It is a system developed for passionate music lovers, the new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer, which the renowned manufacturer iFi Audio describes as a particularly flexible, very versatile, high-quality, but also very compact solution. Streaming is said to be possible in many different ways, just as the user wishes. The spectrum ranges from UPnP to Apple AirPlay, TIDAL Connect and Spotify Connect to certification as a Roon Ready Device. An excellent D/A converter should also not be forgotten, which is also supposed to distinguish the new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer.
Combination of streamer and DAC
The basis of the new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer is the combination of the latest version of the Network Streaming Engine from iFi Audio and an outstanding DAC, according to the manufacturer’s description.
In principle, the new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer can also be used as a pure streaming bridge, according to the manufacturer, who, however, says in the same breath that this is the only streamer that users need and that serves as an upgrade for any audio system.
Not an off-the-shelf solution – iFi Audio Streaming Engine
In particular, iFi Audio points out that the new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer is not a solution that relies on an off-the-shelf streaming platform; it is not a bought-in solution, but a platform developed in-house.
The basis is a Linux-based solution with a quad-core ARCM Cortex Processor, whereby one does not go into too much detail. However, bit-perfect streaming is promised first and foremost, using a wide variety of protocols to ensure the promised diversity and flexibility.
The new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer can function as a dlna-certified UPnP streaming client, supporting the only real industry standard in this area. iFi Audio leaves it completely up to the user to decide which software to use, as there is a wide choice on the market anyway, so there is no need for any further solution. BlubbleUPnP, mconnect or Audirvana are only three solutions that the manufacturer recommends in this regard.
In addition, there are TIDAL Connect and Spotify Connect, two streaming technologies that ensure direct use with the respective apps – TIDAL and Spotify.
Apple AirPlay is another very widespread streaming platform, but interestingly, Google’s “counterpart”, Google Chromecast, is missing.
Of course, the direct support of the media management and multi-room hi-res audio streaming solution Roon from Roon Labs LLC is very important, especially in the upscale hi-fi environment. The new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer is therefore designated as Roon-Ready.
Even though it is not streaming in the conventional sense, the user should also be able to play back music directly from USB storage media, whereby an XMOS-based microcontroller ensures a particularly reliable data connection and ANC II Active Noise Cancellation Technology ensures data transmission free of interfering influences. By the way, this also applies to the USB port, which is available on the new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer for the integration of external D/A converters.
For direct control of the playback of content via USB, iFi Audio also offers a separate app, the Stream-iFi app, which is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.
Outstanding D/A converter
Of course, as a proven specialist in this field, iFi Audio is particularly proud of the D/A converter in the new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer. Here, too, the company relies on a particularly sophisticated, self-developed design, which it calls Fouc-channel True Native Hi-res DAC Design, and which can process data in Linear PCM format with up to 32 bits and 768 kHz, DSD up to DSD512, but also MQA, and which is based on a 16-core XMOS processor and Burr-Brown DACs from Texas Instruments.
According to the manufacturer, depending on the operating mode, suitable modes are available for optimal performance. The iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer offers specific settings for Roon, TIDAL Masters, dlna and NAA, as well as a so-called General Mode. This solution also offers four selectable filters, namely Bit-perfect, GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimised), Minimum Phase and Standard.
WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet, M12 Ethernet port and optical LAN
A special feature of the new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer is how it can be integrated into the network. First and foremost, of course, there is a WiFi module according to IEEE 802.11ac, so there is no need for cables at all, but there is also a GIgabit Ethernet interface with RJ45 and – and this is the special feature – an M12 Ethernet port and optical LAN. This is a technology developed by iFi Audio itself, which uses optical conductors to connect to the iFi OptiBox, which in turn connects to the conventional network. Within the optical LAN, a signal transmission with 10 Gbps for bit-perfect transmission free of any interference is to be achieved, according to the manufacturer’s promise. This is achieved by galvanic isolation and reclocking of the network signals.
The new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer also features two USB-A ports that are SuperSpeed USB 3.0 compliant and downward compatible with USB 2.0, a USB-C port for system updates, a USB-A port that is USB 3.0 compliant and can be used for external D/A converters, an I2S port designed as HDMI, an optical and a coaxial S/PDIF interface as well as an AES/EBU interface.
Analogue signals are output via a pair of cinch sockets or a balanced 4.4 mm jack socket.
Power is supplied via an external power supply unit, which should also be mentioned at this point.
The front is adorned with a display that shows all relevant information including the cover artwork, right next to it is a central rotary encoder, and again to the right of it are some buttons.
Prices and availability
The new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer should be available in specialist shops within the next few days. The manufacturer quotes a price of € 1.299,-.
Getting to the point
The new iFi audio NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer is a very special, outstanding streaming solution, iFi Audio promises. It is a streaming solution with particularly high flexibility, particularly high quality, and one that has been developed from scratch in order to inspire particularly demanding hi-fi enthusiasts.
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