iFi Pro iDSD

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by ufospls2, Jun 8, 2019.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Had stuff written down but got sidetracked with the RAAL and getting a new cat. I promised my kid that if he cleaned the litter box for 21 days in a row without prompting, that he would earn a cat. I didn't think he would actually do it, but he did. I couldn't go back on my word because that would be a bad example.

    DSD upsampling:

    Ultimately, I settled on using DSD-Remastering (upsampling to DSD1024) in conjunction with Tube+ (no feedback) and BP+ (bit perfect+) mode. Compared to PCM (no DSD upsampling), the DSD-Remastering mode stretches out of the borders of the soundstage and pushes the soundstage location back. There's a better sense of depth location of instruments, with most pop/rock recordings, playing the vocalist in front and the other instruments slightly behind the vocalist (depends on the recording). I'd say the soundstage reminded me of that of the Crane Song Solaris' DAC, which is known for its open and big soundstage, maybe a little bit behind in terms of imaging precision, but also presenting specific instruments' images in a less cutout way. PCM mode compresses the stage inward with a resultant denser timbre like NOS DACs. It's a personal choice here.

    Headphone outputs:

    The headphone out is actually not bad, but I found dedicated headamps to sound better than the built-in headamp. The built-in amp does seem tonally true to the DAC's output, which is not surprising since the headouts are same circuit as the lineouts? The exception to this might be super-efficient headphones like Grados (I tried a Grado Magnum in HP2 cups). But generally, I found even modest amps like the Project Horizon sound better (and with their own color) with medium efficiency headphones like the HD650, HD800, etc.

    Overall summary:
    • Super flexible, with several different filters, upsampling, and output combinations. Tune your own sound.
    • Generally and subject to settings, a lightly flowy sound. Graceful and enticing. Isn't a hit-you-over-the-head kind of sound.
    • Using DSD512 or DSD1024, an expansive soundstage with depth.
    • NOS-like sound characteristics possible with BP+, no upsampling, Tube+
    Sending this off to @Vtory
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2019
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  2. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    @purr1n TBH I'm an iFi fan— though I can see why many might not agree with their sound they do some killer AIOs, and your impressions reinforce my desire to try and figure out how to get quality time with the Pro iDSD (can't remember if you've heard the Pro iCAN but I thought the Fostex and Klipsch kids were great out of the SE in Tube+, and there was more than enough juice for just about every headphone the store had on hand to play with).
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I really liked the iDSD nano BL that we bought for the loaner program until it got lost by USPS. I don't think many got to hear it, unfortunately. The first edition of the iDSD nano was not impressive, but I like how iFi has kept improving their products and how their portable stuff is self-contained with a battery.

    The new cat is the Siamese. This should work since the new one can attack the old ones when he grows up.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2019
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  4. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    Redacted second paragraph since I only realised after hitting send that you didn't specify it was a Siamese here. My bad, hah. Yeah, the new cat looks adorable, but if it's the youngest of the bunch there's a fair chance it might pull a Scar-Mufasa later on. Already feel bad for the older ones :))

    Transportable gear is underrated, the silver Micro iDSD has been a good companion for many years and it's still going strong (save for the Godforasken IEMatch switch— bad idea putting that on the bottom), though it's technically the ex-gf's now. Just happen to have it with me to keep as a reference when demoing stuff out of home, haha.
     
  5. murphythecat

    murphythecat Friend

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    really interesting. Do you feel the pro dsd at the same level as Yggdrasil A2, Solaris, ect?

    Could you compare rapidely the pro idsd vs Solaris, Yggdrasil A2,? something along the lines of this:
    "
    1. Convert-2: Vivid mode transients, wrap-around stage, simplified but pure pristine timbre, incredible life-like slam.
    2. Solaris: Slightly tipped up tonally, incredibly deep expansive stage, relaxed and easygoing transients. Sweet highs, or on the wrong system, grating highs.
    3. Source: Good tone and timbre but rolled at both extremes, good transients but also slightly dull and veiled, stage as flat as Kiera Knightely's chest.
    4. Gungnir A2. Precise imaging and depth rendering, outstanding resolution. Tonal balance and transient attacks between Convert-2 and Solaris, but closer to Convert-2. Dense timbre a la old school R2R. Cold on the wrong system."
     
