack has a very large, noticeable amount of background hiss/crackling/static when using my Fiio FH1 IEM's, which becomes even louder whenever I do anything at all that uses the processor (typing, web-browser activity, even just moving the mouse). I tried using my Hiby R3 as a USB DAC to fix the issue, but unfortunately, it seems to have intermittent issues with very large amounts of latency/lag, where sometimes I hear sounds up to a full half-a-second :)scream::scream::scream:) after the action in a game or video which caused them. Since my laptop is for watching stuff and gaming, not for music (I use my R3 for that), such an issue obviously makes the R3 useless for me as a USB DAC. I did some online research which indicated that such latency a very common issue when using the Hiby R3 as a USB DAC for computers, and is in no way an issue with my laptop itself.

So, I got the iEMatch as a way to attenuate the background-hiss! It arrived today, and here's what I can say about it:

This product is PERFECT! It does exactly what it is supposed to. On both the High and Ultra sensitivity settings, it completely eliminates any and all background-noise from my laptop's audio-output to my IEM's.

I now want to say something very, VERY important: Reviewers who say that this product "alters" the sound-signature are people with a poor understanding of audio science. I mean no offense towards them, but before making such a complaint, they should learn the truth about output-impedance and how it relates to impedance-graphs for headphones and IEM's. On the "high" setting (less than 2.5ohm output impedance), the iEMatch might indeed slightly "alter" the sound-signature if your IEM's are very low-impedance, in that it may add a tiny bit of bass-bloat, slightly narrow the soundstage, and possibly attenuate the treble a little bit. However, this is in no way a flaw with the iEMatch itself; it is simply the natural consequence of an output-impedance above 2ohms! A device which "alters" sound-signature would be something like an equalizer. The iEMatch does no such thing, it simply has certain impedance-levels which are clearly stated by iFi in its specifications. While my IEM's have a supposed/stated impedance of 26ohms, they are hybrid dual-driver IEM's and as a result likely have some large dips in their impedance graph, possibly to as low as 10ohms, in the frequency-range for the driver-crossover. As a result, any source with output impedance above 2ohms or so may slightly bloat the bass and attenuate the treble when compared to my Hiby R3 which has an output impedance of less than 1ohm.

On the "Ultra" sensitivity setting on the iEMatch from my laptop, the sound-signature is IDENTICAL to what I get on these IEM's from the Hiby R3 (I did a proper comparison-test with volume-matching and log-perceptual and constant-volume frequency-sweep files, as well as some binaural tracks). The only difference is a slight narrowing of the soundstage and decrease in clarity, but that was already true of my laptop's onboard audio and is simply because the Hiby R3 is a superior audio-player, and again it is no fault whatsoever with the iEMatch itself.

Some people say the iEMatch alters the sound-signature from equipment which is already VERY low impedance (like 0.2ohms or below). But that makes sense, and no one should be surprised by it, as in that case the iEMatch would just be attenuating volume while raising impedance. The product is intended for use with sources that have higher impedance than the setting being used on the iEMatch.

Essentially, any "changes in sound-signature compared to the true/original signature of IEM's" caused by the iEMatch are due to either the High Sensitivity setting still having overly-high impedance for some IEM's, or cases in which the iEMatch is used with very-low-impedance sources for which it was never intended for use.

On the Ultra Sensitivity setting, the iEMatch does indeed decrease/attenuate volume a very large amount (24db)
, so I need to turn my laptop's volume up to 90 or 100% for a lot of the stuff I watch or play, or sometimes even play things in VLC-player with a volume-boost or use an add-on to add gain when streaming in my web-browser. But that is, again, a consequence of the iEMatch doing exactly as it is supposed to, and is actually my laptop's fault for having too little output-power from the headphone-jack. It says right on the box that it attenuates volume by 24db on that setting, so voicing that as a criticism of the product would be unfair to iFi.

The fact is that the iEMatch does exactly as it is supposed to, and it does it VERY well. The features of being able to switch from balanced to SE output, as well as switch between two different impedance/attenuation settings, are very nice and make it mostly worth the price, as in that regard it is greatly superior to most audio-attenuators which people could make at home using resistors and soldering.

All that being said, the reason I give 4.5 instead of 5 stars is because the build-quality seems intended for home use rather than portable use, and I have a feeling that the device might break if it was being used for a portable device (like a phone or DAP) while constantly walking around with it and unplugging and plugging the iEMatch back in extremely frequently. For my purposes, in which it will spend 99% of its time plugged in to my laptop (which I basically use as a desktop PC, I only got a laptop because I occasionally require portability), the build-quality seems perfectly fine! But that may be a different story for people who want to use it portably; for them, I would strongly advise that they be very careful in handling the device when plugging and unplugging it on a regular basis into a DAP or phone.

