The iPhono 3 and the Noise Floor Challenge
Introducing the iPhono 3
As a long-time user of a lot usefull gadgets of ifi (iDSDnano, iUSBPower, iPhono 1, iPhono 2, iPhono 3) I purchased the iPhono 3 immediately after I learned it exists.
As the improvement between the iPhono 1 and 2 was quite a step upwards (more openness, better three-dimensionality) in sound I hoped that some lacking in snapiness / transients the iPhono 2 has, compared to my EAR 834p and Trigon Advance would be fixed.
I immediately put it in my System, concurrently to my existing iPhono 2. At the time of writing this the iPhono 3 was already running for ca. 200h. Indeed it has improved in the playback of transients and doesn't sound as relaxed (some might want to say boring) as the iPhono 2. Also the three-dimensionality of the Sound has again very slightly improved. So I'll definitely keep the purchase.
The biggest "BUT" for me however is the dramatical price increase which makes it impossible for me to recommend the iPhono 3 to most people asking (as they typically ask in the 500€ range) and also in this price range there are quite a lot of other well sounding phono-pres which might not measure as good, and lack some of the flexibility of the iPhono 3 but might sound even better to the taste of listeners.
Another weird thing is, the silver iPhono 2 had a black powercable, the black iPhono 3 has a white powercable. That looks more than just weird. And the new powersupply, with its excessive illumination looks like a Casemod Competition entry of an 16 year old. Sorry!!!
My System consists of
- Speakers: B&W 803d Speakers
- Poweramp: Audionet Amp II Max
- Preamp: Audionet Pre1 G3 with EPS
- DAC, Recorder and Measurement Device: RME ADI 2 pro fs R BE
- Turntable: Nottingham Analogue AnnaLog with Sony PUA-7 Tonearm, Sony XL-33 cartridge , VdH Silver Hybrid Phono Cable
- iPhono 2
- iPhono 3
- EAR 834p
The connection between the Phono Pres and the Preamp is done with 8 meters of low capacity, well shielded cable, the Funk B-62 (I would recommend the Funk BS-2 now). The Audionet Pre1 G3 is well grounded with a separate grounding wire (6mm^2).
All is going to an Isotek Orion Power Distribution, except PhonoPres and Turntable Motor which are in a different Rack 4m away. The Isotek has its own run of 6mm^2 ground (running closely together with the Power Cable) to the Power Distribution Box and from there to the Building ground distribution which fortunately is of extremly low resistance and good quality.
The Setup of the two ifi Phonos has been set to 72db amplification, and IEC curve. The EAR 834p has been set to MC and the dial has been set to full output, which generates ca. 69db of amplification.
The RME Adi-2 pro has been used as Measuring device via the Tape-Output from the Pre1 G3 with the Software DigiCheck from RME. The USB to PC connection is isolated via an Intona Isolator to prevent bad influence from the PC into my Hifi rig. The PC is connected to a different Fuse and Phase than my Hifi.
first I connected the ifi iPhono 3:
then the ifi iPhono 2:
and finally the EAR 834p:
|Phono||Peak dB||RMS dB|
The Listening Test however reveals no serious differences, all 3 Phonos don't produce audible mains hum up to the -6db mark of my Audionet Pre1 G3 but only a tiny bit of noise (-6dB being the maximum Volume I use and which gives "Ministry of Sound" Levels). The noise sounds slightly different but all three are as quiet as it can get.
Probably the EAR has such a good noise floor, because it uses a Step Up transformer for the MC amplification. And of course the Designer, Tim de Paravicini is quite a legend in Audio and knows how to build something properly. (On a side note: there is a quite legendary "Tuning Guide" from ifi Audios Designer Thorsten Loesch for the 834p, so the circle is closed)