iFi Micro iDAC2 USB DAC/HP Amp

Average User Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. Sil3nce
    4.5/5,
    "iFi Audio Micro iDAC2"
    Pros - Accessories and features for the price, Fun sounding and dynamic, Excellent mid-range presentation
    Cons - Lack of transparency, V shaped signature, Too much bass quantity at times
    *This review comes from my Portable Amp / Dac Shootout.
    Posted as a reference for users. For the full review, see: 
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/798562/portable-amp-dac-shootout-ifi-micro-idsd-vs-resonessence-concero-hp-vs-chord-mojo-vs-ifi-idac2-vs-hrt-microstreamer
     

     

     
    Manufacturer: iFi Audio

    Model: micro iDAC2

    Price: $349 at amazon.com

     
    Volume Control: Precision analogue volume control knob.

    Power Connector: USB A, USB B

    Battery Life: N/A

    Inputs: 1x USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 Compatible)

    Outputs: 1x SPDIF RCA

    1x Audio RCA

    1x 3.55mm Headphone Jack

     

    Specifications:

    Consult this page for detailed specifications. (http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/micro-idac2)

     
    Formats:

    44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/384KHz PCM

      2.8/3.1/5.6/6.2/11.2/12.4MHz DSD

      353/384KHz DXD

    DAC:

    Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown (1-DAC Chip; 2-Channel; 4-Signals)



     
    Build and Finish: Similar design to the Micro iDSD, which means quality build and the same exterior housing in metallic silver. Nothing much has changed, asides from the differences of features available on the unit.
     
    Accessories: Same packaging as the iDSD. Opening up the iDAC2, I expected to find an interesting array of included components. However, the iDAC2 was nowhere close to the iDSD in terms of included accessories. It only came with two things. One was a RCA cable found in the iDSD and the other was a translucent ice-blue USB A to USB B cable. The latter was definitely a nice gesture.  
     
    Technology and Design:
     
    The iDAC2 is now updated with the Burr-Brown DAC, found in the Micro iDSD. For whichever reason, iFi Audio decided to utilize the BB chip over the previous ESS Sabre chip found in the original iDAC.
     
    Despite the iDAC2 being priced much less than the iDSD, it still retains huge playback options of Quad DSD256, PCM 384, and DXD. The iDAC2 also has the three filters (PCM, DSD, DXD) for users to adjust.
     
    Additionally, iFi Audio has updated the iDAC2 with their new “Zero Jitter Lite” technology with dedicated power supply for the unit.
     
    According to their website:
    “AMR/iFi prides itself on the very best component quality: from Japan Elna Silmic II, TDK C0G capacitors to Vishay MELF resistors, the iDAC2 has them all.”
     
    It seems that the iDAC2 is constructed with high quality components through and through.
    Do all these technical details factor into how the iDAC 2 sounds?
    Let’s see.
     
    Sound / Comparisons:
     
    Note: All listening done with the device in “BitPerfect Filter” setting.
     
    The iDAC2 is one of iFi’s new products-- released as a successor to the original iDAC that utilized an ESS Sabre chip.
     
    Coming from the iDSD, I was not expecting anything particularly impressive from the iDAC2.
    It’s safe to say I was wrong. This just goes to show that you shouldn’t have preconceived notions, even when a manufacturer designates a product in a certain competing bracket.
     
    The iDAC2 has the same overall tonality as the iDSD, however, it takes a whole different approach in its presentation. Right off the bat, it’s not nearly as revealing or detailed as its older brother. The Micro iDSD was clearly designed to be iFi Audio’s reference unit, while the iDAC2 was designed as a fun-sounding and engaging apparatus instead.  This is actually preferable for casual listening, as I found nearly all songs came across excellent sounding without harshness or sibilance.
     
    While the iDSD is slightly more analytical and laid-back, the iDAC2 is smack-dab in your face. It retains the open and large soundstaging capabilities of the iDSD, with thumping bass and crystal clear treble. It almost seems like the iDAC2 has a slightly V-shaped signature. For the most part, this made the iDAC2 highly enjoyable with modern music and electronica. On the downside, there was slight bass smearing when listening at higher volumes. Additionally, the iDAC2 is also nowhere near the fastest for highly complex music, but this is just a small gripe.  
     
    Bass is not as tight or detailed as the iDSD or Mojo, taking a step back in terms of overall refinement. Sub-bass is more prominent than the iDSD though.
     
    Mids are relatively neutral compared to the rest of the spectrum. I would describe them as fluid and slightly liquid in its presentation. The iDAC2 does vocals effortlessly, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of micro-details and sophistication.
     
    Treble is well-extended with an immediate sense of prominence. Everything just seems to sparkle and shine with the iDAC2. Personally, I didn’t find the treble fatiguing. But at times it was a tad hot with the signature iFi treble/upper mids accentuation.  
     
    Overall, the iDAC2 is an enchantress. It’s highly musical, surprisingly with better dynamics and transients than the Micro iDSD. Every instrument and sound could be clearly distinguished in the background, with good tonality and timbre.
     
    It offers a solid improvement over the HRT Microstreamer and the Schiit Magni/Modi stack I had around for comparison purposes, while managing to sound fantastically enjoyable. For all intent and purposes, the iDAC2 is a winner in my books-- a DAC/Amp that allows you to focus on the music, rather than nitpick on the details.

