Reviews

Review: iFi NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer – Unprecedented Connectivity

Review: iFi NEO STREAM Network Audio Streamer - Unleashing Sonic Prowess with Unprecedented Connectivity - Embark on sonic odyssey: iFi Audio NEO Stream's transformative brilliance.

Unveiling Innovation:

Embark on a sonic journey with the iFi Audio NEO Stream, a testament to the brand’s unwavering commitment to advancing compact Hi-Fi solutions. Renowned for its diligent pursuit of technical excellence, iFi Audio has crafted the NEO Stream as the latest gem in its non-mobile NEO product line. In a landscape where innovation meets precision, this all-in-one marvel emerges as a connectivity-rich network device, seamlessly integrating a built-in DAC and a host of digital outputs. Catering to the discerning tastes of both seasoned audiophiles and newcomers alike, the NEO Stream promises a musical experience that transcends boundaries and redefines the possibilities of Hi-Fi reproduction.

As we delve into the NEO Stream’s capabilities, it becomes apparent that this device is not just about what it can do but the myriad possibilities it opens up. In a world where versatility is paramount, iFi Audio’s NEO Stream stands as a beacon of cutting-edge technology, poised to elevate the audio landscape for both the seasoned connoisseur and those just beginning to explore the richness of high-fidelity sound reproduction.

iFi Audio, a pioneering force in audio technology, has consistently demonstrated a dedication to innovation and excellence. Founded with a passion for crafting high-quality audio solutions, the company, led by a spirit of relentless technical development, has garnered acclaim among Hi-Fi enthusiasts globally. Known for its compact yet powerful devices, iFi Audio has evolved from mastering digital-to-analog converters to venturing into streaming sources while maintaining an originality and creativity ethos. With a portfolio of groundbreaking products, iFi Audio continues to shape the landscape of audio experiences, setting new standards for precision, versatility, and sonic brilliance.

Technical Specifications

InputsWi-Fi
Ethernet (M12 X-code 8-pin/RJ45/Optical)
USB-A and USB-C (front panel) (USB DISK, HDD etc.)
FormatsDSD: up to 512 / 22.6MHz
PCM: up to 768kHz
MQA: Full Decoder
Analogue outputBalanced 4.4mm 4V RMS / UnBAL RCA 2V RMS
Digital outputUSB-C (front panel)
USB3.0 Type-A Socket x2 (USB2.0 compatible)
S/PDIF Optical (PCM up to 192kHz, 24-bit)
S/PDIF Coaxial (PCM up to 192kHz, 24-bit)
AES/EBU (XLR – single link, PCM up to 192kHz)
I2S via HDMI connector Pinout:
1) Data –
2) Gnd
3) Data +
4) Bck +
5) Gnd
6) Bck
7) Wck –
8) Gnd
9) Wck +
10) Mck +
11) Gnd
12) Mck
13,14,15,16) DSD Enable; L=PCM, H=DSD
17) Gnd
18) 5V Power Enable Output; L=O, H=On
19) N/C
20,21,22,23) GND
Output ImpedanceBalanced: ≤74Ω
UnBAL: ≤37Ω
SNR<-106dB(A) @ 0dBFS (BAL/UnBAL)
THD + N<0.0025% @ 0dBFS (BAL/UnBAL)
Power supply requirementDC 9V/2.0A, 12V/1.8A, 15V/1.2A* (centre pin +)
Power consumption<0.5W idle, 14W max.
Dimensions214 x 151 x 41 mm (8.4″ x 5.9″ x 1.6″)
Net weight1.0 kg (2.26 Ibs)
Limited Warranty12 months

Connectivity Unleashed: A Symphony of Integration

In the intricate orchestration of the iFi Audio NEO Stream, connectivity stands as a key virtuoso, seamlessly weaving a tapestry of options for audio enthusiasts. The NEO Stream elegantly adapts to traditional and cutting-edge high-fidelity standards as an external DAC, choosing between RCA or the emerging 4.4mm Pentaconn connections. Its prowess, however, extends beyond the confines of a DAC, transforming into a digital transfer hub with remarkable versatility. The NEO Stream harmoniously interfaces with external DACs, digitally equipped amplifiers, and even active speakers, offering many possibilities to audiophiles.

The connectivity landscape unfolds with a flourish, featuring three distinct physical LAN connections. These include the traditional RJ45, an ‘industrial’ M12 socket, and a visionary optical SC port. This meticulous design caters to current connectivity standards and anticipates future needs, showcasing iFi Audio’s forward-thinking approach. The NEO Stream transcends the conventional, presenting itself as a network device capable of fluidly adapting to diverse setups. In this symphony of integration, iFi Audio has composed a masterpiece where every note resonates with a commitment to versatility, precision, and a seamless audio experience.

