iFi Diablo Review: Is It Worth The Price?!

Updates:

  • 2/28/21. Article posted.
  • 4/14/21. Added some more films: Terminator, Terminator 2, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Tin Cup.
  • 4/18/21. Added Video.

Big Shoutout to Lawrance and iFi Audio for sending this demo unit, and for their continued support!!

These are all my own opinions. I’m not being paid to say anything positive or negative about this unit. I also haven’t read any other reviews before sitting down to write this. All thoughts and impressions are my own.

With that…

Is iFi’s Diablo worth the asking price? What about this Amp/DAC sets it apart from other similar products?

All of these answers and more, comin’ up.

iFi iDSD Diablo Review

Greetings bass head, Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…

Video Review

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At A Glance

Title
iFi Micro iDSD Diablo Purist Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier - USB/SPDIF Input - 4.4mm Balanced Output - 4.4mm & 6.3mm Headphone jacs
Thumbnail
iFi Micro iDSD Diablo Purist Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier - USB/SPDIF Input - 4.4mm Balanced Output - 4.4mm & 6.3mm Headphone jacs
Digital Inputs
USB 3.0 Type A (USB 2.0 Compatible)/S-PDIF (3.5mm coaxial/optical)
Formats
DSD512/256/128/64, Octa/Quad/Double/Single-Speed DSD, DXD (768/705.6/384/352.8kHz), Double/Single-Speed DXD, PCM (768,705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1kHz, MQA
Audio Output
Balanced 4.4mm, Single-ended 6.35mm (1/4")
Output Power
19.2V/611mW (@ 600 Ohm), 12.6V/4,980mW (@ 32 Ohm), 9.6V/153mW (@ 600 Ohm), 8.8V/2,417mW (@ 32 Ohm)
Frequency Response
10Hz - 80kHz (-3dB)
Signal to Noise Ratio
Balanced: -120dB, S-E: -114dB
Total Harmonic Distortion
Balanced: 0.002%, S-E: 0.001%
Filters
DSD: Extreme/Extended/Standard Bandwith, PCM: Bit-Perfect/Minimum-Phase/Standard, DXD: Bit-Perfect Processing
Power Consumption
Turbo: 12W, Normal: 5W, Eco: 2W
Battery
Lithium-polymer 4800Ah
Power System
Charging via USB-C (iFi iPower included), BC V1.2 compliant up to 1900mA charging current
Dimensions
166 x 72 x 25mm / 6.5" x 2.8" x 1.0"
Net Weight
330g (0.73 lbs.)
Warranty Period
12 months
Prime
Price
$899.99
Details
Title
iFi Micro iDSD Diablo Purist Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier - USB/SPDIF Input - 4.4mm Balanced Output - 4.4mm & 6.3mm Headphone jacs
Thumbnail
iFi Micro iDSD Diablo Purist Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier - USB/SPDIF Input - 4.4mm Balanced Output - 4.4mm & 6.3mm Headphone jacs
Digital Inputs
USB 3.0 Type A (USB 2.0 Compatible)/S-PDIF (3.5mm coaxial/optical)
Formats
DSD512/256/128/64, Octa/Quad/Double/Single-Speed DSD, DXD (768/705.6/384/352.8kHz), Double/Single-Speed DXD, PCM (768,705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1kHz, MQA
Audio Output
Balanced 4.4mm, Single-ended 6.35mm (1/4")
Output Power
19.2V/611mW (@ 600 Ohm), 12.6V/4,980mW (@ 32 Ohm), 9.6V/153mW (@ 600 Ohm), 8.8V/2,417mW (@ 32 Ohm)
Frequency Response
10Hz - 80kHz (-3dB)
Signal to Noise Ratio
Balanced: -120dB, S-E: -114dB
Total Harmonic Distortion
Balanced: 0.002%, S-E: 0.001%
Filters
DSD: Extreme/Extended/Standard Bandwith, PCM: Bit-Perfect/Minimum-Phase/Standard, DXD: Bit-Perfect Processing
Power Consumption
Turbo: 12W, Normal: 5W, Eco: 2W
Battery
Lithium-polymer 4800Ah
Power System
Charging via USB-C (iFi iPower included), BC V1.2 compliant up to 1900mA charging current
Dimensions
166 x 72 x 25mm / 6.5" x 2.8" x 1.0"
Net Weight
330g (0.73 lbs.)
Warranty Period
12 months
Prime
Price
$899.99
Details

What’s in the box?

