iFi Audio is celebrating a significant milestone in 2022 and 10 a long time into its rather exclusive journey, it is giving a little something liberating to tunes listeners who desire the capability to stream how they want without the need of being tied to any particular streaming platform or OS. The iFi NEO Stream makes use of an open up-supply architecture to make that a actuality but how it actually accomplishes that needs better explanation.
1 declare that we consider desires to be pointed out is from their personal push launch.
“Audio listeners are capable to obtain their music through their choice of handle app or songs platform, and usually practical experience excellent audio high-quality, devoid of the exorbitant cost tags of other large-end streamers.”
We are significant proponents of the open source architecture idea and would agree with iFi that streamers like the Naim Uniti Atom, Andover Songbird, Cambridge CXN V2, Bluesound NODE, and other folks do use their personal working OS and do encourage distinct streaming platforms.
But here’s the issue — for the most element they get the job done rather effectively.
Some of us presently use Spotify Connect and TIDAL Hook up as an alternative of going as a result of the respective apps created into the streamers.
App development is a quite costly and time consuming endeavor through our take a look at to the Focal Powered by Naim area in Houston, we met with users of the Naim team and the organization has invested a good deal of funds into the system that drives their current (and upcoming) generation of streamers and network amplifiers.
Let’s master much more about what tends to make the IFi NEO Stream a pretty different form of streamer.
iFi’s new NEO Stream is developed from the floor up to deliver versatility and sonic effectiveness. It brings together the newest variation of iFi’s community streaming motor with a new DAC phase join the NEO Stream to a pair of powered loudspeakers or your existing amplifier and you are prepared to go for $1,299.00 USD.
iFi believes the NEO Stream is distinctly various from other music streamers on the sector since it is not tied down to any particular streaming platform and is created about their proprietary technologies.
NEO by title – and by character
The NEO Stream is the second product to be part of the NEO Series – iFi’s mid-level mains-run assortment for house use, sitting between the ZEN Series and Pro Series.
The identify ‘NEO’ was picked out since the 1st product in the collection, the NEO iDSD, highlighted an all-new layout and quite a few characteristics new to its item class. The NEO iDSD – a DAC/headphone amp with USB, S/PDIF and Bluetooth connectivity – continues to be current, but even though it could be tempting to assume the NEO Stream is a NEO iDSD with a streaming module additional and the headphone amp taken off, this assumption would not be precise.
The NEO Stream’s desktop-size chassis and aluminium casework plainly resembles the NEO iDSD. But even though its circuitry builds on present iFi models, its internal architecture and characteristics are unlike something else on the market place.
What’s up DAC?
The iFi NEO Stream’s electronic audio circuitry is primarily based about a 32-little bit Cirrus Logic DAC chipset with highly developed multi-bit modulation. This is coupled with a customised electronic filter to minimise pre-echoes and ringing artefacts, and iFi’s GMT (International Grasp Timing) precision clock system to guarantee ultra-lower jitter, so decreasing errors and distortion in the digital audio signal.
The DAC is fed by a impressive 16-core XMOS microcontroller, which processes the audio facts been given at the USB enter. iFi’s in-household digital development team has programmed the XMOS firmware to optimise audio high-quality and make certain a best partnership with the Cirrus Logic DAC.
Hi-res PCM is supported to 32-bit/384kHz, alongside DSD64, 128 and 256, and solitary- and double-speed DXD. The DAC’s architecture maintains DSD info in real indigenous kind, in contrast to other DACs that change DSD to PCM.
Open-resource architecture – audio streaming unleashed
Several audio streaming devices lock customers into a distinct system. That is not always a challenge, assuming the amenities on present are in line with the user’s necessities and they are joyful with the interface.
But, if they want to find their desired streaming platforms and apps with no restriction, with the ability to adapt and evolve as specifications transform, a device with an open-source architecture delivers crystal clear benefits.
iFi has developed its very own streaming engine, intent constructed to deliver flexibility and general performance. Its open-resource nature, developed on a strong quad-core ARM Cortex processor and Linux-dependent operating procedure, allows it to evolve more than time, although making certain buyers are not locked into a unique system. You choose the way you want stream, choose your most loved app or streaming platform and permit loose the streaming dogs of war.
From the product drivers, to the kernel (the heart of the operating process), to the shell (which interfaces with the kernel), to the programs and the consumer interface, everything is fully optimised for seamless operation and fantastic sonic overall performance.
The firmware at the heart of this bespoke streaming motor was first used in the ZEN Stream – a ‘streaming transport’ that introduced in 2021 – and has developed considerably considering that. ZEN Stream buyers have presently benefitted from updates to make improvements to overall performance and performance the NEO Stream brings together the most up-to-date model of this firmware with increased components to deliver anything genuinely specific.
The Roon platform has turn into the conventional-bearer for significant-high quality electronic audio administration and streaming, thanks to a fantastic interface, robust versatility and large-high quality seem. The NEO Stream has Roon All set certification, which means it is completely ready to slot straight into a Roon audio environment and do the job seamlessly with Roon program.
