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IKKO Zerda ITM02 – Sweetest Smallest Dongle

IKKO Zerda ITM02 – Sweetest Smallest Dongle

IKKo Zerda ITM02 is a $59 USD DAC/AMP with the smallest design I’ve seen so far, up to December 2022. It will be compared to other super affordable DAC/AMPs, including TempoTec Sonata Hd V (70 USD), FiiO KA1 (49 USD), Periodic Audio Rhodium (49 USD), and IKKO’s own Zerda ITM01 (59 USD). 

 

Introduction

IKKO is a company designing high-quality products for those who can’t afford the candy of the audio world, but still want to get some of that sweet, awesome sound we typically speak about. IKKO products are available widely through many stores, including Linsoul, and Amazon. The best support can be found on Amazon, with the longest return windows, if the products do not work alright for you, and with the best prices and best warranty conditions. 

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with IKKO. I’d like to thank IKKO for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with the IKKO ITM02 Zerda. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in IKKO ITM02 Zerda find their next music companion. 

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3WI7glE

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3hwirOn

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3hupV4i

 

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Features

The main selling point of ITM02 is size, and this is one heck of a mini dongle DAC AMP. The heart of Zerda ITM02 is an AK 4377 DAC chip, which supports PCM up to PCM 32Bit / 384kHz, and DSD up to DSD128. The THD is super low at -108dB or 0.0004%. 

ITM02 has an RGB light which shines either Blue for PCM signals or red for DSD signals, and although it can’t decode MQA, it is compatible with iOS, Windows, Linux, MAC OS, and basically all of the operating systems you can think of. The company is so sure that ITM02 is compatible that they throw in two cables, one that’s type-C to type-C and one that is lightning to type-C. 

With all of this being said, Zerda ITM 02 is so small that the cables are extremely short, and it is designed to work well basically only for smartphones, and portables. I have used it with my Windows PC, with no problems. There is no delay when using it as a USB DAC, so you can watch movies and play games in real time. 

It does not get even warm in usage, has a low driving power, best for IEMs and it does not have a background noise or hissing I can hear while music is not playing. Everything from a technical perspective is great. 

 

Sound Quality

Although it costs less than the likes of HIDIZS S9 PRO Balanced, the little IKKO Zerda ITM02 actually sounds warmer and is more enjoyable, especially with IEMs where you won’t feel the need for more power. For reference, it has considerably lower driving power than HIDIZS S9 PRO and other dongle DAC AMPs, and it sits at about 60 / 100 volume to achieve the same loudness as S9 PRO Balanced achieves at 40/100. I’ve paired Zerda ITM02 with a multitude of IEMs and Headphones, including KZ AS16 PRO, Westone MACH 60, FiR Audio Frontier Neon NE4, SeekReal Airship, and 7Hz Eternal. It sounds sweet, warm and wide, with a good soundstage and a pleasing overall tonality, and much to my liking, has some added warmth and substance to its bass. 

The bass of Zerda ITM02 is clean, deep and has a bit of extra weight and thickness in the mid bass. It is rounded and has a slow note decay, which aids in creating the feeling of space and depth in music. The whole sound is generally spacious, the bass is lush and the midrange warm and delightful, having a sweet and juicy tonality. 

Speaking of the midrange, that is by far the best part of Zerda ITM02, and I can’t believe that I’m saying this myself, but it comes off as more enjoyable than most 100 USD dongle DAC AMPs, all of which tend to have a dry and neutral sound that’s reference but lacks space and warmth. I’m generally not such a big fan of warmer signatures, but ITM02 does it in a pleasing way, it has an ok level of detail and resolution, but voices and guitars sound really natural, and it manages to capture a special musicality that captivates my ears and gives off the feeling of realistic guitars, especially with albums like Metallica – Load and Reload. 

The treble of ITM02 Zerda is mostly natural, it has a good amount of dynamics and impact, it separates the cymbals from the guitars and other layers well, and generally has superb stereo imaging. I love ITM02’s sound, and despite it being dirt cheap and me having a limited experience with IKKO, I can give it a full thumbs up for the musicality and fluid sound. 

 

Comparisons

IKKO Zerda ITM02 vs FiiO KA1 (59 USD vs 49 USD) – The overall driving power is similar between the two, and Ka1 has a smoother, darker signature, which is even thicker. The advantage of ITM02 is that it sounds cleaner, more dynamic, more airy, and wider in the soundstage, to the point where I’m considering whether it has some kind of DSP going on. At any rate, ITM02 is more musical, and more dynamic, and also has better resolution bringing forward details in music better than KA1. 

IKKO Zerda ITM02 vs TempoTec Sonata HD V (59 USD vs 70 USD) – The general driving power is a bit higher for Sonata HD V, which sounds a bit more punchy and has slightly better dynamics, but Zerda ITM02 provides better dynamics, a more punchy sound, better impact and more warmth. Sonata HD V keeps control better for harder to drive headphones, and has slightly better resolution / detail, but the overall listening experience is a bit more pleasing with ITM02 if you want a warm and musical presentation. 

IKKO Zerda ITM02 vs Periodic Audio Rhodium (59 USD vs 49 USD) – We have a nice performance from both, but while Rhodium is barely enough for most IEMs, ITM02 is perfect for most IEMs, and it has better dynamics, better driving power, a more natural sound, more treble extension and better treble sparkle. Rhodium consumes a bit less power while in usage, but the difference is not significant, and the only reason you’d want to go for Rhodium is if you wanted the smoothest treble possible, as it has an even smoother sound than ITM02, but ITM02 has better details and clarity, with better textures. 

IKKO Zerda ITM02 vs IKKO Zerda ITM01 (59 USD vs 59 USD) – I’m going to be brutally honest here, but ITM-02 sounds considerably better than ITM01, it has better spacing between instruments, a smoother, sweeter midrange, more sparkle in the treble and sounds more natural overall, with a warmer and more pleasing bass. ITM01 has EQ modes, which can be quite helpful, but it is larger and not as practical as ITM02. Please do keep in mind that ITM 02 is white in color and may get dirty with usage, but ITM01 has a lot of shiny surfaces that will gather scratches, smudges and fingerprints. 

 

Value and Conclusion

Sitting at an entry-level price of 59 USD, can can guarantee to you that IKKO Zerda ITM02 will be far more enjoyable than the smartphone sound of any smartphone or the embedded sound card of any motherboard, so if you’re on the edge about ordering it, take this from me, I’ve never heard Metallica’s The Outlaw Torn have such musicality and space between instruments with an entry-level DAC, not even IKKO’s pricier offerings, they did something really nice with the ITM02 Zerda. 

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a fair-priced dongle DAC AMP with super good tonality, a good amount of space between instruments, a clean and fun tonality, and with good musicality, IKKO Zerda ITM02 is an excellent option you don’t want to miss. 

 

Product Link

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3WI7glE

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/3hwirOn

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3hupV4i



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Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu

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George Dobrescu

George Dobrescu

Hello, and welcome to Audiophile-Heaven! I am George, the Creator of Audiophile-Heaven, and I love music! I will be sharing insights and comparisons of audio products with you. I invite you to join me in the exciting journey of discovering joy through music!!

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