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iFi Nano iUSB 3.0 Power Supply

Rating:
5/5,
  1. Army-Firedawg
    Absurdly high quality sound from a ridiculously small and light package
    Written by Army-Firedawg
    Published Jul 21, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Super light, very straight forward, wonderful results
    Cons - After 4 months I honestly can't think of any.
                                                                           20160721_142609.jpg
     
    Before Carolina CanFest 5 (which was also my first audio meet), I’ve only been able to read others opinions of the well regarded brand known as iFi. Luckily, one of the most down to Earth reps. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting was able to attend and brought the full iFi lineup!
        But my impressed feelings and impressions on those will have to wait for another conversation, for this review is about the iFi Nano iusb3.0 that Mr. Censullo was kind enough to allow me to loan for a very extended period of time so that I may fully come to understand this device. So to you my friend, I extend a very heartfelt thank you. Now, with all the pleasantries aside, let’s dive into what my thoughts ate of the iFi nano iusb3.0.
     
    EDIT: I removed "DAC" from this review for it is NOT a DAC though I myself was mistaken for the results I got from it (which were most certainly there) this is only a usb filter/cleaner.
      
     I'm a 25 year old firefighter currently for the U.S. Army North Carolina National Guard. I was formerly a civilian firefighter in Kentucky with the Millard Fire Department before I enlisted and moved to my current location in Charlotte, North Carolina. My current goal is to begin my career again in the civilian fire service, and yes, I am the cliché of wanting to do that since as far as I can remember.
        My interests/hobbies are powerlifting, fishing and relaxing to audio products and reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. On that note over the years I've really came to an understanding of what it is I like and look for in audio products.
        What I look for is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.
        My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have great extension and detail reveal but I don't like artificial treble in order to achieve that. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics & Stax SR009.
     
     
    I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.
     
     
    The Unboxing Experience
     
    20160721_142256.jpg    20160721_142424.jpg    20160721_142444.jpg
     
     
        For those of you who follow me likely have learned that I’m a stickler for the initial opening experience. My reason for this is pretty simple and straightforward, The unboxing experience, to me, represents the initial handshake you give when you introduce yourself to someone new. Will you be greeted by a firm handshake that’s filled with confidence, charisma and character? Or, one that’s boring, limp and forgettable?
        In the case of the iFi Nano iusb3.0, I can very happily say I was given a firm and memorable “handshake”. The box is very sleek and well representative of the product held within. There’s not to much jargon written on the box and even more it’s placed and formatted in such a way that it doesn’t draw too much attention away from the product experience itself (in other words it lets the product speaks for itself).
        As you begin opening the, not cheap at all looking or feeling, box you’re greeted with the resistance only provided by that of a well sealed product (which means no dust, etc..). Then once the seal is popped you’re presented a centered and pedestaled iFi Nano iusb3.0 in all its clean, polished and shiny aluminum bodied glory. As I picked up the small device I was honestly off put by how light it was. NOw granted, I wasn’t expecting it to be that heavy but this little thing’s almost like paper. Under its pedestal laid all the cables needed to operate the unit (which is always appreciated and honestly a service aspect that;s overlooked way too often) as well as the warranty and owner's manual.
        I must say, I was rather impressed by the level of pride and care given to ensure the customer is given a memorable initial experience. Not just from the product either. But even the representative who was able to attend Carolina CanFest 5 presented himself as a calm and knowledgeable professional but yet very approachable, very fitting of the iFi brand.
     
    Construction
     
    20160721_142743.jpg    20160721_142656.jpg    20160721_142723.jpg
     
     
     
     
        So a company's initial “handshake” is important and all but if the product isn’t built competently (with respect to the price) then it’s all smoke and mirrors to a disappointing illusion. This is absolutely not the case with the iFi Nano iusb3.0. The construction is very durable and very lightweight aluminum that unfortunately, has been tested with a drop or two but thankfully without so much as a single scratch. The left side is where you;ve the wall wart power input and the usb (from your source) as well as an auto/on toggle switch (that tells you’re computer to automatically detect the device or so solely use the computers dac [confusing I know but just leave it on the "ON" setting]). On the right you’ve two (2) usb 3.0 inputs; one to be a charge out and the other for charge and audio.  The cables included are your standard cables that are nothing special, however, seeing that they at least provide you with at least something, is a huge plus side.
        The iusb3.0 is wonderfully well built, and not just for its price point either. Serious attention to detail and product security went into making this and any consumer who would be to purchase this can rest assured that you’ll have it working its wonders for a very long time to come, even if the misfortune happens and you’re to drop it (within reasonable conditions of course).
        
