iFi audio iDSD Diablo


100+ Head-Fier
iFi iDSD Diablo: devilish charm
Pros: SOUND, design, functionality, super kit.
Cons: No (if you leave the price out of brackets)
Hi friends!
The New Year holidays have flown by, but I want to share with you my review, I posted on my site in April 2021. Moreover, my admiration for using this audio device has only grown stronger.
I will have to shorten my review a little when translating from Russian into English, but I hope that I will be able to convey all the main information and my emotions to you in this form.

So, see the scarlet glow flooding the sky, listen to the menacing thunder - the iFi iDSD Diablo appears on the scene!


Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa / audio-ph.ru)

DAC chips: 2 x Texas Instruments Burr-Brown DSD1793 (Bit-Perfect Burr Brown DSD, DXD, PCM)
Digital Inputs USB 3.0 type A (USB 2.0 compatible)
SPDIF 3.5mm Coaxial or Optical
Formats supported DSD512 / 256 /128 /64
Octa/Quad/Double/Single Speed DSD
DXD Double or Single Speed 768/705.6/384/352.8kHz
PCM 768/705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/ 96/88.2/48/44.1kHz
Frequency Response 10Hz – 80kHz +/- 3db
SNR Balanced -120db / SE -114db
Dynamic Range Balanced – 120db / SE 114db
THD + N Balanced 0.002% / Se 0.001%
Headphone Max Output Balanced 19.2V 4,980mW @32 ohms / 12.6 V 611mW @ 600 ohms
SE 8.8V 2,417mW @ 32 ohms / 9.6V 153mW @600 ohms
Fixed Audio Output 4.4 Balanced
Power Consumption Turbo 12w / Normal 5w / Eco 2w
Charging via USB type C BC V1.2 up to 1900mA
Ipower 12v adapter included
Battery Lithium Polymer 4800mAH
Dimensions 166x72x25mm / 6.5”x2.8”x1.0”
Weight 330g / 0.73lbs


Appearance and kit

The device comes in a presentable white box, the upper part of which is a printing wrapper. On its front side is our stunning scarlet "devil", above it is the logo of the "iFi" brand, below the model name with a sticker reporting full support for the progressive MQA format, as well as a detailed list of device features: USB DAC Headamp, Octa-speed DSD512 / PCM 32bit/768kHz, MQ/Fully balanced 4.4mm output. If this is not enough for someone, then a complete list of characteristics can be found on the back of the package. Everything, as always, with iFi is stylish, strict, concise and neat.


With lust, we open the box and take out the iDSD Diablo from it, and with it all the necessary accessories: iFi iPower power adapter with an adapter to USB type-C, a blue 3.0 type-A male/female cable for connecting the device to a PC, a short connecting cable type-A / type-C, interconnect cable for balanced iFi 4.4mm / XLR connection to an active speaker system or amplifier with appropriate connectors, 6.3 / 3.5mm adapters and 3.5mm optical. And all this goodness lies in an excellent branded iFi iTraveller bag for carrying the device (it costs $49 separately).



It turns out that the set is five-star, "All inclusive", you don't even know what else to want. There is everything and even more! But let's not dwell on this for a long time, but go directly to the acquaintance with our ward.

Oh, how hard it is to resist the pleasure of describing our "audio devil", because the level of delight that it causes is really comparable to the emotions of getting to know the legendary Lamborghini Diablo. What is this if not a sports car in portable audio?! The seamless case of red color with rounded side edges, as well as the front and rear panels, is made of metal. The build quality does not cause the slightest criticism: everything is fitted tightly, without gaps and backlashes. The device is 166mm long, 72mm wide, 25mm high and weighs 330 grams.



On the front panel of the iDSD Diablo there are 6.3 mm (SE) and balanced (Pentacon) 4.4 mm headphone outputs, a three-position “gain” switch (Ecco / Normal / Turbo), an indicator that signals us on or off device, as well as the sampling rate of the playback format is displayed here in different colors:
Yellow: PCM44/48/88/96kHz
Cyan: PCM176/192/352kHz
White: PCM768kHz
Magenta: DSD64/DSD128/OFS
Red: DSD256/DSD512
Green: MQA
Blue: MQA Studio


The volume control completes the whole thing with an extremely smooth ride, which, in combination, is also an on / off toggle switch for the device.

On the rear panel we find an S / PDIF input (combined coaxial / optical), a balanced (4.4 mm) line output, an input for a USB type-C charger and a digital USB input for connecting the device to a PC or smartphone (Android requires an OTG adapter /for iOS Lightning Audio).

On the underside of the device, in the corners, there are four round silicone feet.


When connecting the device to a computer, it is recommended to go to the manufacturer's website and install the appropriate USB audio (ASIO) driver. The driver downloads and installs quickly. After installing the driver, an icon with the iFi brand logo appears in the tray and the system automatically finds the iDSD Diablo. If you, like me, use the foobar 2000 software player, go to preference / output and select the device we need from the list.

My scenario for using the device is as follows: xDuoo x10t II digital transport via S/PDIF (optical, coaxial), Huawei p20 pro smartphone (USB) using the UAPP or Hiby Music software player (when additional volume adjustment is needed), PC via USB with foobar2000 player (Asio iFi driver). In all cases listed, there were no problems. Everything is fast and clear.
Well, now there is also a wonderful opportunity to output an analog signal through a balanced connection to active studio monitors or an amplifier using the supplied 4.4 mm/XLR cable. Predecessors, in the face of micro iDSD, iDSD BL and Signature, for their part, offer a standard line output in the form of a 2-RCA connection. But, perhaps, for most users, this method will be even more convenient.


The heart of the iDSD Diablo is Burr-Brown's "True Native" DAC chip, which the company uses extensively in its devices. Two DSD1793 chips are installed here in a special "interleaved" configuration - this allows the use of four pairs of differential signals (two pairs per channel), which reduces the noise floor, improves channel separation and increases the DAC's ability to accurately, accurately and dynamically transmit the audio material being listened to.

In general, there are a lot of interesting technical innovations in the device, if you wish, you can read about them on the manufacturer's website, and it's time for us to move on to the main part of our review, to the innermost essence of this red dac/amp - its incomparable sound!

Sound Impressions

Before listening, the device was burn-in for approximately 100 hours.

The following IEMs/Headphones were used for listening: Beyerdynamic DT250/250, Hifiman HE-4, Phonon SMB-02, Phonon 4400, Softears RS10 и RSV, FIR Audio M5, VxV и M4, 64 AUDIO A12t и A18, Jomo HAKA, Vision Ears VE8, EVE20 и VE4.2, InEar ProMission X & ProPhile 8.



Listening took place mainly through the 6.3/3.5 mm output, with the exception of the IEM FIR VxV model, which was connected to both the regular 6.3/3.5 mm and the balanced output.
Digital signal sources: Asus vivobook pro laptop via QED Performance USB Graphite + iPurifier 3 cable, Huawei P20 Pro smartphone + USB Audio Player PRO, xDuoo X10t II portable digital transport.

iFi iDSD Diablo perfectly coped with low-impedance sensitive in-ear headphones, high-impedance full-size models, and easily rocked the rather "tight" planar Hifiman HE-4. No noise or distortion was noticed, the gain was mainly used in the modes: Ecco/Normal.



When connecting sensitive low-resistance IEM/CIEM to the Diablo, be extremely vigilant. Even in Ecco mode, after turning on the device, keep the volume control in the zero position and add the level as carefully as possible, literally millimeter by millimeter. Most IEM/CIEM need only 2-5 millimeters of rotation, then the signal will be redundant.

And a few more recommendations. At home, when connecting the device to a PC, additionally adjust the volume with a software player. On a smartphone/tablet, use, for example, HiBy Music (it has the ability to adjust the digital signal). Also a good option is to use a proprietary iFi iEMatch adapter (sold separately). This adapter automatically expands the use of this earpiece, allowing it to be paired with the most sensitive in-ear headphones, adding two more levels of “Gain” signal adjustment to it.

Well, now, finally, we go directly to listening.



From the very first minutes of meeting Diablo demonstrates an extremely adult approach to sound production. In fact, this is the voice of a serious desktop or even a stationary audio device.

The device delivers the material accurately, massively, scrupulously, outlining every nuance of the composition being listened to, with amazing dynamics, detailing, excellent pressure and good separation of plans. Speed, attack, rise and fall of sound - everything here is at a very high level.
Every pinch, reverb, powerful and biting hit - iDSD Diablo works out as accurately and reliably as possible. The device also boasts a harmonious and proportionate study of micro and macro nuances, as well as a wide dynamic range. At the same time, the device does not "shrink", but transmits the audio material densely, richly, filling the sound images with a living, "bodily" substance.

This is a very well balanced, timbre rich, multifaceted and extremely naturalistic manner of sound delivery. Without exaggeration, this Diablo is damn good!



iFi iDSD Diablo does not embellish the audio material, but gives it the way it is: neutral, honest, wide and contrasty, allowing you to show your "voice" and open up in all its glory with almost any headphones, transmitting the sound extremely accurately and reliably. The device itself has a neutral sound with an almost linear frequency response.

There are no peaks or dips, as there is no sharpness and distortion. Everything is clear and to the point. Diablo, as a pleasant intelligent interlocutor, tells his story competently, with feeling, sensibly, with placement, with the right emotional intonation and correct gestures.

Overall, this is a clean, extremely dynamic, smooth and natural manner, delivered in a slightly warm, analog form.


Lows sound extremely accurate and powerful. If your headphones are able to "blow out" the fullness of the bottoms, then rest assured, Diablo will shock your ears with a powerful subbass response and accurate bass relief.
There is both a clear clap with a tight beat, and a powerful, agile bass. At the same time, the register is fed cleanly, smoothly, without excessive pumping and daubing. Monumental, accurate and reliable, with a well-defined impact force.
Drum rolls roll out on both sides of the listener, and the mid-bass area is delivered evenly, lively, quite correctly and reliably.

Mid frequencies are served distinctly, in detail, comfortably and unusually melodic. Musical images are drawn large, bold and tangible. The middle is plentiful and "venerable", without the slightest hint of falsity and distortion. This is a well-balanced, harmonious and at the same time emotional performance, where all the elements of the composition are presented with extraordinary accuracy, large and multifaceted, with amazing smoothness and informativeness.
String instruments, wind instruments and piano sound gracefully, unusually clean and expressive.
Every sound and audio image transmitted by the device is polished like sea pebbles. Vocal parts are transmitted unusually deep, noble and harmonious. Male and female voices are displayed in relief, dense and naturalistic. Here, every musical image is endowed with its tangible basis.

High frequencies do not excite the ear with excessive harshness, they are transmitted in a neutral manner - very accurately, in detail and legibly, with good articulation, and enviable correctness.
It is clean, smooth and comfortable. There is no excessive brightness here, but there is an excellent development of this register and a natural, extremely musical sound without sharpness and distortion.



In terms of sound, Diablo, as in the case of appearance, causes a wow effect, everything is so flawless, clear and to the point. He also has no weak points in terms of genre preferences. "Red audio-devil" can handle everything: classical music, instrumental, jazz, electronics, rock and all kinds of brutal genres.