Streaming Prowess: A Sonic Odyssey Unveiled

In the iFi Audio NEO Stream, “streaming” transcends a mere technological feature; it becomes a portal to a sonic odyssey. The NEO Stream emerges as a connectivity-rich network device with a robust streaming engine, seamlessly integrating into the modern audiophile’s ecosystem. Running on its proprietary Volumio-based software, this device supports Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay, and DLNA, epitomizing the breadth of its streaming capabilities. Moreover, its Roon Ready compatibility positions the NEO Stream among the select few devices capable of serving as a Network Audio Adapter (NAA) for the sophisticated HQPlayer.

The NEO Stream’s streaming prowess extends beyond conventional boundaries, making it a conduit for musical exploration. Its adaptability to diverse streaming options ensures that it keeps pace with contemporary platforms and anticipates and integrates future advancements. Whether the seamless playback of high-resolution files or the immersive experience of streaming services, the NEO Stream transforms every audio session into an enchanting sonic journey. In this symphony of streaming prowess, iFi Audio has crafted a device that not only stays abreast of technological trends but actively sets new standards for streaming excellence in high-fidelity audio.

Design Aesthetics: A Visual Sonata of Elegance

In the visual composition of the iFi Audio NEO Stream, design aesthetics take center stage, weaving a narrative of sophistication and functionality. Drawing inspiration from its predecessor, the NEO iDSD, the NEO Stream adopts a design language characterized by a large, centrally placed dial and a vivid TFT screen. This visual symphony is elevated by a recessed multi-function button, artfully emphasized by the curved facade and a prominent LED, creating a harmonious balance on the front panel. A slender line discreetly divides the facade, concealing small buttons and a USB-C port, contributing to a visually striking and ergonomic design.

The NEO Stream’s versatility extends to its orientation, allowing users to position it horizontally or vertically with the included stand. This adaptability ensures that the display rotates accordingly, ensuring the readability of metadata regardless of placement. While the NEO Stream’s design exudes a certain boldness, the thoughtful inclusion of details, such as the USB-C port and the curved accents, adds an element of finesse. iFi Audio’s commitment to design aesthetics goes beyond mere visual appeal; it is an integral part of the user experience, creating a device that sounds exceptional and complements any space with its artistic and original design.

Audio Revelation: Unveiling Sonic Brilliance

In the immersive realm of the iFi Audio NEO Stream, the term “audio revelation” takes on profound significance as it unveils a sonic landscape of unparalleled brilliance. As a testament to iFi Audio’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of audio technology, the NEO Stream is a conduit for an exceptional auditory experience. With a foundation rooted in precision and innovation, this device transforms every note into a revelation, unraveling layers of detail and nuance that redefine the essence of high-fidelity sound reproduction.

The NEO Stream’s audio revelation is a harmonious blend of cutting-edge components and meticulous engineering. Its utilization of four Texas Instruments DSD1793 chips per channel underscores a commitment to proven excellence. The balanced and neutral midrange, coupled with open and selective high tones, crafts an audio experience that transcends mere listening – it becomes a journey through the subtleties of every musical composition. The bass, whether tight and punctual or expansively low, resonates with controlled freedom, showcasing the NEO Stream’s versatility in handling diverse musical genres.

Beyond delivering exceptional sound quality, the NEO Stream is a testament to iFi Audio’s mastery of dynamics and differentiation. It balances neutrality and dynamism, avoiding extremes and compromises to present a complete and versatile musicality. In the symphony of audio revelation orchestrated by the NEO Stream, iFi Audio reaffirms its position as a trailblazer in the audio technology landscape, offering enthusiasts an opportunity to rediscover their favorite tunes with newfound clarity and depth.

Versatility in Action: A Sonic Chameleon

The iFi Audio NEO Stream effortlessly embodies the essence of versatility, unfolding as a sonic chameleon with the ability to adapt to diverse audio scenarios. In action, this remarkable device transcends the conventional boundaries of a network player, showcasing unparalleled flexibility that resonates with audiophiles seeking a dynamic and adaptable audio hub. Whether functioning as an external DAC, a digital transfer hub, or a streaming powerhouse, the NEO Stream seamlessly transitions between roles, each delivering an exceptional audio performance tailored to the user’s preferences.

