Class A all the way
True Native® playback
Quad DSD256 or
One of the very
The audio signal has
The iDAC was good. It was very good and cultivated a very loyal following among customers and reviewers alike. The iDAC2 is the all-new 2015 version. It is a totally new design that has drawn upon the widespread praise garnered by the nano iDSD and micro iDSD.
What is it?
State-of-the-art DAC/headphone amplifier
For home, desktop or portable use.
Signal stays original: Burr-Brown True Native®
Starting with the EISA award-winning Nano iDSD, the Burr-Brown chipset has become an integral part of the iFi Audio DNA. That is True Native® playback on DSD and PCM. What does this mean? the iDAC2 (and all other iFi DACs) will keep the integrity of the file format unchanged all the way through. So DSD stays DSD and PCM stays PCM. From beginning to end. You hear it as the artist intended.
Quad-DSD256 and PCM384kHz. Future-proofed by iFi
iFi’s unique approach to outstanding sonic performance and exceptional value for money is well-known. From 16/44 through to Quad-Speed DSD256, the iDAC2 is able to handle all these formats with consummate finesse.
This evokes a sonic ‘rightness’ about listening to music on the iDAC2 as there is no format conversion or re-sampling.
Class A on RCA
AMR/iFi’s roots lie in single-ended valve amplification so it is no surprise that the iDAC2 operates in Class A.
The iDAC2’s analogue stage has two special audio grade, Elna Japan Silmic II (the highest available grade and likely the best audio grade electrolytic capacitor money can buy). These are the same ones used in the ‘uber’ AMR machines.
The Analogue stage also uses a discrete, Class A buffer that combines an N-Channel J-Fet and a PNP bi-polar transistor that allows this buffer to handle loads of even 600 Ohms. This was originally designed for the upcoming Pro range so its pedigree is beyond reproach.
Have DAC A/V amplifier? Just connect
Drawing on the popularity of the nano iDSD and the micro iDSD, the iDAC2 also features an SPDIF output which means it is able to receive a USB signal and then convert it and output a digital SPDIF signal to another device such as Sonos streamer or an A/V amplifier (with an onboard DAC).
As your system changes over time, the iDAC2 will simply follow suit. Performance and flexibility in abundance.
Highest-quality components, the iDAC2 is no different
AMR/iFi prides itself on the very best component quality: from Japan Elna Silmic II, TDK C0G capacitors to Vishay MELF resistors, the iDAC2 has them all.
Take the DAC’s power supply including our new ‘Super Regulator®’ a rather unique shunt noise filter which cleans the USB Power for the DAC. For the DAC there is a critical pin called reference. We always pay much attention to this pin, however the iDAC2 already benefits from trickle-down technology from the Pro range where we found a high-grade Panasonic Japan made Film Capacitor for surface mounting. This combined with a smaller value C0G capacitor provides the cleanest reference pin voltage yet. On the Audio Precision 2, the measurement graph is impressive indeed.
It is clear that behind its diminutive size beats the heart of digital and analogue circuitry that is of unrivalled design and execution (matched only by other iFi machines).
|Input:||USB3.0 (USB2.0 compatible)|
|Output:||SPDIF RCA (only PCM up to 192KHz)|
|DAC:||Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown (1-DAC Chip; 2-Channel; 4-Signals)|
|-PCM:||Bit-Perfect/Minimum Phase/Standard, Digital filters selectable|
|-DSD:||Extreme/Extended/Standard, Analogue filters selectable|
|-DXD:||Bit-Perfect Processing, Fixed Analogue filter|
|Output:||2.1V (+/-0.05V) fixed|
|Zout:||< 39 Ohm|
|SNR:||> 114dB(A) @ 0dBFS|
|THD+N:||< 0.0025% @ 0dBFS (100k Load)|
|< 0.025% @ 0dBFS (600R Load)|
|Output:||> 350mW (2.40V) into 16R (<10% THD+N)|
|> 34mW (3.20V) into 300R (< 0.1% THD+N)|
|Zout:||< 2 Ohm|
|THD+N:||< 0.0025% (1V into 16 Ohm, 0dBFS)|
|SNR:||> 114dBA (3.2V into 16 Ohm, 0dBFS)|
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Thanks Matthieu, math89 and Elite Diffusion (iFi:France)!
