iFi’s pricier DAC/amps tend to produce highly musical sound profiles that feel somewhat refined in their presentation. They are also addictively pleasing to the ear. Almost all of their models, especially those featuring the Burr Brown chip set (utilized in this model), have been huge sellers. So, I was curious to see the next iteration of one of my favorite DAC/amps, the iFi Diablo 2. How much power does it offer? And how does it perform with respect to skill and sound signature?
What’s in the Box?
iPower 2 power supply
3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter
USB-C-to USB-A adapter
Diverging from the bright, fire engine red that characterized the previous model, the Diablo 2 sports a more subdued look, with a darker metallic red facade and silver accents. It has a much more severe build than the original, given its hard edges and creases. Included in the box, is a stand that adds to the classiness of the design, while keeping the DAC cool. Finally, I love the jumbo sized volume knob, which not only looks solid and inviting, but also minimizes the chance of any accidents thanks to its included lock function.
The Diablo 2 utilizes the Burr Brown DAC chipset in its design. Personally, I’ve never heard a bad sounding Burr Brown DAC. So, that’s already a good sign. In addition, a low latency “XMOS 16-Core” chip is used to processes the audio data, aiming to enhance resolution and seamlessly partner with the DAC. As for the amp, iFi has employed a custom OV Series unit, which acts to eliminate noise and minimize distortion.
iFi also incorporates a bunch of other features in its design, such as PureWave, Servoless DirectDrive, OptimaLoop, and Advanced Jitter Reduction Technology, all of which aim to minimize distortion and achieve a more pristine and refined sonic profile.
Inputs, Outputs and Buttons
On the front of the Diablo 2, you’ll find 1/4 inch and 4.4mm balanced headphone output. You also have gain switch with turbo and nitro modes, alongside a switch dedicated to activating xMEMS, which we’ll talk about below.
Flip the DAC around, and you’ll find 2 USB Type C connectors that serve the DAC and battery, accompanied by coaxial/optical, balanced 4.4mm, and a Bluetooth pairing button.
Finally, at the bottom of the device, you’ll find an IE Match, which is useful when driving IEMs.
The Diablso touts a powerful 5,180mW output. And there’s virtually no headphone that the Diablo 2 can’t handle. I paired it with the Beyerdynamic DT 1770, which has an impedance of 250 Ohms, and I had the volume dial less than half-way without any gain switch on. So, go ahead, pair your most power hungry cans with this thing. It should be able to drive them.
Without the gain switch on, you’ll be able to get around 9 hours of use before having to recharge. With the gain switched to turbo, you can expect only 6 hours of battery life. But this is about average for iFi’s DACs of this size.
The Diablo 2 is equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, powered by Qualcomm’s latest QCC518x Bluetooth audio chip. It offers almost all hi-res codecs, including the new, aptX Lossless, which delivers uncompressed files.
To me, the Burr Brown chipset is irresistible. It injects tons of depth and richness into the tone of instruments, while imbuing the performance with a fluidity and subtle smoothness that is highly musical, emotive and easy to listen to. And overall, its just refined enough without losing the natural timbral qualities of the instrument.
The separation is also incredible, adding extra precision and definition to elements in the mix. There also seems to be a dash of color or depth added to far sitting instruments, highlighting elements in the mix that you may have missed in the past. And while the stage is more realistic than it is vast, the immaculate imaging leaves plenty of space between instruments, creating a thoroughly holographic and immersive listening experience.
You’ll also feel a palpable, steady energy to your tracks, thanks in part to the fantastic speed and highly contained/controlled delivery. Everything just snaps tighter and faster.
As for other aspects of the sound signature, I didn’t hear much manipulation with respect to tuning or extension. Still, it does feel like your headphones are getting a make-over. So, this is not a purely neutral DAC. You can hear the change.
Finally, you have a MEMS feature, which creates a more robust sound, adding more dynamism and energy to the balance, and increasing impact and volume of individual elements. It almost sounds like the track has been remastered.
To put it simply, the Diablo 2 sounds orgasmic. And although relatively pricey, the Diablo 2 delivers a ton of power, while greatly enhancing the skill of your headphones. And if you own a bunch of cans and IEMs with varying impedances, you can rest assured that the Diablo 2 will comfortably drive them all. So, especially if you plan on investing in only one DAC/amp, maybe this should be it.
You can buy the iFi Diablo 2 at Audio 46.