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iFi Micro iDSD BL: Once you go black, you never go back

A Review On: iFi Audio micro iDSD

iFi Audio micro iDSD

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proedros
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Pros: Very Musical and resolving Sound , Versatility (can be used with both ciems and full phones), Great Bass/Treble Boost, Amazing Build Quality

Cons: More transportable than portable, no availability for Balanced use/Balanced Cables, difficulty to see volume knob level may irritate some

Before submitting my thoughts on the IDSD Micro Black Label (to be called BL from now on), I would like to thank the folks at Ifi Audio for organizing this EU Demo Tour and giving us the opportunity to listen to BL . Initiatives like that help both companies to expand their clientelle and customers to try something out before buying and i hope that these events happen more often, especially for such quality products like the BL.

Ok , on with the review then. 

First , some tech specs/stuff , which many reviewers before me have included in their amazing reviews, so i have decided to put as hidden text (click to read)

 

IDSD BL Tech Specifications (Click to show)
iFi Audio Micro iDSD Black Label has:
 
re-designed output stabilisation
OV2627 op-amps upgraded analogue section
Panasonic OSCON capacitors loaded power supply
OV2028 op-amps loaded DAC power supply
DAC voltage decoupling based on audio-grade ECPU film capacitors
GMT® Femto precision clock system power supply upgraded
 
iFi Audio Micro iDSD Black Label is:
 
a tweaked to the roof original Micro iDSD
a satin black version (with silk orange writings) of original Micro iDSD
sonically much better version of original Micro iDSD
loaded with latest 3D+® and XBass+® tech, superior over ones in original Micro iDSD
10% higher price of $549 (ex-tax) / Euro599 (incl VAT)
superior to original Micro iDSD
 
Dual Burr-Brown DAC chips developed by Burr-Brown Japan before the TI acquisition, custom tweaked 
to play all the way up to unicorn formats: OctaDSD (512DSD—there aren’t even any recordings that 
I know of) to PCM768 (I don’t know if recordings exist for this standard)
 
3 output modes: eco, normal and turbo and the iEMatch feature allowing headphones from 
ultra-sensitive custom in-ear flagships to insensitive masses of metallic HiFiMan HE-6 glory
 
Intelligent In/Out SPDIF Digital Optical/coax allows using the iDSD BL to feed your Sonos, or 
plugging in your DAP when you feel the need to make up for it’s inadequacies
Battery power for loads of time, with smart charging for your devices when you aren’t blasting 
your aural cavities with wonders, delights, and delectable morsels of audio fayre (iFi advertise 
6-12 hours battery playback, depending on how hungry your headphones are)
 
 
iDSD BL comes with more in its box than any of the other’s I’ve opened. Here are the full contents:
 
Micro iDSD BL
1 metre USB 3.0A female to USB3.0A male cable
USB 2.0A female to USB 2.0B female cable (for using whatever USB cable you like without straining the USB jack)
USB 2.0A female to USB 2.0B female short adaptor (for using whatever USB cable you like)
iFi’s standard purple RCA cables
Heavy duty rubber bands for stacking your source on top of the iDSD BL
6.3mm to 3.5mm convertor
Short 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable
Mini Toslink to Toslink adaptor
4 iFi branded silicone feet (that’s a step up from my Micro iUSB3.0)
A silicone sheet—is this for putting under or on top? I couldn’t tell, but it should provide some cushion
A velvet bag for transport

 

 

 

 

I will now discuss the most important parameter (to me , at least) - the sound signature/quality of BL. I am a guy who uses only CIEMs so all my thoughts are based on listening done with CIEMs.

So, after fiddling around with the many options available , i settled down on the following for my listening sessions

Source Setup Used : iBasso DX80 > stock 3.5mm to coaxial cable > iDSD BL
CIEM Used :Hidition NT6 (6-BA CIEM)
Power Mode Setting : ECO
Filter Setting: Bit-Perfect
IEMatch Setting: High/ OffECO POWER MODE
Music Files Used : 16/44 FLAC (mostly 70s/80s disco/funk/soul and some 80s rock)

 

So on to how this little bugger sounded. First things first : This is a great DAC/AMP. I really liked what i was hearing and could not turn this little ******** down once i started listening to it. In fact my loving ZX2 simply gathered dust while the BL was around in my house (and ears).
 

The sound was very enjoyable to my ears. BL sounds full and musical , but without sacrificing clarity . It has an almost perfect balance of musicality and clarity.

The bass hits very, very nicely without sounding bloated , i was really impressed by how good the lows sounded with my (relatively bass-light) NT6. Great job there iFi.


The mids are lush and musical without sounding too sugar-coated, and they are very well positioned , neither too upfront nor distant. No complaints there again.


The highs feel sparkly without reaching sibilance levels. When i wanted a tad more 'air' (on some 'veiled' recordings), the 3d switch took care of this perfectly  (I shall return to the 3D and Bass Boost switches later).
 

Even though BL was only used in SE mode, i found it to have great separation and a big soundstage with very good placement, with very good width.

Last but not least, some thoughts on the 2 available switches , the 3D and the Bass Boost.

 

3d switch is a nice touch, as it feels like a booster for the high frequencies, while simultaneously creating asense of an airier, more open sound . It is nicely done and its effect did not sound 'fake' to my ears, and i found myself using it quite a lot, especially on recording which suffer from some clarity up top and sounded a bit 'veiled' to my ears.
 

As for the bass boost i did not use it, as i found the bass very nicely done on the Bl and its quantity was more than enough for my needs , even with the bass boost switch turned off. When i tried it though, i found the bass increase tastefully done , so if you are a basshead , this switch should come in handy to you.

 

 

 

 

As i said , i have been owning a SONY ZX2 for quite some time and i will present a small comparison with the BL, so that ZX2 owners get an idea how BL sounds.

Compared to my SONY ZX2, i liked the DX80>IDSD BL setup much more. BL definitely feels like a step up in dynamics, sonic finesse and overall enjoyment.

 

The mids sounded fuller , the bass had more power and the soundstage was bigger with better placement and separation. ZX2 is no slouch, but i couldn't help but think that ZX2 sounded at times almost anemic next to the BL sound.

 

So is everything perfect on the BL ? Even though i was VERY pleased with what i heard, there are some things that could make this great DAC/AMP even better.

 

First of all, I would have liked having the option of using it balanced as all my CIEM cables were TRRS terminated and i had to use a balanced>SE adaptor all the time.

I can not imagine how much better BL would sound if I could go balanced, as it sounded amazing even on SE mode.

Also , some people may have a hard time seeing where the volume meter stands, as there is not a dot or something to distinguish the volume level.

Speaking of volume , I must say that I did not detect any channel imbalance at all , even at very low volume levels.

But i am just nit-picking here , BL is an amazing device and I was quite amazed by it. In fact, if you are on the market for a DAC/AMP that shoots way above its price and screams 'QUALITY' , then BL should definitely be on your shortlist.

1 Comment:

Didn't you like Athena any better using this?
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