Thanks HiFi +!
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Thanks Sandal Audio and Top Wing Corporation (iFi:Japan)!
“To play DSD files you need a few things, which you may already have. The first is a computer to play the files using music player software that will translate the DSF files and send it to your hi-fi system. The second is a DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) in your hi-fi system – a device which allows you to play music from your computer, usually via a USB cable. And, of course, you will need an amplifier and speakers or headphones, whatever you use to listen to music at home. If you are going to play DSD files for the first time, you may have to configure your software for that purpose. ”
Thanks Tomasz Karasinski, StereoLife and Native DSD!
“As a reviewer, I’m not being paid nor am I endorsed in any way, shape, or form. All impressions are solely my own opinions……Here’s a shout-out to @iFi Audio for generously providing me with the Micro iDSD and the iDAC2 for this review. I’ve received nothing short of stupendous customer service from Kate (Abbingdon Music Research U.K.) and Tyler F. (iFi USA)”
“iDSD micro: I found the iDSD a very interesting listen. Quite frankly, it’s as close as you can get to reference for the price of $499……The iDSD also excelled at imaging and transient speed. Fast and difficult recordings were played back without a hitch with perfect instrumental placement. It is this particular trait, coupled with an “open” sound that allows the iDSD to be considered reference in my book…….Clarity, cohesion, openness, and accuracy. The Micro iDSD has all of them in spades. Conclusively, I highly recommend the iDSD for a long-term purchase that doesn’t disappoint. Score: 8.9”
“iDAC2: Coming from the iDSD, I was not expecting anything particularly impressive from the iDAC2. It’s safe to say I was wrong. This just goes to show that you shouldn’t have preconceived notions, even when a manufacturer designates a product in a certain competing bracket…..Overall, the iDAC2 is an enchantress. It’s highly musical, surprisingly with better dynamics and transients than the Micro iDSD. Every instrument and sound could be clearly distinguished in the background, with good tonality and timbre. Score: 8.4”
“Today I will talk about a similar product, namely about iDAC2 – a desktop DAC…..The first impression you leave IDAC two is that all is well placed in the field of ear, stereo image is very well rendered and I can walk easily through records of quality……The construction is solid, the design seems nice and simple…..The sound was pleasant surprise, detail, transparency and sound extra airy DAC sites with modulator Delta-Sigma is not a surprise, the surprise was naturalness, outline thick of the notes, bass fast and deep and real-world environments and tangible, so more rarely from Delta-Sigma designs, IFIs bravo!!
– Solid construction, highest quality
– Small size> easy to carry
– Device 3 in 1 (DAC dedicated transport digital headphone amplifier)
- Detail, high transparency, micro detail is easily discernible
– Natural sound full and rich tonal
– Bas played on several levels, impressive
– lack definitively distorted harmonics”
Translated by Google.
Thanks Philippe Daussin, Qobuz and Elite Diffusion
“The iDAC2 is easy to set up, just download the driver from the iFi website, plug in the iDAC2 and install. You can also download a tool to update the firmware, and iFi are brilliant, there are different firmwares for people using the iDAC2 in different systems. I am running the Vanilla firmware as I have no specific requirements for the iDAC2….. Well most DAC’s nowadays strive for neutrality and clarity, the original iDAC was a great piece of kit, it was incredibly detailed and very crisp. But the iDAC2 is more pleasurable to listen to due to its more natural sound…..The iPurifier2 is a great little device too, it reduces a tiny bit of harshness, and in doing so does increase listening pleasure. A great little combo, which sounds great and has a few nifty features, excellent for at home and also on the go usage.
Sound Perfection Rating: 10/10 (for the price, I cannot find any negatives)”
Translated with Google
Thanks Kees Jan Lankhaar!
Thanks Steven & Enjoythemusic,com!
