iFi Audio Pro iDSD D/A processor/headphone amplifier Measurements

Sidebar 3: Measurements

I measured iFi Audio's Pro iDSD (serial no. 3002000468, a different sample from the one auditioned by HR) with my Audio Precision SYS2722 system (see the January 2008 As We See It"). I used both the Audio Precision's S/PDIF outputs and USB data sourced from my MacBook Pro running on battery power and playing WAV and AIFF test-tone files. Apple's USB Prober utility identified the iDSD as "iFi (by AMR) HD USB Audio" from "iFi (by AMR)," and confirmed that its USB port operated in the optimal isochronous asynchronous mode. Apple's AudioMIDI utility revealed that, via USB, the iFi Pro iDSD accepted 16- and 24-bit integer data sampled at all rates up to 768kHz; its TosLink inputs accepted PCM datastreams with sample rates up to 96kHz, and its coaxial S/PDIF and AES/EBU inputs accepted data sampled at up to 192kHz.

The iFi Pro iDSD offers a choice of four output levels: HiFi Fixed and Variable and Pro Fixed and Variable. (With the volume control set to its maximum, the output levels from the Variable and Fixed settings were the same.) In solid-state output mode, the maximum output level at 1kHz from the balanced XLR jacks was 8.73V in HiFi mode, 4.32V in Pro mode, the opposite of what I was expecting from the manual. The levels from the unbalanced RCA jacks were half these figures, as expected. The maximum level from the single-ended headphone output depended on the headphone gain setting: 587mV, 2.16V, or 4.37V. Inserting the tubed stage in both of its modes reduced the maximum output level from 8.73 to 7.52V, a difference of an audible –1.3dB. The output impedance was not affected by the tube stage; in both solid-state and the two tube modes, it was a low 144 ohms from the balanced jacks, 72 ohms from the unbalanced jacks, and a very low 2.75 ohms from the headphone output. All the outputs preserved absolute polarity (ie, were non-inverting).

The Pro iDSD's impulse response depended on which of its reconstruction filters had been selected. With 44.1kHz data, the Transient Aligned filter's impulse response revealed it to be a conventional linear-phase type, with time-symmetrical ringing (fig.1). The Apodizing filter was a minimum-phase type, with all of the ringing following the single high sample (fig.2). The Bit Perfect filter in both Direct and PCM Upsampling modes had a perfect transient response (fig.3; the small amount of linear-phase ringing in this graph is due to the Audio Precision's A/D converter operating at a 200kHz sample rate). Bit Perfect+ had some slight Nyquist frequency ringing, with more after the single high sample than before (not shown). The Gibbs Transient Optimized filter had a short, minimum-phase impulse (fig.4).


Fig.1 iFi Pro iDSD, Transient Aligned filter, impulse response (one sample at 0dBFS, 44.1kHz sampling, 4ms time window).


Fig.2 iFi Pro iDSD, Apodizing filter, impulse response (one sample at 0dBFS, 44.1kHz sampling, 4ms time window).


Fig.3 iFi Pro iDSD, Bit Perfect filter, impulse response (one sample at 0dBFS, 44.1kHz sampling, 4ms time window).


Fig.4 iFi Pro iDSD, Gibbs Transient Optimized filter, impulse response (one sample at 0dBFS, 44.1kHz sampling, 4ms time window).

With white noise sampled at 44.1kHz, the Transient Aligned filter rolled off the output above 20kHz (fig.5, magenta and red traces), and the aliased image of a 19.1kHz tone at 0dBFS (cyan, blue) was suppressed by >100dB. However, some harmonics of this tone are visible in this graph, the highest in level, the third, lying at –54dB (0.2%). Despite its name, the Apodizing filter appeared to offer a slower rolloff above the audioband, with the 25kHz image suppressed by 75dB (fig.6). The Gibbs Transient Optimized filter (fig.7) offered a slow rolloff with just 20dB attenuation of the image at 25kHz, and a large number of other aliased images are present. The upsampled Bit Perfect and Bit Perfect+ modes puzzled me: while the ultrasonic rolloff was extremely slow, with the expected nulls at 44.1 and 88.2kHz (fig.8, red and magenta traces), the noise floor with the full-scale 19.1kHz tone rose to the 14-bit level above 10kHz. (For what it's worth, when it was turned on the Pro iDSD blocked FM reception on the portable radio in the test lab.)


Fig.5 iFi Pro iDSD, Transient Aligned filter, wideband spectrum of white noise at –4dBFS (left channel red, right magenta) and 19.1kHz tone at 0dBFS (left blue, right cyan), with data sampled at 44.1kHz (20dB/vertical div.).


Fig.6 iFi Pro iDSD, Apodizing filter, wideband spectrum of white noise at –4dBFS (left channel red, right magenta) and 19.1kHz tone at 0dBFS (left blue, right cyan), with data sampled at 44.1kHz (20dB/vertical div.).


Fig.7 iFi Pro iDSD, Gibbs Transient Optimized filter, wideband spectrum of white noise at –4dBFS (left channel red, right magenta) and 19.1kHz tone at 0dBFS (left blue, right cyan), with data sampled at 44.1kHz (20dB/vertical div.).


Fig.8 iFi Pro iDSD, Bit Perfect filter, wideband spectrum of white noise at –4dBFS (left channel red, right magenta) and 19.1kHz tone at 0dBFS (left blue, right cyan), with data sampled at 44.1kHz (20dB/vertical div.).

