iFi, the U.K. based high end audio company, has fleshed out their product line over the past few years at a pace that is impressive by any measure. iFi was founded as the more affordable arm of Abbingdon Music Research, who are known for some heavy hitting, and state of the art components. iFi has captured the imagination of many audiophiles and the press with their too good to be true prices, and original designs. The best part is even though they now enjoy a loyal customer base, they have continued to improve the products.
In both my systems I currently use the Micro iDSD DAC, which costs $499 and may be one of the great bargains in digital source components today. I use it with the $229 Micro iUSB power supply as well. On my desktop I use the Nano iDSD, a more portable solution, that costs $199. To illustrate the amazing feature sets these units have, they both decode everything up to Quad DSD, have built-in analog volume controls, and have both headphone and RCA outputs. The headphone outputs are customizable, and both units even have mini jack analog inputs.
Along with the Nano and Micro lines, which also include a tube buffer, a phono stage, USB enhancements, a USB cable, power supplies, and even a mini rack. Their “retro”, all-in-one integrated amp and speaker set has given me gear lust, something I rarely encounter. It is a return to the classic “hifi console” approach, similar to what I wrote about with the Marantz M-CR611.
The subjects of this write up are the brand new Micro iUSB 3.0, an upgrade to the iUSB, and the dual lead Gemini USB cable, which starts at $189. The iUSB 3.0 is significantly different product in some ways, and the price has increased to $399. The build quality on both is superb, and both are made in Asia to iFI’s rigorous standards. I must also say the packaging for all iFI products is first class.
The Gemini USB cable is the execution of a concept other cable makers have explored, splitting the data and power lines. However, in my opinion iFI has a unique execution of this design. According to iFi, “critically, the special geometry adheres to the 90 ohm impedance specification better than even the USB 2.0 standard. Resistance is 4x lower than textbook. The FINAL USB machined connectors provide impeccable shielding from end-to-end.”
iFI stresses the importance of the connector. They say “the connector must be as exceptional as the cable. Most USB Cables use moulded plastic covered connections. Plastic cannot shield the high frequencies present in the USB Data link, so noise will radiate out. Durability is also compromised. The FINAL USB connectors provides impeccable end-to-end RF shielding, being machined entirely from solid aluminum. Gold-plated connections make for years of steadfast service.”