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  1. Trogdor
    iFi's Pro iDSD is the total package
    Written by Trogdor
    Published Nov 25, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great dynamic sound, extremely versatile, feature rich
    Cons - Remote feels cheap, your paying extra for some features you will never use
    Introduction

    When iFi audio announced it was working on a "Pro" line of audiophile products, two thoughts immediately came to mind: 1) it seemed like a natural progression for them since their micro line had pretty much rewrote the book on what entry- to mid-level audio can sound like almost overnight and 2) they needed to get this "right". By "right" I meant that the Pro line had to sound better than the micro one in every possible way, be just as if not more feature rich, and target a price range that was within striking distance of your average micro line customer looking to upgrade.

    Believe it or not, the Pro line has been in development since 2014, with the original release date for its iDSD variant slated for the summer of 2016 (soon after its sister product the iCAN was given the green light). But several delays pushed back the Pro's release as iFi continued to refine and adjust its feature set. The culmination of this effort finally saw the light of day this past summer - almost two years late and a dramatically different product than when it was first conceived. The only question now is: Was it worth the wait?

    Pro-Features

    One thing that is abundantly clear when you first approach the Pro is the sheer number of ways to integrate it into your own system. It's down-right mind boggling. Let's walk through it.



    [​IMG]
    As you can see from the back, you have your standard balanced XLR outputs as well as their single-ended counterparts to feed an external amp. You also have your standard USB, digital coaxial SDPIF (derived from their extremely high-end AMR DP-777 unit), and AES/EBU digital inputs. I suspect for the overwhelming majority of you though, that's all she wrote.

    However, in addition, the unit has its own dedicated Micro SDHC reader as well as a USB Type A Host connector to stick any FAT32 formatted drive in which is a very nice albeit fairly useless touch these days.

    But what really sets the Pro apart from a lot of its contemporaries is its built-in network capabilities. Want to use the Pro as a network streamer? No problem. Plug an Ethernet cable in. Done. Think cables are quaint? Go wireless as the unit supports all the usual suspects including Spotify (via Connect), TIDAL, and QQ Music to name just a few. Note that both streaming and playing directly from a mass storage device requires you to download and install the MUZO player app which I found easy to do and it just worked.

    Still not impressed? The Pro also supports a multi-function BNC input that allows you to connect an external reference clock or even a CD transport to the unit (just in case your audiophile Grandpa comes over!).

    Because of all of these options, the Pro also has an output selector on the back which controls the line-level output voltage depending on whether or not the unit is connected to a home or studio environment. Again, for most of you (read: all of you) you won't ever move this switch.

    [​IMG]
    Moving to the front is that lovely OLED display, which has a very intuitive menu system. The left knobs are used to select the input and the digital filter respectively while the single right one is used to control the analog volume when the unit is on amp detail. The rest of the headphone inputs are all the usual suspects, and if you can't find a way to connect your headphone of choice to the Pro then this hobby is probably not for you. Feature request: It would have been awesome if the OLED display could crank out a real-time graphic visualizer or custom image on playback.

    In terms of amperage, the Pro iDSD basically incorporates a stripped down version of the Pro iCAN's "Tubestate" design. With the flip of a switch, you can choose between a fully-discrete Class A solid-state topology, a J-FET all-valve Class A output featuring two GE5670s, and a Tube+ which reduces negative feedback and as a result allows for greater even order harmonics (read: warm-fuzzies). For the record, all of my listening was done in solid-state mode and I didn't have to apply any extra gain to listen comfortably.

    Pro-Design

    [​IMG]
    The Pro is no less impressive on the inside as it is on the outside. iFi engineering takes a sort of first principles approach to DAC design by using discrete components for specific tasks instead of overloading a component for multiple ones. This unit features eight Burr Brown chips (four per channel) in a custom interleaved configuration which makes up the core of iFi's bit-perfect DSD & DXD system. All the digital-to-audio processing happens here. That's in addition to the Crysopeia FPGA engine which is used for all filtering duties. iFi strongly feels that the FPGA is more suited for filtering while the Burr Brown chips are better utilized for conversion. This is a much different philosophy than say Chord where a custom FPGA is the order of the day for everything.

    In terms of filtering, the Pro has five different ones all at the touch of a button: BitPerfect, BitPerfect+, Gibbs Transient Optimized, Apodising, and Transient Aligned a la the micro line. All of these filters control how much digital filtering (if any) you want applied on the signal. Almost all of my listening was done using BitPerfect as I wanted to get a sense of what the DAC engine can do without any extra processing.