Fig.9 shows the iFi's Transient Aligned frequency response at sample rates of 44.1, 96, 192, and 384kHz. The response rolls off relatively quickly above each Nyquist frequency (half the sample rate). The Gibbs filter behaved similarly, while the Apodizing filter offered a faster rolloff with 44.1kHz data (fig.10, gray and green traces)—not what I was expecting, given the results of the white-noise test. It was difficult to measure the frequency response at 44.1 and 96kHz in the Bit Perfect and Bit Perfect+ modes, as the output levels with tones above 10kHz were affected by high levels of aliased image energy.


Fig.9 iFi Pro iDSD, Transient Aligned filter, frequency response at –12dBFS into 100k ohms with data sampled at: 44.1kHz (left channel gray, right green), 96kHz (left cyan, right magenta), 192kHz (left blue, right red) (1dB/vertical div.).


Fig.10 iFi Pro iDSD, Apodizing filter, frequency response at –12dBFS into 100k ohms with data sampled at: 44.1kHz (left channel gray, right green), 96kHz (left cyan, right magenta), 192kHz (left blue, right red) (1dB/vertical div.).

The Pro iDSD's channel separation (not shown) was very good in all three output modes, at >120dB below 200Hz, and still 77dB L–R and 83dB R–L at 20kHz. The low-frequency noise floor was commendably free from power-supply–related spuriae (fig.11), though in Tube mode (cyan and magenta traces) some very low-level spuriae appeared at 100Hz and its harmonics. (Could this have been related to the switch-mode power supply?)


Fig.11 iFi Pro iDSD, spectrum (0Hz–1kHz) of dithered 1kHz tone at 0dBFS in Solid-State mode (left channel blue, right red) and Tube mode (left cyan, right magenta) (20dB/vertical div.).

Increasing the bit depth from 16 to 24 with a dithered 1kHz tone at –90dBFS lowered the noise floor by 12dB or so (fig.12), though the 24-bit noise floor (blue and red traces) had a large number of low-level spuriae present. This behavior was not affected by the reconstruction filter used, though in Bit Perfect mode the random noise floor began to rise in the treble. With undithered data representing a tone at exactly –90.31dBFS (fig.13), the three DC voltage levels described by the data were well resolved, with a symmetrical waveform and no DC offset. With undithered 24-bit data, the result was a clean sinewave (fig.14).


Fig.12 iFi Pro iDSD, DSD512 upsampling, spectrum with noise and spuriae of dithered 1kHz tone at –90dBFS with: 16-bit data (left channel cyan, right magenta), 24-bit data (left blue, right red) (20dB/vertical div.).


Fig.13 iFi Pro iDSD, Gibbs Transient Optimized filter, waveform of undithered 1kHz sinewave at –90.31dBFS, 16-bit TosLink data (left channel blue, right red).


Fig.14 iFi Pro iDSD, Gibbs Transient Optimized filter, waveform of undithered 1kHz sinewave at –90.31dBFS, 24-bit TosLink data (left channel blue, right red).

As suggested by the spectra in fig.5, harmonic distortion was not as low I would have expected. With a full-scale 50Hz tone in Solid-State, HiFi mode, the third harmonic was the highest in level at –60dB (0.1%, fig.15), though reducing the level to –3dBFS dropped the level of this harmonic to –67dB (fig.16). The second harmonic was lower in level, at –70dB in the left channel (blue trace) and –80dB in the right (red). Interestingly, though HR conjectured that he preferred the minimum-feedback Tube+ output mode because it added second-harmonic distortion, the third harmonic is still the highest in level (fig.17), though it is about 8dB higher than in the Solid-State mode. Commendably, the Pro iDSD had no problem driving the punishing 600 ohm load, with no significant increase in harmonic distortion.


Fig.15 iFi Pro iDSD, balanced Solid-State output, spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC–1kHz, at 0dBFS into 100k ohms (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).


Fig.16 iFi Pro iDSD, balanced Solid-State output, spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC–1kHz, at –3dBFS into 100k ohms (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).


Fig.17 iFi Pro iDSD, balanced Tube+ output, spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC–1kHz, at –3dBFS into 100k ohms (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).

With the Transient Aligned and Apodizing filters, the iDSD dealt relatively well with a full-scale mix of tones at 19 and 20kHz. Not many high-order intermodulation products were produced, and the second-order difference product at 1kHz lay at a respectably low –73dB, left channel, and –80dB, right (fig.18). As with the harmonic-distortion tests, these results were not significantly affected by upsampling to DSD512. However, as expected from its relatively poor ultrasonic rejection, the Gibbs Transient Optimized filter's behavior in this test resulted in the aliased images of the fundamental tones lying at quite high levels, and some higher-order aliased images appeared in the audioband, even though I'd reduced the signal level by 3dB (fig.19). The upsampling Bit Perfect filter behaved similarly (fig.20), though the rise in the high-frequency noise floor is again apparent.


Fig.18 iFi Pro iDSD, Transient Aligned filter, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC–30kHz, 19+20kHz at 0dBFS into 100k ohms, 44.1kHz data (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).


Fig.19 iFi Pro iDSD, Gibbs Transient Optimized filter, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC–30kHz, 19+20kHz at –3dBFS into 100k ohms, 44.1kHz data (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).


Fig.20 iFi Pro iDSD, Bit Perfect filter, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC–30kHz, 19+20kHz at –3dBFS into 100k ohms, 44.1kHz data (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).

When I tested the iFi Pro iDSD for its rejection of word-clock jitter using undithered 16-bit J-Test data, the odd-order harmonics of the low-frequency, LSB-level squarewave were all at the correct levels (fig.21, sloping green line). However, many low-level spurious tones were present in the spectrum, and the spectral spike that represents the high-level tone at one-fourth the sample rate was slightly broadened at its base, suggesting the presence of some random low-frequency jitter. This behavior was identical when I repeated the test using the USB input (fig.22).


