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iFi’s battery-powered Nano iDSD DAC/headphone-amp

  • This might look like just another entry in what has become a loooong line of micro DAC + headphone-amp packages…but it isn’t.

    iFi-Audio’s nano iDSD ticks all the 2013 trend boxes: PCM up to 32bit/384kHz, single- and double-rate DSD, user-selectable digital filters.

    However, into the portable bargain comes a PCM-only digital output, analogue volume attenuation, 1400mAh lithium-polymer battery power and smartphone compatibility. iFi are claiming 10+ hours of playback from a single charge.

    Decoding comes from an unspecified Burr Brown chip and the internal clocks have been tapped from parent company AMR. Native Playback on this Burr Brown chipset means the Nano iDSD does not convert any of the formats from one to the other e.g. DSD>PCM>DSD. It keeps it straight, AMR style.

    The headphone output is rated at 80mW (which I’m assuming is into 32 Ohms). The power rating into 16 Ohms is specified on the iFi website at 130mW.

    iPhone users will need either the Lightning adaptor cable or Camera Connection Kit. Android* users will need an ‘On The Go’ (OTG) USB cable.


    Specifications run like this

    File formats:

    • PCM 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384kHz/32bit
    • DSD 2.8, 3.1, 5.6, 6.2MHz/1bit
    • DXD 352.8, 384kHz/24bit
    • Bit‐Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown


    • PCM: Standard/Minimum Phase digital (selectable)
    • DSD: Standard/Extended Range analogue (selectable)
    • DXD: Bit‐Perfect Processing, analogue filter (fixed)


    • USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)


    • 1 x Digital Output (PCM only, up to 192kHz)
    • 1 x Audio utputs
    • 1 x 3.5mm Headphone Output

    The iFi nano iDSD sells for US$189 and is available now.

    Further information: iFi Micro

    *Android users also note: it’s worth checking in with iFi for confirmation of 100% compatibility with your smartphone as (my experiences tell me) USB audio device recognition on JellyBean and KitKat implementations remains a bit of a lottery.

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Son of a biscuit eater! Just when I was about to buy the new AQ Dragonfly v1.2, along comes this potential beast for under $200. I like the connection options, the volume knob, and the format options. No, I have nothing in my collection above 96/24 ’cause everything above that is expensive, but heck, it’s good to be future proofed. I wish innovation would slow down so I could get over my neurosis and actually buy something.

      Please, John, tell your loyal readers how this thing _sounds_ as soon as you can. I’d love to see a comparison among these sub 200USD dacs:

      HRT Microstreamer
      AQ Dragonfly v1.2
      Audioengine D1 and D3
      iFi Nano
      Nu-force something-or-other

      • It would be good to know, yes. However, I’d urge people to buy one, try it and then sell it if they don’t like it. And repeat.

      • I’m with you on the ‘neurosis’; EVERY time some gorgeous little amp comes along, I drool then decide to wait an’ see what’s next.
        My hopeless indecision started with a little thing called a ‘Hornet’ from America then there was another and another and…aaaaagh!

      • When I first read about high resolution recordings I was very, very excited.
        Then I started doing some serious research into the product ; now, I would not even consider buying so-called ‘hi-res’ albums or the devices to decode them. Why? I read what Monty had to say on ‘’; here’s a little taster:
        “Why push back against 24/192? Because it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, a business model based on willful ignorance and scamming people. The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness… even if this is a small and relatively insignificant example”

    2. Hello John, I have been reading the few brief initial reviews of this product. I use a iPod Classic and an iPhone 5 as my source and amp/DACs like the Theorem and AK10 but for the life of me, I just don’t understand what this product gives that the others don’t. This is not a criticism of the product. I am interested in it but it seems oh-so-complicated. I see the RCA terminals but my interest is solely using the sources I have and whether this is a product I can add to my collection. Thanks John. Regards, George

      • Battery power is number 1. DSD is number 2. In-pocket portability is 3rd. <--- Neither the Theorem nor the AK10 nail all three. (Also: digital filters, digital output).

      • Hi George, being as objective as you can, what do you think the AK10 does for your iPod Classic?
        I’m quite tempted by this combination myself; John D liked it in his review. I have been somewhat put off by Jamie Lendino’s lukewarm review of the AK100 and the 10 has the same DAC if I’m not mistaken…

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