Purchased this to run between my Mac and recently bought Astell & Kern TP5 (2nd gen) high end headphones. Wow! What an amazing piece of kit. Native decoding of MQA means streaming music via Tidal takes on a whole new dimension. Resolution and detail is top notch, with the A&Ks easily driven by the ifi. A real piece of audio nirvana for a steal at this price. Brings a genuine smile and sense of renewed excitement each time I power it up. Best tech purchase I’ve made in quite some while. Makes a serious difference. Buy one.
AAC is one of the most commonly-supported Bluetooth codecs in the wireless headphone and speaker markets. It’s also the default audio compression codec used by Apple’s iTunes and YouTube, and is supported across both iPhone and Android smartphones.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is a technology devised by iFi for reducing unwanted sound by the addition of a second sound wave specifically designed to cancel out the first.
So, what's the difference?
Active speakers have an in-built power amplifier and just need a power cable (or battery) to operate. Passive speakers require an external power amplifier to operate.
In short, you need an amplifier for passive speakers, you don't with active speakers.
Apple AirPlay is found on all Apple devices. It lets you share videos, photos, music, and more from Apple devices to your Apple TV, favorite speakers, and some smart TVs.
For cost and convenience, modern DAC chips have a built-in digital volume control. The drawback is that a digital volume control works by 'truncating' the signal. Or 'chopping Bits' of resolution. For a 16-Bit music file at 50% volume level means the listener is actually listening to 14.5-Bits!
All iFi products bypass the digital volume control and use a separate analogue volume control which does not 'lose Bits' so a 16-Bit file stays unchanged which delivers maximum resolution.
Losing Bits of resolution (quality) is like having missing pixels on a computer or TV screen.
So, why don't we provide these two cables with our products?
The Apple CCK cable can only be purchased from Apple. We can't make one ourselves as it has a special chip in the cable that we'd need to use for them to actually work with Apple hardware. Sadly, Apple has not released this chip to anyone.
We can and do make two versions of an Android OTG cable - Type C and micro.
aptX Bluetooth transmission is found in most Android phones, media players, Apple computers (macOS on iMacs and MacBooks) and on higher-quality Bluetooth headphones. It is not available on iOS (iPhones and iPads use Advanced Audio Codec).
aptX™ Low Latency audio ensures your Bluetooth® wireless enabled device can deliver sound in sync with visual media. It reduces delay and improves end-to-end speed of the audio transmission, resulting in a high-quality, synchronised user experience.
With aptX™ Low Latency you can enjoy the freedom of wireless for applications such as gaming and watching videos.
Let's talk headphone cables.
An unbalanced headphone cable has a left + and right + wire, for each respective side. The other, the third - wire is shared by both left & right channels. As this is shared, this gives rise to undesired coupling noise which is commonly referred to as 'crosstalk.'
A balanced cable has the same left + and right +. But it has a separate left - and right -. With totally separate wiring 'crosstalk' is negligible.
Therefore, a balanced connection is the superior headphone wiring configuration.
If a file is "Bit Perfect' it means it has stayed the same. For example, if a PCM file is played through a DAC to improve the sound quality and the DAC does not change the file format. The file is 'Bit Perfect'.
A CD transport concentrates on reading the information held on a compact disc without expending effort in turning that digital signal into an analogue output, unlike a CD player. All you need to do is add an external DAC.
The common noise filter filters out most noise gremlins found in typical audio systems such as RFI/EMI.
DACs convert digital information, stored or streamed by computers, into music we can hear through speakers or headphones.
Every device that's a source of digital sound has a built-in DAC (TVs, games consoles, CD players, phones, portable music players etc). Dedicated external DACs sound much better than standard DACs used in digital devices such as phones.
A DAP is a device like an iPod or an MP3 player that stores and/or plays back music digitally.
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic device or application used for recording, editing and producing audio files. It's basically a mixing desk.
DC offset is a naturally occurring phenomenon of the electrical system. It is a potential source of clicks, distortion and loss of audio volume.
DSD is a very high-quality digital audio format that's even better than CD quality. The higher the 'DSD rate' – DSD64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024 - the greater the amount of music information available, which means better sound quality.