Fig.21 iFi Pro iDSD, high-resolution jitter spectrum of analog output signal, 11.025kHz at –6dBFS, sampled at 44.1kHz with LSB toggled at 229Hz: 16-bit AES/EBU data (left channel blue, right red). Center frequency of trace, 11.025kHz; frequency range, Ò3.5kHz.


Fig.22 iFi Pro iDSD, high-resolution jitter spectrum of analog output signal, 11.025kHz at –6dBFS, sampled at 44.1kHz with LSB toggled at 229Hz: 16-bit USB data (left channel blue, right red). Center frequency of trace, 11.025kHz; frequency range, Ò3.5kHz.

With so many output options and operating modes, it's easy to become confused about the iFi Pro iDSD's performance—as Joni Mitchell sang, "the crazy you get from so much choice." (footnote 1) I remain puzzled by the rise in the high-frequency noise floor in the Bit Perfect and Bit Perfect+ modes, and the low-level spuriae in the Pro iDSD's output. But there is still much to admire in its measured performance.—John Atkinson

Footnote 1: From "Barangrill," from For the Roses.
iFi Audio
US: iFi Audio (USA)
105 Professional Parkway, Suite 1519
Yorktown, VA 23693

tonykaz's picture

...Europe's version of Schiit?

I suspect that it's darn nice tweeky stuff made [in China] which begs the "Service" question.

My Local Service Guy is say'n that a whole lot of this gear is intentionally unserviceable.

If we Readership are Traditional Audiophiles that like to Own Traditional Audiophile Gear like PS Audio, Schiit, PASS and even Audio Research should we even be considering Sino/Euro Headphone stuff?

Question: Would you rather have this iFi device or a $2,5OO Horn Loudspeaker ?

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'm invited to a Active Pair of JBL S9900 Install.

Ayya Khema's picture


how is the Yggdrasil or Ps audio dac more serviceable then the Ifi pro idsd?

tonykaz's picture

PS Audio and Schiit both have well regarded Service Departments which service everything they make or made, for gods sake.

I'm say'n that Service Departments are significant part of the decision making process. Do we want gear that has Manufacturer support or do we want price point stuff, like the NAD 3020D, that's sealed and completely UN-SERVICABLE? ( even that Apple loudspeaker thing )

Our Trusted Reviewers should do a bit of background work ( due diligence ) on a Gear's Serviceability. Keep in mind that in this very Stereophile Issue a Reviewer has a Amplifier catch Fire and possibly poison his entire family's Breathing Air. Egads!!!

Stereophile is our "Higher Authority" source of useful information, a Stereophile recommendation carries significant buying decision weight.

Tony in Michigan

Ayya Khema's picture

hi Tony, Have you ever had to deal with iFi Service Departments?

I agree about gear serviceability, but nothing to my eye seem to be un-serviceable in the ifi pro idsd, at least compared to stuff like Yggdrasil or PS audio DAC.

tonykaz's picture

I don't know about iFi!

My comments relate to our Reviewer explaining iFi ( the Company and its Importer ) as part of the Review.

Explaining a product and it's performance is only a portion of the Responsibility of Reporting the entire Ownership experience.

iFi has never been properly introduced to the American Marketplace.

I'm speaking as a Manufacturer and an Importer.

Certainly iFi feels pleased to have a Stereophile Review, especially by Stereophile's most gifted reviewer. (a coup)

If Sterophile feels iFi deserves a Red Carpet Roll-out, they should include a Manufacturing Profile with Importer insights and support infrastructure explanations.

Tony in Michigan

Indydan's picture

I bought an iFi product in Canada. It broke down during the warranty period. iFi sent the dealer the part to fix it. It was fixed by the dealer. despite it being fixed under warranty, I still had to pay the shipping on the part!
I sold it and will never buy an iFi product again. I will never buy another NAD product either, but that is another story...

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
I'm speaking as a Manufacturer and an Importer.

I noted this statement of yours, Tony. You have said in the past that you are a retired audio retailer but if you are still active either as a dealer or manufacturer, our policy is that you will need to identify your affiliation in your signature line. This is to prevent a representative for one manufacturer anonymously knocking products made by another manufacturer. There are no exceptions allowed to this rule.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

I am a Manufacturer in the Transportation Industry. ( Retired but Shareholder and still Manufacturing Consultant, I report to a Lady CEO )

I also have a Business interest in Importing European Bicycle Transmission Components. ( think Lion )

I am Product Development for a USA based Bicycle Component Manufacturing Company. ( think Solar Powered Transportation Systems )

I am actively involved in developing Internet Distribution Systems for various Industries. ( like Wristwatches but NOT Audio Gear )

I left Audio Manufacturing, Importing and Retailing back in the mid 1980s. I have no financial Stake in any Audio Company outside of the Auto Industry that typically sells Billions of Dollars worth of Audio Gear per Month. ( the Auto Industry should be a consistent Advertiser in Stereophile, especially considering how Quiet the Interior of Electric Cars are, hint-hint )

My 1980s Audio Company "B&K Imports" was a Company designed to develop rapid Turnover Systems for the Auto Industry. We were Importing Audio Gear from England ( mainly ). We concluded with a System to turnover Imported Inventory in a One Week Period, 52 turns per year, ( from purchase to successful sale ). We closed our Audio Venture and applied our new skill-set to GM's Parts Distribution Systems. I subsequently returned to Manufacturing Trouble Shooting Work, my Partner ( George Buckley, an Englishman ) went on to become CEO of 3M Corp. in Minn. Today, he's Sir George Buckley Phd. ( he got his "K" from G.Brown )

Back in 2011, I happened across Tyll Herstens & Steve G, at a RMAF
Seminar. I was excited by the exuberance and brilliance of these two's approach to Consumer Solutions to Personal Audio, they kinda reminded me of HFNews& RR from the 1980s. They made some recommendations back then : Schiit ! They were right !!!