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  6. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    To be honest, we really like how tour members approached our Pro iDSD on this forum. It's not about what (we're not after praises) folks here write but how (we like common sense) and we regret nothing. That's why if there's a need for a tour loaner in the future, we'll gladly provide. Cool stuff!
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Pro iDSD: Graceful, flowy, light, and nuanced. Flexibility via settings to arrive at dense NOS-like timbre or expansive soundstage. Never gets flustered or congested, but does need pairing with proper gear to get low-end heft.
     
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  8. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Folks, we've just launched something very cool and very universal. All details are to be found at our official page. Not sure if we can post links to our own stuff, so please look in power section.
     
  9. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    Is it the PowerStation?

    Two questions I have about it:

    1. Beyond the cool design and high quality copper, is it different from a power strip with an AC Purifier?

    2. The price is not on the site?
     
  10. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Yup.

    Surge spikes and EMI/RFI protection, active noise cancelling circuitry (PowerStation is ACTIVE, not passive), ground on demand if needed, groud and polarity detection. A lot for the money we'd say.

    US$499 (ex tax) or €549/£499 (inc. VAT.)
     
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  11. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    Doesn't your own AC iPurifier also have active noise cancelling, ground and polarity detection for $99? I was referring to that on a normal surge protecting power strip versus the PowerStation. I'm guessing the PowerStation will of course be more effective being an all-integrated solution but just wanna make it clear why one would go for this instead of the more versatile AC iPurifier
     
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  12. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Because AC iPurifier isn't a power strip. It's a matter of functionality above everything else. Plus, we could make a regular passive power strip, but since we have our own noise cancelling tech, it made much more sense to include it and make the product active with some useful extras.

    Plus, if one already has AC iPurifier, it complements PowerStation nicely. The goal is to have different power supplies connected to PowerStation separated. And that's what a standalone AC iPurifier does.
     
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  13. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    iFi Pro iDSD loaner impression

    Pros: great user experience in daling in, pleasing tone and timbre, organic sounding, expansive staging via dsd1024 conversion
    Cons: too many settings feel confused (many mostly unused), price could be better, wrongly labeled output levels, plankton/slam to be desired more for this price level

    Associated gears
    • Gustard DAC-X26 + U16
    • Schiit LOKI, SYS, Vidar
    • Raal SR1a
    For easier comparisons, pro idsd was sourced by U16 via SPDIF (U16 also feeding X26 via AES). Rca outputs of two dacs connected to SYS. Then SYS > LOKI > Vidar > SR1a.

    First impression
    When I first heard about this product, it was immediately ignored. Well, not having pre-experience with this company, I had fair rationales then. DSD is a word I want to avoid all the time. Back and front panels are pretty confusing. It’s a very expensive all-in-one.. Even now such things generally bias me in the negative direction. Anyway, later I heard good things about this product, and Cranesong Solaris could change my perception of 2-3k AIOs. Then I got curious about how pro idsd could stack against top dacs. And here I am.

    It’s still hard to consider pro idsd beautiful or sleek. But I realized the design and interface were well thought. It’s kinda antithesis of Matrix X-Sabre Pro MQA -- cool and sleek design but f***ing UI/UX.

    I also like the experience of selectable tube and solid output stages. Very straightforward. When tubes aren’t ready, solid state takes its role temporarily until tubes get warm. And once tubes aren’t used, they’re turned off. These processes done very seamlessly. Great plus in my book.

    Sound
    One thing I want to comment on is its output selector (on the back). Pro idsd can select two output levels between “HiFi” and “Pro” (along with the choice between fixed or variable). The manual claims that balanced out is around 4.6V (so, 2.3V unbalanced out) with HiFi mode and 11.2V (5.6V unbalanced out) with Pro mode. In the unit I evaluated, they were oppositely labeled. HiFi sounded way louder than Pro with others being equal, and HiFi was also louder than unbalanced outs of X26 (around 2.5V at FS).