    All input buffers are thrown into a large dynamic buffer that gets re-clocked to de-jitter data before being passed onto the data processing stages. The re-clocking is slaved to the Global Master Clock which also drives the X-Core 200 and FPGA engines. Speaking of which, the XMOS XU216 X-Core 200 Series 16-core processor is used to decode all inputs which is the 2nd generation XMOS chipset and extremely fast. On the USB side of things, the USB inputs have fully galvanic isolation and are self-powered without draining anything from the USB bus itself. Furthermore, the isolation barrier is actually placed between the inputs and the DAC/re-clocker so not only is the USB bus isolated but frankly all digital noise is isolated from the inputs. Put simply, there is zero need for any USB accessories to clean up the USB bus or to separate USB power from data. The Pro already does this for you.

    Last but not least, the Pro features an extremely robust power supply that has all incoming DC converted to a high-frequency waveform and then rectified and filtered by a choke input capacitor. The digital section is powered by a bank of ELNA Dynacap DZ that have much lower internal impedance in comparison to similar products of regular grade and are used to avoid the typical drawback of the very high internal impedance of common 'super capacitors'. Even better, using the DC output loop on the back, a single power supply can power both the Pro iCan and iDSD which makes life extremely convenient.

    Pro-Sound

    At the end of the day though, despite the massive feature set and internal circuit wizardry, how does the Pro sound?

    To find out, I actually did some A/B listening with my trusty micro iDSD to see if the Pro's $2499 price tag is really warranted. To give you a better idea of my setup, I used a pair of Focal Utopias and Audeze iLCD-4 headphones both connected to the Pro iCAN with the Pro iDSD driving it as well as just the Pro iDSD as a standalone DAC/amp combo. I would then swap out the Pro for the micro to see what's gained or lost in the process.


    Fun fact: The HDTracks version of Omnium Gatherum's latest magnum opus, The Burning Cold, is DR14 and probably one of if not the best sounding metal record of the year (courtesy of Dan "the Man" Swanö). It's also a big step-up from their last one hearkening back to their Beyond and New World Shadows days. Epic win.

    The biggest difference between the Pro and the micro is just how dynamic the sound is - particularly with the Utopias. Even though the micro does a fine job of keeping up with these feisty Finns, the Pro is in a different league altogether. Once again, I was shocked on just how good the attack and decay of the Utopias are when plugged into a suitable system. I also felt that the bass extension was particularly more meaty and had a weightier impact with the Pro over the micro.

    On the other hand, I actually didn't think the Pro iCAN did much to improve the sound particularly with the iLCD-4's. The 4's are not that difficult to drive so it came as no shock to me at least that the Pro iDSD as a standalone system held its own just fine. I thought the Utopias benefited from the addition of the iCAN but only marginally so.


    Batman: The Animated Series is one of the best TV shows to ever grace the screen (animated or otherwise). To this day, I consider it the defacto standard in which all other Batmans shall be judged. But what you probably didn't know was just how amazing the score is. Everyone knows the Danny Elfman theme above, but Shirley Walker's score is just as sublime and is available as a four volume set. Buy them. They are worth every penny.

    Right off the bat (Dave: Groan!), the Pro imbues the Utopias with a magnificent soundstage. Again, the micro sounds great too but doesn't recreate the same sense of expansiveness the Pro can produce. Also, tonally, the Pro sounds more natural and less colored. Horns sounded fuller and richer. Strings are now plucked with a sense of urgency and their reverb sustains longer in the ear. In fact, this is the first time I've really felt my system was delivering a concert-like experience in the confines of my home; no small feat giving the number of components that have graced my desk.


    Some black metal modus ponus: If Mgla has a side-project called Kriegsmaschine, it will be awesome. Mgla's has a side project called Kriegsmaschine. Kriegsmaschine is indeed awesome. It's really that simple. Only recently did I find out that Mgla has decided to grace us with a follow-up to 2014's Enemy of Man and luckily it is just as good and destined to make my year-end list (as well as many others I'm sure too).

    Production wise, this is a very well done DR7 record. As a result, I thought the Pro as a stand alone system was all I really needed. I didn't think the iCAN added much to the story with either of my headphones. I also felt the micro was more in striking range of the Pro now since all the technical advantages the Pro has were mitigated by the record's production.

