In our fast-paced world, multi-purpose devices are all the rage.
As technology and innovation continue to advance, the need for functionality often outweighs other needs.
A prime example of advancing technology is the iFi Audio iDSD Diablo. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of purchasing this fiery red DAC/amp, we’ve got you covered!
Keep reading to find out more about this portable device that’s got everyone HOOKED.
What is the IDSD Diablo For?
Are you wondering what the main purpose of this FIERY device is and what it can be used for?
One of the most noteworthy things about the iDSD Diablo DAC/amp is how it channels pure sonic power while simultaneously delivering optimal sound quality.
- A DAC/amp is a combination of a Digital to Analogue Converter and an amplifier.
- A DAC focuses on converting signals that are suitable for headphones or speakers.
The iDSD Diablo is often used as a transportable amplifier that provides reference-level sound.
It also comes equipped with full MQA decoding, which ensures accurate and natural-sounding audio.
Notable Main Features
1. Audio Inputs and Outputs
Curious about the different features that are present on the iDSD Diablo?
Looking at the front side of the iFi Audio iDSD Diablo, there’s a 6.3mm single-ended headphone socket and a 4.4mm balanced output for headphones, which offers a balanced connection.
On the backside of the device, two digital audio inputs accept electrical and optical signals:
- USB-A: accepts signals through a 3.5mm connector and features a ‘male’ connector.
- S/PDIF Socket: accepts signals through a supplied adapter.
A separate USB-C charging port is also included, and a 4.4mm balanced output allows it to connect to an external amp.
2. Circuit Performance
This may seem quite technical at first glance, but stay with us!
Circuit performance plays a big role in understanding more about regulating noise.
The iDSD Diablo has high bandwidth power supply circuitry that effectively provides performance for PSRR (Power Supply Rejection Ratio).
The headphone amp stage utilizes Panasonic OS-CON capacitors. They successfully work together to deliver 2320 uF between themselves.
The DAC has an ultra-low noise regulator with additional passive filtering, which reduces harmonic distortion and jitter.
In addition to this, the USB input stage benefits from dedicated regulation and multi-stage filtering.
Even the microprocessor control circuitry, often deemed a local source of digital noise, has separate regulations.
How often do you encounter devices with a differential analogue circuit design?
While this is quite a MOUTHFUL, it boils down to the fact that the iDSD Diablo reduces noise and cross-talk by effectively separating the left and right channels.
This is done through PureWave, which consists of symmetrical dual mono topologies that involve short and direct signal paths.
Curious about the origin of the name?
The name essentially represents the product of enabling high linearity and low noise levels, which is sonic purity.
While “negative feedback” is often used in a pessimistic way, the phrase means something different when it comes to circuits.
Imagine feedback as a way for part of the output signal (i.e., a voltage or a current) to be used as an input. If this part is opposite or anti-phase to the input signal, then the feedback is negative.
This type of feedback is often used in amplifier circuits as a means to stabilize systems by controlling gain and reducing distortion. If there’s any specific change in the system’s output, the negative feedback affects the input to act as a countermeasure against this change.
While this helps ensure optimal sound quality, a “global negative feedback” can cause various problems, such as:
- Corruption of the error signal
- Phase shifts
- Group delay
OptimaLoop utilizes MULTIPLE feedback paths; each path has a certain function it has to execute, but all paths work together to deliver quality performance.
5. Dynamic Settings
Want a little extra kick from your devices?
In addition to its ability to deliver 5000mW of power, the iFi iDSD Diablo also has 3 impressive settings that you can use to adjust power:
- Turbo Mode: This mode increases the level of drive for headphones that use up a lot of currents.
- Normal Mode: This mode is the best option for most over or on-ear headphones.
- Eco Mode: This mode adjusts the level of power output and works best with high-sensitivity in-ear monitors.
The iDSD Diablo can easily switch between these 3 modes to offer you the BEST possible experience.
If you’re looking for clean and stable DC currents, battery power is the way to go!
The only problems you have to look out for are low output voltage and inconsistent output impedance.
