Desktop DAC looks to boost music, multimedia and gaming audio

UK audio gear maker iFi – the firm behind the portable hip-dac from February – has launched a new mains-powered hi-res digital-to-analog converter (DAC)/headphone amp that’s promised to deliver “scintillating sonics with every audio format in a home environment.”

The Neo iDSD can be used as a straight DAC for connection to a separate integrated amp or preamp in the home audio entertainment system chain, with the analog output level fixed. The unit can serve as a DAC/preamp for connecting to a power amp or active speakers, with a variable output level. Or users can plug in some ear candy via 4.4-mm balanced or 6.3-mm unbalanced jacks to take advantage of its built-in headphone amp stage.

At its heart is a four-channel Burr-Brown DAC chipset that supports PCM audio format playback at up to 32-bit/768-kHz and native DSD512, as well as double-speed DXD, with iFi noting that the multi-channel nature of the DAC chip allows for PCM and DSD to retain bit-perfect analog conversion in their native forms by taking separate pathways through the conversion process. The device supports the MQA codec too, for full decoding of MQA files up to 384 kHz.

Audio data from the USB 3.0, coaxial and optical inputs is processed by the device’s 16-core XMOS chip, and users can also pair to a music source wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.0. iFi says that listeners can expect a superior wireless experience thanks to the marrying of Qualcomm’s QCC5100 processing chip with its own proprietary circuitry, and high-definition codec support includes aptX Adaptive and HD for up to 24-bit/48 kHz and LDAC and LHDC for up to 24-bit/96 kHz. Apple’s AAC flavor is also supported.

The Neo iDSD offers three digital inputs, but also rocks Bluetooth 5.0 for cable-free connections
The Neo iDSD offers three digital inputs, but also rocks Bluetooth 5.0 for cable-free connections

iFi Audio

The company has employed numerous technologies to stamp out jitter at the digital stage, including a proprietary femto-precision clock and intelligent memory buffer, and its own digital filter has also been installed by default, though users can opt to use alternatives via firmware updates if desired.

The Neo iDSD features a new balanced, symmetrical dual-mono analog circuit design with short signal paths that iFi developed specifically for this model. PureWave makes use of custom op-amps, multilayer ceramic capacitors, thin-film resistors and inductors from Murata and Tayo Yuden.

The headphone amp stage provides 1,000 mW of continuous power into 32 ohms via the Pentaconn balanced output, able to drive even the most demanding of audiophile headphones without issue. And there are also XLR and RCA analog outputs around back for cabling up to hi-fi systems.

The unit is reported to have a signal-to-noise ratio of 120 dB and total harmonic distortion of 0.0015 percent, can be stood up vertically or laid flat horizontally, with the OELD status display auto rotating to the correct orientation, and modes of operation are controlled by a multi-function rotary dial.

The Neo iDSD is available from selected retailers from today for US$699.

Product page: iFi Neo iDSD

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