iFi audio NEO iDSD

General Information

NEO iDSD: the new wave in digital sound

An all-new design, state-of-the-art specifications and a sound that soars – iFi’s NEO iDSD hi-res DAC/headphone amp is every music lover’s perfect housemate

Southport, England – Since its inception in 2012, iFi has been at the forefront of DAC technology for home and portable use, delivering exemplary sound with digital music sources both online and offline. This autumn sees the launch of an all-new mains powered iFi DAC/headphone amp, sporting sophisticated circuits to supply scintillating sonics with every audio format in a home environment.

The NEO iDSD is designed for maximum flexibility, with sleek aluminium casework that can be positioned horizontally or vertically, the latter via a supplied stand. An informative OLED display flips automatically to suit the preferred orientation, while a smooth-acting multifunction rotary control ensures the NEO iDSD is simple to use, despite its sophistication and versatility.


Three operational modes ensure the NEO iDSD covers all bases with aplomb. It can be used as a pure DAC with a fixed-level analogue output to connect to a separate integrated amp or preamp in an audio system. Or, it can operate as a DAC/preamp with a variable output, ideal for connecting directly to a power amp or active speakers. And, of course, headphone users can make use of its excellent amp stage to create a fabulous ‘head-fi’ system.

Whether connected to source devices via cable or high-definition Bluetooth, the NEO iDSD’s next-level digital engine and fully balanced analogue circuits deliver captivating sound – brilliant with music, multimedia content or to enhance your next-generation gaming experience.

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Makiah S

Sponsor: EarMen | HeadAmp
Member of the Trade: Bricasti Design
Formerly known as Mshenay
iFi iDSD Neo Review - Taking Computer Audio to the Next Level!
Pros: Natural Sound, 3-Pin XLR & RCA Outs, Bluetooth Support, Full Watt of Power, Clean Pre-Amp, Plug n Play TIDAL MQA Support, iPurifier3 and S/PDIF iPurifier2 accessories included
Cons: Lacks a bit of control with super inefficient headphones,
These day's there are a plethora of excellent options to help get more out of a basic Computer Audio System and for a lot of music lovers these systems are excellent! But, if your like us, then your likely curious about that next level.

For this review we wanted to take a look at the iFi Audio iDSD Neo as an excellent gateway into the next level of Computer Audio playback!

More than Just Sound Quality
While sound quality is often first and foremost what we're looking for from an upgrade or step into that "next level," features and added convince are also hallmarks of truly lasting upgrades! iDSD Neo in particular offers additional digital inputs and full size line out connections over the Zen Dac. In my own system I found these allowed me to integrate iDSD Neo with more than just my Computer, I was able to integrate it into my home theatre system using the optical input and a secondary work station via a coaxial SPDIF input. Additionally I found the full size dual 3-pin XLR jacks more accommodating to longer cable runs over the 4.4mm Pentaconn to dual 3pin XLR adapter I used with Zen DAC.

While it retains the iconic natural iFi house sound I did find iDSD Neo both more powerful and resolving than Zen Dac. This improvement in power output was particularly noticeable with the Audeze LCD-2 and the increased resolution was quite discernible with HIFIMAN HE-R10D dynamic closed-back headphone.

Additionally for this review we're going to take a look at iDSD Neo as both an All in One using it's built in 4.4mm balanced output section and as a standalone DAC when paired with our GS-X Mini balanced headphone amp hooked up using the full size dual 3pin XLR output section.

