iFi Audio NEO iDSD Review

User Experience

My experience with the NEO has been quite positive but not without some small complaints. These are in the category of nitpicking maybe, but I’m going to share them. Let’s go with the negatives first. iFi Audio needs to improve the button feedback in these devices as they don’t feel very premium and the feedback is kind of awkward. This has been a small detail that I criticized iFi for, and I think they need to do a better job here.

Another thing is the very bad noise from the headphone outputs with sensitive IEMs. Of course, this is not a device focused on IEM usage. But, the noise here is really bad, especially when the music is not playing. I’m not sure if this is caused by the screen or anything else. The screen switches off when not in use for a certain period of time, but the noise continues.

This is absolutely not an issue with many headphones I’ve tried, but if you have sensitive over-ear headphones somehow, you can also hear the noise. With this level of component quality and circuit design, this shouldn’t happen in my opinion. One option is to use the IEMatch accessory which I did, but that means you can’t use the BAL output without an adapter.

iFi Audio NEO iDSD

Another small problem was the MQA decoding but thankfully I fixed it with the latest firmware releases from iFi. Don’t forget to follow the instructions on iFi Audio YouTube page for MQA. And also don’t forget to install the latest software on your device. After installation, everything works perfectly. iFi Audio is always very supportive and helpful about these kinds of issues so I thank them for that.

Now with the negatives out of the way, let’s focus on the positives. First of all, the OLED screen is a very good choice and it’s very easy to read with any information you want to track & see.  The audio codec, volume, sample rate, and device mode are all present. The volume knob is very pleasing to use with a smooth rotation. The channel imbalance is non-existent and that’s a very good feature.

The remote controller helps to change the volume, screen brightness, and input modes. The device needs to be on variable volume mode to perform the volume adjustment. You can use the device with both the USB cable or the power adapter. It all depends on your using purpose. Wireless, sole DAC, DAC/Amp, etc. The best part about the NEO is this exact flexibility. Overall it provides a very pleasing experience and I have to say, it looks gorgeous on my desk.

iFi Audio NEO iDSD


The iFi Audio NEO iDSD has a neutral, colorless, and very clean presentation. It has a great background blackness, a similarly great resolution, and clarity. It also has great transparency in mids & treble.

The sound has a linear response in general and stays true to the recording. So this device becomes a great tool for just extracting the character of your speakers, IEMs, or headphones. The impressive parts here are the separation and background. iFi usually nails these two areas in every product I’ve tried or tested from them.

It’s one of the cleanest sounding desktop devices I’ve heard. It also has a good amount of power for almost every headphone out there. So we have a very versatile and all-around premium home audio device here.


The bass is not huge, and it has a lean nature but with good detail and texture. There’s good enough mid-bass presence and the bass has good texture, resolution, and impact. The decay is really nice and the bass has a good kick when needed, but not enough rumble for popular music. This is basically “quality over quantity”.

iFi Audio NEO iDSD

There’s no bloated mid-bass of any kind, no excessive boom or anything in that nature. There’s great speed and decay in this region. Overall it’s a linear and leaner bass presentation without too much quantity. You can add your own amplifier to the mix to alter this presentation if you like. Or, you can do that by using bassy headphones/speakers. The NEO is very modest here and allows you to add the character of other elements in the chain.

Don’t consider this as a bassless presentation, but think of it as a flat source device that gives a good enough amount of bass for a reference-like response.


The mids are once again neutral with good definition, clarity, and transparency. The resolution here is very impressive. Mids have good air and the instruments sound breathy with good definition. This area can be a bit bland to some people but it would also depend on your speakers/headphones.

There’s a good definition here especially when it comes to instruments. They also shine through without any distraction and they’re easily distinguishable, thanks to the success of the background performance. The NEO is not cold or warm in the mid-range. It has a nicely balanced but neutral presentation so just like the bass region, the character of your particular gear would play a role here.

iFi Audio NEO iDSD

However, the transparency and the resolution are excellent here and there isn’t any noticeable veil in the sound whatsoever. This is the highlight of the NEO iDSD in the whole spectrum and the mid-range is not an exception. Yet, some might find this a bit analytical at times. But one can’t deny the texture and resolution in this area which are simply great.

The review continues on Page 3 with more sound, comparison, and conclusion.

4.4/5 - (168 votes)

A keen audiophile and hobby photographer, Berkhan is after absolute perfection. Whether it is a full-frame camera or a custom in-ear, his standpoint persists. He tries to keep his photography enthusiasm at the same level as audio. Sometimes photography wins, sometimes his love for music takes over and he puts that camera aside. Simplistic expressions of sound in his reviews are the way to go for him. He enjoys a fine single malt along with his favourite Jazz recordings.


  • Reply April 8, 2021

    Vishnu A

    Awesome review! I paired mine with a Schiit Magnius for the extra power using the balanced outputs on the NEO. Helped with the headroom on the HD650’s, a bit overkill for the Focal Clear. Love the set up regardless. Cheers

  • Reply August 8, 2023


    Wondering how you square your claim that the device has “great background blackness” with your complaint regarding background noise with IEMs and some headphones?

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