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ifi micro iUSB3.0 USB Filter Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the ifi micro iUSB3.0 USB regenerator, power supply and battery bank. It is on kind loan from a member. It costs US $399. ifi says it was discontinued but then came back to market.

The enclosure is just like everything else ifi makes:

ifi iUSB3 USB Filter Cleaner Audio Review.jpg

Which is to say it is confusing as heck. I have a full container of ifi products and every time I go looking for one, I have to spend 10 minutes reading the hardly legible print on the back to know which is which.

This thing has more USB outputs than you know what to do with. Power-only, power and data. Port 1. Port 2.

ifi positions this device for people with systems that cost more than $1,500:

1580970642034.png


So I decided to test it with a top of the line DAC, the Topping D90. To see if it can deal with ground loops and such, I decided to test with unbalanced RCA output of it.

USB Decrapifier Audio Measurements
I fired up the dashboard and as before, we see the fantastically low noise and distortion of the Topping D90 by itself, being powered by my very "dirty" desktop USB port:

Topping D90 RCA Out Audio Measurements.png


If there is any dirt, it is not getting in the eye of this DAC!

Now let's run the USB through the ifi iUSB3.0 with the ground switch set to floating:

ifi iUSB3 USB Filter Cleaner With Topping D90  Audio Measurements.png


Hmmm. We lose half a dB of SINAD due to extra spike around 16 kHz that was not there before. If I flip the switch it goes away and performance remains the same (i.e. the device is doing nothing useful).

Zooming in further, let's look at jitter test:

ifi iUSB3 USB Filter Cleaner With Topping D90 Jitter Audio Measurements.png


We better see the impact of floating the ground here with the same 16 kHz spike and addition noise around 6 to 12 kHz (little red pulses).

If I ground it once more, then the additional noise goes away but we are left with the same performance as not using the ifi iUSB3.0.

Conclusions
I have measured so many USB regenerators and filters and the outcome is always the same: they either make things worse or do nothing useful. Same is true of micro ifi iUSB3.0. Any audible improvements would have to come from your brain manufacturing it, not due to electrical improvements of your DAC.

Please don't waste money on such things. Remember that not one of these companies shows a measurement of the output of the DAC improvement. Not one. ifi has Audio Precision analyzer. If there was an improvement there, they would have post it. Don't pay someone to excite your imagination for you.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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maxxevv

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#2
Would it work better with really poorly implemented USB components like the first gen Schiit DACs ??

Those were pretty poor with noise isolation, would this help that ?
 

LTig

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#3
Would it work better with really poorly implemented USB components like the first gen Schiit DACs ??

Those were pretty poor with noise isolation, would this help that ?
Don' think so, it's worse than @amirm s notebook.
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #4
Would it work better with really poorly implemented USB components like the first gen Schiit DACs ??
It is a $400 device. You surely would not use it with obsolete, lousy USB DACs.
 

majingotan

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#5
Would it work better with really poorly implemented USB components like the first gen Schiit DACs ??

Those were pretty poor with noise isolation, would this help that ?
I have mine on the abysmal performing Bifrost 2 DAC. No it does not make audible improvements nor degrades the sound in audible way but it prevents my Bifrost 2 from clicking relays every time I pause or stop music or video playback. Plus I can charge my DAP, Mojo and FiiO BTR5 even if my computer is completely turned off as a bonus.
 

maxxevv

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#7
Don' think so, it's worse than @amirm s notebook.
Do note that the XMOS interface on the D90 is pretty good when it comes to noise "cleaning" via USB.

So, what the D90 displays is actually "filtered" if connected direct to his computer.

We do not actually see what the noise floor of his computer is in the direct D90 connection. If the noise level on the USB connection out was -80dB direct without the XMOS filtering, then the iFI actually cleans things (hypothetically) up to say -100dB, it may make a difference to really poorly implemented USB interfaces that have little or no noise filtering at all.

It is a $400 device. You surely would not use it with obsolete, lousy USB DACs.
Of course. BUT .. some people don't want to change their gorgeous eye-candy but "obsolete" USB DAC's if it cost them like US$3000 just maybe 5~8 years ago. And this device is probably targeted for things in that price category and higher.

Don't get me wrong thinking that I'm rooting for it but I don't own any iFI products at all. Neither do I intend on buying one. But just highlighting why the performance may possibly be hidden by the D90's excellent USB implementation. Like the inverse of how some jitter charts look clean when the average noise floor is high and some look worse when the actual noise floor average is lower.
 

w1000i

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#8
Do note that the XMOS interface on the D90 is pretty good when it comes to noise "cleaning" via USB.

So, what the D90 displays is actually "filtered" if connected direct to his computer.

We do not actually see what the noise floor of his computer is in the direct D90 connection. If the noise level on the USB connection out was -80dB direct without the XMOS filtering, then the iFI actually cleans things (hypothetically) up to say -100dB, it may make a difference to really poorly implemented USB interfaces that have little or no noise filtering at all.



Of course. BUT .. some people don't want to change their gorgeous eye-candy but "obsolete" USB DAC's if it cost them like US$3000 just maybe 5~8 years ago. And this device is probably targeted for things in that price category and higher.

