Next I reached for my Audeze LCD-X headphones. These are my open Planar Magnetic reference cans. My friends know me to be a big Star Wars fan and this was a great opportunity to listen to the John Williams scored Soundtrack to the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The ‘Main Title’ and ‘The Attack on the Jakku Village’ [Walt Disney Records, AIFF 24/192 HDTracks] opens with the primary Star Wars theme known to so many around the world. Horns had that crisp brassy attack. The scale was appropriately orchestral. Tympani had the power and authority required to create that necessary sense of gravitas. I have seen this movie several times in well sound equipped theatres. The haunting oboe and flute seemed to float throughout the theatre. The iDAC2 was able to do well by this presentation as it powered the highly regarded LCD-X’s with ease.
Moving on to the MrSpeakers Alpha Prime closed Planar Magnetics’ I put on ‘Eminence Front’ fron The Who’s It’s Hard album [MCA, AIFF 24/96 HDTracks]. The Alpha Prime’s are one of the best closed Planar Magnetic headphones out there. Sometimes a portable amp will begin to run out of steam when you put on a ‘crank it up’ type of song. No worries for the iDAC2. The boys had all the power they needed to keep the beat driving forward. Deep bass and that ‘all around you’ feeling that the song has always delivered. This has always been a favorite immersive track for me. The mix places you virtually in the midst of the band facing Kenny Jones’ drum kit. Pete on the left, John off to my right, and Roger at my side singing in my ear. There is a lot going on with this composition, and lesser amps can get a bit lost in the presentation, smearing the notes. However, the iDAC2 lets each note strut its stuff to glorious effect.
Wrapping up, it was time for some DSD. I reached for my personal reference headphones, the Sennheiser HD800 with their Toxic Cables SW22 Silver Widow cables. Time to double down on the testing by adding Female vocals as the final variable. Shelby Lynne’s title track from Just a Little Lovin’ [Lost Highway, DSD64 Superhirez.com] is a time tested review track. The miking of the vocals is superb, the band is tight, and the setting gloriously club-style intimate. The sense of space and with the initial tapping of the drumstick on the rim of the snare drum and the first bass note tells you this is special. Shelby’s clear but slightly life-worn voice sounds sadly hopeful as she longs for “Just a little lovin’ early in the morning”. Her soulful crooning for the simple intimacy of a partner’s touch reaches deep into the soul of what it is to be human at its most basic. The iDAC2 does well conveying the emotional need conveyed through the song. The recreation of the recording environment is preserved, allowing the artist’s delivery the completeness it deserves.
One of the things that I most enjoy about the iFi Micro iDSD is that it is a great portable unit, giving me most of the qualities of a strong home system when I am on the road. The iDAC2 continues in this tradition of excellence by presenting a highly engaging presentation across a variety of headphone styles. It has the power to drive most headphones without issue, and the Burr-Brown chip implementation allows for the delivery of the audio file natively without conversion degradation. For its price point, it offers an exceptionally involving musical experience. At the end of a long day, that is after all, what most of us are seeking.
Type: Solid-state high-resolution PCM, DXD, and DSD-capable digital-to-analogue converter/preamplifier.
Digital Inputs: USB 3.0 (Compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android devices, camera kit or USB-OTG cable required)
Outputs: Audio RCA (2.1 V @ 0dBF’s, Load >600Ω) 3.5mm Headphone (max 350mW/16Ω, 8Ω – 600Ω)SPDIF RCA (PCM up 192kHz, DoP DSD)
Formats supported: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/384kHz PCM. 2.8/3.1/5.6/6.2/11.2/12.4MHz DSD. 353/384kHz DXD
Technologies: True Native™ DSD/PCM Burr-Brown (1‑DAC Chip; 2-Channel;4-Signals). Bit Perfect Quad-Speed DSD256/PCM384kHz and DXD. Zero Jitter Lite™ technology with dedicated low‑noise power supply. Class A, J-Fet Line Buffer and Burr-Brown J-Fet Op-Amps. DirectDrive™ with no coupling capacitors for the purest signal path
Dynamic Range: >114dB(A) @ 0dBFS Line out and HP out @ 0dBFS/3.2V
Power Source: USB Bus Power
Power Consumption: <1.5W
Dimensions (HxWxD): 28x68x158mm
Manufactured by: iFi Audio
Distributed in the UK by: Select Audio
Tel: +44(0)1900 601954