Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review

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Tyson

Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« on: 22 Jan 2017, 05:12 pm »


This is my 2nd review of an iFi product in as many months.  And will be my last for a while.  Last month I reviewed the Micro iDSD Black.  It was a great piece, but in the end I preferred the presentation if the iDSD Silver, which I already owned. 

Spoiler Alert
I sent the iDSD Black on to the next person to review, but the iTube2 will have to be pried out of my cold, dead hands before you will get it out of my system.  Where I ‘liked and respected’ the iDSD Black, I absolutely freaking love the iTube2.  You might be asking yourself "Hmmm, should I try out the iTube2?" and my answer is "Do you have a system that makes sound?  Then yes, you should try out the iTube2."  IMO the iTube2 will help out with the vast majority of systems.  Why?  Well, I'm glad you asked.

Your System is Shitty
I'm sorry but it is.  You might not think it is, but you are wrong.  I include myself in that statement.  That's a bold statement, but unless you are a part of the very small minority of audiophiles, it's true.  Why?  Because most of us pursue systems that are "true to the source" and that "reproduces the recording with as much fidelity as possible".  That is a trap.  I've been an audiophile for more than 20 years and I also fell into this trap. 

Because Recordings are Shitty
It seems so logical and obvious to want a system that's as close to "straight wire with gain" as possible.  But as someone that attends live performances of real instruments unamplified (in fact I saw a performance of Schubert's string quintet just last night), AND as someone that has over 8000 hirez recordings (including a massive number of DSD recordings) I can say this with certainty - recordings suck.  All of them.  Yes, even the "good" recordings.  They don't capture correctly how instruments and music sounds in real life.  So any system that merely reproduces the recording will never be satisfying.  Which is why you see audiophiles constantly "upgrading".  They are always searching for that next thing that will finally make their system fully satisfying.  But, to quote Indiana Jones "They are digging in the wrong place!"  Haha.

The Root of the Problem and How to Fix It
The main problem is that during the recording process itself, even order harmonics are stripped out.  Unless the recording was done using tube equipment.  Which is why even ‘great’ recordings are more edgy and less emotionally engaging than attending the performance in real life.  So, if even order harmonics are stripped out, how do we fix that?  Easy, use tube equipment.  And the closer you can use tube equipment to your source, the more impact it has.



Finally I Talk About the iTube2
If you don't want to replace your existing gear then just insert the iTube2 between your DAC and Preamp (or whatever your source is).  It connects with regular old analog RCA connectors.  The iTube2 adds the tonal richness and removes the shittiness that you never even realized was there in the first place.  You keep the goodness of your existing equipment while fixing the core problem that modern recordings represent.  Finally, you are digging in the right place! 

What About All Those Switches?
Putting the iTube2 into your system gets you 95% of the improvement possible.  Using the switches lets you dial in that last 5%.  Try them out, see what you like best.  Which will you like best?  Hell if I know.  Use your own damn ears and trust them (for once).  For me, I have it hooked into a system that does both headphone and speaker duty.  For ME, I use the Triode mode with nothing else enabled for speaker use, and I use the neutral tube (middle position on the switch) and the 3D 30 degree Plus setting (top position) for headphones.  Is that the best settings for you?  How should I know?  Try it out and make your own judgements!

Technical Info
After going to RMAF for 10 years and having every single manufacturer sit there and talk about the magic parts/circuit/design/whatever, here’s how I feel about technical specs:



Anyway, here’s what iFi says about the iTube2:
Features/Technologies
•   High-end Direct Tube Buffer/High-End Direct Pre-amplifier
•   Selectable tube sound signature (SET / Push-Pull / Classic)
•   All-new 3D Holographic+® for Loudspeakers matrix system
•   All-new XBass+® for Loudspeakers matrix system
•   Pure analogue volume control
•   Ultra-low Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.009% (Tube+ off)
•   0dB or 9dB selectable gain
•   Reference class parts quality from ELNA Silmic to C0G capacitors
•   iPower (15V) included, ‘quieter than battery’ power supply

Final Thoughts
Inline tube gear has been around for a while.  I’ve even owned some in the past, the Musical Fidelity X-Tube to be precise.  It sucked.  Most of them seem to suck.  Because they caused a loss of resolution even while improving tonality.  The iTube2 does not suck.  It loses no resolution and still gives you the magic of tubes.  Even if you already have tubes in your system (like I do), you should still try it.  It seems to work, not by adding goodness to the signal, but rather by removing shittiness from it.  It doesn’t make your system more true to the recording.  It makes your system more true to real life. 
« Last Edit: 22 Jan 2017, 08:52 pm by Tyson »

witchdoctor

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #1 on: 22 Jan 2017, 05:38 pm »
Hey Tyson, I like the conviction in your post. If you want to find a treasure trove of live recordings that were recorded on tube gear try concertvault.com.

