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,