Again, I can not resist the high syllable, because the sound of Diablo definitely deserves it. You want to dive into this musical river with clean and cool water made of harmonies and notes, splash there and then swim downstream towards the huge ocean, in which all the songs of the world pulsate!


iFi iDSD Diablo is an excellent audio device. Everything is wonderful in it: from a rich set, design, implementation of the technical part, to the main thing - sound.
It is a luxurious, complete, uncompromising device, harmonious and wonderfully balanced throughout. Such a pumped portable can be safely considered as a solution for a variety of tasks and support for various types of headphones, up to the most demanding models.

Well, about the cost of our today's hero. At the time of writing, the suggested retail price for the iFi iDSD Diablo was $999.00.
Sure, the price tag is a little sobering, but that's what high-end original sound is worth, whether we like it or not. Although, looking at the pricing of audio devices from other brands, such a price seems to be quite low.
In general, if you have the opportunity to fork out for a great sound, then I recommend the iFi iDSD Diablo without the slightest hesitation.

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Nice review... you did great.... as much as I like the output on single ended the 4.4 balanced output is where the magic is for my headphones... the Diablo is amazing for its size... and has plenty of power... even drives my Hifiman He6se V2 quite well...


Headphoneus Supremus
iDSD Signature vs iDSD Diablo
Pros: Transportable
Sound quality over Black Label
Cons: Separate Power and Data lines, personal preference.
Head to Head
Hi Guys,

Today we are having a look at not one, but two interesting pieces of gear. The iFi iDSD Signature, and the iDSD Diablo. The Signature is essentially a refined version of one of my favourite bits of gear, the previous iDSD Black Label. The iDSD Diablo is an all new model, aimed at being their best transportable iDSD product yet! How did they fare? Lets find out. (From here on out, I will refer to the iDSD Signature as the “Sig” and the iDSD Diablo as the “Diablo.”)

The iDSD Black Label was my favourite piece of transportable source equipment I had owned or used. It was fairly affordable, packed with features, and powerful. The Sig. has improved upon the BL in all areas in my opinion. The layout makes more sense and is less “fiddly” than the BL, it has a tiny bit more power, and features iFi’s “S Balanced” circuitry. This circuitry is said to deliver the benefits of balanced connections, to those with single ended topology. Now, I’m not on board with balanced being better ALL the time, I think a good single ended piece of gear will beat a poor balanced piece of gear, and vice versa. However, in this instance, the Sig does sound slightly more refined than the previous BL. New on both the Sig and Diablo is the 4.4mm Pentaconn output, which is a welcome feature as more and more manufacturers are using this standard nowadays.

Front View
The Sig features many of the things that the BL did. It has the XBASS feature, and the 3D crossfeed feature. It feature iFi’s IEMatch, as well as low, medium, and high gain settings. This, combined with the 100mw more power with 4100mw at 16ohms, means that the Sig can drive most headphones very well. From hard to drive planer magnetics, to very sensitive IEMs, the Sig has you covered. In addition to the 1/4” and 4.4mm outputs on the front, the Sig also has RCA outputs on the rear, as well as a 3.5mm combo SPDIF/Optical input for those who would rather not use USB as their data connection. One thing that has changed, and it is the only thing I actively prefer on the BL, is the separation of the Data and Power inputs. On the BL, it was very simple, one USB input dealt with both Data and Power, with the option to use the SPDIF input for data if you would prefer. On both the Sig and Diablo, the Data and Power inputs have been separated. Now, this does bring sonic benefits in terms of there being less noise from the power being picked up by the data line, and ending up in whatever you are listening to. However, if you want to use the Sig or Diablo off of mains power, and not their battery, you now need to make sure they are plugged into something like iFi’s 5v iPOWER adapter, or run two usb cables from your computer. This isn’t the end of the world by any means, but I found it a bit frustrating at times, and not as user friendly as the BL. Perhaps it would have been wise to separate the power and data inputs on the Diablo, as it is shooting for “ultimate” sound quality, but leave it as it was on the Sig, as that is a more “all round” type of device.

In terms of sonic performance, I found the Sig to be very similar to its predecessor, with slight refinements. In terms of tonal balance, it is mostly the same, neutral verging on slightly warm. Decent detail retrieval, both macro and micro, across the board. This may have been placebo, but I did find it to sound slightly more dynamic sounding than the BL, and perhaps that has something to do with the implementation of the new S Balanced circuitry. I am fully willing to admit that may just be in my mind however, as the differences were not huge. From sensitive IEMs to my Susvara and Abyss, the Sig fared well as a transportable option. Being able to run such a wide variety of headphones from such a small, easy to use package is tremendously attractive. The XBASS, and 3D implementations again reminded me of the BL, but the 3D feature did seem to be a bit more cohesive and well tuned sounding. As was my experience with the BL, these are not for everyone, and although I do find that I use the XBASS quite a lot, the 3D feature does see less use. A bit of fun with some types of music however, to be sure.

iDSD Signature
All in all, the Sig is a slight refinement both in terms of layout/features and sound quality over the previous BL model.

No more buttons on the bottom.
Now, on to the Diablo. The Diablo is an all new approach to the transportable iDSD form factor. It is a stripped down, fully balanced, more powerful, “track version” vs the “road car” that is the Signature. The Diablo has no XBass or 3D Feature, it has no IEMatch feature. You do get the same low, medium, and high gain modes that you see on the Sig, but that is about it in terms of similarities.

The Diablo comes out the box with a few great accessories. It has a nice tote bag, a 5v iPOWER adapter, and an iPURIFIER3. The iPURIFIER3 is one of iFi’s little USB noise cleaners, and it works well. At the MSRP of the Diablo, $899USD, this is a welcome addition. It also comes with a 4.4mm to dual 3pin XLR cable, which can be use with the 4.4mm output on the rear of the device, to use the Diablo as a DAC only, into whichever amplifier you choose.

Same Size, different sound.
So, it has less features, but costs over $200USD more than the Sig, you may be asking? Yes. That is it exactly. iFi was clear that the Diablo is meant to be a stripped down, all out performance piece of gear. The best they can currently manage in the small transportable iDSD form factor. By ridding it of the small features the Sig contains, they were able to add on more ultimate performance. Listening to the Diablo, I think they managed.

The Diablo sound more similar to the Neo iDSD which I reviewed, than the BL. Less warm, more detailed, more dynamic. All across the board, it takes the base performance of the Sig and improves it. It is a much more neutral sounding device, and worked well with all three of my main headphones (Susvara, AB1266TC, and Verite.) Due to the fully balanced circuitry vs. The S Balanced of the Sig, the Diablo is able to manage 5000mw into 16ohms peak power, 900mw more than the Sig. This is helpful when you are working with the AB1266TC and especially the Hifiman Susvara (or HE6.) There is no question in my mind, that if you have a particularly hard to drive pair of headphones, and want a transportable option to drive them, the iDSD Diablo is the current standard to beat. There are other options, but none of them present the power, feature set, sound quality, and ease of use that the Diablo does.

This leaves me with a dilemma however. The Diablo is the better sounding of the two devices, yes. Absolutely, there is no question about that in my mind. BUT……if you are driving IEMs primarily, the IEmatch and feature set of the Sig makes it a much more convincing argument to me. If you are driving hard to drive headphones primarily, then I would suggest taking a look at proper desktop size devices, which at the MSRP of the Diablo can be found in forms which will drive those hard to drive headphones in a much more convincing manner.

Diablo Rear
Signature Rear
So. Who is the iDSD Diablo for then? I think if you are a headphone user, don’t really use IEMs at all, and could care less about the XBass and 3D features, then the Diablo is worth looking at. Apart from that however, I have to recommend the iDSD Signature. It is a more complete package, and cheaper to boot. Most people who are looking for a transportable option, will want it for a wide array of uses. Not just to drive one or two pairs of headphones in particular, whilst at home. Thus, the Diablos use case is much more limited. It does provide the sound quality that is better, there is no doubt about that. It outperforms the Signature in every area of “sound quality”, in my opinion.

The Signature is a welcome refinement of the already great piece of equipment that iDSD Black Label was. It has taken everything, made it more streamlined, and added slight sonic refinements whilst doing it. The Diablo is an interesting top of the line transportable piece of equipment, that if it fits your use case, is unbeaten in my opinion currently. I do however recommend that you really think about the headphones, and IEMs you own, think about how you will use the iDSD of your choice, and try to purchase the one which better fits how you will use it. For me, if I had to choose, I would choose the iDSD Signature. This is due to the fact that I would mostly use my headphones with full on desktop gear, and any transportable option I own, would also be used with IEMs. Thus, the Signature much better fits my needs and uses. However, make no mistake about it, if I wanted a transportable option for my Susvara or Abyss, the Diablo would be the option I would choose, not only against the Signature, but against anything else on the market.
How would you say it compares with desktop headphone amplifiers, above or below that price range?
Depends. Doesn't compete with some of the higher priced amp only models.

Competes with some of its similarly priced desktop combo unit competition.

Is a no brainer if you need a transportable form factor.
what is your thoughts of the Signature with 7.4c GTO filter installed vs the Diablo SQ wise, if we dont look at the power spec, just the sound at the same volume level. Is the Diablo superior in all areas vs the Micro Signature? ( Used with planar headphones)

Diablo gott more exact bass vs signature. Is it som much better, so you do not miss the XBass then?


100+ Head-Fier
Diabolically good
Pros: Sturdy built with supercar-like design

Possibly the most powerful portable device: 5 W output at 32 Ω!

Balanced output through 4.4 mm jack

Incredible amount of accessories
Cons: Requires separate USB-C cable for charging

Loses all the extra features of predecessors

Charge indicator is impractical

Should have included an IEMatch feature
iFi iDSD Diablo review.JPG

When I was a child, back in the glorious Nineties, I remember I had a model car of what was among the fastest cars back then: the Lamborghini Diablo. It was fantastic and its design and colour really gave the impression of speed and power. Being around 3 years old, I obviously destroyed it and I still regret that. Now, I don't know if the Italian supercar is the inspiration behind the iFi iDSD Diablo, but surely the impression of unrestrained power it gives is the same as the car - and for all the good reasons.

This review was originally posted on Soundphile Review.

Disclaimer: thank you to iFi for sending out this unit on loan. The iDSD Diablo is a hell of a lot expensive (yes, I'm going to make jokes for the whole review), retailing at £999. Additional info on the official website.

Accessories & Packaging​

iFi iDSD Diablo review 2.JPG

The iFi iDSD Diablo comes in a very different package from that of the other micro iDSD devices: it's much larger and more akin to the Neo iDSD. That's because the amount of accessories has increased exponentially and includes:

  • an iTraveller carrying case
  • an iPurifier3 (which is, unfortunately, limited to just the first batch)
  • a 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm jack adapter
  • a USB-A male to USB-A female cable
  • a USB-B male to USB-B female cable (useful if you want to use the iPurifier)
  • a short USB-A male to USB-C male (to charge the
  • a short USB-C male to USB-A male (basically an OTG cable)
  • an optical to mini-optical adapter
  • an RCA to RCA cable
  • a 4.4 mm to double XLR cable
  • an iPower power adapter
  • a barrel connector to USB-C connector (to use the iPower)
The list is quite long and shows the sheer quantity of stuff iFi has put into this box. It's quite a complete set and I can't think of anything I would add to it.

