There’s more to Foggy Albion than just the Skripals incident. I have not yet said a word about the British hero of my review, and my heart is already heavy with the thought of soon parting with it.
Remember, like in Arseny Tarkovsky:
“As long as it’s at least a quarter of an ear
In response to each step
And fun and dry
Earth is noise in your ears
These lines couldn’t describe my state of mind better. And that’s because it’s wickedly perfect!
Recently British company iFI introduced to the world two new products: portable baby xDSD and flagship model iFI Pro iDSD. I’ll tell you about the smallest one a little later, but today I’m talking about the stationary DAC and headphone amplifier in one case, which I’m not waiting for the end of the year, I award first place in the category “Best Sound and Functionality”!
Thanks to the online store pult for providing a sample for listening
DAC chip: 4 x DSD1793/Quad stack Burr-Brown Bit-Perfect DSD and DXD
The number of channels – 2
Headphone power: 1.5 to 4 watts 16 ohms
Output Voltage: 4.6 – 10 V XLR , 2.3 – 5 V RCA
Dynamic range: 119dB
Supported formats: PCM up to 768kHz, DSD up to 49.152 mHz DSD 1024 , DXD 2xDXD
Streaming protocols: Airplay, Apple Music, Audible, Spotify, TIDAL, Napster, Spotify Connect, QQPlay
Inputs: Combined Optical/Coaxial 1 x S/PDIF RCA , 1 x AES/EBU XLR , 1 x BNC, 1 x Ethernet RJ45 , WiFi, 1 x USB Type B 3.0 , 1 x USB Type A.
Digital: 1 x BNC master clock Coaxial
Analog: 1 x RCA paired , 1 x XLR balanced right/left /headphone 3.5mm, 2.5mm balanced , 6.3mm
Discovery and package
The unit comes in a nice bubblegum white package. On the front side is the device itself, the logo and the most important information. Another white box with a silver “ifi” logo comes out from under the packaging. All as always in style and neatness.
Inside we find a silver-colored sound combo, a power adapter to connect to the network, an interconnect cable 2 RCA/2 RCA , a blue-colored USB cable, an antenna for Wi Fi reception, a 3.5 mm adapter to connect to an optical cable, and a small spatula for switching modes on the back of the device. Also included is a small remote control with volume control and various warranty papers.
The front panel has a power button, a hypnotizing indicator logo that shows the unit’s operation, a large switch for digital and analog inputs, a switch for digital filters. Just below is a small three position lever transistor mode/amp/amp+ . In the middle is a big round display that shows most of the Pro iDSD controls.
Headphone inputs: a 6.3 mm jack, one 4-pin 2.5mm balanced, and a 3.5mm input regular with IEMatch technology .
Then comes the switch for amplification 0, +9dB, +18dB and the infrared port to control the Pro iDSD with the remote control.
On the back panel there is also a lot of useful stuff:
Analog outputs: XLR balanced right/left , paired RCA.
Gear to toggle Output Mode: HiFi Fixed/HiFi Variable/Pro Fixed/Pro Variable.
Digital inputs: 1 x Ethernet RJ45 , USB connectors: 1 x USB Type B 3 x USB Type B .0 , and 1 x USB Type A USB Host for external drive connection ,
Combined: Coaxial/Optical 1RCA/Opt 3.5mm,
Jack for microSD card,
Digital input XLR , Wi-Fi jack for antenna connection,
BNC digital input, three modes of Clock Sync mode: Atomic/DARS/1OMHz/Standalone, Clock Sync output.
Then there is the input for the power adapter and the DC output.
Attached at the bottom is a carefully designed silicone gadget that both protects your desk from scratches and makes sure it will stay in place with no fidgeting.
On the top of Pro iDSD case there is a nice design window with the signature “NOS General Electric 5670”. And if the device works in “lamp” or “lamp+” mode, this window turns into the red eye of Sauron, which does not augur anything bad.
The device reminded me at once of Pro iCAN amplifier, which I had reviewed quite recently. It’s like a twin brother, only with “its own moles.”. But this is good because why change something, if everything is great as it is?. All you had to do was add a few touches for the best result, and that’s what iFI did!
Our hero looks stylish, brutal and with all due finesse! It is made of metal and decorated with rounded slots on sides through which the device is cooled. Despite the small size, the amplifier is quite weighty – almost 2 kg. Well, the build quality is excellent!
As in the case with Pro iCAN, iFI Pro iDSD pleases us with three available modes of operation: transistor, lamp and lamp+ transistor + lamp . The last one, by the way, seemed to me the most balanced. The result is a top-notch DAC that takes the place of three full-featured amplifiers.
But that’s not all. The Pro iDSD digital-to-analog part is made on four DSD1793 chips Quad-stack Burr-Brown Bit-Perfect DSD/DXD , with a Global Master Timing oscillator . All filters of the device are exclusively passive. The USB interface is based on the latest 16-core XMOS XU216 processor from the X-Core 200 series, which has a processing power of 2,000 MIPS 2 billion operations per second !
The headphone amplifier has two switchable circuits – semiconductor and General Electric 5670 tube on double triodes.
