iFi is an enterprising brand in the world of DAC/amps right now. I’ve gotten the chance to try out quite a few of their products and am yet to be disappointed, so when I got my hands on their new Micro IDSD Diablo DAC/Amp, I had my expectations set in place. At $899, this bright red beast is the peculiar middle child of iFi’s price range. With an appearance similar to a backup drive or a portable battery, it makes a pretty unassuming first impression. However, it’s bold color says, “don’t underestimate me, just wait and listen.” As I lifted it from the box, the dense object feels oddly satisfying to just hold. Let’s talk about how satisfying it sounds.
What’s in the box
- USB 3.0 cable
- USB-Type A to Type-C cable
- 5.5* 2.1 female to Type-C power cable
- 4.4mm to Twin XLR cable
- iPower 5v + accessories
- Square to round fibre conversion head
- 6.35mm to 3.5mm converter
This is definitely a great amp for travel. Measuring only 10” long and 6.5” wide, it’s small enough to even fit in some deep pants pockets. And it doesn't even weigh a full pound. With its curved edges and smooth, red surface, it’s got an eye-catching, minimalistic design. The Diablo has an impressively rugged build, like most of iFi’s products. I certainly hope anyone who buys this is never unlucky enough to drop it, but I think it would have a better chance of surviving a fall than some other DAC/amps might.
Ins and Outs
In terms of outputs we have a standard 6.3mm along with a balanced 4.4mm analogue and balanced 4.4mm fixed analogue. For inputs we get a S/PDIF 3.5mm Coaxial/Optical and a USB3.0 Type A port. This is charged using a USB-C cable. These ares all pretty standard connections for an iFi DAC/amp, and they should be enough to get the job done. This doesn't offer quite the plethora of options some amps might, but we are compromising some options for the sake of size and portability, keep in mind.
iFi puts a lot of their work on the IDSD Diablo into ensuring its speed and power. Using a pair of Burr-Brown DAC chips, it guarantees PCM and DSD remain what iFi refers to as “bit-perfect.” The Diablo’s specific design of balanced, differential analogue circuitry is meant to separate the left and right channels completely and cut down down on noise/cross-talk. Another highlight is its ultra-low-noise regulator, which helps keep distortion and jitter at a minimum.
The Diablo keeps things clean and simple in terms of switches and controls. We have 3 modes: Turbo, Normal, and Eco. Turbo is for headphones that need an extra power kick for an optimal current, while eco is geared towards more sensitive units, namely IEMs. Normal is unsurprisingly the most universal setting. This isn’t the amp for tons of tweaking and adjusting like those with lots of controls and gadgets. Most of what you get here is under the hood. This doesn’t bother me, in many ways I prefer a more straightforward design like this, it keeps me from over-obsessing over which setting is best for what song, headphone, etc.
Let me start by saying this thing is a powerhouse. Especially with the option of the aptly named “Turbo” mode, you’re off to the races with any pair of headphones. I only briefly used it because it didn’t feel necessary with my main testing pairs today. I used the Audeze AEON, which is one of my current favorites. I found the Diablo helped “lock in” the AEON’s lofty spread. They retained their highly holographic sound but with a more crisp image. I gave Joni Mitchell’s classic “Help Me” a listen and found the diablo added few extra drops of purity into the AEON’s liquid clear sound. The soundstage felt slightly more pronounced, but this was hard to pinpoint with the already expansive character the AEON has.
Next, I tried the HiFiMan Sundara, always a reliable listen. I listened to a classic, “He Can Only Hold Her,” by the late great Amy Winehouse. I felt the diablo helped drive the punch of the drums on this a bit further along with helping to take a slight bit of edge off in the high mid, improving vocal dynamics, and further clarifying the imaging. This song has a very tinny quality to it, so I’m always looking for some subtle taming of those harsher areas from what ever amp and/or headphone I’m listening on, and the Diablo accomplished this well. The coloring the Diablo offers isn't aggressive. If you want an amp that’ll mold your headphone’s response into an entirely different character, this isn't the piece for an extreme makeover. It offers a pristine presentation of your favorite headphones and audio.
For headphones that need some extra encouragement, the Diablo is sure to help them sing loud and clear. And for those with plenty of gusto, the option to calm it down a bit in Eco mode gives the Diablo versatility across applications. Its portable size and rugged built make it ideal for travel situations, but its components ensure no quality is sacrificed. If you’re looking for a deserving pedestal for your beloved headphones or IEMs, lthe Diablo delivers sound in a reliable package.
You can order the iFi Micro IDSD Diablo at Audio46