Diablo

Blue USB Type-B Cable

iPurifier3 Active Noise Cancellation

5V DC Power Brick

Power Brick USB-C Adapter. I use this to charge and listen at the same time so it always has enough juice.

USB-A to USB-C Charging Cable

4.4mm to dual XLR balanced cables

Optical adapter

¼” headphone adapter

Start-Up Guide

Warranty Card

iFi iDSD Diablo Review

Spec & Features

iFi iDSD Diablo Review

Supports 7 modes:

  • Green for PCM/44/48/88/96kHz
  • Yellow for PCM 176/192/352/384kHz
  • White for PCM 768kHz
  • Cyan for DSD64/128
  • Blue for DSD256
  • Red for DSD512
  • And Magenta is MQA decoding

Total Harmonic Distortion

  • Single-ended: 0.001% and
  • Balanced: 0.002%

Max Power Output

Balanced:

  • 611mW @ 600 Ohm
  • 4,980mW @ 32 Ohm

Single-ended:

  • 153mW @ 600 Ohm
  • 2,417mW @ 32 Ohm

More than enough power for any headphones you may have.

Inputs

Back

  • S/PDIF/Coax/Optical
  • Balanced 4.4mm analogue input
  • USB-C (5V) battery charge input
  • USB 3.0 Type-A input

Front

  • Single-ended ¼” headphone jack
  • Balanced 4.4mm headphone jack
  • Mode switch
  • Volume Potentiometer

Battery Status:

  • White: > 75%
  • Green: > 25%
  • Red: > 10%
  • Red (flashing) < 10%

iFi Diablo

Is the Diablo worth the asking price of around 900 big ones?

I hate to say it, but no. It’s not. I’ve listened to over 20 albums, 5 films, a game or 2, and countless other misc. tracks before coming to this conclusion.

Is it a solid product? Absolutely! It’s hefty and robust, has built-in rubber feet, and looks fab on your desk or in your home theater/gaming space. Related: How To Set Up A Home Theater System For Beginners: Part I

Features and versatility are what set it apart from the others, both from a standpoint of what you’re getting in the package, its power modes, its ease of use, what types of files it can play, as well as a few different ways you can use it.

Still, its closely related Black Label brother did everything that the evil twin Diablo does, except it was cheaper and had an XBass whereas the Red Terror does not. Related: iFi micro iDSD Black Label Review!

BASS HEADS ONLY, BUSTER!!

The Black Label also had RCA outputs. The Diablo has a balanced 4.4mm out, but fewer people may utilize that. I don’t know that for certain one way or another. I do know RCA out is more convenient for the average user.

The S/PDIF input is a welcome return though.

Just use the supplied optical adapter and you can game on your console. I don’t know much about the PS5 right now, but folks have told me it does not have an optical input which is a real pain in the a**. I still have a PS4 and I’m completely satisfied with it. I don’t feel the need to upgrade and I can use it with any DAC that has an optical input.

Power modes have also made a return, as you can run your headphones in Eco, Normal, and Turbo.

iFi rates Eco for high sensitivity IEMs with 12-hour battery life, Normal for medium Sensitivity headphones with a 9-hour life, and turbo for the most demanding headphones at a 6-hour life. There is plenty of power here for any headphones you may have around.

iFi iDSD Diablo Review
Right before the Road Warrior screening.
Right before Serpico screening IIRC.

The Devil (‘scuse me, Diablo) does have a 4.4mm headphone input, but what DAC doesn’t nowadays? When the Black Label came out, we were still in the beginning stages of using headphones balanced with DACS, at least from a general consumer standpoint. I also think that most people will still be using a single-ended connection. Running balanced is more of a hassle for the majority of casual listeners, but that’s still only my opinion.