    Conclusion

    [​IMG]
    The Pro iDSD is as good as it gets at this price point. I know $2499 isn't exactly cheap, but honestly, the price is fair. Its vast array of inputs and outputs makes the Pro extremely versatile and easy to integrate into any serious playback chain. Moreover, despite suffering from a bit of feature creep, at its core is still an end-game DAC that took the basic architecture out of the micro line and put it on steroids. The net result is a dynamic and fluid sonic profile that can also be fine-tuned and tailored to your particular tastes through the use of advanced filtering technology and smart amperage design - an iFi staple.

    But do I need the Pro iCAN or can I use the Pro iDSD exclusively as a standalone system? I would argue that if you don't already own the Pro iCAN, you don't really need it with the iDSD unless you have significantly hard to drive headphones. The output section of the Pro iDSD is definitely reference quality and more than adequate for most.

    And finally: Is the Pro iDSD worth four times the price of the micro iDSD? Of course not. Audiophile components don't work that way, particularly when we are talking about DACs since the law of diminishing returns hits hard early and often when it comes bit management. But as I said above, the price is more than inline with other offerings of similar ilk, and the Pro is as good as it gets as a complete package.

    But I will leave you with this final thought: I have no intention of giving this unit back. This is my end-game DAC. I've heard many DACs over the years at various price points and I believe you would have to spend a ludicrous amount of money to do better than the Pro iDSD (and probably loose a bit of versatility in the process too). And that's why I have no qualms giving it our highest honor.

    This review was originally featured on Metal-Fi.
  2. gordec
    One of the Best Sounding DACs in the Class
    Written by gordec
    Published Aug 7, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - The DAC section is absolutely amazing. It's dynamic, punchy, detailed and natural.
    Cons - Packed with features, but some are half-baked. Sometimes too many options becomes a distraction.
    The Past & Present:

    Ifi has always been a company that’s known to serve the audio world with great value. Their early products such as the Micro iDSD received high escalates in the audio community for their excellent sound but offered at a significant lower cost compared to competitors. In the past few years, iFi began to push the high-end audio market. Many consider the Pro iCan one of the best, non-exotic amplifiers on the market. For $1500, it can drive the high-demanding Abyss AB-1266 and Hifiman Susvara with ease. You shouldn’t be surprised because high-end has been in iFi’s blood. Many may not be aware iFi is actually a subsidiary of Abbingdon Music Research (AMR) who produces high-end consumer audio products. AMR’s flagship DAC DP-777 DAC was a $5000 DAC at release. When the Pro iDSD was announced, it was met with a lot of excitement, given the spectacular specification and myriad of features, but similarly many wondered if iFi is able to deliver the sound and performance at the now crowded $2000-$3000 market.

    The In & Outs:

    The iDSD is made of an aluminum chassis. There are fenestrations on the top and each sides of the unit to give you a glimpse of the internals. The top panel also houses a small, round viewing window which lights up in a Chordesque fashion when you are using the tubes. Speaking of tubes, the iDSD can operate in all-solid-state mode, an all-valve Class A section based on 2x GE5670 tubes, or a Tube+ mode which “reduces available negative feedback to a minimum.

    upload_2018-8-7_15-52-52.jpeg

    Other goodies under the hood include a quad stack of Bit-Perfect DSD and DXD DACs by Burr-Brown. Based on speculation, the actual Burr-Brown chip used is the PCM1793. All signals to the DACs are re-clocked with the low-jitter Global Master Timing® derived master clock from the AMR DP-777 DAC. The quad DAC chips together with the new XMOS XU216 X-Core 200 Series 16 Core processor allow PCM decoding up to 768 kHz as well as DSD upsampling to DSD1024. Pro iDSD also uses a custom FPGA and DSP chip to carry out its digital filter duties.

