Product Summary:The iDSD Diablo from iFi Audio will catch your eye with its sleek design and fiery red finish. Diablo sits proudly at the top of the iFi range of portable/transportable DAC headphone amp combos. Built for purists and true headphone enthusiasts who crave unadulterated sonic performance. Battery-powered, with Bluetooth capability, and MQA decoder.... Click To Read More
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iFi Audio – iDSD Diablo Portable DAC and Headphone Amp
The iDSD Diablo from iFi Audio will catch your eye with its sleek design and fiery red finish. Diablo sits proudly at the top of the iFi range of portable/transportable DAC headphone amp combos. Built for purists and true headphone enthusiasts who crave unadulterated sonic performance. Battery-powered, with Bluetooth capability, and MQA decoder.
The iFi Audio iDSD Diablo is built for purists – the true headphone enthusiasts who crave pure, unadulterated sonic performance. Just like a racing car designed for uncompromising speed, the iDSD Diablo sets aside sonic tailoring as well as Bluetooth connectivity to focus on pure sonic power. Prepare for a riveting ride as it will gloriously drive any headphones on the planet. Put simply, the iDSD Diablo is iFi’s best ever transportable amplifier designed to deliver reference-level sound.
Diablo uses two Burr-Brown DAC chips and the new 16-core XMOS chip to process the data received via the USB and S/PDIF digital inputs. This means the iDSD Diablo can handle up to PCM 768, DSD 512, 2xDXD. Both PCM and DSD remain ‘bit-perfect’. It also provides full MQA decoding! Check out our MQA set-up tutorial (using the highly acclaimed NEO) for Tidal, Roon, and Audirvana here.
Balanced, differential analog circuit design reduces noise and cross-talk within the signal path by fully separating the left and right channels. The iDSD Diablo benefits from further refinements to our balanced, symmetrical dual-mono topologies with short, direct signal paths known as PureWave. Negative feedback can be used in amplifier circuits to compare the output signal with the input signal and correct errors. BUT there are drawbacks. iFi turns the negatives into positives with OptimaLoop.
Able to drive all manner of headphones with ease, the iDSD Diablo delivers up to 5000mW of prodigious power, propulsive energy, and engaging dynamics, coupled with a remarkable ability to resolve fine texture and detail.
With 3 settings, you can adjust power and gain to suit your daily driver or track day supercar!
- Turbo – ramps up the level of drive for current-hungry headphones
- Normal – for most over or on-ear headphones
- Eco – dials down the power to suit high-sensitivity in-ear monitors
Power that does not corrupt.
The iDSD Diablo’s focus on pure, unadulterated performance, means much attention has been applied to the power supply circuit. Battery power provides ultra-clean and stable DC current avoiding the issues of mains electricity – dips, spikes, and noise-inducing RFI/EMI pollution. BUT there are sonic downsides resulting from low output voltage and inconsistent output impedance as the batteries discharge.
In order to make less eﬃcient headphones, like planar magnetics, sing, the voltage needs to be stepped up from 3.7V to +/- 15V. We use a step-up converter running at 1.2MHz – a frequency far beyond audibility that is easier to filter than a typical switch-mode supply, enabling high linearity and ultra-low noise.
Formula 1, iFi style.
High-bandwidth power supply circuity is dedicated to each critical part of the iDSD Diablo’s design, with independent linear regulation delivering excellent PSRR (Power Supply Rejection Ratio) performance. The headphone amp stage eschews IC regulators in favor of Panasonic OS-CON capacitors, delivering 2320uF between them. The DAC section benefits from an ultra-low-noise regulator with additional passive filtering, reducing high-order harmonic distortion and, in turn, jitter. Even the USB input stage benefits from dedicated regulation and multi-stage filtering, and the microprocessor control circuitry (often a local source of digital noise) has separate regulation, too. Crucial components for maxed-out performance, more below.
