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iFi audio Pro iDSD (Official) - NEW Firmware - MQA and more.

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  1. Em2016

    Do any Pro iDSD users here have an iDSD Black Label? Or had one recently?

    I had major issues when I had an iDSD BL a while ago, with volume control driving my MrSpeakers AEON Closed. I couldn't use past 9 o'clock on the volume knob using 'Normal'. And the high and ultra IEMatch settings restricted dynamics way too much and I wasn't able to enjoy these settings.

    Just wondering if anyone that had similar issues with the iDSD BL find things are much better with the Pro iDSD's headphone output, using the 0dB gain setting (lowest gain)? Or are there similar issues even with 0dB?

    Local dealers won't have stock for a few weeks but I will eventually demo. But just wanted to hear thoughts about it in the mean time.

    I should add that what’s too loud for me might be ok for someone else of course. But if someone found the iDSD BL was too loud at 9 oclock in ‘normal’ mode but 0dB on the Pro iDSD allows > 12 oclock on the volume knob, then that’s a good indicator - until I can demo myself in a few weeks

    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018
  2. frogmeat69
    Set IEMatch to off, and set power mode to Eco, if you haven't tried already. You didn't mention ever using the Eco setting, which is a lower gain setting than the Normal setting.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
  3. Em2016
    Sorry, you are correct, I didn't mention Eco.

    But I did try it, and Eco + High/Ultra Sensitivity sounded crap (dynamics really restricted) - to my ears, with my AEON Closed cans.

    So I'm hoping if I demo the Pro iDSD that 0dB allows me to at least reach 12 o'clock. I don't want to be at max 9 o'clock and having to buy the standalone IEMatch.

    The xDSD's different approach to volume control is really good - I wish the Pro iDSD used this method which eliminates channel imbalance issues and allows greater dynamics.
  4. frogmeat69
    So, Eco mode with IE Match turned off is still too loud for you to turn the volume past 9 o'clock?
    What is feeding music to the Micro? If a phone or similar, maybe try lowering the volume that's feeding the iDSD a tiny bit, leaving IE Match off, see what happens.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
  5. Em2016
    Correct, with more popular modern (louder) recording and with these headphones in particular... Maybe 10 o'clock max. But nowhere near the iFi recommended range of 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock.

    With my quieter classical and jazz recordings it's much less of an issue but I listen to more popular music mostly.

    The xDSD doesn't have this issue because it uses a different volume control method.

    When reading the Pro iDSD manual I saw the recommendation for > 12 o'clock and I had flashbacks of my iDSD BL issues with gain.

    It will vary greatly with headphones of course but if someone had similar issues with the iDSD BL (whatever headphones) but found it's a non issue with 0dB gain with the Pro iDSD , it's a good sign. Until I get around to a demo of course.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
  6. frogmeat69
    That answers a lot, the crappy brickwalled modern day recordings or so called "re mastering" of older music give me a headache, everything is pushed forward to maximum level, no dynamics at all. I don't understand why whoever is doing this thinks it's better???
    I love metal, so I know what you speak of, lots of stuff I can't use my cans for.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
    Em2016 likes this.
  7. Em2016
    Ha I agree but that's not in my control sadly and it's been like this for a long time anyway. What is in my control is finding a DAC/amp that matches well with cans.

    The xDSD's method solves the issue well - really not sure why it didn't come to the Pro iDSD. You have zero channel imbalance issues even at the lowest volume and still analogue volume control at the heart.

    But maybe it's a non issue with the 0dB gain setting. Hopefully someone can chime in until I get to a demo, when they have stock.
  8. Em2016
    In the 90's it was to stand out (loudness) on radio. Now it's to stand out on playlists on the streaming services (and still radio).
  9. frogmeat69
    You're lucky that you have a place nearby that carries iFi gear you want to try out, I have to buy it to try it. Good luck, hope the Pro works out for you when it's in stock, and at least you have the xDSD to use for now.
    Sorry I couldn't be of more help.
  10. Em2016
    No problem. After I try it I'll post my thoughts here, in case it helps you or anyone else. Might be a few weeks away.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
  11. iFi audio
    'Normal' is equal to 12dB gain. So it is more gain to HP than iDSD Pro in the middle (9dB) position. 'Normal' on the iDSD micro in effect matched the original iCAN micro in the lower gain setting.

