RMAF 2018: iFi xDSD and Pro iDSD impress at both ends of price spectrum

I always make a point to stop by the iFi booth as the folks who work there are super friendly and I enjoy their products.

They were showing an immense AMR DAC that looked a bit like the front end of a DeLorean. I believe it was called the Diablo. They also had the new xDSD on display, which I currently have in for review and am liking quite a lot. I won’t spoil the review, but the sound quality here reminds me of their Black Label products in a very good way. The unit is priced at $400 USD.

I had never met Thorsten Loesch, the head honcho at iFi and AMR, but attended a headphone panel he was on, and the guy is a hoot. To me, he dressed a bit like a villain from an old kung-fu movie, he had both great quips and some very insightful comments. You can check out that video on RMAF’s youtube page. My favorite bit is his comment on ‘how long is a piece of string,’ at the 11-minute mark.

RMAF video with Thorsten Loesch.

I stopped for a quick listen to the Pro iDSD as well. I quite like iFi’s Pro iCAN headphone amp and feel it is one of the most underrated high-end headphone amps on the market both in terms of flexibility and sound quality. The iDSD combines some of the circuitry, including the switchable tube and JFET input stages with a Quad stack of Burr-Brown bit-perfect DAC chips.

There are a massive host of other features including a polarity pot, multiple single-ended and balanced connectors, five filter types, USB, SPDIF and BNC inputs, just to mention a few.

The sound of the unit very closely resembles the iCAN pro, but the DAC section dredges ups loads of clean and relaxed digital with no trace of digital harshness even in solid state mode. I especially like the Tube mode, as it gives a hint of warmth without disrupting the frequency response too much. At $2,500 USD the Pro iDSD is not cheap, but driving the Mr. Speakers Ether 2 was one of my show listening highlights.

Listening to Nate Smith’s Kinfolk: Postcards from Everywhere album, the 3D-stage depth and neutrality of this combination was spot on. The wide range of instruments and textures all came through very well balanced and without any one sonic quality sticking out more than another. I could listen to each part individually, yet also enjoy them as a musical whole. Overall, a great balancing act between transparency and musical enjoyment.

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