I have previously used the MF X-10D Tube buffer and found once I upgraded my Dac it didn't add anything special. I will check out the itube but what about an HDMI connection? Please check this out-

http://aftermasterpro.com/


witchdoctor

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #2 on: 22 Jan 2017, 05:52 pm »
BTW, how would this work on a digital cable if you don't use RCA's? I run a digital cable from my Asus Xonar U7 soundcard to my Marantz 7702 processor. Thanks

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #3 on: 22 Jan 2017, 09:30 pm »
Hey Tyson, I like the conviction in your post. If you want to find a treasure trove of live recordings that were recorded on tube gear try concertvault.com.

I have previously used the MF X-10D Tube buffer and found once I upgraded my Dac it didn't add anything special. I will check out the itube but what about an HDMI connection? Please check this out-

http://aftermasterpro.com/



Thanks for the link to those recordings, that looks cool.  But I think it misses my main point - I don't want to buy a bunch of new recordings to make my system sound better.  I want my system to make my existing recordings sound great.  The iTube2 is a step in that direction.  Also, it's analog only, so won't work with HDMI or digital cables/connections. 

witchdoctor

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #4 on: 22 Jan 2017, 09:35 pm »
Thanks for the link to those recordings, that looks cool.  But I think it misses my main point - I don't want to buy a bunch of new recordings to make my system sound better.  I want my system to make my existing recordings sound great.  The iTube2 is a step in that direction.  Also, it's analog only, so won't work with HDMI or digital cables/connections.

Sure, looks like I can use it in my desktop system.Thanks.

Tomy2Tone

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #5 on: 22 Jan 2017, 09:51 pm »
Any idea when this will be available? Don't see it listed for sale anywhere atm.

Pez

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #6 on: 22 Jan 2017, 10:15 pm »
Any idea when this will be available? Don't see it listed for sale anywhere atm.

Tyson thanks for the review!!! I don't think I've ever seen YOU like anything this much.  :lol: Right now iTube2 isn't available widely. It can be purchased at www.audio46.com and soon will be available on more sites.  :thumb:

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #7 on: 22 Jan 2017, 10:26 pm »
Tyson thanks for the review!!! I don't think I've ever seen YOU like anything this much.  :lol: Right now iTube2 isn't available widely. It can be purchased at www.audio46.com and soon will be available on more sites.  :thumb:

Haha, that's true.  I do very few reviews of anything because most gear is just 'meh' sounding to me.  It's rare that something actually impresses me.  I think those 10 years of doing show coverage at RMAF have kind of jaded me  :o  :lol:

witchdoctor

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #8 on: 22 Jan 2017, 10:46 pm »
Haha, that's true.  I do very few reviews of anything because most gear is just 'meh' sounding to me.  It's rare that something actually impresses me.  I think those 10 years of doing show coverage at RMAF have kind of jaded me  :o  :lol:

If I remember correctly you used to give props to Wayne's gear at Bolder Cable. Is he well?

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #9 on: 22 Jan 2017, 10:54 pm »
If I remember correctly you used to give props to Wayne's gear at Bolder Cable. Is he well?

Yep, loved his stuff.  Still use a his power filters, power cords and interconnects in my system today.  As good as Wayne was at audio stuff, he was even better as a brewmaster.  That's what he's doing nowadays, and very successfully. 
« Last Edit: 23 Jan 2017, 02:44 am by Tyson »

S Clark

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Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #10 on: 22 Jan 2017, 11:25 pm »
Quite an endorsement!  I think this is more of a rave than your opinion of Danny's Super7 speakers, and I know how incredible those are/were. 

FullRangeMan

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Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #11 on: 22 Jan 2017, 11:43 pm »
Gorgeous video on the site, congratulations.
The 3D is interesting for headphones, what is the result in the hp sound?

dburna

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #12 on: 23 Jan 2017, 12:34 am »
Yep, loved his stuff.  Still use a his power filters, power cords and interconnects in my system today.  As good as Wayne was at audio stuff, he was even better as a brewmaster.  That's what he's doing nowadays, and very successfully.

What is Wayne's brewing gig?  I might be out in CO in the not too distant future and would like to sample his offerings.