Design & Build​

iFi iDSD Diablo review 3.JPG

Again, I don't know where iFi drew inspiration from, but the Diablo reminds me of a track by Rodrigo y Gabriela, Diablo Rojo. I know, that's quite an original association, isn't it? I totally don't know where I got that from.

It might be this, it might be Italian cars, it might be something else entirely - but as any fan of Warhammer 40000 knows, just the fact that the iDSD Diablo is red makes it faster, which is obviously great. On a less humorous note, the Diablo is obviously very noticeable in that it uses a very eye-catching colour for its chassis, with a black volume knob on the front. It's certainly unique in an industry dominated by serious, often sombre colours. At first I thought that, contrary to the other micro iDSD devices which use metal for their chassis, the Diablo used plastic. That's actually not the case: the iDSD Diablo's chassis is in fact made of metal just like all of its ancestors. The paint finish, though, is remarkably similar in feel to plastic (and a few hot days here in Scotland meant that it was hot enough for the metal not to feel too cold, tricking me into thinking it was plastic).

iFi iDSD Diablo review 4.JPG

The front hosts the aforementioned volume knob, a status LED which indicates the currently-played format (e.g. CD quality, MQA, hi-res, etc), a "turbo mode" switch (a gain switch, basically), a 4.4 mm port and a 6.3 mm port. The back, on the other side (sorry, I had to do this), hosts a full-size male USB-A connector, a female USB-C connector, a 4.4 mm port and a 3.5 mm port for optical SPDIF input. It's a rather complete set of features, but sadly there is no unbalanced line out, which can be a problem if you plan to use the Diablo as a DAC for an unbalanced amplifier.

iFi iDSD Diablo review 5.JPG

As with practically every single device by iFi I've ever tried, the iDSD Diablo, too, is built quite well and leaves no room for criticism regarding this area. If anything, some things have improved: the bottom of the device has in fact four rubber feet embedded in it.

The volume knob has a very good weight to it, so it is relatively hard to turn. While this might seem like a flaw, it is in fact a feature as it allows for very precise adjustments. It has a dead zone which goes from its starting position around 7 to around 10 - so in that area you can expect to have large volume imbalances between channels. This, together with other things, contributes to making the iDSD Diablo difficult to use with low-impedance, sensitive headphones and earphones.

Features & Specs​

iFi iDSD Diablo review 6.JPG

The Diablo is not a replacement for the other devices in the micro iDSD line-up: in fact it offers quite fewer options in terms of output power, filters and so on, only allowing you to select gain (you can choose between Eco, Normal and Turbo). This is in stark contrast to the micro iDSD Black Label, which offered almost any option under the Sun. It's as if iFi decided to take its previous offerings and extract their essence: lots of power and little compromise in terms of how the audio signal is treated. That's a philosophical approach that leads to some compromises, though, so this needs to be thought of carefully.

Unfortunately the volume of the line output is fixed and can't be controlled using the knob.

iFi micro iDSD Diablo

InputUSB (up to 32 bit / 768 kHz PCM/DXDx2, up to DSD512, MQA)
Bluetooth (up to 24 bit / 96 kHz)
Suitable headphones impedance32 - 600 Ω (at least)
Output impedanceN/A
Maximum output powerSingle-ended:
  • 2,417 mW (32 Ω)
  • 153 mW (600 Ω)
  • 4,980 mW (32 Ω)
  • 611 mW (600 Ω)
Frequency response10 - 80,000 Hz
THD+N (@1 kHz)< 0.002% (balanced)
< 0.001% (single-ended)
SNR> 120 dB (balanced)
> 114 dB (single-ended)

As is tradition for iFi, the iDSD Diablo uses a Burr-Brown DAC. The company mentions "[t]he Burr-Brown True Native® chipset" in its material, so I'm taking a guess and say there is a single DAC chip in this device, leading to it not being a "true" balanced design.

iFi iDSD Diablo review 7.JPG

On the other hand, the amount of power the iDSD Diablo gives you is astonishing and well into the territory of large desktop amplifiers. At an output power that's just short of 5 W at 32 Ω (theoretically double the output of the micro iDSD Black Label!), this device can drive anything under the Sun save for some earspeakers (e.g. Raal Requisite SR1, AKG K10000, etc). Speaking of output power, the lack of the IEMatch switch is felt when you try to use the Diablo to drive IEMs: it's just too powerful for them, so it ends up being just too loud without using an actual IEMatch or adjusting the volume via software on the source device.

Now, there's also something to be said about the steps of the gain selector. The difference between them is quite large, so going from one to the next means that you get a very large jump in volume, more so than on other amplifiers. This, coupled with the lack of an integrated IEMatch feature, means that it might be hard to use the iDSD Diablo with lower-impedance headphones.

Battery Life​

The iFi iDSD Diablo offers a whole day of activity, which clocks in at around 10 hours using relatively easy to drive headphones and the "eco" mode. The figures will probably be lower when using more demanding headphones, but the result is still quite good.

A major annoyance, though, is the lack of any indication that the battery is running out of charge and the necessity to use a second cable to power the device. "Traditional" desktop use is not quite as convenient as with previous micro iDSD devices, as you have to connect the Diablo to a charger for desktop usage - with all the inconvenience that this entails, of course. I would consider this a desktop device that you can optionally use on a battery, a bit like the Head 'n' HiFi Objective2 amplifier.

One thing about the battery is that it is always used. Even if you plug in the device to the mains outlet, that current will be used to charge the battery which is then going to power your headphones. There is just no way to use the power adapter directly to power your headphones. While this can have a good effect on audio (battery power is, by definition, clean and devoid of noise), on the other hand this might be an issue down the road, as after a few years of use I imagine the battery is going to give up and to be in need of replacement.

This also means that the iPower provided with the device is actually useless: it should theoretically offer less noise and therefore improve the performance of a connected device, but in practice this supposed positive effect is cancelled by the fact that the power to drive your headphones comes from the battery anyway.


I tested the iFi iDSD Diablo using my notebook computer, an HP EliteBook 745 G5, and FLAC files (most ripped from CDs).

Despite removing the IEMatch feature, the iDSD Diablo is absolutely dead silent, even when using it with sensitive earphones.

Just like its predecessors, the iDSD Diablo doesn't really have a sound signature of its own that I can discern. In fact it is completely neutral to my ears, as I can hear no differences when comparing it to other DACs and amplifiers. As it offers an insane amount of power, it can drive anything I throw at it without breaking a sweat and with very good speed, too. Maybe (let's put some stress on it: maybe) there is a tad more micro-detail here compared to other devices such as, say, the nano iDSD Black Label - possibly thanks to the pitch black background.

One thing that I miss here is the various options that were there in previous models, such as XBass and 3D+, but the choice of iFi of focusing on pure performance has the side effect of removing these options.

Final Thoughts​

While thinking about what mark I should award the iFi iDSD Diablo, I thought: "you lose some, you win some". And that's exactly what has happened with the Diablo: it got some improvements over its predecessors, but at the same time it gave up some features. It's rare to see a company so hell-bent into creating a portable amplifier so powerful it beats most desktop counterparts, but here we are. And with this also come some compromises.

The iDSD Diablo has a lot of things I really like, from the incredibly powerful output to the balanced port, from the vast amount of accessories to the optical input. It also misses a few things I would have liked to see, such as an IEMatch feature to better drive sensitive earphones. All in all, though, the Diablo is incredibly competent and a great option if you want to experience the sound of very-hard-to-drive headphones with a small DAC/amp instead of large desktop devices. It's just fiendishly good at that.
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Appreciate it. Looking for something for my nightstand with a bit more oomph and refinement than my Fiio M15. I would most likely use line out on my player. Do you think this would fit the bill?
@drroman66 This would certainly have much more oomph than your M15. Whether it fits the bill for you depends on what headphones you would like to drive with it.
yeah, I've thrown everything with this device. Can power my sensitive LCD-4z, and even the power-hungry Beyer t1 (600 ohm), HEDDphones, and Abyss no problem. Does IEMs respectably too, no hissing detected.

Headphones and Coffee

Previously known as Wretched Stare
Style and power incarnate
Pros: Power to run anything with minimal effort, great looks and build quality, very low ground noise and great accessories.
Cons: No Bluetooth or module, nor IE match or XBass on this model.

The Diablo is the top flagship of iFi's DAC/Amps line-up.
Priced just a few hundred above the iFi Micro iDSD this offers a much more reference class listening experience. The box includes a plethora of accessories including a Carrying case, iFi USB Purifier with the first 1000 units only, 4.4mm pentacon to 2x XLR cable, USB male to female cable, USB-C OTG cable, the Power supply with a USB-C adapter, USB adapter,3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter and a 3.5mm optical adapter. The Diablo itself is very well made of all metal construction with that very bright red supercar paint job.

Inputs and outputs are generous as is the amount of power and quallity parts inside.
Specs are as followed:
HIGH RESOLUTION - Dual Core Burr Brown True Native chipset supports all hi-res audio formats up to PCM 32 bit / 768kHz, DSD512, and MQA (decoder)
POWERFUL AMPLIFIER - Up to 4,100 mW headphone amplifier with balanced topology and 4.4mm output. Easily switch between Turbo (4,100mW) /Normal (785 mW) /Eco (265 mW) modes
AMAZING SOUND - Ultra-Low noise, low distortion (0.00006%) OV2028 OpAmp, devil bass reproduction, and unbelievable resolution provide an unbeatable experience
PORTABLE - Rechargeable battery provides 6-12 hours of listening, or play while charging
CONNECTIONS - USB A, S/PDIF digital and optical audio inputs; 6.3mm and 4.4mm headphone outputs.

I would have liked a Bluetooth module or adapter but given this is a reference class Dac its understandable, that said a IE match mode or adapter included would have been cool too but honestly its just nit picking because the device is just a great DAC/ Amp and virtually a flawless design.


The unit came with the original release firmware, there are two other but the device was run off the stock for testing purposes. Using the device with a large variety of headphones and IEMs I noticed that most of my collection just needed normal mode including the panars. I had to borrow DT1990 to really test out the volume but alas turbo still had plenty of headroom. The Dekoni Blue sound fantastic on this as well as the Philips X2HR it makes them sound much bigger than they normally do.

Both Balanced and regular sounded amazing with the balanced being a bit more dynamic in Bass presentation. Overall the sound was neutral to balanced sound with great clarity and if there is any noise I certainly didn't find it. Bass presents with good control, power and clarity. Mids are forward yet perfectly positioned, Treble is clear and detailed with good extension. Unbalanced the Diablo has a slight warmth but is mostly clear and balanced sounding, with the 4.4mm it gets a little more brighter but the overall performance is that of a reference class device not coloring the sound adding anything or subtracting. Soundstage is open but stays close to ones head, sounding natural to the ears with good imaging.