     
    Overall Score: 8.4
     
        -Bass: 8
        -Mids: 8.5
        -Treble: 8
        -Transparency: 8
        -Dynamics/Transients: 9.5
        -Resolution/Details: 8
        -Soundstage/Presentation: 8.5
  2. ClieOS
    4.5/5,
    "Quantum Leap over the original iDAC"
    Pros - Native DSD decoding, transparent sound with slight richness, adequate headphone-out, Selectable filter.
    Cons - RCA should be better placed on the back.
    It has been 3 years since my original review of iFi Audio’s original micro iUSB Power, iDAC and iCAN. Fantastic when they are first released and, in my opinion, still quite relevant after all these time (*with the testimony that they still form part of my PC audio chain), the competition has however certainly stiffen up a bit. In respond to the fast pace of the current digital audio gears market, iFi Audio has decided to update the original models with newer parts, better tech, still excellent sound quality and always a big bang for the buck. The nano iUSB3.0, micro iDAC2 and iCAN SE are priced $199, $349 and $390.
     
    [​IMG]
    (nano iUSB3.0 package not show)
     
    Spec
    [​IMG]
    (Accessories not fully show)
     
    Nano iUSB3.0
    Output Voltage: 5V±0.5%
    Output Current: 2.1A
    Noise floor: 0.5uV (0.0000005V)
    USB 3.0: Ultra-speed 5.0Gbps
    Input Voltage: AC 100 – 240V, 50/60Hz (iFi iPower included)
    Power consumption: Less than 15W (includes powered USB device)
    Dimensions: 87(l) x 68(w) x 28(h) mm
    Weight: 141g (0.31 lbs)
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Micro iDAC2
    Input: USB3.0 (USB2.0 compatible)
    Output:
        SPDIF RCA (only PCM up to 192KHz)
       Audio RCA
       3.5mm Headphone
    Formats:
        44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/384KHz PCM
        2.8/3.1/5.6/6.2/11.2/12.4MHz DSD
        353/384KHz DXD
     
    DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown (1-DAC Chip; 2-Channel; 4 Signals)
     
    Filters:
    -PCM: Bit-Perfect/Minimum Phase/Standard, Digital filters selectable
    -DSD: Extreme/Extended/Standard, Analogue filters selectable
    -DXD: Bit-Perfect Processing, Fixed Analogue filter
     
    Line Section:
    Output: 2.1V (+/-0.05V) fixed
    Zout: Under 39 Ohm
    SNR: Over 114dB (A) @ 0dBFS
    THD+N:
        Under 0.0025% @ 0dBFS (100k Load)
        Under 0.025% @ 0dBFS (600R Load)
     
    Headphone Section:    
    Output:
        Over 350mW (2.40V) into 16R (<10% THD+N)
        Over 34mW (3.20V) into 300R (< 0.1% THD+N)
    Zout: Under 2 Ohm
    THD+N: Under 0.0025% (1V into 16 Ohm, 0dBFS)
    SNR: Over 114dBA (3.2V into 16 Ohm, 0dBFS)
    Power consumption: Less than 1.5W
    Dimensions: 158(l) x 68(w) x 28(h) mm
    Weight: 265g (0.58 lbs)
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Micro iCAN SE
    EQ: Two levels selectable 3D Holographic Sound and XBass
    Gain: 0dB, 12dB and 24dB user-selectable. Full discrete, Class A
    Buffer Stage: TPA6120A2
    SNR: Over 123dB (A)
    THD: Under 0.003% (400mV/150R)
    Frequency Response: 0.5Hz to 500KHz (-3dB)
    Output Impedance: Under 1 ohm
    Output Power: Over 4000mW (16Ω)
    Output Voltage: Over 10V (over 600Ω)
    Input Voltage: AC 100 – 240V, 50/60Hz
    Power Consumption: Under 5W idle, 12W max.
    Dimensions: 158(l) x 68(w) x 28(h) mm
    Weight: 216g (0.48 lbs)
     
    Accessories and Build Quality
    Design, accessories and build quality wise, the new offerings are pretty much top notch and on par with their older sibling. I have said in the past that I am not that biggest fans for iFi long and narrow Micro casing, but that has become part of iFi identity. With micro iDAC2, you will get some rubber feet, a short USB cable and RCA cable. Micro iCAN SE, there are the power adapter, short RCA cable, 6.4mm-to-3.5mm stereo adapter, a flat head screw driver for adjusting gain, 3.5mm interconnecting cable and rubber feet. With nano iUSB3.0, there are USB3.0 cable, rubber feet and power adapter. One thing to note is that the power adapter of all of current iFi has been upgraded to the iPower adapter, which offer even cleaner power than the original ULN adapter. To nit-pick, I am not too fond of the new customized 3M rubber feet that is lower than the original 3M feet, making it harder to stack the iDAC3 and iCAN SE on top of each other as the metal casing are touching each other. At the end, I end up getting some taller original 3M rubber feet so I can stack them up for a cleaner looking. Of course, whether this will bother you or not totally depends on how you like to arrange your iFi gears.
     
    Gain and Hiss
    Line-out on iDAC2 is the fairly standard 1.98Vrms, headphone-out gain is just over 5dB, or about 3.6Vrms at max. Gain on iCAN SE is however selectable at either 0dB, 12dB or 24dB. Assuming iDAC2 as source, most headphone and IEM will be more than enough with 0dB gain. Hard-to-drive full sized might benefit from the 12dB gain, where 24dB gain with just over 11Vrms output is probably reserved for really low sensitive headphones.
     
