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Stories You Might Have Missed: Night Court, iFi Audio, iBasso & Neil’s Kitchen

NBC learns the hard way trying to bring back one of its biggest hits, 2 new portable DAC/headphone amplifiers and the best sub shop in NJ?

iFi hip-dac2 and iBasso DC04PRO portable DACs

Trying to relive the glory days of the past is a futile effort. Just ask Al Bundy or Dan Fielding.

Sitting in the departure lounge awaiting a flight to Florida a few week ago, I was horrified to discover at a very early hour that NBC had decided to reboot my favorite television program of the 1990s.

The cold hard reality is that nobody alive today under the age of 40 watched Night Court during its wonderful run — and none of us who watched every single episode and were teenagers at the time — want to watch a woke reboot of a show that can’t be replicated.

After suffering through four terrible episodes and wondering if John Larroquette was that desperate for money that I needed to send him some cash through Venmo — I gave up.

Why can’t television and movie executives leave the past alone and push forward with new and creative stories that have yet to be told.

These are probably the same people who can’t understand why nobody really enjoys going to the movies anymore.

I deny seeing “Cocaine Bear” four times so far. It was only three.

Portable Bliss

Walking into our local AMC to enjoy “Cocaine Bear” for the third time, my daughter caught me fumbling with a pair of FiiO IEMs that I planned on using so that I could listen to the hockey game whilst watching the movie — one is there out of sheer gluttony at this point and not to listen to the dialogue.

With more than a dozen Dongle DACs currently in my desk drawer, it was decided that I needed something more powerful to drive some of the new IEMs and on-ear headphones in my collection; including the wonderful Meze Audio 109 Pro and FiiO FH5s.

iFi Audio has been on a tear over the past two years delivering one great product after another including the GO Link Dongle DAC, xDSD Gryphon Portable Amplifier, and ZEN Signature Series.

iFi hip-dac2

iFi Hip DAC 2 connected to smartphone
iFi hip-dac2

The iFi hip-dac2 resembles a whisky flask and it certainly hits with the power of an 18 year-old Glenrothes.

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The iFi Audio hip-dac2 is a portable digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier designed to improve the audio quality of music played from mobile devices and computers. It is an upgraded version of the original hip dac, featuring a number of improvements to its design and functionality.

The hip dac2 supports a wide range of digital audio formats, including PCM, DXD, and DSD, and can decode high-resolution audio files up to 384kHz/32-bit PCM and 11.2MHz DSD. The hip-dac2 utilizes a Burr-Brown DAC chip. It also has a USB Type-C input for connecting to compatible devices.

The hip-dac2 also includes iFi’s proprietary XBass and 3D+ audio enhancement technologies, which are designed to improve the bass response and soundstage of music. It has a built-in rechargeable battery that can provide up to 8 hours of continuous playback time, and can also be used as a portable power bank to charge other devices.

In addition to its DAC capabilities, the hip-dac2 also has a powerful headphone amplifier with a balanced 4.4mm output and a standard 3.5mm output. It can drive headphones with impedances up to 600 ohms and has a maximum output power of 400mW per channel.

Look for my review of the iFi hip-dac2 later this weekend.

Where to buy: $189 at Amazon

iBasso DC04PRO

iBasso DC04PRO Dongle DAC
iBasso DC04PRO

The $119 USD iBasso DC04PRO is a portable USB DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and headphone amplifier. What’s immediately noticeable is the new industrial design that is extremely sleek looking; including a physical volume control.

The DC04PRO features dual Cirrus Logic CS43131 DAC chips and can handle PCM audio up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD audio up to 256x. It also has a built-in MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) renderer, which allows you to stream high-resolution audio from services like TIDAL. Before you get nervous, the bankruptcy filing last week by MQA does not impact the iBasso or any of the MQA-encoded streams currently available on TIDAL.

In addition to its DAC capabilities, the DC04PRO also has a powerful headphone amplifier with a balanced 4.4mm output and a standard 3.5mm output. It can drive headphones with impedances up to 600 ohms and has a maximum output power of 280mW per channel into 32 ohms.