     
    Functionality
     
        The ability to use a device is, or rather let reword that, this device was one of slight embarrassment for me I will regrettably admit to. For when you first look at the device and all the parts (“parts” merely refers to as cables, I do believe I was making even that sound more complicated to make myself feel better) it has you, or at least myself, think way too much into it.
        This device is extremely straightforward and once I finally realised this for myself I couldn’t help but laugh at my goofiness, and be humble and let y’all have a laugh with me. So after the roughly 2 hours it took for me to figure this out I learned to utilize the iFi Nano iusb3.0 you simple do the following steps
    • Plug the power wart into the wall and then into the unit to power it on (this device can be powered either by it’s own designated power source [i.e. the wall] or by a computer. However for optimum results and performance I found the best to be by it’s own designated power source).
    • Plug the usb cable from the iusb3.0 into your source of choice.
    • Plug the usb cable (from the charge and share usb port [the one with a charge and music icon {I’m unsure if the other port will do anything but charge a device but from my experience that’s all I could get it to do}]) from the iusb3.0 to your amp..
    • Ensure the toggle switch is on the “ON” position (this is to ensure the computer will register the iusb3.0 and use it vs overlooking it and using only the computers dac).
    • Play your desired track.
    Yup, that’s it. That’s all that’s to this very simple device. So after I finished laughing at myself at the simplicity of the device the final judgement is the functionality is clean, swift, and instantaneous. There’s no software to install (from my memory) and the results are immediately apparent.
     
    Specifications (copied from the manufactures website)
    [​IMG]
     
    Specifications
     
    Output Voltage:
    5V±0.5%
    Output Current:
    2.1A
    Noise floor:
    0.5uV(0.0000005V)
    USB 3.0:
    Ultra-speed 5.0Gbps
    Input Voltage:
    AC 100 – 240V, 50/60Hz (iFi iPower included)
    Power consumption:
    < 15W (includes powered USB device)
      
    Dimensions:
    87(l)x68(w)x28(h)mm
    Weight:
    141g (0.31 lbs)
    Warranty period:
    12 months
    Specifications are subject to change without notice.
     



