iFi nano iDSD – Part Five: A Month Later, and No Desktop Output

The past three weeks have seen a lot of frustration using the iDSD with my Mac laptop and desktop machines. Before that the unit worked okay some of the time, and seemed fairly solid on OS X. But recently I’ve been having trouble getting the device to output audio from three different computers:

2011 Mac Pro running 10.8.6 – no output
2013 Mac Mini running 10.9.1 – no output
2013 MacBook Pro running 10.9.1 – intermittent static, constant dropouts

The sound and MIDI system preference panels on all machines recognize the iDSD, but there’s no (or no listenable) output from the headphone or RCA jacks. I’ve tried using iTunes, Cog, Decibel, JRiver, and simply playing a YouTube video. Multiple reboots and attempting to reconnect with iDSD on and off (turning it on after connecting, vice versa) don’t work.

(It’s worth mentioning that the iDSD still works with my iPad and iPhone with Apple’s Camera Connection Kit).

I contacted iFi about the issues yesterday and was told that playback on machines running USB 3.0 was “a bit hit and miss.” Seeing as the 2011 Mac Pro runs USB 2.0, I’d say that the overall desktop USB implementation, at least for me, is “miss” — I’ve experienced no “hits” since late January when the unit suddenly stopped cooperating with OS X. So I’m not certain if I have a defective iDSD, or if the firmware lag on (some?) units extends to USB 2.0 hardware.

In my most recent email exchange, (as well as on the Head-Fi forums) iFi mentioned that a firmware fix was coming. I asked if that fix would be available for existing units and was told it’ll be a flash update that can be downloaded and installed by users.

This isn’t the first problem with the iDSD nano. The device’s performance has been erratic since I purchased it but the various playback issues haven’t been reliably reproducible — until now.

I am a newcomer to iFi’s products, and this wasn’t a good first impression. Even with a firmware update (and no ETA on that from iFi, incidentally), I’m not going to keep fiddling with the iDSD. Was it a lemon? Maybe. But I need something that operates reliably on more than just iOS for my $190. Tomorrow it’s being returned to MusicDirect, who are allowing me to send it back for credit even though I’m a bit over the 30-day limit.