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iPurifier3, again

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with Ventura 13.3, 40GB RAM, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 network switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box at 80Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Goldmund Job 225; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 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: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Preamp/filter: Vinnie Rossi Signature L2 + icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Enleum AMP-23R; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature;  Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: £129-149

Desktop system with HP work station, iFi Mercury3 + iPurifier3 into Singxer SU-2 into iFi iDSD Pro Signature DAC/headfi/pre.

Tiny by tarnation. Talking about tiny tweaks that cost dearly can equal damned if you do. Should it also mean that talking about tiny frugal tweaks equals damned if you don't? I wondered when I asked myself whether iFi's apparently inconsequential iPurifier3 deserved more ink. Here inconsequential is synonymous with small on both size and price. But is it also synonymous with an insignificant sonic prize? This type intro is called creating a problem which we then solve. Granted, it could also mean setting up a cure for a disease that's purely imaginary. What distinguishes honest hifi chat from hucksterism? A proper diagnosis then prognosis. Don't worry about a wart with a gurgling heart murmur. First things first, second things second, all the way down the line. By at least my definition, audio tweaks are items we can remove from a system yet still make sound. They're add-ons, not basics or fundamentals. If a stool has four legs, we can't cut one off and not fall over. But we can build a stable three-legged chair from the ground up. Further, there's a hierarchy of firsts, seconds and thirds also with add-ons. Fixing a powerful sub's floor coupling and resultant structural resonances cures a far bigger problem than replacing a solid-state preamp's stock footers with some shiny after-market jobs. Lowering the capacitance of speaker cables via lifts so they don't touch the floor is a more secondary effect than fixing a pervasive ground loop with a cheater plug or auxiliary grounding box. Once tweaks approach component-level pricing, a new dilemma arises. Will the same funds spent on a better component pay out bigger dividends? That too is part of a proper diagnosis to map an appropriate prognosis. Unless we have a trusted audio consultant, making both falls on us. It's where experience, hearing acuity, common sense, curiosity, risk taking, return privileges and feedback from fellow 'philes and reviewers all play a role.

Triggering today's revisit of iFi's dongle was my SOtM iSO-CAT7 review of last week [see above]. At €450 it's thrice costlier than today's gizmo but a conceptual kin. Instead of attacking UHF noise over USB, it disrupts Ethernet noise by specialty transformer. Both lozenges are compact inline noise filters which require no external power to work. They're pure plug 'n' play. SOtM's comes with a short cable. iFi's terminates in a USB A or B plug to insert directly in the send or receive component of our USB connection; or both. Particularly over headphones—HifiMan Susvara in the big system, Raal-Requisite SR1a ribbons or Final D8000 planars on the desktop—I had appreciated the purifying action of SOtM's filter. The proviso was applying extreme magnification powers on the effect by eliminating the room and its reverb's overlay of grosser time distortions. Just so, local files hosted on external SSD run through my dedicated new music iMac via Audirvana Origin still sound better than cloud files bypassing Audirvana's sound optimizations. For me those include extreme mode and x 4 upsampling to 176.4/192kHz before local files exit to a Singxer SU-6 USB bridge. Then there's whatever other code tweaks the French music player runs to kill redundant computing threads whilst loading files into up to 40GB RAM.

With the iSO-CAT7's exercise fresh to mind, I swapped my desktop's iPurifier3 over to the main system. Its front end now looked…

Desktop back side of the USB bridge connections.

… like so. My question was, would I be able to tell iFi's add-on over Qualio's IQ speakers; or as with SOtM, only identify it beyond a most vague sumthin over headfi? Hifi honesty demands that we drill down into specifics and quantify deltas of difference. The answer was simple. The iPurifier3 was more audible than the South Korean network filter. That actually spoke to my belief that cloudy files need more help than the locals. The iFi was relevant also over loudspeakers. Its action was sufficiently significant to parlay through room sound's greater reverb issues than headfi's extreme proximity. I heard the difference particularly in the mid to treble bands. They sounded more relaxed. Some subtle pixilation had subsided. Apparently high resolution often contains micro shards of sharpness. It's easy to not hear them; until they're gone. If their departure isn't from artificial softness and blur compromising magnification power; if their departure doesn't change detail capture but is simply more natural and easeful – then we've netted a meaningful gain. I call it stress reduction.

If we go all elemental, it's more wood, sap, earthiness and air, less metal and stone. Stone stands for hardness, metal for a certain edge. There's an objective and subjective component. Objectively the sound is more fluid and pristine. Subjectively it feels more relaxed and at ease without losing any muscle tone. It's about us the listener and how our body/mind feels in the process. In terms of scope, I hear the iPurifier3 as more potent than the iSO-CAT7. It's on par with using Audirvana's upsampler at 176.4/192kHz; or the x 4 option on the Denafrips Avatar transport. Where such adjustments are inaudible, overall system resolution may not be dialled enough to benefit from this iFi USB helper. Then you'll call it a huckster not huckleberry. It simply means you've got other things to sort first; if indeed you're inclined to change anything in your system. In the end, contentment now could be far more important than the endless chase after future gratification. In my two systems of the desktop and main speakers, the iPurifier3 is a lovely enhancer well worth its modest ask.

I simply have to get a second one to go back into the office now.