iFi iEMatch Review

iFi Audio is a company that doesn't need a lot in terms of introduction as they are well known for their various amp solutions and multitude of accessories that aim to help different levels of audiophiles to hear audio nirvana. This relatively new product, the iFi IEMatch was released sometime last year and comes in two flavors. What I have here is the 2.5mm version, which I bought for the purpose of using with my DAP, this has some differences with the 3.5mm version and I'll discuss it along the review. On the box, it promises lower noise and increased dynamics and is considered a headphone audio optimiser (yes, it's spelled that way, see below) but does it?

The package is one small cardboard box sealed in vacuum plastic.

With lots of information on the back about what it does and what's it's made of.

Ultra (-24dB) & High-Gain (-12dB) sensitivity adjustment
6N silver/copper matrix wiring with FINAL6063-T5 aluminium-magnesium alloy shell
Gold-plated printed circuit board with audiophile components (eg MELF resistors)
Gold-plated 2.5mm male/female connectors   
Input Impedance: 16 Ohm
Output Impedance: < 2.5 Ohms (High-Sensitivity)
                                < 1.0 Ohms (Ultra-Sensitivity)
Weight: 12.2g
Total Length : 116mm

Inside is an information leaflet, a black velvety pouch, ear plugs in a cutesy case and the iEMatch itself.

Under the ear plugs you can see a nice little "Thank you!" sticker, that is if you actually took it out or have x-ray vision.

The pouch when un-rolled is big enough to hold your iem, cable and the iEMatch in one go. It's not the most luxurious of pouches but it has a nice soft feel to it.

Now if you notice, the 2.5mm male plug has that black oblong covered space which one could mistake for an aesthetic touch. It is actually a vestige of the 3.5mm version, it is where the switch for single and balanced output was placed. So aside from that and the actual plug types used, everything else is the same as the 3.5mm version including the aircraft aluminum body and all the high end pretty cables it comes with.

The whole reason for this add-on to exist of course is it's ability to lower his and output impedance and thereby return the lost dynamics from noise and high impedance devices. In this case scenario, the iEMatch does work, and there are may citations of hiss reduction from devices like the Questyle QP2r and CEntrance Hifi-M8 around the net so I won't bother with that part. What I will focus on is it's ability to reduce output impedance.

There are 2 modes for this:
High: reduces Output Impedaance to less than 2.5Ω (-12db in volume)
Ultra: reduces OI to less than 1Ω (-24db in volume)

As most of you probably know, the Hiby R6 has an output impedance of 10Ω and that causes some frequency responses to shift around, most notably on low impedance Balanced Armature driven IEMs. This I have experience on my Campfire Andromeda (12Ω thereabouts) wherein there was a shift forward in the frequency response with less bass, a bit more forward mids and highs had near sibilance.

Using the iEMatch on the Hiby R6 with the Andromeda on High settings was enough to restore the sound to what I was familiar with, though some may argue it's not enough (citing the x8 OI 'rule' like the ten commandments - ex. high (2.4Ω) x 8 = 19.2Ω is what impedance the head gear 'should' be at for that setting) and that Ultra should be used (ultra (0.9Ω) x 8 = 7.2Ω which is below the impedance of the Andromeda.)

In either switch, the Andro did exhibit more dynamic range than it did without the iEMatch on the R6 and has effectively restored it's original frequency response slash sound signature, which is proof (for me) of the claims it promises.

So why would someone want the iEMatch (both versions) for themselves? If you have ear gear that hiss/gain noise with your source or you have sources with high output impedance (like certain DAPs and Amps) then this is something you would appreciate having for your listening pleasure.

The iEMatch 2.5mm version was bought at 3,060 pesos (or around $60 US) and is more expensive than it's 3.5mm counterpart* by a few hundred pesos at the local Egghead Audio store.

Pros: It reduces hiss/noise, it reduces output impedance, restores lost dynamics

Cons: Volume loss could be less, can lead to a long chain of adapters

Nitpick: Volume loss could be less, but I realize that's just part of how it works. Did we really need the ear plugs?

* Even if the 3.5mm has arguably more metal in the plug, a bigger female receptacle, has an additional switch and the package had an airplane plug adapter, yeah, I always wonder why the 2.5mm versions of almost anything are more expensive but that's for another time to discuss

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