Conclusion: This is the pinnacle of portable audio but that doesn't mean it isn't at home on the desk too. This would serve just as well as a desktop Dac/Amp as it does for portable. If your collection is IEMs this would be totally overkill but it would look good doing it for sure. The Diablo is a very well made portable with plenty of accessories and power to make even the most discerning audiophiles smile.
Sebastien Chiu
Sebastien Chiu
Thanks for the great read, glad you love it!
Thamks for your thoughts. I‘ll habe to try to find a demo.
I can confirm that iFI diablo can drive the HEDDphones very well. Outputs a decent volume even in normal mode


Reviewer at hxosplus
Devilishly good
Pros: - Absolutely reference tuning
- Natural and very engaging sound
- Super powerful
- Dead silent
- Good battery life
- Fully balanced line out
- Optical in
- Independent charging port
- Excellent build quality
- Still compact for such a powerful dac/amp
- iTraveller case is of high quality
- Good quality 4.4 to dual XLR Cable
- First batches include an iPurifier 3
Cons: - Balanced output not suitable for very sensitive earphones
- Eco gain setting is too aggressive
- An extra lower gain would be great
- Line out is fixed only
- No bluetooth
- USB cables of mediocre quality
- An iEMatch should have been included
The Diablo was kindly provided by iFi as a loaner unit for the purpose of this review.
This is my subjective and honest evaluation of it.


The brand new Diablo that was released at the beginning of 2021 is the top flagship of iFi's range of portable/transportable DAC/amps.
This is a great way to welcome the new year and a very promising start.

It retails for €999 and it is €300 more expensive than the previous flagship Micro iDSD signature.
Let's find out why.


Technical specifications

Full specifications are available here - https://ifi-audio.com/products/idsd-diablo/

The Diablo is built for purists – the true headphone enthusiasts who crave pure, unadulterated sonic performance so it sets aside sonic tailoring as well as Bluetooth connectivity to focus on pure sonic power.
The Diablo , plain and simple is designed to deliver reference level sound.
In our opinion a bluetooth connection wouldn't affect the sonic performance that much and should have been included.


Dac converter and USB receiver

iFi uses two Burr-Brown DAC chips and the new 16-core XMOS chip to process the data received via the USB and S/PDIF digital inputs.
This means the iDSD Diablo can handle up to PCM 768, DSD 512, 2xDXD.
Both PCM and DSD remain ‘bit-perfect’.
It also provides full MQA decoding that is also available over S/PDIF so you can take advantage of any MQA CDs in your collection.
This new low-latency XMOS microcontroller has greatly enhanced processing power.
Compared to the current generation of eight-core chips, this new 16-core IC delivers double the clock speed (2000MIPS) and four times the memory (512KB), as well as the latest SuperSpeed USB standard.
iFi’s in-house digital development team has programmed the XMOS firmware to optimise sound quality and ensure a perfect partnership with the Burr-Brown DAC.

Extensive jitter-eradication technologies are applied to the digital stage, including GMT (Global Master Timing) femto-precision clock and intelligent memory buffer.
This represents a total ‘out-of-the-box’ systematic digital solution that solves jitter once and for all.


Balanced, differential analogue circuit design reduces noise and cross-talk within the signal path by fully separating the left and right channels. The iDSD Diablo benefits from further refinements to the balanced, symmetrical dual-mono topologies with short, direct signal paths.
Negative feedback is used in amplifier circuits to compare the output signal with the input signal and correct errors.
But there are drawbacks and iFi turns the negatives into positives with OptimaLoop.


Headphone amplifier

While with the iFi NEO iDSD that we have previously reviewed (https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ifi-audio-neo-idsd.24765/review/25111/) the headphone amplifier was a utility feature here it is a whole different story as the Diablo amplifier is the true star of the show , a real powerhouse.

Able to drive all manner of headphones with ease, the iDSD Diablo delivers up to 5000mW of prodigious power, propulsive energy and engaging dynamics, coupled with a remarkable ability to resolve fine texture and detail.
With 3 settings, you can adjust power and gain to suit your daily driver.
Turbo – ramps up the level of drive for current-hungry headphones
Normal – for most over or on ear headphones and
Eco – dials down the power to suit high-sensitivity in-ear monitors.

Power supply

As we all know nothing is more important than clean power and iFi has implemented some serious technologies behind Diablo's power supply.

Battery power provides ultra-clean and stable DC current avoiding the issues of mains electricity – dips, spikes and noise-inducing RFI/EMI pollution.
But there are sonic downsides resulting from low output voltage and inconsistent output impedance as batteries discharge.
These issues are fully tackled by the iDSD Diablo’s design.
In order to make less efficient headphones, like planar magnetics, sing, the voltage needs to be stepped up from 3.7V to +/- 15V.
They use a step-up converter running at 1.2MHz – a frequency far beyond audibility that is easier to filter than a typical switch-mode supply, enabling high linearity and ultra-low noise.

High-bandwidth power supply circuit is dedicated to each critical part of the iDSD Diablo’s design, with independent linear regulation delivering excellent PSRR (Power Supply Rejection Ratio) performance.
The headphone amp stage eschews IC regulators in favour of Panasonic OS-CON capacitors, delivering 2320uF between them.
The DAC section benefits from an ultra-low-noise regulator with additional passive filtering, reducing high order harmonic distortion and, in turn, jitter.
Even the USB input stage benefits from dedicated regulation and multi-stage filtering, and the microprocessor control circuitry (often a local source of digital noise) has separate regulation, too.

All the components used are of top quality and from well established brands such as Panasonic , Texas Instruments , Vishay MELF and muRata.
As with many other iFi audio products they have incorporated a custom OV Series operational-amplifier.
This top-notch component contributes to the extremely low noise, low distortion (0.0001%) and wide bandwidth.


At the front of the unit, alongside a standard 6.3mm single-ended headphone socket, resides a 4.4mm Pentaconn output for headphones offering balanced connection.
At the back are two digital audio inputs: USB-A and a S/PDIF socket that accepts both electrical and optical signals, the former via a 3.5mm connector and the latter via a supplied adapter.
The USB-A input features as per usual practice of iFi , a ‘male’ connector, rather than a typical ‘female’ port for greater mechanical integrity.
A separate USB-C charging port is also provided, along with a 4.4mm (fixed only) line Pentaconn balanced output to connect to an external amp.



As the iDSD Diablo may be powered from the mains, as well as by its built-in battery they have included the super silent, noise-cancelling iPower 5V AC/DC adapter to ensure optimal sound quality.

But since there is no way to bypass the battery of the Diablo even when it is fully charged and connected to the mains we can't see any benefits here except for marketing reasons.
Anyway the extra 5V iPower supply can easily find a place somewhere else so it is a welcomed bonus.

Also included is a 4.4mm Pentaconn to twin XLR balanced interconnect cable to connect the iDSD Diablo to an amp and speakers (or a pair of active speakers) with balanced XLR inputs.


There are also included a short (15cm) USB-C to USB-A audio cable, as well as an extension cable plus a USB-C charging cable and an adapter to connect headphones with a 3.5mm jack to the 6.3mm single-ended output.

About the USB C to A cable there seems to be confusion because some batches include only a male to male one and some others include an extra OTG female to male.
Our sample was without the latter.

The balanced interconnect is of top quality but the USB cables are mediocre and not worthy of the premium price of the Diablo.
The USB extension that was included with our sample at one end was loose and twisting inside the plug.

The high quality iTraveller carrying case comes as a standard and with the first batch of Diablo's there is an extra iPurifier 3 included as a bonus.
An extra IEmatch should be welcomed and very useful.



Physical and build quality

The unit is very compact and measures 166 x 72 x 25 mm weighing 330gr , so while it is not pocket friendly it is very easily transportable.
Build quality is top notch with an all aluminum case , finished - what else - in a fiery devilish red color.
The potentiometer knob is an aluminum one and all the plugs are heavy duty.

Set up

Setting up the Diablo is an easy and straightforward procedure.
USB OTG function is natively supported and we can use the Diablo with Android devices without the need of a special application.
The Diablo will run from it's internal battery without drawing power from the host device.
For Windows PC we have to install the included drivers that offer ASIO support.
If we run out of battery we can hook it up to the extra charging port and keep listening.

We have tested the Diablo with various Android phones and tablets , a Windows PC and with Cambridge Audio CXC CD transport through the optical input without encountering any problems at all.

Our unit came with the original release firmware but in the meanwhile two other versions were released.
The 7.0c GTO Filter and the 7.0 Cookies & Cream two filters that iFi is using and for other products too.
A detailed guide about the filter differences is provided at the iFi support center.

We have performed the first listening tests with the original release filter and then we have installed the new ones.
Both sound great with differences being quite minimal and after a while we settled down to the 7.0c GTO because it fitted our individual tastes better.
After installing one of the new filters you cannot revert back to the original one but there is no reason to do so because they sound better.

We should note that while playing music of various resolutions up to 24/96 (we never use higher formats) the color of the LED that displays the sampling rate stays always in magenta color.


About power and noise floor

In order to better evaluate the Diablo we have used our best headphones such as the Meze Empyrean , the Sennheiser HD660S and 650 and the HiFiMan Ananda all balanced.
We don't own very difficult planar magnetic or very low sensitivity dynamic drivers so we didn't make use of the full power output.

With the above mentioned headphones we never reached for the normal gain - except a couple of times - and the Ecco was more than enough (balanced out).
The usable range of the potentiometer was between 8 o'clock to 3 o'clock so volume control was good but not perfect although always away from the channel imbalance region.

A few iem's were used to find out about noise floor and usability due to the excessive power of the Diablo.
We don't own ultra high sensitive iem's so we have tested with the FiiO FD5 and the Dunnu EST 112.
With these iem's we couldn't detect any audible noise and from the balanced output at Eco mode we got very loud at 10-11 o'clock.
So the balanced output is definitely usable but not optimal and for more sensitive earphones we have to use the single ended output.
That's not a big deal if you ask us but purists may complain due to the loss of the balanced signal integrity.

We do believe that iFi should have included an extra lower gain setting or the existing three ones could be differently and more proportionally arranged.
The Eco setting while usable is too aggressive for sensitive headphones and the normal setting is practically useless for most "normal" headphones.
An IEmatch should definitely have been included as a standard accessory.


Sound impressions

Most listening tests were performed with the 7.0c GTO filter which to our ears poses a more analogue like character but as we have previously noted the overall sound signature remains intact with both filters and the differences are quite minimal.
You can easily experiment and settle down with your own preference.

You don't have to listen a lot in order to determine that this is an absolute reference presentation with dead flat frequency response and the utmost fidelity to the source material.
Amplifier and DAC work together in perfect harmony and alignment to produce a sound of great precision that is ruthlessly revealing of all the good and the worse parts of the recording.
This is high fidelity at its best and rest assured that the Diablo is going to do full justice to every headphone used no matter the price or type.
It is a flagship dac/amp worthy of all the TOTL headphones of the market and it will proudly exploit all the technicalities and highlight the sonic differences between various headphones and showcase their full potential.

