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iFi Nano iDSD

Posted

Pros: Crams a lot of features in for the price: DSD, DXD, volume control, LED indicator of sampling rate, RCA output

Cons: Ultimately, the sound quality is substandard

I had high expectations of this based on so-called "professional reviews" listed on the iFi website & ones here. Particularly the one from the audiostream "Greatest bits" award: http://www.audiostream.com/content/ifi-nano-idsd-dacheadphone-amp. First listening impressions were not great. I let it run for a few days to be sure, tried the different filter settings, tried the line out vs the headphone out, tried different sampling rates. All to no avail. 

 

In Standard mode, contrary to what the manufacturer states, Standard Filter sounds better because the music has better pace, rythm and timing (PRAT). 

 

Overall though, it sounded somewhat off.

 

So I measured it... results were not very good. The ODAC easily outperformed it in 44k & 96k. The ODAC can't do higher sampling rates than that so no comparison there.

 

Vs the ODAC - you get a fancy box, nice short USB cable, RCA stereo leads, 2x straps and a rubbery protector to place between devices, DSD, DXD, >96kHz PCM, Sampling Rate indicator and internal battery. It is also better presented with a commercial appearance. But, after a few days, that doesn't matter anymore. The ODAC is simply better sounding for 95% of the music you throw at it. I'm not sure if I'll keep the iFi just for the higher sampling rates & DSD (which I have compiled quite a bit of). 

 

I tested this from a laptop, a PC, and a Samsung S3 using USB Audio Player Pro. Measurements were with RMAA 6.4 using an E-MU 0204 USB Audio Interface using ASIO drivers with identical loads (my custom amp / Audeze LCD-2) on another PC - ie. One PC or phone playing the test signal through the devices, and one PC recording via the E-MU.

 

The only change in the tests were the DAC, then levels were matched. So it is a direct comparison.

 

Click here to view the test results! 

 

The four big failings are: Frequency response, IMD, THD, and a noisy volume control.

 

PS- I did further measurements with a laptop as the source, running 96kHz/24-bit. Comparatively, the iFi was similarly worse measuring pretty much across the board

Posted

Pros: SQ,compact size, musical, capable internal amp

Cons: None

iFi Audio iDSD Nano in Earmass.com

iFi Audio iDSD Nano in Earmass.com

This is not the first time that I am reviewing iFi Audio’s creation in Earmass.com, that is why I feel very excited once I knew iDSD Nano is out in the market. The Nano series, sit beside the Micro series (Which is already small in size such as iDAC micro and iCAN micro) promised a even smaller size and similar remarkable sound, with portability in mind (Thus, a built in battery too).

So small!

So small!

iFi Audio iDSD Nano 189USD

I couldn’t believe just how small iDSD Nano is when I holding them in hand, iFi Audio is really good in compacting big things into small package, even the micro series, is small enough honestly, but the nano series take concept further and deeper, nano series are super small and portable in size, much more smaller than the Nano, for example, iDSD Nano is just half the size of iDAC that I have reviewed before, impressive. Luckily, it is only the weight that has been cut down, iDSD Nano is still very solid and ‘tank’ in term of build quality, the flawless finishing tradition and ‘high end’ feeling are all well keep.

Speaking of the flexibility, it is a DAC/Amp combo and also can function as a standalone DAC unit (with volume control), I will talk on the performance of the internal headphone amplifier later but for the 189USD price, it is quite a steal here, the built in battery means it can work with the smart devices out there (iPAD, iPhone and Android), the internal battery can perform up to 10 hours according to iFi Audio, I have never run it on battery though, as I don’t have Android nor Apple devices, the only one I have with me is Window Mobile phones.

The RCA jack in front of the unit act as a output jack, I will not say it is a smart placement, just like iDAC, I hope that iFi Audio can consider to place the RCA jack at the rear side, this is much more convenience and make more sense.

Listening

Source : Asus laptop and play through Foobar 2K

Headphones : Rudistor MD2, Beyerdynamic T90, ZMF V2 Bass, Philips X1, Dunu DN1000

Headphone Amplifiers : iFi Audio iCAN Nano, Xduoo TA-01

USB in and Coax Out

USB in and Coax Out

To be completely honest with you, I really expect very much from iDSD Nano, of course I knew that it is a budget DAC/Amp combo, but blame it on how good her brothers was (iDAC Micro and iCAN Micro,iUSB and iTUBE), all of them are very good sounding and remained one of the best in the market. iDSD Nano is the latest release from iFi Audio so I really expecting something from her. I am realistic guy anyway, for the size I won’t be expecting her to outperform iDAC but at least I want something that qualified to have a ‘iFi’ badge on it.

