Today we check out the $699 USD iFi Audio NEO iDSD DAC/Amplifier.
Disclaimer: The iFi Audio NEO iDSD was provided directly by iFi Audio.
About iFi Audio
Belonging to the group AMR (Abbingdon Music Research Group), which is one of the largest audio equipment manufacturers in the UK, iFi Audio is a manufacturer of several DACs and amplifiers, as well as other accessories for computer & home audio. I already reviewed several iFi Audio products before this, such as the Nano iOne, the Nano iDSD Black Label, the xDSD, the xCAN, the ZEN Blue, the ZEN CAN, and the late popular Hip-DAC. Most of these products have entered our recommended lists. The last review I posted was all about the Micro iDSD Signature, although that wasn’t provided by the company itself.
iFi Audio has very open and charming communication with a helpful and kind attitude, which makes things a lot easier. At least it’s been the case for me. They pay attention to the products of course, but they also pay attention to make you happy. I’m pretty sure this is also the case for their actual customers.
About iFi NEO iDSD
The iFi NEO iDSD is a desktop DAC/Amplifier and it’s an all-in-one solution for basically anything. iFi Audio introduced the NEO iDSD as “the ultimate desktop system”, which is true if you look at this product in detail.
iFi has been releasing continuation products in order to provide improved models to their customers. However, the NEO iDSD is a whole new concept and product. As they’re one of the most trusted DAC/Amp manufacturers in the market, iFi once again is determined to prove themselves in terms of desktop devices.
So what does NEO iDSD bring to the table? In terms of features, it basically has everything. You can use it as a pure DAC, you can use it as a full DAC/Amp solution, or you can use it as a preamp. Active/passive speakers or headphones, it doesn’t matter. Are you a hardcore gamer? Just connect it to your console/PC and enjoy the enhanced sound. Do you like wireless streaming? Just connect it to your device and enjoy your tunes. The NEO iDSD covers all.
It plays every music format, including full MQA decoding support. You can use Tidal, Roon, or Audirvana. Do you have MQA CDs? That’s no problem either. Over S/PDIF, you can also take advantage of any MQA CDs in your collection.
In terms of Bluetooth, it has Qualcomm’s new QCC5100 Bluetooth processing IC. All current high-definition Bluetooth audio formats are supported – aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, HWA/LHDC, AAC, and SBC. It uses the BT 5.o tech and you can pair up to 7 devices.
Under the hood, there’s the “PureWave” circuit design as iFi Audio calls it. It represents short, direct signal paths. As far as the circuit design goes, the components are selected from Murata, TDK, Texas Instruments, and MOSFET. These are all well-respected manufacturers of quality components. iFi Audio is very selective about the components and circuit design so I’m not surprised here. Yet, as we all know, it won’t mean anything unless the sound quality out of the device is really good.
The amplifier section has a continuous power output of over 1000mW into 32ohms available through the balanced headphone socket. So if you have power-hungry headphones and if you’re planning to use them with the NEO, make sure you get a 4.4mm type cable.
The unit arrives in a medium-sized rectangular box. The package is very similar to previous offerings. You get the device on the top and accessories on the bottom cardboard boxes. The boxes store an RCA cable, a USB cable, a remote controller, the Wi-Fi antenna, and some paperwork. There’s also a 6.3mm adapter which is nice. The box also stores a stand that you can mount to the NEO to put it in a vertical position.
The presentation of the package is very good and a bit more impressive than the iDSD Signature. It works perfectly as I didn’t see any deformations from shipping.
Design & Build
Appearance-wise the iFi Audio NEO iDSD looks cool, futuristic but also authentic at the same time. As I remarked iFi has been releasing upgrade models recently until the NEO. So the new NEO has a new design from the ground up. The silver color is fantastic and the device is made of aluminum. It looks gorgeous. The volume knob and the OLED screen complete the design flawlessly. I absolutely loved this new design.
Build quality is also very good. The volume knob feels quite rigid and it’s also made from aluminum. The chassis gives a very safe and sturdy impression as well as the inputs and outputs. The only thing I didn’t like is the 4.4mm output. It is kind of wobbling at times. This is not a big deal as it does the job perfectly, but it’s a detail that I couldn’t miss.
Back to the design; I also loved the fact that you can use this device vertically. This helps to preserve more space on your table. The supplied aluminum stand gets the job done here. It’s a very stable mount and turning the volume or pushing the buttons don’t cause the device to move around. Another cool thing is that the OLED screen rotates depending on the position, just like smartphone screens. Nice job here, very cool.
The review continues on Page 2 about the sound.