     
    Sound
     
        Alright, so we’ve discussed the “handshake”, the build quality, and the functionality. So what’s left? Oh yes, that’s right, the sound quality. How silly of me to forget such a thing (which I totally did and wasn’t just trying to add a very corny and not funny joke in at all). That thing that plays the largest part in a consumer's decision of an audio purchase (usually).
        As I began using the iufi nano iusb3.9 te first and most immediate thing I noticed was the newly found blackness of the sound presented in front, or rather, all around me. Now granted, neither of the two amp./dacs I primarily use are that noisy, in fact until I heard it with the nano I thought that they were quite silent. The now found silence gave me an idea that veers it away from its intended design. But with this new idea I really wanted to test just how quiet it make an amp.
        So I hooked it up to my PS4and my 2011 Astro MixAmp. Pro (noisiest amp./dac I’ve ever used in my entire life but it’s effects for gaming are respectable) and turned on my game of choice (Destiny for those curious). You see, as mentioned above the Astro does a decent job with 3d imaging but dear gosh is it absurdly noisey, so a perfect test for the iFi nano iusb3.0’s noise cancelling ability. Unfortunately, I can’t say it made the obnoxious Astro as quiet as an African midnight, but I can say that it drastically reduced the hiss to a more than tolerable level, so much so that I’m confident that the noise I’m hearing is from the device itself more so the PS4’s usb port. So in essence, mission accomplished.
        So it’s abilities for gaming are very prominent (though something I forgot to mention is that when using the iusb3.0 you can no longer utilize your microphone [if using one]), so now let’s discuss the music attributes shall we? So with music, the first thing that came to my mind was smoothness and a striking resemblance to my more expensive, and larger, Aune X1s. The soundstage was crystal transparent and the instrument separation was spot on. Actually, I’ll even add that they sounded even clearer than my Aune in a direct A/B comparison.
        Trying not to put personal bias into this but when I pair the iFi nano iub3.0 with my warm sounding Audio Gd NFB15.32 and plug in my Bowers & Wilkins P7 or Meze Headphones 99 Classics; dear goodness do I have one blissful experience! The nano’s cleanliness and buffering, I guess is the word I’m trying to think of, is just awesome when paired with a colored amp.
        ‘Hang on Firedawg! What do you mean “colored amp.?” My amp. Is a balanced and reference sound, will I not gain anything from the Nano?’ Well, my answer to that is yes and no. Ever since I’ve listened to a dac (dedicated to music) for the first time, I’ve became a firm believer everyone should have one. For it makes a world of difference and can compliment an amp. very well. When I pair the Nano with  X1s, I honestly can't tell much of a difference, my idea behind this is because they’re such a similar sounding dac. Now, when paired with a colored amp., like my Audio Gd or even a tube, you can really hear just how impressive this little box is. Why the difference in this case? I believe it’s because the sound curves contrast and thus highlight what I love about a warm amp./tube so much. However, I’m not a super expert as to why I’m getting the results I have and honestly don’t care. I’m just really enjoying what’s presented in front of me and appreciate the craftsmanship that it takes to make it that way.
     
    Conclusion
     
      20160721_150949.jpg
     
     
        So, in closing, iFi really has done an outstanding job in its new Nano iusb3.0. It’s build quality, ease of use (for most people) and overall quality, at least in my opinion, earns it their self proclaimed title as “Baby-Bentley”. Add in what it did for my gaming experience over the last few months and you have yourself a product that’s more than worth its very reasonable asking price. I have thoroughly enjoyed this product and will wholeheartedly miss it when I send it back. In fact, it’s that note that I again express my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to iFi audio and Mr. Censullo for the extremely generous time allotted for my review.
     
     
    Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out as well. Till next time my friends, stay safe.
     
    EDIT: So if any of you watch my videos, in the unboxing I described it correctly, however in my review video I proclaimed it as having dac properties due to the results I was getting. However, I was mistaken and have made proper annotation where needed. I made a mistake and own up to it. Everything else about the review is correct (unless stated otherwise) especially in terms of results. I just labeled it incorrectly as a dac. 
      kazsud likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. LajostheHun
      @Pastapipo Yup you got that right. This hobby is full of BS and pseudo science and as you can see people eat this up with a spoon. You find plenty of anecdotes but no real scientific empirical data to support those claims. Spend your hard earned cash on real products that could possibly make any difference.
      LajostheHun, Jul 25, 2016
    3. AnakChan
      @Pastapipo ones and zeros are really an oversimplification. Probably a better read is Darko's article found here :-

      http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2016/05/gordon-rankin-on-why-usb-audio-quality-varies/

      In short, a sender sending a one could be misinterpreted as a zero on the receiving end and the cable doesn't really have to be long for errors to be introduced, etc. PC data has error calculation/error correction to ensure data sent is the same as data received. For audio data, as per the article, isosynchronous USB transmissions does not have error correction. You've raised a good point about video to see if there's any error correction mechanism in video streaming.
      AnakChan, Jul 25, 2016
    4. Pastapipo
      Very interesting, thanks! I will look into the matter.
      Pastapipo, Jul 27, 2016
  2. MLGrado
    iFi iUSB 3.0 Nano ... small in NAME ONLY
    Written by MLGrado
    Published Apr 27, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent construction, ease of install, demonstrable increase in audio fidelity
    Cons - none of note
    The previous reviewer did an outstanding job detailing the unboxing experience, and going over the technical specs. Below I am going to add some thoughts of my own....


