Portable DAC/Amps from iFi are almost always a great combo no matter the price range. The Diablo and Diablo X from earlier this year have been great additions to their portable catalog, suiting more high-end headphones. They’ve now decided to follow up that design with the Diablo 2, further expanding on its technology and adding new innovative features. It also comes at an increased price of $1,299. Is dishing out that much money worth it for a portable DAC/Amp?
What You Get
- iPower 2 power supply (which is 10 times quieter than typical audiophile power supplies)
- USB-C cable
- USB-C-to-A adapter
- TOSLINK optical adapter
- 3.5mm to 6.3mm headphone adapter
- iTraveller carrying case
This isn’t just a color change like the Diablo X. The Diablo 2 is a significant departure from the sleek, clean portable DAC/Amp from before. Everything from the volume pot to the chassis of the device is completely changed. Instead of a smooth rounded shape, the Diablo 2 has more pronounced edges, with a creased aluminum body. These creases also play a role in adding on the new stands, which you slide on. The color is also more muted compared to the bright red of the original Diablo. The best part about the redesign is the bigger volume pot, which also has a lock now.
The face of the Diablo 2 features a quarter-inch and 4.4mm balanced headphone output like the other Diablo’s. There are also switches for turbo and nitro mode, and another for activating xMEMS. On the back, you have two USB Type C connectors for the DAC and battery. You also have S/PDIF, balanced 4.4mm, and a Bluetooth button.
Inside the Diablo 2 is iFi’s staple dual-core Burr-Brown True Native Chipset. This DAC chipset supports bit-perfect DSD and PCM support at sample rates up to 768kHz with MQA decoding as well. The Diablo 2 also has Bluetooth functionality, with support from Qualcomm’s new QCC518x Bluetooth audio chip. Virtually all Bluetooth CODECs are provided here, including aptX Lossless, which enables you to enjoy wireless listening from your source without worrying about losing fidelity through compression. Other technology staples for iFi include PureWave’s dual-mono circuitry, DirectDrive, OptimaLoop, and additional advanced jitter. These different bits of circuitry all aim to help reduce noise as much as possible, while also enhancing channel separation and signal purity.
With the last few versions of the Diablo, you had no issue driving any set of headphones whatsoever. It possesses the power to throw everything right in front of your face with massive imaging capabilities that put the sound on a larger scale. The Diablo 2 also grants that ability but with a more dynamic range spread across the audio spectrum.
Your headphones won’t always give the greatest potential, leaving room for cleaner separation and positional accuracy. It sustains itself well, synergizing better with different genres and more relaxed headphone sound signatures. This is how I felt listening to the Dan Clark Audio Expanse through the Diablo 2, as its imaging felt more precise and less inflated. The scope of the headphones doesn’t change, but the clarity of the instruments is treated with more realism. However, Turbo mode is basically required with these headphones if you want any semblance of headroom.
Moving over to the Audeze LCD-X, Turbo mode is not as imperative to the headphones’ loudness. I became more impressed by the sound signature of the Diablo 2 itself. It brings warmth in appropriate places and responds with more striking upper mids that add emphasis to more instruments.
This is also where I first activated the xMEMS feature, and it wielded very interesting results. I started to hear a very pronounced buzzing that I thought might have been an issue, but this is just what it sounds like when the transient response is that quick. There was more velocity to certain notes, which helped characterize the mids and highs a lot better. The bass was mostly unchanged but still provided ample vibration throughout the frequency response. More noise is able to break through though, which can be distracting when the track you’re listening to is more mellow.
You’re always going to get an interesting sound from iFi’s portable DAC/Amps. The Diablo 2 is a great addition to their selection, even with its higher asking price. If you want to experience what xMEMS is capable of, or what lossless Bluetooth could sound like, then I would say that’s worth the higher price depending on the headphones you’re looking to pair it with.
The iFi Diablo 2 is available from Audio46.