I've been following along and subsequently discovered Stereophile and it's significant brilliance.

A part of my interest Today is the Future interface between HighEnd Audio and Electric Cars. I'm keeping an Eye out for Audio Manufacturing nimble enough to create a Sound Environment for our Electric Car Owners. ( how about a TESLA with Sound by Schiit? or Sound by PS Audio? , for instance )

Audio remains a intellectually exciting & emotionally stimulating World. High-End will get Stronger and Stronger.

And, despite Vinyl, Stereophile is getting better than ever.

Last year, I had a Cancer Scare that planted me in Oakwood Cemetery but it turned out to be Caution Flags. Now, No Booze & no Smoke.

I'm on borrowed time so I'm making the best of what I have left.
I'm about to learn how to Fly a Plane. I might even buy some JBL Horns that can easily drown me out. ( thanks to Steve G. and your HR )

Tony in Michigan

supamark's picture

it's fully upgradable and modular. in fact, if you read Herb's review and go to the follow up he reports on the upgrades he's had to his Yggy (USB input upgrade and analog upgrade). no idea w/ PS Audio, the Schiit stuff (outside the little boxes like the modi DAC) is almost all modular and upgradable... so, yeah. Oh, and Mike Moffat (one of the two principles at Schiit) is a pretty funny guy and doesn't hide his opinions.

disclaimer - I own 3 pieces of Schiit gear, quite happy with all of them.

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
My Local Service Guy is say'n that a whole lot of this gear is intentionally unserviceable.

Who is this service guy, Tony? And if he is not specifically talking about iFi products, you are out of line with this comment.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

Morrell Electronics

(248) 474-1591

22770 Orchard Lake

Farmington, Michigan

Morrell gets my old Stereophile Magazines

rschryer's picture

...have to find a new local service guy. Or, if you're lucky, you can edit the heck out of your post right now and hope no one will be the wiser.

tonykaz's picture

I just called him. He's still there. What do you know that I'm missing?, I've know him for decades and even Sold him his Building.

Or, do you think that he's embarrassed by knowing me?

Tony in Michigan

ps. I just read your "As We See It" piece

rschryer's picture

..maybe your local service guy wouldn't want to have that kind of attention directed his way.

"I just read your "As We See It" piece"

You're being cryptic.

Your brother on the audio family tree,

tonykaz's picture

Egads, he's the Guy look'n for the Soap Box to project his "Service-RANT" to the World.

I was/am tepid about embracing "his" Cause.

( Considering GM not being supportive of independent Repair Shops, it's not so Risqué because Transportation People don't read Stereophile minutia or Comments Sections to some obscure iFi piece, I'm on Safe Ground, I think. Still, my CEO has heard of Schiit and has made funny stories about the little California Company. I own numerous Schiit Pieces despite their shitty/embarassing name, kinda like Price Philter being the Faucet Company with the funny name. Schiit needs to become Stoddard & Moffat or S&M and leavvvvveeeeee Schiit in their distant history)

Morrell is a disappointed Owner of a Business who's basis of operation has gone pooooooffffff!, he's still vinyl, he's still tubes, he's still Ham Radio, ( I'm W8FDS, inactive since 1960 ), he's still lots and lots of 1975 philosophy ( as am I ).

Tony in Michigan'

ps, I'm feeling inspired by Buffalo AirLine ( in Yellow Knife ) where us Old Geezers still live Useful Lives and where we continue to be important to our fellow Man. Let's all conspire to own a DC-3 based out of Boulder Co. FBO KBDU ( or Montreal where we can use the Maple Leaf Logo on the Tail fin ).

ps. Your As We See It

Prompts my recollection of discovering the tiny Rogers LS3/5a in a London HiFi Specialist Shop, back in the late 1970s - early 1980's. I purchased a display pair for $200 or $300 and returned to Work ( in Detroit ) with them as part of my Industrial Travel Kit. My peers at GM were "FLABBERGASTED" by those little speakers. I think that the LS3/5a was THE catalyst of the HighEnd Industry. Those little Rogers loudspeakers became like a 50x microscope for examining the performance on Automotive Audio devices. GM Delco Car Radios could easily outperform any Consumer AM-FM Tuner, bar none.

rschryer's picture

Even cooler is the fact every one of us gets it. We're all linked.

tonykaz's picture

Sterephile seems like Campfire that we all sit around.

Contributing Writers/Editors throw another Log on the Flames, people enjoy the warmth, camaraderie, range of discussions, share insights and feel at home. Even us Vintage Vinyl people are welcome to sit-in on all these new wonderments.

Stereophile should be in every Barber Shop everywhere on the Planet, it's an important aspect of being a sensible person.

Recorded Music is a critical Component to Quality of Life

Tony in Michigan

tonykaz's picture

Something came up late last night, a Major Nationwide TV Event, outofwhich its been revealed that, get this: Canadians are the United State's largest Group of Illegals. Egads, Who could've known????

So, I'm asking you, what in the hell is so attractive about USA ?

I'm rather hopeful that the USA could become as Humanely wonderful as Canada, even to the point of contemplating immigrating to Pele Island where Cactus is indigenous. I'm even hoping to learn how to talk Canadian and even write Canadian phonetically, eh?

