iFi Audio Releases iPhono3 Black Label MC / MM Phono Stage

Posted on 29th May, 2020

iFi Audio Releases iPhono3 Black Label MC / MM Phono Stage

iFi has released its new iPhono3 Black Label phono stage.

The iPhono3 Black Label phono stage not only benefits from “several years in development” but also from borrowing tech derived from the flagship £12,000 PH-77 of sister-company AMR.

iFi iPhono3 Black Label Phono Stage

Additionally, the iPhono3 Black label (£999) offers the flexibility to match any MC/MM cartridge as well as being able to suit every record. The former coming by way of gain and load DIP switches, and the latter thanks to a range of EQ curve choices.

iFi iPhono3 Black Label Tech

iFi iPhono3 Black Label

We are told that iFi's new phono stage does away with the coupling capacitor between cartridge and output. This direct-coupled design also ditches the conventional DC servo - iFi calls this design Direct Drive Servoless. Here, the company states, you'll find a proprietary DC Infinity circuit to boost DC gain to a level approaching infinity. Once the feedback loop is closed, the DC gain cancels all offset voltages to deliver a direct-coupled output with 0V DC offset.

Apparently, the key to the DC Infinity circuit is that it only changes the gain below approximately 0.01Hz, while leaving the AC behaviour of the circuit at higher frequencies unchanged, injecting neither noise nor distortion into the audio signal.

TubeState

iFi iPhono3 Black Label

While the debate over tube or solid-state rages on, the iPhono3 Black Label sports iFi's third-generation TubeState engine, the result of four decades of research into valve and transistor technology by the company's Technical Director, Thorsten Loesch.

TubeState is solid-state circuitry designed to capture the key attributes that make valve circuits so sonically appealing while maintaining ultra-low distortion.

iFi explains the flow as starting with specialised JFET op-amps that combine with a Class A buffer circuit featuring hand-matched PNP bipolar transistors. The buffer circuit minimises the loading of the amplifier circuit and biases the output stage into single-ended Class A. High input impedance approaches the 'zero-loading' a valve grid provides, with excellent driveability and vanishingly low THD (Total Harmonic Distortion). Got it? Good.

iFi iPhono3 Black Label Settings

iFi iPhono3 Black Label

Flip the iPhono3 Black Label over, and you are met with a series of DIP switches that enable you to set gain and load to suit your cartridge. Gain can be adjusted between 36dB and 72dB, alongside a wide variety of load values – eight for MC cartridges and a further five for MM cartridges. Thankfully, iFi has also created an online 'cartridge calculator' to assist with getting the right values dialled in.

iFi iPhono3 Black Label

You can also tailor the sound to match specific records in your collection, thanks to three precisely engineered EQ curves that you can toggle between - RIAA, Columbia and Decca.

It can generally be assumed that LPs produced from 1980 onwards were made using RIAA equalisation, which means they should sound best with the RIAA setting engaged. But records released before 1980 may have been made using different equalisation and may sound better with the Columbia or Decca EQ curve engaged.

iFi iPhono3 Black Label

But that's not all! Further DIP switches on the underside allow the RIAA EQ setting to be further tuned to taste. This option hands you the ability to choose the standard RIAA curve – applied with +/- 0.2dB accuracy – or an enhanced version called 'eRIAA' that offers an extended high-frequency response. Furthermore, the IEC setting takes the standard RIAA curve and applies a subsonic filter to tackle the effects of warped records. Finally, the eRIAA+IEC setting applies the subsonic filter to the enhanced RIAA curve.

The iPhono3 Black Label comes with the 15V version of iFi's new iPower X ultra-low-noise AC/DC power supply (£99 when purchased separately).

The iFi iPhono3 Black Label is available from selected retailers for an RRP of £999.

For more information, check out iFi Audio.

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Jay Garrett's avatar

Jay Garrett

StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

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