To address this, the iDSD Diablo adjusts the voltage from 3.7V to +/-15V. It uses a step-up converter running at 1.2MHz. This frequency helps establish ultra-low noise and high linearity
7. Vishay MELF Resistors
These colorful resistors consist of metal electrode leadless faces.
They maintain amazing levels of stability and accuracy while also providing optimal power rating and pulse load capability.
If you need resistors that can provide low noise and distortion, you should definitely consider the iDSD Diablo!
8. Jitter-Eradication Technology
If you’ve never heard of the phrase ‘jitter’ in electronics:
It essentially means that there’s a change in the time delay between the transmission of a signal and the time it’s received by a network connection.
Some common causes of network jitter are:
- Not enough bandwidth
- Poor performance from old equipment
- Low-quality network connection
- Incorrect packet prioritization
The iFi iDSD Diablo implements jitter-eradication technology, which includes a Global Master Timing (GMT) Femto precision clock and an intelligent memory buffer.
9. Battery Life
While the iDSD Diablo is known to be a portable DAC/amp, it doesn’t have a battery that can be used for portable use.
Instead, the iDSD Diablo has a 4800mAh lithium polymer battery, which delivers a clean and stable voltage.
Once it’s fully charged, the battery time will depend heavily on the following:
- Mode selector switch
- Type of headphone and headphone jack
It’s important to take note that there isn’t a noticeable indicator for when your battery is running out.
You’d need a separate cable to power the device, and this process is more time-consuming compared to previous iDSD devices.
Are you the type of person that gets excited by freebies or additional items?
One of the good things about the iDSD Diablo is that iFi has a travel case called the iTraveller. This can be used to transport the iDSD Diablo. It features the following items:
- A noise-canceling Power 5v AC/DC adapter
- A 4.4mm balanced to XLR balanced interconnect cable (can be used to connect the iDSD Diablo to an amp and speakers with balanced XLR inputs)
- A USB-A audio cable
- A USB-A to USB-C charging cable
- An adapter to connect headphones with a 3.5mm jack to the 6.3mm output
Specs Worth Highlighting
If you want to delve a little bit into the more technical side of things, check out the iDSD Diablo’s specs below!
1. Digital Inputs
- USB A 3.0 (compatible with USB2.0)
- S-PDIF (3.5mm coaxial/optical)
2. Supported Formats
- Octa/Quad/Double/Single-Speed DSD
- DXD (768/705.6/384/352.8kHz)
- Double/Single-Speed DXD
- PCM (768/705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1 kHz)
- MQA (Decoder)
3. Headphone Max Output
- >19.2V/611 mW (@ 600 Ohnn)
- >12.6V/4,980 mW (@ 32 Ohm)
- >9.6V/153 mW (@ 600 Ohm)
- >8.8V/2,417 mW (@ 32 Ohm)
4. Dynamic Range
- -120dB (Balanced)
- -114dB (S-E)
5. Power Consumption
- Turbo: 12W
- Normal: 5W
- Eco: 2W
Is the iFi iDSD Diablo Worth It?
Now that we’ve covered the overview and main features of the iFi Audio iDSD Diablo, you’re probably wondering the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing this device.
Keep scrolling as we discuss a concise (yet informative) analysis of the iDSD Diablo’s pros and cons!
1. Hi-Res Audio
The iDSD Diablo supports ALL hi-res audio formats! This includes the following:
- PCM 32bit/768kHz
This gives you a wide range of audio formats to work with, which is a plus because it means that you’re always listening to high-quality music!
2. Processing Power
The iDSD Diablo has an XMOS 16-chip that processes audio data received from USB digital input.
Comparing the 16-core chip to 8-core chips highlights how the XMOS microcontroller has:
- 2x the clock speed (2000MIPS)
- 4x the memory (512KB)
- Latest USB SuperSpeed standard
Since it was programmed to optimise sound quality and work well with the Burr-Brown DAC, it constantly delivers impressive power.
3. Sound Quality
Have you ever tried putting on a pair of headphones, closing your eyes, and imagining that you’re experiencing the music close-up?
The iDSD Diablo highlights the essence of dynamic headroom by putting distance between both ends of the sound spectrum.