The presentation is muscular and full bodied with deep and very controlled bass that sits tight and can exhibit infinite amounts of layering and definition even with the most demanding material.
Driver control is perfect resulting in a fast but steady and well paced sound with an inherent sense of the rhythm and spot on timing.
Macro dynamics are explosive and can only be compared to desktop amplifiers so with the Diablo it is the first time that we were able to experience such a sense of realism from a battery powered device.


The feeling of silence is spooky with a pitch black background to help resolve even with the finest micro details that are presented in a well integrated manner.
The Diablo will reach very deep into the recording venue but it will never sound analytical.
All the available details are used in a clever manner to build up the sense of realism rather than becoming a self exposing proclamation to draw attention.

Of course as is to be expected mid and higher frequencies are perfectly linear but are rendered with some kind of harmonic warmth.
The Diablo can sound more engaging and analogue than the NEO iDSD at least the way we hear it.
Voices and mid range instruments are intense and very lifelike with an extra natural timbre.
Timbre and intensity are thankfully retained up to the higher registers that are well extended and never sound lean or harsh but on the contrary they do feel very organic and smooth though still full of energy and light.

Space allocation is one of Diablo's greatest strengths and with a suitable headphone , like for example the Meze Empyrean , the experience is just stunning.
The Diablo can easily draw an out of the head soundstage that expands in a three dimensional way to portray an immersive and holographic scene.
Depth layering is excellent as is the positioning and the Diablo can adapt from one person to the full orchestra always sounding in great proportion and full of natural reverb.

A flawless and very transparent sonic performance that is always engaging and natural sounding with an analogue like character free of digital glare that is a pleasure to listen for hours on.

Last but not least potential buyers should not overlook the balanced line output that retains all the excellent characteristics of the sound and can easily act as a high performance DAC with 2 channel speaker systems , passive or active.
(and external headphone amplifiers of course but we strongly doubt if anyone is going to need something better and more powerful than the internal amplifier)


At the end

We are not going to enter here an endless debate whether someone might need such a powerful transportable dac/amp that is stripped off wireless connection plus sound tweaking features and is not very friendly with sensitive headphones.
That's up to you to decide and the only thing we can do is to assure everyone reading this review that the Diablo is easily one of the most powerful and reference sounding transportable dac/amps out there.
If you have decided that you need a minimal but super powerful dac/amp that will deliver the ultimate sound performance then the Diablo it is.
And don't say you haven't been warned that a few minutes of listening time with the Diablo aren't enough to feel the Devil's breath.

Test playlist - http://open.qobuz.com/playlist/5669033

Copyright - Laskis Petros 2021
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“The presentation is muscular and full bodied with deep and very controlled bass that sits tight and can exhibit infinite amounts of layering and definition even with the most demanding material.”

thank you for excellent review. In your opinion how does base quantity compare to iDSD Signature or Black Label when the XBASE on them is switched on?
Thank you for your kind words but I haven't tried this products.
I didn't find anything missing from the Diablo bass performance but mind you that it is a reference type presentation without added boost or enhanced performance.
That is that you get exactly what is in the recording and your headphone is able to do and can't further amplify it.


100+ Head-Fier
Power and SQ... to go!
Pros: SQ
Build quality
Included accessories
Cons: Sensitive IEMs may need additional IEM Match
Aesthetics may not be for everyone
This review, along with all my reviews, is available in Spanish and also on Youtube, visit Acho Reviews to see it.


The iFi Audio Diablo has been loaned to me by iFi for the purpose of this review, for which I am very grateful. As always, I will be as impartial as possible giving my honest opinions of the device, however, it is always good to take into consideration that it has not cost me anything to try this device.


The iFi Audio Diablo is a very recent release from the company and is a portable DAC/Amp coming in at just under 1000€ (at the time of this review).

The price is obviously not cheap, however, the specifications and usability of this device may just make it a perfect all in one solution for many people.

This is not the first device of this style that iFi have released, their portable (or transportable) DAC/Amps are well known by the majority of those in the headphone world. I haven't really had chance to try out the other models that they offer, although I did review the iDSD Neo recently (Review - iFi Audio iDSD Neo), but I am very interested to find out if something like the Diablo would fit my needs and use cases (which are many).

But anyway, let's get on with the review!



As this is a review unit, I am not the first person to open it, however, I believe that the contents are complete and match those included with a retail model.

It arrives in a plain white box, covered with a cardboard sleeve showing an image of the product, along with some specifications and other information. The box is rather large and heavy in comparison to the unit itself, but that is due to the amount of accessories included.

Inside the box, under the top layer of foam, sits the Diablo along with a couple of quick start manuals. After opening such a large and heavy box, the small size and weight of the Diablo is a bit of a surprise.

Under the top layer, we get 2 smaller boxes and a rather nice carrying case that is large enough for the unit and it's accessories. The accessories included are:

- Carrying case

- iFi USB Purifier

- 4.4mm pentacon to 2x XLR cable

- USB male to female cable

- USB-C OTG cable

- Power supply

- Power connector to USB-C adapter

- USB adapter

- 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter

- Optic to 3.5mm optic

As you can see, there are quite a lot of accessories included, which is appreciated, all of them seemingly of good quality.


Build and aesthetics…

It's red. Very red.

Now, I am not saying that as a bad thing (or a good thing) as colour preferences are just as personal as musical tastes, but let’s just say that it won’t be easy to misplace. In fact, a simple yellow hazard sticker would probably guarantee that I would have it inspected at every airport :)

Forgetting the colour though (again, a personal preference thing), The unit seems to be very well built. The size is approximately the same size as my phone and about 3 times as thick. This is something that is not going to be comfortable in a pocket, at least while in use, so I would count it more as transportable than portable. It will fit nicely in a small bag, or even in a jacket pocket, but the carrying case included is large enough to fit all the accessories which then converts it into something that would be better in a backpack for transportation purposes, or just use the carrying case as a bag as it has the hooks to add the included strap.

The volume wheel is nice and smooth, being pleasurable to use. All in all, it is a very simple but well built unit.



The Diablo is a simple unit, however it does include more functionality than meets the eye at a simple glance.

Starting from the back panel, from left to right, we have an S/PDIF input, of the 3.5mm type, which allows you to use this with devices that are not USB.

To the right of this there is a 4.4mm balanced output. This allows the Diablo to be used with external balanced amplifiers. As noted in the accessories, iFi includes a 4.4mm to dual XLR adapter cable which is appreciated as it is not a cable that is very common in most setups.

In the center of the back panel, we have the USB-C port which is strictly for charging. iFi includes a 5v 2.4A charger, however, I am a little confused as to why the power supply terminates in a barrel connector and then a barrel to USB-C is included in the accessories. Maybe I am missing something here and this is for the PSU to be used in another way or with different equipment, but I can’t understand why it didn’t just terminate in a USB-C connector and skipped an extra adapter that could be lost. There is a small LED at the side of this connector that indicates battery level and charging etc.

Finally, to the right side of the back panel we have the USB data connection port. As is habit with iFi Audio on their portable products, this connector is a male A-Type USB connector that is recessed into the body of the unit. This means that the connector for the unit needs to be a USB Type-A female, like the ones found on USB extension cables. iFi again includes a decent USB cable with the Diablo, but finding decent alternatives in different lengths, if needed, may prove more difficult than if it were something like USB-C.

I can understand that this cable/connector setup is far more robust than USB-C, which is obviously a good thing, but the extra size of the connector and the thickness of the cable does add extra bulk and size, definitely tipping the scale from portable to transportable, in my opinion of course.

Moving around to the front of the Diablo, on the left there is a 6.35mm TRS for the unbalanced output. Due to the size and shape of the Diablo, I like the 6.35mm much more than other 3.5mm commonly found on anything in the portable category. It again adds to the robustness and an adapter to 3.5mm is probably the easiest audio connector to source in the world (iFi also includes a nice one anyway).

Moving on, we have a 4.4mm balanced headphone output. Again, it is nice to find robustness in the connectors and a 4.4mm is much better than a 2.5mm, especially as we already have a 6.35mm on the unit which means there is more than enough space for it.

In the center of the front panel we have the gain switch, or mode switch in the case of the Diablo. This is a very small 3 position toggle switch that you will find easier to switch using your nail but can be done with a finger without issue, except for when the 4.4mm port is being used, which makes it a little more difficult but still doable. It is great that the switch is not easily accessed as we will see in just a moment.

The three mode levels are ECO, Normal and Turbo, which are basically low/medium/high gain modes. ECO mode reduces power to enable the Diablo to be used with more sensitive headphones and IEMs. In Normal mode, this amplifier is already pushing as much power (or more) as most portable options, or even desktop units, and once switching to Turbo mode, well, the specs speak for themselves:

Balanced output: Over 19.2V/611 mW (@ 600 Ohm) and over 12.6V/4,980 mW (@ 32 Ohm)

Single Ended: Over 9.6V/153 mW (@ 600 Ohm) and over 8.8V/2,417 mW (@ 32 Ohm)

So in Turbo mode, with balanced out, this unit is approaching 5W at 32 Ohms! It is highly recommended to check the mode setting before turning on the Diablo!

Continuing with the front panel, there is a large LED that indicates the unit is on and also changes colour to indicate the format of the signal being received. While the LED is large, it is not overly bright which is nice when using the Diablo in low lighted areas.

Finally we have the volume knob which also serves to turn the unit on or off. The knob is nice to use and they have left enough of a gap at the bottom of the unit to make it easy to use when the Diablo is sitting on a table.

Well, after all of that, I haven’t really mentioned functionality, just the connections and controls. So, let me briefly say how all of this works…

1. Connect USB or S/PDIF cable, depending on your use case.

2. Connect headphones or IEMs

3. Check the Mode level

4. Turn on and adjust volume to taste

5. Enjoy!

The Diablo is a very simple to use device that still has all the necessary options. The only function I could see this unit missing for some is the possibility to use it as an amplifier only, being fed from a different DAC. I can understand this being very useful to some, although not for me personally.



Now, before I get to the sound, which I will in just a moment, even though the sound differences of DACs and amps are something that I dread having to explain, I want to first mention how I have been using the Diablo and finding it to be a very versatile product.

My main listening stations are at my PC at home and also at my desk at work, in which case, the Diablo is quite easy to implement. Just plug into a USB port and I have enough power and quality to run any headphones that I own (and I should imagine that enough for 90% of headphones that exist).

However, at my desk I have complete systems already and apart from taking up less real estate (which is not an issue) or any differences in sound (again, I’ll get there in a moment), it really doesn’t add any benefit.

As soon as I am away from either of those places, that is where the Diablo starts to shine. My house has RJ45 network ports distributed in various locations of all the rooms, so paired with a Raspberry Pi running RopieeeXL, I have a perfect set up to play all of my local content, easily controlled by any of my phones/tablets/pc’s. I can literally experience the same quality of reproduction and power in any room of my house in a package that is easily transported in one hand.

