It's no secret that audiophiles have a fair amount of retrograde: many of us sigh languidly at the sight of vintage Japanese audio equipment, but at least a small vinyl collection is considered to be a must have for any self-respecting and unwritten tradition of our international community of high-quality sound lovers. However, today, let us carefully blow away the romantic veil from the past, like dust from a record, and turn our eyes forward. Moreover, we have a wonderful reason for this. An extremely relevant device from my favorite iBasso - TWS (true wireless stereo) adapter - CF01 came to visit us.
This device is a compact wireless receiver capable of receiving a digital signal via Bluetooth sent from your smartphone, tablet or laptop, processing it and transmitting the already analog signal to IEM connected to the CF01. Such a scheme is ideal for those who want to listen to good quality music on the road or during sports, using modern streaming services (TIDAL, Spotify, Deezer and others), but, of course, not only.
I must say right away that I was delighted with the new iBasso development. And, as it seems to me, CF01 will not leave anyone indifferent, now I will explain why.
Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa)
Bluetooth chip: QCC3020
Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth protocol support: SBC, AAC, aptX
Connection range: about 10 meters
Output power: 9mW@32ohm
Playing time: 4.5 hours (earhook) + 20 hours (charging box)
Charging time: 1.5 hours (earhook) + 2.5 hours (charging box)
Charging interface: Type-C
Waterproof level: IPX5
Appearance, kit and ergonomics
You can see the very graceful forms of the receiver right away on the printed white dust jacket, with which we begin our acquaintance with the device. Here, in addition to the photograph, there is also the name of a well-known brand, the model index and the designation of the type of activity - TWS Bluetooth IEM adapter. Detailed specifications for numbers lovers are given on the back.
Under the wrapper, we find a black box with an embossed brand logo. We open its lid and discover a wonderful plastic black box, which is both a reliable storage and a convenient charger. Inside it, the CF01 itself is comfortably located: two stylish and comfortable "sticks" located behind the ear, to which headphones are attached. The kit also includes a short USB-C cable for connecting to the power adapter, as well as an instruction book and warranty documents.
Frankly, I liked this case so much that I was trying to write one review only about it and the second one about the adapter itself. Well, really, this is a small miracle, in which the three most important components are perfectly intertwined: design, ergonomics and technology. First, the case just looks gorgeous, like some kind of James Bond accessory. Secondly, everything is thought out in it to the smallest detail: in addition to the CF01, there is also a place for earphones connected to it. I took off the adapter, threw it with the IEM into the case - and the device itself was magnetized to the charging connectors. Moreover, charging can be carried out both from an outlet, through a cable with a power adapter, and from a wireless (Qi wireless) charger. A CF01 charge lasts approximately 4-4.5 hours, a case - for 20 hours.
I hardly take my eyes off the case, dear to my heart, and move on to the adapter itself, especially since it caused no less strong feelings in me. CF01 is built on Qualcomm QCC3020 chip with Bluetooth version: 5.0 and support for AAC, SBC, aptX audio protocols. The device does not work with LDAC and aptX LL / HD codecs, but in my opinion it is not necessary.
These "Sticks" CF01 are made of metal and plastic and have a small tail-wire with a connector at the end for attaching IEM, which (this is important!) must have MMCX connectors. Moreover, CF01 can work as a pair, acting as a stereo adapter (left / right), and separately (right or left, mono) - as a separate headset. The device also has a microphone with external noise suppression, so you won't have any problems with calls and phone calls. During testing, the quality of sound transmission, both on my part and on the part of the interlocutor, always remained at a fairly high level.
Contacts for connecting to the charging case are located on the bottom of the CF010, and on the top there is a button and a small blue LED. By pressing a button, you can both control audio playback from your smartphone (start / pause / skip to the next track), call the voice assistant, and work with calls (answer or reject). There is no possibility to control the signal volume in the adapter. This is perhaps the only drawback of this device.
The connection with the smartphone takes place without any problems. You need to set up pairing once, and then CF01 will always be detected automatically. Well, at least that's how I did it.