SUMMARY: People saying this ruins the sound-signature need to research how impedance works in audio setups. This is an excellent product which does a very good job at exactly what it is intended for, and I would recommend it to ANYONE having issues with background-hiss/crackle from their audio setup on sensitive IEM's or headphones, as long as their source has enough output-power that they can still get enough volume with the attenuation from the iEMatch.
Last edited:

rafaelo

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: 1) Very good build quality, very beautiful
2) potential game changer under circumstances
3) A nice Refinement of sound in most reasonable cases
4) you can find the optimal output region of your amp better
5) provides a slight improvement even straight out of the iPad headphone jack (soon to be obsolete...)
6) smoother sound
7) nice angle for the cables very convenient
Cons: 1) under circumstances you end up with low volume - not enough power to drive your headphones so the sound quality output deteriorates
2) slightly highly priced (2.5 version)
3) can potentially increase battery consumption under some mobile set ups
I am writing this rewiew since ifi have contacted me to review some of their products, a privilege which I find particularly extremely difficult to reject. One of these products is the iematch and subsequently the iematch 2.5.

As all of my reviews are made from the point of view of a simple consumer as such my reviews are quite unconventional which means I do not provide unboxing or nice photos or discussing what the box contains inside. For these, please look on more professional reviews or better on youtube. I provide a different angle from a simple consumer/hobbyist that does this on the side without any monetary interest. Quite the contrary, since I am working in the City my time is limited and extremely valuable. But when I have some time I really enjoying doing this and I can be as objective as possible because my professional life does not depend at all on it.

Therefore, I will do this review in an informal way from the point of view of a simple consumer that offers an honest opinion in order to help other consumers at his level to choose a product and I hope some of you will find this review somewhat useful… and I will write this review while I am listening through my surface book through the ipurifier 3, another ifi audio product that I have currently for a review.

iematch and iematch 2.5 are specialised products and they are not recommended in all cases. There are many good reviews in this review thread that explain in detail in which situations these products are most suitable therefore I will not elaborate extensively here. Put it differently, Iematch and iematch 2.5 in some situations are not recommended at all. For example, if your source (phone, amp, dap whatever) marginally drive your headphones then with iematch the result will be negative instead of positive!!! This is why this should be considered as a special product not a universal solution.

Usually, in audio you have products that make a difference or does not make a difference but not products that they will deteriorate the audio quality outcome. You have 3 possible outcomes according to the circumstance

  1. Game changer – dramatic improvement in sound quality (as the first time I used an spdif ipurifier in my home system) where you immediately decide to buy the product, in case you can afford it obviously, without second thinking
  2. Positive change but not dramatic, so according to the price of the product you spend some time thinking if you should buy the product but usually if the price is reasonable you buy the product – otherwise you would not be in head-fi reading reviews.
  3. Very minor positive difference or no difference at all. In a blind testing would be very difficult to separate the improvement. Now you start thinking for a refund or regretting buying the product.
But with iematch you have also the case that if your set up can marginally provide loud sound then the loudness with iematch will be so low that you really will be disappointed with the result. So first be certain that this is the right product for you because I already said it, this is a specialised product for specific circumstances.

This means that this product has designed for very sensitive headphones/iems where usually an audible hiss is the main problem. So according to your circumstance you can end up in any of the 3 cases discussed above. If you have very sensitive headphones and lot of hiss that makes them unlistenable or unenjoyable then this is a game changer read no further - an impulse buy. But I do not belong to this category yet as I do not have so sensitive iems or so powerful amps. Moreover, there two modes with iematch High and Ultra, I did NOT have a single instance that I could find usable the Ultra option for my set ups meaning obviously that I am not the main target customer for this device.

So for me these products belonged to the other two circumstances most of the time. However, by testing various combinations I found also one two cases where I believe that the iematch could be a game changer for me also as I will discuss below.

First things first, the biggest curiosity I had was how the iematch could improve the sound of my meze 99 through my main marantz amplifier. Meze 99 is a sensitive headphone and as Marantz drives them at near 9 o clock I thought that with iematch Meze will sound better as iematch will force my Marantz to work in a more optimal output region. And yes! it did that but was not such a dramatic difference, lets say what an ipurifier can make to a system with unrealised potential (More to that on my upcoming review of the ipurifier 3).

I have a particular obsession with a particular piece from Vivaldi:

https://tidal.com/track/2400331

Vivaldi: Recitative And Aria From Cantata Rv 679, L2 The Nordic Sound.

I believe that this is a very technical track that exposes the weakness of the headhones and really separate mediocre headphones from the truly great ones. It is the definitive track that will make me choose and keep a headphone or not although later most of the times probably I am going to listen house music from tunein…I know go figure…

But this is my track where I test for the fastest lap and this is where Iematch was tested first with the Meze 99 classics and I can definitely say that it does belong to the second circumstance discussed above. In this case, some additional smoothness and greatness were added but needed an A/B testing to be observable at full extent. Something like “I cannot believe it, it sound even better with it…!!” But iematch cannot transform 99 and make it sound like a hi-end planar which is an unreasonable task anyway. I could compare the improvement in sound quality in what you could experience with the audioquest jitterbug, a very nice refinement for a modest amount.

