iFi for more streaming control


iFi for more streaming control
Thursday, September 22, 2022

iFi’s Neo Stream seeks to give streaming audio users flexibility of control by combining the latest version of iFi’s exceptional network streaming engine with a “superbly engineered” DAC stage; use it with the amp and speakers of your choice and “it will deliver a level of audio streaming performance previously unattainable without spending much more than its £1,299 price tag”. It also operates as a digital interface with existing DACs.

The Neo iDSD – a DAC/headphone amp with USB, S/PDIF and Bluetooth connectivity – remains current, but while it may be tempting to assume the Neo Stream is a Neo iDSD with a streaming module added and the headphone amp removed, this assumption would be inaccurate. While its circuitry builds on existing iFi designs, its internal architecture and attendant attributes are unlike anything else on the market. This is a new kind of music streamer.

Many audio streaming devices lock users into a specific platform. That is not necessarily a problem, assuming the facilities on offer are in line with the user’s requirements and they are happy with the interface. But, if they want to select their preferred streaming platforms and apps without restriction, with the ability to adapt and evolve as requirements change, a device with an open-source architecture offers clear advantages. 

iFi has developed its own streaming engine, to deliver flexibility and performance. A quad-core ARM Cortex processor and Linux-based operating system enables it to evolve over time, whilst ensuring users are not locked into a specific platform. You choose the way you want to stream, select your favourite app or streaming platform, and rest assured that music will be delivered at the highest possible sound quality, however your system is configured. 

Crucially, iFi’s streaming engine has been designed from the ground up for the sole purpose of high quality audio streaming. The hardware has been built to deliver the best possible sound quality, working in harmony with iFi’s in-house software development. From the device drivers, to the kernel (the heart of the operating system), to the shell (which interfaces with the kernel), to the applications and the user interface, everything is fully optimised for seamless operation and excellent sonic performance. 

There are multiple ways in which the Neo Stream can interface with online streaming services or music stored on your local network, and thanks to the Neo Stream’s open-source architecture these will expand over time. Here are some of the options provided at launch: 

The Roon platform has become the standard-bearer for high-quality digital music management and streaming, thanks to a great interface, strong flexibility and high-quality sound. The Neo Stream has Roon Ready certification, which means it’s ready to slot straight into a Roon audio environment and work seamlessly with Roon software. 

Any DLNA/UPnP-compatible streaming app (for example: BubbleUPnP, mconnect, Audirvana and so on) can be used to control the Neo Stream and access audio content from online services and DLNA-certified network storage devices. 

Integrated Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect
Users of these hugely popular online music services can stream directly from the Tidal and Spotify apps – simple, seamless and effective. 

Integrated Airplay ensures easy streaming from Apple devices. 

NAA operation
The Neo Stream can operate as an NAA (Network Audio Adapter) in conjunction with Sygnalist HQPlayer software – favoured by many serious music streaming enthusiasts. This means it can direct packets of audio data received over Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable straight to the connected DAC without applying processing. 

Streaming from local storage with Stream-iFi app
iFi’s ‘Stream-iFi’ app is simple tool to aid initial set-up of the Neo Stream and initiate streaming from local storage devices – a NAS drive, for example. 

The NEO Stream is available at an RRP of £1,299. Accessories supplied include: OptiBox optical LAN transceiver and optical cable; USB-A to USB-C cable; RJ45 Ethernet cable; analogue RCA cable; iPower 2 power supply; aluminium stand for vertical orientation.