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

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  1. iFi audio
    Folks, it's that time of a year, you know... eggs and all that jazz. Hence please allow us to leave our critter here:


    ... aaaaand that's it! Right? RIGHT?!?

    Well, nope.

    We have something very special to share with you tomorrow. Very, very special.

    Stay tuned!
    iFi audio Stay updated on iFi audio at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
    https://www.facebook.com/iFiAudio/ https://twitter.com/ifiaudio https://www.instagram.com/ifiaudio/ https://ifi-audio.com/ info@ifi-audio.com
  2. technobear
    The Pro iDSD will have XBASS and 3D after all?
  3. Khragon
    Another delay? :)
  4. iFi audio
    Extra Ordinary MQA Easter Egg



    With Easter just around the corner, iFi audio has delivered an eagerly anticipated upgrade option as a very special Easter gift.

    iFi first introduced MQA into its product mix with the nano iDSD Black Label in November 2017. Since then, iFi customers across the globe have been asking when this option would be available in other iFi products. The good news is that the latest improvements to the nano Black Label firmware version 5.30, ‘Cookies & Cream’, does just that.

    Mqa for all

    This latest firmware flavour not only adds the latest scoop to the nano iDSD Black Label sundae but it also dishes out MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio to the full range* of iFi audio products going back to 2013!


    This ‘legacy’ update means that you can now download the MQA upgrade (PC and Mac) straight from the Support section of iFi’s website at no extra cost.

    Mqa optimised

    Firmware version 5.30 will optimise your device for MQA and can handle up to DSD256 and PCM384. Enjoy the MQA magic like never before.

    And Finally…

    None of the above would have been possible without the MQA software engineers who worked tirelessly alongside the iFi software team to make this unique opportunity happen. Thank you.

    Go to https://ifi-audio.com/audio_blog/mqa-firmware/ to enjoy your upgrade.

    This firmware provides MQA rendering as this is the ideal solution for portable products and those with power considerations. This means the workload is shared between the host (the computer) and the client (the DAC). The listener will still enjoy full MQA experience.

    For more information on MQA, go to http://www.mqa.co.uk/customer/how-it-works


    *The only exception is the original iDAC.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
    iFi audio Stay updated on iFi audio at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
    https://www.facebook.com/iFiAudio/ https://twitter.com/ifiaudio https://www.instagram.com/ifiaudio/ https://ifi-audio.com/ info@ifi-audio.com
  5. TheoS53
    Well looky here what came in for a review. Can't wait :-D 20180401_001316.jpg
  6. iFi audio
    Easter ‘Bug Bounty’ Hunt.
    Hunt 'em, wherever they are...



    Our just announced firmware v5.30 is MQA capable and in one fell swoop, elevates legacy iFi products* with MQA capability for even more sonic enjoyment.

    The MQA integration was a little difficult. It involved:
    1. Totally replacing the customised core code
    2. Re-apply tuning/core loading and
    3. Further fine tuning the firmware for even more precise allocated resource use in order to allow us to support MQA and 384kHz.

    To bring all this to fruition required the combined efforts of the MQA and iFi software developers or a total of +1,000 programming hours to deliver firmware v5.30 (excluding testing on all iFi legacy units).

    Notwithstanding, there may still be one or two software bugs we have not quashed – hence we would like to involve you, the customer – in the Easter Bug Hunt.

    More details are to be found in this thread:

    iFi audio Stay updated on iFi audio at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
    https://www.facebook.com/iFiAudio/ https://twitter.com/ifiaudio https://www.instagram.com/ifiaudio/ https://ifi-audio.com/ info@ifi-audio.com
    Justin0505 and Grimbles like this.
  7. calluna
  8. Slim1970
  9. Justin0505
    It's awesome to see a company putting this level of investment into supporting even discontinued products. Not very often these days does it seem like a a company is willing to play the long game and spend money to give existing / previous customers more value for "free". Usually companies (especially in the consumer electronics space) try to accelerate obsolescence, not slow it down. Very very cool to see IFI continuing to reinforce brand loyalty by realizing that it's a 2 way street that includes loyalty to customers. Doing something nice for existing customers instead of trying to push them towards buying something new before they really need to is not just ethical but also smart.

