Ideon Audio Review of DACs, Streamers and Clocks


BOB’s Review Series - No 61 – Ideon Audio DACs, Streamers and Clocks

Introduction – Ideon are a manufacturer principally of DACs, Streamers and Clocks based in Athens in Greece and describe themselves as “a team of audiophile music lovers with high sonic aspirations and large music libraries, which explains our fixation with extracting the last bit out of our music files”. We have had Ideon products in store for six months now and they have proved so popular that writing this review has taken me much longer than planned simply because they are going out as soon as they come in and I have struggled to assemble complete series systems for review. Ideon have four ranges of products from entry level to the very high end. All are available in silver or black finish.

Master Series

  • Ayazi Mk 2 DAC
  • 3R Master Time Black Star USB Re-clocker

I Ω N Series (not reviewed here)

  • I Ω N Dac
  • I Ω N Dac/Preamp

EOS Series

  • Eos DAC
  • Eos Stream
  • Eos Time

Absolute Series

  • Absolute Epsilon DAC
  • Absolute Stream
  • Absolute Time USB and SP/DIF Re-clocker (available in half depth or full depth casework)
  • Absolute Time Signature USB and SP/DIF Re-clocker

In addition to the above series, they also have a miniature USB re-clocker called 3R USB Renaissance Mk 2 Black Star (a big name for a small device) at just £390 and they also have a high-performance USB interconnect called the Siren in their product range.

Technology – To keep the word count for this review down I have only listed the technical stuff for the Absolute Series, much more information on all their products is available on their website at

Absolute Epsilon DAC

  • ESS ES9038 Pro 32 bit 8 channel DAC with in-house designed control software
  • Dynamic range up to 140dB
  • Balanced operation throughout with Balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA outputs
  • Digital inputs on RCA, XLR and USB (1 of each)
  • Selected audiophile components and power supplies used throughout.
  • Two transformers
  • Three exotic ultra-low jitter clocks
  • PCM 44.1 to 384kHz – DSD x 8
  • 490 x 350 x 110mm (WDH)
  • Weighs a not inconsiderable 28kg.

Absolute Stream

  • Audiophile music server/streamer
  • Playback from external hard drive or external NAS
  • Internal storage between 1TB and 4TB an optional extra
  • Playback from all internet and web services such as Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify or from an external attached NAS drive or USB drive. Internal storage of 1TB-4TB is an additional option at point of order.
  • *Roon Core not included.
  • One Ethernet input and two USB ports for connecting an external NAS drive or USB drive.
  • Two USB outputs for connection to a DAC, 1 with 5v and one without.
  • 490 x 350 x 87mm (WDH)
  • Weighs 22kg

Absolute Time (not the Signature version)

  • Designed to re-clock, re-energise and re-drive the digital signal.
  • Digital in and out on USB to take feed from the Streamer and feed it to the DAC.
  • Digital inputs and outputs on SPDIF RCA only to use with a compatible CD Transport.
  • There is a 5v on/off switch on the USB output and we recommend using it with the 5v supply turned off unless for some reason your preferred DAC needs the 5v supply.
  • 490 x 175 x 87mm (WDH)
  • Weighs 15kg.

*Using ROON - We have for some time been great fans of Roon using it as a virtual library in conjunction with streaming accounts from Tidal and Qobuz. However, whereas some streamers such as those made by Innuos all have built in Roon Cores none of the Ideon devices currently have this facility built in although they are fully Roon ready provided you have a separate Roon Core. This means that if you want to use their streamers with Roon, which we would recommend, you do need to have a separate Roon Core located somewhere on your same home network, so bear this in mind when considering one of their streamers. Ideon don’t have their own App for streaming services but many of the generic UPNP Client Apps will work just fine. Ideon are currently working with Qobuz to integrate it into their own systems soon and are also considering whether to include a Roon Core in their streamers due to high customer demand.

System Components used in this Review:

As mentioned above it has proved harder than usual to listen to these products due to popular demand so some of my listening has taken place at home and some in our demo showrooms using a wide variety of amplifiers and speakers. I have used my Gryphon Essence amps at home along with my Marten Mingus Quintet speakers and in the showroom a mixture of Gryphon, McIntosh, TAD, Sonus Faber and Marten. Whilst writing this review I am using notes from listening at home in recent weeks and my current showroom listening using McIntosh C12000 preamp, TAD M700S stereo power amp and the awesome TAD Reference One TX speakers. For good measure I have also used a Gryphon Ethos CD player used as a transport and connected to the Absolute DAC via AES/EBU XLR.

Performance – As with most things Hi-Fi generally the more you pay the better the sound and there are usually very good reasons for this. I agree there is nearly always a level of diminishing returns when considering the cost/performance ratio but with Ideon there seems to be much less diminishing and much more extoling of the soundstage, detail, involvement and shear tingle factor as you go up the range than is often the case with other products.

The Master Series comprising DAC and Time Re-clocker (there isn’t a streamer in this range) at £7,600 is the entry point for an Ideon setup. I can’t say whether you consider almost eight grand to be entry level but if you are in the market for a £10k DAC then you should definitely consider this DAC/Clock combination, used together they outperform many DACs at or around this price point offering detail in abundance without sounding too shrill or too laid back. I used them with an Innuos Zenith streamer and found this Ideon pairing to be a cut above their peers in terms of long-term listening pleasure and especially for those occasions when going to bed seems to just pass you by as Roon Radio just keeps on surprising you with music you just can’t stop listening to long into the night. Not as cold sounding as some DACs which will be a blessing to some and used with well-matched amps and speakers they form the basis of a very good system.

