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iFi iDAC Has anyone purchased one?? Looking for under $300 DAC - Page 2

post #16 of 63

Ouh, this thread is pure poison as these nice little units look very tempting: XMOS, Sabre, TPA6120 with discrete buffering....a friend of mine is this close to pull the trigger, if he does I'll try to come back with thorough impressions happy_face1.gif

post #17 of 63
Rich, I'm coming from a similar scenario as yours. Having all three modules makes your opinion pretty valuable, actually. Any thoughts on using the iDAC alone vs. with the iUSB and iCAN? What made the purchase more favorable than an alternative rig of the same cost?
post #18 of 63

If I'm not mistaken, the iFi iDAC uses the same DAC chip as the Dragonfly, so it'll sound very similar. It's just a matter of which implementation is superior.

 

Edit: One thing I do know is that the Dragonfly has a very low output impedance, so using it without a separate amp would work better (whether it's significant depends on the headphones) than with the iDAC.


Edited by spaark - 1/19/13 at 5:45am
post #19 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by spaark View Post
the Dragonfly has a very low output impedance, so using it without a separate amp would work better (whether it's significant depends on the headphones) than with the iDAC.

 

The iDAC has output impedance of 10 Ohms, lower than the Dragonfly's 12 Ohms. If I read things right, this means both devices should deliver consistent voltage across a range of headphone impedances, ensuring sufficient power at high impedance. My humble calculations suggest that the iDAC, with Vrms of 1.5 (based on 150 mW at 15 Ohm output power spec), should produce 7.5 mW of power into 300-Ohm headphones, corresponding with SPL of at least in the 107-112 dB range with my HD-650s. The DF, with 2 Vrms (125 mW at 32 Ohms), 13.3 mW at 300 Ohms, SPL 109-114 dB, both of which should be adequately loud. 


Edited by Aerocraft67 - 1/19/13 at 7:22am
post #20 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 View Post

 

The iDAC has output impedance of 10 Ohms, lower than the Dragonfly's 12 Ohms. If I read things right, this means both devices should deliver consistent voltage across a range of headphone impedances, ensuring sufficient power at high impedance. My humble calculations suggest that the iDAC, with Vrms of 1.5 (based on 150 mW at 15 Ohm output power spec), should produce 7.5 mW of power into 300-Ohm headphones, corresponding with SPL of at least in the 107-112 dB range with my HD-650s. The DF, with 2 Vrms (125 mW at 32 Ohms), 13.3 mW at 300 Ohms, SPL 109-114 dB, both of which should be adequately loud. 

You most certainly read that the minimum headphone impedance is 12 ohms. The specs don't mention output impedance, but stereophile did measurements and it's apparently 0.65 ohms (see: http://www.stereophile.com/content/audioquest-dragonfly-usb-da-converter-measurements).

post #21 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by spaark View Post

You most certainly read that the minimum headphone impedance is 12 ohms.

Right you are. So the DF should have no trouble maintaining its ample 2 Vrms. Nor does the 10-ohm output impedance of the iDAC present any worries.
post #22 of 63

Hi Aero,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 View Post

Rich, I'm coming from a similar scenario as yours. Having all three modules makes your opinion pretty valuable, actually. Any thoughts on using the iDAC alone vs. with the iUSB and iCAN? What made the purchase more favorable than an alternative rig of the same cost?


Forgive me, but I do not have a lot of experience with electronics for headphones. I don't actually much like listening to headphones, but they banned us from having speakers on our desks or radios even in small offices. So headphones are the only option. Over the years I tried some amplifiers for the office (a Rega and a Creek)  and they did not do much for me over just using my Laptop's headphone out. What I always have liked for headphones are Stax, but they are really not what I'd call portable, don't go that loud and they cost a lot of dosh.

I came across the iFi stuff at the Whittlesbury show in September, where they had a dedicated headphone section this year. I was only having a butchers, not looking to buy anything. I had quite a bit of a listen to different kit. Stax was impressive as ever, the rest was mostly not all that brilliant, in fact, quite a bit of stuff was pants. I fancied the Audise (that what they are called?) Headphones, but they are not well made, almost not portable and rather dear.

I also came across iFi, a quick listen with the Sennheiser phones their were showing with convinced me it was quite something else. So I had a good chinwag with Vincent from iFi about it all. After that I had a long listen with my own headphones and really liked what I heard.

 

The biggest thing for me is the "3D sound" switch on the headphone amp. It's totally amazing. The Stax always sounded most open and un-headphone like to me, but even with my headphones this 3D sound thing pulls the music out of my head and put's in front of me, no Stax I remember ever did quite that. Plus the way the headphone amp sounds very smooth and tube like and I fancy tubes. 

 

I originally only wanted the headphone amp, but after listening to it from the laptop they where playing with I decided to get the full stack, it still was not all that dear, next to some of the stuff on show that was totally pants. Most frustrating was the waiting time to get the kit!  As I do not have any headphone gear hear I cannot really compare to anything to make it easier for you guys, sorry. Maybe I need to ask Gazza to borrow some of his amplifiers, well another time.

