I have received Black Label from iFi company as part of the review tour, in exchange for my honest opinion
You can find specification here
The price is currently at 549 USD on amazon, and the official iFi distributor in my country (Czech) is selling it for roughly 650 USD
So what is Black Label? It is a headphone amplifier+dac combo in the first place. It supports pretty much every music format humankind has every invented.
Design, build, portability
The design is very smooth in my opinion and I quite it very attractive. There is just something special about that dim black finish of the device.
All iFi amps and dacs reminds me of a star destroyer. Which I really love as a Star Wars fan :-D
Features, sound, power
Features - I would say this is the strongest advantage of the Black Label. It is definitely one of the most versatile device on the market, pretty much only thing which is missing is the balanced input/output. Otherwise it's really all-in-one solution. There are lot of switches and I must admit that stuff like "Polarity" and "Filter" didn't really change the sound at all - at least I couldn't hear any sort of difference, so even after reading the provided manual, I had no idea what it's supposed to do.
However, there are many useful switches too - especially the "IEM match" and "Power Mode". These two allows you to configure gain of the amplifier, which makes Black Label compatible with all sorts of headphones ranging from sensitive IEMs such as Shure 846 to hard to drive planars. I have tried to set "Power Mode" to "Turbo" and it almost killed me, so I just switched it back to "Normal" for the remaining time.
I used "IEM Match" functionality when I was testing the Black Label with my Shure 535 which are considered quite sensitive. It worked brilliantly and it gives you great flexibility on how much power you want to feed your headphones with.
The Black Label was also always dead silent - I haven't heard any background noise or hiss with any of the tested headphones, which is really great. No interference whatsoever.
From harder to drive headphones I have used Fostex T50RP MK3 which was easily driven by the Black Label. My current main go-to headphones are Lawton Audio LA2000 which is a modification of famous Denon AHD2000 and the result was spectacular.
It's a bit tricky for me to evaluate amp or dac quality, as I feel most reviewer tend to focus on the headphones itself, which I don't want to do. With all of the tested headphones (Shure 535, Lawton Audio LA2000, Fostex T50RP MK3, VE Monk Plus) I have received satisfactory results - I was able to squeeze maximum potential from these headphones, drive them really easily and the sound was always which I consider a good match. My current desktop combo is FiiO X7 docked into the FiiO K5 amp. Sound wise it's quite similar, with one difference - FiiO K5 is a bit sharper in sound, while iFi was slightly more musical. But the dac section - i.e. the detail, resolution was pretty much on the similar level. I am not sure whether this is a compliment for or insult for either of these rigs, but that's just the way it is.
But here comes a twist - Black Label has two magical buttons - 3D+ and XBass+ - which as the name suggest, first should increase the sense of space and second enhance the bass. When I first switched these on, I was disappointed - the change wasn't as big as I was expecting. But nevermind, I kept on listening. After 15 minutes or so, I switched them both off. Only then I've realized what a drastic difference it was. I am listening to a lot of EDM music - drum and bass, techno, house, hip hop, RnB.. So the XBass+ effect was extremely addictive with me. Without these effects off I'd call Black Label a decent amp/dac combo. However, with some track, the synergy of these effects is so immersive that it takes the whole device to a completely different level. For a longer listening session, it can be a bit fatiguing, because the intensity of the music you will hear is just huge. Still, for me this was the decisive point which catapulted the Black Label to a whole new level and I really recommend everybody to it, because some tracks were just made for 3D+ and XBass+.
With XBass+ the bass had much more body, it became more physical. With fast pace tracks there was more rumble. But the bass duration wasn't really changed, so in the end it didn't really overflow to other frequencies, and that's what made it great.
With 3D+ I have felt almost concert like experience. The instrument separation just become much greater which gave you that extra feel of space. Again, some tracks didn't benefit so much, but some were excellent.
This is what made Black Label such fun and versatile device to use.
However I have found also some quirks, which I need to mention. When Black Label is used as a DAC, it has always 1-2 sec initial delay when it's turned on - meaning, when you start to play some music or video, the Black Label will be silent for 1-2 second and only after that it will start playing sound. Once it starts, there is no delay though and the sound is perfectly synchronized, which makes it suitable even for watching movies.
Also, couple of times it happened, that when connected initially, the sound was completely distorted almost unbearable to hear. However, after re-connecting the device it always went back to normal.
I was using Black Label only with my Macbook so can't comment on how it works with Windows or Linux systems.
So let's sum this up.
Powerful amp with the ability to drive most sensitive IEMs to most demanding headphones ✓
Plenty of detail, resolution, and nice musical sound ✓
Support for every possible music format every invented ✓
3D+ and XBass+ effects , yes please ✓✓✓✓✓
Affordable price ✓
On the other hand:
When used as DAC - ddd quirk of initial 1-2 silence when first playing the music ✖
When effects are off, the sound quality is in range of FiiO K5+FiiO X7 which I am still undecided whether it's compliment or not ✖
All things considered - if you are looking for an affordable all-in-one AMP/DAC solution, with ability to switch from sensitive IEMs to most powerful headphones (Turbo most truly does this, trust me) with fun effects to play with (3D+ and XBass+) you have my permission to pull the trigger