iFi iDSD Neo Review

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iFi iDSD Neo Review
You’d be forgiven if you thought the release of the iFi Neo iDSD seemed redundant right after the iFi signature.

However, while these models may boast some obvious similarities, in some ways they could not be more different - and that’s for the better. The iFi Neo iDSD is a simple looking, yet sophisticated powerhouse of a device that is a huge step forward in amp/dac technology from one of the best brands to ever do it.


What’s in the Box?

The box is your typical ifi configuration, with a photo sleeve that removes to reveal a simple white box.

Upon opening you’ll see the Neo on top, and underneath are three different boxes. One contains a USB cable, RCA cable, a remote control and your all important quarter inch adapter and an antenna. The second box contains your power supply.


Design

This unit, much like ifi’s other design is characterized by a sturdy and smooth feeling aluminum chassis. The Neo sports a nice clean silver color that embodies the principle of simplicity that is such a key factor of the design philosophy.

This unit comes with the neat inclusion of a stand, which means it can be placed horizontally or vertically. The OLED display screen flips to match orientation. One rotary knob controls the functionality. The screen will display your output gain, decoding quality, sample rate and the output it is currently using. You can toggle through three different brightness levels. There are also a couple buttons to power on, as well as to pair and switch outputs.

You may want to check out out video review as well. See it below.

 

Ins and Outs

On the front you have two inputs - one a quarter inch unbalanced, the other a 4.4m balanced.

On the back there are few output options, starting with left and right xlr, and RCA There are also a few digital options including coaxial, USB and optical.


Functionality

The Neo can be used as pure dac if you connect it to a separate integrated amp or pre amp using the fixed level analogue output. Or you can treat it as a DAC preamp and pair it with a power amp or active speakers. Thirdly, you could keep it really simple and put your headphones to enjoy the remarkable hifi stage.

This is also a great unit to enhance your gaming - anyone looking to get their hands on an X box series X or PS5 may want to consider adding this into the mix to get the most immersive sound they’ve ever experienced with a console.


Under the Hood

As far as elements under the hood, it is no surprise to iFi fans that they are once again proudly using the Burr Brown dual dac chip in this unit, which splits your digital information through two different pathways to allow your files to remain bit perfect, but it has been souped up even more here with a new 16 core XMOS microcontroller for processing data through your digital inputs. This will give you double the clock speed and four times the memory.

If you’re looking for your favorite hi res dac, then the Neo just might be for you, as there isn’t much it can’t do.

This device supports PCM up to 32bit/768khz DSD up to 512 and DSDx2.

It also provides full MQA decoding providing the best possible quality for those opt for Tidal master quality.


Bluetooth

Speaking of streaming, the Neo also offers cutting edge bluetooth technology, thanks to its use of Qualcomm’s QCC5100 bluetooth processing IC, which combines with ifi’s high quality proprietary circuits to create one of the best bluetooth engines in any product available on the market.

This also means all major current bluetooth high definition formats are supported here - including aptx, aptx HD aptx adaptive aptx LL, LDAC, HWA/HLDC, AAC and SBC.

The Neo iDSD will also remember up to 7 different devices and has a solid range thanks to the use Bluetooth 5.0.


Power and Purity

The Neo has a continuous power output of over 1000mW into 32 ohms available through the balanced headphone jack, which will provide plenty of juice whether you need to power a beefy planar, or a sensitive pair of IEMs.

Beyond being a powerful unit, the Neo is also a remarkably pure one, forgoing the inclusion of DSP, digital filter selection or any controllable change in analogue playback.

This is all built around a balanced circuit design that ifi calls PureWave, which uses only the highest audiophile grade components to deliver high purity with almost non existent low levels of distortion and noise.

For more on each individual component and it’s material, you can click on the link to audio46.com which lists these all in exacting detail.


Sound

When listening to these, I mostly opted to use the Beyerdynamic T5 3rd gen, which I reviewed a while back in the summer. I absolutely loved both this headphone and its sister model, but I found the 1 lacking area to be the somewhat pale high range frequencies. When pairing the T5 with the Neo, it retained a lot of the round warmth that is a characteristic of this particular headphones signature. However, there was more of a crispness and sizzle in the top end. High frequencies didn’t tilt any further or or gain a lot of volume, but they took on more definition and harder lines to their shape that I thought was an improvement overall - especially since the low end was still full and given its full room and depth to expand.


Summary

While this unit is noticeably missing features like 3d and xbass mode, the ifi neo is a superb piece of technology that provides great definition and detail to your finest headphones, all in a very simple and elegant package.

Shop iFi iDSD NEO at Audio46 today.

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1 comment

  • Question: you reviewed already iFi ZEN: DAC + CAN. I have them both plus iFi ZEN BLUE. Would iFi Neo iDSD, providing the same as the 3 pieces iFi ZEN stack be better solution with Hifiman Sundara? Provided Sundara would be powered with balanced 4.4mm output? on my CAN I can NEVER go to max gain (CAN has 4 position switch – position 3 is the max I have ever gone, even then only with the knob not crossing 1pm volume)?
    What do you think?
    Pros: 1 box instead of 3, much less cables, both bluetooth and USB covered, MQA decoder (vs DAC renderer only), remote (who needs remote?)
    Cons: more expensive (700 New vs 427 ZEN stack), less power on both balanced and single ended
    But the sound quality would be the deciding factor… bro, counting on you as I can still return my ZEN stack to Amazon ;-)

    zyghom
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