Country of Origin


iPower Elite

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (i5, 256GB SSD, 40GB RAM, Sonoma 14), 4TB external SSD with Thunderbolt 3, Audirvana Studio, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 & SW-6 switch, Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos & EX-M7 on subwoofer; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara, Meze 109 Pro; Loudspeakers: Qualio IQ [on loan] Cables: Kinki Studio Earth, Furutech; 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 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: FiiO R7 into Soundaware D300Ref SD transport to Sonnet Pasithea; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini or Acelec Model One + 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; DAC: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Head/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Speakers: EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1;
 Headphones: Final D-8000 & Sonorous X, Audeze LCD-XC, Raal-Requisite SR1a
Upstairs headfi system: FiiO R7; Headphones: Meze 109 Pro

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: €299

Shtum. If you have basic German, certain Yiddish words are recognizable. Once used in English, their meaning simply shifts. Mensch in German means person so Menschheit is mankind. As anglicized Yiddish, a mensch becomes a person of integrity and honour. Meanwhile any German may be a criminal yet still and always be a Mensch. Nuance. When you enjoy language, there's great fun to be had. The German stumm means mute or speechless. In English, keeping shtum acquires subtext. It means to not disclose something that could implicate another. Don't rat me out; or else. In hifi, keeping shtum is particularly apt with power supplies. We expect them to be church mice which don't rat out noise; or else our sound suffers. Particularly smaller kit of low power draw routinely runs on external wall warts of the switching sort. In that sector it's popular to upgrade to linear power. Sometimes whether to listen to AC/DC is a question also asked by AC-powered kit. One such is my favorite component of 2023, FiiO's R7. It runs off a 30-watt SMPS with inductive filtering. But it also suggestively flaunts a 12VDC input should we wish to bypass what's inside. Enter iFi's switch-mode iPower Elite which comes standard with their Pro iDSD Signature DAC. It's an ultra low-noise church mouse that got the memo of keeping shtum in four different voltages. One of them happens to fit my FiiO. Would it rat on the built-in SMPS as noisier? I rather expected that it would in headfi mode. That after all taps the R7's OS, DAC and analog output stage for full-bore loading. Meanwhile as the digital transport below? That only spits out analog UHF square-wave signal representing digital 1 + 0 via USB-C to an ultra-cap powered USB bridge. That hardly loads it. So I wasn't sure. Only one way to be. Try it!

So I pestered iFi's Karina Dearman. Lucky for me she proved game. What a Mensch. Who are iFi? A British brand with their own PRC factory who pump out a seemingly endless stream of popular kit and audio problem solvers for the iGeneration. Their top DAC is the crown jewel on my desktop. Might the iPower Elite be destined for similar greatness powering my R7? FiiO + iFi = iFiiO? It looked like a done deal on paper. To be fair, FiiO have their own linear upgrade, the €160 PL50 power supply switchable to 12V or 15V. Allow me now a brief detour culled from CNN. If you want to drive a car in Singapore, the necessary certificate of entitlement is $76K; for a car of 1'600cc or less. Driving something swankier demands a $106.6K permit. Contrast that to the medium monthly household income in the city state of 5.9 million. It's $7'376. Now an $8K motorcycle permit will only set you back a month's wages. Ouch!

FiiO on regular AC via Zu power cord.

Upscale hifi wages its own elitist warfare. So it's lovely that iFi promote innovation at the carrot end of the stick not extortionist shtick. Does Singapore have bicycle permits? You think they'd pay you to go green pedal power. It segues right back at squeaky-clean power ordinary bicycling Menschen can afford. The iPower Elite claims a sub 1µV noise floor. For those of us not fluent in specs, that's less than 1'000'000th of a volt. iFi call it as quiet and pure as battery power but without any of its hassles. One enabler is a 2nd-gen active noise cancellation circuit described as working similar to noise-cancelling headphones. It's a concept most of us can relate to¹. Our stylish blunt iFi wedge measures a svelte 15x5x5.5cm and weighs a hair above ½kg. In my two applications, would I meet Herr Shtumski?

¹ Noise-cancelling headphones measure ambient noise then inject its counter-phase likeness to cancel out with minor latency lag. Does the "noise-free adaptive multi-mode controller" become a virtual microphone to real-time measure not just estimate our AC line noise? What's clear from the photo regardless is that the 50W iPower Elite isn't a 'multi-tapped' design whose output voltage we set by dip switch. It's delivered fixed at 5, 12, 15 or 24V. "The iPower Elite isn't a linear supply so we prevent noise at the rectification frequencies and their multiples so 50/100/150Hz or 60/120/180Hz depending on a country's AC supply." Being copasetic with 100-240VAC, iFi need no more discrete models for Japan, the US and the EU/UK aka 100V, 115V and 230V respectively.