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