November
2020

Country of Origin

Taiwan

25iRX

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Denafrips Terminator+ clock-synced to Soundaware D300Ref SD transport/USB reclocker; Preamp: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE VT52/300B or Elrog 50/300B; Power amps: LinnenberG Liszt monos; Headamps: Questyle CMA-800r monos; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Aurai Audio M1 [on loan]; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, LessLoss C-MARC Entropic cords between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room so no wall behind the listening chairs
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; DAC/pre: Denafrips Terminator or COS Engineering D1; Amplifier: Bakoon AMP-13R or Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1 w. Franck Tchang magnesium super tweeters, sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Zu Submission subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan];  Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~4x6m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: Kinki Studio Vision THR-1; Phones: Audeze LCD-XC on Forza Audio Lab cable; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 120
Upstairs headfi system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R or Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a, Audeze LCD-2, Final Sonorous X & D8000, HifiMan HE-1000
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp: Wyred4Sound STP-SE II; Power amp: Pass Labs XA-30.8; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: $1'679 ex VAT

Cyclone.
When 47labs' Gaincard from Japan first hit the scene, it unleashed a mini cyclone. It blew in for great sound with an extremely minimalist strictly dual-mono circuit with outboard power supplies.

It also sold for $3'200 but just made 25 watts; from cheap op amps.

When this photo of the innards published, DIY cried wolf. Joe Solder and his gun began building chip amps for pennies on the 47lab yen. All such gainclones as they became known exploit complete amps on chips and their very basic application notes.

Those amplifier chips are culled nearly exclusively from the National Semiconductor catalog. In lieu of discrete output stages, now it's integrated high-feedback chips which drive your speakers. Add a power supply and a short bill can be your uncle.

The only audio house which to my knowledge reached for 200-watt ratings from military high-power op amps was Canada's late Blue Circle. Today's Moonriver 404 integrated or AkitikA GT-102 power amp are down again to the 50wpc which National's signature silicon is good for.

Hong Kong's Clones Audio kicked off their DIY-gone-pro offer with a 25wpc gainclone integrated. They subsequently launched numerous iterations including 50-watt mono amps and a matching preamp, added remote and a mini display. Then they quietly relinquished the category to instead offer outboard power supplies, plug'n'play mods to Oppo/Pioneer universal players, a mod to Cisco network switches, two D/A converters and a server called The Host. But it never sat right that the product type which their brand name had immortalized since their synchronized launch on 12.12.12 would stay vacant.

Hello 25iRX. Perhaps this new 3-input gainclone will restart a bygone cyclone?

Not that turbulent Hong Kong needed any more excitement for 2020. But when it comes to proper gainclones, a spot of ruckus is a very good thing.

On location, Clones boss Mat aka Funjoe had already relocated to Taipei/Taiwan to exploit its superior manufacturing infrastructure. It also sidesteps whatever long-term effects the political changes in Hong Kong might have on doing international business from there, never mind quality of life.

The unit above was still built in Hong Kong. The most recent unit at left already comes from Mat's new Taiwan shoppe. Besides new silk screen and speaker terminals, it also inverts the IEC/power-switch orientation and adds a wooden dress ring around the optical encoder knob. But then the original Gaincard had already stood things upside down when it first blew in those many moons ago.

Unlike ever-stronger tropical storms battering heavily populated coastlines, doing it again now was most welcome. The nomenclature seems quite self-explanatory: 25 for 25 watts though the official spec now is 30/60wpc into 8/4Ω, i for integrated amplifier, R for remote control. Only X is open to interpretation.

eXtreme? Given Mat's successful track record of massaging 47labs' original concept for maximum sonics without charging through the noose; plus his subsequent work with upgrading power supplies for various kit… didn't that seem most likely? Or perhaps eXtra? eXceptional? X marks the spot?

No matter what, listening would tell. Time to hit P for patience until production is in full swing and a review loaner available. eXciting. Full specs include 100kΩ input impedance, 30dB of voltage gain, 19x17x13cm WxDxH dimensions and 6kg of weight. Warranty is 2 years.