To maximise dynamic performance, especially with bass, the analogue stage is backed by audio-grade ELNA Silmic Capacitors dedicated only to the analogue stage and additional capacitors giving a total of 1,400uF, while the Headphone Amplifier uses by almost 2,000uF in local power supply capacitance, located within a few mm of the audio circuitry supplied.
All in all, of the iDAC 2 micro printed circuit board, nearly 50% is taken up with power supply circuitry while the rest is used for all other functions. By using such extreme and elaborate power supply circuitry, the iDAC2 micro achieves a new level of dynamic performance in USB powered DACs and a USB powered performance (objective & subjective) that previously required either battery or external mains power. As we always say, the proof is in the pudding.
iFi iDAC 2 Specifications:
Input: USB3.0 (USB2.0 compatible)
Output: SPDIF RCA (only PCM up to 192KHz)
Formats: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/384KHz PCM up to 32 Bit
DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown (1-DAC; 2-Channel; 4-Signals)
Filters: -PCM: Bit-Perfect/Minimum Phase/Standard, Digital filters selectable
-DSD: Extreme/Extended/Standard, Analogue filters selectable
-DXD: Bit-Perfect Processing, Fixed Analogue filter
Output: 2.1V (+/-0.05V) fixed
Zout: < 39 Ohm SNR: > 114dB (A) @ 0dBFS
THD+N: < 0.0025% @ 0dBFS (100k Load) Headphone Section:
Output: > 350mW (2.40V) into 16R (<10% THD+N) > 34mW (3.20V) into 300R (< 0.1% THD+N) Zout: < 2 Ohm THD+N: < 0.0025% (1V into 16 Ohm, 0dBFS) SNR: > 114dBA (3.2V into 16 Ohm, 0dBFS)
Power consumption: <1.5W Dimensions: 158(l)x68(w)x28(h)mm
Weight: 265g(0.58 lbs)
Be sure to check his channel and review of the iDAC2.
Some comments; “this is a very good sounding D A converter given its price…”
Thank you Hans an Daluso (iFi:Netherlands)
Another new feature used is the Active Noise Cancellation® power supply conditioning. First seen here in the iDAC2 micro and specially developed for USB-powered devices. They are not ‘Regulators’ in the classic sense of the word, but instead they only work on noise on the power supply voltage, without actually ‘regulating’ the voltage.
The traditional approach (see first graphic) using filters and regulators sees DC voltage lost AND noise is not comprehensively eliminated, there is still a residual level.
However, in comparison to the iFi ANC system, there is no DC voltage lost AND the power is noise-free:
We all know that USB Power from common USB ports is very noisy (usually tens if not 100’s of millivolts of noise). So normally, power supply regulation is required to remove this noise. Common regulators use regulation elements in series with the powerline and require at least several 100mV to several Volt to work. In a USB-powered device this loss is not acceptable as we need at least 5V to give sensible levels for line outputs and headphones.
The all-new Active Noise Cancellation® avoids the loss of power supply voltage, while achieving similar or better rejection of power line noise as classic regulators. No extra series elements are needed. The Active Noise Cancellation® circuit cleans up the incoming USB power before it is distributed inside the iDAC2. A further such Active Noise Cancellation® circuit is cascaded after the first before supplying the headphone amplifier and analogue stage with power. A third Active Noise Cancellation® circuit is cascaded after this to give the DAC Chip the cleanest possible power source.
This multi-stage cascade achieves a reduction of USB noise by over 60dB (1,000 times) at low frequencies for the headphone amplifier and analogue stage. At higher frequencies where switching noise from switched mode power supplies is found, the noise attenuation is even greater.
