Occasionally we receive Feedback (we always ask) on a product that we feel would be helpful to a wider array of interested folk. Here is one such email from Jim Rebman, an experienced audiophile in Colorado. The email is reprinted here in it's entirety.
Hi Team StereoDesk,
Just checking in with a few more early impressions. I've used the iFi separates now with all 4 of my best headphones/iIEMs -- the HD-800s, HE-400s, the Shure SE 425s with the Lune silver cable upgrade, and the HiFiMAN Re-0 IEMs.Even at this early stage (about 20 hours of total playtime on the components), they all sound good, but again all but the Shures are still in need of plenty of break-in time themselves, so this is all very preliminary.
So far I am leaning towards both HiFi MAN pieces to be the best match. The RE-0s were brand new when I plugged them in and they were so harsh and abrasive that I nearly yanked them out and put them away. However after about 90 minutes of music they really started to smooth out (still have quite a way to go but the progress so far is encouraging.) Easily the most detailed of the bunch and really the only one that gave a very nice sense of soundstage depth and ambient cue recovery. If they continue to improve these will be some seriously good IEMs -- among the best I've heard. Likewise the HE-400 sounds very nice with the iCAN (with the Q-Audio silk cable upgrade), easily the most bass impact of the bunch and kick drum hits are nice, full of impact, but not bloated and with no overhang. These cans are known to take a while to smooth out and reach their full potential, so I'll definitely keep at it with these when the situation permits (when it won't disturb my wife in bed, etc.). The HD-800s seem only so-so and again this is with the Q-Audio silk cable upgrade. This actually doesn't surprise me because to my ears these cans are the most sensitive to amplification to any others I've ever encountered. Att RMAF 2011 I had the opportunity to hear these (didn't owna pair at that time) withjust about every appropriate amp you can think of, and until I got to the bottlehead table, I wouldn't have thought them worth the price. I tried them with Wu, Schiit, Ray Samuels, Headroom, ALO, and others I can't even remember anymore, but the Bottlehead Crack was the only that really made them wake up and sound simply amazing. Also I found that tube amps in general worked better with the HD-800s, so again, no surprises with the iCAN.
And the Shures were just the Shures -- nice, nicely balanced, warmish, but nothing extraordinary at the frequency extremes, but still very nice to listen to with good detail retrieval and good top to bottom balance. These have over 400 hours on them so are well broken in and probably something I won't ever part with. Replacing the stock Shure cable is an absolute must though -- I kept hearing a super high-frequency abberation on such instruments as mte trumpet, that was driving me nuts. This was with a uncompressed 16/44.1 wave file from my iPod touch connected with a analog dock cable, so I figured it was just the iPod, but then I kept hearing the same hting on every amp and combination of dac/amp I could find, and as soon as I replaced the stock cable, it went away. Just to make sure, I went back and tried all the other combinations of source, amp etc. and sure enough, it never happened again. The real test was when the Lune cable developed an intermittent connection and I had to send them back for repair and put the stock cables back in, and there it was -- that nasty resonance.
Now some final thoughts on the iCAN bass and 3D enhancements -- I have simply not liked these effects inthe past -- something about them sounded just wrong and artificial, but I'm happy to report that the iCAN's implementations of these effects is just wonderful. Sounding very natural (when set to an appropriate level for the cans in use, the bass can be tuned from somewhat overpowering to just right, and the 3D just works so nicely without any whacky phase abberations that let you know it is a contrived effect. Just sounds far closer to a real speaker in room setup, and as I said, with the RE-0s, a simply amazing soundstage with real height, width and depth.
Anyway, if you're still reading, that's the early-ish reports, but overall I find these to be quality pieces of gear that I would say are performing well above their price point, super quiet (even when switching the various effect settings) and with plenty of drive for the HE-400 orthos. Now I can't wait to hook these up to my mac mini with my good usb cables, a better set of interconnects (I'm using a stereo rca to 3.5 mm cable now) and with full, high-resolution, uncompressed files -- not the 320 kbps mp3s that MOG serves up and what I've been using so far for these tests. In short, I'm happy beyond belief and thin that these are going to stay permanently as my bedside headphone rig. ALO Continental and National will be going up for sale soon.
Any idea on when the Gemini cable will be ready?
Answer from StereoDesk,
Thanks for all of your insight and time taken to share with us. We had a similar experience with HiFiMan and iFi-Micro. That's one reason we're becoming a HifiMAN dealer-the other is that we love HifiMAN. The Gemini USB cable should be gracing systems by late Feb. to early March. We have quite a few orders already placed via a deposit wait list. Split USB is the only way to fly.
We note that you like after-market cabling. We often do as well and are working with one of our all time favorite cable manufacturers on just such cabling for some of our headphones.