Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review

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Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #40 on: 22 Feb 2017, 05:59 pm »
Not a paper, but a distortion analyzer (I build gear as a fun side hobby).  Hook up any SS piece of gear and it's distortion characteristics almost always are odd order dominated.  Tube gear is even order dominated.  That's true whether in the playback chain or in the recording chain.  The nasty thing is that with recordings made on SS gear, that odd order dominant distortion gets encoded into the recording itself. 

If you don't believe me, go to a live performance of real instruments in real space, unamplified.  Then compare it to the best recording you have via your system.  The live always wins, mostly because their true sound is never really captured well in the first place because of the recording gear itself.  Tubes in the playback chain certainly help the situation, but even there it never fully remediates the fundamental problem of odd-order harmonic shift that occurs with SS recording gear. 

EVOLVIST

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Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #41 on: 22 Feb 2017, 10:08 pm »
Not a paper, but a distortion analyzer (I build gear as a fun side hobby).  Hook up any SS piece of gear and it's distortion characteristics almost always are odd order dominated.  Tube gear is even order dominated.  That's true whether in the playback chain or in the recording chain.  The nasty thing is that with recordings made on SS gear, that odd order dominant distortion gets encoded into the recording itself. 

Okay, so what if you seek to measure a SS playback device where theTHD+N is almost unmeasurable at 0.000015% with zero noise floor modulation, then how are you going to tell with any instrument the levels of distortion that are baked into the recording?  Now, I know that just because it isn't measurable doesnt mean it isn't there;  still is it audible enough to even rate the use of tubes to cure an ill which isn't apparent to neither the ears nor the measuring device?

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #42 on: 22 Feb 2017, 10:39 pm »
What I am saying is that in any recording there is loss of fidelity to the live event.  You can test that by going to a live performance.  I did it last year at RMAF with the Kimber live recording of a piano performance.  We listened to a live piano, then listened to the recording of that a few minutes later and it simply was not the same.  My suspicion is that this loss is inherent in the recording process, and I've noticed that even recordings made using tube equipment aren't perfect.  But recordings using tube equipment sound generally better than recordings made on SS gear.  Harmonic distortion profile is one explanation.

And, getting very very very low distortion like you mention is possible only with large amounts of negative feedback in the circuit.  Negative feedback itself causes the sound to degrade.  So you end up with a design that measures better but sounds even worse than the simpler circuit with higher distortion.  Simple circuits with reasonably low distortion profiles that tend toward even order usually sound best, at least in my experience. 

But even best case scenario, lets say a recording was made on the best recording equipment today, there's still loss.  I wish it weren't true, but it is.  So your system will only ever replicate a lossilly captured event.  So chasing after reproducing that recording perfectly is a fools errand, IMO.  Better to accept that the source material is limited and then tailor your playback chain to optimize your experience in other ways.

This is my philosophy based on my own experience and tastes.  Others will feel differently, and that's OK.

EVOLVIST

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Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #43 on: 23 Feb 2017, 08:14 am »
Tyson,

Well, you're certainly right about no recorded music being accurate. Yes, it's just not. My point if contention was, and still is, that even-order harmonics have been wiped from all recordings unless tube gear has been used in the process. Because, for one, there is a DAC with the above mentioned THD, the Chord DAVE, with very little ,to no,  negative feedback. Therefore, if it cannot be measured, or heard, the negligible distortion that we are talking about simply cannot be a product of the absence or precense of tube gear in the recording process;  it's simply the recording process, itself, that is the culprit of inaccurate sound reproduction. After all, from roughly the 1920s to the early 1980s all music was recorded with tube gear, and even to some ill effects, like let's say the tube compression of mid-60s Kinks and Beatles.

That said, I HAVE read the papers and studies of tube amps, preamp, monoblocks and buffers have a more soothing effect on most listeners, as opposed to solid state. This seems to be a given. Has iFi found the golden balance, though, in such a little object? I know that my couple of years with the iDSD micro would hint to yes. Tubes through cans, though? For these ears the effect has never grabbed me, probably because headphone listening is very much an in-the-head experience, and any nuance distorts the product is felt too intimately - like tubes. I might be in the minority there, yet I'm also very sensitive to ear fatigue with dynamically compromised audio with cans.

Anyway, so that we're not dancing, I have little doubt that the iTube2 is a fantastic product. IFi gears plays extremely well with other iFi gear, so the synergy therein is probably amazing. It's a bit strange, however, that I've found that iFi stuff doesn't always mate well with other manufacturers, which is why I'm hesitant to see if it shakes hands well with my DAVE.


