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Intona High Speed USB Isolator Review Print E-mail
Monday, 01 August 2016
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Intona High Speed USB Isolator Review
ImageIt is no secret that digital audio transmitted via USB is not perfect. USB was never intended for high performance audio, but eventually overtook S/PDIF as the most common connection method. Virtually all digital sources components like streamers, file players, and servers have USB outputs, and no DAC manufacturer would be taken seriously in 2016 without a high quality USB input.

USB has several key advantages over S/PDIF. First, it allows the DAC to acted as the master clock, which reduces jitter and improves timing accuracy. Secondly, and probably of more interest to the average audiophile, it allows for decoding of any format, and any resolution. Everything from Redbook CD and 24 bit PCM to DSD256.

As to be expected in the audiophile market, products related to improving the sound of USB surfaced several years ago, and it continues to be a growing segment. Audiophile grade USB cables, made to higher standards, with careful attention paid to protocol standards clearly make a difference. Both the Wireworld Starlight 7 and Platinum Starlight 7 USB cables brought my system to new levels of performance. The Starlight 7 is probably one of the better deals in digital cables. I also have had excellent sonic results with DH Labs USB cables. But other product categories aside from USB cables have also garnered much attention.

The cottage industry of USB “enhancement” devices is becoming crowded, with manufacturers claiming they have identified many of the technical issues with USB and have found unique ways of fixing these problems. What many of these devices purport to do is regenerate a fresh new USB stream to the DAC, filter any noise, and isolate the DAC from a potentially noisy source. Because USB carries with it a 5V power stream, it is not hard to imagine that filtering, isolating, and regenerating the data stream would have benefits.

Among the more publicized products to hit the market are the UpTone Audio REGEN, the Wyrd 4 Sound Recovery, the Schiit Audio Wyrd, the Audioquest Jitterbug filter, the iFi iPurifier. IFi also makes the Micro iUSB 3.0, which I reviewed recently, along with the Gemini USB cable, which physically splits the power and data leads. The iUSB worked as advertised, improving the sound as described in the review.

Well, there is a new USB enhancement gunslinger in town, and it comes courtesy of Intona, a company based in Germany thatprovides high-end digital signal processing solutions. The Intona High Speed USB Isolator costs about $360 shipped from Germany, a bit less than the iFI iUSB 3.0, but more than the Uptone REGEN and others.

Intona claims their design has the following benefits and design features:
  • Provides galvanic isolation to the USB bus
  • Compliant to USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (480 MBit/s)
  • Backwards compatible to Full Speed and Low Speed
  • Isolation withstands up to 2.5kVRMS
  • Works out of the box, no drivers needed
  • Compatibility to all operating systems, embedded systems and devices
  • Supports all USB-specific transfers and modes
  • Powered by USB bus, no separate power supply
  • Ultra-quiet power rail isolation, linear regulation
  • Connectors: host-side USB-B; device-side USB-A
  • Impedance controlled high-speed circuit design
  • National compliances: FCC, CE, RCM, ICES-003
  • Engineered and manufactured in Germany

The High Speed USB Isolator comes in two flavors: standard or industrial. The industrial version has a higher level of isolation, and is made with higher retention connectors. To the best of my knowledge there is no price difference, so I can’t imagine an audiophile not ordering the industrial version. 


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