    It was the middle of 2009 when I got my first taste of computer audio via USB. Actually, that isn't correct. I had been dabbling with USB audio RECORDING devices since around the year 2000. 2009 was the first time I tried to integrate a computer via USB into my Hi-Fi playback system.



    Those were rough days. Poor clocking, data dropouts, excessive noise, limited sample rates just to name a few problems. The resultant sound was hard edged and lacking in musicality. My, oh my how far we have come!



    The USB interface itself is still quite compromised for audio taken as it is. But thankfully companies like iFi have given us solutions to many of the issues that plague the interface.



    Back when 'asynchronous' USB came out, it was supposed to be the 'cure all' for USB audio woes. And granted, the much more stable clocking it provides has gone a long way in making USB an 'audiophile' interface. But it isn't enough. Computers tend to be very, very noisy beasts, and they will transmit massive amounts of EMI and RF noise through the USB interface. Additionally, many downstream audio DAC's obtain their power supply directly from what is already a very, very dirty USB signal. All this extra noise is burdensome on what may be the single most important component in the signal chain; the CLOCK. I am not going to go into a deep discussion on jitter, nor an I really qualified to do so. Suffice to say, jitter is bad. And a compromised CLOCK is going to create a jittery audio signal. Asynchronous USB can only go so far is achieving this jitter free signal. What may be the cleanest clock ever created will be compromised by a dirty USB connection, regardless of which component is host or slave.



    Devices like the iUSB 3.0 Nano address these USB issues. To get the most out of your USB DAC, you need more than just an asynchronous interface. Furthermore, you may need more help than in-DAC galvanic isolation provides. Many DAC's place the opto-isolators post USB interface on the outgoing I2S line. Which means dirty USB still affects the onboard clocking of the USB interface, and can still travel the ground plane via other paths, affecting the DAC conversion clock.





    I used the iUSB 3.0 Nano with two different DAC's, and heard astonishing results in both instances. If you have a budget DAC, or even if you have a DAC that is several thousand dollars, you can expect positive results from the iUSB Nano.



    The first setup in which I inserted the Nano (from henceforth I will simply be referring to the device as the 'Nano') was my work/office rig consisting of a laptop PC and an iFi iDSD Micro. All listening was done via Monoprice M560 headphones. The first thing noticed upon inserting the Nano was the increase in fine detail and the apparent increase in signal to noise ratio. The background just sounds 'blacker'. With the Nano, imaging is tighter. What was a slightly hazy sound is now very clear, clean and articulated, while still maintaining warmth, musicality and beauty.







    The second setup, in which I found the greatest increase in quality, was my main listening rig. It consists of a PC based front end, Wyred 4 Sound DAC-1LE Femto DAC, Icon Audio HP8 MKII tube headphone amp, and Audeze LCD-X headphones.



    Even though the Wyred 4 Sound DAC has galvanic isolation on the I2S bus, there was a marked decrease in noise floor after adding the Nano. The W4S DAC always seemed to have some hardness/harshness in the upper-mids/lower treble. This harshness was completely gone after adding the Nano. The overall sound was much warmer, musical, and more realistic. Without the Nano, listening sessions could get a bit fatiguing. With the Nano, I could listen for hours at a time with no ear fatigue. Actually, the only fatigue was of the bodily kind, and many a late night listening session with the Nano in place was only interrupted by the need for sleep, or the unexpected sunrise that came much quicker than anticipated.



    In conclusion, I give the iUSB Nano the highest of recommendations. I have used similar products from other companies, and none of them brought the same kind of musical listening satisfaction I felt when listening to the Nano. So what are you waiting for? If you have a USB audio setup and want a noteworthy increase in fidelity without breaking the bank, the iUSB 3.0 Nano is a no brainer!!!



    5 stars out of 5





    Equipment used in this review



    iFi iDSD Micro

    iFi Gemini Cable

    iFi iUSB 2.0

    iFi iPurifier 2

    Wyred 4 Sound DAC-1 LE Femto edition

    WireWorld USB cables

    Intona Galvanic Isolator

    Icon Audio HP8 MKII headphone amp