iFi IDSD Diablo X Review

iFi IDSD Diablo X Review

A few years ago, iFi released the IDSD Diablo, a powerful new portable DAC/Amp. It had a sound like no other portable device had at the time, giving power-hungry headphones a significant drive while on the go. Now, iFi looks to follow up on this line with the new IDSD Diablo X. It has launched at $1,099, and it features new technology from xMEMS, which the Diablo X is the first DAC/Amp in the world to offer. With that, can the Diablo X potentially surpass the heights of the original?

iFi IDSD Diablo X items

What You Get

  • iDSD Diablo-X
  • iPower 5V Adapter
  • iEMatch 4.4
  • USB-A to USB-C Cable
  • USB-C to USB-C Cable
  • USB-AF to USB-CF adapters
  • DC to USB-C Cable
  • iTraveller Case
  • 4.4mm to Twin cable
  • USB-C OTG
  • Splitter Male Cable
  • 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter
  • Fibre optic adapter
  • iDSD Diablo-X Quick Start Card
  • iDSD Diablo-X User Manual

iFi IDSD Diablo X front

Build

With the Diablo X’s new black design, it loses something that was so striking about the look of the original. I’ll miss the vibrant red that made the Diablo stand out so well, but it’s only the color after all. The main construction of the Diablo remains mostly unchanged. It has the same harsh chassis, with its rounded edges and sizable length. The layout of all of the inputs and outputs is the same too, with the addition of xMEMS to the turbo switch. You still have a quarter-inch headphone jack, as well as a 4.4mm balanced connector. There’s also a 4.4mm balanced output on the back of the device as well.

iFi IDSD Diablo X Logo

Design

Like every other product from iFi, the Diablo X uses Burr-Brown chipsets, along with a 16 XMOS chip as its data processor. It can take up to DSD 512/PCM 768, and is also a full MQA decoder. Its circuitry uses iFi’s PureWave tech, which sees its own improvements to its direct signal path. Both the DAC, and amplifier interiors feature high level components like multi-stage filtering, ultra-low-noise regulators, and Panasonic OS-CON capacitors.

iFi IDSD Diablo X headphones

Sound Impressions

At first, I was expecting the Diablo X to share many similarities with the original in terms of pure sound. iFi’s last iteration of this line gave every headphone pairing a distinct personality, delivering larger imaging and incredible drive for your music. The Diablo X is much of the same as most pairings, offering powerful amplification for your headphones on the go. However, with all that power comes some issues with the presentation that wasn’t my cup of tea. For instance, as much as the Diablo X can easily drive headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT 1990, or Sennheiser HD 800s, it’s not always going to be the most organized or revealing sound. The headphones previously mentioned actually gave me the best results, as the profile of those headphones are already pretty flat and direct. This is what the Diablo X performs best with, neutral timbres that express sound elements accurately. This way, all that power can compliment the tight precision of the soundstage, and make each detail more identifiable.

Other headphones, didn’t sound as elegant through the Diablo X. Using the Meze Elite didn’t offer as blissful as an experience that I’m used to hearing from those particular headphones. Everything was pushed forward, and brought in tighter, which didn’t bring out the Elite at its best. It lacked the euphoric spaciousness that other DAC/Amps bring out to a greater degree. The Diablo X makes it seem like the margins of each performance are sliding up against each other. All the instruments and vocals are taller and wider, but the space in between shrinks as a result. While that’s a bit disappointing, the Diablo X still carries itself with a sound that a lot of headphones and IEMs can be improved by, especially ones with substantial impact, or a critical reference.

Summary

Although not everything regarding the sound is perfect, it still gave me enjoyable amplification with a selection of headphones. The Diablo X is the same solid makeup of the original, and adds xMEMS technology for added value. However, It’s hard to guage how successful this tech will be since there aren’t a lot of xMEMS headphones on the market right not to test it out. If you haven’t listened to the Diablo yet, and are looking for a powerful portable amp that packs a punch, then the Diablo X will satisfy your needs easily. When it comes to detail and soundstage performance though, I think the original has a bit more to offer for my taste.

Pros Cons
  • Powerful amplifier that can easily drive high impedance headphones
  • xMEMS technology
  • Durable construction¬†
  • Wealth of accessories¬†
  • Some headphone pairing sound overblown and limits space
  • High price¬†

The iFi IDSD Diablo X is available from Audio46.

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Alex S. is a sound designer and voice-over artist who has worked in film, commercials, and podcasts. He loves horror movies and emo music.