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Also underneath the stylish black and clear aluminum cover sits a Bruno Putzeys of Hypex fame class D amplifier on a double-layer circuit board. Components on that epoxy board are all high-quality issue like Vishay decoupling capacitors, carbon resistors, an Alps attenuator and Lumberg connectors. All are connected via oxygen-free copper traces. According to manufacturer Hans Oosterwaal, the selection of parts has been reviewed since the V2 edition and the analog part of the circuit has been enhanced by using capacitors with better specifications.

What’s really new for the iQube V3 is visible already at the back of this ever so cute amp/DAC. Instead of 3 i/o ports for analog in, USB in and analog out, the V3 sports a tiny 3-position switch and additional TosLink socket. A line engraved in the back connects the new switch to the mini jack input, the USB input and the TosLink input, making the selection easy for anyone where graphics say more than words. Invisible to the eye is what the mini jack is capable of handling. Besides an analog input from a portable device using a 3-pole mini jack, the input now also accepts S/PDIF signals when the provided 4-pole converter cable is used. Yes, the iQube V3 accepts S/PDIF digital via electrical or optical. This digital signal can be up to 24/192kHz. Hi res here we come. But wait, it is not all hi res glory. USB is still restricted to 16 bits at 32, 44.1 or 48kHz. And while we are in can’t-do mode, the iQube V3 is not equipped to tap an Apple iDevice digitally. For iPod/iPhone users Apple’s DAC is still the default. Perhaps the necessary Apple license was too expensive for a small but high-quality company like Qables.

Speaking of DACs, the V3 runs the same Crystal CS4344 24-bit chip but the S/PDIF input receiver became the SRC4382 since the older PCM2706 only handled 16 bits. According to the specifications, analog input impedance is 10kΩ, output impedance runs from less than 0.1Ω up to 5kHz to 1.5Ω at 20kHz. Distortion figures at full power are 0.0075% and output power is rated as 160 milliwatts into 16Ω per channel. The gain switch at the front selects between a low gain factor of 2 and a higher gain factor of 7.

Another enhancement engineers Guido Tent and Bart van der Laan made is to the charging circuit. A new chip handles battery charging through the USB port as well as USB connectivity to PC and Mac computers. A final change in the power-up cycle eliminated clicks which were noticeable when switching the iQube on whilst already wearing headphones.

Time to play. First we connected the iQube to our PC which runs XXHighEnd software. After setting the output to be compadre with the 16/44.1 spec of the USB port we cued up the first tracks. XXHighEnd may not be the easiest software player to configure but it's unique in quality and the fact that it can completely seize a PC for its own purposes. Any unnecessary Windows service, process or thread gets disabled as long as XXHighEnd is running. Stopping the software brings back to life all previously disabled Windows activities. With this single-purpose mode enabled, forget to do any work on the PC. Just listen to music.