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iFi Audio Micro iDSD BL - Tour Review

A Review On: iFi Audio micro iDSD

iFi Audio micro iDSD

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dburna
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Pros: Sound improvements across-the-board vs. the original (silver) iDSD; greatly improved headphone sound

Cons: Hard to see volume level on volume knob (minor)

I was fortunate to be part of the iDSD BL Tour (US).  Below are my findings of a direct comparison versus the existing iDSD (silver) which I own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple introductory notes on my review (skip this if you just want the conclusions, though it provides useful context):

  1. The set-up (pictured) is my work-at-home rig; I listen to the iDSD on a desktop set-up, rarely as a portable rig.

  2. I also listen through JBL LSR305 active monitors a lot as I need to be on/off the phone for work and switching headphones to phone and back again all day is a pain. The 305s are surprisingly good for low cash.

  3. I tried the setup comparison between iDSD and iDSD BL (called BL going forward) with all listed headphones but keeping the rest of the rig (iFi USB purifier, cables, iUSB) constant. As the picture shows, I had both iDSD and BL side-by-side so I could just move cables in seconds to compare specific passages, not just whole songs.

  4. I did some tweaking with all kinds of settings, just for comparison, but I don't play around with these in 'real' listening – I find most of the knobs and switches useful for dialing in a good combination with whatever particular headphones I am using, then I leave them alone. However, I do appreciate the flexibility these different settings provide for personal customization.

  5. For two days I listened solely to the BL. I find plugging in a new component can appear to make it sound 'better' at first mainly because it is different. I wanted to “get to know” the BL before doing any comparison.

  6. Bottom line: during those two initial days, I enjoyed the heck out of the BL. It's a more immersive experience than the iDSD.

 

Summary:

  1. iDSD BL > original iDSD (possibly '>>', though I hate hyperbole, especially my own)

  2. BL's black color is classier than iDSD silver.....but I'm not a fan of silver, so YMMV.

  3. BL has better dynamics, air, soundstage depth, and bass control.

  4. BL has a fuller, more refined presentation; iDSD seems a little thin in comparison.

  5. BL seems considerably more powerful.....even though the specs for both seem the same. I had to turn the volume down ¼ to 1/8 on the BL dial to achieve similar volume with the iDSD. Start low with your initial settings, fellow tour members – you could be in for a loud surprise. 

  6. I think BL's 3D and xBass are better, but the difference was subtle to my ears. They may be better on the BL, but the major difference was the overall sound improvement. That seemed to dominate any differences I could hear in the 3D/XBass comparison.....but that's just me.

  7. BL had me just listening/enjoying for days without any nagging critical audiophile thoughts; I can't achieve quite the same level of immersion with the iDSD.

  8. The better/more revealing your headphones are, the more pronounced the difference should be.

  9. One (minor) suggested improvement: it would be good if there was an orange line on the volume control notch. It is hard to see the volume level on the BL, easier on the silver iDSD.

  10. Sennheiser Momentum Over-Ears recommended only for cell phone/mobile use. :-)) Now I understand what people mean when people say they are bass-heavy. Bass didn't seem so pronounced using my anemic cell phone. I'll keep using them when on-the-go.....not at home.

  11. I don't like in-ear 'phones pretty much at all. Not comfortable to my ears, and I've tried more than a few. Not going to pony up for custom IEMs.

 

By the end of my “tour time”, I lost interest in comparing the two and just wanted to maximize my time with the BL. The devil on my shoulder kept suggesting, “Hey Dave, just slap a coat of black paint on your iDSD and send that along to the next reviewer. I doubt anyone would notice.”

ANSWER: Yes – yes they would.

 

Job very well done, iFi. The BL is is an evolutionary improvement in most ways over the iDSD. Anyone still using an iDSD (like me), don't run it over with a truck – not that this would hurt the iDSD in any way. The iDSD is still a fine performer and I am quite happy with mine. However, the BL is noticeably better and well worth the audition, even if you are considering more expensive gear.

 

-dB (with audiophile envy - again.....curse you, iFi)

 

 

 

Equipment Used:

  1. JBL LSR305 active monitors

  2. Macbook Pro

  3. iTunes, JRiver

  4. Monoprice RCA-to-XLR cables

  5. Stock iFi input cables

  6. Headphones: Sennheiser Momentum Over-Ears v1.0, Sennheiser HD650s with Stefan Audio Art cables, KZ ATE KZ-ATE Dynamic Balanced Armature IEMs (bargain basement ear buds)

 

Music Used:

  1. Wes Montgomery “Echoes of Indiana Avenue” (2016)

  2. Andy Narell & Relator “University of Calypso” (2009)

  3. These Immortal Souls “I'm Never Going to Die Again” (1992)

  4. Sean Watkins “What to Fear” (2016)

  5. Vilde Frang “Korngold, Britten Violin Concertos” (2016)

  6. Various Artists “Bureau B – Katalog I” sampler

  7. Roedelius Schneider “Stunden” (2011)

  8. Erroll Garner “Ready Take One” (2016)

  9. Alejandro Escovedo “Burn Something Beautiful” (2016)

  10. The Spinanes “Strand” (1996)

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