How long will I be welcome in Canada before I become an unwelcome illegal ? , like we here are treating our Northern Brethren. ouch!

Tony in Michigan

ps. I suppose that I could volunteer Proper English Teaching so that those Hockey Players could speak intelligently when being Interviewed by FOX News on how they Crushed the Miami Fl Hockey Team. hmm. A little public service can stretch into some dam-goodwill gesturing. ( or, in my case, jester-ing )

ps. No.2ish Betcha, You could transform your Audio Industry Career if you managed to get your hands on some of Don Cherry's wardrobe items. You could Dress up like Cherry and do all the Audio Shows. You'd be the highlight of everyones experience annnnndddd you'd get more Photo Ops that any Product. People would come to Shows just to get their Photo with you !!! You'll become a STAR and I'll be your Agent booking you for All those Asian and European Shows. Your Family will be SO Proud of you! eh!

rschryer's picture

I'm nowhere near that handsome.

"Canadians are the United State's largest Group of Illegals." Did Trump say this? According to Wiki, Mexicans account for 52% of the total number of illegal immigrants in the US, while Canadians, last on the list with Europeans, account for 5%.

tonykaz's picture

Seems that people overstaying their Visa is what creates the "Illegal" scare that our White House is using to "Build the Wall" !
The strange statistic ( US Govt. Statistic ) is that Canadians make up the Largest Percentage of illegal overstayers. ( I'd like to keep em cause they are some of our loveliest neighbors who already have their own Health Insurance and are willing payers of our Taxes )

My ancestors were all "Illegals", they immigrated by floating into NY,NY, sailing up the PCB polluted Hudson River to the Erie Canal, boarding Wooden Sailing Ships in Buffalo,NY bound for Milwaukee Wi. 1840ish. taking over Lands previously owned by Natives that Andrew Jackson herded off to the Badlands of N.Dakota. Hmm, I've got a rather dirty history, don't I? I'll try to be a better person, please help if you can.

Tony in Michigan

Bogolu Haranath's picture

As long as Canadians spend money here, we have no problem :-) ..........

tonykaz's picture

Dam good phraseology!

You've got the nose of a detective.

We should accept that our Children fight in Wars to protect our right to profit.

USA is CAPITALISM not Democracy,

Quarterly Profits control decisions.

Tony in Michigan

navr's picture

Why risk when there are literally 1000s and 1000s of manufacturers out there to choose from. Thanks

tonykaz's picture

Unfortunately, we consumers are having an avalanche of Service Issues from Mainline Outfits like Sony, Apple and many others.

Regular Service Companies are being shut out of the Service possibility to the point of Legislation being passed to exclude "unauthorized" access to any repair capability.

Service Issues are not typical of HighEnd Audio Outfits as evidenced in reporting by Mr.Carsons Laboratory & BlueGlow but they are typical of NAD who Seals their d3020 and possibly that new NAD that Steve G just Reviewed.

I admit that We in the Auto Industry DO NOT Tolerate our Customers taking their Cars to Unauthorized service outfits. ( 'Shade Tree Mechanics ).

Service is a Huge Issue in this Throw-Away Environment.

I encourage Ownership of Quality.

Buy It, Keep It, Keep it Serviced

Please don't buy stuff that needs throwing away.

Tony in Michigan

navr's picture

Three pillars of sustainability:

Heirloom Design
Jevon's Paradox
Porter Hypothesis

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Whenever I search for any audio equipment review on Google search, if that equipment was reviewed by Stereophile, it is shown at the top of the list .......... Congratulations Stereophile ......... Keep Stereophile great :-) ...........

audiodoctornj's picture

Troy in Michigan what are you smoking? Ifi is the less expensive arm of AMR Abbingdon Audio Reserach a company founded in the UK in the early 2000s. The idea of AMR was to employ cutting edge design, parts and technologies and offer their products at reasonable pricing compared to good made entirely in Europe or the USA.

AMR produced some very good gear including the amazing AMR CD 77 CD player which was one of the finest sounding players made in that time period.

AMR and conversely Ifi's products are no more difficult to service than any esoteric brand of gear.

Ifi has produced some really fanatastic products allready and these products have been sold although through somewhat limited distribution for years.

We congradulate Ifi on the review and perhaps we will sell this dac thank you Stereophile for pointing out what a cool piece this is.

Troy Ifi products are very well made and tend to be quite reliable, Ifi is trying to re-establish themselves after chaning their distribution model of having a number of different importers. The audio distribution game is a tricky one and even good products can sometimes be overlooked.

Dave Lalin, President
Audio Doctor NJ

tonykaz's picture

I can't seem to locate AMR using Google.

annnnnnnddddd.... I'm not smoking anything. Why sarcasm, it makes you sound angry, are you angry?

I've been curious about iFi for some time now, not enough to actually invest in a few pieces but curious enough to continue reading iFi reporting. ( most of which comes from European writers )

I admit to being suspicious of European or American outfits outsourcing their Manufacturing to invisible Asian shops.

The larger question remains: why buy Sino stuff if you can own A+ Level gear that's made by our local lads?, lads that maintain the infrastructure to support a Happy Ownership experience? Looking at iFi's pricing vs. Schiit shows Schiit being superior Value for Money. Schiit Shit is made in California and supported in California, for gods sake.

So, what gives with iFi? Why is it important? Can it compete with our own Cavelli Monoprice Asian crap?


are the Asian stuff sellers gonna resort to sarcasm? when someone asks for useful information?

Tony in MIchigan

ps. I think that I'm gonna need more than iFi "tends" to be reliable, if you know what I'm meaning!!

navr's picture

and you publish 8 out of 10 Ayre, Ayre, Ayre, Ayre.