Hooking up with the Devil…
At the front of the unit, alongside a standard 6.3mm single-ended headphone socket, resides a 4.4mm Pentaconn output for headphones offering a balanced connection. At the back are two digital audio inputs: USB-A and a S/PDIF socket that accepts both electrical and optical signals, the former via a 3.5mm connector and the latter via a supplied adapter. The USB-A input features a ‘male’ connector, rather than a typical ‘female’ port for greater mechanical integrity. A separate USB-C charging port is also provided, along with a 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced output to connect to an external amp.
As befits a reference-level product, we’ve included a whole host of accessories in a luxurious travel case, the iTraveller. As the iDSD Diablo may be powered from the mains, as well as by its built-in battery, we’ve included our super silent, noise-canceling iPower 5V AC/DC adapter to ensure optimal sound quality.
Also included is a 4.4mm Pentaconn to XLR balanced interconnect cable to connect the iDSD Diablo to an amp and speakers (or a pair of active speakers) with balanced XLR inputs. Other supplied connectors include a high-quality USB-A audio cable, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, and an adapter to connect headphones with a 3.5mm jack to the 6.3mm single-ended output.
The Burr-Brown True Native® chipset means file formats remain unchanged or ‘bit-perfect’. This means you are listening to music as the artist intended in the format in which it was recorded. iFi uses Burr-Brown extensively in their products having selected it for its natural-sounding ‘musicality’ and True Native architecture. Their experience with this IC means we know how to make the most of it.
The XMOS 16-Core chip processes the audio data received via the USB and S/PDIF digital input. This new low-latency XMOS microcontroller has greatly enhanced processing power. Compared to the current generation of eight-core chips, this new 16-core IC delivers double the clock speed (2000MIPS) and four times the memory (512KB), as well as the latest SuperSpeed USB standard. iFi’s in-house digital development team has programmed the XMOS firmware to optimize sound quality and ensure a perfect partnership with the Burr-Brown DAC.
MQA is an award-winning audio technology that enables music fans to stream the original master recording into their home, car, or on their mobile. In the words of Gilbert O’Sullivan, iconic Irish-born singer-songwriter, “The great thing about MQA is that it delivers the finesse that was there in the desk sound. It’s tremendous, it sounds really good.” MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) is supported through the USB with full decoding of MQA files up to 384kHz thanks to the processing power of the new 16-core XMOS chip. This means that the full ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to only the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’. Globally, MQA has become an important consideration for any comprehensively equipped DAC.
Balanced, differential analog circuit design has long been championed for its ability to reduce noise and cross-talk within the signal path by fully separating the left and right channels. PureWave is a new, balanced, symmetrical dual-mono topology with short, direct signal paths. The name refers to the sonic purity it achieves thanks to exceptional linearity and infinitesimally low levels of noise and distortion.
‘Negative feedback’ is used in amplifier circuits to compare the output signal with the input signal and correct errors, in order to control gain and reduce distortion. For sound quality, this is positive; BUT commonly applied, one-size-fits-all ‘global negative feedback’ can also highlight different problems at the same time as solving others – corruption of the error signal, phase shifts, group delay, and so on can all have a negative impact on sound quality.
Different parts of a circuit benefit from specifically optimized feedback loops and iFi has developed a negative feedback system that is much more accurate than the usual approach. This incorporates multiple feedback paths instead of a global loop, each path optimized for a particular function and working synergistically with the others to deliver optimal overall performance.
An important aspect of the circuit design is its direct-coupled nature (no coupling capacitor is present), achieved without a conventionally applied DC servo. DirectDrive® equals a direct signal path which means less signal degradation. This direct signal path is unequaled in audio and is the reason why the sound is so ‘true’.
Switching between settings has been engineered to ensure sonic transparency with advanced trench technology MOSFET is used as a muting switch. This FET-based switching is handled by a micro-controller, which only ‘wakes up’ when the user changes a setting, thus eradicating any sonically deleterious interference.
