Firstly I would like to thank iFi Audio for sending me this sample to review, I always try to write honest reviews. This unit received over 30hrs of burn-in, no differences were noted.
Dell XPS 15 > iDAC2 > GMP 8.35D / GMP 400 / Inearz IE-P350
Dell XPS 15 > iPurifier2 > iDAC2 > GMP 8.35D / GMP 400 / Inearz IE-P350
Dell XPS 15 > iPurifier2 > iDAC2 > Feliks Audio Espressivo > GMP 400 / DT880 600ohm
iFi list a very comprehensive list of specs on the product page:
MSRP: £295 (£315 bundled with the iPurifier2 from select stores)
Packaging, Build Quality and Accessories:
Anyone that has had any iFi products before will be familiar with the packaging, a sleek white box with a picture of the product on the front and specifications on the back. There are some details on the side of the box too. This is all on an outer sheath, once you slide this off you are greeted with a plain white 2 part box that has iFi written in silver on it. Once you take the top half off you are greeted by the iDAC2 held neatly in a card in tray. Underneath this in tray you will find the accessories. Everything looks very neat, and appealing, along with protecting the unit well during shipping.
The iPurifier comes in a smaller white box, which if nice and simple to open and it has information on the back of the box. Again very neat, tidy, and easy to open.
Build quality is excellent as with all iFi products, it is part of the micro family and they are all the same size which means you can stack them neatly. The casing is all aluminium and has a very nice finish to it, the 3.5mm headphone socket is a little loose which was an issue with the original iDAC, it just means you have to be careful not to knock it when you have your headphones plugged in. The volume knob is very smooth, the RCA jacks are all very solid and have rubber caps on them for when not in use.
The USB connector is gold plated and feels solid, the phase switch is also very sturdy. Overall the unit is very well built and also looks fantastic, I really like the design of the iFi products.
The iPurifier is very simple in design, the colour does not match the iDAC2 and other iFi products but that is only a minor grip, as I actually really like the gun metal colour. Both connectors are solid and I have no worries about the long term durability.
Accessories included are fine, you get a USB cable, rubber feet, a pair of RCA interconnects and a manual, nothing else is needed, everything you need is included and I cannot fault the included accessories.
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.
It is fully DSD compatible, but personally I mainly have 44.1khz 16bit Flac files with a handful of 192khz 24bit tracks. The LED that shows it is playing changes colour depending on the sample rate of the track playing, a neat little feature.
Also all tracks are played native, no upsampling or converting is going on inside, even when playing DSD and PCM files.
The RCA outputs run in Class A, always a nice feature quality wise.
It also has an optical output, so you can use this as a USB to coaxial converter.
I will write the sound as a whole rather than splitting like the usual headphone reviews.
The iDAC2 has improved upon its predecessor in a few ways. Mainly you get better file support but they have also tweaked the insides and in my opinion it is audible.
This time they have decided to go with a burr-brown DAC chip, in my opinion it is not so much the chip that is used, but rather the implementation that is important. The iDAC was in my opinion one of the cleanest DAC’s I’ve ever heard, but it always lacked a little something. It was a little too clinical I think, where the iDAC2 is as detailed but has a little more soul, a little more body and smoothness to the sound. I find the iDAC2 a lot less fatiguing to listen to, without missing out on any subtle details.
The iDAC2 is again a very balanced and neutral DAC but this time, it is more natural sounding, I know it sounds cliché, but it is more analogue. The iDAC was a little too digital sounding.
Using it with a nice tube amp shows its ability to retain fine detail, you get the wide and spacious, detailed sound with the added body from the tube amp. You don’t lose the finer details, that can sometimes sound a little smoothed over on less capable DAC’s.
The built in headphone amp is a huge step up from the iDAC too, offering up to 350mw which is a lot better than the 150mw of the iDAC. It shows, as it is a great stand alone device being able to drive most headphones apart from power hungry home headphones (which people have dedicated amps for anyway).
The iPurifier is an interesting device, built to lower the noise from USB and correct the data flow, in real life testing the difference is very subtle. But a/b’ing and I do notice a very slight difference in sound quality. It slightly reduces perceived harshness and sibilance, it makes the sound a tiny bit smoother and thus reducing listening fatigue.
This DAC is very revealing and sounds best when used with FLAC files and well recorded source material. There are various filters, but I find myself just leaving it on bit-perfect as the sound differences are very subtle.
Conclusion: 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. It isn’t less detailed, or a warm DAC, but everything sounds a little fuller and more natural, also smoother overall.
The iDAC sounded a little forced, and details were a little harsh, whereas the iDAC2 improves upon this. I really like the sound of this DAC, and the headphone amp is a lot better than the previous iDAC one.
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)