ifi Audio intros feature rich iPhono3 Black Label phono stage for vinyl enthusiasts

posted on Monday, 8th June 2020 by Steve May

Hi-fi  High-end  Vinyl 

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iFi’s Audio has introduced the iPhono3 Black Label phono stage, for vinyl fans eager to fine tune the performance of their to the max.

Several years in development, and incorporating technology derived from the £12,000 PH-77 phono preamplifier from sister-company AMR, the iPhono3 Black Label can be configured to match any MC/MM cartridge and suit every record.

Beneath the lid is iFi’s Class A TubeState engine and Direct Drive Servoless design. Characteristics include a super-low noise floor, claimed to be one of the ‘quietest’ phono stages at any price, and a high gain of 72dB.

The iPhono3 Black Label is built upon iFi’s third generation TubeState engine, low distortion solid-state circuitry designed to capture the attributes that make valve circuits so sonically to audiophiles. The technology is the result of four decades of research into valve and transistor technology by the company’s Technical Director, Thorsten Loesch.

Cable connections are at opposite ends of the slimline chassis, MM/MC inputs at one end, power in and audio out at the other.

I Phono 3 Black Label DIP Switches

Settings include gain, load and EQ curves, to best match the connected phono cartridge. A series of DIP switches on the underside of the unit enable gain and load to be set. Gain can be adjusted between 36dB and 72dB, alongside a wide variety of load values, eight for MC cartridges and five for MM cartridges. To assist setup, iFi has created an online ‘cartridge calculator.’

A toggle at one end of the iPhono3 Black Label allows the user to select between three EQ curves: RIAA, Columbia and Decca. LPs produced from 1980 onwards are generally thought to be made using RIAA equalisation, while records released before 1980 may have been made using different equalisation and may sound better with the Columbia or Decca EQ curve engaged.

This applies not only to records released by those specific labels. For example, many of Deutsche Grammophon’s classical records released before 1980 can sound dry and flat – this is because they were produced using the Decca EQ curve and very few phono stages provide this option, but with the correct EQ applied they sound superb. As a general rule, if an LP sounds thin and edgy with the RIAA EQ, try the Decca EQ curve; if it sounds overly bright with overblown bass, try the Columbia setting.

Additional DIP switches on the underside allow the RIAA EQ setting to be further tuned. Users can choose the standard RIAA curve or an enhanced version called eRIAA offering extended high-frequency response.

The ifi iPhono3 Black Label phono stage retails for £999.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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