    Moving to the front panel you will see the power button, input selector (press to adjust OLED brightness and hold to adjust polarity), filter selector, output mode (solid state, tube or tube+), a 3.5 mm SE headphone jack, 6.3mm headphone jack, and balanced 2.5mm TRRS headphone jack, headphone gain selection (0dB/9dB/18dB), and volume control. You can control the unit with the included remote. The remote only controls volume, but it can control both Pro iCan and Pro iDSD.

    upload_2018-8-7_15-52-52.jpeg

    If you are not impressed with its internals, the Pro iDSD also offers a plethora of inputs and outputs. On the back panel from left to right you have the following:

    1. XLR Balanced Out
    1. RCA SE Out
    1. Output selector (Hifi Fixed, HiFi Variable, Pro Fixed, and Pro Variable): The recommended setting is the Hifi Fixed as a pure dac or HiFi Variable if you want to use the iDSD as a DAC/Preamp. The HiFi Fixed mode puts out 4.6V vs 11.2V of the Pro Fixed mode.
    1. Ethernet to use iDSD as a network streamer.
    1. USB Type A Host: You can play USB drive, external HDD directly from it. Make sure you format your media as FAT32. You can only access the USB drive via the MUZO app (more in the network streamer section).
    1. USB 3.0 Type B to connect to PC or laptop USB port. It’s important to know that the Pro iDSD is galvanic isolated but has the technology behind the Micro iUSB3.0. Theoretically you should be getting a very clean USB signal.
    1. Digital Coaxial SPDIF
    1. Micro SD card slot
    1. AES/EBU digital input
    1. Wifi antenna: The easiest way to connect the Pro iDSD to the network is through an ethernet cable. Then you can find the ip address on the Muzo app. You type the ip address in the browser in your browser to setup wifi. Otherwise, you can hold the WPS button (filter button) to link with your wifi router.
    1. BNC digital input which acts both as SPDIF and AES3id to be used with high-end CD transport.
    1. Clock sync mode: I have not played with external clocks to make any meaningful comment about this.
    1. BNC Sync out
    1. DC Loop-out: This allows the iDSD to be used with Pro iCan amp.
    1. 15V/4A DC power
    Please note all inputs other than USB are currently limited to maximum sample rates of 192kHz PCM and DSD(64) via DoP.

    upload_2018-8-7_15-52-52.jpeg

    Sound:

    My setup: Alienware R7 with Paul Pang Audio V2 USB PCie card -> Pangea solid silver USB cable -> Pro iDSD -> McIntosh MHA100 -> Hifiman Susvara

    upload_2018-8-7_15-52-52.jpeg

    I purposely mentioned the dedicated USB PCie card because it took me a long time to understand how PC and USB noise can degrade audio quality. The few things I did to clean up the USB signal improved SQ dramatically in all my gears.

    Now back to the Pro iDSD. The Pro iDSD sounds so good that I think just breaking down its SQ based on highs, lows, vocals doesn’t do it justice. Music is emotional, and how the Pro iDSD evokes your emotions is difficult to convey with words. Right off the gate without any burn-in, the Pro iDSD sounds very dynamic while maintaining excellent detail. Every track sounds more punchy with excellent layering. The most popular DACs have something special about them, and if you have to name one special trait about the iDSD is that it is one of the most dynamic sounding DACs on the market. Moreover, the Pro iDSD is still able to maintain a natural and analogue portrayal of music. It really pushes the Susvara to its full potentials in terms of speed and detail. Every track you own will sound better, but you quickly notice poorly recorded tracks vs well recorded ones.

    The Pro iDSD’s sound signature is neutral, it doesn’t color the recording. Sound stage in terms of width and depth is one of the best I have heard. In well recorded jazz tracks, the instruments really pops with the Pro iDSD. It feels like the sound is coming out of the Susvara and filling all around my head space.

    One disappointment at the writing of this review is lack of MQA function for Tidal streaming which was promised by iFi. The current speculation is the MQA update will come with a September firmware update.

    Solid state mode: This is my favorite mode for pairing with MHA100 and Susvara. The is the best sound and most refined mode. My sound impressions above is based mostly on solid state mode.

    Tube mode: This is my least favorite mode. I feel I lost detail and everything sounded too warm. There is also significant loss of transparency in the treble region.

    Tube + mode: Probably a balance between solid state and tube mode. I keep going back between the Tube+ mode and solid state mode. There is something very analogue and laidback about the Tube+ mode. You don’t lose too much treble. I think most owners will find them flipping back and forth between the solid state and Tube+ mode. Again, the SQ of different modes may vary based on your amp and headpones/speakers, so YMMV.

    Compared to other DACs:

    upload_2018-8-7_15-52-52.jpeg

    Chord Qutest: I really like my Qutest. The Qutest has a very detailed and natural presentation. The sound stage is excellent. However, the Qutest doesn’t come close to the iDSD in terms of the surreal dynamics. The iDSD hits so hard and in your face, you get a more visceral feeling with music particularly with live recordings.

