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A taste of change: Illusonic’s layer cake

  • A veteran of hifi hardware manufacturing writes: “Audiophiles don’t want to admit that properly applied DSP is as impressive as it is; especially now that really good processing chips from Analog Devices are inexpensive. They don’t want to admit that amps directly coupled to the drivers eliminate or at least mitigate a lot of what we perceive as big differences in amps…and they don’t want to admit that 24/192 A/D conversion is as good as it is. And they have problems with EQ even if done at the frequency extremes where you have the most problems..” 

    Doing things the way we have always done helps us feel safe n’ secure in a fast-moving world. We mitigate our fear of the unknown by artificially holding new technologies at arms length. The digital vs analogue debate is a prime example of change pain. That which is no longer part of an intangible, amorphous future but already upon us we purposefully blur. We like our world as it is and we don’t want it to change; even though we know in our hearts that change is inevitable.

    In Illusonic’s demo room at Munich High-End 2017, another three-box hifi system. Acoustically transparent panels obscured (what was later revealed to be) studio monitors. Only a plinth-mounted black box caught the eye. For future-phobes, an unnerving scene. What was that thing?

    Let’s step a little closer…

    IAP = Illusonic Audio Processor; 2 = stereo.

    The IAP2 is a DAC with coaxial, TOSLINK and USB inputs. Basic. The inclusion of HDMI inputs sees this Swiss company throw their arms around SACD/DVD/CD spinners and 4th Gen Apple TVs. Warmer. An Ethernet input makes the IAP2 a streamer. Now we’re cooking. Line-level and phono inputs and a front panel volume pot make it a pre-amplifier. Hot!

    The feature pile-on doesn’t end there. Illusonic’s expertise lies in DSP. All inputs (analogue –> digital) are routed via an Analog Devices SHARC processor for a range of possibilities not possible with a standard digital pre-amplifier. Number one is room correction. Not only were the active monitors already well suited to this hellishly challenging M.O.C. exhibition space but their output had been optimised by way of DSP-powered parametric EQ.

    While audiophiles continue to argue above the 99th percentile, they miss the bigger picture. Room correction offers more de-blurring than any source file format change-up could dream of. Double irony points go to those who would green light MQA but maintain an aversion to DSP. Their loss.

    Move on up to the 8 x output IAP8 (pictured above) and active crossovers become a possibility. Ditto subwoofer integration without the floor crawl.

    Here’s Illusonic’s Christof Faller with more information:

    Another slice of Future-Fi for those brave enough break free from the audiophile world’s increasingly out-moded reliance on passive loudspeakers driven by one-size-fits-all outboard amplifiers. Illusonic join a chorus of manufacturers who know that DSP is the future of home audio for those who cannot withstand the financial and physical impact of a high box count.

    Further information: Illusonic


    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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