The iFi NEO Stream Review. Crazy Good for the Cash.
By Steve Huff
My Video Review of the iFi Neo Stream
There are some very cool features added to this DAC such as the small display that shows album art and the fact that you can tailor the sound to your system via the four filters available on command. iFi also created the OptiBox which allows you to use your ethernet hardwire connection but it improves the sound quality vs standard connection (which you can also do, as well as hook up via WiFi). It also allows for a balanced connection using a special cable from iFi.
This DAC also will stream hi res files and DSD, without converting to PCM first. iFi Says if you are a DSD purist then this DAC will be right up your alley.
I also like that there is no app that you need to download for this streamer. Rather, you simply use the apps you already have from the streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal or Qobuz. Just open the app, connect to the iFi Streamer and press play. The NEO Stream also comes with everything you need in the box. They even include the OptiBox and all cables needed to use it.
iFi also includes their IPOWERX power supply that uses active noise canceling to keep power noise from leeching into your streamer. This normally sells for $110 on its own.
As for sound quality and usability? Fantastic for the price.
It’s super easy to set up and use as well as enjoy. This DAC far exceeds what I hear from the Bluesound Node’s internal DAC. Compared to the Node, the iFi has a larger sound, a more organic sound and a wider soundstage. The instrument separation is a tic better as well. The more I listened to the iFi the more I was scratching my head wondering why I spend so much on high end DAC’s.
Sure, my DCS Lina is a nicer sounding DAC for sure, as is the Denafrips Terminator + 12th Anniversary I currently have in for review. The difference is that these DAC’s are in the $7-$12k range and the iFi is $1299, and it includes a streamer! This is a huge value and one of the great “bang for the buck” pieces in HiFi as I write this review. I have always said we do not need to spend thousands on a DAC or any piece to enjoy music, and this iFi proves those words to ring true.
There were nights I was enthralled with the sound quality and while the sound is not as rich or bold as my DCS Lina DAC, the iFi is not that far off from some of the DACs in the $2500 range that I have heard. I surely have not heard anything better for this kind of money.
With all of this good, is there any bad? Well, I did find one thing that bugged me a few times. While streaming I found that there was at times, a lag between when I switched songs and when they started to play. If I skipped too many songs in a row quickly, the unit would take a few seconds to catch up. That is about the only negative I could find.
Be sure to see my video up at the top of this page to see many more details of this streamer. What I can tell you here is that this streamer and DAC is well worth the price of entry. In fact, if you are looking for a streamer and DAC, an all in one, and your budget is under $2k then I highly recommend taking a look at the iFi NEO STREAM. The DAV inside of this little silver box is a stunner for the money. Rich, wide, organic, and while not as refined as the big one DACs it is not supposed to be as this is much more affordable.
I do not feel you can get a better streamer and DAC in one box for this kind of money,
You can buy the Stream at Amazon via Prime HERE.
You can read more about the Stream at iFi’s website HERE.
I just purchased a Hegel 390, which has its own DAC. Would I use the this units DAC or my Hegel for the best sound?
Well, the internal DAC of the Hegel is most likely about on par with the one in the NEO. You would probably have to jump to a $2500+ DAC to improve upon what you have.
Thanks for another great review. Based on your review I picked up the Ifi NEO Stream. I didn’t really have a need for it, but your review just had me curious. Wow, what a pleasant surprise- this thing sounded great right out of the box. It has warmth, detail, PRAT- I listened to for hours after I hooked it up. I had a Sbooster linear power supply that I wasn’t using, so I used that vs the Ifi supplied power supply- I don’t know how much of a difference that made, but it sounds so good to me that I may never try the stock power supply. Most of my power cords are more expensive than this unit- so this could be the bargain of the century. Of course, it may not be for everyone- and when I switched between my current setup, I could hear some of the shortcomings of the unit; however, to me, i just love the sound of it more than my current setup which is over 5X the cost. I’ve only used with Roon so far, but plan on hooking up my cd transport to it one of these days. maybe it’s just synergy with my current setup, but this is going to be my streamer/dac for now. Thanks Steve!
Ifi’s “path less traveled” inspired engineering design and pragmatism in production has produced a number of remarkable products in recent years that have challenged the high end establishment. While I commend the fact that you have done this review in a timely fashion, the barely disguised marketing talking points and the alacrity of comparing this device to another at ten fold the asking without exploring what it really has to offer leads me to wonder how much attention you really paid .(for the money, that is)
No idea what you are talking about “for the money”? I spoke about this for what it is, a very nice streamer and DAC for not a lot of money. It’s not perfect, a little laggy in my system but for what it costs it delivers fantastic sound and features. Ease of use, stream anything, custom DAC, a ridiculously small screen, etc. I do not do “marketing point” nor do I get paid to do any review. I make NO MONEY doing these reviews, and I have made a video on that topic as well. Sorry you can not understand that fact. This is a good product for a good price. Will it knock out some others that cost more? Prob not, but if you do not have more to spend I see no better way to spend the money (for a streamer and DAC). It is what it is, see my video review as well.
Do you know if this device can output a multi-channel stream? Let’s say I play a Dolby Atmos track in Apple Music and send to the NEO Streamics over Airplay. Can I route the digital stream to an AVR which will decode and play the tune on my surround system? I do this now with Tidal on Roon on a NUC which has an HDMI port. I connect that to an HDMI on the AVR, and enjoy multi-channel audio. This also works with multi-channel DSD.
I do not believe so. This is a 2 channel DAC
Have you tried streamer only into the Lina? I did. . Using a DCS Lina DAC and, separately, a Chord TT2 – ran the iFi Neo as a streamer only into those DACs. Optical Ethernet input using iFi’s included converter. For me, better than the Lina streamer. Would love to hear your opinion. I connected via USB and coax.
I did try it but I preferred the all in one solution with the Lina in this regard. I noticed no real difference, if anything it was a touch thinner using the iFi vs the Lina as the streamer, so I prefer the Lina streamer. This will highly depend on synergy, speakers, amp, etc. It’s also faster and lag free where the iFi can get laggy if you scroll through songs quickly. For the money though the iFi is a great buy as it offers things no other streamer does (like the optibox).