iSilencer 3 – stop noise at the source
iFi’s iSilencer 3 is all about stopping noise at the source: your computer’s USB port. This small device, measuring less than five centimetres/two inches long (smaller than most USB flash drives), plugs directly into a spare USB port to filter any and all noise before it even gets to the cable and DAC on the other end.
Good old USB was not initially designed for digital audio transmission. Most USB ports on modern day computers share a common interface and power source, and are therefore prone to interference and other types of noise from shared devices on the same computer.
By plugging an iSilencer into one (or more) of your USB ports, iFi claims the audio signal will pass through a dual-action noise cleaning circuit that includes 100x active noise cancellation and signal rebalancing, before the newly-filtered signal is let loose on your DAC.
Should the iSilencer detect any errant noise in the signal coming through the USB port, it adds a second ‘soundwave’ opposite to the noise frequency that cancels out the original noise, resulting in a noise-free signal on the other end of the cable. How effective this is in practice depends on how ‘noisy’ your USB signal actually is, and how adept the iSilencer is at detecting and cancelling the noise while leaving the ‘good data’ intact.
In practice, it was difficult for me to detect a meaningful change in the sound coming from a regular USB port and an iSilencer-filtered port. Difficult, but not impossible. Careful and repeated listening to the same set of test tracks tracks revealed very subtle changes, such as being able to more easily pick out certain details in the music. In some cases, instruments also sounded marginally better separated with the iSilencer signal, but the margin of error is so small it could well have been placebo.
That said, for a relatively inexpensive device (compared to far more expensive upstream components in a typical enthusiast’s audio chain), it seems silly to skimp when USB noise is almost always there, regardless of how ‘clean’ you think your source might be. The iSilencer didn’t degrade the sound in any way, and depending on the track, even minor improvements means it was doing something useful.
No-brainer tip of the day: if you’re using a computer or streamer with USB ports for audio, get an iSilencer.
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