    Schiit Gungnir Multibit with Gen 5 USB: The Gumby sounds very natural and analogue with a very holographic rendering of music. That kind of sound signature can be very addicting. When you move to the Qutest or the iDSD, you don’t lose out on any of the analogue qualities of the Gumby but gain significant detail and dynamics. From my research, The Yggy Analogue 2 may be a good competitor for the iDSD, but I have never heard of it. One thing that really bothered me with the Schiit Multibit DACs is the constant clicks with bitrate change. This is the primary reason I sold my Gumby.

    McIntosh MHA100: For a long time, I just used the MHA100 as an one box solution. There is something to be said about having single device that can perform both the DAC/Amp function. You don’t have to play around with interconnects, etc. Usually combo units are optimized by the manufacturer. Many feel that the DAC section of the MHA100 is its weakest link. I actually enjoy it very much for a long time. With both Gumby and Qutest, I notice an upgrade, but I never felt the upgrade was so substantial that I got a different emotional experience listening to music. This is where the iDSD really separates itself of the pack. Because the iDSD delivers layering and dynamics like no other.

    iFi Micro iDSD Black Label: The Black Label is an excellent DAC/AMP for its size. However, it really isn’t a fair comparison to the Pro. The Pro is a different beast all together. The Pro wins in every category you can think off. Most noticeably is that when operating as an external DAC feeding MHA100, the Black Label has the smallest soundstage of all the DACs I have owned recently. It sounded digital and congested compared to the all of the above mentioned DACs. I actually preferred the integrated DAC of the MHA100 compared to the microiDSD. I’m mainly mentioning the Micro iDSD because it’s iFi’s previous flagship DAC.

    Filters:

    By pressing the filter knob, you go from non-DSD remastering to DSD512 remastering to DSD1024 remastering. If you play a nonDSD file in the nonDSD remastering mode, the following applies:

    1. Bitperfect: this is the same and non-oversampling mode.
    1. Bitperfect+: This applies an analogue filter and corrects SINC or very high frequency roll-off which happens in the Bitperfect mode.
    1. Gibbs Transient Optimised: This is a digital filter with pre-ringing, minimum post ringing, 32 taps of correction. It minimizes the Gibbs phenomenon causing time-domain distortion.
    1. Apodising: no pre-ringing, modest post ringing, 128 taps of correction.
    1. Transient Aligned: It has the largest tap count at 16,384 taps
    If you upsample a nonDSD file to DSD512/1024, iDSD first oversamples to 705.4/768kHz. None of the filters mentioned above applies in those 2 modes. You can turn the knob, and may appears that you are switching digital filters, but they are not doing anything.

    If you play a native DSD file, iDSD will only play it in bitperfect mode only. If you upsamples a native DSD file to DSD512/1024, there is no bitperfect mode because a digital filter has to be applied.

    To be honest, I had to do a lot of research to figure this out. I reassure you that the difference between the different filters is small. If I tell you I hear a significant difference, I’ll be lying to you. The most noticeable difference with the filters I hear is that when you upsamples to DSD512/DSD1024, you lose a little dynamics but add a little sound stage and clarity. None of the filters is going to make or break the iDSD as a DAC. Perhaps, more sensitive ears can pick up greater differences.

    All the above mentioned digital processing options apply to all sources, including the network audio bridge and AES/EBU & S/PDIF inputs.

    Pro iDSD as a DAC/Amp Combo:

    The Pro iDSD is outfitted with 3.5 mm single-ended, 6.3 mm and 2.5 mm TRRS balanced output. The output power is clearly weaker compared to Pro iCan. I need to put the gain at the highest level and turn the volume to 12 o'clock to achieve the same listening level with Susvara with the 6.3 mm plug. The vocals sounded good, but everything else sounded restrained. The soundstage shrunk considerably when compared to when driven from the MHA100. Most who buy Pro iDSD will likely be using it as DAC only, but I can see it as a good single box option for those who own more efficient headphones like HD800/HD800s or Utopia. I also tested the 2.5 mm output with Westone ES60 at the lower gain level. Now with the IEMs, the Pro iDSD sounds better than the AK380. I was amazed that the desktop DAC/Amp has a cleaner background compared to a dedicated endgame portable DAP. The sound stage is also excellent but not as grand as the AK380.