Any DLNA/UPnP-appropriate streaming app (for case in point: BubbleUPnP, mconnect, Audirvana and so on) can be made use of to control the NEO Stream and access audio content material from on-line solutions and DLNA-accredited community storage gadgets.
Built-in Tidal Join and Spotify Join
Customers of these massively common on-line audio solutions can stream immediately from the Tidal and Spotify applications – very simple, seamless and productive.
Built-in Airplay guarantees effortless streaming from Apple products.
The NEO Stream can function as an NAA (Network Audio Adapter) in conjunction with Sygnalist HQPlayer software – favoured by lots of major music streaming fanatics. This implies it can direct packets of audio info gained in excess of Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable straight to the connected DAC devoid of making use of processing.
Streaming from community storage with Stream-iFi app
iFi’s ‘Stream-iFi’ app is very simple device to assist original established-up of the NEO Stream and initiate streaming from neighborhood storage equipment – a NAS generate, for case in point.
Ultra-resolution digital audio
The NEO Stream can be employed in two approaches: hook up to an amp and speakers by way of the onboard DAC stage and analogue outputs, or connect one of the readily available electronic outputs to an exterior DAC. In the latter mode, the NEO Stream acts as a ‘streaming transport’ or ‘network bridge’, like the ZEN Stream but with a higher level of ‘ultra-resolution’ effectiveness.
Irrespective of whether the onboard DAC is engaged or not, the NEO Stream’s hi-res audio help is condition-of-the-artwork: PCM facts to 32-little bit/768kHz, all levels of DSD up to DSD512, and single- and double-speed DXD. Remarkably, this degree of hello-res audio is not only supported around the LAN and USB cable inputs but over Wi-Fi far too. (A stable, whole-strength 5GHz Wi-Fi sign is essential for 384kHz PCM, DSD256 and over.)
MQA – the hello-res streaming technology, as utilised by Tidal’s ‘HiFi Plus’ tier – is comprehensively supported, with whole decoding of MQA data files up to 384kHz. This implies that the full ‘three unfold’ decoding process can be carried out internally, as opposed to only the ultimate unfold in the fashion of an MQA ‘renderer’. When the electronic outputs are used to join an exterior MQA-supporting DAC, both MQA passthrough and ‘first unfold’ are supported.
Customized DAC stage for fantastic seem
The NEO Stream’s integral DAC phase is dependent all around a Burr-Brown chipset that iFi takes advantage of extensively, chosen for its normal-sounding ‘musicality’ and Genuine Native architecture.
A person this sort of essential part is the XMOS chip that iFi makes use of to process audio information gained about the electronic inputs. The NEO Stream incorporates a 16-core XMOS microcontroller, programmed by iFi’s in-property workforce to enhance seem high-quality and ensure a excellent partnership with the Burr-Brown DAC.
Many thanks to the DAC chip’s 4-channel Real Indigenous structure, PCM and DSD take separate pathways and remain ‘bit-perfect’ in their direct-indigenous sort, suitable through to analogue conversion. In the case of DSD, there is no conversion to PCM or software of multi-bit processing – this is uncommon and would make the NEO Stream an fantastic alternative for DSD purists.
The NEO Stream offers a connectivity array that is exclusive in a network audio streamer at its price tag, each in breadth and specification, supplying unparalleled flexibility across a array of process configurations.
- Dual-band Wi-Fi reception (2.4GHz and 5GHz) with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac guidance
- Gigabit Ethernet (LAN) – 1x RJ45 1x M12 1x Optical LAN (see beneath for more details)
- 2x USB-A (USB2. and SuperSpeed USB3. supported)
- 1x USB-C process update port (OTA – Over The Air – updates also out there)
- Analogue – 1x stereo RCA 1x 4.4mm well balanced
- Extremely-res electronic (PCM 768kHz, DSD512) – 1x HDMI-I2S 1x USB-A (USB3.)
- Hi-res S/PDIF digital (PCM 192kHz) – 1x optical 1x coaxial 1x AES/EBU
Distinct Strokes for Diverse Folks
Many different options permit consumers to tailor the NEO Stream’s overall performance to match their program and the way they like to stream. For example, customers can choose between Exclusive Modes – individual options that optimise general performance by concentrating procedure on one particular method of use. There are particular settings for Roon, Tidal Masters, DLNA and NAA, as effectively as a general method for multi-system use.
Additional personalized tailoring is offered by 4 person-selectable electronic filters, each individual of which has a delicate but evidently discernible outcome on seem. Users can change involving Bit-Perfect, GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimised), Least Phase and Conventional, according to personal flavor and whichever placing best satisfies their preference of music.
Search for a overview of the iFI NEO Stream in Q4 with a amount of new active loudspeakers and our existing systems.
For more data: ifi-audio.com
In which to invest in: $1,299 at Audio46