I tried the iDac from my Laptop in my home system against my Naim CDS. The iDac sounded quite good, maybe it could have been even better if I had used better cables, I used the ones they bunged in the box with the iDac. The CDS was ahead on that bounce and rhythm thing it does so well and sounded maybe a bit more exciting, making me more involved with the music. The iDac sounded a tad smoother and had better depth but it was not miles different in a lot of ways. Not bad for under 300 quid. Adding the Power thing did give the iDAC better rhythm and it sound had even more depth and width, it still sounded maybe a little too smooth for my taste, in my big system, but I certainly could get used to it.

I did try the Headphone Output from the iDac, it drove my headphones well and because it can run directly from the Laptop on battery power it is an option for longer train rides or flights. I have not yet had a chance to try that way, the ride to and from Paddington is too short really, so I am just running of my Smartphone. The iDac does sound a lot better than my Smartphone, that is for sure. In the office I always use the whole stack with the amplifier. I bought it mainly for the "3D sound" (other sound quality too of course) and it sounds totally brilliant. It it's own way as enjoyable and involving as my big system at home!

I'm now looking for a much better headphone than my current Audio Technica's at a sensible price (say under 400 quid). I know the AT's ain't that great They did surprisingly well, much better than I expected, when I got try some of Gazza's headphones recently (including some lalaland priced Sennheisers). So far only the Sennheisers said "buy me now", but at that price, bloody daylight robbery! I may be called Rich, but I ain't THAT loaded!

I hope this helps.

Cheers Rich


Edited by bedlam inside - 1/20/13 at 9:59pm
post #23 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 View Post


Right you are. So the DF should have no trouble maintaining its ample 2 Vrms. Nor does the 10-ohm output impedance of the iDAC present any worries.

The iDAC probably won't sound transparent with some low-impedance headphones. I wouldn't directly connect these to an IEM.

post #24 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by bedlam inside View Post

I hope this helps.

Brilliant, thank you.

I like that the iFi kit is modular, so you can upgrade incrementally, and I like that it's not all crammed into a thumb drive. I have to admit that the 3D holographic bit sounds gimmicky, but can't argue at all with your favorable impressions; you may be new to headphones, but are clearly no stranger to serious audio gear. Nor is AMR, I suppose. Although it all sounds so British so far. I definitely learned a few new idioms in your post. Thanks again.
post #25 of 63

Hi,

Sorry if I'm being too cockney. I grew up around the corner from Upton Park, can't help it. I write how I talk. I also try to buy British, as you can see with me hifi and motor. Only there are no decent headphones made in Britain...

I can of course sound and write like a toff as well, if I want to.
Maybe I better do this here where few people actually speak english...  ? gs1000.gif

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 View Post

I have to admit that the 3D holographic bit sounds gimmicky.


It's not gimmicky in the least.

At the show I came across another headphone Amp that had something similar to 3D Sound. I also fancied what this did. It was called like some villain from a bad 1970's sci fi movie, The Great Phonotar or something like it. It had more knobs that wanted twiddling than an infantry section... The iFi amplifier has less knobs to twiddle but I felt it did as well as that jerrycan of tricks on getting the "the band is playing in my head" feeling removed, at around one sixth the lolly.

I also came recently across a wireless Headphone (Parrot Zik; as was kindly pointed out to me, not "sick parrot" as I misheard) that has a similar feature. This is quite gimmicky with an iPhone App that lets you shift virtual speakers around, I liked what it did though. I will see if I can have a good audition of this one, maybe the day after the Hammers give the Gunners a good old kicking... Might be fit for the road.

To me at least this 3D sound or virtual speaker thing is the dogs bollocks, because I don't really like the way headphones stick music into me head. Look at it this way, the 3D switch makes the iFi Amplifier to headphone audio what Bobby Moore was to footy.

Cheerio Rich

post #26 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by bedlam inside View Post

At the show I came across another headphone Amp that had something similar to 3D Sound. I also fancied what this did. It was called like some villain from a bad 1970's sci fi movie, The Great Phonotar or something like it. It had more knobs that wanted twiddling than an infantry section... The iFi amplifier has less knobs to twiddle but I felt it did as well as that jerrycan of tricks on getting the "the band is playing in my head" feeling removed, at around one sixth the lolly.

 

SPL Phonitor ;-)

 

post #27 of 63

Hi,

Quote:

Originally Posted by Anda View Post
 

SPL Phonitor ;-)

 

 


Yes, that's the one... Still sound the villain from a low budget 1970's sci-fi movie...

And SPL Phonitor came forth in the land and only Conan the Barbarian could stop him...

Who do we cast as Conan? Arnie is getting old...

Arseing about aside, it was a very good headphone amp. 

I bet it would go great with the Sennheiser HD-800 headphones... Wont be leaving much change from three bags of sand though.

Way too rich for Rich...