TDK C0G (Class 1 ceramic) capacitors offer high stability and low losses for resonant circuit applications. Getting ever closer to the theoretical ideal of pure, frequency-constant capacitance, these capacitors reduce capacitor-induced distortion to vanishingly low levels. They are pricey but are a perfect addition to a quality product.
Panasonic OS-CON caps totaling 5,410uF give very-low Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR), excellent noise reduction capability, and frequency response characteristics. In addition, OS-CONs have a long-life span and their ESR changes little even at low temperatures since the electrolyte is solid. They are rarely found in products costing < US$1000.
Vishay MELF resistors – complex, costly but superior. These metal electrode leadless face resistors have excellent accuracy, stability, reliability, and pulse load capability. They provide optimal power rating and pulse load capability. They show some of the lowest noise and distortion of any resistor available in the market, period.
“After all, while on Turbo, the Diablo took everything I threw at it and gave it an orphic quality, and this listener thinks it may be worth selling your soul to listen.”
Excellent Sound Quality, Great for Tidal MQA
“I use the Diablo with Sennheiser HD 660S unbalanced stock cable. I use the lowest Eco volume mode and I don’t turn the volume up very high. The balanced connection, Normal and Turbo volume modes are all too loud for me, though I probably listen at lower volumes than most. I connect to LG V60, windows PC and nVidia Shield. The sound quality is excellent.
MQA tracks via Tidal on the PC or Tidal through USB Audio Player Pro on the LG V60 sound noticeably more detailed compared to Tidal HIFI, depending on the track. Obviously I’m not taking advantage of the power the Diablo offers, but for me the easy connectivity to my devices, portability around the house, sound quality and MQA capabilities justify the price.”
I love it.
I can’t recommend this DAC/amp highly enough. Compared to the Hugo 2, the sound has more body, more soul and a better sense of timing/spaciousness. It’s like the Hugo 2 sounds like a really top notch CD player (like a Densen) and the Diablo sounds like a really top notch turntable. Don’t worry about the channel imbalance at low levels (like below 9 o’clock on the volume control) – according to iFi, it’s normal and at 12’oclock and above it has great imaging and sound stage.
iFi iDSD Diablo Review: The Best Portable Dac/Amp Combo?
“I was astonished at how clean the power was, as the background sounded extraordinarily black for a portable unit. This made it very easy to hear the character of the recording space when present in the recording.”
“It also did a good job at separating the elements, presenting the percussion instrument dead in the center of my head stage to the rear, then surrounding it with horns to the front left and right. I loved how the iDSD Diablo could blend the various melodies while keeping the instruments in their own little bubbles.”
“If you need a top-notch portable DAC/Amp combo that can drive your power-hungry flagship cans while on the go, the Diablo may be just what you need.”
Amazing sound and power
Being no Audiophile all I wanted was a piece of equipment that got the best from Amazon HD hi-res music streaming service and be up to my journey into the hi-res music world. After doing a bit of research I narrowed it down to a good set of Shure headphones and an good headphone amp.
I kept on going back to IFI who have a good range of headphone/dac amps and get great reviews. I was on my way to order the IFI signature when I saw the Diablo released. I decided to get the Diablo. Loved the red…. Not being a electronic techno head I wondered if I had fallen for good advertising, colour and it being the most expensive so it must be the best.
USB 3.0 type ‘A’ (USB2.0 compatible)
S-PDIF (3.5mm coaxial/optical)
Frequency Response : 10Hz-80kHz(-3dB)
THD + N:
Headphone Max Output:
Balanced >19.2V/611 mW (@ 600 Ohnn), >12.6V/4,980 mW (@ 32 Ohm)
S-E >9.6V/153 mW (@ 600 Ohm), >8.8V/2,417 mW (@ 32 Ohm)
Fixed Audio Output: Balanced 4.4mm
Battery: Lithium-polymer 4800mAh
Charging via USB-C (iFi iPower included)
BC V1.2 compliant up to 1900mA charging current
166 x 72 x 25 mm
6.5″ x 2.8″x 1.0″
Weight: 330g (0.73 lbs)
Warranty period: 12 months