DAC Chip: Cirrus Logic CS43198
PCM 32bit – 384khz DSD256, SNR: 120db, Power: Adaptive 16Ω-600Ω , USB Type-C Male, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: Undisclosed), 12g Aluminum Chassis, SPC Rubberized Cable. Fiber Optic Output: 32Bit/192kHz. Firmware: 20200915
Listening Equipment: Etymotic ER4SR, TIN HiFi P1, HZSOUND Heart Mirror, Moondrop Aria, VE Monk GO, Monolith M565c, Shure KSE1500. Source: USB 3.2 Samsung S20 (Deezer)
LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING
- Timbre is clean and clear, not exactly flat neutral – mildly euphonic
- Strong and vibrant dynamics, especially with DDs and Planars
- Solid and crisp Treble with fast crisp decays, good extensions
- Strong, punchy Mid-Bass with crisp decays, great textures
- Deep Sub-Bass presence with strong seismic response
- Great Mids with meaty texture and definition,
- Realistic tonality for percussions and instruments
- Very natural sounding guitars, cello and stringed instruments
- Decently sized soundstage with even spacing
- Good holographic spatial imaging despite being not razor sharp
- Clean background even with the highly sensitive 122db Moondrop Aria
- Great handling of Macro and Micro Details (depends on IEMs/HPs type)
- Able to drive TIN HiFi P1 at 70/100 for great fidelity level
- Does not heat up easily. Temperature remained low even with hours of usage
- VERY beautiful solid construction and futuristic look. Quite small actually
- Sporadic stability issues with Timbre hygiene, mostly clean but gets congested occasionally
- Layer separation not as sharp with just decent transparency
- Not as forgiving on low resolution sources or Lo-Fi, reveals artifacts
- Speed not as great as the leading CS43198 models, complex passages gets compressed
- Driving power limited to 95db sensitivity the lowest (for best results)
- No hardware volume adjuster
IKKO Zerda ITM03. This is a great dongle that is more musical than technical. Very entertaining and offer similar experience to A&K PEE51, CX-PRO, VE Odyssey HD etc.
However it does not synergize well with my VE Monk GO, sounding dull edged and slightly lacking coherence. But the overall timbre is very organic and analogue so it will still appeal for those enjoying this presentation. With Moondrop Aria, great pairing and it complement Aria’s Harman sound with impactful and beautifully textured Mid-Bass and deep Sub-Bass offering smooth seismic feedback.
It seems that this Zerda shines best with IEMs/Headphones that are natively brighter. On an already warm IEMs/HPs the sound may end up dull edged despite having superb dynamics and powerful bass performance. So it is a matter of taste. With Magnetic Planar and Balanced Armature, it was able to drive with authority and great visceral dynamics. Amazing synergy with the normally finicky TIN HiFi P1 (95db), meaty bass response, rich Mids, and greatly refined Highs that does not pierce my eardrums. Similarly stellar with Monolith M565c full sized 60mm Magnetic Planar (96db). With my Shure KSE1500 Electrostatic, it strike great synergy as well, lower frequencies are richly textured and the ultra-resolving nature of KSE1500 imparting strong technical prowess that was not evident as with dynamic drivers. It is warm and soothing yet very technical, as how only an Electrostatic can deliver.
The only reason this Zerda doesn’t score any higher was because of the sporadic and erratic Timbre stability (with Dynamic Drivers). When the music gets fast it gets compressed . However this is not as evident on Balanced Armatures, Magnetic Planars and Electrostatics. I see that as a worrying issue because the majority of IEMs/HPs are still on the DD side. Or I should place it this way. To appreciate IKKO Zerda ITM03, it need to be paired with an already technically competent IEMs/HPs like the Etymotic ER4SR, TIN HiFi P1, Shure KSE1500 or at least something like HZSOUND Heart Mirror (fast, speedy DD). Something natively resolving, fast, transparent and bright – then the Zerda will shine the best. Zerda brings life to the technically inclined IEMs/HPs.
PS: It is a MUST to immediately update the FW to 20200915 or it will be exhibiting some nasty disconnection issues and hang-ups.
Best Pairing: Technically competent, bright and resolving IEMs/HPs under 95db Sensitivity
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