    Network Streamer:

    I tested iDSD’s network capabilities through the Muzo Android app. It utilizes Linkplay and has built-in Spotify and Tidal. For Tidal, it will only play back at 16/44. I was able to stream hi-res files on my phone to iDSD and get native resolution playback up to 32bit/192kHz. It sounds good but not as good as playing Tidal through USB.

    upload_2018-8-7_15-52-52.jpeg upload_2018-8-7_15-52-52.jpeg upload_2018-8-7_15-52-52.jpeg

    Next I set up DNLA server on Jriver Media Center 23. On the Muzo app, you can find the Jriver DNLA server as source. This allows you play all the way up to 32/192. When I tried to play DSD files, the app just froze. It may be due to the large file size. The audio quality was very good, but a tad worse than USB out. One factor to consider is that I was streaming through an ethernet cable. The ethernet was ran through a powerline passthrough. There is likely a lot of noise. I’m doing nothing to clean the noise out of the network signal. So the sound quality could be even better. In the future, I would like to iFi either develop their own streaming app or support more 3rd party apps.

    Conclusion:

    The Pro iDSD is, utmost, an impressive DAC. Even at its current price, the iDSD is completely justified as a DAC alone without all the bells and whistles. It is much more than just a DAC and could be much more if iFi develops a better application to control the network streamer aspect of the iDSD. Then the iDSD will position itself at a different echelon. However, to my ears, Pro iDSD’s ultimate trump card is its dynamics. Nothing I have heard rival that of the Pro iDSD.
      Dr. Udo Brömme and Currawong like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. audiocraze
      (deleted double entry)
      audiocraze, Oct 25, 2018
    3. gordec
      gordec, Oct 25, 2018
    4. audiocraze
      The link you shared says it: "As upconversion to DSD uses first oversampling to 705.4/768kHz, all filter options APPLY unchanged to DSD upsampling." That means all filters apply still. It’s a bad wording by ifi to say all changes apply unchanged. But what they mean is it applies . The signal is changed, then converted to DSD. Also @iFi audio has confirmed this already in the official thread.
      audiocraze, Oct 25, 2018
  3. applesnowleo
    Amazing sound of the iDSD Pro
    Written by applesnowleo
    Published Aug 6, 2018
    5.0/5,
    The iFi iDSD Pro.

    I came to discover ifi after a past of positive and negative experiences in the audio in the last 30 years, in the search for the holy grail of sound in my living room, I have had a lot of brands, Nad, Rotel, Mark Levinson, Linn, Sony, Cyrus, Audiolab, Pioneer, Marantz, Rega, Bowers & Wilkins, Castle Speakers, Vandersteen, Paragon Regent Speakers, monitor Audio, Kef, Mission Cyrus speakers, only to name a few.

    Some of my old gear I sold until today I remember them as pieces I regret not having today, My Marantz CD10 and Marantz CD16, My Sony SCD1, my loving Levinson 383 had circuit board problem and was 14 months waiting an internal circuit board repair in the Portuguese representative of the brand, and because of that bad experience and some others in the audio world, I sold my Levinson at a low price and almost all audio gear I had, I loved that Levinson, and that warranty experience was something very negative for me as a user, I abandoned audio and that search that never ends, and for 8 years the computer and headphones was my way to interact with music, a big downgrade from what I was used to.

    Six years ago I started looking for a DAC and some better speakers to my iMac, the speakers I found that in my opinion produced an acceptable sound was the Harman Kardon GLA-55, latter paired with a monitor audio subwoofer, and sound was ok, at least a better experience that the iMac speakers had, In a search for a good computer DAC I discovered the ifi brand and their range of products, a perfect match for what I was thinking.

    The products made by ifi were good looking and they supported DSD and HD audio formats something I was willing to try as I own many SACD’s, DSD was very appealing format to me, I purchased the ifi iDSD, it came in a beautiful package and well built, I connected the iDSD to my iMac and clicked on play on the iTunes App, a glimpse of what I have had in the past for a fraction of the price, for me it was it, the holy grail in price paid and return that I was receiving, so I started a new journey, maybe a never ending one certainly full of new product discoveries, but at every step taken up is a more engaging and pleasant one.