Then I used it in my mobile situations as follows:

  • MotoX style phone directly to Meze 99 Neo, Classics and Meze Classics 12 iem.
  • As above and with xDSD (briefly in my testing period)
  • MotoX style connected through BT to es100 and then directly to Meze 99 Neo and Meze Classics 12 iem.
  • Out of my Little Bear Tube preamplifier B4 with Meze Classics 12 (iem)
  • Out of my pad and directly to my phones
And my observations are the following:

  • xDSD does not need an iematch. The technology in xDSD makes it irrelevant so save the money and if you can afford buy xDSD directly which I recommend wholeheartedly.
  • I did not pay particular attention to little bear except until my review period passed. Only few weeks ago I noticed that my Neo 99 pick a lot of hiss and then I though that the iematch might be also a game changer in this situation. Unfortunately, among so many combinations that I currently have, this passed unnoticed at the time and I lost the opportunity to test it properly. Maybe was the new opamp that I installed at later time but I really do not remember. But as it now stands, I prefer to use only my insensitive HD6XX and HE4XX with the little bear.


From the rest of the cases, except ONE particular case, the iematch sound quality wise, provided a nice refinement with the added benefit of being a very good angle adaptor. The Iematch is very beautiful constructed with great materials and very beautiful. The meze cables have not any angle so they are really cumbersome when you connected them in the phone or my ipad so an adapter like this makes things so much easier. Actually, as my ipad can provide a lot of power to my Meze 99 I noticed a noticeable improvement in this scenario. Providing also a very useful angled version for this situation. So yes, iematch provides a very nice refinement to the sound in a simple scenario like this one.

I hope ifi audio to sell such adaptors like the OTG usb cable in such reasonable prices. I think as xDSD does not need an iematch, someone like me needs such an adapter to match such cables. Actually, all my balanced cables I use right now would benefit from such an adapter.

Last but not least, I left the most important personal experience I have with iematch. Using IEMATCH with my phone, directly or through es100 with listening in poor quality streaming through 128k mp3 with tunein radio. This is where the Game Changer moment with iematch came for me. Obviously, I like over ears headphones a lot but I find iems particularly elegant to use in an professional environment, very mobile and user friendly in summer under hot conditions. I do not own very expensive iems and I am not very expert with iems in general. However, as I received on offer with my Meze 99 classics the Meze 12 classics I can say that the 12 classics is the endgame iem for me at the moment. The Classics 12 is not perfect and it has its moments but when paired well, for my standards sound amazing and with the foam tips supplied it sounds as a nice open headphone. It has a completely different signature from the 99 series. In contrast, here the bass is very good but the treble is the weakest link. It can be piercing some times. With xDSD and Tidal material in Bluetooth mode the 12 Meze iem was a revelation to me. An endgame for office situations. I could not believe the quality I was getting from a budget iem like that sounding like an open headphone. But when my review week was over with the xDSD and I needed to use my ES100 and my phone directly simply I could not listen more than one or two songs with the classics 12 (but to be fair to 12, also in combination with low res material that I am usually listen from tunein). But this exactly where iematch came in rescue and smoothed the treble in such a degree that made these combinations enjoyable and usable again. Clearly, this is the definition of a game changer situation to me. Something that is unusable to be usable. At this point I was thinking ordering the iematch (and the iematch 2.5) for me but as I left for my wedding and my honeymoon in summer I left it for some future time. But now as I am the lucky winner of the xDSD I still postpone this purchase as my listening habits and set ups change so often and much.

Initially, I requested the IEMATCH 2.5 because I am an idiot and at that time I had no experience with balanced cables, I thought 2.5 is the new version of iematch and not the balanced connection size version. When I opened the box I was quite shocked and I could not understand how to use this with my equipment. However, at later stages when I received my balanced cables to use with my es100 I briefly tested the IEMATCH 2.5. My observations mirror the observations I discussed for the original version above. ES100 in balanced mode can provide a lot of power so if you have sensitive iems you can see a benefit with using the iematch 2.5. I have the intuitive feeling that there is an optimal region in every amp, should not be near max or near min if iematch helps you to find that optimal region then the greater the benefit you can extract from you amp.

Finally, the other observation I have to make is that I did also a direct comparison for iematch technology when I tested the black nano, which includes IEMatch inside, and it seemed that most of the time I preferred the iematch input with my first generations budget headphones (i.e. AKGY50 etc.) although one should also note that in mobile applications the benefit of iematch comes with raising battery consumption as you are forced to use higher volumes.

All in all, this is a nice refinement of the sound in many circumstances without asking a fortune, it has the potential to be a game changer in some others but also it can be a completely wrong addition to other ones but this is not the product’s fault.

I conclude by provide further explanation about my rating. This can be a 5 star product potentially under some scenarios but in most of my personal specific cases was not. Also, personally I keep the 5 star recommendation for products that are really exceptional and have shocked me one way or another. The xDSD, the iOne and the ipurifier spdif are products that belong to this category. Also, to give a 4 star to product which is very special and unique is quite unfair too. This product designed for specific cases and is not designed for every possible use and as such in some cases does not make a night and day difference.

Also, there are some great reviews in this thread, far better than mine, please have a look and get more information there.

As for me, I might buy both versions at some point in future but right now my attention has turned to two other ifi audio products that theoretically should have not (because I have the xDSD)…the ipurifier 3 and the xCan…

...Why ifi Why...? :)

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