ifi iEMatch review and impressions - expatinjapan

ifi iEMatch review

ifi iEMatch review

ifi iEMatch! What does it do? No one seems to know. 
Its like some magical unicorn that lurks about on Groundhog day spreading glitter upon the Earth.
so lets find out.

The ifi website explains it quite thoroughly though:

`The iEMatch® solves the bane of headphone listening by removing hiss and improving dynamics. As most IEMs and headphones are too loud at even half the volume level, listening enjoyment is always curtailed. No more with the iEMatch® in the signal path.

Use the iEMatch® when the headphones/in-ear monitor (IEM) is either too loud and/or there is excessive hiss from the music source. From Smartphones to airplane in-flight entertainment systems, powerful headphone amplifiers, the iEMatch® improves musical enjoyment by:

1. Background noise – significantly reduced
2. Dynamic range – more open, transparent
3. Volume control – increased usable range

The solution? Add the iEMatch® in-between the headphone and the amplifier. Set to high or ultra-sensitivity, sit back and enjoy the music.`

At times due to the over use of ifi website quotes this `review` may read more like a promotion piece.
My apologies, the source material explained much more concisely and clearly the intended use and aim of the iEMatch device.


Ultra (-24dB)& High-Gain(-12dB) sensitivity adjustment
TRRS-Balanced® for Single-Ended and Balanced operation
6N silver/copper matrix wiring with FINAL 6063-T5 aluminium-magnesium alloy shell
Gold-plated printed circuit board with audiophile components (eg MELF resistors)
Gold-plated 3.5mm male/female connectors
Input Impedance: > 16 Ohm
Output Impedance: < 2.5 Ohms (High-Sensitivity) < 1 Ohms (Ultra-Sensitivity)
Compatible Headphone impedance: 16 Ohm to 600 Ohm rated impedance
12.5 Ohm minimum impedance
Weight: 12.2g
Total Length : 116mm

Whats in the box?

Quote: `The iEMatch® is packed using premium components from 6063-TS aluminium –magnesium alloy through to the signal transfer cable which is a 6N silver copper matrix.`

Quote: `Included in the iEMatch® packaging are; a velvet pouch, gold-plated airplane adapter and memory-foam contoured ear plugs (-37dB) for peace and quiet when traveling.`

Balanced or Single-Ended for 3.5mm

Explanation via the ifi website: 
`AMR/iFi would like to use the iEMatch® to introduce its proposed new industry standard for single-ended or balanced operation. The 3.5 TRRS-Balanced headphone jack.
There is only ONE option that makes sense, in a commonsensical context. The 3.5mm TRRS Jack is widely adopted in Smartphones and connectors, both plugs and sockets are easily available. Having 4 connections (like the 4-pin XLR), it is ideal for balanced headphones.

Headphones may be fitted with TRRS Jack and a switch to alternate between unbalanced mode (even with microphone) for direct connection to a Smartphone and to balanced mode for use with suitably-equipped DAP/DAC/Headphone Amplifiers.

The ‘TRRS-Balanced®’ system by iFi provides a way to select the TRRS plug to offer either a balanced connection or a single-ended one.
The iEMatch® uses 3.5mm TRRS connections on both ends and is fully-balanced, so it takes full advantage of the balanced wiring in suitably-equipped headphones.

If the attached headphone is single-ended without microphone, iEMatch® is automatically converted to unbalanced operation. For any unbalanced source with a microphone connection or any unbalanced headphone with a microphone, simply switch the TRRS-Balanced® selector to ‘SE’ and convert iEMatch® to unbalanced operation.`

Sensitivity can be set to High sensitivity (2.5 Ohms) or Ultra sensitivity (1Ohms) output impedance.

High or Ultra Sensitivity

Explanation via the ifi website: 
`When listening to music, ‘better dynamics’ is preferable. Or more precisely, a wider ‘Dynamic Range*’ to allow the full openness of a recording; from the upper treble of a cymbal to the deepest bass rumble of a kettle drum to shine through.
*Defined as the difference between the maximum usable sound level and background noise level. Usually, a higher ‘dynamic range is better’ as there is more music to enjoy and less noise to annoy.

Having very sensitive (very loud) headphones means both the self-noise of the source AND the sound level is boosted. This is far from desirable. And to add insult to injury, the sound volume must be reduced to get comfortable listening levels. What is left is more noise and less dynamic range!

Technical example:
If a source has (say) 114dB dynamic range and the Headphone is 30dB too loud, once the volume has been turned down 30dB the dynamic range is reduced to 84dB, or below CD quality, from what is an excellent result for a high-solution source.

With Headphones, especially those that significantly reduce background noise (IEM, noise-reducing etc) excessive levels of electronic background noise quickly become annoying, so noise should always be kept as low as possible.

It literally defeats the object of building a system around an expensive high-resolution headphone amplifier when the volume must be backed off so much that the resulting background noise is so high, quality is reduced to below CD or MP3 audio quality.

By using iEMatch® one can reclaim 12 or 24dB lost dynamic range; as needed to get the most enjoyment from the source; from modern high-resolution recordings down to MP3, the difference is there to be heard.`

Does it work?

It most certainly does. I tried it with a number of earphones that I have that are more sensitive than others.
Although I am not a hiss master like my friend Nathan of Ohm Image, I can still pick up on it.
The Andromeda some find have a bit of hiss at times which often seems largely source dependent.

I decided as my main experiment I was going to use the CEntrance Hifi-M8 which was originally designed as an all rounder but packed the power for even full sized headphones (CEntrance later released the Mini-M8 which was more designed to cater to IEM users).

The CEntrance Hifi-M8 later added an option to have the gain lowered to meet the needs of IEM users. I was able to do this with my ipod touch and Flacplayer app which has a gain option, although at the time I had mainly headphones and DD earphones.

I demoed several earphones and choose the CEntrance Hifi-M8 as it can be tricky with some IEMs that are of the balanced armature type. 

Most Daps these days have a lower floor noise. I did do some brief testing with the iBasso DX200, Opus#3, Hifiman MegaMini and Opus#2. And although the iEMatch performed successfully  as expected, it wasnt as needed on these particular daps as much as some other devices would.

I tested with a range of earphones: Campfire Audio Andromeda, Nova, Jupiter, Dorado, advanced AcousticWerkes W300U, Jomo 6R and Jomo PLB, iBasso IT03.
I used a variety of cables, stock and after market of the single ended 3.5mm kind.

As already noted the iEMatch performed as promised, reducing hiss, improved the possible overall dynamics in some cases and gave more space on the volume pot.


The ifi iEMatch retails at around US$49. Which is a nice price I think for this device.
definitely affordable.

It certainly comes in handy when using devices that have a higher output impedance which rips the intended sonic signature of multi driver BA IEMs to bits, and often causes an accompanying hiss.

Also it does what it states:
 `The iEMatch® solves the bane of headphone listening by removing hiss and improving dynamics`

Its an elegant solution to a common problem, and at an affordable price.


The iEMatch although seemingly a simple device simply solves many possible issues that a listener made face in an easy and (once again) simple matter, although the device itself is not mere simple piece of design and manufacturing.

This `review` quotes a lot from ifi website and at times reads like a unpaid promotion of the device. This is merely that it was the easiest way to communicate to you the reader what this device is, what is does and how it works.

And does it work as intended? yes, a simple and elegant solution for many problems that plagues the usual audiophile, especially the ones who have portable rigs and sensitive in ears.

Thank you to ifi for sending Head pie the ifi iEMatch for review

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