IFI IEMatch Review

IFI IEMatch Review

Last week we took a glance at IFI’s new DACs and amplifiers, as well as two USB accessories designed to improve audio quality.  Today MajorHifi takes a look at another IFI accessory, the IEMatch.  Retailing for $49, this small adapter claims to minimize hiss, improve dynamics, and increase volume.  So, does it work?

IFI IEMatch Review

IFI IEMatch Review

The IEMatch is a right-angled plug adapter with a balanced 3.5 mm male stereo connection on one end, and a 3.5 mm female stereo socket on the other.

Two switches change balance and sensitivity.  The small amount of cable used in the adapter seems surprisingly well-built, being encased in a rubber sheath.

Packaged with a carrying pouch, airline adapter, and earplugs, the IEMatch comes with more accessories than IFI’s USB gadgets.

Specs

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)

As you can see from the specs, the IEMatch removes gain to allow more sensitive In-Ear Monitor headphones to be used with standard amplifiers.  Connections are gold-plated for improved conduction and sound quality.  Headphones should have a low impedance.  Utilizing a pair of headphones with a higher impedance of 32 or 50 ohms seems to negate the effects of the IEMatch, while models with impedances of 8 or 16 ohms seem to benefit the most from this setup.

Sound

The sound is somewhat improved.  Unfortunately, the increased volume that IFI touts with the IEMatch can lead most devices (computer, smartphone, portable player) to start clipping sound like crazy.  This situation can be rectified by reducing the volume on your playback device, while increasing volume on your amp.

Dynamics seem improved as well, though it’s not as much of a night-and-day difference as it is a small incremental gain.  On the other hand, hiss is definitely removed to a larger degree.

Compatibility

The IFI IEMatch works with any amplifier that accepts a 3.5 mm output.  You could probably use it with a 1/4” stereo output via the proper adapter.

Headphones, as mentioned above, should be low-impedance models landing below 32 ohms.  The merits of the system would particularly benefit In-Ear Monitor ‘phones, while most other models would negate the necessity of the IEMatch’s unique features.

Other Observations

As a device squarely aimed at IEMs, the IEMatch is a perfect accessory for those who live and die by Westone and Shure headphones.  Flagship in-ear models from Sennheiser, Audio Technica, and Klispch would also benefit from this adapter.

For earphones sporting a mic, the single-ended setting on the balance switch should be selected – but the microphone will not be on while plugged in.

Final Analysis

A nifty little add-on for those audiophiles who love In-Ear Monitors, the IEMatch removes hiss while also offering moderate improvements in dynamic sound.  Of course, the biggest boon of this adapter is the ability to use your sensitive in-ear headphones with powerful amps, without going deaf.  It’s not for everyone, of course, but it is the perfect accessory for a good pair of high-quality earphones.