The point is this: if I thought the Black Label at $599 was pushing it (but still mostly worth a long-term investment given how versatile it was), the Diablo is certainly NOT worth $300 extra, at least in my mind. It’s like that high-maintenance chick who knows she’s high-maintenance and beautiful, but also knows her head is filled with sand.

When I first received it, I thought: “Wow! What a great package! You’re getting so much! Seems like a great value!” Then someone on Instagram told me what the price was and I was like:

“Wow! That’s an entire month’s rent!” 😂

It’s sort of like disappointed black guy:

Disappointed Black Guy Meme Strikes For The First Time On Home Studio Basics.

😂

If I was on the fence about Neo but still saw the tremendous value in it, Diablo makes me want to run out and purchase a Neo without thinking twice. Related: iFi Neo iDSD Amp/DAC Review &#8211; Is It Worth $700?!

The Neo really is a jack of all trades and worth the asking price if I were to keep it for many years. As I mentioned in the official review, if it had an XLR mic input on the front I would most certainly buy it given everything else it can do. The Diablo to me pales in comparison and is not worth an investment at its current price.

I say that for another important reason; the sound. No, it’s not bad. It sounds great, but (and iFi might crucify me for saying this) it doesn’t sound any better than an iFi Zen.

MAN THIS IS SOME MORE BULLSH**!!!!

Yeah, I went there. Sorry, iFi. But it’s true.

Welp looks like I won’t be reviewing any more iFi DACS lol.

Great product, but not even close to being worth 9 hunnit.

I’d price this at around $500.

REAL TALK!!

Sound

The Diablo actually sounds very similar to the Zen; a cross between neutral and warm. This is a presentation I’ve always enjoyed in iFi products – crisp, full-bodied, and detailed, yet not sterile or cold sounding. iFi Zen Amp/DAC Review [New Standard?]

iFi has always utilized the Burr-Brown chip so there isn’t really much more I can say or add to what I’ve said dozens of times previously. I’ve demoed a bunch of their products and they all sound great. I’m not going to make up a bunch of word salad just to sound like those other reviewers who try and artificially hype you up so you’ll buy the product faster (cough Z Reviews cough) ‘Scuse me.

Select Comparisons

Used with the Blue Cable to keep a level playing field. Used AKG K702.

Diablo vs. K5 Pro

$150 vs. $900

iFi iDSD Diablo Review

I didn’t hear much of a difference between them. Both delivered the ferocity and slam of Common’s “The Sixth Sense” with equal measure. Tight, plenty of impact, clear, and crisp. On “The Narcissist”, the K5 Pro did sound slightly warmer and less detailed. And?

  • Tracks demoed: The Sixth Sense, E.A.T. – DJ Premier, Marco Polo, Masta Ace, Kevin Garrett – Factor In, Outkast – Two Dope Boyz (In A Cadillac), The 1975, No Rome – The Narcissist, Alextbh – Moments, DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle, John Legend – Higher. <Man, that sample is crazy, right? So much soul.

This is exactly why I don’t recommend DACS based on sound; they don’t really actually sound that much different if we’re being honest and not shilling crap. I’ve always said this and will continue to double down on it as more and more products flood the market.

Diablo vs. AudioQuest DragonFly Red

$200 vs. $900

Very similar. Both seem to be very open and detailed. These 2 are perhaps the most similar sounding.

Tracks Demoed: Zoology – 100°, Yasper, Louk – The Oldest Man In The Room, weird inside – Be Alright, Scarface, Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel – Guess Who’s Back, Robert Glasper – Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Diablo vs. Zen DAC + Zen CAN

$300 vs. $900

Again, not much of a difference.

  • Tracks demoed: Nipsey Hussle, Mustard – Perfect Ten, Outkast – Wailin’, Styles P, Oswin Benjamin – Morning Mourning, Nipsey Hussle – Picture Me Rollin’, Zoology – 100°, Nipsey Hussle – Double Up (Feat. Belly, Dom Kennedy)

Diablo vs. Zen CAN Signature 6XX Stack

$450 vs. $900

Sound with iPurifier Active Noise Cancellation

iFi iDSD Diablo Review

It may just be my imagination, but I did feel like it sounded clearer and airier with the iPurifier vs. without. Vocals in particular seemed more present and lively. The songs took on a more “in-person” flavor and felt like they had a pulse of their own. I really wasn’t expecting to notice a difference, but again, it may just be Placebo.