(If there are any typos, forgive me, because I've been typing all of this from my phone.)

Zero

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #44 on: 23 Feb 2017, 08:36 am »
I'll leave the even/odd order juxtaposition to you boys.  All I'll say is that I've tried the iTube 2 on Heed, Holographic Audio, Dayens, Vista Audio, Musical Fidelity, and Pioneer products - and each time the results were consistent and positive.  Obviously this is a small sample from an incredibly broad range of hi-fi kit, but so far, so good.

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #45 on: 23 Feb 2017, 05:17 pm »
Tyson,

Well, you're certainly right about no recorded music being accurate. Yes, it's just not. My point if contention was, and still is, that even-order harmonics have been wiped from all recordings unless tube gear has been used in the process. Because, for one, there is a DAC with the above mentioned THD, the Chord DAVE, with very little ,to no,  negative feedback. Therefore, if it cannot be measured, or heard, the negligible distortion that we are talking about simply cannot be a product of the absence or precense of tube gear in the recording process;  it's simply the recording process, itself, that is the culprit of inaccurate sound reproduction. After all, from roughly the 1920s to the early 1980s all music was recorded with tube gear, and even to some ill effects, like let's say the tube compression of mid-60s Kinks and Beatles.

That said, I HAVE read the papers and studies of tube amps, preamp, monoblocks and buffers have a more soothing effect on most listeners, as opposed to solid state. This seems to be a given. Has iFi found the golden balance, though, in such a little object? I know that my couple of years with the iDSD micro would hint to yes. Tubes through cans, though? For these ears the effect has never grabbed me, probably because headphone listening is very much an in-the-head experience, and any nuance distorts the product is felt too intimately - like tubes. I might be in the minority there, yet I'm also very sensitive to ear fatigue with dynamically compromised audio with cans.

Anyway, so that we're not dancing, I have little doubt that the iTube2 is a fantastic product. IFi gears plays extremely well with other iFi gear, so the synergy therein is probably amazing. It's a bit strange, however, that I've found that iFi stuff doesn't always mate well with other manufacturers, which is why I'm hesitant to see if it shakes hands well with my DAVE.


(If there are any typos, forgive me, because I've been typing all of this from my phone.)

You have valid points, and I agree with you more than I don't :)  But as a techie and engineer type and as someone familiar with building gear and measuring performance, along with about 10 years of hardcore exposure to just about every statement piece of gear from most major manufacturers, my advice is to simply ignore the measurements.  They don't actually help, in fact they often cause problems.  Just listen to the equipment first, without reading or caring about the measures. 

Here's why - its so easy for people like us to let the measures influence us.  If it measures well (especially if it measures extremely well), then subconsciously that biases us toward believing it will sound good.  And that will change our perception.  IME, it's best to listen first, get a perception formed (one way or the other), and only then, after a good 'blind' listening (from a measurement/circuit perspective), only THEN have a gander at the measures and see if they match up with the direct experience/perception. 

Technical specs for guys like us is like marketing and pretty boxes are for most other people.  In both cases, they are deceiving and best avoided until you have a pretty good handle on the actual sound of the unit.  I find that there's often a very low correlation between measures and sound quality.  Just like I find there is often very low correlation between price and performance. 

And some people simply don't like the sound of tubes, no matter what.  That's OK too :)  You might be one of them.

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #46 on: 22 Mar 2017, 06:30 pm »
I still have the iTube2 in my HT system - we watched Dr. Strange this past weekend on blu ray and the audio was holy-sh!t amazing.  The sound was always 'very good' in the past, but never amazing.  The addition of tubes really ratchets up the whole movie experience.

schw06

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #47 on: 15 Apr 2017, 02:52 pm »
   I recently dusted off my iDSD micro and IUSB (version 1) with Mercury and Gemini cables and decided to plug the IUSB into my Aurender music server...That was a pleasant surprise. I had heard that the IUSB3 was a big improvement so I picked one up and it is an incremental improvement in making digital audio sound less mechanical and fatiguing. I had owned the original itube years ago and can't say that as a standalone unit it did anything for me so it was sold long ago. Next was to try the IUSB into the iDSD and bypass my reference dac. I hung on to the IDSD for a reason and I'm glad I did. It sounds different than my reference dac but I can't say that I liked it more. That piqued my interest enough to grab an ITube2 so the chain is Aurender>IUSB3>iDSD>ITube2 and HOLY SMOKES! The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts for sure.
Disclaimer: The objective of my system has changed over the years. My goals are to find products that make me NOT want to analyze my system. So, I won't blather on about sparkling highs and thunderous bass and soundstaging etc...However, I can tell you that if you want a front end system that is unfailingly natural and does not excite your left brain, the Ifi combination is a winner. The combination is a "get off the merry go round" front end. There is a "rightness" about the music it creates that words don't properly explain.  I agree wholeheartedly with Tyson's review and his "cold dead hands" comment. I can't speak for the ITube2 without the iDSD or IUSB3 but I'm not interested in doing the experiment. The combination of all the products does add up to almost $1600 retail but if all you need is USB +/- SPDIF inputs, it's worth every penny.
P.S.-Sorry for all the typos for those that endured this post before I corrected the spelling and grammar.
« Last Edit: 15 Apr 2017, 04:54 pm by schw06 »

