June 5, 2014 - iFi-Audio, maker of several very interesting miniature audio components, has upgraded their battery-powered portable iDSD nano DAC and headphone amplifier to play quad-speed DSD256 computer audio files. A downloadable firmware upgrade file, with necessary instructions, can be found at http://ifi-audio.com/audio_blog/software-update/. Unfortunately for Macintosh users, the upgrade appears to require a Windows computer. iFi-Audio reports that “In addition to the new Quad-Speed DSD256 support, most of you also reported smoother operation and improved sound quality.” However, they also “…do not recommend the user to upgrade or downgrade the firmware just for fun” since there is a small chance of “bricking” the iDSD nano.
Unable to resist a challenge, I went through the upgrade process, which started with upgrading to the latest Windows drivers (version 2.20). Fortunately, everything went without a hitch. After downloading the new drivers, I had to set J. River Media Center (my playback software) to use a new ASIO 2.2 driver. There aren’t many DSD256 files available yet, but iFi-Audio identified some Japanese jazz piano DSD256 recordings that I downloaded and tried. They were very clean, spacious, highly nuanced and sounded a whole lot like someone playing a piano in a moderately reverberant room. Through the upgraded iDSD nano, my Audeze LCD-X headphones sounded a bit tonally richer than before the upgrade. If you enjoy the iDSD nano as much as I do, this is a worthwhile upgrade.