Now imagine you are in G. Brittain and you are a publisher, and you publish Chord, Chord, Chord, Chord etc. 8 of 10 time.

Now, the answer is in those 2 out of 10s i.e. Brits will publish Schiit and Americans will publish iFi (2 out of 10). it's called coverage

tonykaz's picture

What you're say'n sounds iffy, doesn't it?

Tony in Michigan

navr's picture

rather, it was about serviceability. these are 2 different non-functional requirements

tonykaz's picture

What the hell.

Spending thousands of dollars without the Manufacturer's Safety Net is little more than high risk Speculation, especially when Manufacturing Outfits have a documented "here today and gone tomorrow" History, as referenced by one of the British commenters to this article .

Tony in Michigan

audiodoctornj's picture

First of all, Tony, most of the world's goods from many different manufactuers are made in China. Also in terms of performance if the Ifi gear is better than the Schitt wouldn't you want to purchase the better sounding product regardless it is is made in the USA or made in China?

As per good or better than a Schitt or a Mytek it is up to the listener to determine that for themselves. In the comparison to Schitt you would have to purchase a Dac, a headphone amp, a preamp and a separate streamer to compare. the Mytek Brooklyn Dac is excellent but the new Brooklyn Bridge with the streaming option is $500 more and doens't use any tubes, the Mytek does have analog inputs which is a plus if you need that function.

Just because Schitt is "made in America" does that mean all the metal work, boards and parts are sourced from the USA? Unless you take apart a Schitt product and find out where all the parts were sourced from you don't know where the parts originated from and the percentage of American labor in it. Also many US companies make money distributing parts sourced from all over the world.

The reality of today's modern world is most of the highest performing value to dollar products are all designed in the UK or Europe or the USA, and built in China, it is sad but true reality of the modern world's supply chains and manufacturering costs vs the need to generate profit for a company. In the case of affordable products it may be impossible for a company to sell a product produced in the USA for what many people in the market want to pay for it.

Look at JL Audio a famous Subwoofer company out of Florida they have said that their products are assembled in the US, but parts are sourced from all over the world and then which parts and what percentage are actually made in the USA?

We believe in supporting American companies too but as mentioned before sometimes it is nearly impossible to offer a great sounding and affordable product that is actualy made in the USA from parts also sourced and produced in the the USA.

For most of the high end companies like Krell, Mark Levinson, Mcintosh, which are American companies affordable products are still in a completely different price strata then products from companies which make more affordable gear which is usually sourced from Chinese or Mexican or Malyasian or Vietnamese or whaetever parts and subassemblies come from.

If you want a premium product with the performance of a premium product and the higher price tags associated with a Krell, Mcintosh, Mark Levinson Ayre, Boulder, ARC or CJ product that is fine but don't tell me that your friend who wants to purchase a $500-1,000.00 ampliifer is going to be able to find one from any US company.

As per reliability most high end gear without moving parts or which don't generate lots of heat will last for a very long time regardelss of who makes them and where they are made.

I don't know what guaranties you are looking for from Ifi, but again if the product performs for Herb or for you or for me and the company is a good company and Ifi has been in business for years, what other guarranty would you want? As humans the only guarranty you have is Death and Taxes. Love, Happiness, World Peace, are all open to interperation.

Dave Lalin,
Audio Doctor NJ

tonykaz's picture

I'm a Manufacturer that doesn't source from Asia.

PS ( except for their little cheap integrated $500 ) doesn't source from Asia

Schiit doesn't source from Asia.

A great many other Domestic Manufacturers don't source from Asia.

If you think otherwise, you are not informed or experienced.

I suspect you are attempting to defend your decision to Sell Price Point Asian stuff.

I consider Asian Audio Gear to be what will be selling at next year's Garage Sale or Flea Market Folding Table where you won't find it's Owner's Manual or original packaging and one of the features doesn't work and the Power-supply is missing. You also won't find a Conrad-Johnson Preamp or Audio Research Amp.

A Thousand Dollar Audio purchase is an Investment Consideration as part of wonderful & healthy Ownership experience.

Stereophile Reviews "Investment" Grade Audio Gear.

So, I need the Reviewer to Convince the Readership ( me and you ) that a particular Company and product is worth owning and investing in.

Am I wrong in that expectation?

What level will iFi and Company achieve in the Recommended components Annual Listing???, and why???

So far, we don't have any clarity on this matter. I wonder why

Tony in Michigan

ps. do you know what manufacturing plant this device was made? I'll wager that even iFi couldn't pinpoint the actual place or Plant where this device was built.

navr's picture

there is an report on internet (I am lazy to find it) about a blind test of some 1000 participants in listening tests. They had to determine what is better sounding: 44.1/16, ... 192/24.
The result was that 49.7% of time they got it right i.e. ~50% they said 44.1/16 is better and ~50% they said 192/24 is better. In other words, they were guessing.

spacehound's picture

I want it 'correct' - ie: the closest to how the recording studios intended it to sound. That is the very MEANING of HiFi. And it appears from Herb's review that direct - bit perfect - NOS is the only one that does that.

So why all the rest? And then we can also switch in a couple of totally spurious tubes to mess up the sound even more. (Tubes are fine if used as the concept of the whole design, like McIntosh, but not when just added in to 'alter' the sound.) The end result is that it will be so far away from High Fidelity we had just as well replace our entire system with the cheapest 'mass market music system' we can find. This DAC gives me the impression that Ifi use a 'scattergun' approach - fit every gimmick you can in the hope that buyers will like at least one of them and discard any thought of fidelity to the source.