At the DAC Chip the noise is reduced by over 90dB (31,600 times) for low frequencies. So even very high noise levels of several 100mV are suppressed below the self-noise of the analogue circuitry and DAC Chip, giving the iDAC 2 micro a Signal/Noise ratio of > 114dB(A) or an equivalent number of bits of > 19 Bits. Many DACs with an extra ‘zero’ on the end of the retail price do not go this far.
iDAC2 – Spilling the Sauce (5 of 6)_ 17 Nov 2015
Next time, Power Supply – with great power come great responsibility (final, part 6)
Commonly, coupling capacitors are employed to ensure the output from the DAC is free from DC (Direct Current). As the signal directly passes through coupling capacitors compared to other components in the system, these have an uncommonly large impact on sound quality. There is an after-market in coupling-capacitors. Take these rather special audiophile capacitors (pictured is the Duelund CAST Copperfoil Capacitor – yours for a cool 2,700 USD EACH). They are huge in size and expensive, sound every bit as good as their price yet a simple straight copper or silver wire invariably ‘impacts’ the signal less.
In the iDAC2 the analogue stage is direct-coupled (read: no coupling capacitors). In the iDAC2 a DC Servo is employed to ensure the output is always DC-free, however the DC Servo is implemented such as to make it effectively ‘invisible’ sonically-speaking, by using the same type integrated amplifier as for the actual signal path to perform the DC servo duties (so the DC servo is of the same level of quality) and the influence of the Servo on the signal becomes 20 times less than that of the main audio path through the circuit design and so completely disappears from measurements as well from the subjective sound quality.
In the iDAC2 we use MELF resistors as well as C0G filter capacitors (these are at least as good as polystyrene and approach Teflon capacitors for performance) for the low-pass filter. Additionally, the filter is a mixed-mode type where a passive filter first removes the unwanted very high frequency noise from the DAC output, which would be detrimental to the integrated amplifier performance before an active filter implements the final roll-off.
Dual-Mono Headphone section
The headphone amplifier is a non-trivial section either. It is an all-new dual-mono design with 350mW output into 16 Ohm and a maximum of 3.3V output available to drive high impedance headphones (> 100 Ohm). Using Direct Drive® technology it too is fully direct-coupled and MELF resistors are used for the gain setting network.
With a well-respected pair of headphones such as the Fostex TL50-RPs, this reasonably-priced ‘plug ‘n play’ combination really shines. It even surprises one or two far more expensive setups.
Next time, Active Noise Cancellation® (part 5)
The analogue stage uses a Burr-Brown (by TI) Soundplus® J-Fet integrated amplifier with an added discrete Class A output buffer. The Class A buffer is a unique design combining J-Fets and bipolar transistors in a single-stage and allows the iDAC2 to handle even 600 Ohm Loads without breaking a sweat.
The ‘Soundplus®’ integrated amplifier selected for the iDAC2 easily goes up against the ‘ultimate’ audio integrated amplifiers from Burr-Brown (OPA627 and OPA827). Rather than relying on ‘fashion’ and selecting a ‘fashionable’ Op-Amp, we selected a specific Burr-Brown part because of its performance when combined with our unique Class A TubeState® output stage and in our mixed passive/active filter Analogue stage, it goes up right against the most expensive options (both in objective measurements and in listening).
We start from the datasheet specifications in the comparison table below itself which speaks for itself. Using industry benchmarks such as Input Noise and GBWP the BB Soundplus® compares well with both the BB OPA627B and OPA827….
1 Input Noise, a measure how much noise the Op-Amp produces, lower is better
2 Stands for Gain Bandwidth Product, a measure how ‘fast’ the Op-Amp is, higher is generally better
3 Stands for Total Harmonic Distortion & Noise, a measure how linear the Op-Amp is, lower is generally better
….BUT where we finish is by adding the extra discrete J-Fet + BJT Class A output stage to the iFi selected Burr-Brown, distortion performance is improved beyond that of the OPA627 and OPA827 from an already pretty good 0.00005% to a gobsmacking 0.000017%. This is another instance of where we go beyond the datasheet to wring a higher measured performance level.
The next question is, nice number but can one hear this in the real world?
Our answer would be a resounding ‘yes’ – we compared and we found audibly better dynamism with more difficult loads.
At the heart of AMR/iFI products including the iDAC2 micro is the same Burr-Brown ‘True Native’ chipset which we have explained before in the micro iDSD thread. This particular Burr-Brown chip offers two separate signal pathways for PCM and DSD. What this means is that one chip offers the ‘best of both formats’ as the signal quality remains native.