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #48 on: 23 Apr 2017, 11:18 pm »
The combination is a "get off the merry go round" front end. There is a "rightness" about the music it creates that words don't properly explain.

Yup!

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #49 on: 25 Apr 2017, 12:39 am »
I have it hooked up to the output of my Wadia DAC that I use in my HT setup.  Watched Madagascar 3 and the Lion King with my daughter tonight and the music and singing sounded phenomenal.  Just phenomenal. 

witchdoctor

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #50 on: 3 May 2017, 12:18 pm »
I have it hooked up to the output of my Wadia DAC that I use in my HT setup.  Watched Madagascar 3 and the Lion King with my daughter tonight and the music and singing sounded phenomenal.  Just phenomenal.

In two channel PCM?

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #51 on: 4 May 2017, 06:41 pm »
Yep.  I have my HT and music system integrated into the main listening room downstairs.  I've had multichannel in the past but it's a no-go per DW in the new place.  I have a iFi iDSD hooked up to a PC for music, and the Wadia DAC hooked up to the bluray player.  Both plug into my tubed preamp.

RDavidson

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Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #52 on: 7 May 2017, 07:46 pm »
I've been following this thread here and there and the enthusiasm is hard to ignore. To folks on the fence, I found a pretty awesome deal : :o
https://www.adorama.com/ifiitube2.html?sdtid=10128244&emailprice=t&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_source=rflaid62905

Sorry if this isn't technically the appropriate place for this information. But I thought it made the most sense for those truly interested.

GentleBender

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #53 on: 7 May 2017, 11:40 pm »
That is an awesome deal! I would be jealous, but I've been enjoying the iTube 2 for a couple months. It has saved my digital system. Can't believe something like this exists for this price. May not be the end all piece of equipment, but it covers my desires at a stupid good price. :duh:

RDavidson

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Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #54 on: 8 May 2017, 12:06 am »
Right! As a preamp for a modest system or even as a "color enhancer" for higher-end setup, it's a pretty neat and fun little Swiss Army knife-like gadget. At MSRP it is tempting, but at the price I found it's almost a no brainier to at least give it a try. I mean, if it's not your cup of tea you could turn around and sell it at maybe little to no loss. Or just keep it around for a desktop setup or whatever. It's not like it takes up a lot valuable space. You can't go wrong. :thumb:

Tomy2Tone

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #55 on: 9 May 2017, 01:44 am »
I've been following this thread here and there and the enthusiasm is hard to ignore. To folks on the fence, I found a pretty awesome deal : :o
https://www.adorama.com/ifiitube2.html?sdtid=10128244&emailprice=t&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_source=rflaid62905

Sorry if this isn't technically the appropriate place for this information. But I thought it made the most sense for those truly interested.

Just wanted to say thanks for posting this yesterday as I had put off getting an itube2 for a while.  :thumb:

Apparently the deal must have been short lived as it's back to regular price now.

RDavidson

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Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #56 on: 9 May 2017, 03:54 am »
That sucks. I bet they simply ran out or only had a limited quantity to sell at the sale price. :|

nature boy

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #57 on: 10 May 2017, 01:19 pm »
Tyson and other iTube 2 owners,

How long will it take for this tube buffer to fully burn in?  I picked one up on the Adorama sale to use between my Dynavector P75 phono pre and my preamp.

NB

Tyson

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #58 on: 10 May 2017, 06:29 pm »
100 hours gets you most of the way there.  300 gets you all the way.

Zero

Re: Tyson's iFi iTube2 Review
« Reply #59 on: 10 May 2017, 06:52 pm »
Tyson beat me to the punch.   The only thing I have to add is that in my experience, the iTube 2 sounded pleasant fresh outta the box.  Other iFi products?  Yeah.  Not so much.   You really need to put hours on products like the Black Label or the Pro to appreciate their natural performance envelope.