Don't get me wrong thinking that I'm rooting for it but I don't own any iFI products at all. Neither do I intend on buying one. But just highlighting why the performance may possibly be hidden by the D90's excellent USB implementation. Like the inverse of how some jitter charts look clean when the average noise floor is high and some look worse when the actual noise floor average is lower.
I Agree, if there is a way to test what ifi micro usb can do on its own path.
 

Blumlein 88

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#9
I Agree, if there is a way to test what ifi micro usb can do on its own path.
Disagree. These devices at these prices are BS. You can buy a good Dac for this much which doesn't need it. If you have an odd or old Dac this would help it's worth at most $50 or less. Basically just day no to this crap. It's a wrong headed idea. Looking for the odd case where maybe it helps is doubly wrong headed.
 

JohnYang1997

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#10
The method of testing this thing is kind of flawed. You can't improve something that doesn't have any problem. Maybe try with some more devices, more use cases. Namely, some devices that don't have earth connection, some devices that have issues without the filter etc.
 
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#11
When I connect my NUC that runs Daphile to the amp (NAD D3020) using USB, I get some noise (ground loop buzz?) over the AUX1 line that I use to connect a turntable using a Pro-ject preamp.

You can imagine it took some time before I found out that the connected computer caused the problems I experienced with the turntable...
I've solved the issue now by adding an opto-coupled USB (1.1) connector.

Perhaps this USB regenerator might have solved the ground loop (?) issue too. @amirm tested it in a situation where everything already works fine. It would be much more interesting to have it tested in situations where somehow the USB connection is causing problems. Practically hard to test all possible problems of course.
 
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Sanlitun

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#13
How does this measure on a DAC that requires the 5v USB to operate?

I use one on my Sony TA-ZH1ES as it requires 5v.

A far more interesting test would be comparing ripple and noise on the 5v.
 
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vkvedam

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#14
Oh no not again :facepalm:
 

AudioSceptic

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#15
When I connect my NUC that runs Daphile to the amp (NAD D3020) using USB, I get some noise (ground loop buzz?) over the AUX1 line that I use to connect a turntable using a Pro-ject preamp.

You can imagine it took some time before I found out that the connected computer caused the problems I experienced with the turntable...
I've solved the issue now by adding an opto-coupled USB (1.1) connector.

Perhaps this USB regenerator might have solved the ground loop (?) issue too. @amirm tested it in a situation where everything already works fine. It would be much more interesting to have it tested in situations where somehow the USB connection is causing problems. Practically hard to test all possible problems of course.
Yes it might, but $400 is crazy money to fix what is essentially a wiring fault.
 

Francis Vaughan

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#16
One could say there are two parts to reviewing this product. One, does it do what it says it does? Two, is there any reason why you would buy it?
To the second question, there is no doubt. No matter what DAC you currently own, the most cost effective way to spend your money on improving your sound is to buy a DAC that has impeccable performance for much the same money as this device costs. For that reason, it gets a headless panther.

The first question is more of academic interest. Does it do what it says on the tin? It would be interesting to have some insight into this, just for the fun of it. But that is the only reason. A teardown would be nice. Again, just for the fun of it.
 

AudioSceptic

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#18
One could say there are two parts to reviewing this product. One, does it do what it says it does? Two, is there any reason why you would buy it?
To the second question, there is no doubt. No matter what DAC you currently own, the most cost effective way to spend your money on improving your sound is to buy a DAC that has impeccable performance for much the same money as this device costs. For that reason, it gets a headless panther.

The first question is more of academic interest. Does it do what it says on the tin? It would be interesting to have some insight into this, just for the fun of it. But that is the only reason. A teardown would be nice. Again, just for the fun of it.
Ignoring the question of whether it needs doing at all, can one of the EEs here tell us the components needed and estimate the cost of making something to do what the iFi claims to do?
 

mhardy6647

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#19
The enclosure is just like everything else ifi makes:
...
Which is to say it is confusing as heck. I have a full container of ifi products and every time I go looking for one, I have to spend 10 minutes reading the hardly legible print on the back to know which is which.
Maybe that is meant to indicate that it doesn't really matter which of their components one uses for what application?
Just musing, here. :)
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #20
The method of testing this thing is kind of flawed. You can't improve something that doesn't have any problem. Maybe try with some more devices, more use cases. Namely, some devices that don't have earth connection, some devices that have issues without the filter etc.
Ifi specifically promotes this product for higher end systems as I showed. Indeed many people buy such things to improve what is not broken.

You better read some of the reviews of this product before lecturing me on how to test it:http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0416/iFi_Audio_Micro_iUSB3_Review.htm

"I started out with the iDAC2 powered by my laptop USB. The DAC certainly sounded good, this was no surprise given the editor's recent review of the DAC. Compared with the original USB powered iDAC I felt the iDAC2 was a considerable step up. This suggested that the DAC has been significantly improved, part of this is bound be down to the latest iFi experience and developments around implementing highly effective filtering of what is invariably very noisy USB power and electrical ground. I should mention that I mostly used the DAC is set to Bit Perfect mode which means it operates as a Non-Oversampling (NOS) DAC."

Where do you read in this that he had a broken usb interface that needed fixing?
 
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