Going further, I did an in-depth back and forth between the iPurifier vs. Blue cable at the same exact volume. I do think there is a slight improvement with what I mentioned above; air, clarity, and Soundstage all seem more vast and expansive. Vocals are again, more forward, and lively. Oh no, here comes the word salad, lol.

This is a great feature, but why can’t iFi include a USB Type-B cable in the package? You’ve included the kitchen sink but yet I have to use my own. Some people may not be fortunate enough to have one lying around. Shoot, include a Type-B and maybe I’ll go $550 instead of $500. 😂

 

Final Word

The Diablo vs. K5 Pro is perhaps the most important comparison here from a price and value standpoint. There’s little I can do with the Diablo that I can’t do with the K5 Pro.

Both can play DSD, Masters, hi-res files over 48kHz, etc. Both have optical for gaming, both have plenty of power, and both can be used as preamps (albeit in different ways). Both also have very similar sound profiles.

The only real differences between them are that you can use balanced cables with the Diablo and it has a balanced 4.4mm out instead of RCA. That to me isn’t worth $750 more. I’m sorry. Yes, you’re getting a lot in the package. The iPurifier adds a bit of extra air and clarity, but again, not worth all the extra money. I’d gladly pay $500 for the Diablo given everything included, but nothing more.

Some may disagree with me here and that’s perfectly OK.

I do tend to place more emphasis on the value of a DAC (i.e. what it’s capable of) over the actual sound of it, and certainly, iFi seems to be inadvertently forcing my hand here. Even so, I just can’t justify that much money personally. Other people may.

What do I recommend?

Why not just go with a Signature Black Label instead at around $650? It also has a balanced 4.4mm headphone input but is a bit more convenient with its RCA outs. You’re not missing out on anything here that you’d get going that route and you’re getting the Xbass feature as well.

If that’s still too steep, I recommend a good ‘ole fashioned ass-whoopin’.

Just kidding. You have 2 more options:

  1. Get the iFi Zen DAC, pair it with a Zen CAN silver and shut up. If $300 is too much?
  2. Get a K5 Pro.

Here are my options ranked in order:

Black Label Signature:

 

iFi Zen CAN + Zen DAC:

 

 

FiiO K5 Pro:

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this iFi Diablo Review and came away with some valuable insight.

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Do YOU think it’s worth the investment? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

Photos

More to come!

iFi iDSD Diablo Review

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Albums

John Coltrane – Blue Train (1958)
Kevin Garrett – Hoax (2019)
Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams – Aporia (2020)
Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension (2020)
Plini – Impulse Voices (2020)
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (2015)
Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz (2010)
Turnover – Altogether (2019)
Ella Mai – Self Titled (2018)
Led Zeppelin I (1969)
Led Zeppelin II (1969)
American Football – Self Titled (1999)
American Football – LP2 (2016)
Chet Baker & Paul Bley – Diane (1985)
Day Wave – Head Case (2015)
Jackson Browne – The Pretender (1976)
Chon – Self Titled (2019)
Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder (2017)
Ayelle – NOMAD (2020)
36 – Wave Variations (2020)
36 – Revisionist History (Compilation Works), 2020
Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs (2008)
36, Zakè – Stasis Sounds For Long Distance Space Travel (2020)

Film

A Few Good Men (1992)
JFK (1991)
…And Justice For All (1979)

 

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1979)

 

Dances With Wolves (1990)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Serpico (1973)
Tin Cup (1996)
Terminator T2: Judgement Day (1991)
The Terminator (1984)

Games

Fallout 4 (2015)
The Outer Worlds (2019)

iFi Diablo

4.95

Build

5.0/5

Features & Connections

4.9/5

Accessories

4.9/5

Power

5.0/5

Sound

5.0/5

Pros

  • Great Build
  • Great Sound
  • Great features
  • Plenty of Power
  • Great Accessories Package

Cons

  • Overpriced
  • No Type-B Cable
  • No XBass
  • Sound doesn't stand out vs. anything cheaper I have
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