From the Spirit of the Elders – A Review of the iFi Pro iDSD DAC & Headphone Amp

I can’t imagine anything sounding bad on the iFi Pro iDSD. But since I pretend to be a professional, I might as well talk a little about some of the pairings I’ve played with.

Let’s start with the weirdest match, the Empire Ears Spartan IV ($749, Review HERE). I chose this in-ear because it is very, very sensitive, and I wanted to pick up any noise the iDSD might be making. On Low Gain, there is some very low-level hiss, which is easily overshadowed when music is playing at normal listening dB. However, the Tubes make their own noise, and you will hear funny dings and rings from time to time. This is quite obvious when you touch the DAC to adjust the volume or anything of that nature. While the hiss disappears behind the music, it is possible you’ll occasionally notice the tubes ring when you least expect it. It’s not loud, but it is there. Spartan sounds great from this DAC, but sensitive IEMs are perhaps not the best thing to use with this.

Now, the Meze 99 Classics ($309 Review HERE) is a fantastic thing to use here. As a sensitive headphone designed for mobile use, it is capable of picking up hiss from certain amps. If it is picking up noise from the Pro iDSD, it’s so low-level I can’t be sure if it’s really there or not. Even on High Gain, it’s very quiet. And as for Tube ring, I only hear it when I flip one of the stiff switches on the front. Normal volume adjustments don’t produce it, which makes Meze a fine set of cans to enjoy. In fact, the tuning of the DAC meshes beautifully with the 99 Classics voice. Warmer sources have long been a favorite of mine to pair with these, and they’ve never sounded better than this.

The Audeze LCD-3 Fazor ($2,000) is a smooth slut and the perfect test subject to see if you can make this DAC sound too warm and relaxed. NOPE! Clarity, transparency, and resolution remain exceedingly high, whilst the lush Audeze house sound is showcased to its fullest. When I sit down to this combo, I’m hooked for hours.

Only seldom do I listen to the Sennheiser HD800 (around $1,400), as it’s really not my favorite signature. In fact, the only time I truly enjoy them is with classical music. Anything with high-hats and cymbals given prominence in the mix, and the HD800 can become painful. According to my ears, at any rate. If you tend to love the HD800, I imagine you’ll find the Pro iDSD a brilliant companion. I adored this setup on any and all acoustic recordings.

Finally, the HIFIMAN Sundara ($349, Review HERE). When these first came out, they sold for $500. That price was right and good, as they perform at an exceptionally high level. They are super flat, with one of the most natural, effortless upper registers you’ll ever hear. And my god, do they retrieve detail! Sundara replaced the HD6XX as my everyday cans, because whether it’s movies or music, TV, YouTube, or gaming, they always sound utterly correct. And, as with everything else, they revealed the truth of the iFi Pro iDSD, and made me love that gorgeous Burr Brown DAC.



Pinky Powers

Pinky Powers

Pinky is an artsy twat. Illustration, graphic design, writing. Yet music escapes him, and always has. He builds his own cables, and likes to explore the craftsmanship of others. He's a stabby one, also. At the first hint of annoyance, out comes the blade. I say he's compensating for something... in a big bad way. If we all try really hard as a collective, maybe we can have him put down.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent posts