iFi provided the Pro iDSD on loan for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill.
The iFi Pro iDSD DAC and headphone amp is serious business. It has very few flaws. The ones it does have can be worked around, but they are equally serious.
This DAC makes a handsome addition to your desk, no doubt about that. It’s doesn’t take up too much space, but has just enough presence to demand respect. When it draws your eye, and it frequently will, you know the Pro iDSD could f**k you if it wished, and you’d be helpless to resist.
iFi threw everything into this device, including the kitchen sink, and the bones of the IRS agent you store under that sink:
taken from the manual
1. Quad-Core Burr Brown MultiBit/DSD hybrid DAC supporting DSD1024 and PCM768kHz
2. Studio grade DSD1024 remastering (Crysopeia FPGA Digital Engine)
3. Wireless DLNA/Airplay™/Ethernet Hi-Res Playback
4. User-selectable analogue stage: Tube or Solid-State
5. Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) playback
6. Global Master Timing femto grade clock system with external clock input options
7. Five lters: Bit-Perfect/Bit-Perfect+/Gibbs Transient Optimised/Apodising/Transient Aligned
8. Fully discrete passive LC analogue ltering
9. Zero Jitter Memory Buffer and Galvanic Isolation for all inputs
10. Discrete headphone/line amplier
11. Balanced inputs and outputs
12. Galvanic isolated ultra-quite power supply with super capacitors
There’s every kind of input you can think of, a handful of exquisite filters, including the truly bad-ass GTO filter, which instantly became my favorite. The Pro iDSD is well-built, features rich, and, at 4Watts per channel, POWERFUL!
So why are the outputs one of the major flaws of this DAC/Amp combo? Well, for the same reason I was never able to use this as my primary rig. WHERE IN TRUMP’S SWEATY TITS IS THE XLR HEADPHONE OUT?
iFi offers 1/4”, 3.5mm, and, depending on the unit you buy, either a 4.4mm or a 2.5mm balanced output. But no XLR. Which is just… weird. There’s enough power here to function as your endgame standalone unit. You NEED XLR. It seems like a dreadful oversight. Until it dawns on you. They handicapped the Pro iDSD to encourage you to fork over another $1,799 on the Pro iCAN. That’s the only way you’re getting everybody’s favorite balanced output for desktop use.
Unfortunately, my complaints with the outputs aren’t over yet. The Pro iDSD I’m reviewing here is, in fact, the second unit they sent me. The first one had broken port housing on the 2.5mm balanced out. So I couldn’t use it. No big deal. This is a loaner unit. It’s been around the block, so to speak. But the second unit also has a 2.5mm fault. I can’t get signal in both channels unless I push really, really hard on the port. The second I stop pushing, it cuts out again. I’ve tried three different cables, all of which had the same issue. And considering these cables work flawlessly on a dozen other balanced devices I own, we can safely say the problem lies with the Pro iDSD.
If you think about it, the broken port on the first unit suddenly makes sense. I’d bet anything a previous reviewer grew too frustrated, and put way too much pressure on the port, believing it would suddenly snap into place, like it’s supposed to. But the only thing that snapped was the plastic housing.
That’s my theory, at any rate.
I was offered a third unit for review, but I turned them down. This was getting too silly. iFi assures me, they have not heard of a quality control issue with the 2.5mm output, but I’d recommend opting for the 4.4mm version instead. I suspect that will work a lot better.
As such, my review of the sound comes from the single-ended port, which can be found on the next page.