The DC04PRO is designed to be portable and can be powered either by USB or by its internal battery, which provides up to 10 hours of playback time. It also has a compact and durable design, with a metal casing and a convenient clip that can be attached to your clothing or bag.

There is also an updated version of the iBasso UAC app that works with the DC04PRO.

My review of the iBasso DC04PRO will appear this weekend.

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Where to buy: $119 at Amazon

Neil’s Kitchen

Have you ever walked past a local restaurant and convinced yourself that it couldn’t be for you? That your “refined” palette was too good to be subjected to lowly counter sandwiches prepared for the college kids down the block?

Having grown up in a restaurant kitchen, that was never my way of thinking. I have eaten in some of the sketchiest looking dives on the planet, enjoyed pho in the back of a river boat in Vietnam, baked fresh laffa with Druze in the Golan Heights, and flung pies all alone in the family pizzeria until midnight.

White table cloth restaurants are not my thing.

Neil's Kitchen

Before the Passover holiday began last week, I found myself standing before Neil’s Kitchen here in Long Branch. I have always made a point of supporting local small businesses because without them — your community becomes nothing more than an endless corridor of Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and Wawa locations.

The Jersey Shore is very quickly starting to resemble that.

But as long as we have places like Neil’s Kitchen — the Empire has yet to finally take control of the galaxy.

Over the past 14 years, I have walked or driven past this tiny Italian sandwich shop more than 10,000 times. You read that correctly. How is that even possible?

Neil’s is sandwiched between two hair salons two blocks from my front door and less than 3 blocks from the beach here in Long Branch.

I have driven to Kansas City for BBQ, turned around, and driven home.

My car was vandalized in Camden when I visited Donkey after the late-Anthony Bourdain gave away our little secret here in New Jersey.

Cheesesteak at Neil's Kitchen
Cheesesteak at Neil’s Kitchen

We have the best cheesesteaks in the Garden State. The folks across the river in “Scarydelphia” only think they have the best.

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But apparently I was too much of a snob to venture inside this sandwich shop and deli.

Not only can I hide in the rear booth and observe my wife drive up to get her hair done unnoticed next door, but I can enjoy every single bite of the sandwiches that this local gem has to offer.

Bread is everything when making a sandwich, and the roll that they use for the cheesesteak is baked to perfection with a slightly charred crust. The softness of the bread soaks up just enough of the juice without becoming soggy in your hands.

The combination of steak, onions, peppers, and cheese rivals Donkey in every possible way; I do love the poppyseed rolls that they use in Camden but this might be a better sandwich overall.

When I was a little boy growing up in Toronto, there was a kosher bakery at the end of our street and when they would bake the fresh blueberry buns at 5 a.m., I would open my bedroom window so that the wind could carry the smell into my room.

Neil’s doesn’t open until 10; which isn’t ideal for those of us who are up at 5 a.m., but they have made a new customer for life and one feels very at home. The food is not inexpensive; $14 USD for the regular sandwich — which feels like it’s really a large one, but I have yet to enjoy a better one in the Garden State since 2003.

For more information: Neil’s Kitchen

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. ORT

    April 20, 2023 at 2:19 am

    Hello the house!

    Ian, I have long waited for the iFi hipdac to lose MQA and a 3rd version to come to life as the flask shape will match well with my two(!) Echobox DAPs! YES! I have two of them because they are soooo COOOOOOL! They play my music on MicroSDs just fine and I have my SiriusXM, Pandora and Amazon Music accounts on them too!

    The are totally bitchin’ lookin’ and made of wood in the shape of a flask! And…Bestest of all they pisseth off my friends that are full on or borderline frAUdiophiles!

    But the hideous hydra-head of MQA is still with the iFi so I will wait for them to wake up and drop that MQA crappola. I do NOT need a hipdac to listen to my music but it would look cool and so I wait…

    ORT The Patient (as in patiently waiting and hopefully not being more of a patient a the hospital)

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