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iFi NEO iDSD 2 – The first Bluetooth DAC/ Amp with lossless signal transmission

A preamplifier and headphone amplifier with integrated D/A converter and Bluetooth is available with the new iFi NEO iDSD 2, whereby its special feature is supposed to be first and foremost the fact that loss-free signal transmission via Bluetooth is guaranteed, as the manufacturer promises.

Story Highlights
  • Bluetooth 5.4 with the aptX Lossless codec is said to make the new iFi NEO iDSD 2 the first Bluetooth DAC/ Amp to guarantee lossless signal transmission.

The latest addition to iFi Audio’s line-up is a solution that is available in a wide range of variants from a variety of manufacturers, essentially combining a D/A converter and a headphone amplifier that can also act as a preamplifier. Nevertheless, iFi Audio promises that the new iFi NEO iDSD 2 is an outstanding solution, namely the world’s first Bluetooth DAC and headphone amplifier that can achieve lossless signal transmission via Bluetooth.

The basis for this is the latest Bluetooth standard, namely Bluetooth 5.4, as well as the new codec from Qualcomm Inc., aptX Lossless, with which a particularly high data rate can be achieved that almost reaches the data rate of an audio CD.

iFi NEO iDSD 2 – Successor to the iFi NEO iDSD

With the new iFi NEO iDSD 2, iFi Audio is launching the successor to the iFi NEO iDSD. This solution, designed as a D/A converter, preamplifier and headphone amplifier in the desktop audio sector, was presented by the company almost exactly three years ago, promising a particularly flexible product at a high level of quality.

Of course, the same applies to the new iFi NEO iDSD 2, which can now also take on the task of a D/A converter, a preamplifier and a headphone amplifier, and is supposed to stand out from its predecessor with a multitude of features.

XMOS 16-Core Chip Processor at its Heart

At the heart of the new iFi NEO iDSD 2 is an XMOS 16-core chip processor from XMOS Technology, which is said to offer particularly high performance. Compared to its predecessor with eight processor cores, it offers twice the performance (2,000 MIPS), twice the memory capacity (512 kByte) and the latest SuperSpeed USB standard, according to iFi Audio. The company also emphasises that it has optimised the XMOS firmware itself.

Signal conversion using a DAC from Texas Instruments

The signal conversion is done by means of DAC components from the specialist Texas Instruments, namely unspecified four-channel D/A converters of the type Burr-Brown, whereby signals can be processed in Linear PCM with up to 32 bits and 768 kHz and DSD up to DSD512. Content encoded in lossy MQA should also be able to be processed.

The converter gets its clock from a GMT femto-precision clock with intelligent memory buffer, as described by the manufacturer, which guarantees particularly low jitter. If desired, you can also rely on an external clock; a corresponding clock input in the form of a 10 MHz BNC is available on the rear panel.

High-quality, powerful output stage

Another important feature of the new iFi NEO iDSD 2 is its outstanding output stage, which is based on a so-called PureWave Circuit Design with balanced dual-mono topology and extremely short signal paths, MOSFET as central elements and various possibilities to optimise the signal processing according to requirements.

The company cites iFi Auto iEMatch as a prime example, as well as the latest XSpace and XBass II processing modes, which operate on an analogue level and can be seen as a supplement to the four available digital filters.

The output power of the iFi NEO iDSD 2 is particularly remarkable, with an impressive 5,551 mW at 32 ohms, as the manufacturer explicitly points out. The predecessor delivered “only” a comparatively modest 1,040 mW into 32 ohms. With this, any headphone can be operated without any problems.

All the interfaces you need

As in the past, the new iFi NEO iDSD 2 offers numerous interfaces for flexible use. First and foremost, of course, there is USB for direct connection to a PC or Mac, as well as coaxial and optical S/PDIF and the aforementioned BNC as an external clock.

The analogue input should not go unmentioned, although it is “only” available as a 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack. The iFi NEO iDSD 2 outputs analogue signals via a pair of unbalanced RCA sockets and a pair of balanced XLRs.

Headphones can be controlled unbalanced via a 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack and balanced via a 4.4 mm Pentaconn.

Bluetooth 5.4 including aptX Lossless

Let’s move on to the truly outstanding feature of the new iFi NEO iDSD 2, namely its Bluetooth module, which complies with the latest Bluetooth 5.4 standard and once again comes from specialist Qualcomm Inc.

It is a Qualcomm QC518x Bluetooth audio chip that supports the codecs SBC and AAC, LDAC, LHDC/HWA, aptX, aptX Adaptive and above all aptX Lossless.

With aptX Lossless, a data rate can be achieved at which one can speak of a loss-free signal transmission, according to iFi Audio, which indicates this with 1,200 kbps. With a signal transmission in pure “CD quality”, a data rate of 1,411 kpbs would be required, so one is indeed very close.

As a comparison, iFi Audio lists LDAC with a data rate of 990 kbps, aptX with 352 kbps and the long outdated but unfortunately still widely used codec SBC with 328 kbps.

iFi Nexis – New app for convenient control

Although the iFi NEO iDSD 2 has a TFT colour display on its front panel, as well as all the relevant buttons for convenient control, and a matching infrared remote control is also included, iFi Audio is highlighting a new app that they have added to the iFi NEO iDSD 2 for particularly intuitive control of all functions.

This is the new iFi Nexis app, which will be available for Google Android and Apple iOS.

It’s worth noting that the new iFi NEO iDSD 2 can also be used in portrait mode, with a stand included for extra space-saving installation.

Prices and availability

The new iFi NEO iDSD 2 should be in stores within the next few days, the manufacturer promises. With a recommended retail price of € 899,-, it is a bit more expensive than its direct predecessor, the iFi NEO iDSD.

Getting to the point

The new iFi NEO iDSD 2 is once again the classic combination of a D/A converter plus preamplifier plus headphone amplifier, so there doesn’t seem to be much new to report about the successor to the iFi NEO iDSD. However, the generational change to the iFi NEO iDSD 2 is extremely exciting, thanks to a powerful system platform, a much more powerful output stage and, above all, a Bluetooth module that complies with the latest Bluetooth 5.4 standard and thus supports aptX Lossless with a particularly high data rate. Thus, iFi Audio speaks of the new iFi NEO iDSD 2 as a solution that for the first time guarantees lossless signal transmission in CD quality.

Price € 899,-
ManufacturerIFI AUDIO
DistributionWOD Audio
More about this manufacturer at HiFi BLOG
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Michael Holzinger

Michael Holzinger, founder and editor-in-chief of HiFi BLOG and sempre-audio.at, has been working for years as a journalist in the fields of IT, photography, telecommunications and consumer electronics.

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