    I've been a bit bummed about selling off my IDSD micro BL, but seeing this kind of behavior from IFI will make justifying the purchase of a new IDSD PRO in the future even all that much easier for me.
    XSAMURAI and BunnyNamedCraig like this.
  10. TheoS53
  11. Justin0505
    Thumbs up and Subscribed! Fantastic review: well structured, thoughtful, and honest. Flawless audio, lighting, and camera work as well. Do you do your own production?

    You raised some interesting questions that, if we're being honest with ourselves, I'm sure most head-fi'ers have also pondered. How much CAN we actually hear? What do we actually perceive and how much is placebo? This comes up a lot for me when thinking about the topics of bit rate / depth, and cable quality, and to a lesser degree sound stage, since the perception of 3D space is something that literally generated by our brain's own software. Anyone that's ever played with some good optical illusions knows how much of what we see / think we see is based on context and assumptions and post-process that our brain does; not the actual light coming into our eyes.
    But then this gets back to the greater questions of, if it feels real to us, and we enjoy it, does it matter how "real" it is?

    I also wondered the same thing about how the IDSD pro would play in the the product line with the ICAN pro. I can't help but feel skeptical / cynical in places where it seem like a company might have a very strong incentive to "nerf" a feature in one product to prevent it from competing with another product from the same line. Its like when GM sold both the Camaro and Corvette, but they where careful to always hold the Camaro back just enough that it wasn't a real threat Vette sales.

    But, with their philosophy of checking every possible check-box (including some that didnt exist in the market before), it would be very odd to see a flagship dac from IFI that DIDNT also have at least SOME form of HP amp. It would also be odd if that AMP didnt sound fantastic. But then that get's to the very real issue of destroying sales for the still-fairly-new ICAN pro... so making the IDSD's amp sound good, but just lack the power and features of the ICAN is an interesting decision and walking a thin line of trying to make everyone happy:t still gives new customers a good justification for owning both while also not pissing off existing ICAN owners.

    However, there also might be a very practical reason for holding back some of the power from the IDSD's amp: heat, form factor, isolation. Powerful amps (even SS ones) generate a lot of heat. My GS-X mk2 actually creates a noticeable small updraft from all the heat that it puts off. Also, many of the very, very best amps, both SS and tube, physically separate the power and amplification stages. The GSX also does this and each half is actually bigger than the ICAN. So considering what the ICAN can do; it's already a remarkably compact design. Trying to pack an ICAN (or even micro BL's) amount of juice into the same form factor just might not have been possible without compromising something else like noise or longevity of components due to heat.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
    alphanumerix1 likes this.
  12. TheoS53
    Thanks for your kinds words, much appreciated. Yup, majority of the production is done by me, only the intro and outro animations were done by someone else.

    On the matter of "if it feels real to us, and we enjoy it, does it matter how "real" it is".....in a personal sense, no. If you experience it, then for all intent and purposes it is real to you, and therefore it's valid..to you. However, if it's not something that can be measured (currently or at all) then it has no place being a person's recommendation. This is one area where I try to be very careful with my reviews. Let's assume for a second that I had the best hearing in the world, and I could easily pick up on the slightest differences between devices. Well, in that scenario, no-one else on Earth would be able to hear what I hear, so there would be no point in me describing those differences to them..so me describing all sorts of wonderful differences between devices would be of no use to anyone else.
    And the same is true for more realistic reviews....no-one is going to experience a product exactly the same way as I will, so generally I try to keep things more, errm, general.
    Justin0505 likes this.
  13. Justin0505
    Totally agree, the "realness" matters when it comes to trying to predict one person's perception based on the perception of someone else. That's why you've got a hard job as an reviewer!