    Hiss is very well behaved on the IDAC2. With the hiss-prone Shure SE530, I didn’t notice any hiss until around 2~3 o’clock on the volume knob – which is of course impossible to actually listen on such a high volume during music playback. I think it is safe to say there is little to no chance you will notice any hiss with sensitive IEM on normal use.
     
    Hiss on iCAN SE is mostly positive. I say ‘mostly’ because as far as hiss goes, it is on par with the original iCAN where low level hiss is only noticeable with volume knob going pass 12 o’clock. But I also noticed the 15V iPower seems to be more sensitive to voltage irregularity and ground loop from the main, which could give a very faint switching noise in rare occasions. If I switched to using the 9V iPower to power the iCAN SE, the faint switching noise will go away. Not really sure if that’s due to the particular 15V iPower adapter I have as I don’t have another 15V iPower adapter to compare it to, plus I can’t replicate the situation easily. Will probably have to wait till I get another 15V iPower to double check though I think it is more likely a freak incident.
     
    Sound Quality
    As usual, we start with the look at some basic measurement. As far as RMAA goes, both iDAC2 and iCAN SE pass with flying color with flat frequency response end-to-end, and great looking numbers on crosstalk, SNR and IMD. Then again, these result are to be expected, given the original IDAC and iCAN already measure quite well. Output impedance on iDAC2 headphone-out is measured and calculated to about 1.9ohm, in line with the listed spec, and it has plenty of output power to my dummy load. iCAN SE fairs even better with just 0.9ohm output impedance and higher output power. All and all, the technical side of both iDAC2 and iCAN SE seem very solid.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Let begin with iDAC2. Besides sharing the same name with the original iDAC, there is really nothing really similar between the two. Where the original iDAC is meant to be a step beyond entry level USB DAC, the iDAC2 simply takes it to the next level. Instead of the entry level ESS chip, the iDAC2 uses the same DAC chip as better sounding iDSD series. I think it is fair to say iDAC2 is really more of a desktop version the iDSD series, where performance is in between the nano iDSD and Micro iDSD. On the DAC section, it shares many of the same features as nano iDSD like native DSD playback and filter selection (see my micro iDSD review for more detail on these features). On the analog section, it is a noticeable improvement over nano iDSD but not as robust as the flagship micro iDSD. One of the minor complaint I have with nano iDSD is that its headphone amp section is kind of the weakest link. But that is not the case on iDAC2. The bigger size and no need of portability means a better implemented analog section after than DAC stage, which no longer give me the feeling that there is a noticeable weak spot in the chain. While it is still not the best sounding amp section you will find on a DAC/amp, it is at least not a let-down in anyway and should drive most headphone quite well. I would think the word ‘content’ is what coming to my mind when using iDAC2 as a standalone unit – that I can be quite happy to use it as it is and there isn’t the need to ‘fix’ it in some way to make it better. Where with the original iDAC, I am more incline to use it with the iCAN because I know on the back of my head that I want just a bit more.
     
    [​IMG]
    micro iDAC's FR curve
     
    So how is the subjective difference between iDAC2 and iDAC? Gone is the clean, slightly sterile sound of the ESS chip and in is the more musical presentation of the Burr Brown DAC that I am quite fond of. Same can be said on the headphone amp section as well. While it is still reference flat on FR curve, the overall tonal is richer and more musical than the colder sounding iDAC’s headphone-out. The dual-mono like implementation of two MAX97220 headphone driver gives plenty of power and control. The lower in overall gain makes it a bit more IEM friendly than the iDAC. It doesn’t have the output to handle really hard-to-drive headphone but that is what iCAN SE is for. All and all, the iDAC2 is a solid upgrade over the original model. I’ll dare to even say it is almost a quantum leap in design.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Different from the radical change between iDAC and iDAC2, there are more similarities between iCAN SE and iCAN. Their basic topology shares the same DNA with TubeState Class A discrete gain stage followed by TPA6120A2 headphone buffer stage. Of course, the excellent 3D Holographic Sound (3DHS) and XBass are there as well. The main difference is that the iCAN SE, with a higher voltage supply from the 15V iPower adapter, can pump out 10 times the power (4W vs. 0.4W) over the same 16ohm load when compared to the original iCAN as well as having a higher maximum gain for the most demanding of headphone.
     
    [​IMG]
    micro iCAN SE's FR curve
     
    So does the iCAN SE sounds the same as the already great iCAN? Well, yes and no. It is easy to tell that iCAN SE inheres the same underlying tonality and transparent presentation from iCAN, but there are a few subtle improvement. First, the overall image is about 10% larger on the iCAN SE, which isn’t much but enough to paint out a larger sonic picture and result in a slight improvement over positioning. Secondly, the extra power really helps to tighten up the presentation with crispier top notes and harder hitting low notes, which gives better definition. These improvements are not night and day by any mean, but enough to be noticeable in a volume matched comparison. I guess it is rather befitting that iFi has managed to make the iCAN SE even more ‘special’ than the original iCAN.
     