Another great use for the Diablo (in my case) is travel. Admittedly travel has been very limited over the past year or so but my job entails a lot of travelling and the Diablo comes in perfect for my use case. Not so much during the actual travelling itself (I don’t see me using the Diablo on a plane) but as having the same SQ available everywhere, whether it is in a hotel, on a ship or just at the beach house. The Diablo connected to a DAP or phone/tablet gives me a perfect reference set up for trying out headphones and IEMs no matter where I may be, or just for sitting back and relaxing.

There are more situations in which I can see it being a great solution but I think I gave you enough of an idea already, so, finally, on to the sound.



As I have mentioned in other reviews of DACs and amplifiers, I find describing the sound to be a very difficult thing to do, as I am never sure what I am really hearing and what my brain is adding to the equation. But anyhow, I will share my subjective opinions on the Diablo.

As is usual with iFi Audio, the Diablo is based on a Burr-Brown chip, as was the NEO iDSD I reviewed previously. With the NEO I found it to be smoother than the set ups I usually use for reference and in the case of the Diablo, I again feel that it is smoother than my other current options, although (going totally by memory) I don’t find it to be quite as obvious as with the NEO.

For the comparison tests, I currently only have one SS amplifier which is the JDS Labs Atom (which I always use for comparisons anyway) being fed from an SMSL SU-8. My other amps are currently hybrid so are not really a relevant comparison, although I did do some quick references against the CTH fed by a Modi 3, using S/PDIF.

I used my usual three headphones, the Sennheiser HD6XX, Beyerdynamic DT1990 (with foam discs) and Hifiman Ananda, along with a selection of my IEMs. However, as I have a few recent arrivals that I will be reviewing in the coming weeks, I also tried the Diablo with the Hifiman Arya, Hifiman HE1000SE and a couple of recently received IEMs such as the Moondrop Blessing 2 Dusk and the Audeze iSine LX.

Throughout the majority of my listening periods, I felt that I could hear a smoother sound from the Diablo in comparison to my SU-8 + Atom, however, it is just as detailed (or more) and was a great improvement with some headphones, whereas it wasn’t as noticeable on other sets.

With the Hifiman Ananda, which is really my favourite headphone out of those that I own, I found it to match great. I really love the Ananda for its sound stage and details (you can read my Ananda review here: Review - Hifiman Ananda) and while plugged into a hybrid it does sound nice and smooth, I like the cleanliness of a solid state with it. In the case of the Diablo, the Ananda are as clear as ever but seem to be smoother. There is no lack of detail, but it all seems to flow better, if that makes any sense.

I found I preferred the Ananda on “Normal” mode with a lower volume level on the knob than on “ECO” with the volume raised to match. This could again be just psychological, I am not saying it isn’t, but it seemed to provide better performance on “Normal”.

Plugging in the Sennheiser HD6XX, a headphone that I have a love/hate relationship with (see details here: Review - HD6XX), I was greeted with great sound. Now maybe it was one of my inspired moments with the HD6XX (you will understand if you read the review) but I feel that it is possibly the best pairing I have heard with these headphones yet, at least in my experience with SS and Hybrid amps.

With the Sennheisers I got them to around 11 o’clock on Turbo mode but that was way above my usual listening levels. My usual listening levels were just below 9 o’clock on Turbo or just above 10 o’clock on Turbo, pushing up to around 1 o’clock if I wanted to stay in ECO mode. Again, it could just be me and my brain, but I found I preferred Normal mode over ECO mode for the HD6XX, even when matching volumes.

The last of my usual three, the Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro, well, these sounded like the DT1990 Pro. These headphones really don’t exhibit much change at all, they sound just like they always do but with the possibility of reaching ear bleeding levels, especially as mine are modified to run balanced and have the foam discs to tame that 8.5k.

As far as IEMs, I tried a few but more to get a feeling for how the Diablo performs with IEMs rather than in search of sound differences. My IEM collection is mostly all budget aimed stuff and I do not feel that any of my IEMs are detailed enough to spot differences between good amplifiers (unless an amplifier has a high-impedance output, which is not the case).

Here are the volume levels that I consider to be my usual listening levels (I do not listen loud) with what are probably my most sensitive IEMs at the moment, I did not experience any background noise with any of them:

Moondrop Blessing 2 Dusk (22 Ω / 117dB) - Below 10 o’clock in ECO

Moondrop Starfield (32 Ω / 122dB) - Below 10 o’clock in ECO

Audeze iSine LX (16 Ω / 110dB) - Just over 10 o’clock in ECO

As you can see, I didn’t have much of a volume control but, as I said, I don’t listen very loudly. Anyone who listens at higher levels than me will obviously have more travel. I am told (by iFi) that for very sensitive IEMs or for low levels like I listen at, an additional iFi IEM match would be recommended. To be honest, I don’t have any complaints as, although I don’t get much travel, there is zero background noise and my listening levels are above any channel imbalance issues (found only at the very bottom of the range).



The iFi Audio Diablo is a very practical device that is a great option for many situations. For someone who takes their headphones set up to and from the office every day, this is a great sounding and extremely powerful all-in-one solution that will easily fit in a bag.

For those who travel, for pleasure or for work, this is again a great set up that will not condition the headphones you want to use. It will also be difficult to forget in a hotel room due to the colour!

With IEMs, if you don’t listen at very high levels, then I would say that an IEM Match would be a good thing to have. Although I have found it very usable as is.

The Diablo accepts almost any format you will think of throwing at it and also does the complete unfolding of MQA if that is something you use. The included accessories are also a nice option, even the USB Purifier. I personally did not find I needed to use the purifier, or rather, I did not notice a difference when not using it because my system doesn’t suffer noise via USB but it will certainly be useful for many.

I hope after all this time rambling on, there is some useful information for those interested in the Diablo but to recap briefly, it is a great (trans)portable device that should offer a great solution for anyone looking to have great SQ anywhere.


New Head-Fier
Pros: Sexy Design
Will Drive Any Headphone With Authority
Clean Sound/Remarkable Detail/Separation
Cons: Not The Best Match For Very Sensitive Headphones/IEMs

IFi's Latest Portable Dac/Amp Combo Has Unrivaled Power And Refinement At Its Price!​

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a soft spot for iFi products. Their combination of innovative design, thoughtful features, and build quality is unmatched at their price points. They always seem to give you more for your money.

The previously reviewed iFi Hip Dac was a beautiful sounding DAC with tons of nice features for $149. The iFi NEO iDSD Desktop Dac/Amp ($799), which we also reviewed, was equally good with its beautiful design and reference sound quality.


iFi's latest product, the $899 iDSD Diablo, is their new flagship portable/transportable DAC/Amp with a bright red curvy exterior reminiscent of a flashy sports car.

The sports car parallels don’t end there, with iFi describing the Diablo as “a racing car designed for uncompromising speed,” stripped of all extras and tuned to provide “pure sonic power.”

The idea is that just like a supercar stripped of inessential stuff (like an air conditioning unit) to go as fast as possible, Diablo only has what it needs to provide pristine D to A conversion and tons of clean power to power-hungry flagship headphones.

That means no niceties like XBass boost or 3D signal processing, something iFi fans have come to expect on their Dac/Amp combos. This is a direction iFi has taken on several of its higher-end products, like the Pro iDSD and the Neo iDSD. Pure signal and the best sound possible is the goal.

If that’s not enough sports car parallels, there’s also a super-powerful high-gain mode called “Turbo.”

The Diablo is for those looking to take battery-powered reference sound on the go. It’s primarily for the guy or gal who’s looking to get the best sound possible out of their power-hungry flagship cans without dragging an expensive (and heavy) desktop rig around.

The sound is actually good enough that it could replace a lot of desktop setups. That's while still being small enough to take from room to room.

Full MQA decoding is also on board, meaning you will get fully optimized hi-res sound from Tidal Masters.

iFi’s exquisite new iTraveller bag, which can carry the amp, a DAP, and many accessories, is also thrown in for free. That enormously sweetens the pot.

Disclaimer: The iDSD Diablo was sent to us in exchange for a thorough and honest review. No input was given regarding the content written.


As stated earlier, the iDSD Diablo has a nice curved metal case with a beautiful “candy apple red” paint job, and it looks rather sleek at 6.5 inches long by 1 inch high. It’s slightly smaller than iFi’s recently released micro iDSD Signature; a transportable Dac/Amp combo positioned right below the Diablo.

It has small rubber feet on the bottom so you can set it on a surface without slipping, a nice touch that also helps protects the finish.

There’s a combination analog/power knob on the front panel that has a nice feel to it, along with two headphone jacks, one ¼” single-ended, and one 4.4mm balanced. There’s also a three-position gain switch marked Turbo, Normal, or Eco, with Turbo, of course, representing the highest gain, Normal the middle level, and Eco the lowest setting.

There’s also an led that indicates audio format and frequency, with seven different colors representing the range of files it supports:

Yellow: PCM 48/44.1kHz
White: PCM 768/705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/
Cyan: DSD 128/64
Red: DSD 512/256
Green: MQA
Blue: MQA Studio
Magenta: Original Sample Rate (MQA)

Of course, a screen with the actual format and number on it would be more helpful, but I’m willing to sacrifice that in exchange for a slimmer unit. As you can see, the Diablo supports any format you choose.

On the rear, you have a Male USB3.0 Type-A input for audio data and a separate USB-C port for charging the internal battery. The Male Type-A port is nice since it will directly support some Apple Camera Adapter cables and USB OTG cables.

The USB-C port supports fast charging (about 6 hours to a full battery) using the included iFi iPower adapter. Below the port is a Battery Status LED that goes from White (full) to Green (around ½ full) to Red (Empty).

While you can leave the Diablo plugged in and run it off of wall power, it switches to battery power once it's unplugged. Approximate listening time depends on the gain and headphones used. In Eco mode, expect up to 10 hours, Normal up to 8 hours, and Turbo around 4-5 hours.

Next to the USB charging port is a balanced 4.4mm output, which sends a signal directly from the true balanced circuitry to an amp with a balanced input. The Diablo comes with a 4.4mm to Twin XLR cable in the box, a nice touch.

A single-ended line out would’ve been nice, but according to iFi, this would’ve necessitated unnecessary circuitry in a straight signal path and used up too much real estate on the rear panel. These are decisions I can live with if it means a better signal into my headphones.

Speaking of real estate on the rear panel, the Diablo also has a combination Coax/Optical 3.5mm SPDIF input next to the balanced output, which allows you to hook up CD players or Digital Audio Players. You can even send MQA from MQA-CDs into this connection if that’s your cup of tea.

However, with iFi DACs, what’s inside the case is often the real story, and that’s no different here. In the Diablo, you get a dual-core Burr-Brown DAC chipset, upgraded Zero Jitter/Femto clock system, ultra-low noise Op-Amps, OS-CON polymer capacitors, and Panasonic audio-grade film capacitors. There's also the powerful Xmos chip which allows advanced processing for things like MQA decoding.

[caption id="attachment_8338" align="alignnone" width="640"] iDSD Diablo (components)[/caption]
Again, this is all in a fully-balanced configuration instead of the quasi-balanced scheme used in some of their other products.

