High End 2016: Illusonics IAP – the Swiss army knife for (immersive) sound


by Matthias Brötzmann

At the High-End show in Munich, Illusonic was showing their “Swiss army knife“ for room sound field optimization: the IAP. In contrast to many other rooms, this was a minimalist installation. Two or three active speakers, a small subwoofer, and some input devices, turntable, DVD player. A NAS was connected for network streaming and, the IAP 4 was the central hub for whole system.

The IAP 4 is three devices in one chassis: preamplifier, DAC and DSP. The IAP 4 provides 4 individual output channels, two for the Front L /R Stereo channels, and two additional channels which can be used for surrounds, or a center speaker, or for powering up to two subwoofers. The IAP can also be configured used to work as active crossovers. For the analog friends, it also has a superb phono input.

The integrated (how many bit, at what sample rate) DSP provides room EQ and room correction to deliver superb listening experience. For the room correction, the DSP offers time delay and 40 fully parametric frequency equalizers – plus it has a unique depth and immersive control. It actively modifies early reflections and diffuse sound to control spaciousness. This sounds very complex, but the result is breathtaking: The room becomes bigger and the sound becomes more realistic. The bass management does its job perfectly. Christof from Illusonic said that the subwoofer crossover was at about 120 Hz; regardless, it was not possible to discern that there was a subwoofer in the room at all, and certainly not where it was located in the room.

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Illusonic was demonstrating two “different” setups. One was a normal stereo setup, the other one was stereo plus a center speaker. The speakers, PSI A17, are in fact studio monitors. They have a very flat frequency response, and also a very direct sound. With the additional center speaker, the little A17’s were able to energize the whole room extremely effectively. Illusonic uses an own algorithm to produce the center channel signal which allows the center speaker to disappear, and the sweet spot to become larger and no longer focused on a single place anymore. Sitting in the sweet spot the effect seems minor, but sitting outside of the sweet spot the sound improvement is enormous. The stage gets centered and the speakers are invisible.

Judy Collins’ “Let it be”, for example, was played crystal clear. With the center speaker configuration, her voice filled up the room. In any listening place, her voice had its source out of the center, though not sitting in the sweet spot.

In my opinion, Illusonic had one of the most relaxing and stressless rooms. The high level of musicality they produced out of their compact system was extremely well-balanced. No bass was booming through the room. Silence when there was a pause between the movements. No matter what music was playing, classical or something else, the sound was always an accurate in tone and rhythm. Spending hours in that room was completely non fatiguing.

Illusonic has 4 different models of its IAP program ranging from a stereo 2 channel device up to a 16 channel audio processor (2, 4, 8, 16 channels).


  1. Illusonic mainly is focussed on 4 D cinema sound, so 2 channel stereo is a bit of child’s play for their sophisticated algorithm.

    • Hi Norman, I don’t if this is a child’s play, but I know their algorithm work pretty well in stereo, 2.1, 3 or 3.1 hifi systems. Coming from a traditional 2 channel hifi background, I was skeptical until I tried it. The Illusonic IAPs are my new source reference.

  2. I fully agree with this review, for me, this illusonic IAP is a superb device. It excels in everything it does and can compete with much more expensive preamp/DAC.
    What I also like about Illusonic is its simple design, no showing off, what you buy is really the sound it delivers, done for connoisseur.

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