    In 'Eco' mode headphone gain is 0dB so this should be used if there is not enough adjustment range for the volume control. This is also stated in the manual.

    For iDSD Pro we selected slightly lower gain levels, as the balanced output is 6dB 'hotter', so going for 0/9/18dB kind of breaks the difference in half, for balanced the effective gains are 6/15/24dB.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018
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  12. iFi audio
    Pro iDSD
    The PCB Tour - part 1/2


    1. Quad stack – interleaved Burr-Brown DACs

    The iDSD Pro uses a Quad ‘stack’ of iFi’s Bit-Perfect DSD and DXD DACs by Burr-Brown in a custom ‘interleaved’ configuration. This enables a total of eight pairs of differential signals to be used and mixed – four pairs of signals per channel.

    All signals to the DACs are re-clocked with the low-jitter Global Master Timing® master clock derived from the AMR DP-777 DAC.


    The DACs operate ‘Voltage Output Mode,’ giving >119dB dynamic range. All filtering is passive, using a fully-balanced third order capacitor/inductor/capacitor filter, rather than active, feedback-based circuits, to remove ultrasonic noise. (Active filters struggle with the amount of ultrasonic noise and RFI they have to handle and at a few 100kHz they can lose the ability to filter noise at all, which is precisely where a lot of noise is present.)

    Using passive CLC filtering directly after the DAC means that the following analogue stage is not required to handle ultrasonic noise and RFI originating from the DAC process.

    2. Femto Precision GMT Clock & Reclocker

    For all inputs data is sent to the aforementioned Memory Buffer, which iFi describes as ‘large’ and ‘elastic’. Here it is de-jittered to eliminate any transmission of source jitter to the DAC output. The data from the Memory Buffer is further re-clocked by with the low-jitter Global Master Timing® clock, which also drives the X-Core 200 & FPGA.


    Click on this more information on iFi’s jitter solution:


    External Clock options and Synchronisation

    For synchronization in recording studios the iDSD Pro supports AES3id based DARS (Digital Audio Reference Signal) as recommended in the Audio Egineering Society’s published AES11 standard. And if you happen to have a really good atomic clock (at least a Sanford Research Systems PERF10 should be used) this can be used as to further elevate the iDSD Pro over the internal clock system.

    3. Tube/Solid-State

    Compared to high-end headphone amplifiers, the tube stage of the Pro iDSD is different in two-ways. First, we don’t use good-quality 6922s or similar. Instead we use the very best; General Electric 5670 which is the premium variant with a different pinout.


    Second and just as important is the circuit design. Unlike other amplifiers that have the same circuit and just switch in/out the tube section, the Pro iDSD is the very first of its kind that has two individual input circuits – one tube and one Solid-State. This results in the best sonics of both worlds because the signal path is the shortest and there is no compromise to ‘shoe horn’ the tubes into an already existing solid-state circuit.

    For the first time, one can enjoy both the sound of Solid-State and Tubes in a single package (rather than as an ‘Effect Type’ add-on within an otherwise conventional solid-state design) and be able to switch in real-time. For some recordings and headphones/loudspeakers, Solid-State may sound ‘more lively.’ For others, Tube and Tube+ (especially Tube+) will sound more ‘luxurious.’ Select the one that sounds best for that particular moment, be it the recording, the mood or even the weather. After all, enjoying music is an experience to be savoured and not a scientific research exercise.


    We haven’t stopped there. We are tube lovers and we appreciate sometimes there is a need for even more tube-like sound, there are two tube settings – Tube and Tube+. The Tube+ position reduces overall loop-gain and thus negative feedback to the minimum. This gives a different trade-off between the tube’s natural harmonics and the transient performance.

    Western Electric with their own premium version of 6922

    First introduced by Western Electric in 1946 with the WE396A, from the 1950s onwards (and for the next 30 years thereafter) General Electric (and several other tube/valve manufacturers) followed Western Electric with their own premium version of 6922. This range had controlled warm-up and tight specifications on grid-current, noise and microphony. The result, significantly smoother and more organic sound qualities.

