Desktop 'Step Up' from IFI Nano iDSD

I may be redeploying my Nano iDSD and will need to replace it. I am not a “sophisticated listener” but maybe my listening skills will grow over time. To characterize the requirements …

  1. It will drive either a Seen HD650 or the AUX input of a guitar amplifier simulator (which then drivers a pair of active monitor speakers). And throw in the occasional use of a couple different IEM’s priced from cheap to $200.

  2. The source is typically the (HiFi level) Tidal app running on Windows 10 or MusicBee reading files from 320kbps MP3 to the occasional 24/96 FLAC file. MQA to me is a nice to have, but (at this point) not all that important because there just isn’t that much MQA out there (at least that I care to listen to).

  3. I listen to mostly (in order) solo classical guitar stuff, classic rock, jazz in various forms (I tend to be an instrumental vs vocal kind of guy).

  4. I would like to ‘reserve the right’ to effectively be able to drive something like the Senn HD800’s, although I have no immediate plans for a headphone upgrade.

  5. $500 is my top end budget for this.

  6. I am ruling out tubes as this device (devices?) will live in a tight space and the thermal characteristics of tubes would bother me in this case.

Suggestions. on what to consider here?




@Torq might have a better suggestion but maybe look at the bigger brother to the Nano? Or look at the Monolith THX-788 from monoprice, I really enjoy it, and I know @antdroid likes his…but it is pushing your budget…

Or I’ve in the past used the DAC out of the NiBL, into a more capable amp…so maybe look at something like the JDS Labs El amp with your NiBL? Or just pick up the JDS Labs Element if wanting to stick with an all in one. Another option is the JDS El Stack which gets a lot of good reviews. I’m a big fan of the JDS gear, and currently have the El DAC running my JBL 305s. I had the Element and loved it…I sold it to a friend but I’m thinking of getting the El Amp because I love that knob lol, plus the form factor is really nice!


I’ll come at this from a different angle …

What’s that then? Do you mean the Sennheiser EH350?

Since these are basically all significant distortion generators (by design) of some kind, I wouldn’t go overboard on anything feeding it in terms of initial fidelity. Any of the commonly recommended $100 DACs is going to be more than sufficient (and almost certainly measure better than the output from the simulator).

Buying audio-electronics with the intent to maybe utilize a capability in anything less than the very-near-term, usually means you’re spending money for nothing. Good chance something better will come out closer to when you need it, and if not prices on things that are appropriate will probably fall.

I can’t think of anything for under $500 that is going to make a meaningful difference to what you have already except, possibly, with your IEMs (and that’d depend heavily on what you have).

You’d almost certainly do better either getting another iFi Nano (since you seem to like it), or a $200-ish desktop-stack (Modi 3/JDS labs Atom etc. see posts starting here), and spending the other $300 on better headphones.

MQA-options at the prices you are talking about come down to iFi Nano and Micro iDSD BL, Audioquest Dragonfly Black and Red and the Meridian Explorer 2 (the only full-decoder here).


I intended to say “HD 650” - sorry about the error (corrected above).


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Thanks to all for the VERY helpful input.


That changes things … a bit … :wink:

More thoughts, given that, when I get a chance (though fundamentally).

@DarthPool has a good idea here. At $399, the iFi xDSD has a line-out mode that will drive any proper AUX input. It also has the power to do a good job with the Sennheiser HD-650s and even my relatively power-hungry Hifiman HE-560 planar-magnetics.

You’ll already be familiar with operations, size is plenty compact. The next step up, the Micro may break your budget, size, and possibly thermal requirements.

I did a review of my xDSD here iFi Audio xDSD