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Ikko Zerda ITM01 DAC/AMP Review

The Ikko Zerda ITM01 is a digital-to-analog converter and amplifier (DAC/AMP) combination unit. The ITM01 uses a proprietary magnetic device-side connector and has a 3.5mm single-ended output. The DAC chip used is a customized ESSS9298. The ITM01 retails for $59 on Ikko’s webstore. Ikko provided me with the ITM01 in exchange for my impressions.

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:

The Ikko Zerda ITM01 comes in a rectangular clear plastic case. The ITM01 and a short cable with a USB-C transport-side termination are held in a foam mounting tray inside the case. A longer cable with a USB-A transport-side connector is also included with the ITM01. The ITMO1 package includes a user guide and a warranty card.

DESIGN:

The Ikko Zerda ITM01 has an obelisk form factor with brushed aluminum top and bottom faces and dark translucent plastic side panels. The 3.5mm jack is located at one end of the device, and the magnetic connector is located at the opposite end. Ikko claims the customized magnetic interface is designed to reject interference, but I would have preferred a simple female USB-C port. With this design, you are locked into using Ikko’s proprietary cables for replacements, other transport-side terminations like Lightning, or additional cables in alternate lengths, colors, or materials.

The three button controls are laid out in a line across the top face of the device, and the Akko logo is printed in white between the magnetic connector and the “-” button. The side panels on the ITM01 incorporate lighting to indicate the currently selected sound mode. “Music Mode” corresponds to lemon yellow, “Movie Mode” corresponds to light blue, and “Game Mode” corresponds to purple.

FUNCTIONALITY:

The Ikko Zerda ITM01 has three multifunction button controls. The center button functions as a “Play/Pause” button and switches between the three sound modes with a long press. There are also physical volume control buttons. A long press of the “-” button skips to the next track, and a long press of the “+” button rewinds.

The ITM01 properly negotiates connection status and playback device priority with Windows. This means that when headphones are not connected to the ITM01, the ITM01 will not be shown as an available playback device in Windows. When headphones are connected to the ITM01, the ITM01 will begin playback through the headphones immediately, and when the headphones are disconnected, the ITM01 will remove itself from the list of playback options and switch playback to another available device.

POWER DELIVERY:

Note: The following observations were made with a system-wide -4 dB pre-amp setting as suggested here and Spotify volume normalization set to “Normal.” While I recommend using this pre-amp setting to preserve fidelity, it does reduce the headroom of any and all connected source devices. This means that the Ikko Zerda ITM01 is actually more powerful than I will indicate below.

The Ikko Zerda ITM01 is powerful enough to drive all the transducers currently in my collection. The system volume settings required to reach my typical listening volume on my hardest-to-drive transducers are provided below:

Moondrop S8: 12/100

Sennheiser HD500A: 30/100, (-7 dB rather than -4dB pre-amp to account for EQ)

HiFiMan HE400SE: 45/100

With the caveat that neither of these over-ear headphones is truly hard-to-drive, this is an impressive showing for a relatively compact device.

SOUND:

20 Hz — 20 kHz
20 Hz — 96 kHz
Mode Comparison (20 Hz — 20 kHz) [PAY ATTENTION TO SCALE]

The ITM01 supports a maximum sample rate of 32/384000 in “Music Mode” and “Movie Mode,” but only 24/96000 in “Game Mode.”

The Ikko Zerda ITM01’s three playback modes make tiny but audible tonal adjustments to sound playback. Music mode should be considered the default playback experience. “Movie Mode” has slightly worse bass extension compared to “Music Mode,” but seems roughly similar otherwise. “Game Mode” is the most different, with increased bass, reduced vocal region emphasis, increased presence, and rolled-off treble. This functionality might be useful in a competitive multiplayer use-case but is mostly a solution in search of a problem in my judgment.

In terms of technicalities, the ITM01 falls into the broad bucket of adequate. In “Music Mode,” it sounds as uncolored and clean as I would expect any competently designed generic source device of its price to sound. It also lacks any real distinguishing characteristics in terms of its intangibles or transient delivery.

POWER CONSUMPTION:

The Ikko Zerda ITM01 has a lower power draw than many smaller devices intended for desktop use. The following power draw reading was taken while the ITM01 was in use:

The next reading was taken while the ITM01 was plugged into my computer but not being actively used, with no connected headphones:

There does not appear to be a true power-saving mode or auto-shutoff function. Whether this is a drawback or not is a personal preference. I dislike auto-shutoff functions because they generally induce a delay when resuming playback and disable them whenever possible.

CLOSING WORDS:

The Ikko Zerda ITM01 has impressive output capability for a compact single-ended device, relatively efficient power consumption, and an intuitive and functional user interface. However, these fundamentals are overshadowed by unnecessary design choices like the sound modes and the proprietary magnetic connector. While this would not be my first recommendation for a music playback device, I think Ikko would have a winner if it stripped away some of the excess functionality and offered a minimalist version of the ITM01 with just the “Music Mode” and a universal connection type.

The Ikko Zerda ITM01 can be purchased here:

🎧 Don’t forget this… (ikkoaudio.com)

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Hyperbole-free reviews of audiophile IEMs, headphones, digital source and amplification products, and other consumer electronics.

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Reasonable audiophile product reviewer.

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