Full Setup & Track List
Playback for iDSD Neo utilized SPDIF Input via ASIO Output from FooBar2000. All files were locally hosted an sourced as either 16/44.1 Redbook CD Rips or 24/96 WEB Downloads. Zen DAC was fed USB Input via a Samsung Tab S4 running USB Audio Player Pro set to bit-perfect playing the same locally hosted files. Levels between all three output stages where matched for each comparison. Track-list is as follows:
  • Pistol Annies - Hell on Heels: #2 Lemon Drop (16/44.1 CD-Rip)
  • Avenged Seven Fold - The Stage : #17 Wish You Were Here (2016 WEB 24/96)
  • Jennifer Warnes - The Songs of Leonard Cohen : #11 Ballad of the Runaway Horse (20th ANV Gold CD-Rip 44.1/16)
ZEN Dac vs iDSD Neo with Hifiman HE-R10D

Both Zen Dac and iDSD Neo have excellent timbre and tonality from their 4.4mm balanced outputs but what I appreciated about iDSD Neo over Zen Dac was the improvements to both the size and cohesion of the sound stage. iDSD Neo brings just a touch of openness with better micro-dynamic contrast to create a more believable presentation of music within recorded space. Additionally while I am enamoured with the slightly intimate charm of Zen Dac, iDSD Neo brought a much appreciate level of slam and punch that would likely over power Zen Dac's slightly more intimate presentation.

In particular with iDSD Neo it was easier to discern the unique tone and texture of each member of the Pistol Annies and still hear the depth of the space they recorded in. What we love about the vocal trio of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley featured in Lemon Drop is there position to one another on the recording and their use of harmony. This sense of space in relation to one another was more vivid with iDSD Neo without losing the magic of their harmony!

iDSD Neo 4.4mm Out VS GS-X Mini With Hifiman HE-R10D

For those who want even more resolution, texture and realism GS-X Mini proves itself as an immediate linear upgrade. It retains and compliments the timbre and tone density of iDSD Neo while offering an elevated performance in comparison to an already amazing amp stage. The most immediate improvements we noticed were in the bass texture and extension, dynamic contrast and sound stage depth.

Ballad of the Runaway Horse as performed by Jennifer Warnes features an outstanding double bass performance, an we found ourselvs mesmerized by the balance of warmth, body and texture GS-X mini has with HE R10D. This natural timbre and texture alongside the distinctly open staging of HE R10D blend together to present a beautiful sense of realism and immersion. While iDSD Neo's built in amp stage sounds grounded and real it wasn't quite as addictive as the combo of GS-X Mini and iDSD Neo!

We also noticed a smoother more refined top-end presentation that really pulled us deeper into the music. The gentle trill of crickets, distant percussive sound and aimbent string work become easier to discern within the soundscape. GS-X Mini presented slightly less top end fatigue and better clarity which made it even easier to discern all of the intricate nuance present.

iDSD Neo 4.4mm Out VS GS-X Mini With Audeze LCD-2

In terms of power iDSD Neo is no slouch offering a full watt into a 32ohm load and while this is sufficent for most modern efficent headphones there are a few instances where it's good but not quite the best option. GS-X Mini in comparison offers upwards of 6W into 32ohms, so six times as powerful, making it functionally and excellent compliment to iDSD Neo. The Audeze LCD 2 in particular has a good full bodied tone and clean texture with the 4.4mm balanced out of Neo, however there is a slightly softened sense of slam or immediacy in the lows. Moving up to GS-X Mini resolve this allowing us to retain the gorgeous tone of the headphone but also gain weight and power in the lows.

Heavier genres like Metal of rock will appreciate this added impact and weight, GS-X Mini whith Neo as it's source presents both the explosive quality of big drums and the nuance and sustained weight of their decay. Thus we find GS-X Mini to build on everything that we enjoy about iDSD Neo while serving as a better amplification option for less efficent harder to drive options.

The iFi Audio iDSD Neo makes an excellent option for any one looking to expand their Computer Audio system into the next level. It's lush detailed presentation and combination of input and output options alongs make it easy to integrate within existing systems as an all-in-one while also providing a solid foundation for future upgrades.


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pics on point, nice stuff dude : ) :)
iFi audio
iFi audio
Was going to write the same thing :D Thanks @Makiah S !