    4. Class A Solid-State, J-FETs and Fully-Discrete

    The Solid-State amplification section of the Pro iDSD is just as seriously executed as the Tube amplification section. It is the on the lines of the Pro iCAN.
    The amplifer audio circuit is a development of iFi’s revolutionary ‘TubeState’ design. It is fully discrete, fully-balanced with either tube or J-FET input switchable, bipolar second stage and MOSFET-buffered bipolar class A Power stage. The resulting circuit may be best described as a ‘tri-brid’ where each device is used to greatest sonic advantage while minimising any drawbacks. Furthermore, the circuit is pure DC coupled to avoid using any sonically-degrading coupling capacitors. All of these are far from ‘run of the mill.’

    5. Alps 6-Track fully balanced motorised Volume control with servo system

    The Pro iDSD has a premium Japan Alps motorised rotary volume potentiometer. This is the ‘6-Track’ version with 4 tracks used for a true balanced volume control. This is the litmus test for any amplifier to see if it is truly balanced or operates internally in single-ended mode. Those using ‘2-Track’ volume controls may offer balanced in and out but are not true balanced designs. The Pro iDSD however is fully-balanced from beginning to end. Just like its sibling the Pro iCAN.


    6. Elna Silmic Capacitors

    To maximise dynamic performance, especially with bass, the analogue stage is backed by audio-grade ELNA Silmic Capacitors located within a few millimetres of the audio circuitry supplied. Elna Silmics are used in the final stages of the main DC bus which is filtered using multiple stages of inductor/capacitor filters.


    To boot, Elna Silmics are usually only found in components that cost far more as they considered ‘boutique’ components yet we consider them a ‘must have’ to achieve the best sound quality. We hope that it is apparent that the Pro DSD has the best parts in the right sections to carry out the best job possible.

    7. Elna Dynacap Low Impedance Super Capacitors

    The digital section is powered by a bank of Elna Dynacaps ‘Super Capacitors’ totaling 6.6 Farad (6,600,000uF). iFi uses Elna Dynacap DZ (TM) Super capacitors because they have 400 times lower internal impedance than common grades of super capacitors. This exceptional low impedance means they release energy much faster than other super capacitors.


    8. Power Supplies

    Using classic tube design, brought up-to-date with 21st Century technology, all incoming DC is converted to a high-frequency waveform then rectified and filtered by a choke input capacitor filter. This produces a first-level DC bus from which all further voltages are derived. The circuit also generates a galvanically-isolated power supply voltage for the USB input circuitry.

    The digital section is powered by a bank of Super Capacitors totaling 6.6 Farad (6,600,000uF). iFi uses Elna Dynacap DZ (TM) Super capacitors because they have a 400 times lower internal impedance than common grades of super capacitors.


    Individual low-noise TI LDO Regulators with local LC filtering provide the final low-noise power for all individual digital sections, a total of six individual regulators cover Clock, SPDIF Input and the DAC’s digital section.

    For the analogue stage (especially the tubes) higher voltages are needed. The whole stage effectively operates on a 60V rail offering massive potential dynamic range.

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    alphanumerix1 likes this.
  13. Em2016
    Thanks. As I mentioned in a later post Eco and IEMatch Off with the iDSD BL was still too hot - I still couldn’t reach 12 o’clock with modern popular music. With classical and jazz it was less of an issue.

    So if Eco + Off was 0dB gain with the iDSD BL then 0dB gain with the Pro iDSD might be an issue again for me (limited to ~ 10 o’clock again) but I’ll try it in store at some point.
  14. TPSRA
    Any update about the bugs and their fix?
    Very interested in this DAC but if it's loaded with bugs... :cold_sweat:
  15. Giraku
    I have been communicating with iFi support department for a while. My main issues are: 1) no MQA function working and 2) occasional (once in a day or two) lock up which requires turn off/on cycle to fix. I asked about the timing of the firmware update release. They said that it will happen probably in 2 months. It is clear at this moment that Pro iDSD was released too early.
    That being said, I'm pretty happy with the performance and full of options to choose from. Amplifier section is powerful enough to drive power hungry cans (although I have not tried Susvara). I like the DSD1024 "Remastering" output. I used to own Sony TA-ZH1ES, which had a similar DSD resampling function. But I think iFi implemented DSD resampling better than Sony.
    So far I'm having a bitter and sweet experience with Pro iDSD. I hope that the firmware update will be released soon and eliminate all the annoyance.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
    superuser1 likes this.
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