    [​IMG]
    micro iCAN SE's XBass
     
    Lastly, the implementation on iCAN SE’s 3DHS and XBass seem to be identical to that of the original iCAN. 3DHS can’t be easily measured using my equipment but I did measure the XBass EQ and they are indeed the same as the original iCAN. 3DHS, on my ears, also sounds extremely similar (if not identical) too. Like they said - if it didn’t break, don’t fix it. I am glad to see iFi has kept the excellent 3DHS and XBass intact.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    [​IMG]
     
    I have said on my original iUSB Power’s review that I didn’t actually get it for the use with the original iDAC, though the end result does show improvement for the pairing. Compare to the iUSB Power for only cleaning up the USB power line, the new nano iUSB3.0 is also a fully suited up USB3.0 hub that not only clean up power line, but also clean up the USB data signal as well as supporting BC1.2 profile. It is pretty much as audiophile as USB hub can ever be. Of course, whether you will detect an improvement with or without nano iUSB3.0 depends on how good or bad your PC’s USB connection is. If it doesn’t have much problem to begin with, then you might not notice much improvement. If it does have problem, then the nano iUSB3.0 will prove to be a good fix. My main use of the nano iUSB3.0 is to connect my micro iDSD to the PC so the iDSD can get a clean BC1.2 power supply line and won’t drain its internal battery over time - and It does a fine job there. Like the original iUSB Power, the nano iUSB3.0 is at best a minor optimization to your rig after you have improved on other aspects. It will worth it if you already own a mid to higher end USB DAC, but probably not the best idea to pair it with a cheap USB DAC and expect it to do miracle.
     
    [​IMG]
    From left: micro iDAC2, nano iUSB3.0, and micro iCAN SE
     
    Summery
    Since my review for iDAC, iCAN and iUSB Power some 3 years ago, the market for desktop audiophiles gear has blossomed and then somewhat shifted more toward smartphone oriented OTG products. It is rather a delight to see iFi Audio has continued to refine its nano and micro products line-up and push the envelope of offering audio gear with exceptionally good price-performance ratio, not just a mad dash to keep releasing the latest and greatest purely to meet the bottom line.
     
    A thanks to iFi Audio for the iDAC2 and iCAN SE sample.
  3. glassmonkey
    4.0/5,
    "iDAC2: an excellent portable performer especially when paired with the iPurifier2"
    Pros - Transparent neutral/cold signature, good sound, good value, plenty of outputs, nice soundstage, USB powered so no power cable or brick to carry around
    Cons - Slight treble emphasis may be off-putting to some, timing imperfect without iPurifier2

    Acknowledgment

    The iDAC2 was provided on loan to me by iFi along with the iPurifier2. Thanks for the loan! I love reviewing. That said, the thoughts here are not for sale. They are my own. I own them.

     

    Introduction

    This is my third iFi product I’m reviewing. I own a Micro iUSB3.0 and borrowed the iPurifier2 that was used during this review.  I write this review now with the iDAC2 and the iPurifier2 sent back to iFi with thanks, postage and a small sense of loss. Yesterday, a fourth iFi product, the iFi Micro iCAN SE arrived. With similar timing, the Airist Audio Heron 5 arrived. It was almost like two duelling postmen raced to my door trying to see who could fire their parcel into my wife’s waiting arms faster. Those two amps are waiting as if to draw pistols at dawn, two sleek silver masses of amplification menacing each other in the close quarters of my living room with foam tiles and an 8-month old on the floor. My father once gave me a piece of advice: “if you frighten a big man, he will hurt you; if you frighten a little man, he will kill you.” I’ve never underestimated the little dog in the fight, and I won’t underestimate a $299 amp vs. a $1999 amp. It is with this impending duel in mind that this review will be presented as a series of duels.
     
    For roughly the last month I’ve carried the iDAC2, the iPurifier2 and my Geek Out V2 to work and listened daily, comparing performance with the Meze99 classic and IEMs at work and comparing performance with the HD600 at home. We’ll see which DACs in my possession or formerly on holiday in sunny Southampton marked this man. In some of the match-ups the iDAC2 is a decided underdog, and in others it should stand on relatively even footing. With a little further ado, to the review!
     
    One last thing before we start. I’m a biased mother-listener, and if you’re honest with yourself, so are you. After the fold I give a little impression about my bias. Read it if you are interested. Or don’t. Make an informed decision.
     
    Like most sensible people I starting falling in love with music as a child. My first portable audio device was a Sony Walkman (the cassette kind) that I got when I was 10 years old (24 years ago).  I listened with the cheap Sony on ears that came with the Walkman until I bought a Koss CD boombox and started listening to UAF College Radio and 103.9 (alternative rock at the time) in Fairbanks, Alaska. I once listened to Louie Louie for 3 days straight, and I’m not insane. My musical tastes started out with listening to what my friends liked (Dr. Dre and Green Day) and what my parents liked (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan) and I only really discovered my own musical tastes and sonic preferences in my late teens to early 20s. What I discovered is that I have very eclectic and some would say weird tastes. I could be listening to gay punk rock, Japanese dream garble pop, 8-bit chiptune, Scandinavian black metal, Latin guitar, the Mariinsky Orchestra, or Miles Davis, but I mostly listen to Classic Rock and Indie/Alternative. I’m a big fan of intelligent hip-hop like Metermaids, Kendrick Lamar and Aesop Rock, also.
     
    I tend to like headphones that are all-around performers, this generally means a balanced or neutral sound. I somehow never manage to have much money, so I don’t want to buy infinity headphones to switch between my myriad genres that I play. I can hear all the way down to 10hz and all the way up to 23Khz—these are what I’ve heard doing test tones on headphones.  It has been a long time since I had a test with an audiologist. I’m sensitive to peaky treble but do enjoy smooth extended treble. I like deep rich tight bass and impactful drums, and dislike upper midbass emphasis.  I like my vocals crisp, so stay away from Josh Tillman’s voice you nasty upper midbass hump.  I hear soundstage better than just about anything I identify in music, but my words haven’t caught up to my ears. I listen at volume levels that others consider loud (75 to 80 dB), but I just set it to where the dynamics peak. I’m not here to shatter my eardrums. I like them just how they are.
     