When it comes to accessories, you get a bunch with the iDSD Diablo, including an iFi iPower adapter made specifically for this DAC, a power adapter cable so you can plug it into the USB-C port, A USB-C to USB-A cable, a USB-C 3.0 data cable, a ¼” to 3.5mm headphone adapter, and a Toslink to mini-Toslink adapter for the digital input.

That’s quite the haul, but the best part of the accessory pack has to be the iTraveller case. Not only does it look good, but it will also carry everything that comes with this DAC and then some.

While that's an option, the case is actually designed to carry the DAC along with a source (a smartphone or DAP) and a pair of IEMs for on-the-go listening. It also has holes on the side to feed in a pair of full-size headphones and play some music while carrying the bag around.

That would be a heavy load, but you could do it. In any case, this bag is a godsend for the road warrior. It’s also sold separately if you’re interested.

Listening to the iDSD Diablo DAC/Amp Combo​

For my listening tests, I connected the iDSD Diablo to my Android test phone, a Moto G Fast (2020) with the UAPP app installed, and an HP Envy X360 laptop with the Tidal app installed.

I played MQA from both sources into my Mr. Speakers (Now Dan Clark Audio) Aeon Flow Closed Planar Headphones, and I could tell right away this DAC/Amp was something special.

First of all, the amp section's power was massive, even in the low gain “Eco” setting using the single-ended connection. On most battery-powered amps, I have to set the amp to high-gain right away even to attempt to drive these headphones, but that was not a problem with the Diablo.

A little more than a quarter-turn up to a half turn on the volume knob drove the AFC headphones to their full potential, with full robust bass and dynamics. That’s quite remarkable, considering a quarter turn is needed just to turn the unit on. On the single-ended output, you're getting 2417 mW at 32 Ohms, which is crazy for such a compact device. That's on par with Class-A desktop headamps.

iDSD Diablo Headphone Max Output:


>19.2V/611 mW (@ 600 Ohm)
>12.6V/4,980 mW (@ 32 Ohm)


>9.6V/153 mW (@ 600 Ohm)
>8.8V/2,417 mW (@ 32 Ohm)

That does cause a dilemma with sensitive IEMs and Headphones, as it will be difficult to get them to a volume level low enough to listen comfortably. I tried a pair of Kinera Freya IEMs (110 dB sensitivity), and it was too loud even on the lowest gain setting.

That said, I was astonished at how clean the power was, as the background sounded extraordinarily black for a portable unit. This made it very easy to hear the character of the recording space when present in the recording.

For example, on Duke Ellington’s “Afro-Bossa,” I was amazed at how clearly I could hear the room's reverberations in the recording.

This track also let me hear how well the DAC section did texture and layering, as it provided nice texture on the horns and percussion.

It also did a good job at separating the elements, presenting the percussion instrument dead in the center of my head stage to the rear, then surrounding it with horns to the front left and right. I loved how the iDSD Diablo could blend the various melodies while keeping the instruments in their own little bubbles.

The way it presented trailing notes throughout the time domain was nice as well; it added some realism to this dynamic recording.

On Kurt Elling’s “September In The Rain,” I got more room ambiance, with Kurt’s voice sounding very nuanced, just like l remember when I went to see him at the Chicago Jazz Festival. If I had any nitpick about the DAC section, it would be a lack of very sharp edge definition in the imaging, but that may be asking too much at this price point.

Overall, the iDSD Diablo trends towards a cooler, more neutral, reference-type sound than iFi’s lower-priced offerings, which tend to be warmer and lusher. That makes sense for an amp that’s clearly meant for headphones at the top of the food chain.

It's an approach similar to the one taken with their recently released desktop amp, the $699 NEO iDSD, which actually sounds a lot like the iDSD Diablo. The NEO has similar crispness up top, similar separation, and a similar fine texture is given to instruments and vocals.

The difference is the iDSD Diablo is the more powerful amp even though the NEO iDSD is a Desktop model. The Diablo gave the Aeon Flow Closed a more dynamic sound with greater gravitas on the bottom end.

However, with the Diablo, I heard a little edginess up top on certain songs, something I didn’t hear on the NEO iDSD.

I also compared the Diablo to my Topping A90/D90 Desktop Amp and Dac ($1350 as a set), which was better sounding overall. It was a little cleaner than the Diablo with an even blacker background, which allowed the mix elements to stand out even more than they did on the iFi combo.

The A90/D90 also had the added depth, layering, and edge definition I was missing from the Diablo, but that said, the Diablo sounded a little more open than the Topping set, making the presentation sound larger in my headphones, just a little less “in my head.”

The A90/D90 was better, but the iDSD Diablo gave me about 80% of the definition and all of the power in a much smaller package that I can take anywhere.

I know that many will be interested in how the Diablo compares to the $649 iFi Micro iDSD Signature, which has a similar form-factor and a few more convenience features like bass boost and 3D signal processing. Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to hear it yet. I've read a lot of impressions from headphone enthusiasts who have used it, and from what I understand it has the warmer more lush sound present in iFi's other Zen, Nano, and Micro products while being more powerful and more refined. That's opposed to the flatter reference sound of the iDSD Diablo.

As far as headphone matches are concerned, I, of course, liked the Aeon Flow Closed with the iDSD Diablo, but the Focal Elear and Hifiman Sundara may have been even better matched soundwise. I really like how it added some depth and openness to the Sundara, so I can see it really doing well with some higher-end Hifiman Planars.

The Wrap Up​

If you need a top-notch portable DAC/Amp combo that can drive your power-hungry flagship cans while on the go, the Diablo may be just what you need.

I can see someone who wants to have a nice rig on the desk at work or someone who likes to move their rig around the house really digging this device.

Just keep in mind that the iDSD Diablo may not be a good match with very sensitive IEMs or headphones. If that works for you, then this stellar DAC/Amp combo with its beautiful design and premium accessory package is definitely worth a listen!

This review was originally posted at hifitrends.com: http://hifitrends.com/2021/03/11/ifi-idsd-diablo-review-the-best-portable-dac-amp-combo-under-1000/
Excellent review! 611 mw at 600 ohms and nearly 5 watts of power at 32 ohms in balanced mode? This is insane power for a portable headphone amp!


Headphoneus Supremus
iFi iDSD Diablo: the power of hell packed in a pretty red brick
Pros: build quality
- generous amount of accessories
- free iPurifier3 with the first 1000 units
- quality and functional carrying case
- clean, dynamic and punchy sound
- better detail retrieval than most similar products
- enough power to drive literally any headphones
- it can drive speakers via fixed balanced output
- red colour
Cons: despite the amount of accessories still a bit pricey
- free iPurifier3 is limited to the first batch
- after a few hours of listening you might want a smoother sound
- not as natural sounding as similarly priced desktop amps
- low volume channel imbalance
- less than brilliant volume control
- unnecessary amount of power for most headphones

iFi has kindly lent me the Diablo in exchange for my honest opinion. I reviewed and owned several iFi products during the years, so hopefully this write up will give you a good picture where the Diablo stands in iFi’s product line and what sort of sound and user experience you can expect from it.

IMG_20210228_111919 (1).jpg

What is the Diablo and what it is not?

The iDSD Diablo is iFi’s best and most expensive (trans)portable DAC/amp to date, with a retail price of £899. It is not another iteration of the Micro iDSD Black Label, not an improved iDSD Signature edition. The Diablo was designed from the ground up, and unlike other portable iFi DACs with S-Balanced technology, this new DAC/amp offers a completely separate and fully balanced circuitry. At the front we find a 6.35mm(1/4 inch) and a 4.4mm balanced headphone output, at the back of the unit there is a 4.4mm fixed balanced output for speakers, along with a shared spdif/optical input.

iFi’s flagship portable DAC/amp is a real beast when it comes to maximum power output. With its five watts into 32ohms it even surpasses the already powerful four watts of the Micro BL and Signature models. At 600ohm the Diablo still outputs 611mW which is more than respectable. This is more power than the majority of desktop headphone amps. (Its single ended output does 2.5 watts and 153 mW respectively.)


How I did the testing?

I spent my first two weeks with the Diablo only using the single ended output. Then my 4.4mm balanced headphone cable arrived, so I was able to test iFi’s newest release to its full potential for another couple of weeks. I keep my portable gear pretty basic these days, so my best reference when it comes to describing what I heard is my trustworthy RME ADI-2 (£850) which is a desktop DAC/amp, but it is very popular and priced around the same. In the Diablo thread I saw quite a few requests to compare the sound of these two devices.


What is in the box? + First impressions

iFi has been known for its Swiss army knife audio products with the Micro iDSD and Pro series. These all have a generous amount of switches, filters, selectors. Many reviewers back then said: what if iFi would ditch all the bells and whistles and would come up with a product that focuses purely on sound quality without any additional extras. iFi has listened and released the Neo and now the Diablo.
It is funny to read some of the first impressions about these products saying: ‘if we only had those switches and selectors from previous iFi products’. I guess the audiophile crowd is pretty hard to please.
While I personally did miss the bass switch from the Neo (not the 3D switch), in my opinion the Diablo does not need them at all. This time iFi has nailed the sound tuning without them. (I know, the Neo iDSD was meant to be a more neutral tuning, but its single ended output simply sounded thin and rolled off to me.)


Unlike the Neo, the Diablo comes with an extremely generous amount of accessories: several cables, even a 4.4mm to double balanced XLR cable for connecting speakers, a carrying case and an iFi iPurifier 3.

Carrying case


The carrying case is good quality and its functionality is very well thought through. It is not too large, but there is plenty of room in it for everything including your mobile phone or choice of audio source. There are smart solutions to drive through your cables in a comfortable and non-disturbing manner.


iPurifier 3

The first 1000 Diablo also comes with an iPurifier 3, which normally retails for £129. This definitely increases the value and makes the Diablo a better buy. It is not quite possible to use the iPurifier while the Diablo is in the carrying case, as it sticks out in a slightly awkward way. For home use on the other hand, this little signal purifier is indeed a useful addition.


In my experience the iPurifier 3 definitely improves sound clarity with the Diablo and some other DAC/amps, while for example with my Chord Qutest which has galvanic USB isolation it made no difference.
I definitely recommend getting one of the first 1000 units, but I would think twice whether the improvements are really worth another £129 on the top of the £899 asking price once the first batch is sold out. For some customers it is going to worth the extra money, for others it won’t.


Build quality

I love when a company dares to do something different and has the courage to take some risks not pleasing everyone with a unique design choice. While they might lose few fussy customers, the marketing value of being different will definitely make up for it.
In my opinion the distinctive red colour of the Diablo was a good choice; I find it great not having to look at another boring black or grey brick.
iFi has definitely demonstrated this kind of boldness before; for example coming up with some unorthodox external design on the Zen series which I also like. The Diablo is a big red splash in the boring looking water of portable devices: I find it refreshing.

Build quality is excellent as always from iFi, and the paint finish does seem strong enough to take some beating.

Eco, Normal, Turbo modes


Most of the switches from the Micro BL and Signature are missing from the Diablo, all you get is a tiny selection knob between Eco, Normal and Turbo mode. Even Normal mode will be more than enough do drive 90% of the headphones. I have not had the chance to try IEMs, but some users in the Diablo thread reported, that the iDSD Signature might be a better choice for IEMs due to an even lower noise floor in Eco mode.
What I can say is that the Diablo already has plenty of power in Normal mode to drive some big planar headphones. To be honest I feel in most cases this is almost an unnecessary amount of power in a portable unit.