This means that between ‘very quiet’ and ‘very loud,’ you’d be able to hear everything in between
There’s a natural tonality that can be attributed to the fact that there’s no facility to change the iDSD Diablo’s sound.
It’s amazingly capable of extracting various details from a recording and ensuring that the listeners get a new listening experience from a familiar song.
Because of its DirectDrive component, the direct signal paths ensure that there is minimal signal degradation.
Did you know that the iDSD Diablo has a Burr-Brown True Native chipset?
It ensures that audio file formats remain constant and unchanging, which is also known as “bit-perfect.”
The phrase sounds like something you’d hear in a video game, but it means that the integrity of the audio samples remains the same.
This gives you the capability to listen to music in the way that the artist wanted it to be heard.
If you’re a big fan of accurate and natural-sounding audio, this is an important feature to take note of!
5. Low Noise
Another good thing about the iDSD Diablo is that it has a custom OV series operational amplifier that can be seen in multiple iFi audio products.
- This makes it possible for the device to produce extremely low noise and low distortion.
- It’s also capable of producing wide bandwidth.
1. Limited Options
Compared to other devices in the micro iDSD line-up, the iFi micro iDSD Diablo has fewer output power and filters options.
While you can select gain (i.e., Eco, Normal, and Turbo), the iDSD Diablo seems to prioritize power over treatment of the audio signal.
Depending on your personal preferences, this may feel somewhat restricting.
2. No Bluetooth Connectivity
Focusing on pure sonic power often requires a compromise when it comes to other aspects.
In this case, the iDSD Diablo forgoes Bluetooth and sonic tailoring in favor of achieving intense levels of sonic power.
While this isn’t a major disadvantage for most people, this is a definite con to consider if you’re a fan of wireless connections.
When you hear the phrase ‘portable,’ you immediately think of things that are easy to carry because of how light and small they are.
With dimensions of 166 x 72 x 25 mm, and a weight of 330g, there’s no doubt that it is possible to pick up and carry around.
However, these numbers easily put the iDSD Diablo at a disadvantage; it can even be considered heavier than most bulky smartphones!
With this in mind, it’s probably better if you have a small bag to carry it around in, as there’s a high possibility that it won’t fit in your pants pocket.
As a device that focuses on optical audio inputs, impressive dynamics, and pure sonic performance, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the iDSD Diablo might be a bit pricey.
Depending on where you purchase it, the price is usually $999.
This is a bit more expensive than other products in the iFi Micro iDSD line-up and might take more from your wallet than you originally planned.
5. Visual Design
If red isn’t your favorite color (or a color that you don’t mind seeing every time you use the device), you might not be fond of the iDSD Diablo.
In addition to its vivid shade of red, it also uses this particular font for the device name.
Let’s just say that it isn’t exactly part of our top 10 personal favorite fonts.
With these two aspects combined in one device, it’s easy to say that iDSD Diablo definitely stands out.
How Does It Compare to Other Alternatives?
Curious about what other products have to offer?
Here are some alternatives to the iFi iDSD Diablo in case you think that this device is not for you.
1. Micro iDSD Black Label
The micro iDSD Black Label has won multiple awards for its ability to make music come to life. It handles native playback in numerous formats, such as DSD, PCM, and DXD.
If you’re looking for additional sonic enhancements, you could try the following:
- XBass+: cleans the bass and provides a deep and rich sound
- 3D+: makes you feel as if you’re in a live-concert
- The device delivers warm and smooth audio
- There’s great unity-gain bandwidth
- There’s low noise and distortion
- There’s good channel separation
- The battery can last for a long time
- It can be difficult to carry around because of its large size
- Theres’ no definitive EQ
- The first 0.5-2 seconds of a song is silent/muted when it initially starts playing
- it has a ‘SmartPower’ feature that helps you charge your phone but ends up in you losing a LOT of battery time
2. iFi Audio iDSD Signature
The iFi Audio iDSD Signature boasts a shiny Space Blue color and ultra-stable DC power.
It also comes with a built-in rechargeable battery that ensures up to 12 hours of battery time.