100+ Head-Fier
The Blue Pill
Pros: Solid build with very nice design

1,040 mW output

Balanced outputs including XLR

Bluetooth with lots of codecs

Cons: Design issues lead to background noise

Not truly balanced

Stock USB cable is too short

Poor value compared to competition
iFi Neo iDSD review.JPG

Back in May 2019, when I was at the Munich High End (it seems like entire lifetimes ago), I spoke with people from iFi Audio and one of the topics that popped up was that of balanced connections: back then no iFi product outside of the Pro line had those, but they promised me something interesting was in the pipeline. A few months later they announced the new xDSD and xCAN, which were the first products to include balanced output. The line-up has since got bigger and better and the iFi NEO iDSD is the first non-Pro product to offer XLR line outputs to drive balanced amplifiers or powered monitors. It also has a 4.4 mm balanced jack and Bluetooth, which all concur to make it quite flexible. Oh, and it's also gorgeous. Need I say more? (spoiler: yes. In fact, this review is 2420 word long.)

Disclaimer: thanks to Karina at iFi Audio for sending me a unit on loan. Additional info is available on the official website. The NEO iDSD retails for £699.

This review was originally posted on
Soundphile Review.

Packaging & Accessories​

iFi Neo iDSD review 2.JPG

The package includes an aluminium stand, a USB cable (USB-A to USB-B), an RCA to RCA cable, the (optional) power supply, the remote and a 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm jack adapter.

The only complaint I have with the included accessories is the USB cable, which is really short. I had to use a patch cable in order to connect it to my laptop with both devices on the desk, as otherwise the cable wouldn't have been long enough!

One thing I don't especially like is the marketing jargon used on the box - it says "Ultra HD DAC + headphone amp", creating a parallel with the Ultra HD standard (also known as "4K") used for screens and projector, but there is no such a thing as "Ultra HD audio". While it may convey the idea that the device is able to reproduce music at the highest possible resolution, it still doesn't sound quite right to me.

Design & Build​

iFi Neo iDSD review 4.JPG

The iFi NEO iDSD is absolutely gorgeous. It is absolutely modern in its aesthetics, but in a way that blends in well with more "classic" gear. While the body has classic plain aluminium looks, the front is definitely livelier: on the left there is a black area with an OLED screen, encased by two grooves on each side, leading to the large volume knob. There's then a single, larger groove on the right side where the status LED, the power button, the input selector and the two jacks (6.3 mm and 4.4 mm) are. There's also a "Hi-Res Audio" sticker. The back, on the other hand, has a Bluetooth antenna, a power connector, a USB 3 Type-B port, an optical connector, a coaxial connector, two XLRs and two RCAs (one per channel).

iFi Neo iDSD review 3.JPG

What I find quite interesting about the NEO iDSD is not only that its looks are timeless, so it can blend in whatever era your other gear hails from, but it can be used both horizontally and vertically. If you opt for this second option, iFi was so nice as to include a robust stand made of solid aluminium. It is a bit tricky to put it on, as it is just the right size for the device, but it also holds it quite well and feels secure. It has what seems neoprene strips to avoid scratching the NEO iDSD, plus the base has an anti-slip coating to avoid bad surprises.

iFi Neo iDSD review 7.JPG

The display was quite cleverly engineered, so it rotates together with the rest of the device: if you hold the NEO iDSD vertically, it displays information upright - and it does so automatically! It seems iFi used an accelerometer to manage this without user intervention, which is a nice trick.

iFi Neo iDSD review 5.JPG

The knob is not a real knob in the sense that it spins endlessly and it has discrete levels indicated by clicks. It has a bit of weight to it, but it spins almost freely. It's good to adjust the volume rapidly with large variations, but I would otherwise prefer a bit more weight to it. It has grooves all around it so gripping it is quite easy. What I love about the design of the iFi NEO iDSD is that the area around the knob has a circular depression with a lot of tiny grooves etched on it, so it reflects light in a weird way and creates a lot of interesting effects (which are quite hard to capture on camera).

