iFi Audio just released its newest product – the iDSD Neo. I’ts a stationary DAC/AMP combo with Bluetooth, balanced output, and unique, futuristic design. It is priced at 699 USD.
Sound quality for the price
iFi made some changes to their packaging style, it’s not all white anymore. iDSD Neo comes in a grey box with a shiny render, logo, name, and some Japanese signs. Inside, you will find an iDSD Neo itself, an iPower, a remote, a 2x RCA cable, USB type B cable, rubber feet, 3,5 to 6,35mm jack adapter and a bluetooth antenna.
There’s also one wonderful thing for me – an aluminium stand to position your iDSD NEO vertically. I’m missing that thing with many other DACs. It can save a lot of space on the desk.
iFi iDSD Neo is pretty heavy, it weighs about 1kg + the vertical stand. It is top quality in terms of handcrafting – aluminum shell with a matte finish, a glossy screen at the front, and a LED indicator.
The potentiometer placed in the middle of the front has a perfect, smooth click and is VERY satisfying to use. The screen is an OLED which rotates to match the orientation. It shows the volume level, type of connection, and quality of a file that is currently played.
You can find analog outputs on the backside, both XLR and RCA, same as the digital inputs (optical, coax, USB), and obviously the power connector.
Back to the design – iFi made some cool marketing when they announced the Neo a couple days ago. Bright neons, digits and flashy colors – it’s all represented in the final product in a way. Neo looks futuristic, asymmetric and just fun. It resembles the iDSD Pro more than the new iDSD Signature for example.
iDSD Neo provides some extra functionalities, which are:
- Bluetooth 5.0 with HWA connection (96kHz). Its range is fantastic, I can go to the other room, with some walls on the way and the quality doesn’t change.
- MQA Decoding
- Balanced XLR line out
- 4,4mm balanced output, which provides a 1000mW of power.
Okay, I have to say that, I fell in love with iDSD Neo. It has a very light and delicate sound signature, but I’m not missing the body here. It provides a lot of fun, but in the meantime, it’s not underwhelming thanks to its lightness. Dynamics are also fantastic, provides a tempo to the music.
The sound signature is pretty simple, with pronounced bass and a higher midrange.
But it can’t be that beautiful at all, iDSD Neo doesn’t have as much power as many of us would like to. It sounds lovely with many headphones, but it’s lacking power while using some harder to drive headphones. The balanced output is fixing that a little, but it still doesn’t have juice to drive many demanding cans. JDSLabs Atom has 1W via 3.5mm output, which is 3x more power than the iDSD NEO. Oh yeah, and it’s 99 bucks. iFi can push 1W through the balanced output, which is on the level of Mid-Fi DAPS nowadays – it ain’t impressive at all.
The bass is full, round, and light. Subbas is delicately purring in the background, with more visible kickbass. Neo bass reminds me of the Moondrop Blessing2, cruelly fast, and some can recognize this bass as quite recessed, but trust me, it isn’t. It’s lovely with most music genres, it doesn’t matter if that’s a music band like “Coals” (a small polish band, but they’re singing mostly in English) or something like Red Hot Chili Peppers. Neo matches everything in the bass part. It’s getting a lot heavier with electric music, like the “Television rules the nation” by Daft Punk. It rocks.
The midrange is pretty smooth, with a lot of details. It is very comfy, with the higher mids coming a little bit to the front. All voices are full-of-life but also delicate and well pronounced. Of course, as I mentioned at the beginning of the sound description, they are ethereal, so for some, they may lack a little bit of body. I have such feeling only in metal, in which the vocals sometimes feel slightly too distant.
The treble is clicky, highly detailed. Bells and cymbals are pleasantly shimmering. Violins have more power and are more texturized than mids, but without unnecessary sharpness. They generate the shape of the instruments marvellously. iDSD Neo treble is a challenging part to describe because it’s that good and neutral. It all sounds like it should, without the imposition of its style.
The soundstage is decent when it comes to its size. It is quite broad and deep, but for example, Topping DX7 Pro has a bigger soundstage.
If you’re a fan of holography and imaging though – oh man, that’s truly the best part of the NEO, slaughtering the other DAC’s at this price range. I can feel the instruments hiding behind the others and then coming back from the other side, every distance or height change. It also works great in games. I can hear enemies from every side, same as the distance or even the direction they’re heading. Marvelous.
iDSD Neo is something new for iFi Audio when it comes to design and sound, but both are incredibly good. The whole sound is really light, with a lot of air and a calming manner. Details are on top-level in its price range. iFi Audio yet again proves they are one of the best in the industry.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Philips Fidelio X2HR, Kennerton Odin, Vision Ears EVE2020, Audeze LCD-3, Bqeyz Spring 2, Craft Ears Four, Hifiman HE400i 2020,
- Sources– Topping DX7 Pro, SMSL M300+SP200, Chord Mojo, iFi iDSD Signature