iFi has added a new entry to its mid-level Neo range: the iFi Neo Stream, a DAC and music streamer that combines proprietary technology with plenty of streaming features to play the highest of high-resolution audio from your digital library.
The Neo Stream has been built from the ground up, featuring the latest version of iFi’s own networking streaming engine that has been designed and developed with the “sole purpose of high-quality audio streaming”. It is an open-source platform, built on a quad-core ARM Cortex processor and Linus-based OS – this allows iFi to evolve and update the product over time when new features become available.
Meanwhile, the all-important DAC stage is based around a Burr-Brown chip that is used extensively throughout the company’s products, including the Neo Stream’s sibling, the Neo iDSD. Much like the iDSD, an XMOS chipset is used to process all the audio data received over the digital inputs. iFi’s in-house team programmed the 16-core XMOS microcontroller to “optimise sound quality and ensure a perfect partnership with the Burr-Brown DAC," says iFi.
If you have a library filled to the brim with hi-res files including DSD, you're in luck. iFi Neo Stream’s support of hi-res audio is impressive: up to 32-bit/768kHz in PCM and DSD512, including single- and double-speed DXD files. Not only are all these full-fat hi-res files supported over the ethernet and USB wired connections, but they're also supported over wi-fi too – provided you have a super stable 5GHz signal operating at full strength. You can also use iFi’s proprietary "Optical LAN" for a wired internet connection, which reportedly delivers better “bit-perfect transmission of ultra-resolution audio" compared with standard ethernet.
The compact Neo Stream is designed to slot into your existing hi-fi or desktop system; it just needs separate amplification. You can connect it to your stereo amplifier or a pair of active speakers. It can also be used as a network bridge for your existing hi-fi system, adding wi-fi and streaming needs in a way that can be upgraded easily.
At the time of launch, the iFi Neo Stream comes packed with features befitting a modern-day digital streamer: wi-fi, AirPlay, integrated Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect, and DLNA/UPnP compatibility to stream locally-stored files (using supported apps). It is Roon Ready and MQA certified, too.
You can use the “Stream-iFi” app for set up and play tracks from connected NAS drives on your network as well.
Physical connections include a 1.4mm balanced aux and one pair of stereo RCA outputs. Optical, coaxial and AES/EBU digital outputs are available (which support up to 192kHz PCM), alongside a USB-A 3.0 port and HDMI-I2S which supports the “ultra-res” digital files up to 768kHz PCM and DSD512.
Additionally, thanks to the internal DAC’s four-channel True Native design, the PCM and DSD files take separate pathways. This ensures that the files - particularly DSD – remain ‘bit-perfect’ all the way through to the analogue conversion. The Neo Stream also features iFi’s latest jitter-reduction and noise-removal technologies across its digital inputs to deliver the cleanest, purest audio signal.
In keeping with the Neo range’s aesthetic, the Neo Stream has a compact aluminium casework and can be placed horizontally or vertically to better fit in your space, with the 2in TFT colour display adjusting its orientation accordingly.
The iFi Neo Stream is available now for £1299 / $1299 / AU$1999.
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