Fortunately, iDSD never disappointed me, not a tiny bit at all. Side by side with the iDAC, I can’t denied that iDSD sounded lesser. However, iDSD is very good on its own, the sound is forward, punchy and very meaty. iDSD is capable to render music with lots of detail, in a analog way. The overall sound is quite smooth and you can’t find any harshness in them, bass is punchy and present, impressive for a little device, it can do what DACs that are bigger in size can do, and sometimes outperform them.

Soundstage is average but it do has a good shape of soundscape, it is round rather than being flat. I also don’t find any inappropriate coloration to my music, iDSD is very musical which is always a good thing.

I also found that with headphones that are relatively easy to drive, such as my Philips X1 and ZMF V1/V2, German Maestro GMP435s, I can live with the sound without a separate headphone amplifier, it performed as nice as portable DAC should, much nicer to be exact. With correct headphones (those can be easily drive, such as the highly regard Philips X1) you can really get a good on the move sound, for your tablets/smart devices or computer, keeping good sound and small size in a package.

iPurifier, 99USD

iPurifier is another new development from iFi Audio, which intended to cut the EMI transmission of USB audio, should also be able to rebalance the USB signal for perfect transmission. Selling for 99USD for such a small device do sounded reasonable, honestly.It is very easy to use, just connect it to USB cable and that is all what you gonna do, no drivers required.

So how is the sound impression? I attached the iPurifier to the iFi Audio iDAC, the differences are spot on, first of all, the sound is much less noise and less harsh, means music is more quiet now. In short, sound is cleaner and clearer after the iPurifier. I understand that some would say stuffs like iPurifier is a gimmick to market, but I do hear the difference. For 99USD, I couldn't ask for more.

Conclusion

Both of them are performing really good, up to my expectation and actually surprised me with the price and body size. iDSD does not disappointed me at all, it sounded musical and analog enough for enjoying my music, in my opinion it is not a inferior product even beside his own brother, iFi Audio iDAC, I can tell you that iDSD is definitely a very good and worthy product, very suitable for beginner and for enthusiast, they won’t be disappointed how good iDSD Nano is, too.

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Posted

Pros: DSD support , wide codec support , details displayed.

The iDSD Nano has been really good over the weeks i've owned them , and they seem like they will be good for a very very long time , it's a very premium piece with solid aluminium housing , the build looks very durable . 

beautiful sounding . nothing to complain .

if you're looking for a portable DAC , i'd suggest you look no further . 

Posted

Pros: Excellent SQ, extreme value for money, cheapest DAC/amp with support for iDevices

Cons: Weird form factor for portable gear, some units have a volume control crackling issue, iDevices require CCK which isn't optimal for portability

The iFi Nano iDSD may not be a looker and it may have a small package but it delivers performance you'd expect from regular desktop DACs at an unbelievable entry level price.  In addition to that, if you have to think twice about getting a -700 portable amp/DAC that supports iDevices - go for the Nano iDSD and know that it rivals those devices at a price that is 3 times lesser.   

 

This is a transparent DAC that delivers a refined and natural sound that is difficult to find at this price point.  Instruments are rendered realistically and vocals are full of texture and nuance. There's just a wholesome-ness and balance to the sound that reminds me of high end British hi-fi.  The built-in headphone out can easily drive IEMs with a black background at all volume levels thanks to its potentiometer-less implementation of volume control.  It can surprisingly drive LCD2s well enough on its own but what really shines here is the DAC and feeding an amp will be the way to go.  

 

The Nano iDSD was an impulse buy from me - I was at a headphone shop looking for IEMs, spent some time auditioning with the iDSD and ended up taking home both a brand new pair of IEMs and the iDSD.  I was that impressed by them and have not regretted my purchase at all since.

iFi Nano iDSD
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Description:

The iFi nano iDSD is full of 'firsts.' It is the world's smallest, portable (only 163g), battery-powered, serious DAC that plays ALL high-resolution formats: PCM/DSD/DXD natively. Its portable form belies its bleeding-edge technological design. With the latest breakthrough True Native® technology from AMR, the music format remains unchanged throughout. PCM (32bit/384kHz), DSD (6.2MHz) and DXD (384kHz) via Computer or iPhone/iPad/Android simply sounds stunning; opening up a whole new world of high-end audio quality to a whole new generation of users. In a palm-sized chassis with an onboard lithium-polymer battery and headphone output, the iDSD is as extraordinary ‘on the go’ as it is in a ‘high-end system’. It handles Computers/Smartphones with aplomb. It even features an SPDIF coax digital output for A/V receivers or similar to offer unrivalled flexibility. The iDSD. Small in size. Tremendous in technology.

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