The NEO iDSD comes with a remote which allows you to access all the features of the device from a distance: you can adjust the volume, switch inputs, adjust the screen brightness (which you can't do without the remote!) and putting the device in mute. The only thing you can't do is turning the device on and off, which is a bit of a bummer. One funny thing I noticed is that there is some interaction with other gear I use. To be more specific, I have been using a Topping DX7 as well, controlling it with its own remote. It seems like the frequencies used by the DX7's remote to lower the volume are the same used by the NEO iDSD to change input. While it's not an issue, it's certainly a funny coincidence.

Features & Specs​

iFi Neo iDSD review 6.JPG

There is quite a lot going on in terms of inputs and outputs on the iFi NEO iDSD: on top of USB there are also optical, coaxial and Bluetooth in terms of input, while output is either headphones, RCA or XLR. One thing you can't do on the NEO iDSD is select the output, so you can't switch between headphones and, say, powered speakers. This is a bit of a limitation and while it isn't a major roadblock, it still would be nice to have in a device that costs around 700 quid.

Output can be either fixed or variable, the latter of which is helpful if you want to use the RCA or XLR output - e.g. to use an external amplifier or powered speakers like the iLoud Micro Monitor or the KEF LS50 Wireless.

The iFi NEO iDSD can be powered using the provided power supply, but it is not strictly needed: the USB cable is more than enough, actually. In fact I wondered how much this was true: would just USB power be enough? I decided that this question needed an answer, so I set up a small experiment (for the sake of science, of course, definitely not for the fun of it): I took the NEO iDSD, hooked it up to a power bank, pressed the power button... and it powered up! This makes the NEO iDSD a portable unit that you can power with anything outputting 0.5 A at 5 V - basically anything with a USB port.

I had no issues using the iFi NEO iDSD with Linux, it's purely plug and play. It should be on macOS, too, while on Windows you might need drivers.


InputUSB (up to 32 bit / 768 kHz PCM/DXDx2, up to DSD512, MQA)
Bluetooth (up to 24 bit / 96 kHz)
Suitable headphones impedance16 - 600 Ω
Output impedance< 1 Ω
Maximum output powerSingle-ended:
  • 295 mW (32 Ω)
  • 17.6 mW (600 Ω)
  • 1,040 mW (32 Ω)
  • 68.6 mW (600 Ω)
Frequency responseN/A
THD+N (@1 kHz)< 0.0015%
SNR> 120 dB

iFi says the NEO iDSD adopts a "purist design", meaning there are "no DSP, no digital filter selection and no change in analogue playback". In other words, it tries to deliver you the music "as it is" without manipulation: that's quite a change from the other products by them, considering most of them have bass boost, a soundstage enlargement feature and a selectable filter. They call their balanced design "PureWave".

iFi Neo iDSD review 8.JPG

iFi chose a Burr-Brown DAC as the base for the device: not really a surprise, given that all of their products use Burr-Brown chips. iFi doesn't clarify neither on their website nor on the manual whether they use a single DAC chip or two; I asked them and they said that in fact there is just one DAC chip, after which the amplification is dual-mono. The takeaway is that the NEO iDSD is not truly balanced: not an issue per se, but a stark difference from the competition that actually offers such a feature. The amplification stage is managed by op-amps, which deliver up to 1,040 mW at 32 Ω using the balanced output - quite a large amount of power that will tame even the hardest headphones out there.

iFi Neo iDSD review 9.JPG

Volume adjustment is done in discrete amounts and with a precision of a single dB - so no half-decibel adjustments are possible. This works quite alright most of the time, though, and I've never found myself wishing I could go just a half dB up (or down).

The iFi NEO iDSD offers Bluetooth 5.0 with a vast amount of codecs which includes aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, HWA/LHDC, AAC and SBC - basically every codec out there! That's quite great as it allows you to use practically any device as source, plus it is updatable to include future codecs. It's too bad it can't be used as a transmitter! It has a memory that holds up to 7 paired devices, so you won't have to pair it again every time you switch to another source. The range is quite good and allows you to move your source device around a room (and even outside it) without a hitch; more probably, though, you would want the signal to be stable if the source is far and that's actually the case.