As a partial reply to Dave Lalin, Ifi arose from the market failure of AMR and makes a whole lot of gimmicks such as USB and S/PDIF so-called 'purifiers', 'signsl regenerators', 'earth defenders' :), 'silencers', galvanic isolators, and power 'improving' boxes. Everything except an elixir of life :). God only knows how it will sound if you fit all of this stuff. AMR itself failed in their chosen (high priced) market fairly rapidly, though on their website they prefer to say 'We stepped back". Now they make nothing at all though they 'promise' an assortment of fancy cables (and nothing else) "early in 2019".

tonykaz's picture

I couldn't find ANYTHING about AMR on a Google Search but I do remember seeing Thorsten Loesch at a RMAF Seminar 2018. Now I realize that he is the man behind iFi. Certainly a curious person with clever insights. I was surprised by his disguised Costume yet not inspired to follow-up on the Man or whoever he represented.

He was surrounded by Focal, Mr.Speakers and Schiit ( all of which do not Asian Source ), was he lucky to be in with that Class A Group of Integrity Manufacturers.

Probably Head-Fi placed him in with that group, lucky guy.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture


As for who they are, they briefly appeared on the UK audio scene a few years ago with lots of advertising in the UK hifi mags. Got good reviews, presumably because of the advertising revenue.

After about two years they vanished, but Ifi was an offshoot that AMR started shortly before they vanished. (I vaguely recall AMR saying they were starting a lower priced subsidiary.)

All there is on that site is a 'promise' of some cables in "early 2019"and a list of their previous products called "legacy".

Wiki say Abbingdon Music Research (AMR)is a subsidiary of Abbingdon Global Group. A search of the UK government 'Companies House' records for 2018 says the group has total assets of £3217 and total liabilities of £14,037 so I suspect their global ambitions are somewhat exaggerated :)

As for the name, there is a small town near Oxford called 'Abington' but I don't think it is connected.

audiodoctornj's picture

Amr got good reviews because their products were audicious attacks at building state of the art products designed in the UK and built overseas to bring the cost of the best down to a much more reasonable price point.

As per Tony yes it is wonderful to build in the USA, but again I ask you how many parts, subassemblies or cases that are used by some manufacturers actually outsourced from non US sources?

Many of today's top audio brands all own production facilities in China including B&W, Tannoy, KEF, Dali, Golden Ear, Definitive and many, many more.

The entire concept of supply chain outsourcing is mirrored in those wonderful highly lauded products from a tiny American company called Apple, you ever see a US sourced Ipad, Ipod or Iphone, yet Foxconn continues to produce superb products.

In the case of the Ifi products they are very well made and some of their products are absolutely fantastic especially for the price and didn't Herb prefer the Ifi dac or rate it just as highly as the Schitt reference dac and the Mytek.

So if the Ifi product sounds better and is well made you are not going to buy it beacuse it is made in Asia?

Tony trade protectionism doesn't work, we would love to see everything made in the USA but for many industries that ship has sailed and we sell a number of US brands including Mytek which is made in Poland, CJ whose Teflon capacitors Teflon comes from the Middle East because they are the only one making Teflon for this application, ARC and Mcintosh are owned by the Italians.

Our philsophy is to find and endorse supperior products if they ae designed in the UK and built in China like B&W, and Kef, and Tannoy and Quad, and a zillion other companies who really cares, the lion's share of the profits are going back to the owner of the company anyway.

Unless the entire world figures out how to out build Asia in terms of quality for the price which means huge investments in automation you will see this trend for many years unless you want to pay double or triple fot similar performance designed and sourced in the USA or Europe.

Dave Lalin, Audio Doctor NJ

tonykaz's picture

I keep wondering if iFi and Company are worth my time "investment".

What is so dam important about iFi that we need to keep an eye on them?

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

Also here is how Ifi started. It's direct from the AMR site blog:

"That’s when AMR gave birth to iFi audio at RMAF in 2012 – and it’s been going from strength to strength ever since"
"However, as iFi grew, AMR retreated quietly into the shadows.
But we disappeared for a reason. We had an idea, an idea ten years in the making. Etc. Etc."
This is accompanied by a picture of what appears to be a toy sports car :)

PS: I've got nothing against 'Asian' products. Cambridge Audio does well in the UK. They are UK designed but made in China. And sold only via 'Richer Sounds' a very successful chain of high street audio, TV, and AV stores. I believe CA and Richer are under the same ownership, though Richer sell other makes too of course

tonykaz's picture

The man can Sell his ideas, it seems.

I'm not buying, is anyone recommending?

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

….it appears to be quite good. But so do many others. And it has too many features which I will never use.

Also my approx 8 years of DAC usage has led me to buy only DACs that do NOT use 'off the shelf' DAC chips as all the DAC manufacturers do is implement other people's (the DAC chip makers) ideas as best they can. The Chord Qutest doesn't and it's half the price.

Listen to any NON 'off-the-shelf DAC chip' DAC and you will be gobsmacked! Anything from the Chord Mojo to the dCS Vivaldi will have this effect :)

Sunship's picture

Nice words on Sun Ra. His Arkestra, even without him, remains a thing to experience. I recently discovered "The Sun Ra sextet (Live at The Village Vanguard) on Qobuz. It sounds amazing on good old 16/44. Other favourites: "Sound Sun Pleasure", "Lanquidity", "In Some Far Place", "Disco 3000". etc. etc.

audiodoctornj's picture

Guys if Herb perfered this Dac over all the other really well rated Dac's in this list and the company seems to be able to deliver a quality product who cares it is is built in Asia?

