Today we’re checking out a helpful accessory from iFi, the iEMatch.
ifi is well known best for their plethora of amps and dacs, but they also have an extensive lineup of accessories. The iEMatch is tailor made for highly sensitive headphones and earphones that suffer from background hiss, or are louder than is comfortable for general listening. As someone that listens at exceptionally low volumes most of the time, and finds a lot of sources too loud even at their base volume, this is a very desirable product. A number of my earphones are too loud out of a few specific devices like my F.Audio S1 and HiFiMan MegaMini. They also suffer from a fair bit of invasive background hiss which can make for a pretty sub-par experience. The iEMatch does an outstanding job of nullifying these issues.
Let’s take a closer look.
Thank you to Lawrance for sending over a sample of the iEmatch for the purposes of this review. The thoughts within this review are based on my experiences with this product, and do not represent iFi or any other entity. At the time of this review, the iEMatch retailed for 49.00 USD. You can check it out here on their site; https://ifi-audio.com/products/iematch/
Specifications (from packaging):
Ultra (-24dB) and High (-12dB) gain sensitivity adjustment
TRRS-Balanced for single-ended and balanced operation
6N silver/copper matrix wiring with FINAL 6063-T5 aluminum-magnesium alloy shell
Gold-plated printed circuit board with audiophile components (eg. MELF resistors)
Gold-plated 3.5mm male/female connectors
Input Impedance: >16 Ohms
Output Impedance: <2.5 Ohms (High-Sensitivity) / <1 Ohms (Ultra-Sensitivity)
Total Length: 116mm (119mm for my sample)
Packaging and Accessories:
The iEMatch comes in a compact box sharing it’s design language with the Pro iCan I reviewed earlier in the year. The white outer sheath contains an image of the iEMatch on the front with a sticker outlining a couple things it does, those being lower hiss and increase dynamics. The left side shows the contents, while the right highlights a few features, such as the high or ultra sensitivity switch, TRRS balanced support, 6N Silver/Copper matrix wiring, and that it features an aluminum-magnesium alloy casing. The back of the sleeve goes over in greater detail the purpose of the iEMatch and the specifications.
Sliding off the sleeve and removing the protective cardboard insert, you find the iEMatch and accessories nestled within a soft foam insert. For something that would in itself be classified as an accessory, the iEMatch comes with a fair number of them. In all you get:
Gold plated airplance adapter
Yellow foam earplugs (-37dB)
Fabric carrying pouch
I’ve seen earphones in this price range that come with less than the iEMatch. The earplugs are even encased in a handy plastic case that you could re-purpose to carry around spare ear tips. Everything you get seems to be of high quality, though the carrying pouch does have a streak of glue across it that removes some of the appeal. Almost looks like dried out dog drool. Fun!
The iEMatch’s casing is constructed from an aluminum-magnesium alloy and feels rock solid as a result. There are noticeable seams between the component parts that make up the casing, but they are minimal and line up accurately. The pebbled, matte-silver coating is evenly applied as well. Overall fit and finish is quite good. The switches move with a reasonably smoothness, but have a hint of wiggle too them before they start loving. On the plug, the single ended and balanced indicators (BAL/SE) are printed, but on the other end where you find the iFi branding and Sensitivity indicators, the letters in laser etched. While the BAL/SE letting is liable to wear off over time, the rest of the print should be fine.
The cable connecting the two segments that make up the iEMatch is very well relieved (thank you iFi!!!) via 10mm long, flexible rubber extensions. The sheath feels fairly dense and durable, and is plenty flexible.
Over the iEMatch feels like a quality piece of kit which is great because in my experience, dongle-like devices like this tend to deal with more stress than a standard cable and wear out quickly. The iEMatch doesn’t feel like it will suffer that fate.
F.Audio S1 -> iFi iEMatch -> Astrotec Delphinus 5:
F.Audio S1 is intended as a source for use with high impedance, low sensitivity headphones. The D5 is the opposite of this, and as a result is extremely picky when it comes to source matching. A D5/S1 combo is about as far from ideal as it gets. With the volume down, hit play and the static starts crackling with authority. The amount of volume needed to overcome it is unreasonable but easy to achieve because the D5 get’s loud FAST on the S1.
Tossing the iEMatch into the mix makes for a night and day comparison. What was a noisy, invasive background turns into silence. Not even a hint of static remains. The D5’s presentation goes from strained to effortless, as it should be given the premium, flagship status it holds in Astrotec’s lineup. Dynamic range doesn’t seem to be affected much though. Volume is much easier to manage. I tend to use Ultra setting with D5 plugged in for this reason.
HifiMan MegaMini -> iFi iEMatch -> Campfire Audio Polaris:
The Polaris/MegaMini matchup isn’t quite as drastically poor as the S1/D5 matchup above, but it’s still far from ideal. Without the iEMatch in place, you get a fair bit of static playing behind your music at all times. Base volume for the MegaMini is quite high and at the lowest setting is about what I would listen to the Polaris at when in a quiet area (ex. in bed before sleep, or, in a library).
Filtering through the iEMatch makes a world of difference. Volume control is much more varied with the Polaris sounding ideal on the High-Sensitivity setting. Static is, predictably, gone leaving a nice black background between tracks and during low volume listening. More surprisingly, I found the Polaris more lively with the iEMatch in place, particularly in the treble which sounds more vibrant. The sound stage opens up too, showing greater depth than I get when paired with any of my media players, sans iEMatch.
The iEMatch has been a somewhat trans-formative product for me. It has taken away a lot of the guess work in finding ideal pairings between my favorite earphones and my limited selection of players, most of which are designed for use with higher impedance headphones.
The iEMatch lets me pair them with anything, including my cell phone, without having to deal with nasty background hiss or listening at a louder volume than I’m comfortable with. It’s well built too, and for all the improvements it brings, is priced quite generously. It’s an absolute no brainer to pair with high end earphones that are picky about sources and well worth picking up.
Thanks for reading!