Its digital engine handles 4 pairs of signals, which is 2 pairs per channel! This ensures the following:
- Lower noise floor
- Good channel separation
- Fine micro-dynamics
It also has 2 digital inputs, a USB A input and a S/PDIF socket, which accepts both electrical and optical signals.
- The device has impressive sonic texture
- It has jitter-eradication technology
- There are various filter settings
- It is easily transportable
- There’s a balanced output
- There’s good channel separation
- There’s no Bluetooth
- The volume knobs are sensitive
- It requires a separate USB-C cable for charging
- It gives off a loud POP sound when it powers up or down
- The battery indicator is small
3. iFi Neo iDSD Performance Edition
The iFi Neo iDSD Amp/DAC has brought home a lot of awards because of its impressive features.
As a 3-in-1 DAC/amp, there’s no doubt that it has a lot to offer!
It has a balanced circuit design called ‘PureWave’ that reduces noise and ensures full channel separation. It also has hi-res Bluetooth and supports the following formats:
- aptX HD
- aptX Adaptive
- aptX LL
It also ensures ‘bit-perfect’ audio and full MQA decoding for amazing sound quality!
- The device ensures enhanced experiences for music, movies, and games
- It provides great sound quality
- It delivers sonic purity
- There’s no digital filter selection
- The interface is easy to use
- There are noticeable harsh sounds, particularly in the upper midrange and lower treble
- The battery for the remote control isn’t included
- The battery doesn’t have any power button
- The provided USB cable is short
4. FiiO K5 Pro
The FiiO K5 Pro is a compact and multifunctional DAC/amp with minimalist yet dynamic features.
It has an aluminum front panel, an oversized volume knob, and an RGB light indicator. This indicator changes color depending on the audio’s sample rate:
- DSD: Green light
- 48 kHz and below: Blue light
- 48 kHz and above: Yellow light
It also has tactile toggle switches that ensure smooth input selection and gain control.
- The device provides a clean and crisp sound
- It can connect multiple music players
- It has precise volume control
- It provides minimal noise
- The device delivers good performance for $149.99
- The detail retrieval and layering aren’t as good compared to other DACs
- The device isn’t suitable for IEMs
- Simultaneously using the analog output and headphone output is confusing
5. Chord Mojo
The Chord Mojo is a portable DAC/headphone amp that’s won numerous awards because of its audio performance and reliability.
It can connect to multiple devices such as:
- Music players
- Game Consoles
It has a solid aluminum shell, a strong build quality, and colorful LED indicators. The color of the volume buttons changes depending on levels.
Similarly, the power button changes colors depending on the input signal’s sample rate:
- DSD: White light
- 44.1 kHz: Red light
- 96 kHz: Green light
The Chord Mojo also supports up to 768kHz and up to 800-ohm headphones.
- It ensures up to 8 hours of music playback
- The device is easy to carry
- It has a strong case that protects it from damage
- It can connect with multiple devices
- The device heats up when charging
- The changing colors of the power and volume buttons can be a bit confusing.
Final Verdict: iFi iDSD Diablo
It’s a pretty common occurrence in life for people to come up with compromises to meet halfway.
After all, it’s a well-known fact that you can’t get everything you want.
These sentiments are echoed in the case of the iDSD Diablo.
On the one hand, it delivered the following features:
- Powerful output
- Balanced port
- Numerous accessories
- Sonic purity
- Jitter-eradication technology
But on the other hand, it also didn’t include the following features:
- Bluetooth connectivity
- IEMatch feature
- No noticeable battery charge indicator
After considering a variety of factors, we believe that the iDSD Diablo is an excellent purchase, as it delivers amazing performance for its price.
With its pursuit of sonic purity, low ground noise, and less distortion, it’s one of the (if not THE) most powerful portable DAC/amps around.
More Than Words
At the end of the day, your personal preferences and budget are what matter the most.
We’ve presented you with our side of the story, but you’ll be the one coming home with the device.
Make sure to do thorough research if you’re still unsure! When it comes to technology, it’s quite difficult to find a “one size fits all,” even with multifunctional devices such as DAC/amps.
As long as you carefully weigh the pros and cons of the iDSD Diablo as your chosen device, you’ll be satisfied with the product that you end up with!