IKKO Zerda ITM03 DAC/AMP Dongle Review
IKKO Audio (IKKO Technology Co. Limited) is a relative new Chinese brand that designs & develops Hi-Fi components like In-Ear Monitors, DAC/AMP, etc.
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 which I will now review for you is a portable DAC/AMP adapter/dongle for devices like Smartphone’s (Android/iOS), Tablet’s, Laptop’s, etc. and is available in USB Type-C and Lightning connector variants.
IKKO Official Website: https://www.ikkoaudio.com/ikko
I would like to thank Ikko Audio for providing me the Zerda sample for review purposes. I am not affiliated with Ikko Audio beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered opinions about the product.
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 is available for 99,00 USD under the following purchase link;
Purchase Link: https://penonaudio.com/ikko-zerda-itm03.html
Package and Accessories:
The device comes in small cardboard box which contains only the Zerda ITM03 itself.
Design and Build Quality:
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 is a DAC/AMP Dongle with a pretty small form factor and minimalistic design language.
The Zerda (ITM03) is a combination of 3 main components, the USB Type-C or Lightning connector, the low profile cable and the main body which is the heart of the device.
The main body is made of aluminum alloy which has a sandblasted oxidized shell in blue color and features a full Shielding Case Design. On the top of the main body is he IKKO brand logo and the Zerda model branding in white color.
At the right side is the model number (ITM03) and the Made in China letter, again in white color.
On the front of this part is the 3.5mm output that has a two in one function as headphone out and optical out.
The USB Type-C or Lightning male connector has also the same aluminum alloy hosing in blue color and features a rubber strain relief.
The low profile cable of the Zerda ITM03 is a so called Monster OCC Silver-Plated cable which has silicone insulation in black color. The cable is fixed to the main body with and sports a rubber strain relief.
The overall build quality of the Zerda ITM03 is top notch and doesn’t show any imperfections like gaps, burrs etc.
Some Technical Specifications:
- Digital Input Interface : USB Type-C or Lighting
- Output : 3.5mm Single Ended/Optical Out
- DAC : Cirrus Logic CS43198
- THD+N : 0.0015%
- DNR : 120 dB
- Frequency Response : 20 Hz – 40 KHz
- Output Power : 1 V – 32mW
- Fiber Optic Output : 32 bit/ 192kHz
- Adaptive Impedance : 16Ω-600Ω
- Weight : 12 grams
a) DAC (Digital to Analog Converter):
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 features the CS43198 Digital to Analog Converter (in short DAC) of the company Cirrus Logic. The CS43198 is a next generation, low power audio DAC that provides. The CS43198 features also a high impedance of 600 Ω, a 130 dBA dynamic range, a THD+N rating of -115 dB, and inter channel isolation of >110 dB.
To minimize pre-echos and ringing artifacts, the CS43198 is designed with proprietary digital-interpolation filters that support five selectable digital filter responses. Filtering options include low group delay with pseudo-linear phase and a fast or slow roll-off.
b) Supported Sampling Rates:
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 support sampling rates from 16, 24, 32Bit, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384kHz up to Native DSD x128.
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 has a so called build-in adaptive drive, which means that you don’t need to manually install any driver.
The Zerda ITM03 is compatible with operating systems like Android, Windows PC’s, MacOSX and iOS. It supports plug-and-play which means you doesn’t need to install any driver on Mac and Win10 computers. For WinXP, Win7, and Win8 systems please download the driver from the link below;
and with devices like PC’s, MAC’s, Smartphone’s, iPad’s/iPod’s via USB Type-C & Lightning connection, directly or via adaptors. The Zerda is also an Apple MFI certified device.
d) Driving power & Hissing:
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 is a very powerful DAC/AMP for the size and has according to IKKO official specs a power rating of 1V – 32mW and can drive up to 600 ohm headphones. The background of the Zerda ITM03 is pretty clean thanks to the low THD+N of 0.0015.
Equipments used for this review:
- DAC’s : Ikko Zerda ITM03, Audirect Beam, Zorloo ZuperDAC-S
- USB Source : Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, iPad Air2, Dell 5521 Laptop
- IEM’s : IKKO OH10, FiiO FH5
- Earbuds : Penon BS1 Official, Simphonio Dragon2+
- Headphones : Audio-Technica ATH-M50
Albums & tracks used for this review:
- Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
- Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Wav 24bit/88kHz)
- Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Elton John – Your Song (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- David Bowie – Black Star (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Eric Clapton – Unplugged Album (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- London Grammar – Interlude (Live) (Flac 24bit/88kHz)
- Aretha Franklin – I Say a Little Prayer (Wav 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
- Lady Gaga – Shallow (Flac16bit/44.1kHz)
- Björk – Army of Me (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Twerl – Lishu (Spotify)
- U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
- Opeth – Windowpane (Wav 16bit/44kHz)
- Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Slayer – Angel of Death (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
- Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Spotify)
- Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
- Photek – The Hidden Camera (Spotify)
- Tom Player – Resonace Theory (16bit/44.1kHz)
- Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
- Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kbps)
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 has a slightly warm than neutral tonality with a fairly natural and balanced presentation. The sound signature of the Zerda ITM03 shows a slightly more pronounced/forward midbass, vocal and upper midrange presentation compared to the rest of spectrum.