Again the Mytek is made in Poland, the Holospring is also Chinesse made from a company who is actually from China, at least with Ifi the parent company is in the Uk.

These are the realities of modern supply chain, Sandy Gross's Golden Ear speakers are well made and provide a lot of value for their owners, sure it would be nice if Sandy could make them in the US but for what he charges the product would have to get way more expensive.

One should judge if the product is a good product does it sound great or not is it reasonably priced, does it have the features that I want and purchase appropriately.

Dave Lalin,
Audio Doctor NJ

tonykaz's picture

Mr. Lalin,

wow, you sure own plenty of Audio & Video Gear. Phew.

I don't see iFi in any of your 24 Advertisement Photos. hmm

but I certainly see hundreds of thou$$$ands of dollars worth of other gear.

Does the City let you do Retail in that Residential Setting ? or maybe they don't quite know. All those tall Trees kinda hide you from sight. I wonder if crime is a issue in your town.


maybe you are just a collector with plenty of gear who sells the occasional piece.

Tony in Michigan

ps. just maintaining all that gear seems a full-time job.

ednazarko's picture

After listening to a colleague rant about how everything is made in China, I suggested we do a walkthrough of his home and see exactly how much he'd have to do without if it wasn't for Chinese (or other cheap Asian offshore) manufacturing. About a third of his clothing, gone. All of his shoes. All of his electronics. Both of his phones.

We then played "let's buy American" or at least EU. Showed him my shoes - all my shoes are made in the US by a company that ONLY makes shoes in the US. I own a lot fewer shoes, since they cost $450 a pair, but I'm good trading off volume for values at least in clothing. I've made that choice for a number of things I buy, and in every case there's no doubt I'm trading off quantity for that "buy American" thing. ($50 plain white t-shirts... but since I only need three...) But he'd still be without a TV, cable box, router, washer dryer... etc. I've worked on M&A stuff, got to know a lot of the Chinese buyers of American companies, and even the stuff you think is built here, is built here with parts that weren't. As the McMurtry song goes, We Can't Make It Here Anymore.

I'm also old enough to remember "Japan junk" and "Korean junk." Made in Japan is now seen as a mark of quality - camera buyers prefer camera lines that are assembled in Japan to those assembled in Thailand or China. At 2x the price. People pay premiums for Korean appliances.

As to iFi - I've known their stuff since they first came out. Have abused daylights out of a few of their small DACs over the years, with the only problems being when I didn't RTFM. (you know, the manual.) In the few cases, they responded to me quickly, and kindly. (They didn't say RTFM...) In electronics, I abandoned the values, because otherwise I wouldn't be listening to music right now.

Frankly it's really hard to maintain "buy American" in clothing - and it's the limit of my willingness to spend hard earned dollars on principles. And impossible in most other products.

phoaglan's picture

I represent iFi audio for pr and would like to thank Herb Reichert for his fine review of the Pro iDSD and of course to Stereophile for running it.

As some background, AMR stands for Abbingdon Music Research. Founded in 2000, they were known mostly in the UK for high-end two channel audio products. The brand is still very much alive and in fact, is coming out with new models in 2019. www.amr-audio.co.uk

In 2010, the company saw a need for high performance products in personal audio so they developed a new brand called iFi audio. iFi has a wide range of personal and desktop audio products and solutions. The Pro iDSD is at the top end of the range and iFi also has affordable headphone DACs and amplifiers starting at $199. iFi audio is sold throughout the world.

iFi is headquartered with AMR in Southport, England. They have a dedicated factory in China where Co-Founder and Chief Designer Thorsten Loesch is based. In the U.S., iFi has a fully staffed sales and support office in Yorktown, Virginia.

iFi will be at CanJam NYC Feb 16-17 so for those coming to that event, please stop by and say hello.

Peter Hoagland
Warrenton, VA

romath's picture

I just had a connector on my $150 retail privately obtained iFi piece accidentally break off. While replacement of the connector is physically possible, in the U.S. it's not something they do: instead they do an exchange, in this case for $60. I can live with that, but from the standpoint of convenience, the other end of that connector, which is stuck in an also privately obtained $6000 PS Audio dac port, is getting serviced under warranty for the cost of shipping, in total for less. While I would love to have as good or better sounding hybrid tube dac, vs. an all digital unit, PS Audio does fabulous SQ firmware updates, and there is something to be said for the convenience of direct purchase auditioning and especially service.

Btw, I'm not finding a Level 3 Kitsune Spring dac at their site, unless it's the KTE model.

doak's picture

iFi has been around for a decent amount of time all the while issuing very well made, excellently engineered, very cost effective products. To attack iFi specifically because of their Asian connection smacks of xenophobia at this late date in the era of outsourcing.

valenroy's picture

You guys have written such a scintillating review of the Pro iDSD and it only warrants a class B rating in your recommended components list? I have heard the benchmark and it’s sound quality is nowhere near the likes of the Pro iDSD... How do you guys rate your products exactly?

TK21's picture

You guys have written such a scintillating review of the Pro iDSD and it only warrants a class B rating in your recommended components list?

I had the same reaction, and am wondering how the iFi SQ (with latest firmware upgrades) compares to some of the A+/A products.

I'm considering getting either the iFi or one of the PS Audio products (Directstream Junior/Senior) mainly to receive input from HQ Player (via ultraRendu) for use with Roon. The iFi Pro is much less expensive than a new DS Senior. The iFi is not Roon-ready, but seems to be more flexible for purposes of combining with HQ Player. The ultraRendu is Roon-ready, so the iFi's lack of this feature would not be a complete show-stopper.