1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Active, asynchronous USB audio purifier

iFi iPurifier 3.0

Rating:
4.25/5,

Recent Reviews

  1. betula
    iFi iPurifier 3.0 impressions vs. AQ Jitterbug
    Written by betula
    Published Nov 4, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Additional clarity and transparency, it really does what it says. Easy to use plug&play.
    Cons - Level of performance is system dependent and it is a bit pricey.
    After writing reviews about four different iFi amps and DACs, the company offered me to try any of their products if I am interested and write my honest opinion about them. I was interested in the iPurifier 3.0 so here we go.

    iFi is not supporting me in any way, this is my independent and subjective opinion on the product after testing it for a couple of weeks.
    IMG_20181027_154433672.jpg
    I have been using AudioQuest Jitterbug for a long time as to my ears it improves the sound significantly enough for the price of £39. To my ears in my system the Jitterbug adds a certain level of clarity to the overall picture especially at the lower notes.

    My system at this point is a Dell laptop, Chord 2Qute and Questyle CMA 600i amp. I am using a QED (High Performance digital interconnect) USB cable, nothing fancy just a basic decent cable. Similarly my interconnect cables between the 2Qute and CMA600i are basic QED cables worth around £30.

    Since the 2Qute is a pretty good DAC with galvanic isolation I wasn’t expecting too much improvement from the iPurifier 3.0. To be honest I believed for £129 it would be a bit of a disappointment, especially versus my Jitterbug which cost less than third of that.
    IMG_20181027_154409825.jpg
    iFi’s iPurifier obviously does much more than the Jitterbug. It reclocks and regenerates the signal and there is built-in active noise cancelling. It is a much more complex and advanced audio accessory.
    Still, at the end of the day it is ‘just’ a USB device you plug into your DAC.
    I am not going to describe all the technical details as iFi explains it much better on their website. I am simply writing from the average user’s point of view about audible or inaudible improvements.

    I wanted to find out whether I can hear any sonic improvements that can justify the £129 price tag.
    I had many listening sessions with the Jitterbug and the iPurifier 3.0 plugged into the CMA600i’s DAC or straight into my 2Qute using the 600i as an amp only.
    IMG_20181027_154519317.jpg
    I will reflect on all these combinations: 600i with Jitterbug, 600i with iPurifier, 600i with both devices; 2Qute with Jitterbug, 2Qute with iPurifier and 2Qute with both USB units.

    Before I start to talk about the sound I have to mention that the weight and the build quality of the iPurifier 3 was surprisingly good, beyond my expectations. It is quite heavy for the size (not uncomfortably heavy) made of good quality metal. The feeling of quality is light-years ahead of the cheap plastic built memory stick feeling from the 90’s: the way the Jitterbug comes across.
    IMG_20181027_154335554.jpg
    The most obvious improvement to my ears was audible with the 600i’s built in DAC and the iPurifier 3. Using the 600i’s DAC with the Jitterbug in comparison offers a more superficial clarity. The iPurifier 3 digs deeper. This device conveys more depth and clarity without a question. You can look deeper in the stage and see what is happening in the background more clearly. As a consequence of this extra depth you can also identify more micro details.
    IMG_20181027_154418091.jpg
    I thought using the Jitterbug will be pointless if the iPurifier is offering better clarity overall but I was wrong. Using the two devices together has further improved the sound. While the transparency the Jitterbug brings to the picture is superficial compared to the iPurifier 3’s much deeper sense of clarity, the two devices together sound even clearer. The Jitterbug is just a little bit warm. Hearing this slight extra warmth is actually quite satisfying in the bass frequencies. AudioQuest’s device gives clarity and a bit of weight to the bass notes, while the iPurifier 3 seems to concentrate on higher frequencies a bit more. It cleans out the mids and treble much deeper than the Jitterbug but somehow bass sounds a little bit thinner in comparison.
    IMG_20181027_154348089.jpg
    Hands down the iPurifier 3 is the more professional device that gives you more of everything (clarity, precision, transparency). However using the two USB signal cleaners together was quite a pleasant surprise and resulted in an even more satisfying sound than using only one of them.

    Both devices have advantages. If you don’t want to spend £129, the Jitterbug for £39 is a good and recommended alternative. The iPurifier 3 offers much better clarity and more neutrality, but also costs significantly more.
    IMG_20181027_154454250.jpg
    The level of improvement they bring to the picture is highly system dependent. In my opinion the improvement is bigger with lower quality gear. I wish I had some real entry level gear around to test this. In my experience the improvement the iPurifier 3 brought was more obvious with my 600i’s DAC than it was with the 2Qute, although the sound improved even when I plugged iFi’s device in the Chord DAC.
    IMG_20181027_154504070.jpg
    The 2Qute as a DAC compared to the built in DAC in the 600i is much superior. It is a big step up in definition, separation, imaging, presence and clarity/transparency.
    Adding the iPurifier 3.0 to my home set up (PC – Jitterbug – 2Qute – CMA600i amp) still brought out some extra and undeniable clarity: improved the sense of soundstage depth. Beside this enhanced clarity and more easily audible micro details, tightness and timing has also improved.