    The other point your brought up about inaudible sounds is also a fascinating topic. I did a little reading on this awhile ago and the science by no means seemed settled. There's some evidence that suggests that higher than audible sound still triggers brain activity. I also remember reading something about how lower than audible sounds impact the way that your eardrum reacts to sounds AFTER exposure. That's not even beginning to get into the topics of harmonics and resonance. I've personally also experienced a "weird" feeling from active noise canceling HP's, dog whistles, and playing around with tone generators outside of the audible range. -Difficult to describe, but it can feel almost like a physical pressure in the ears. In the case of the dog whistle it can be particularly odd when there is a very faint audibe
    So for me, I'm totally willing to accept the idea that even sounds that you can't "hear" still impact the way that you experience the sounds that you can.

    One of the most remarkable things that first I noticed after recently undergoing a major upgrade cycle and landing on a pair of LCD-4 driven by a headamp GS-X mk2, is the physical presence of the sound is unlike anything I'd experience in a HP before. Something about the way that the sound is rendered creates both a sens of physical impact and movement. I don't know what all goes into tricking my brain into perceiving a substance and weight where these is none, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it has something to not just with the sound that I know that I'm perceiving, but other's that I can't hear, but, on some less conscious level feel.
  14. iFi audio

    We have some comments we'd like to share.

    We selected Wifi/Ethernet audio over Bluetooth because in a stationary application the 192kHz/24Bit hi-res networked audio with DoP-DSD, airplay and DLNA compatibility and playback from a SD card or a USB memory/HDD offer performance levels that Bluetooth cannot match.

    Our selection of Wifi system was driven by ease of use and we are certain the reviewer would have found using either Airplay from an Apple Phone or DLNA via USB Audio Player Pro on Android as easy as using Bluetooth instead.

    The reason that the iCAN offers such a seemingly extreme level of dynamic range is to accommodate different headphone sensitivities, instead of bragging rights.

    While 137dB may seem extreme, if we accept 115dB peaks at very loud listening and have a headphone that produces 115dB with 1V input, then the 23V maximum output will be "wasted" on this headphone and thus the top 27dB of dynamic range are lost to simply excessive headphone sensitivity.

    The analogue circuitry in the iDSD Pro actually has more or less identical levels of noise, so analogue dynamic range will be comparable to the iCAN, where things vary though is the DAC is in the iDSD Pro. This is the limiting factor.

    It also means that volume level can be adjusted down a fair degree, before the noise of the analogue circuitry exceeds that of the DAC, preserving the full dynamic range of the DAC over a much wider range of volume control settings and headphone matches.

    So the extreme dynamic range of the analogue circuitry in both iCAN Pro and iDSD Pro is needed not just for specmanship or posturing.

    As for the sonic differences when driving headphones, the iCAN Pro has more pairs of transistors in the actual power buffer and runs at a much higher quiescent current in Class A, which of course effects on the resulting sound.

    The output stage in the iDSD Pro has fewer parallel transistors and lower quiescent as the same circuitry is optimised as line driver (to drive balanced lines at 600 ohm), yet with the headphone function not being the primary objective.

    For use strictly with headphones of a price level that justifies the expense for something like the Pro range, we strongly recommend to partner the iDSD Pro with the iCAN Pro.

    Fur use mainly as DAC driving a hifi system or active speakers, where headphones may be plugged in on occasion but comparably rarely, the headphone output on the iDSD Pro delivers a more than adequate performance.
    iFi audio Stay updated on iFi audio at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
    https://www.facebook.com/iFiAudio/ https://twitter.com/ifiaudio https://www.instagram.com/ifiaudio/ https://ifi-audio.com/ info@ifi-audio.com
    alphanumerix1, Justin0505 and TheoS53 like this.
  15. TheoS53
    In the absence of evidence, being willing to accept is perfectly fine. Heck, that's the entire basis for scientific research. The problem comes in when people blindly assume something to be fact simply because of how they feel, or despite evidence which proves or strongly suggests the opposite to be true. One aspect that many people seem to look over is the fact that, even if the DAC chip in their DAP or external DAC/AMP device might be capable of rendering files that contain data for frequencies nearing 100kHz or more, the AMP section often (usually?) has a cut off at around 20kHz or slightly more. Headphones often also have a rated response range spanning only between 20Hz and 20kHz. Well, if the headphones are the last link in the chain, then all those extra gazillion hertz before them don't matter, do they?

    Thanks for the input. I especially agree with that last part
    Justin0505 likes this.
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