I tested the iFi NEO iDSD using various headphones, but mostly the IKKO OH-10 and the HiFiMAN HE-R10 Planar, using my laptop as the source through USB. Most files were FLACs in 16 bit, 44.1 kHz resolution.

The iFi NEO iDSD has an issue: there is a constant background hiss, almost a whistle-like sound actually, even when using the balanced output that should theoretically prevent issues like this. The hiss was especially present when I used low-impedance earphones (think lower than 64 Ω). I am confident the issue lies with the device as I tried various methods of powering it, all leading to the same result: using the provided power supply, the USB cable connected to my PC and even the USB cable connected to a power bank (which delivers clean power by definition, being it a battery) all led to the hiss being present. I thought this might have to do with the choice of USB 3.0, which is far noisier than USB 2.0 and is therefore widely not recommended for audio applications, but that's not the case: the hiss is there even when connecting the device to mains power without any actual USB cable being connected. So what this tells us is that there is an issue with the design of the NEO iDSD which leads to it being noisy. Using a device such as the iFi EarBuddy or earphones and headphones with high impedance and/or low sensitivity I could remove the hiss, but that's not ideal and definitely not what one would want from a device that costs 700 quid.

Update: when I was writing this review, I contacted iFi to inform them of this issue and they said they found a small set of units that had it, but that the issue could be fixed with a firmware update. We agreed to publish the review anyway. They then sent me a second unit that does not have the issue, so you can disregard the paragraph above (but not the one below!).

Allow me to make a brief excursus to emphasise the importance of testing equipment with a large variety of earphones and headphones. Even famous websites that receive a lot of praise often forget to do this, thereby failing to uncover issues such as this and promoting this very device as "lacking hiss, noises, clicks and pops"... just because they did not test it with sensitive earphones. I mentioned two headphones at the beginning of this section, but I actually used about ten with various values of impedance and sensitivity in order to make sure the device worked well with all possible headphones. Having a well-defined and tested method and using it for all reviews, spending actual time with the devices (I tested the NEO iDSD for more than a month before publishing this review! Also, thanks to the fine people at iFi for being so patient!) and trying to understand both the pros and the cons of the products, without turning reviews into advertisement, are all important factors that allow one to produce high-quality reviews.

The iFi NEO iDSD sounds dead neutral to me. Even when compared to the Drop THX AAA 789, which is widely considered among the most neutral amplifiers out there, the NEO iDSD sounds practically indistinguishable when it comes to the tuning. As much as I would like to find minute differences to describe in flowery prose, I can't honestly find any of any significance. What I can hear is a difference in the transients: the NEO iDSD is slightly slower, with a bit less physicality and impact. There's also a smidgen less detail. But this only became noticeable once I compared the two devices, as otherwise the listening experience on the NEO iDSD is absolutely flawless.

All headphones I tried showed no issues at all, including those with higher impedance such as the Sennheiser HD 6XX or the Venture Electronics Zen 2.0. The NEO iDSD drives them all with the same aplomb and with the same good results. Soundstage, imaging, and everything else you can think of is spot-on and doesn't require much comment - it's as you expect it to be.

Final Thoughts​

The iFi NEO iDSD takes balanced outputs for desktop devices to a much lower price point than that of previous iFi products: previously only the Pro line offered balanced outputs, but those products cost thousands of pounds. The NEO iDSD is true to its name in that it is a completely new range for the British manufacturer. It sits in quite a crowded area which is rapidly evolving and where a lot of competition is happening. And this is the main issue of the NEO iDSD. Competitors, such as the Topping DX7 Pro, offer more for the same money: more power output (1,700 mW vs 1,040 mW), more inputs (all of the iFi's, plus AES and IIS), more outputs (DX7 Pro also has XLR for headphones), more flexibility (can select output as well) and better measurements.

