iFi Audio NEO Stream

Peter75

New Head-Fier
Neo stream dac by Ifi audio
𝙄𝙁𝙄 𝘼𝙐𝘿𝙄𝙊 𝙉𝙀𝙊 𝙎𝙏𝙍𝙀𝘼𝙈 𝘿𝘼𝘾

I must admit that writing a DAC review in 2023 is not easy . There is lots of competition out there , the market is full of products with various features and in various price categories .

So what's so special about the IFI audio company???? Well IFI audio actually listens to its clients and builds audio gear we as customers want to see in the market .
Enter Ifi audio Neo streamer , Dac and streamer rold in one . And mind you what you get is an equally good design dac and very good streamer. The ifi team made sure that none of its elements are afterthought. This is a well executed product .

Just look at the back of the unit and you will know that you got a solid product in your hands.

absolutely everything you will ever need and more in the way of SC optical input and m12 type connection if required. Of course there is RJ45 to complete the array of ethernet connections .
Well you will see above that there is no usb B connection it is because you connect to Neo stream via network and this is the best way to do it anyway.

2 usb connections are to connect your music on hdd or use other usb A as digital output to another dac if you wish to use that way.( USB output is marked for audio use and uses ANC technology)

Although space on the back is limited, IFI still provides balanced connection on the 4.4 mm connector for greater flexibility. One thing is missing is espresso maker hahahahaha

It's worth mentioning that Ifi audio includes an OPTI box which attaches to your router via rj45 and sends signal to NEO Streamer via optical cable so you are fully covered .

I personally used Neo Stream with my Elac active studio monitors and custom tube preamplifier which prove to be a great company for each other .

I played my music from HDD straight from NEO STREAM without a computer but of course i tested AUDIRVANA also. Listen to Qubuz from my android phone using the Mconnect app. The truth is it does not matter how you use it just works and quickly you can enjoy your favorite tunes .
I had it set to various ethernet protocols so I could easily switch between Qubuz ,Apple music and Spotify without problem. You can access all settings from a web browser on a MAC easily and adjust settings accordingly to your needs . I use an old mac air so it was nice to see that you can adjust buffer size and percentage of track to be preloaded which allowed me to stream upsampled tracks to dsd 128 or 256 without problem. Normally my old MAC can struggle with that task .

On the technical side you have here various configurations to choose from you can even use NEO as dedicated streamer if you wish ( i did just that and works as intended)

Well how NEO actually sounds it might depend on your amplifier and speakers ( synergy is a key here ) so my impressions refer to my own setup .

As it was with its brother Neo Stream sounds fantastic. It is a clean resolving dac without being analytical or overly aggressive . In fact it has a very involving and inviting type of sound signature . It allows you to just sit down and relax and get lost in music . It just works well with my system even without a tube preamplifier that sound signature is very apparent.
The Soundstage is well defined with great separation. All instruments have their own place but they are all connected at the same time into one coherent piece .

As I said before, reviewing DAC is quite daunting since there are lots of other elements that can influence the sound you hear . So when I listened to NEO , it's presentation was well balanced, nothing aggressive, no part of the spectrum jumps at you, it is all presented in a beautiful cohesive way which draws you into the music in a very addictive manner . This is the best way I can describe music I can hear through NEO. Music is an emotion which sometimes is difficult to describe in simple words. There are plenty of emotions while listening to Neo stream and that is what counts. If a piece of equipment connects you to music ,makes you want to listen more, allows you to relax and not to analyse music all the time , it is a trait of a great piece of equipment .

Nothing is perfect and Neo stream is no different. Application provided by Ifia audio (more accurately web browser ) which controle DAC is ok but it's not going to replace ROON OR AUDIRVANA anytime soon . A Lot of my albums were missing artwork and the general appearance of the software is crude for 2023. Obviously all this can be addressed by an update and I hope ifi will work on that. This is the only thing I can think of that detracts from otherwise fantastic products with sound quality which can go against big boys on the market.

I would like to say thank you to the IFi audio team, especially Ricardo Anton for continuously allowing me to spend some time with Ifi products.

thank you until next time

moedawg140

Grand Master Moe "G"….Don't crossface me, bro!
Ping Pong Champ: SF Meet (2016,2017), CanJams (London 2016, RMAF 2016, NYC 2017, SoCal 2017, RMAF 2017)
iFi Audio NEO Stream Review
Pros: Multiple connectivity options
Cons: Challenging to set up fully
A Jack of most trades

Introduction


iFi Audio is a company that specializes in various types of audio gear, such as: home audio, portable audio, power, cables, and accessories. The company has created a device that is a Jack of all trades, and is very good for those who want a highly capable music streamer. This music streamer is called the NEO Stream.

Versatile connections​

Inputs
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi reception (2.4GHz and 5GHz) with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac support
  • Gigabit Ethernet (LAN) – 1x RJ45; 1x M12; 1x Optical LAN (see below for more information)
  • 2x USB-A (USB2.0 and SuperSpeed USB3.0 supported)
  • 1x USB-C system update port (OTA – Over The Air – updates also available)

Outputs
  • Analogue – 1x stereo RCA; 1x 4.4mm balanced
  • Ultra-res digital (PCM 768kHz, DSD512) – 1x HDMI-I2S; 1x USB-A (USB3.0)
  • Hi-res S/PDIF digital (PCM 192kHz) – 1x optical; 1x coaxial; 1x AES/EBU

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NEO setup…​

The NEO was not the easiest to set up, but that could have been because I didn’t read the manual in its entirety to play everything that I wanted to. The main issue at first was that I had no way to choose USB output, as the options on the interface was “Analog”, “Digital”, and nothing else. The quick start pamphlet specifically showed USB output as an option, but after trying various ways to get USB output to show, it never showed. The only way for me to utilize USB output, was to go through the iFi Audio application (thanks to Wayne at The Source AV in Torrance for suggesting that option), and going through that process after a micro SD card was inserted with an adapter into the USB-C port.

Here's an excerpt from hypethesonics.com (minihype - it's been published for a few months):

The iFi NEO Stream measured with a Df-histogram median of -46.2 decibels. (Less is better, with -∞ being a perfect score.)

NEOStream measuement hypethesonics.jpg


What We Think

The iFi NEO Stream is an interesting and comprehensive box of streaming tricks, but might not be for everyone. The NEO Stream uses either wired or wireless ethernet, is Roon-ready, capable of streaming from DNLA, Spotify, Tidal (with MQA decoding), Qobuz, and also supports local playback from an attached USB drive. However, it has some issues to be aware of. The manual is pretty spartan and makes no mention at all of the (absolutely essential) smartphone app. The NEO Stream can take a very long time to process the files on an attached USB drive and it's not possible to browse by folders before this scan is completed. Analog sound quality is only average, and its output impedance via the rear 4.4 mm pentacon socket is an unbelievably-high 70 Ohms, so we'd conclude this device is best used for either digital output (to a separate DAC) or for causal streaming to room speakers, not for direct/critical listening via headphones.

Is it Worth the Hype?

For the right user, it might be.

Overall Thoughts

Once the connections were secure, the streamer worked as intended. Even though it might not be the most perfect application for my needs, I can see how it is a very versatile and powerful music streamer.

Price: $1,299 USD
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