Thanks,  -dB

OzarkTom

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Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #13 on: 23 Jan 2017, 12:44 am »
I received an Itube2 yesterday from Pez, will hook it up tomorrow night and compare it to my cryoed Itube1 which I love and has used for three years. The Xbass sounds like a big plus for me since I listen at very low volumes. That saves my ears and my marriage. :thumb:

Tyson is right, all recordings that we all own sucks. You ought to hear a master tape on a 3/4" Studer Revox, blows all records and CD's away. Makes them all sound broken.

Tomy2Tone

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #14 on: 23 Jan 2017, 12:46 am »
I received an Itube2 yesterday from Pez, will hook it up tomorrow night and compare it to my cryoed Itube1 which I love and has used for three years. The Xbass sounds like a big plus for me since I listen at very low volumes. That saves my ears and my marriage. :thumb:

Tyson is right, all recordings that we all own sucks. You ought to hear a master tape on a 3/4" Studer Revox, blows all records and CD's away. Makes them all sound broken.

Awesome Tom, look forward to the comparison.

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #15 on: 23 Jan 2017, 12:48 am »
Quite an endorsement!  I think this is more of a rave than your opinion of Danny's Super7 speakers, and I know how incredible those are/were. 

Yep, and now I own the Super 7's, love those bad boys.  I see a trend - the stuff I review tends to be stuff I end up buying :lol:

Anyway, back to the iTube2, I'm using in my HT setup right now and it makes a very large improvement there.  I'm using a rather generic Blu Ray player, digital out (optical) to a Wadia DAC feeding my tube preamp and my First Watt Burning Amp 3 and Super 7's.  Even with the Wadia, the original audio recording/signal on the Blu-rays (and especially from Netflix streams) it all just sounds fairly mechanical and digital gritty.  Swapping in the iDSD doesn't help because its the original signal that is the problem.  But slipping the iTube2 does AMAZING things getting the crappiness removed and everything sounding natural with a blacker background.

witchdoctor

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #16 on: 23 Jan 2017, 12:57 am »
Yep, and now I own the Super 7's, love those bad boys.  I see a trend - the stuff I review tends to be stuff I end up buying :lol:

Anyway, back to the iTube2, I'm using in my HT setup right now and it makes a very large improvement there.  I'm using a rather generic Blu Ray player, digital out (optical) to a Wadia DAC feeding my tube preamp and my First Watt Burning Amp 3 and Super 7's.  Even with the Wadia, the original audio recording/signal on the Blu-rays (and especially from Netflix streams) it all just sounds fairly mechanical and digital gritty.  Swapping in the iDSD doesn't help because its the original signal that is the problem.  But slipping the iTube2 does AMAZING things getting the crappiness removed and everything sounding natural with a blacker background.

have you tried the itube2 as a preamp yet going directly between your dac and your amp? Any thoughts about the comparison?

mtruong34

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #17 on: 23 Jan 2017, 01:12 am »
I've heard the iTube mk1 greatly improves with a linear power supply instead of the supplied SMPS. If anyone can confirm and give feedback on the same for the iTube2, then that would be much appreciated!

Zero

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #18 on: 23 Jan 2017, 01:44 am »
Great review Tyson!  I feel the same way about my iTube 2.  Ain't nobody taking that unit from me!

mtruong34 - I have no answer for your re: linear power supplies.  What I can do is tell you how the original iTube stacks up against the new iTube 2.  Getting right to it:

The original iTube does what any good tube buffer should to -  it injects a warm, loveable tonality into a system without seriously compromising the integrity of the signal.  The only major caveat with the original iTube is that you can still tell that you're listening to a tube buffer - albeit a very good one.

The new iTube 2  builds upon that foundation and ramps up the performance to a whole new level!  It's sounds significantly more natural, less colored, and is no longer what I'd call a "band-aid" solution for harsh or dry sounding system.  This thing kicks butt - period!  Best of all, there's an analog switch that allows you to tailor the sound to your liking.  Do you enjoy the romantic and insightful flavor of a good S.E.T amp?  Just flip da switch!   Or maybe the classic push-pull design is more your style - again, just flip da switch!  Then you have a linear setting, which is meant to give you only a hint of that 'tube love'. 

Personally, I'm biased (har) towards the S.E.T setting.  It's good to have options!

witchdoctor

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #19 on: 23 Jan 2017, 02:19 am »
Tyson thanks for the review!!! I don't think I've ever seen YOU like anything this much.  :lol: Right now iTube2 isn't available widely. It can be purchased at www.audio46.com and soon will be available on more sites.  :thumb:

Pez, the iTube2 won't work on HDMI. Do you know if the iPower will work on a Fire TV?

http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/accessory-ipower/