While it has quite a few things going on for it, the NEO iDSD is not really competitive with the market right now. Two years ago it would have been much more competitive, but nowadays its specs make it seem less appealing than devices from competing brands. It sounds good and it has a great design, but is that enough? At this price point I expect devices to be near perfect and to offer me great flexibility, which the NEO iDSD doesn't. Had it been priced around £500 it would have been much better. £700 are simply not justifiable at the beginning of 2021.
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Makiah S
Makiah S
I would definitely give the Coaxial input a shot, I have had issues with USB being both noisy and kinda hazy or "slow" for almost a decade lol. These days most of my listening is direct stream other LAN but if I have to interface with my PC I find the performance for coaxial to be an improvement over USB. Especially on this product!


New Head-Fier
Outstanding DAC with minor shortcomings
Pros: Absolutely amazing DAC stage offering single-ended and balanced connectivity; incredible detail and layering, black background
Cons: Lackluster amp stage, could use more included cables for all forms of connectivity
iFi iDSD Neo DAC Review


I am quite happy and grateful to have been included in iFi’s USA Review Tour for their recently released iDSD Neo fully balanced DAC and headphone amplifier. I’ve always been a fan of Burr-Brown-based DAC designs ever since I bought a Yamaha AVR back in 2009 that sported a very nice Burr-Brown DAC that was unusually high tier for the product class. That natural sense of space, tonality, and detail is intoxicating, and I was curious to see if the Neo offered a similar experience.

My reference DAC is a Chord Mojo, which I use both in my home stereo and with headphones and IEMs. It has a wonderfully holographic, smooth, and detailed sound to it (despite it measuring audibly neutral) and pairs really well with everything I currently have. I also have a Monoprice Monolith THX 788 DAC and headphone amp which is incredibly linear and clean, although sterile sounding compared to the Chord.

I have actually been on the hunt for a DAC to replace my Mojo as a dedicated home stereo DAC, and previously had been considering upgrading to a Chord Qutest and obtaining one for demo. When the opportunity to review the Neo came along, I jumped on it, curious both to try an iFi product for the first time as well as a dedicated Burr-Brown DAC design.

All tracks were streamed from Tidal and Qobuz via Roon with non-destructive volume leveling enabled. MQA was enabled through Roon and the Neo for Tidal tracks that were encoded as such. At this time, I will declare that it is my opinion, based on a lot of recent and older evidence, that MQA is a lossy format and is inferior to FLAC. I won’t go so far as to say that I can hear the differences between FLAC and MQA-equivalent songs, but if the math says it’s lossy, then it’s lossy. I do appreciate that MQA can deliver very high quality files over 4G networks faster than Qobuz delivers their FLAC files, but that’s the nature of compression making a file smaller.

Unboxing and Accessories:

The Neo comes fairly well-equipped out of the box. You get the DAC, which can be mounted horizontally or vertically with the included, matching aluminum stand; an iFi switching power supply; USB A to USB B cable; RCA cable; port protector for the optical jack; remote control; and ¼” to 1/8” headphone jack adapter; and instruction booklet. The product arrives in a sturdy white cardboard box with thin cardboard sleeve over it. Opening the box reveals the DAC encased in thick foam lining and 3 partitioned small cardboard boxes underneath that contain all the accessories. This was a great way to package and present the product, although I would have liked to see an optical and coaxial cable as those are inputs available on the Neo.

Home stereo DAC Performance:
For reference purposes, this is my current stereo system used for evaluation:

Power Conditioner: Panamax M-5100 PM (main system), Monster HTS 1600 (sub and networking equipment and Roon Core)

Source: Roon Core over ethernet to Bluesound Node 2i stream
DAC: iFi iDSD Neo fed via optical from the Node

Preamp: Schiit Saga (2017 model) w/Shughuang Treasure CV-181 tube, fed via RCA

Power Amp: Crown XLS 2502, fed via RCA

Speakers: JMLab/Focal Chorus 715’s

Subwoofer: Rel T/5i

Acoustic Treatment: Acoustic Panels behind mains and at first reflection point on left wall, Sub-Dude II subwoofer isolation platform.

