iFi Pro iDSD

pro%20idsd

Hi Guys,

So iFi was kind enough to send me a Pro iDSD for a little while for review purposes. I’m not going to go into all the features as that would result in a 50 page thesis, so if you have any questions please just ask, and I will answer them to the best of my ability. The full review will dive deep into the workings of the unit.

I asked myself originally, why does this device exist, as they have the Pro iCAN, they just needed to concentrate on a solid TOTL dedicated DAC. Having used it for a couple days, I sort of get it now. However, there are a few caveats

-2.5mm Balanced out is dumb for this purpose. It should be 4.4mm. Supposedly this is in the works and will be available on future Pro iDSD’s.

-the 1,500mw power being available through the SE output is dumb, the full 4000mw that is available through the 2.5mm balanced jack should be available. If it can be done on the Micro iDSD, it should exist here.

-Thats it really.

Especially once versions are available with 4.4mm pentaconn, I can see this being the one device many could need. There isn’t really much need for anything else. IF you have hard to drive headphones sure, add a suitable amp (like the Pro iCAN) but apart from that, this pretty much does it all.

It sounds great, has all the features you could ever want, tubes, tube+, SS, headphone out, can be used as a standalone DAC in a system. It really is a very well thought through piece of gear, with the above caveats.

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I figured they’d send you a 2.5mm version!

Makes no sense to me on a desktop-class product - should have been a 4.4mm output (with a 4.4mm -> 2.5mm TRRS adapter in the box if they felt that strongly about it). I bitched about it (especially after the "we’re delaying it to add a 4.4mm option, which then became “if enough people request it me might do a run of them … at some undetermined time … maybe” but it’s still delayed) at CanJam @ RMAF 2018 and

I still have a hard time with placement of the Pro iDSD. I absolutely can see it as an all-in-one. But as a DAC, there’s just too much overlap with the Pro iCAN for it to make sense. Now, maybe it sounds so good that it still competitive with $2,500 dedicated DACs, but that extra hardware is not free and makes no sense to me in the face of the Pro iCAN.

If it had been me, I’d have done two products here. A pure DAC version (or maybe a DAC with the streaming capabilities) and the version they shipped (but positioned as an all-on-one).

And I’m still annoyed that they went with “LinkPlay” as their streaming solution, for multiple reasons.

Look forward to actual sound-impressions though. I’ve only had a bit of time here and there with one, and only in meet conditions, so hard to draw any proper conclusions.

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Agreed with everything you said. Lawrance at iFi said

"Hi Paul,

Unfortunately the 4.4 units aren’t quite ready yet to put on the market. I didn’t want to delay sending the unit so the 2.5 was what we could send out as of now. You would either need your own amplifier or an adapter for the balanced output."

So they definitely are coming, its just a question of…when?

I also agree about the extra useless hardware going into parts cost if you want a strict DAC only.

Anyhow, will report back. I’m enjoying it so far, for what its worth :slight_smile:

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Picked one up a month or so ago and so far love it!

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Ifi actually just released the 4.4mm version 2 days ago. So it’s now an option. I don’t know of there has been an official announcement about it yet but they let us know about it and that it was available for order now.

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Hi am welcome @Silver4Judas. Nice to have you here.

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It’s good that they finally got 4.4mm support done.

From what I understand, the 4.4mm version includes a number of “circuit and parts improvements” as part of that, and increased the price by 10% at the same time. Is that the case?

If so, I wonder how much of the price increase (if correct) was necessitated by the improvements vs. staving off the inevitable highly-vocal backlash from existing customers who are about to learn that their $2,499 DAC is now the lower-performing version …

Though for those in the market for the original spec version I imagine FOMO, and other effects, is about to result in a bunch of existing iFi Pro iDSD users putting their units up for sale so they can “upgrade” - so there may be some unusually good deals on a used unit for a little while.

Anyway, 4.4mm support is a step forward.

Now LinkPlay need to get a Roon implementation done.

I read rumors about the possibility about a year ago, but those seem to have died on the vine. I’ve learned the hard-way not to “buy on futures”.

Which means to use it as a streamer you’re either stuck with DLNA, which requires special handling (OpenHome extensions support, which I don’t see mentioned) just to get gapless playback, YAHAP (yet another half-assed app), or you’re doing AirPlay (I’d rather not have everything resampled to 16/48 using a power-rather-than-quality-optimized SoC).

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4.4 mm definitely sounds better than 2.5 mm. But I am wondering why not 4pin xlr(f) for this product category. Maybe spacing reason? I don’t know.

I also agree with others’ view about “redundancy” (it doesn’t have to be all-in-one).

And honestly, I am skeptical about this product naming. I’ve automatically ignored this dac until very recently – simply because I don’t have dsd at all. I believe good things of ifi come from hardware decisions (such as galvanic isolation for all inputs or selectable tube output stage), and are independent of media format. Something like “iCAN-Digital” could be less misleading :slightly_smiling_face:

Don’t get me wrong. I am rather looking forward to hearing this – a couple of trusted audio neighbors witnessed its pure dac performance. And possibly do so later this summer.

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4-pin XLR is slowly but surely being phased out. For example, the latest iteration of the Sennheiser HD 800 S now ships with a 4.4mm cable instead of 4-pin XLR. 4.4mm probably will be and should be the industry standard in a couple of years.

@Torq this is what our rep sent to us during the week.

“ I’m pleased to announce that the Pro iDSD 4.4mm DAC is now available for ordering and can be sold immediately. This new version of our flagship reference DAC replaces the 2.5mm headphone output with a balanced 4.4mm headphone output while also providing a slight bump in power (4200mW @ 16ohms, balanced) and an improved circuit design for better sonics and stability”.