    I don’t believe in using EQ, not even for inexpensive headphones, especially in reviews. I won’t claim that I haven’t done it, but I generally try to avoid it.
     
    I’m a firm believer that cables can make a difference, but I don’t think they always do. When I tried out Toxic Cables line, none of them had labels and the cheapest looking one was the one I liked the best. I was excited that I wouldn’t have to spend much to improve my sound. It turned out that the cheapest looking one was the Silver/Gold top of the line cable. I’ve heard the difference that USB cables can make, from upgrading from the crappy cable that came with my Geek Out 1000 to a Supra USB, and then again when upgrading to the LH Labs Lightspeed 2G with the iUSB3.0. When I picked up a cheap shielded power lead from Mains Cables R Us (who also sell iFi gear) to replace my standard kettle lead on my amplifier, I heard more crunchy and clearer treble. I switched the leads with my wife blinded and she heard the same difference. I didn’t tell her what I heard and let her describe it herself. But cables don’t always make a difference. When I switched from my standard HD650 cable to a custom balanced cable (Custom Cans UK, very affordable), the sound stayed exactly the same when hooked up via a top tier (custom made by @dill3000) silver/gold 4-pin XLR to 6.3mm converter. Balanced mode made a difference in clarity and blackness of background. Your mileage may vary and you may not hear a difference, but I have.

     

    Form & Function

    The iDAC2 comes in iFi’s standard white box. It is sleek, with simple, informative graphic design and easy to pick up in your hand and easy to throw in a backpack. I didn’t throw it in a backpack, this is a loaner! I wrapped the iDAC2 in bubble wrap and put it in an appropriately sized box with the iPurifier2 and the Geek Out V2.  Inside the iDAC2 box, you’ll find a pair of purple RCA cables that are just long enough to string between components in your iFi stack. So if you are rocking a Micro iCAN SE, you are all set, probably for life. That iCAN SE has some extra juice, like an orchard's worth. If you want to hook up to something more than 4 inches away, you’ll need to go buy a proper set of interconnects.
     
    Here’s a list of features on the iDAC2 from their website:
    1. PCM 384Khz, Native DSD256 (quad speed)
    2. Burr-Brown chipset
    3. Pure Class A amplification (Class A Tube State), with fully discrete analogue state (does HD600 enough, but not to full potential)
    4. RCA out for outputting to a bigger, badder amplifier
    5. Coaxial digital out for hooking into a Sonos or other similar device with a DAC on board (I didn’t use this, as why waste a good DAC outputting to something that changes its character)
    6. A feast of top-end electronic innards (Elna Japan Silmic II, TDK C0G, Vishay MELF,  et al.)—this isn’t your mama’s meatloaf, unless your mama only puts the finest Kobe beef and mangalitsa pork up in that loaf.
     
    I noticed something a bit strange with regard to vibration when trying to stack the iDAC2 on top of the iUSB3.0. With headphones hooked in and no power, mechanical vibration was heard as static through the headphones. Pressing down on the iDAC2 removes the static. I tried stroking the top of the DAC from front to back along the logo plane and found that this created a humming noise. The DAC needs a surface that absorbs vibration. I didn’t have any vibration issues with the iDAC2 sitting on my office desk at home or work, but assuring that the rubber feet are stable is key to avoiding mechanical interference.
     
    Enjoy some pictures. I did. The stool is from IKEA, the camera is a Panasonic GX7 and the lighting is natural with some flash for good metre.
     
    Box faceHow the inside of an iFi box doBox booty
    I think she's smiling at meMaybe not, there she goesSee her over there with all them pretty accessories...

     
    The Testbed
    In this section I’ll let you know a little bit about the equipment that I’ve tested the iDAC2 with. I like listening to full size headphones, IEMs and my speakers in my two channel set-up in the living room. With an 8-month old baby, I have to get special dispensation for shutting myself up in the man-cave and ignoring the outside world. Luckily for me and you, my lady is mighty generous. The equipment used for this review was as follows:
    1. Wensa SPL Meter
    2. iFi Micro iUSB3.0
    3. iFi iPurifier2
    4. LH Labs Geek Out V2 (GO V2)
    5. 2 LH Labs Lightspeed 2G cables
    6. Supra USB Cable
    7. Sennheiser HD600 (panty-hose mod)
    8. Meze Audio 99 Classics Headphones
    9. Trinity Audio Atlas (orange and gold filters, Sony isolation tips)
    10. Echobox Audio Finder X1 (black filters, comply foam)
    11. 64Audio X2 (JVC Spiral Dot)

     

    Audio quality

    I ran the iDAC2 primarily with the iPurifier2, but did do a comparison using the Micro iUSB3.0 also. I love that Micro iUSB3.0 (that hyperlink is to my review, check it out if you like) but also got some listening time with my LH Labs gear (X-Infinity, GO V2, and GO 1000). The iPurifier2 and iDAC2 have been my constant companions for nearly a month. They are good company and work well together, but if I could only put my money into one, it would be the iPurifier2. In my iPurifier2 review, I used the analogy of superheroes and sidekicks. While my affection was more for the sidekick on this occasion, I still enjoyed the iDAC2.
    In general, I found that the iDAC2 sounded better with some help from the iPurifier, or the Micro iUSB3.0. On Kraftwerk – Kometenmelodie2 the iDAC2 flying solo smeared some treble detail, but with the iPurifier2 the treble was cleaned up and more detailed. When listening to Mavis Staples – If It’s A Light backing vocals are more distinct when the iPurifier2 is added. Mavis’ lead vocal has tighter definition and the bass track has more groove with the iPurifier2. On Teddy Thompson’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s brilliant Tonight Will Be Fine, vocals are on display with just a touch clearer image with a blacker background and better instrument spacing.