    Anyway, during my evaluation I used Pro Fixed, as it has pretty similar output level with my dac.

    As reported by others, pro idsd has 3 output modes, 6 digital filters, and 3 remastering options (pcm unchanged, to dsd512, to dsd1024). After spending a couple of hours, it’s obvious that I like “tube+ output” over the other two outputs. It had more smoothness and richness.

    I also immediately liked “dsd1024 conversion”, as it widens the stage substantially. It reminded me of Cranesong solaris, nearly that level but a little less natural to my ears. Later I found pcm (unchanged) mode had more intimacy and bold timbre. In the end, I spent half of my listening time in DSD1024 and another half in PCM. Preference between the two was highly mood and track dependent.

    Regarding filters, I clearly prefer Bit-Perfect+ (BP+) and Transient Aligned (TA) over anything else. TA sounds more normal and right. By comparison, BP+ tend to exaggerate things, but mostly sound richer, lusher, and/or impactful. But occasionally it feels a little too oversimplified or blurred.

    Dialing in with pro idsd was lots of fun. Now I can’t blame too many switches/knobs as I did before..

    Pro idsd did most things very right -- or at least not very wrong. Bass is pretty solid, but tad lean. Transient is rather rounded but never slow or lame. Midrange is great. While there still is artificiality, it was done very tastefully. Many years ago, AGD M7 I auditioned had this kind of beautiful and organic midrange from the memory. But the difference seems that pro idsd achieves those good things without being too soft or dull. Top end is well extended although a little rolled to my ears sometimes. Overall, it sounds pretty different from modern DS sounds such as (good) akm and sabre implementations. I bet music-first folks would prefer pro idsd over most DS dacs (even if good implementations).

    Compared to my reference X26 (ESS9038 pro dual based), I found pro idsd had competitive benefits on timbre, texture, and imaging. X26 also does stage and image pretty well, but rendered images barely have as much thickness and tactility as pro idsd. Both dacs have a sense of artificiality, but I’d say pro idsd has it in more pleasant and less evident ways than x26. On the contrary, x26 was better in background blackness, clarity, bass slam, and micro stuff (playing or singing technique, nuance, etc etc). I also prefer more edged and squared transient of x26.

    I also briefly played with hp out. It’s better than fulla 2 (as an amp) but nowhere close to DSHA-3F in driving Verite. As an AIO, I don’t think pro idsd has the same level of magic that I recognized from Cranesong Solaris.

    Conclusion
    I know Analog-ish or Analog-like is kinda BS term. But those wording may point out some clear need of groups of people who desire a digital gear that sounds “not too digital”. DS dac generally can’t do it well without substantial compromises/sacrifices. Recent DS implementations (mostly via ESS9038 Pro or latest AKM chips) made a huge improvement, but still far from ideal. Pro idsd may be best understood in such context. It still has weaknesses and limitations. However, if you prioritize to recover an enjoyable illusion of dense bodies playing music in an authentic and believable way, Pro iDSD should be included in your short list.

    I might push pro idsd stronger if it costs around 1.5k usd instead of 2.5k though…
     
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  14. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Many thanks! If we could make it any more affordable, honestly we would.
     
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  15. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Folks, MQA over network via Tidal on our Pro iDSD machine. Perhaps one or two of good people here will find it useful [​IMG]

     
  16. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    I think that if purely evaluated as a DAC, the Pro iDSD's price is a little hard to justify (the Yggdrasil is actually cheaper). If one has need for some of the additional features of the unit (which it has a metric sh*t ton), it becomes a lot easier to recommend.

    As a side note, I personally feel kind of dumb for missing the DSD upsampling to get the Bit Perfect+ mode. Extrapolation via reading impressions here makes me think that it would have addressed some of the areas where I felt the unit fell short.
     
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