The NEO Stream’s versatility extends to its digital filter settings, allowing users to fine-tune their sonic experience. While this feature may seem subtle, it adds a layer of customization that caters to individual tastes and the nuances of different musical compositions. The device’s ability to bridge between older hi-fi equipment and modern streaming sources exemplifies its versatility in accommodating various setups, making it an invaluable addition to any audio enthusiast’s arsenal.

The true magic of versatility in action is unveiled when the NEO Stream is connected to different amplifiers and speakers. Whether streaming indie melodies, soulful jazz, or modern funk, the device adapts seamlessly, bringing out the best in every genre. This adaptability makes the NEO Stream not just a network player but a sonic companion that evolves with the ever-changing landscape of audio preferences. In the hands of users, the NEO Stream transforms into a versatile maestro, navigating the diverse realms of music with finesse and a commitment to delivering a tailored, immersive, and utterly captivating audio experience.

Technological Mastery: Crafting Sonic Alchemy

In the symphony of audio innovation, the iFi Audio NEO Stream emerges as a virtuoso, showcasing unparalleled technological mastery that transcends conventional norms. This sonic alchemist blends cutting-edge technology with meticulous craftsmanship, creating an audio masterpiece at the pinnacle of technical achievement. At its core, the NEO Stream houses a quartet of Texas Instruments DSD1793 chips per channel, a testament to iFi Audio’s dedication to proven excellence in digital-to-analog conversion.

The technological prowess of the NEO Stream extends beyond its hardware architecture to its proprietary software. Running on a Volumio-based platform, the device supports mainstream streaming services such as Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, and Apple AirPlay and positions itself as a Roon Ready player. This versatility in software integration highlights the NEO Stream’s commitment to staying ahead of the technological curve, ensuring compatibility with contemporary streaming platforms, and anticipating future advancements.

Furthermore, the device’s support for PCM 32-bit/768 kHz, DSD512, and MQA decoding reaffirms its technological tour de force position. It goes beyond conventional standards, unlocking sonic possibilities and redefining high-fidelity audio’s boundaries. The NEO Stream’s technical mastery is not just a feature; it’s an immersive journey into sonic excellence, where every facet of innovation converges to create an audio experience that transcends expectations and establishes iFi Audio as a trailblazer in audio technology.

Optical Elegance: Redefining Connectivity Standards

In a world where connectivity meets elegance, the iFi Audio NEO Stream introduces an optical marvel that redefines audio transmission standards. Opting for a distinctive approach, the NEO Stream showcases visual elegance by incorporating a unique optical interface that transforms electrical signals (LAN) into the pristine realm of fiber optic transmission. This innovative solution and a meticulously crafted small cube interface set a new benchmark for audio connectivity.

At the heart of this optical elegance is a multifaceted connectivity solution that extends beyond the conventional RJ45 connector. While the RJ45 is a common choice, iFi Audio raises the bar by introducing the M12 standard connector – an industrial-grade socket-plug system renowned for superior mechanical protection. However, the pièce de résistance lies in the additional optical interface, translating LAN signals into interference-free fiber optic transmission. This visual interface represents a leap forward in connectivity and comes with an active module, requiring its power supply for optimal performance.

Including a dedicated power supply for the optical module underscores iFi Audio’s commitment to delivering an uncompromised audio experience. With a remarkable throughput speed of 10 Gbps – a feature that surpasses the demands of even the highest-density audio files – the NEO Stream’s optical elegance becomes a testament to the brand’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of audio connectivity. It transforms the often-overlooked aspect of connectivity into a showcase of sophistication, proving that in the realm of audio, elegance is not just about what you hear but also how seamlessly and beautifully the signals travel from source to destination.

Sonorous Character: Harmonic Opulence Unleashed

The iFi Audio NEO Stream isn’t just a conduit for sound; it’s a maestro that orchestrates a symphony of harmonic opulence, unveiling a sonorous character that captivates the audiophile’s soul. Its sonic identity is marked by an exquisite balance that traverses the entire frequency spectrum, from the profound depths of bass to the crystalline heights of treble. This character is not a mere product of technical specifications but an artful amalgamation of craftsmanship and audio engineering.

In the low frequencies, the NEO Stream demonstrates a mastery over bass reproduction. Tight, punctual, and able to delve into the lowest registers, the bass resonates with authority without overshadowing the intricate details within the compositions. Whether it’s the rhythmic thump of drums or the resonant hum of double bass, the NEO Stream navigates the bass spectrum with a finesse that adds a layer of richness to every note.