They haven’t sent us any whitepaper for the new specs yet and they have not updated it on their website yet so we don’t have any official specs that show what has changed. But that is currently what they are saying.

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That’s a shame as I (personally) think that an XLR connection is superior to TRS (or TRRS or TRRRS or whatever). If it is a space issue, they could have opted for mini XLR (or Tiny XLR). I just prefer that my connections don’t rub against other poles on inserting, it also locks, but it is probably my paranoia from studio and live stuff.

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Which the shorting-issue for plug-jacks, is a potential problem, the 4.4mm TRRRS connection does have two advantages over 4-pin XLR.

  1. Greater contact surface area for each pole.
  2. It’s actually a 5-pin connection, so can have a true shield or ground, in addition to L+/L- and R+/R-. This is very useful when it comes to having balanced outputs off a DAP.

That they’re a shit to solder (not as bad as 2.5mm TRRS) and there isn’t much variety in them yet, is a problem that’ll hopefully go away.

But, yes, on a desktop amplifier I want XLR and 4.4mm … 2.5mm I can do with an adapter.

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Is the contact area really greater on the TRRRS?

I can’t say I have ever looked inside a 4.4mm socket, but comparing (just as an example) a female TRS and a female XLR, both by Neutrik, the difference is minimal. The TRS usually has a small lip that touches the male connector and this is usually not rounded, so the contact area is very small. The XLR is a smaller pin, but the female conector grips both sides of the pin (or a full 360) and is usually a longer contact area than the TRS.

Again, I have no idea if this is the case with TRRRS or not. It is also many years since I have used connectors that weren’t Neutrik or Switchcraft (except for the TinyXLR which are Rean and made by Neutrik) so I am not sure if other brands have less contact area.

The second point you make is a very valid one but that could be solved by moving to 5pin XLRs (although people would start buying lighting cables :smile:

As said though, I am probably just biased towards XLR’s :wink:

(Edit: I also prefer Speakon connectors to any TRS or Banana plugs)

(Edit2: I apologize for going completely off topic here!!)

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As with most things, it depends on the implementation of the particular socket. Perhaps “more potential contact area” would have been a better statement.

I’ve seen XLR sockets built with tiny pins that just poke backwards into the socket and make contact with the tips of the incoming pins. If the contact area there were any smaller, or there was any carbon on the tip, you’d pretty much have a cat’s-whisker.

But I like XLRs better, in practice, too … if only because they’re easier to work with when making cables.

My real preference is dual 3-pin XLRs.

But in the interests of keeping things compact enough to have one connector that works well for desktop and portable units, full-size cans and IEMs, 4.4mm is where things are, slowly, going.

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:laughing:

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did they fix the usb sleep issue? I had one of these but returned it because if I unplugged my iPhone, the USB would stop working until I restarted the iDSD. It would be totally unresponsive, no matter what other USB devices I plugged into it. Some other people on head-fi had the same issue

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Hey Guys,

I’ve had some more time to play around with the iFi Pro iDSD and I am absolutely loving it. With the release of the 4.4mm balanced version having happened, I really think this is a competent all in one offering, the most many would need. It is extremely feature rich, and this is a double edged sword. I’ve been finding myself getting some interference or just weird things happening with certain filter combinations, or input combos etc….I think it may have to do with the wireless feature? I’m not sure. I haven’t been able to nail down the exact combos that things happen with, so bear with me, but it is something to note.

The Pro iDSD now puts out 4200mw from its balanced output (4.4mm version) and that combined with the 18db gain setting is pretty much all you will need for most headphones. However, I own the Susvara, and it definitely does better with more power behind it, so I have been testing the iDSD as a standalone DAC as well. Again, it performs admirably. SS, Tube. Tube + modes, all kinds of filters, DSD1024 upsampling, you really can’t ask for more features from a DAC, and it sounds good whilst doing it all, too.

At first I was unsure of the Pro iDSD, after all, they have the Pro iCAN, why do a DAC/Amp combo in the same form factor? Why not just a straight DAC? After spending more time with the Pro iDSD, it is beginning to make more sense. I love my Micro iDSD BL, and this is just a grown up desktop version of it. It isn’t too large, so it fits on a desk nicely, it can be combined with the Pro iCAN if you are driving the Susvara or similar, and the iESL if you are running electrostats.

The amp section is not as competent as the Pro iCAN, but it certainly doesn’t suck, and I have found it more than adequate for listening during the day, switching to my full desktop set up at night.

As a quick aside, it really seems to synergise well with the ZMF headphones I have here, the Verite, and Eikon.

I have another month with the iDSD so I will report back with a full review (which will be long, due to all the features) but so far, this thing really is making a positive impression on me. It just sort of……does it all?

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I chatted with iFi rep at CanJam about the 4.4mm he understood why everyone wanted it but, excuse my ignorance, but why is this a big deal? When it has a balanced XLR? Isn’t that more common? Also is 4.4mm the “new” XLR? And is that why people want it? Lots of questions lol…brain is fried long day at work…this was probably already answered above…in fact I think :thinking: I answered my own question, I recall something about this being the new XLR replacement/standard…

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The Pro iDSD doesn’t have XLR headphone outputs.

It’s only balanced headphone output was 2.5mm TRRS … which is not really mechanically robust enough for the sorts of cables one tends to use with full-size headphones.

Hell, I don’t think it’s really sturdy enough for mobile use with IEMs either …

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wow… my brain is really fried and broken… long…long day at work… I looked at the picture @ufospls2 posted and thought it was the XLR cable for the Verite lol…because I use the XLR cable for the Verite facepalm I’m going to sleep now…enough embarrassing myself while on the internet in zombie mode ha!

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