    Ifi with the iPurifier 3 offers raw, neutral and deep clarity while the Jitterbug cleans only the surface and also adds a hint of warmth. With this warmth the Jitterbug offers slightly more weight to the bass but can’t match iFi’s deep cleaning abilities.
    I did want to choose only one of them, but had to discover they best work together, at least with my system.
    IMG_20181027_154359664.jpg
    Whether we need these USB signal cleaning devices is highly system and ear dependent. It depends on the quality of your audio chain and on your ears too; how refined and experienced your hearing is.
    Using my system I have hopefully given you an idea by now, what level of improvement you might be able to get. We are not talking about a 40-50% improvement, but to my ears the improvement in overall clarity is at least 10-20% depending on what set up I was using.

    If you use the Jitterbug and the iPurifier 3 at the same time it almost sounds like you have upgraded your DAC. For £168 that is not bad.
    I would love to see the iPurifier’s price going under £100, and then it would be a no brainer. Still I will be missing it a lot.
    IMG_20181103_172201889 (1).jpg
    If you want to improve your system but you are not quite ready for another DAC or amp purchase or you just simply want to bring out the most of your current system, you might want to look into USB signal purifiers. They bring unexpected levels of clarity to the overall picture which you are more likely to appreciate than ignore. The iFi iPurifier 3.0 is a surprisingly great little device that more of us should try and consider implementing in our audio chain.

    EDIT: Instead of sending back the iPurifier 3.0 I asked iFi whether they are willing to sell it to me with some discount since it was a review unit. They offered 25% off, so I ended up buying it.
    1. Condocondor
      I have the iPurifer3, the iSilencer (same a jitterbug), the iDefender with iPower, iGalvanic3.0 and connect all this up between my laptop and my iFi Micro iDSD Black Label. I also have the Audioquest DragonFly Red. My experiences with combining these devices is EXACTLY as you've described. It's all additive to the quality. You can't believe how good my Black Label sounds with all this iFi USB gear cleaning working in tandem. Loved your review.
      Condocondor, Nov 18, 2018
      WoodyLuvr, maakheru and betula like this.
  2. Grimbles
    If you need it, it's probably worth it!
    Written by Grimbles
    Published Oct 17, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - beautifully built
    refines sound
    cleans dirty USB
    Cons - changes are subtle
    expensive
    Quick Read Conclusion

    I really had to shuffle the iFi iPurifier 3 USB ("iPurifier") around my kit before I noticed any difference with it. Subtle though that difference is, once I started hearing it, I quickly came to enjoy the sound with the iPurifier more than without it. Given my current equipment, and given that I really only notice a difference using my AK70 as a DAC, which I rarely do, I struggle to justify the c.£130 (c.$170 at Google's exchange rate on the day of publishing) outlay required to drop an iPurifier into my signal path. But, if you do suffer from USB noise (or even if you don't, but want to add that extra bit of polish to your system's sound), have the chance to audition an iPurifier, and can hear the difference… it's not an enormous spend for a versatile, transferrable, handsome gadget to add a little extra lustre to your audio pride and joy.

    What is it?

    I have re-jigged the order of this review a little, as I think it is worth explaining what an iPurifier does before I talk about how it sounds with different equipment. According to the back of the iPurifier's box it "re-equalises unbalanced USB signals" because it "re-clocks, re-generates and repeats the USB audio stream" which "reduces the USB power supply noise by more than 100 times". More importantly, there is a picture of a Eurofighter on the front of it, pictorially representing the active noise cancellation technology which is ostensibly drawn from military technology.

    EFA.jpg

    Sales puff aside, the iPurifier is supposed to clean up a USB signal, eliminating things like EMI/RFI interference, jitter, frame and packet noise and output a "cleaner" USB audio signal. You plug one end to your output source using your normal (in the case of the model I tested USB B cable, but it also comes in USB A) and plug the other end into your DAC.

    Cable In.jpg Cable Out.jpg

    Introductions and General Bumf

    Test Kit: In addition to the more detailed commentary below, regarding the different DACs I plugged the iPurifier into, I listened with an iPurifier in the signal chain on Campfire Audio Polaris and HiSenior B8 (ChiFi 8 BAs, review here) IEMs, and heard little discernible difference. It was my trusty Senny HD600s that actually demonstrated the worth of the iPurifier to me. Save where I used my Samsung Note 8 as a source to the AK70 as a DAC, I always used for the transport, a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 outputting to a DAC through a powered docking station plugged into the USB-C port and running the Tidal windows app (not the website).

    Me as a listener: I am not a pro by any stretch of the imagination. I have always enjoyed my music, and my tastes are pretty broad. I go to live music ranging from rock and pop concerts to orchestra and opera. I would not describe myself as having a trained ear, but I am attentive and my ears are in pretty good nick for a 35 year old.