    So ifi brought me back to the audio experience, today my computer audio system is a little upgraded from the Harman Kardon GLA55 and Micro iDSD, I just acquired an ifi Pro iDSD that was launched in the end of May. It finely arrived and took the place of my ifi Micro iDSD Black, micro iTube 2 and micro iUSB 3.0, every person quantifies the upgraded differences obtained by each component change differently, for some is the same experience a little better and a justified investment or not, for others a small sonic achievement is a huge upgrade in the final result, for me and after some weeks of listening to the ifi Pro iDSD there is no way I could live anymore without it, so I acquired it.


    The Pro iDSD has a lot of functionality that you could see on the ifi website https://ifi-audio.com/home/products/pro/ I will focus more on the sound and changes I have noticed from the micro iDSD Black.

    The global sound grows in small big changes, the separation, fluidity, speed, soundstage of the tracks is so better defined that you can’t stop playing and thinking constantly “this one is really on another level of gear”. That’s not a subtle change, the global sound character is similar to the micro iDSD Black Label, but sounds are presented very fast, the sense of speed is really impressive, the impact, transients, instrument separation, identification of the elements on the soundstage, multiple voices are perfectly separated, it’s all there, every audio file you play on the Pro iDSD is a new experience. I do remember in the past of investing a lot more and get almost none.

    If you own one of the other ifi product line like the nano, micro, or even other brand DAC of the same price level, when you connect the Pro iDSD you will have a constant audio discover on each track of your library, it’s noticeable right away if your system has the quality to show and reveal what the iDSD pro can archive you will be amazed.
    The micro iDSD Black was a feat for the price, but the Pro iDSD takes every aspect from the micro iDSD BL and gives him super powers.

    The iDSD Pro has almost all features you will ever need, there are two absent from the pro iDSD the XBass and 3D sound, you can have this feature in the Pro iCan, but having them in the Pro iDSD is a miss in my most minimalistic good sounding system I can have, and to add these features the pro iCan is a necessary add-on that comes with more cables and more accessories in the middle of the sound signal. The iDSD approach for me is more a puristic approach and first a DAC, all the other features come for me as a bonus, it’s a product that will reveal all elements of the sound presentation, and plays your music files from multiple formats, it’s very easy to setup and very well built, and the oled in the middle of the unit makes me in love by it


    So the iDSD Pro for me it’s finesse, fireworks, emotion, love, an even better capacity of turning small detail perceptible in a way that appears natural to my ears, it’s adds macro to the texture detail in the mix, better quality bass, initially the bass appears to be less present, less present in this case of the Pro iDSD is not less bass, but a bass with musical scale and better defined, there is no 3D or XBass, but there is a lot more to take out from every track.

    The iDSD Pro will not hide a bad recording, It will show without any guilt the quality of a bad studio engineer or a low quality mix, if the mix is bad it will sound very bad, but if you give the Pro iDSD a better quality track, you will make your speakers rock has they never think they would be capable of, after that you will not let the iDSD Pro go back to the store.

    There are a lot of offers in this segment, some more expensive, some less, I have built my system from the beginning on the original ifi IDSD Sound Signature, so in my case it was a perfect match.

    I didn’t focus on many aspects like streaming, digital filters, upsampling to DSD1024, playing directly from SD or SSD USB HD, and finely Airplay, the Airplay functionality is my favorite and there is a lot more the Pro iDSD can do, In the last weeks I tried some of this functionality for curiosity and they all shine in a way that describing it will take weeks or months, my main use will be in the desktop computer and I am loving it.

    If you are serious about your audio, the ifi Pro iDSD should be one of the higher priorities on your list of a DAC acquisition. If the price is too hot, the micro iDSD Black Label could give you a lot from the Pro iDSD at a very affordable price, and is my favorite DAC in the price / sound return equation.

    All devices where connect to an Audioquest Nigara, the power cables including computer and ifi IDSD Pro were with Audioquest Tornado, and Audioquest Thunder for each of the Speakers.

    USB Cables in use are ifi Gemini 3.0 and Audioquest Diamond USB Cable, also used ifi iUSB 3.0 in between.

    Speakers are Focal Solo 6BE.

    Interconnect Linn Silver balanced.

    Software used, Roon and Audirvana.

    The related review is a personal opinion of the experience and use of the products acquired. All products were acquired at retail price, in normal stores that have them in stock, and I am not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned or any kind of brand.

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      Dr. Udo Brömme likes this.