And here’s another nice feature of the novelty: iFI Pro iDSD receives the signal through both Ethernet and wireless Wi Fi channel, supporting all modern streaming services: Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, etc.d.
And if you’re too lazy to plug anything in, just pop in a microSD card of your favourite music, or an external hard drive, and enjoy.
The Pro iDSD has everything and more in its arsenal! But what else do I want, I don’t know.
Of course, the crowning glory of this top combo is its captivating sound!
The following headphones were used for listening: Vision Ears VE8, Jomo HAKA, 64 AUDIO A18 Tzar, Ambient Acoustics AM5 LAM, Etymotic ER-4SR, Westone UM PRO 30/50 2017 , Custom ART FIBAE 2, InEar ProPhile 8, Hifiman HE-4, Fostex T50 RP MK-3, Beyerdynamicdt 250/250 Ohm, Phonon SMB-02, Meze 99 Neo, and Audio-Technica ATH-SX1a.
After playing with all the digital interfaces and realizing that everything works fine, I returned to connecting the device to my computer via USB, using my beloved QED reference A-B cable. By the way, if you’re looking for a good cable at a reasonable price – I recommend it. It has the most beneficial effect on sound, cutting off noise and other nasties, and at a length of 2 meters. Great stuff! Anyway..
I couldn’t use the balanced output so I listened on the single mode. Absolutely all of the headphones played at the highest level.
Just as in the case with the iFI Pro iCAN in all three modes transistor/amp/amp+ the device produces a very neutral, smooth and perfectly balanced sound without the slightest hint of falsehood and distortion.
But unlike a pure amplifier, the Pro iDSD has a perfectly realized DAC based on four DSD1793 chips. As a result the sound is, without exaggeration, flawless! I spent days experimenting with all the settings, connection options and headphones and ended up without a single flaw in the unit. It’s a flawless diamond, ready to be admired, sobbing with emotion and saying “my beauty, it’s perfect!”.
The Pro iDSD stuns with its ability to perfectly line up all the sound sources in a virtual space, filigree rendering each instrument. Every tiny detail: whether it’s the plucking of a string, the overtones of a voice, a brush gliding over a hi-hat – it all comes through with maximum precision and fidelity.
Music material is presented in layers. The unit surrounds all the dimensions of the virtual scene with excellent microdynamics and instrument echelon.
Velocity response, attack, fades, bass response, kick, strings, and vocal accuracy were all top notch!
In the transistor mode the iFI Pro iDSD plays more technically, subtly, and also as honestly and extremely melodically.
Low frequencies sound precise, smooth, with a good punch and an enviable force. Bass is fast and well defined.
Mids are extremely detailed, smooth and textured. Harmony intertwined with comfort and gave rise to exorbitant musicality.
The high frequencies are clean and technical. They’re moderately cool and very detailed. I have no complaints.
In “Lamp” mode, the sound takes on a more cohesive and warm hue. It’s not a drastic change, but the sound becomes singable and mannered.
“Lamp+” is something in between the above two modes. There is precision and speed and tube musicianship.
I couldn’t quite settle on any one mode. Though I’m an ardent fan of transistorized manner of sound delivery, but, nevertheless, depending on this or that song, I switched the rocker switch in all possible positions. How nice it is when you have three instruments in one! The Pro iDSD handles all genres of music with ease.
For example, include Red Hot Chili Peppers “The Righteous & The Wicked”
The pressure, the drive, the passion, and the palpability of every sound!
The bass simply cuts through the space. Every reverberation of the strings, their tautness and touch of the musician’s fingers – everything is rendered authentic, massive and so real, that you are ready to touch Flea himself, who slap you into his chair, making you sway to his rhythm.
And then Anthony Kiedis, right down the middle, gives out a recitative:
“I can’t rest in war
Will you be my friend?
Dark ages never change
Well, I can’t comprehend.”
And next to it reminds me of a pre-funk guitar or a hard one.
And the drum kit is inimitable. What precision of blow, what a breath of plastic and hi-hat! There is no hint of plucking or distortion, which is amazing. Even when Chad Smith is pounding the metal with all his might, his every touch is distinct and articulate. Chic! Such high register refinement is rare these days.
It’s flawless. A standing ovation and a standing ovation!
The bottom line
The woofer is powerful, precise, collected. The bass is amazingly fast, rich in detail and timbre.
The midrange is smooth, detailed, extremely technical. Each instrument, each touch of strings, each breath of vocals, is transmitted as precisely and authentically as possible. And the musicianship is amazing.
The treble is impeccable, as is the rest of the frequency range. They are smooth, meticulous, and technical. I personally have no complaints about their quantity and quality. Everything is above reproach.
What a classy device! Its performance and boundless functionality are worthy of the highest praise. Well, the sound produced by Pro iDSD makes me, like a striped elephant, immediately lose my will, and along with it peace and sleep. Of course, the sobering effect is the price of the device – it costs about 225,000 Dollars in American retail. Though if you spread this sum on the whole range of received possibilities, it becomes clear that the purchase will be quite justified. In general, I went to save some money, and I advise you to do the same.
The sound !!! , functionality, design, size.
Not if finances allow.