The IKKO Zerda has an average subbass quantity, depth and extension, with a soft and slightly warmish tonality. The subbass quantity will maybe not satisfy those who are looking for a pronounced presentation, while the clarity and control is top notch.
The midbass region of the Zerda is pronounced and pretty powerful and superior to the subbass region in terms of quantity and intensity. Here are no negative situations like midbass hump or mixings thanks to the fairly controlled tuning.
The midbass are smooth and musical in its tonality and pleasant to listen to, while instruments such like cross drums are fast, bass guitars are slightly warmish in its tonality.
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 is a DAC/AMP with a close to neutral, slightly bright and warmish midrange tonality that offers a transparent and detailed presentation in this area. Especially the vocals are the focal point of the midrange. Those who are searching for a mid-forward presentation will love the IKKO Zerda.
The IKKO Zerda is quite successful device with both female and male vocals. The lower midrange of the Zerda shows a good level of depth, wile the upper midrange is a tad more pronounced. Male vocals have an average level of fullness and are presented in a clean and detailed way, without to show negative situations like mixings.
Male vocals from B. B. King to Eric Clapton, Jeff Buckley to Mikael Ȧkerfeldt are detailed and very pleasant to listen to.
The upper midrange of the IKKO Zerda ITM03 is pronounced, detailed and pretty transparent in its presentation, which is the main reason why female vocals show a good level of clarity and detail retrieval. The general tonality of female vocals is slightly warmer than neutral that adds emotional to the presentation and helps to avoid any negative situations like harshness or sibilance. Female vocals are slightly more detailed than male vocals and vocals from Aretha Franklin to Diana Krall, from Björk to Lady Gaga are musical and pretty emotional.
Instruments on the other side have a fairly neutral, slightly bright and warmish tonality. The level of clarity, separation and localization is pretty good for a device at this price tag. There is also enough air and space between the instruments. Instruments such like pianos are slightly bright and pronounced with good level of extension. Other instruments like guitars are warmish and do show a lush tonality.
Upper Midrange and Treble:
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 has a strong and pronounced upper midrange presentation with a close to neutral tonality. The upper midrange is pretty transparent and airy, while the transitions are quite controlled. The detail retrieval and extension in this frequency region is pretty good.
Instruments like violins are mildly bright, bow traction are fast and with good extension. Side flutes on the other hand are enthusiastic, controlled and have good extension.
The treble range of the IKKO Zerda is accented, airy and shows a sufficient level of extension. One of the plus points of Zerda’s treble range is that it doesn’t comes to upfront which could make the overall treble presentation a bit harsh. The lower treble range (presence) is more pronounced than the upper treble (brilliance) region.
The treble range is controlled and suitable for fast and complex genres like trash metal music. For example; the cymbals in trash metal are pretty fast and pronounced, while the hi-hats are slightly recessed, but clear and controlled. The general airiness and brightness of the treble range is on a good level which does increase the detail overall detail retrieval.
The treble performance and character is suitable for a wide range of genres, form jazz to acoustic music, from electronic up to classical music, which is a very good ability of a device at this price range.
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 has a wide stage that is suitable for a fairly precise separation of instruments and vocals. The general soundstage character is quite spacious and airy, while the depth of the stage is on an average level compared to the soundstage wideness.
IKKO Zerda ITM03 versus AUDIRECT Beam:
Both the IKKO Zerda and the AUDIRECT Beam do show a close to neutral (slightly warmish) tonality. The subbass region of the Zerda has slightly better depth compared to the Beam. The midbass character of the AUDIRET Beam is more on the linear side compared to the IKKO Zerda that shows more impact and intensity. The midrange of both devices is successful in terms of clarity and detail retrieval. The midrange of the Zerda is more upfront compared to those of the AUDIRECT Beam. The Zerda is superior in terms of male vocal presentation, while both are pretty equal in terms of female vocals. The lower treble range of the IKKO Zerda is more pronounced and shows a better level of extension than the AUDIRECT Beam. The soundstage of the IKKO Zerda is superior in terms of depth.
IKKO Zerda ITM03 versus ZORLOO ZuperDAC-S:
The ZORLOO ZuperDAC-S has warmer and more musical tonality than the IKKO Zerda. The subbass and midbass region of the ZuperDAC-S is softer than the Zerda ITM03. The Zerda has more subass depth and higher midbass impact and intensity. The midrange of the ZORLOO ZuperDAC-S is warmer and a bit more musical compared to the IKKO Zerda which sounds more neutral and transparent. The midrange of the ZuperDAC-S is a bit veiled compared to the Zerda that has a better level of clarity. The treble range of the IKKO Zerda is more pronounced and shows better extension. The ZuperDAC-S has the upper hand for soundstage depth, while the Zerda is superior in terms of soundstage wideness.
The IKKO Zerda ITM03 is a powerful DAC/AMP dongle with optical and 3.5mm output which has a sound performance that is above its price tag. The midrange clarity & detail, the bass control and well rounded treble range will be a noticeable upgrade over the stock sound of your phone, tablet, etc.
Pros and Cons:
- + Midrange Clarity & Detail
- + Bass and Treble Control
- + Powerful and Clean Output
- + Supports Optical Out
- + Available with USB Type-C and Lightning Connectors
- + Price to Performance Ratio
- – Subbass Intensity/Rumble
- – Soundstage Depth