The EOS Series comprising DAC, Streamer and Time Re-clocker at £26,800 is probably the Goldilocks Ideon system, expensive for sure but you get a lot of real estate for that investment. EOS Series does everything the Master Series does but raises the bar in terms of definition, clarity, and openness. Not too cold, not too hot, just right really. Provided of course that you can live with the DACs display, which informs you of the sampling rate in great big blue numbers that can be seen a few streets away. I’ve not found a way to dim it or turn it off other than putting something over it. Not sure why this is but you certainly won’t need binoculars to keep checking the incoming bit rate. This system could be the only source you will ever need and combined with like-minded amps and speakers will outperform much of the competition.

The Absolute Series comprising DAC, Streamer and Time Re-clocker at £72,500 in silver or £76,300 in black (the Absolute Time Signature adds around £12,000 to this price) is called Absolute for a very good reason. Only very serious audiophiles need apply because the cost of ownership of this system is high and the size and weight of these three components (72kg for all three components or £1,000 per Kilo to you and me) needs lots of strong shelf space. But if you are looking to invest in the ultimate streaming solution this might just float your boat, it did mine.

I’m unlikely to be able to afford all three of these Absolute components but I like them so much I have invested in the Time reclocker (the standard not Signature one) and it works just fine between my Innuos Statement and Gryphon DAC. It also works well between other streamers and DACs no matter how much they cost. This Absolute triple stack is sublime in so many ways, literally bringing tears to my eyes because they are so emotionally involving. It’s true competition for other similarly priced high-end Streaming/DAC solutions and is among the very best I have heard, period. Of course, your amps and speakers need to have similar high resolution capability to deliver the dynamics, detail and emotion that the Ideon Absolute stack can construct but pay attention to system building and everything should be just fine. The Gryphon Ethos CD Player connected to the Absolute DAC via the AES/EBU XLR digital out and Redbook CD never sounded so good. The Ideon brought another level of emotion to the music and when combined with the Absolute Time** it brings yet more resolution and refinement to the party.

**the Ethos only has digital out on XLR and the Absolute Time only has digital input on USB and RCA Coax so it wasn’t possible to use the Time between Ethos transport and Absolute DAC without some form of compromising adaptor.

Listen to “I Know You” by Melissa Ethridge from her album ‘The Medicine Show’ (Qobuz 96kHz/24bit) at a good volume and tell me you aren’t moved by the emotion Melissa brings to this track when played on an Ideon Absolute system and I’ll eat your hat. I’ve heard her sing this live so I know what it should sound like, and this is the closest I’ve come to reliving that emotional live event. Then play “Black Crow” by Angus and Julia Stone, but make sure you have your bank manager on fast dial, you might want to call him outside office hours. In fact, play anything on this triple stack and be prepared to be moved. Isn’t that why we all invest so much time and money in this hobby of ours?

Summoning up memories of The Exorcist I played Tubular Bells (5oth Anniversary Edition) (Qobuz 44.1/24 bit), and I have to say I’ve never heard it so good. Clearly the TAD amp and speakers have a lot to do with this but any system worthy of the 3 stack Ideon Absolute should be equally revealing and focused. When those bells came in, I wanted to dive for cover!

Conclusion – Time is a funny thing and at relativistic speeds it starts to act weirdly and comes over all bendy and non-linear. But it’s all relative to your situation and here on Earth time is always a constant and something we never have enough of. In the world of digital audio, the timing of data flow becomes oh so important and whilst all DACs and Streamers have internal clocks of their own designed to keep perfect time you really can’t beat a standalone bespoke clock, and this is where Ideon excel. Their clocks are first rate at each level, so much so that once heard they aren’t easy to forget. Speaking to the designer and manufacturer recently he told me that these reclocking devices are so important that serious users cascade them in their systems by linking one to another and to another in a triple stack reclocking scenario and Ideon tell me that 3 is the lucky number here. I haven’t tried this yet, but I will soon, and I’ll let you know what I hear.

USB Cables - an essential part of any streaming system is the quality of the USB cable used, please don’t compromise here because sending audio data is very different to sending computer files and this is why Ideon include such a dedicated USB cable in their product range. Unlike other cables used for digital transfer on computers there is no bit-perfect protocol in place for USB cables and some cable manufacturers recognise this. So please always use a specialist USB cable and toss out the give-away lead that came in the box, you won’t regret the investment.

When inserting a Time between streamer and DAC you will now need two not one USB cable and if you don’t have two the same then I have found it best to use the better one between the streamer and the Clock and the lesser one between Clock and DAC, but you may find otherwise. Of course, using two identical USB cables is always going to be the best. These cables should be considered a part of your system not a tweak.

I hope you continue to enjoy my reviews; I try to make them as informative and enjoyable as possible. Products don’t find their way into my home system for any old reason, they have to stand out from the crowd and that’s why I now have an Ideon component running in (Ideon recommend 300 hours run in period by the way) to become a permanent resident.

PS – If you are old enough to still listen to FM radio as I am then do give Magnum Dynalab a try. I have many tuners at home and a roof ariel installed by Ron Smith ariels of Luton (anyone remember them), and I’ve just purchased a 20-year-old Magnum Dynalab 106 tuner and it really is the bees knees of high end tuners. Seek one out if you can. As I say keepers are few and far between in my home system, this one will see me out.

Keep listening.

Bob – Team Reference Audio - October 2023