     

    iDAC2 vs. GO V2 (the terrific 2s)


     
    I took the iDAC2 to work in my Havit I8 box with bubble wrap protection, which happened to be just the right size to fit the iDAC2, the iPurifier2, a Lindy USB3.0 B to A adaptor, and the LH Labs Geek Out V2 (GO V2). I duelled these two DACs for the better part of a month. I hooked up both with the iPurifier2 and played the Tidal HiFi Before the Beatles playlist. On Johnny Leyton’s – Johnny Remember Me, the iDAC2 was clear, but had a touch of static, adding the iPurifier2 cleared this up. Compared to the GO V2 with the iPurifier2, the iDAC2 has less height in its soundstage, and less tight treble. The GO V2 sounds more full, with more natural guitar plucks. The guitar sounded brittle compared to the GO V2 with the iDAC2 paired with the iPurifier2. I observed a similar differences with Regina Spektor – Hotel Song; the iDAC2 sounded thinner. On Bjork – Stonemilker, the iDAC2 was brighter with slightly rougher treble. Both had roughly the same power thrown into the HD600. I’m not convinced that the GO v2 is operating at 1W of amplification, the number is probably a bit misleading.
     
    The iDAC2 and GO V2 are both varieties of neutral. Both are very good sounding DACs, the GO V2, at the same price, is excellent. I think that some folks will prefer the iDAC2, those who like a leaner slightly more treble accentuated sound. The GO V2 has a fuller sound, with a more natural timbre and a bit more precision to the sound; the iDAC2 has a bit more treble extension but doesn’t win on treble definition versus the GO V2. I preferred the GO V2 with the iPurifier2 to the iDAC2 with the iPurifier2. The little pocket-size dongle won the duel.

     

    iDAC2 vs. Pulse X-Infinity (snipers on the ridge?)


     
     
    I conducted a comparison between the iDAC2 and the Geek Pulse X-Infinity via the Micro iUSB3.0, and the iDAC2 mostly held it’s own. The signal chains were not perfectly identical, so there may be some bias in the comparison. The signal chain for the iDAC2 was HTPC to Micro iUSB3.0 via Supra USB cable, Micro iUSB3.0 to iDAC2 via LH Labs Lightspeed 2G (split power and data) USB cable, iDAC2 with the HD600. The HD600 was volume matched using white noise to 75dB for both setups. The HD600 was playing balanced off the X-Infinity and unbalanced from the iDAC2. I also did this comparison with speakers, with thei DAC2 outputting to the Cambridge Audio azur 540A via Van Den Hul MKIII interconnects, and the Cambridge Audio azur 540A to 28 year old Mordaunt Short speakers. The speaker-based comparison set-up was the same for the X-Infinity, but with different interconnects, the Atlas Element Integra. It very well may be that is a driver in the differences, because later I compared the Atlas to my Audioquest Evergreen, and the Atlas was clearer with an expanded soundstage. I’ll be picking up a second Atlas Integra for future comparisons (it deserves the What HiFi 5* rating). I’ll present the HD600 comparison first, and then the speaker comparison.
     
    When listening to Kraftwerk – Kometenmelodie2 (a good treble torture test) I found the treble a bit shrill at the beginning. This shrillness reappeared later. Instrument separation was excellent. The stage width was sleightly wider than the head, depth about the size of the head, and height extended to the top of the head. The treble remained emphasized and a bit hot.
     
    With the X-Infinity, the highs were still shrill—it’s just how Kometenmelodie2 plays—but the treble was a touch smoother, a little more restrained. Depth was greater with the X-Infinity (just sleightly out of head), width was a touch narrower (like an inch or so), and height was the same.
     
    When playing the same tune via speakers, the X-Infinity had a sound stage that lept into the room and shouted down from the ceiling. The stage thrown from the iDAC2 was 2 to 3 feet shorter and didn’t extend as far into the room in width or depth. The edges in treble expression were maintained from the HD600 comparison.
     
    With the HD600, I found the iDAC2 and X-Infinity tightly matched. Both are very capable. But I found the increased depth and slightly more pleasant treble gave the X-Infinity the edge. The iDAC2 took one in the shoulder, but walked away from the duel alive and with some honor intact. As a pre-amp, the X-Infinity set up on high ground, with a 34” barrel length, 70 caliber Sharps rifle. It only would take one shot from that sucker to fell a dang buffalo, but the X-Infinity was quick to reload. It wasn’t really a duel, it was a low down dirty assassination, but it was fun to listen to.