Choosing the right DAC topology significantly effects the final sound. We loved the dynamics and slam of the multi-bit topology (e.g. the legendary Philips TDA1541A), however when a High-Definition signal is used, the Multibit topology (actually no true multi-bit DAC chipset available yet) doesn’t have the low-level linearity of the Delta-Sigma topology.
So to get the best of both worlds, we need:
· Multi-bit for dynamics and slam (the higher bits of the PCB data);
· Delta-Sigma for the low level linearity (the lower bits of the PCB data);
So the DAC chip we picked for the micro iDSD has the following topology:
· Top 6 bit: true multi-bit;
· Lower bits: Delta-Sigma.
As a result, the iDAC2 micro also supports DXD and DSD up to DSD256#. Three Digital Filters are included; Bit-Perfect (Non-Oversampling), Minimum Phase and Standard and three selectable analogue filters for DSD.
# DSD256 is available on Windows via ASIO DSD and with special firmware on OSX, Windows and Linux via DoP DSD
Running alongside the Burr-Brown ‘True Native’ chipset is the 8-Core XMOS. But with one essential difference – our own firmware. Such update to the XMOS Design and Firmware introduced by iFi include Star Clocking as first outlined in the iDSD micro.
The IDAC 2 implements Version 4 AMR XMOS Platform and uses the latest generation 8-Core 500MIPS XMOS1 transputer derived main processor. These processors are quite unique in their architecture and are based on a technology that once was considered to have revolutionized computing, the INMOS Transputer: which allows extremely high sample rates, supporting 384kHz/32Bit PCM and 11.2MHz single bit (DSD).
1INMOS transputing to XMOS
The ‘Transputer’ (Trans – Com – Puter) was a pioneering microprocessor architecture of the 1980’s, intended for parallel (multi-core) computing. It was designed among others by David May and produced by Inmos, a semiconductor company based in Bristol, United Kingdom.
For some time in the late 1980’s many considered the Transputer to be the next great design for the future of computing. While INMOS themselves ultimately faded from the scene, their pioneering parallel computing platform is echoed in every modern PC running Dual or Quad Core CPU’s and in any Smartphone or Tablet featuring multi-core CPU’s.
XMOS was started among others by David May and modernised the Transputer core architecture. XMOS ‘Transputer’ Chips have since found many applications where their unique architecture outperforms both traditional CPU’s and FPGA systems, not the least in USB Audio.
While the digital section is very extensive and based on fairly unique items that stand out from the crowd, without a commensurate highly dedicated analogue section, the iDAC2 would not be half the DAC it is.
The iDAC2 – spilling the secret sauce (part 1)
The iDAC2’s musicality has wooed – most recently the iDAC2 + iPurifier2 + Pro iCAN at the Fujiya AVIC Headphone Festival in Tokyo where the market is probably the most demanding on the planet.
The Pro iCAN was one of the show ‘best sound winners’ so the small but mighty iDAC2 + iPurifier 2 combo deserve some credit for producing the digital-to-analogue conversion to feed the Pro iCAN.
At the show, the quite technically proficient Japanese press asked us on more than one occasion why the recently-launched iDAC2 sounded so nice. And this is a press pack that has turntables in heavy rotation so they know their onions. This gave us the idea to put finger to keyboard.
Bake-Off: the iFi recipe behind a really good DAC
The following are our thoughts only. The application of the parts budget as common industry practice is similar to what we did in the iFi iDSD nano which is more indicative of < US$1,000 DACs. Often a very large part of the budget is needed for the digital platform (after all, we need a DAC Chip that headlines and a good USB processor). Power supplies and analogue stages receive the remaining budget.
Hence, the three key cost areas in the electronics of a digital-to-analogue converter:
1)Digital section cost – is much the same across the board, chipsets/clocks vary but slightly and software is usually ‘off the shelf’ like the XMOS firmware and off the shelf DAC Chips of usually comparable cost. In a USB DAC the USB Processor is usually the biggest ticket item before the DAC. Clocks and their power supplies often cost as much as a DAC Chip.