Of course, we must also mention the presence of protection against moisture according to the international standard IPX5, which will save the CF01 from the effects of sweat, precipitation and other minor troubles of this kind. It is worth remembering, however, that if the IPX5 can protect the receiver itself from, say, rain, then an extremely unpleasant story can happen to your IEMs if it gets inside the water. Therefore, protection is protection, and no one canceled caution and prudence.
Now we put CF010 over our ears and turn on our favorite music.
Signal source: Huawei p20 pro smartphone.
For listening we used IEMs: iBasso IT00 and BGVP DMS.
Despite the fact that for the test I connected two IEMs models (see above), I spent the main audition with the iBasso IT00, and taking this opportunity, I can strongly recommend assembling this pair: IT00 and CF01. In my opinion, it looks great, sounds great, and the IT00 IEM is also quite affordable. By the way, we recently wrote a review about these IEMs, in case you suddenly missed.
In any case, the sound will mostly depend on the IEM connected to the CF01, but the adapter itself performs its functions (DAC / amplifier / headset) without any problems. Therefore, my analysis of the sound this time, for the most part, will be nothing more than a description of the capabilities of the IT00 IEM itself paired with the CF01. The only thing that distinguishes the style of the IT00 in collaboration with the CF01 in comparison with the "wired" version is the introduction of a slightly more emotional component.
The sound of the duo IT00 + CF01 is quite balanced, with a well-developed low-frequency range, smooth and sufficiently informative mids, as well as an accurate, unobtrusive, but slightly simplified high-frequency range.
The audio canvas is drawn quite spaciously, contrastingly and naturally.
It is a neutral and at the same time emotional way of delivering sound, while having a smooth and natural form. Here the balance is skillfully maintained between serious academic techniques and the preservation of the graceful expressive component of the music. We also do not hear any obvious imbalances in the tonal balance, everything is clear, smooth and to the point. The manner is extremely clean and well balanced.
Also worth noting is the overall smoothness and decent sound detail. Compositions are conveyed cleanly and in detail, here each sound is clearly outlined in space. Good resolution and quite decent speed characteristics are good news.
The bass is quite accurate and nimble, with good control and high-quality texture processing. It is served extremely smoothly, smoothly and precisely. Quantitatively, it is not much, but there are no questions about the quality of working out, it is on a par with the rest of the frequency range. It is smooth, embossed and very comfortable.
The drum kit sounds clearly and quite sharply, and the midbass goes almost on par with the middle.
The mids are clean, smooth and natural. Here, each musical image is endowed with its own bodily basis. This is an extremely melodic manner, where all sounds or instruments are in their correct place in space. Strings, wind and vocal parts sound pleasant and graceful. Smooth, a little restrained, but at the same time expressive.
The sound canvas is drawn harmoniously, reliably, with a spreading stereo panorama, in neutral warm colors. It is a well-balanced, smooth and at the same time emotional performance, where all the elements of the composition sound precise, large and multifaceted.
High frequencies are delivered in a clear and comfortable manner. Although they are not aggressive, they nevertheless attract a little attention. There is a bit of simplification here.
In general, both to the device (CF01) of this form factor and to the IEM (IT00), I have no complaints in terms of sound. Naturally, connecting by wire to a better source will have advantages in sound quality, but in terms of convenience and ergonomics, the CF01 is definitely ahead.
I have never hidden my sincere sympathy for the developments from iBasso, and now I also once again realized that we and the engineers of this company look at the bright audiophile future from the same angle. There is no doubt that streaming services will continue to grow in popularity and that such miniature wireless gadgets will soon gain a significant share of the audio market. And the CF01 receiver, without a doubt, has every chance of becoming the gold standard by which the corresponding products of other brands will be judged.
And if we get away from the pathos, then in any case it turns out that the CF01 is an extremely interesting device with good sound, chic design and an excellent functional case. Listen to your favorite music and be always in touch - iBasso CF01 takes over both the first and the second.
Well, one more undoubted plus is the affordable price. At the time of this writing, the device cost $140. Considering all the undeniable merits of the CF01, I find this price more than adequate. The only thing that I would like to see in future versions of the receiver for me personally is the option with a 2pin connector for connecting my custom monitors (CIEM).
Pros - Sound, convenience, design, build quality, price.
Cons - There is no way to adjust the volume on the device.