     

    Headphone pairings

    I played the iDAC2 with a lot of headphones. My favourite pairing was probably the 64Audio X2. The X2 has a little bit of roll off in the treble, so synergizes well with the treble lift on the iDAC2. If you tend to like treble rolled off headphones, you’ve probably got a great pairing on hand for the iDAC2. I could see the mid-centric Oppo PM-3 being a good match, from memory (I didn't have one on hand). I also enjoyed the iDAC2 with the Echobox Finder X1 IEM. The Finder X1 likes the power on hand on the iDAC2 and takes nearly as much on the volume knob as the HD600. I’ve recently discovered that, contrary to my preconceptions the HD600 will take a crap ton of power if you give it and will scale with that power. The iDAC2 and the GO V2 can’t drive the HD600 to its full potential. You can drive the HD600 to loud enough volume with lots of amps, but the sound stage and dynamics need more power. I’m getting a dose of that right this minute listening to the Airist Audio Heron 5 playing some live recorded DSD128 via the GO V2. It is absolutely stunning. When someone tells you that something is fully driving the HD600 that isn’t a mega-amp, they probably don’t know what they are talking about. On that note, people saying the Chord MoJo drives the HD600 or HD800 well don’t know what they are talking about. It isn’t a flaw of the iDAC2 that it doesn’t squeeze every ounce of capability out of the HD600, because the HD600 has consistently presented me with surprises on what it can do. Between the Chord MoJo and the iDAC2, the MoJo wins that DAC battle (though I didn't have a MoJo on hand). The MoJo is one of the most organic sounding DACs I've heard.
     
    The iDAC2 worked okay with the Meze Audio 99 Classics, but both have tendencies towards sharper treble, so it wasn’t as good a pairing as it could have been.

     

    Conclusions

    The iDAC2 didn’t win any of its duels in this review, but it came armed with a good revolver and didn’t always end up in a casket. I enjoyed listening to it. I think that it is best paired with the iPurifier2, as it provided a marked improvement in transient response, and improved clarity, soundstage width and soundstage depth.
     
    When it comes to value, there isn’t yet much distribution of the GO V2 in Europe, but you can get the iDAC2 readily. Annoyingly, the best prices are in the USA (stupid VAT) for the iDAC2. I’d appreciate it if iFi stopped selling the iDAC2 for less money in continental Europe than in the UK. The USA retail price of both the iDAC2 and GO V2 are $299, but in Europe you’ll have to deal with shipping and customs costs. I preferred the GO V2 to the iDAC2, but it isn’t a day and night difference and others will prefer the presentation of the iDAC2.
  4. ostewart
    5.0/5,
    "Natural Combo"
    Pros - Natural sound, powerful and well built and designed
    Firstly I would like to thank iFi Audio for sending me this sample to review, I always try to write honest reviews. This unit received over 30hrs of burn-in, no differences were noted.
     
    Gear Used:
    Dell XPS 15 > iDAC2 > GMP 8.35D / GMP 400 / Inearz IE-P350
    Dell XPS 15 > iPurifier2 > iDAC2 > GMP 8.35D / GMP 400 / Inearz IE-P350
    Dell XPS 15 > iPurifier2 > iDAC2 > Feliks Audio Espressivo > GMP 400 / DT880 600ohm
     
    [​IMG]
     
     
    Tech Specs:
    iFi list a very comprehensive list of specs on the product page:
    http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/micro-idac2/
    MSRP: £295 (£315 bundled with the iPurifier2 from select stores)
     
    Packaging, Build Quality and Accessories:
     
    Anyone that has had any iFi products before will be familiar with the packaging, a sleek white box with a picture of the product on the front and specifications on the back. There are some details on the side of the box too. This is all on an outer sheath, once you slide this off you are greeted with a plain white 2 part box that has iFi written in silver on it. Once you take the top half off you are greeted by the iDAC2 held neatly in a card in tray. Underneath this in tray you will find the accessories. Everything looks very neat, and appealing, along with protecting the unit well during shipping.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    The iPurifier comes in a smaller white box, which if nice and simple to open and it has information on the back of the box. Again very neat, tidy, and easy to open.
     
    Build quality is excellent as with all iFi products, it is part of the micro family and they are all the same size which means you can stack them neatly. The casing is all aluminium and has a very nice finish to it, the 3.5mm headphone socket is a little loose which was an issue with the original iDAC, it just means you have to be careful not to knock it when you have your headphones plugged in. The volume knob is very smooth, the RCA jacks are all very solid and have rubber caps on them for when not in use.
     
    [​IMG]
     
     The USB connector is gold plated and feels solid, the phase switch is also very sturdy. Overall the unit is very well built and also looks fantastic, I really like the design of the iFi products.
     
    The iPurifier is very simple in design, the colour does not match the iDAC2 and other iFi products but that is only a minor grip, as I actually really like the gun metal colour. Both connectors are solid and I have no worries about the long term durability.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Accessories included are fine, you get a USB cable, rubber feet, a pair of RCA interconnects and a manual, nothing else is needed, everything you need is included and I cannot fault the included accessories.
     
    Functionality:
    The iDAC2 is easy to set up, just download the driver from the iFi website, plug in the iDAC2 and install. You can also download a tool to update the firmware, and iFi are brilliant, there are different firmwares for people using the iDAC2 in different systems. I am running the Vanilla firmware as I have no specific requirements for the iDAC2.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    It is fully DSD compatible, but personally I mainly have 44.1khz 16bit Flac files with a handful of 192khz 24bit tracks. The LED that shows it is playing changes colour depending on the sample rate of the track playing, a neat little feature.
     
    Also all tracks are played native, no upsampling or converting is going on inside, even when playing DSD and PCM files.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    The RCA outputs run in Class A, always a nice feature quality wise.
    It also has an optical output, so you can use this as a USB to coaxial converter.
     
    Sound:
    I will write the sound as a whole rather than splitting like the usual headphone reviews.
     
    The iDAC2 has improved upon its predecessor in a few ways. Mainly you get better file support but they have also tweaked the insides and in my opinion it is audible.
     
