First Look: iFi iDSD nano DAC/headphone amp & iCAN nano headphone amp

Digital-to-analog converters,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
iFi Audio iCAN Nano,
iFi Audio iDSD nano
First Look: iFi iDSD nano DAC/headphone amp & iCAN nano headphone amp

What have we learned about the sound of the iDSD nano thus far?

Let me just jump right in and say that the iDSD nano sounds ridiculously good for the money—more than competitive with other portable DACs I’ve heard thus far (though I have not yet tried any of Light Harmonic’s new portables, which promise stiff competition).  Still, even the least costly of the LH models will costs more than the iDSD nano, meaning the iFi unit has the playing field more or less to itself at its price point.

This little DAC delivers a very full measure of what I am coming to regard as the iFi (and thus, by extension, the Abbingdon Music Research) sound, whose virtues include generous amounts of resolution, a quiet and full-bodied presentation, and an aura of all-around refinement and sophistication reminiscent of what you might expect from (far) more costly gear.

In operation within my Windows 8/JRiver Media Center 19-based system, the iDSD switched very comfortably and seamlessly betwixt various resolution levels of PCM files, though it did exhibit a few minor (albeit easily correctable) glitches when transitioning from PCM to DSD format files. But the sound, both on high-res PCM and on DSD material, was just amazingly good for the amount of money this unit costs. Forgetting the fact that the iDSD nano incorporates a headphone amplifier for a moment, my take on things would be that it is well worth considering even if you purchase it solely for use as a DAC.