Moving to the midrange, the NEO Stream continues its journey with a neutral-natural presentation. The midrange is a canvas painted with even saturation, conveying vocal nuances with clarity and authenticity. There’s a transparency in the midrange that avoids artificial coloration, ensuring every instrument and voice is presented in its most accurate form. This neutrality contributes to the NEO Stream’s adaptability, allowing it to reproduce the varied tonalities found across different genres faithfully.

The NEO Stream’s sonorous character takes on an open, selective, and dynamic persona in the high frequencies. Approaching the realm of brightness without inducing fatigue, the high tones sparkle with a rich spectrum, infusing life into every cymbal crash, violin string, or intricate guitar riff. The NEO Stream strikes a delicate balance, offering heightened detail without succumbing to harshness, making it an ideal companion for extended listening sessions.

The resonant character of the NEO Stream is not confined to a singular sonic signature. Instead, it is a versatile entity that adapts its tonal palette to suit the nuances of various musical genres. From the thunderous dynamics of orchestral compositions to the nuanced subtleties of acoustic performances, the NEO Stream renders each piece with a sonorous richness that transcends the boundaries of mere playback. Its rich character is an invitation to immerse oneself in the tapestry of sound, where every note is heard and felt with a profound sense of musicality.

Beyond Boundaries: Elevating Audio Exploration

The iFi Audio NEO Stream emerges as a beacon of innovation, pushing the boundaries of audio exploration beyond conventional limits. Beyond being a mere network player, the NEO Stream catalyzes a transformative audio journey that transcends expectations. Its design philosophy encompasses cutting-edge technology, sonic excellence, and a commitment to providing an unparalleled audio experience that defies traditional constraints.

The NEO Stream’s streaming prowess is at the core of this boundary-defying experience. Beyond mainstream connectivity, it seamlessly integrates with many streaming services, including Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay, and the revered Roon Ready certification. This versatility ensures that the NEO Stream adapts to diverse streaming preferences, making it a versatile hub for audiophiles seeking more than playback.

Connectivity Unleashed is not just a feature; it’s a paradigm shift in how audio devices interact with the digital world. The NEO Stream’s multifaceted connectivity options, including the unconventional M12 standard connector and an optical interface, showcase a commitment to redefining how audio signals travel. This visual elegance and an active module for optimal performance exemplify the NEO Stream’s dedication to craftsmanship that goes beyond the ordinary.

Optical Elegance is more than a design element; it’s a testament to iFi Audio’s unwavering pursuit of perfection in audio transmission. Including an optical interface, translating LAN signals into interference-free fiber optic transmission, adds a layer of sophistication to the NEO Stream’s design aesthetics. It’s a visual and functional statement that connectivity can be elegant and technologically advanced.

The iFi Audio NEO Stream is not just a network player; it’s a paradigm-shifting audio companion that invites enthusiasts to explore the uncharted territories of sonic bliss. Its Sonorous Character, marked by harmonic opulence, ensures that every note resonates with an authenticity beyond the ordinary. Boundaries don’t confine the NEO Stream; it’s a liberator of audio possibilities, inviting audiophiles to embark on a journey where the joy of exploration meets the precision of technology, creating an audio experience that transcends the known and ventures into the extraordinary.

Versatility in Action: Unleashing Usability and Unique Functions

The iFi Audio NEO Stream stands as a testament to the marriage of usability and unique functionalities, ensuring that audiophiles not only experience cutting-edge technology but also revel in a device that seamlessly integrates into their audio ecosystem.

Streaming Prowess Redefined: The NEO Stream’s usability unfolds through its prowess in streaming technology. Navigating through the labyrinth of streaming services, it effortlessly supports Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay, and DLNA and proudly wears the Roon Ready badge. This comprehensive integration empowers users to curate their sonic journey, switching between platforms with ease and precision. Whether immersed in the tidal waves of Tidal or navigating the curated playlists on Spotify, the NEO Stream’s user-friendly interface ensures a seamless streaming experience.

Connectivity Unleashed: Beyond conventional connectivity, the NEO Stream redefines usability by offering various connectivity options. Three physical LAN connections, including the standard RJ45, the industrial M12 socket, and a unique optical SC port, provide users with a spectrum of choices for network integration. The NEO Stream isn’t just a device; it’s a connectivity hub that adapts to diverse network scenarios, ensuring optimal performance regardless of the user’s setup. This unleashed connectivity is a testament to iFi Audio’s commitment to providing versatile solutions that cater to the unique needs of audiophiles.