    This time they have decided to go with a burr-brown DAC chip, in my opinion it is not so much the chip that is used, but rather the implementation that is important. The iDAC was in my opinion one of the cleanest DAC’s I’ve ever heard, but it always lacked a little something. It was a little too clinical I think, where the iDAC2 is as detailed but has a little more soul, a little more body and smoothness to the sound. I find the iDAC2 a lot less fatiguing to listen to, without missing out on any subtle details.
     
    The iDAC2 is again a very balanced and neutral DAC but this time, it is more natural sounding, I know it sounds cliché, but it is more analogue. The iDAC was a little too digital sounding.
    Using it with a nice tube amp shows its ability to retain fine detail, you get the wide and spacious, detailed sound with the added body from the tube amp. You don’t lose the finer details, that can sometimes sound a little smoothed over on less capable DAC’s.
     
    The built in headphone amp is a huge step up from the iDAC too, offering up to 350mw which is a lot better than the 150mw of the iDAC. It shows, as it is a great stand alone device being able to drive most headphones apart from power hungry home headphones (which people have dedicated amps for anyway).
     
    The iPurifier is an interesting device, built to lower the noise from USB and correct the data flow, in real life testing the difference is very subtle. But a/b’ing and I do notice a very slight difference in sound quality. It slightly reduces perceived harshness and sibilance, it makes the sound a tiny bit smoother and thus reducing listening fatigue.
     
    This DAC is very revealing and sounds best when used with FLAC files and well recorded source material. There are various filters, but I find myself just leaving it on bit-perfect as the sound differences are very subtle.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Conclusion: Well most DAC’s nowadays strive for neutrality and clarity, the original iDAC was a great piece of kit, it was incredibly detailed and very crisp. But the iDAC2 is more pleasurable to listen to due to its more natural sound. It isn’t less detailed, or a warm DAC, but everything sounds a little fuller and more natural, also smoother overall. 
     
    The iDAC sounded a little forced, and details were a little harsh, whereas the iDAC2 improves upon this. I really like the sound of this DAC, and the headphone amp is a lot better than the previous iDAC one.
     
    The iPurifier2 is a great little device too, it reduces a tiny bit of harshness, and in doing so does increase listening pleasure. A great little combo, which sounds great and has a few nifty features, excellent for at home and also on the go usage.
     
    Rating: 10/10 (for the price, I cannot find any negatives)
     
    [​IMG]
    Vartan likes this.
  5. rickyleelee
    4.5/5,
    "A very good all-new 2015 version iFi iDAC2 USB DAC/HP Amp"

    I finally got my new iDac2 with Purifier (bought it at the launch) and spent some time to play with it. 
     

     
    First, the RCA line output, 3.5mm headphone jack and analogue volume control all keep on the front in iDac2 (exactly the same to iDac1).
     

     
    On the back, the new iDac2 has two additional features, filter switch and digital output apart from USB 30 input (slightly different to iDac1). 

     

     
    In terms of dimensions and weight between new and old models, I don’t see any differences among them. 
     

    Back to basic, I really like the new iDac2 so far! I decided to play with my ‘normal gear’ at my desk listening to some sampler by Sound Liaison. The DSD stuff sounds especially good. I have been comparing it to high-res FLAC , PCM and DSD so hard. I can hear a difference, or at least my brain is telling me I can.  Good stuff iFi! In is very new and only been using it for a few weeks but it just gets better and better and has passed the iDac1 which was good already.
     
    The iPurifier which was a special deal is a really nice product. It did add to making the sound more easy, relaxed. But it was not a big difference. I asked the support iFi and they said it works better for other Dacs than iFI Dacs.
     

     
     
     
     
    iDac2 and iDac1 – the sound is smooth, very smooth. The headphones section is now very nice, not as good as iCan but much better than iDac1 which was so so.
     
    For bass people the iDac2 is a better bass producer, it goes low, low and low. Not messy, very clean and crispy.
     
    Pros
    - Special launch bundle with the iPurifier at a special bundle price (for the first 500 buyers) offer to budget customers.
    - Great new design features include filter switch (Bit-Perfect/Minimum Phase/Standard filters) and digital output on the back of the device provide multiple filter options under PCM/DSD/DXD formats and output and SPDIF signal. 
    - All-new Burr-Brown chipset keeps the integrity of the file format unchanged all the way through.
     

    Cons
    - The device doesn’t have any battery or AC/DC adapter (or iPower) but is USB powered.
    - The iDac2 may not have enough power to push high-end/decent headphones (like Sennheiser HD700 or above) so you may need micro iCan for better performance.
    - The iDac2 seems not designed for the portable/mobile devise due to insufficient power supply through these devices.
     
    Listening:
     
    Special iFi Music Sampler DSD album by Sound Liaison
     

     
    01. Carmen Gomes Inc. – Thousand Shades of Blue
    02. Andre Heuvelman – Oblivion
    ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Thousand Shades of Blue’ were performed live in the studio, recorded in multi-track PCM 96kHz. The DSD conversion was done via an analog signal chain, using state of the art professional equipment to the Tascam DA-3000 DSD recorder.
     
    03. Tony Overwater & Bert van den Brink – Impromptu
    ‘Impromptu’ was recorded live directly to DSD using the Tascam DA-3000 DSD recorder and simultaneously to PCM with the RME UFX.
     
    Associated Equipment:
     
    - iMac + iTunes
    - Sennheiser Momentum Headphones (don’t use HD700 or HD800. But then these are over USD1,000 or more h’phones with USD400 dac.)
     


    Mifi likes this.