ifi iPhono 3 "Black Label" Anyone?


Curious to hear your early impressions of the new iPhono3 Black Label.

A review sample arrived here Friday (6/12/2020) and I'm still getting some hours on the unit before doing any critical listening, but first impressions are of a real punchy, dynamic unit that will hopefully bloom as I get more miles on the clock.
For $995 it already sounds like it's going to be competitive with units a couple of rungs up the ladder. I just got done with an initial review and a quickly thrown together youtube vid, if anyone's interested. - 
https://audioresurgence.com/2020/06/ifi-iphono-3-black-label-phono-review-first-look.html
https://youtu.be/3ONQLwf9zVk

I owned the iPhono2 for a while and it was pretty good. It'll be interesting to hear how good the "Black Label" sounds at the 400-hour mark and also what other folks think of it.

Speak up!

Rooze
rooze
Both the iPhono 2 and 3 use wall-warts for power. Do you think upgraded power is needed?
Haven't checked out the review yet.

Hey Lowrider,

The new 3 comes standard with  iPower X, I don't know what that contributes to the sound at this point but it looks like a walwart on steroids!
Yes, it does look like it's been working out.
I was seriously eyeing the iPhono 2, looking forward to your impression of the 3.

another "made in china" model ?
I have the iPhono 3. First let me say that most people who have read my posts know that I absolutely hate SMPS. I hated the power supply in my Technics SL 1200 GAE so much I was having a bespoke linear supply designed and built for that table. I sold the GAE as my custom SP 10 mk3 NGS can now hold 4 arms. I never believed that SMPS could work in highend audio as they are inherently noisy and good for things like airplanes where weight is of most importance. Having relayed all of that, I will say that the iPower X has changed my mind. That supply works and actually made my system sound better. The active noise cancellation seems to work to very good effect. It is the ONLY SMPS I will allow to work in my system. I’ve mentioned before that nearly every piece of gear near my system that uses a SMPS is connected to a foot switch so that I can do a hard disconnect from the wall. Even my Mac mini music server has a linear power supply from Uptone Audio,

Now having said all that I will tell you that I compared the iPhono directly to an ARC Ref 10 in the same system. AMG Viella Forte with Koetsu Onyx Platinum with an ARC 160 Ref S power amplifier and a McIntosh preamp. I just performed this comparison after putting 7 days of 24 hour run-in on the iP3.

Let me say this right now; I could not care less about all the side chair comments this is sure to elicit. I was there. The iP3 was every bit the equal of that $33k stage! It actually revealed more information than the ARC. This is what I wrote a buddy after the comparison:

//////////
So today with 7 days (24 hours a day) of run-in on the iP3 using my tuner and a reverse RIAA attenuating cable, I finally listened to it connected to a turntable. The table was the AMG Viella Forte with the Turbo arm and a Koetsu Onyx Platinum cartridge. The amplifier was the ARC Reference 160 S along with a McIntosh tubed preamp and an ARC Ref 10 phonostage. I can’t recall the model of the McIntosh tubed preamplifier but it costs about $7.5k and is an outgoing model. The speakers were the Wilson Alexias.

I played Enya, one of my Westminster albums and Jacintha.

First I Listened to the ARC Ref 10. It is a decent sounding unit, not seeming to do anything inherently wrong. The Ref 10 phonostage is relatively full sounding and the bass is very nice. The shock came when I put the iP3 in and literally heard things in the track that had escaped me with the $29,000 more Ref 10. The breathing of the Cellist during Pietro Locatelli’s playing of Sonata in D Major Allegro literally made me feel as if I were watching a master at work. You could feel his intensity as he played the piece. With the iP3 the bass was every bit as strong as the Ref 10 but the overall event was more lively and engaging. When the Ref 10 was reinserted things became more chocolate-ee. It sounded more like a stereo playing a recording whereas the iP3 released the music.

Surely I can see some preferring the more gooey sound of the Ref 10, it certainly is not bad. The iP3 without question renders more information than the Ref 10 seemed capable of :)

Even the owner of the Ref 10 paused, listened to the iP3 and then asked what it costs. When I told him, he said that’ll be hard to beat for that money.

It is eye-brow raising good!

I did find that using the $100 iFi DC iPurifier definitely helped and made the iP3 sound fuller, richer and simply more grounded. I would say you would definitely want to use them together.
Now that is simply the truth of what I heard and experienced. It is freakishly good!
Hi audiofun . Does the Iphono 3 run cooler then the 2  ? 
Enginedr1960:

I would say yes it runs cooler. It’s slightly above warm to the palm over the main part of the units body. I actually, just for you :) broke out my DMM with its digital temp gauge and measured 91 degrees F at the center of the (top) of the unit. This is with the unit connected to a tuner (via attenuation cables) for 24/7  further break-in. I will be breaking it in for about 700 hours. I think this is the number of hours I noted the iP2 took to fully run-in.
Thank you audiofun . I have one on order . I will like to see how it compares to my BMC MCCI current injection phono stage . 
enginedr1960:

It will be interesting to read your findings. 
enginedr1960:

I’ve wanted to hear that unit you have for some time now. 
Update on the iPhono3 - 

I'm at around the 100-hour mark with the unit and sat down again last night for a serious listen.
The sound has certainly evolved since my last listening session a week or so ago. The soundstage has deepened significantly, and there's a far more 3-dimensional aspect to the sound that's verging on the best I've had in my system to date.
There's abundant detail retrieval. Microdynamics are up there with the Zesto Andros 1.2. 
Both frequency extremes are very good. Low bass is excellent and has more solidity than the Allnic H-1202 and there's more airiness in the HF than the Allnic but less so than the Zesto.
It's missing out in the areas of midrange purity and 'flesh on bones.' The Allnic H-1202 has a great midrange (tone and texture) and a pure and unforced presentation, where the ifi Phono3 is a little forward, edgy, and slightly aggressive. 
The Allnic envelopes you with lush sound where the iPhono3 has you squirreling in your seat a little, kind of like a sonic onslaught of information.
I'm assuming things will settle down with more burn-in and the sound will (hopefully) become less forced.
But I have to say this is one nice little unit for the money, far, far more agile than its predecessor the iPhono2. It's a completely different animal than the 2, in my experience so far. 
More to come.

@rooze 

I did find that using the $100 iFi DC iPurifier definitely helped and made the iP3 sound fuller, richer and simply more grounded.

Are you considering adding the above?

@totem395 yes, I have one on order from Audio Advisor.
Based on the classic geometric proof, "things equal to the same thing are equal to each other", can we infer that you like the Allnic H1202 better than the ARC Ref 10 and the Zesto best of all, so far?
@lewm Hi, not sure if your question is aimed toward me (the OP) or Audiofun, but I've never heard the ARC Ref 10 and I favor the Allnic H-1202 over the Zesto Andros.

Rooze
lewm:

Hi lewm :) Hope all is well. I think you’ve combined my review and rooze’s comments. I have heard the Ref 10 on multiple occasions but I’ve never heard the Allnic or the Zesto gear thus I can’t intelligently comment on their respective sound qualities.
Thx guys. My conflation of your separate opinions is a product of reading on my cell phone.