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The launch of iFi's site
as a separate company to Abbingdon Music Research which holds a majority share in it had me muse over buzzword compliance. It's a funky term I first spotted inside Schiit's irreverent verbiage. With $200-$400 micro components aimed at a very different audience than AMR's full-size components, I wondered how many potential iFi clients from the audiophile ranks might engage in a fun game of let's guess what it means.

To get the ball rolling, I harvested a number of iFi buzzwords like SuperRegulator, IsoPower, IsoEarth, Full HD, ZeroJitter Lite, DirectDrive, 3D HolographicSound, TubeState amplification, Tri-brid and XBass.

Reading through the descriptions—some of which seemed just a bit vague to not give the game away—one concludes that DirectDrive is the same as DC coupled. No signal-path capacitors. Why not say so? Because DirectDrive sounds snazzier and more unique and "was previously only available on very expensive studio equipment"?

Doesn't this take us back to the wars of the secret circuits of the 80s? 3D HolographicSound is a crossfeed circuit to expand the virtual headstage during headphone listening. IsoEarth could be galvanic isolation or transformer coupling. Full HD is high-definition 24/192, making regular HD 24/96 and lower. TubeState amplification is trickier. Many before have tried to coin terms that suggest a combination of of solid-state and tube attributes.

Here it'll likely be a combination of Jfet, BJT and Mosfet transistors—tribrid—to 'clone' valve virtues. Chatting with AMR's Vincent Luke on the telephone, he explained the need to convey instant meaning to non-audiophiles who aren't hip to our lingo. They wouldn't know the term crossfeed from crucified. 3D HolographicSound instead conjures up an instant image. It's not about coining new terminology for its own sake or to misdirect. It's about evocative descriptions packed into one word or mini phrase snippets. But Vincent agreed that in the months to come, it would be useful to flesh out their brand-new iFi website with quasi 'translator' explanations which, for those more technically inclined, convert their buzzwords back into standard hifi lingo to avoid confusion.

After all, the intent isn't to suggest that iFi has minted brand-new circuitry never seen before. The intent is to convey a very quick impression about what to expect from their solutions. Then DirectDrive simply becomes the opposite of indirect drive and the intrinsic implication is that direct must be better than indirect. Whilst simplistic, those who think of signal-path capacitors as inferior would say that's quite true. If so, one might conclude that no harm was done getting this message across in a different fashion. One would simply hope that some lazy commentators among reviewers, bloggers and forum posters won't latch onto these buzzwords without proper tech translations. We surely don't need new campaigns of mythinformation. Those who believe it a blessing that the secret circuit wars are long behind us— replaced though they've been by the number's wars in digital upsampling—would agree. Unchecked there's an innate danger to buzzwords which assume a life all of their own.

Buzzword compliance™. Somehow I don't think that's the meaning Schiit's Jason Stoddard had in mind...