Interconnects: various brands

Speaker Cables: Pine Tree Audio custom 14 AWG quad braid OFC terminated with rhodium banana clips

The difference between the Mojo and the Neo was a bit startling at first and made me unsure that was I was hearing was real and not expectation bias. Instead of sitting and listening critically right away, I put on one of my favorite playlists and just let the music play in the background at a comfortable volume (around 55-60dB). I did this to let my brain adjust to any perceived differences in the sound presentation as well as to calm some of my own bias down.

The first thing I consistently noticed was that notes, all notes, were more immediate and crisply defined. The starting synth loops in Cyran’s Get Wild (Qobuz, 44.1/16 FLAC) when played through my system with the Mojo as DAC have longer decay and tend to blur together just a little bit. With the Neo, these beginning notes had clear definition between each other, with a clearly audible, yet momentary, gap between each note as it decayed and echoed.

The second change that was consistent was that bass notes exhibited this same kind of definition that I noticed in the upper midrange/low treble synth loops. A good example of this is the rolling bass and percussion lines in the latter half of Darren Styles Switch (Tidal, 44.1/16 FLAC). Rapid and playful double bass and synth bass notes hammer away with speed and authority whilst not coloring the lower midrange or treble’s airiness.

Third, the depth, width, and layering of the soundstage improved. The Mojo is a more intimate sounding DAC overall whereas the Neo is spacious, impressively detailed, and places and holds each musical element in the stage firmly. This is evident while listening to UnSun’s Time (Qobuz 44.1/16 FLAC). This track (the entire album actually) is very well composed and arranged but suffers from compression that tends to flatten the soundstage out and kills the airiness in the female vocals and other treble. With the Neo, this compression is still noticeable but far less so. The straining, guttural bass guitar comes through with great expression, Anna Stefanowicz’s voice soars and echoes, and the complementing harmonies and melodies in the leading and backing guitars, synths, and percussion flow together with ample separation.

Headphone Use Performance:

I didn’t spend a terribly large amount of time using the Neo as a headphone amp because I do the majority of my listening on my stereo these days. I did cycle through the V-Moda M-100 Crossfades (with XL pads), Beyerdynamic DT 7700 (80 ohm), and DCA Ether Flows on the Neo. Pairing the V-Moda’s with the Neo resulted in the single best experience I’ve had with these tanky, bass-cannon headphones. Bass was deep, articulate, with very little bleed into the midrange, with a reasonably large soundstage for a closed-back can, and the treble had a sparkle and refinement that the Mojo simply doesn’t bring to the M-100’s. The DT 770’s were not a good pairing however, as they sounded sterile without body or richness. The best pairing was surprisingly the Ether Flows. The soundstage was utterly massive and truly outside my head, with pinpoint details, rich, impactful bass, and artfully rendered midrange. Massively superior to pairing the Flows with the Chord Mojo.

Final Thoughts:

As a DAC alone, the Neo is superb and offers performance that justifies its price tag. The inclusion of wireless connectivity is a benefit for those audiophiles who prefer these solutions (even though I do not personally), and the design and ability to mount horizontally or vertically was a very thoughtful inclusion into the design of the product. Unfortunately, the headphone amp is just not up to snuff. While offering adequate power for most high sensitivity and low impedance headphones and IEMs, when paired with something more demanding and refined, such as the Ether Flow, the Neo’s headphone amp stage is seemingly lackluster compared to similar offerings.

All in all, the iFi iDSD Neo is a fantastic device with some shortcomings that can be easily overlooked if all you’re looking for is a killer DAC with a sexy appearance.


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