The volume control

I have one major (and basically the only real) gripe with the Diablo, and that is the volume knob. It is analogue which is great, but due to the extreme power there is hardly any room for volume adjustments. With my Audeze LCD-X in Normal mode I was only able to use it between 10 and 12 o’clock. Below 10 o’clock there is a slight channel imbalance like on the Micro BL, and above 12 o’clock it is already painfully loud. This combined with the fact that the volume knob turns extremely easily, can often lead to accidental volume adjustments which even has the potential to blow your headphone drivers or eardrums if you are not careful.


I am also not a big fan of the tactile feedback and touch of the volume pot. A stiffer and wider aluminium pot with more resistance and better control would have been a much more practical and elegant solution.

Portable vs. desktop use

The Diablo is a portable DAC/amp and for that it sounds pretty phenomenal in both single ended and balanced mode. I was unimpressed by the Neo iDSD’s performance in single ended mode for the price (£699), but I am happy to report that this is not the case with the Diablo. The Diablo in single ended mode sounds energetic, punchy, dynamic and fun. It is indeed an improvement over the Micro BL: better clarity, detail and more energy.

In my opinion you would be hard-pressed to find a better sounding portable unit for the price. The story is slightly different when it comes to desktop alternatives for the same money, but even in that ballpark the Diablo has no reason to shy away.
That said, I do not think the Diablo is an ideal choice to replace desktop systems, let me elaborate.

First of all the Diablo is a battery powered device. It can become frustrating to lose power every 7-8 hours in the middle of a film/movie or your favourite album. It is also not ideal to keep the Diablo plugged in to the main power 24/7 as this DAC/amp can only be powered through the battery which will be in constant trickle charge mode. Even though there is a wall plug included in the box, the Diablo cannot bypass its battery. Occasionally it is fine to use the device like this for a couple of days, but I would definitely avoid doing so for months.

Another reason why in my opinion the Diablo is not the best choice to replace your desktop combo is the sound tuning. It is impressive and extremely dynamic which is ideal when you are out and about but after a few hours it can get too much when you are listening in a quiet room. While I find the sound fun and impressive, after 2-3 hours of listening I had to switch to something smoother and more relaxed like my RME ADI-2. I must add that my ears are probably more sensitive than the majority of Head-Fiers.



General impressions

In my opinion the sound was definitely tuned for portable use, meaning it is a bit more coloured and more exciting than most desktop gears these days. It is a punchy sound with slightly elevated bass and increased dynamics to compensate for the potential background noise of a plane or train.

The bold, detailed and energetic sound of the Diablo will impress at first glance. Whether it is easy to live with it long term depends on usage scenario.


The Diablo’s sound is technically pretty impressive: wonderful dynamism with excellent extension. Detail retrieval is also superb, to my surprise it is pretty much on par with the RME ADI-2 when iFi’s newest creation is supported by the iPurifer3.
Instrument separation is great; clarity is excellent, even if we compare it to similarly priced desktop gears. In portable category I have not heard better and more convincing performance for the price yet.

Soundstage is a mixed bag. There is definitely a good 3D feel to it, but it is not very spacious. Even my RME ADI-2 has a bigger space with more room to breathe in the higher frequencies.
In comparison the Diablo has slightly better soundstage depth, but the stage is definitely narrower. In this relatively smaller space everything is very well placed and clear with excellent separation.

The Diablo uses two Burr-Brown chipsets and it is an excellent example of the fact that implementation matters as much if not more than the chipset itself when it comes to sound characteristics. I have never heard a Burr-Brown device this clear, detailed and punchy before (except iFi's Pro series). Other Burr-Brown DACs often lack clarity and sound very smooth and warm, but not the Diablo. The sound is still a bit on the warm side (less so in balanced mode), but there is not a hint of detail loss in the treble or unrefined bass.



To me this is the most impressive part of the Diablo. Its bass performance is pretty phenomenal; the deepest notes are easily audible with excellent separation and clarity. The bass energy and thump is very pleasing and something I really appreciate. There is a few dB elevation from neutral, but I think iFi managed to hit the sweet spot here without implementing their usual bass enhancement options. It is a tastefully emphasised, clean and energetic bass I really enjoy. This bass energy is missing from the RME ADI-2. While the RME’s bass is also clean and satisfying, it is nowhere near as punchy and dynamic as the Diablo’s regardless what bass enhancement option you try on the German king of sound tuning options.


Luckily despite the energy the bass stays where it is meant to stay and gives space to the mids as we climb higher on the frequency ladder. The mids on the Diablo are slightly forward and clean. The singers are well-separated without being overshadowed by any instrument. It is a relatively intimate stage but all instruments are equally visible; I mean clearly audible.


The high frequencies are nice and clean, just as dynamic as the rest of the sound. They never come across as harsh, but I also would not call them relaxed. It is an energetic treble performance with all its pros and cons.
What I started to feel in the mids, intensifies in the treble: we are running out of air and spaciousness in comparison to full size desktop amps or even compared to the RME ADI-2.
I start to feel not just a narrower soundstage but less space to breathe on the top: almost like hitting the ceiling of a studio versus the open space of a concert hall.
It is still nice and enjoyable, but a relatively average desktop amp or the ADI-2 represents the space of the recording in a more natural way.


More on the Diablo vs. RME ADI-2 and other DACs

Since the two devices cost about the same, in a way it makes sense to compare them, but we must keep in mind these products were designed with a different purpose in mind. The Diablo is a masterfully coloured and intense sounding portable unit while the ADI-2 is a desktop DAC/amp from a company whose focus is usually on clean and neutral sounding studio gear.

The RME without enabling any kind of EQ or DSP sounds dead neutral and kind of boring in A/B comparison. This can be good or bad, depending on what someone is looking for. Luckily the ADI-2 has endless possibilities to tune and change the sound, so it can be brought quite close to the Diablo’s level of colouration. The loudness function elevates bass and treble (this function has to be set carefully to avoid overdoing the effect), soundstage width can easily be increased, and then there is crossfeed, bass/treble knobs plus parametric EQ, filters and so on. I did and do use some of these DSPs on my ADI-2.


When I compare the Diablo with iPurifier 3 to my RME with some of my settings, there are some surprising similarities and surprising differences at the same time. The level of detail retrieval is about the same. Instrument separation is equally good, but even with the enhanced settings on the RME the Diablo simply sounds more exciting, more dynamic and punchy. I prefer the bass on the Diablo as it hits harder. The RME in comparison is smoother and more relaxing while it is equally clean and detailed. After two hours on the Diablo, going back to the RME was a relief to my relatively sensitive ears. Beside vocals and acoustic instruments; drums and percussion also have a more natural and more realistic tone and timbre on RME’s device.
The Diablo is more fun but the ADI-2 offers higher fidelity in the most traditional sense and creates a more realistic feel of the recording space.

To finish this comparison let me use a speaker analogy. Like most analogies this is also far from perfect, but might give you an idea. The RME sounds to me like smooth and relaxing large floor speakers in a lounge, while the Diablo sounds more like punchy bookshelf speakers. They both are really good in their own right but very different. (I never thought of my ADI-2 this way until A/B testing it with the Diablo.)

How about the Micro BL and Chord Hugo2?

The Diablo is a clear improvement over the Micro iDSD BL in pretty much everything. In fact, it clearly beats every other portable DAC/amps I have heard under £1000. In my opinion the Diablo is not on Chord Hugo 2 level of sound quality, which would be the next step up on this never-ending audio ladder. That said, I think the Diablo has every right to be crowned as the new king of sub £1000 portable DAC/amps or at least to hold the majority of championship belts in the category.


Thoughts on single ended vs. balanced output on the Diablo

Even though the Diablo was designed with a balanced circuitry in mind; the single ended output is no slouch either. It is nothing like the one on the Neo iDSD which I found a bit powerless and couldn’t recommend for £699. The Diablo’s single ended output has every right to exist and everything I said above is true for both outputs. In fact, the performance of these two outputs is closer than on many other SE/balanced amps.

What the balanced output adds to the picture (apart from twice as much power) is improved clarity, even more punchiness and dynamism. It is a bit like drawing a picture on a deflated balloon, and then inflating it: everything becomes tighter with enhanced clarity. When switching back from balanced to single ended, it suddenly feels warmer and sounds less intense. I think it is quite good to have these two options. The balanced output is slightly superior in a technical way, but the single ended output is almost as good and offers a nice, warmer tone vs. the brighter sound of the 4.4mm output. To me the choice merely depends on my mood.



If you like a punchy, detailed and entertaining sound and you need a portable device, the Diablo is pretty much your best bet under £1000. With the amount of accessories, especially with the iPurifier3, I feel the £899 asking price is justified on today's crazy audio market. It does not replace a well-chosen and similarly priced desktop combo for home use, but can be an excellent companion for traveling. I can easily recommend taking it with you for holidays or enjoying the freedom of movement around the house or in your garden with headphones that are usually tied to your desktop system by nature.

This little diabolos* can drive the most demanding headphones from the biggest planars to 600ohm dynamics with ease.
It can be quite fun to chill out in your garden chair with an adequately driven LCD4, Susvara or HD800S. That said I find this unparalleled amount of power in a portable unit overkill for most headphones. You also have to touch the volume knob carefully, if you want to avoid any regrets.
If you know what you are buying, I am sure this little red devil can bring a lot of enjoyment to your life and many happy customers to iFi. This much power and this level of sound quality in such a small form is indeed a great achievement.

* Diabolos is the Greek word for "devil". It has entered many languages to mean devil, such as Diabolus (Latin), Diavolo (Italian), Diablo (Spanish), Diable (French), and Diabo (Portuguese). Diabolos actually means "accuser" or "slanderer" and could also be connected to the Greek word diabolous, which means "divider".
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You write " I am also not a big fan of using a plastic volume knob on a £899 full aluminium device. "

My knob is aluminium.
@Ichos It has turned out you are actually correct. The volume pot is made of aluminium with some sort of a coating, but that is not my main point about the volume pot. It should be better controlled and less easy to turn.
I have edited out the word 'plastic' from the review.
Wow ... usually I do not read everything in such reviews (Pro/Cons + Conclusion), but your, @betula, impression matches 100% my feeling about the first listening sessions. The diablo sounds so powerful, engaging and dynamic, I am shocked how good it sounds with my HE1000V2. But after I switched back to the Gustard X16 DAC + Drop THX AAA 789 stack or the warm and smooth ifi micro iDSD BL, I saw that the Diablo is more colored than I expected before. And I agree with you that this engaing sound experience can be to much for longer sessions because you are forced to much. Maybe I will keep the iDSD BL as contrast to my stack (since it also offers a lot more features compared to the Diablo) and as a good DAC/Amp for relaxed music evenings.

At the end, all of the 3 (I am counting X16 + 789 as one device here) are really good, but just with different strenght.
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