    Affiliations

    For the avoidance of doubt, this review is my honest personal opinion, I am not affiliated with iFi, and have received no inducement from iFi (or anyone else) to write this review. I was sent the iPurifier by iFi in exchange for my honest review. Once I am done with it, I will be sending it back to iFi. Thanks to Karina and the team for giving me the opportunity to review some more of their products.

    Unboxing

    iFi package their products beautifully – the box has a thick card feel, with high quality printing and of course that Eurofighter picture! It shows the USB type of the iPurifier (you can have USB A or B) and contains various descriptions of how the iPurifier works on the back. In the box, you get the iPurifier, warranty card and paperwork, and a few different adaptors for the output end (micro USB, USB C and USB A so all bases covered!).

    UB1.jpg UB2.jpg UB3.jpg

    Measuring approximately 69x18x18mm this is a solid feeling, reassuringly heavy piece of equipment with a high quality finish. When plugged in, it very much looks the part too, the two lights on the front showing you clearly it is definitely plugged in and working.

    So does it work?

    I tested the iPurifier on a Schiit Modi 2 Uber via a Schiit Vali 2 ("Schiit Stack"), an iFi Nano iDSD Black Label ("Nano BL") and using an Astell and Kern AK70 ("AK70") as a USB DAC.

    First things first, the iPurifier did nothing when plugged into the Nano BL, regardless of the headphones I listened to. This is probably a good thing, as on re-reading its specs, I saw that the Nano BL has iPurifier built in!

    Turning to the Schiit Stack, I could also not hear any difference regardless of the headphones used. My thoughts on that a little further below.

    Schiity.jpg

    So, the AK70 as a DAC. A mixed story – with the bulk of the headphones and IEMs I plugged into it, I struggled to discern much difference with or without the iPurifier. My CA Polaris, HiSenior B8 and KEF M500s yielded little difference regardless of whether the iPurifier sat in the signal chain or not. Turning to my Sennheiser HD600s though, and a different story played out. The difference is subtle but notable – a little more air, a little more space in the soundstage, slightly enhanced instrument separation, lack of "congestion" in busier tracks and all round greater clarity. It was the lifting of a veil, albeit a thin one.

    AK701.jpg

    To turn to specifics, I point you my test track, the Tidal HiFi version of Joy Oladokun's excellent track Sober (the normal, not acoustic version). This track has a bit of everything through it (and by that I mean stunning vocals, bass, treble, multiple instruments, rich detail, patches of silence along with high volume) and there were a few specific places where I could really hear the difference and perhaps you could too:

    0:20-24 – fingers on fretboards are more clearly described;

    1:21-1:23, 1:27-1:30, 2:52-3:05 – the flares on the guitar are much more clear, and placed more definitely to the left; and

    2:15-18 – there is some background noise whilst the choir are singing – it sounds like a train station or something like that – the sound is more clearly picked out, individual voices more clearly separated.

    Some thoughts on USB

    My theory is that I don't really have an issue with crappy USB. My Schiit Stack (self-powered Modi 2 Uber) and Nano BL both include technologies aimed at cleaning up the USB source. Further, my USB outputs are powered laptop docking stations with their own DC power supplies. Simply, poor USB signal is not an issue I suffer with and I suspect this is why I couldn't hear much difference with the iPurifier plugged in.

    I also had a fiddle with the Samsung Note 8 (using Tidal through UAPP)->iPurifier ->AK70 as a DAC and heard similar effects as described above, as pronounced with the HD600s and I thought I could hear it on the CA Polaris too (maybe confirmation bias).

    wHD600.jpg

    Equally, it may not be that I have sufficiently sensitive kit to pick up the difference the iPurifier makes. So, in any event, the iPurifier is ultimately designed for solving a problem I just don't have.

    Conclusion

    This review (as all my reviews) is subjective and non-scientific in the sense that I do not take measurements, double blind test myself etc. When reviewing things like DACs, PMPs and earphones I think the sort of review I try to write is still valuable – plenty of people (including myself) are interested in the personal interaction of a "normal" consumer with the product… what it looks and feels like, and anecdotal comparisons to other kit.

    When it comes to something like the iPurifier though, I do feel the risk of my own confirmation bias and lack of tangible evidence. What (I think) I hear is subtle – pleasant and enjoyable but not "night and day" in terms of differences.

    As with many aspects of this hobby, I genuinely think you should test this product first, before deciding to buy one. If you have problems with the quality of your USB signal, I suspect the iPurifier may make a difference to you. But if, like me, you do not, then the very subtle differences in sound may not be worth the £130 asking price – and if you can hear the differences, you may not like them anyway! A personal choice for sure, but the one situation in which I thought I could hear a difference with the iPurifier (using my AK70 as a DAC) is not something I typically do. So I will be keeping my wallet in my pocket for now.
      volly likes this.
    1. volly
      Nice read and good effort mate!
      volly, Oct 18, 2018
      Grimbles likes this.

Comments

To view comments, simply sign up and become a member!