Cheerio Rich


Edited by bedlam inside - 1/21/13 at 5:59am
post #28 of 63
Totally awesome, dude. I certainly agree that it's hard to get past the sound effect of "one in each ear" with headphones. And part of my British flavor observation is that the iFi kit is more available there than here in the U.S., although it sounds a bit scarce overall. There's always Schiit if I want to buy local.

I settled on the HD-650 headphones as my entry into sereious head-fi and have no regrets, although I got them on deal for $350 and have yet to try dedicated 'phone amplification.

Still looking for a compelling reason to choose the iDAC over the Dragonfly to advance my lot; they both seem quite capabe. Hard to get past the portability and ease of use of the DF; going from 'phones to my humble living room rig would be a snap (literally) with the 3.5 mm output. Not that i couldn't do that with the iDAC (use the phone jack as line out?), or that RCA-RCA is all that arduous.
post #29 of 63

Hi,

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 
 
There's always Schiit if I want to buy local.

 

I see someone in yankee land has GSOH... Get them and tell me when the Shiit has landed. biggrin.gif
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 
 
Still looking for a compelling reason to choose the iDAC over the Dragonfly to advance my lot; they both seem quite capabe. Hard to get past the portability and ease of use of the DF; going from 'phones to my humble living room rig would be a snap (literally) with the 3.5 mm output. Not that i couldn't do that with the iDAC (use the phone jack as line out?), or that RCA-RCA is all that arduous.

 

I think what you need to do is go and have a listen. If the Dragonfly (brill name and ace gadget) flies it for you, just go for it. Or if the Shiit is the dogs danglies, just get it. Life is to short to sweat such *****. I go with that myself. If I like something and can afford it, why not? Same thing as with birds, if she's fit and up for it, I just go with it.
 
It was like that with the iFi stuff. I got the iDac not because I think it's the bees knees (the iCan is though) or better than all else. But it was more than good enough, it fit with the rest and I could manage it. 
 
I know there is always something bigger, better, faster or a bit of fluff that's prettier, smarter, sexier etc., that I may or may not get off with.
 
No harm is working on one bit whilst checking out the next bit of fluff'. Life is too short and at these prices, the bank manager is hardly gonna slap you down.
 
Cheerio Rich 
post #30 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by bedlam inside View Post

I got the iDac not because I think it's the bees knees (the iCan is though) or better than all else. But it was more than good enough, it fit with the rest and I could manage it. 

 

Quite enjoying the thread. Doing the research is part of the fun, but once you reach a certain saturation with the obsession, it's time to buy and enjoy and probably move on to the next thing. It's hardly raiding the war chest here, and any of the options are clearly price/performance winners. And achieving perfection for under a grand is a fool's errand. But $300 is $300. And part of the satisfaction even at this level is knowing what you're getting and what you're not and choosing accordingly. And part of what's intriguing here is the scant information available on iFi, but what's out there is quite tantalizing. I daresay an air of exoticism next to the much more talked about DF and Modi/Magni.

 

The ultimate indulgence would be to buy all three (Dragonfly, iDAC, Modi/Magni) and let them fight it out. Then sell the "losers" and write off the transaction cost as the price of the indulgence, or try to turn the whole affair around within the money-back-return grace period. If only I had the time. In the meantime, I spend it parsing out reviews and forum posts. 

 

Speaking of which, there is this informative interview with iFi's Thorsten Loesch. Definitely an analog ("analogue") aficionado. This, along with Rich's testimonial, continues to pique my interest in the 3D functionality. No DSP, only "psychoacoustic processing," whatever that is. 

 

From the article:

More crucially perhaps, we add psychoacoustic processing for the bass and the impression of sound-staging, to make sure recordings made for speakers don’t drive you insane via headphones. While they may look insignificant, the little switches marked “X-Bass” and “3D sound” represent secret weapons in the iCan’s arsenal.

 

 

Earlier in the piece, he says, "One may even include psycho-acoustic and dynamic processing with a 'light touch' so it only cuts in at the extremes of volume and get a 'mo bigga sound for much less moolah in smallah box.'" So it remains a bit of a mystery just what's going on in the iCAN, but it would seem judiciously implemented. 

 

Speaking of mincing words, I jotted down a side-by-side comparison of DF and iDAC reviews on Audiostream. The DF is "lighter, leaner," strong in "resolution, pace, micro detail" but not so much with "texture, tone, ease" and scorchingly high volume. Whilst the iDAC is "big, fat, rich" and "midrange rich," but not otherwise a champion of detail retrieval and bass impact. The resolution vs. tone theme seems to crop up in all the DAC reviews on the site, so at least there's some consistency there, and these two DACs land on opposing ends of that spectrum, presenting a discrete choice of sorts. The verdict there is to choose your trade-off preference rather than to declare a universally superior DAC for less than $500. Following that advice, short of actually listening to the damn things, the iDAC description sounds more appealing. And of course there's the matching iUSBPower and iCAN to look forward to. 


Edited by Aerocraft67 - 1/22/13 at 6:29am
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