Files can be remastered to higher file rates to improve sound quality. The pinnacle of this is DSD1024. Not many machines out there are capable of this feat.
EMI is a type of interference caused by errant and unwanted electromagnetic waves that are received and amplified by an audio system. They cause some of the annoying 'audio gremlins' often talked about.
MP3 – this is the most popular format, every device in the world can use it.
DSD – Direct Stream Digital is a very high quality audio format, better than CD quality. The higher the number (sample rate), the better the recording - DSD64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024.
PCM - Pulse Code Modulation is the most common format for CDs and DVDs.
DXD - Digital eXtreme Definition is a very high quality PCM format. It was developed to edit hi-res (high quality) recordings recorded in DSD.
Filters are used in music to alter the harmonic content of a signal, which changes its timbre or sound.
Just as using a coloured filter on a camera lens will alter the look of the resulting photograph to set the right mood, filters work in a similar way in audio.
Gain is the amount of increase in audio signal strength. Gain is often expressed in decibels (dB).
Galvanic isolation is a design technique that separates electrical circuits to eliminate stray currents that contain noise. Signals can pass between galvanically isolated circuits, but stray currents, such as differences in ground potential or currents induced by AC power, do not pass. This means little or no noise interference to the audio signal from stray currents.
IEMs stands for In-Ear Monitors.
These fit inside your ear. You've been using them for years. You just called them something else.
You will also see these referred to as earphones, ear buds and CIEMs. CIEMs are Custom In-Ear Monitors - IEMs made specifically to fit your ear shape.
MQA is an award-winning British technology that delivers the sound of the original master recording. The master MQA file is fully authenticated and is small enough to stream or download. More here.
Network-attached storage (NAS) is dedicated file storage that enables multiple users and client devices to retrieve data from centralized disk capacity.
Users on a local area network (LAN) access the shared storage via a standard Ethernet connection. NAS devices typically do not have a keyboard or display and are configured and managed with an app.
Native playback simply means that the file format has not been changed.
You wanted to listen in PCM, you'll still be listening in PCM. The DAC does not change the format of the original file.
A 'load' refers to a current drain that is applied to a battery. For example, charging the flash in a camera. The term 'Pulse Load' indicates that the load is automatically applied for a specific period of time, then disconnected without user intervention.
A solid-state amplifier uses electronics such as diodes and transistors to amplify the music signal. A tube amp uses valves/vacuum tubes to do the same job.
There is a noticeable sound difference between the two methods. Some feel that tube amps create a warmer, more musical tone. Some companies choose to build 'hybrid' models that combine the two methods.
So, what is soundstage?
Imagine yourself in a small theater, 10 rows from the front, dead center, watching an orchestra perform on stage. Now close your eyes. This is the 'sound stage'.
In audio speak, it is an imaginary 3D space created by the high-quality reproduction of sound in a stereo speaker system. In other words, the soundstage allows the listener to hear the placement of the orchestra vis-a-vis instruments when listening to a given piece of music.
Spotify Premium allows you to listen better quality music. It's all about bitrates. The bitrate is the amount of data processed over a certain amount of time. The higher the bitrate, the better the quality.
On normal Spotify you listen at 96kbps, the 'standard' bitrate on mobile or at 160kbps, 'standard quality' on desktop and 'high quality' on mobile.
With Spotify Premium, you get 320kbps which is 'high quality' on desktop and 'extreme quality' on mobile. Basically, more bitrates for your buck.
Tidal is a subscription-based audio streaming platform, similar to Apple Music and Spotify, but with lossless-quality audio. Tidal Masters is the section with the highest-fidelity music streamed including some files in partnership with MQA.
Lossless-quality means that no music quality is lost in this format.
USB audio is a digital audio connection used to send digital music from your computer to a digital to analogue converter (DAC). Usually computer manufacturers spend most of the overall budget on the processors and screen, leaving minimal budget for the built-in DAC and audio outputs.
In electronics, volumetric efficiency quantifies the performance of some electronic function per unit volume, usually in as small a space as possible.