2)Analogue section cost – from a simple double Op-Amp for 20 cent to things done much more extensively cost varies. The iDAC2 has BB Soundplus integrated amplifier and a discrete JFet and BJT Class A output stage. Further it employs C0G Capacitors and MELF Resistors for all signal positions, all this adds cost.
3)Power supply section cost – Often USB DACs have minimal power supply arrangements with generic 3-pin regulators. If done more extensively, then the cost is higher eg iDAC2 uses ELNA Silmic Capacitors and Active Noise Cancellation® to eliminate the USB power noise.
iDAC2 is no piece of cake
Things are different in the iDAC 2: we started with a larger budget, we could have spent it in a number of ways, like more DAC Chips or different ‘fashionable’ DAC Chips or fancy clocks. Instead we chose to put the extra budget where it impacts most, namely analogue stages and power supplies.
The iDAC2 has a similar cost digital section as with other DACs out there (and to our iDSD nano) but its analogue and power sections are more extensive hence its overall cost is greater so its pie chart area is larger.
Thank you Tomas Karasiński and StereoLife!
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Thank you Lupus_Kazee and enjoy your time on hifi-forum.de!
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Thank you Stereoikolorowo!
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Thank you Marcin Olszewski of audiostereo.pl!
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Thanks Kees Jan of Art’s Excellence, Richard Kuipers and Daluso (iFi:Netherlands)
iDAC2: ‘has it all’
“Micro-reaching although the first was good and had a lot of fans, this according to the manufacturer iDAC2 is noticeably better and was developed from the ground up as a completely new design…..There are no format conversion or resampling results correctness and regularity of music perception…..The degree analog has two capacitors Elna Silmic II, which are designed to ensure the highest sound quality – they are probably one of the the best capacitor available in the market…..AMR has a best components applied in their devices – from Japanese capacitors Elna Silmic II by TDK C0G, to Wishaya MELF resistors – iDAC2 has it all.”
Philippe of Hautefidelite reviews the iDAC2!
“The range of products iFi Audio has a constant: a stunning reproduction quality, we can not imagine at first, unless you have already tried these products…..This DAC iFi contains components audiophile-quality, such as, for example, a pair of electrochemical capacitors of Silmic series (radial models mounted flat, black and gold livery) incorporating silk as a dielectric mounted in the power supply circuit…..Musicality and versatility make this DAC entirely conceivable installation on a high fidelity sedentary chain. The different functions of the Micro iDAC2 and simplicity of operation are as many assets facilitating the choice of this device, as compact affordable.”
Merci Philippe David and hautefidelite!
Karl of Audiophile.no covers the iDAC2!
“Ifi Audio launches a new improved version of their Micro IDAC. Micro IDAC2 is renewed on a number of areas….Micro IDAC2 is a further development of the Micro IDAC, and there are some drastic changes. The DAC chip has been changed, from an ESS SABRE to a chip from Burr-Brown. Thus, they have also given IDAC2 extended competence – it can play PCM with sample rate up to 384kHz as well as DSD128 and DSD256. IFi Audio emphasizes that the signal is kept in its original form all the way through DAC. That means DSD is never converted to PCM on its way to the analog signal. Micro IDAC2 has two sets of analogue outputs. We start with RCA outputs that are fixed level, and operating in Class A. However, this box also has a set of headphone outputs, of course with volume control. IDAC2 also has a SPDIF digital output, which makes it possible to use this box as a D/D converter, then in the form of USB to SPDIF. It enables integration with other DACs that lacks USB, or the amplifiers with digital inputs.”
Cheers Karl Erik Sylthe!
Airy Fidelity of Youtube reviews the iDAC2!
A video covering the latest iFi product, iDAC2, which Airy Fidelity explains the new features from the previous original iDAC1 and also does a short comparison.
In short the iDAC2: More dynamic, energetic, close up vocals, improved soundstage, 3D sounding, musical instrumental details.
Many thanks for your review Airy Fidelity!