Optical Elegance in Operation: One of the NEO Stream’s unique functions is its visual elegance. The device incorporates an optical interface that translates LAN signals into fiber optic transmission. This adds a layer of sophistication to its design aesthetics and serves a practical purpose. Users can experience interference-free transmission, elevating the audio quality by minimizing signal distortions. It’s a unique function that goes beyond the norm, showcasing iFi Audio’s commitment to achieving technological excellence and visual appeal.

Technological Mastery at Your Fingertips: The NEO Stream places technical mastery within the user’s control. The device’s mobile application serves as a command center, offering a user-friendly interface to navigate settings and configurations. From choosing one of the four digital filters to adjusting exclusive modes such as Roon, Tidal, NAA, or DLNA, users can tailor their audio experience. This mastery at the fingertips ensures that the NEO Stream isn’t just a black box but an interactive audio companion that adapts to the user’s preferences.

In essence, the usability of the iFi Audio NEO Stream goes beyond mere functionality; it is a holistic approach to user experience. From streaming flexibility to unleashed connectivity and technological mastery, each facet of the NEO Stream’s usability is designed to resonate with audiophiles who seek a device and a seamless and personalized journey into high-fidelity audio.

Conclusion: Sonic Odyssey Redefined

In drawing the final notes of this sonic exploration, the iFi Audio NEO Stream emerges as a paradigm-shifting force in high-fidelity audio. The journey with the NEO Stream transcends the conventional, offering users an unparalleled odyssey through the intricacies of streaming technology, connectivity versatility, and a sonic character that resonates with harmonic opulence. As the final crescendo of a symphony, the NEO Stream’s unique functions, from its unleashed connectivity options to its design’s optical elegance, culminate in an audio experience that isn’t just heard but felt. It embodies technological mastery, where usability meets innovation, and the joy of exploration converges with precision, creating a sonic companion that beckons audiophiles into uncharted territories.

In the finale, the iFi Audio NEO Stream stands not merely as a network player but as a symbol of liberation for audiophiles seeking an audio companion that goes beyond limits and expectations. Its versatility, usability, and technological prowess redefine the benchmarks of what a network player can achieve. Whether streaming from Tidal, navigating the intricacies of Roon, or reveling in the interference-free transmissions of its optical elegance, the NEO Stream invites enthusiasts to step into a world where every note is an invitation to transcend the ordinary. As the final chord reverberates, the NEO Stream asserts its position not just as a device but as an enabler of sonic bliss, beckoning users to embark on a journey where the boundaries of audio exploration are shattered, and the extraordinary becomes the new standard.

Reasons to Buy the iFi Audio NEO Stream:

  1. Streaming Prowess: The NEO Stream is a powerhouse for avid music streamers. With support for Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay, DLNA, and Roon Ready certification, it offers a comprehensive streaming experience, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of platforms.
  2. Connectivity Unleashed: The device’s diverse connectivity options, including three physical LAN connections, an industrial M12 socket, and a unique optical SC port, make it a versatile hub for network integration. It adapts to different network scenarios, catering to users with varied setups.
  3. Optical Elegance: Including a visual interface, translating LAN signals into fiber optic transmission sets the NEO Stream apart. This feature minimizes signal distortions, providing users with interference-free transmission and elevating the overall audio quality.
  4. Technological Mastery: The mobile application serves as a command center, putting technical mastery at the user’s fingertips. From choosing digital filters to adjusting exclusive modes, users have control over their audio experience, showcasing iFi Audio’s commitment to user-centric design.
  5. Versatility in Action: The NEO Stream’s versatility extends beyond its functionality, making it adaptable to different user preferences. Whether through streaming flexibility, connectivity options, or technological customization, it offers a holistic and personalized audio journey.

Reasons Not to Buy:

  1. Price Consideration: With its advanced features, the iFi Audio NEO Stream comes at a premium price. For budget-conscious consumers, alternative options might fulfill basic streaming needs without the added features of the NEO Stream.
  2. Overwhelming Features: Users who prefer a straightforward, no-frills streaming experience might find the NEO Stream’s extensive features and configurations overwhelming. A more basic streaming device could better fit those seeking simplicity.
  3. Limited Analog Outputs: While the NEO Stream excels in digital connectivity, it provides only one pair of RCA analog outputs. Audiophiles with specific preferences for multiple analog outputs may find this limitation restrictive.

In essence, investing in the iFi Audio NEO Stream hinges on the user’s priorities. If advanced streaming capabilities, versatile connectivity, and technological mastery are paramount, the NEO Stream is a compelling choice. However, for those seeking a more budget-friendly or straightforward streaming solution, alternatives may better suit their needs.