iFi Audio micro iDSD

General Information

There is nothing like the micro iDSD. It is literally, out of this world. It is the only DAC in the world (at any price) to play True Native Octa-DSD512/PCM768/Double DXD. Its Perfect-Match means it can be fine-tuned to any headgear from IEMs all the way through to large headphones. Its 8v/4000mW output makes it one of the most powerful headamps to drive even the most hungry of headphones with ease.

Latest reviews

Pros: Provides load of power, power-efficient, built-in iEMatch and iPurifier, clean and resolving sound with great detail and dark background, 3D+ and xBass+ allows for fine tuning. Multiple gain and power output options
Cons: SmartPower feature is unnecessary

iFi Audio is a company based in UK launched in 2012 with a vision of improving sound quality and eradicating distortion, noise and hiss from different audio equipment. They are well known for their plethora of DACs, AMPs and a lot more that usually fits in an audiophile’s everyday audio chain. One of their well-known offering was the Micro iDSD which gained them more respect resulting in a fan base which in turn voiced feedbacks on improvements the Micro iDSD could have. With iFi Audio’s mantra of improving sound quality, they were more than willing to take in the feedback of their product users which eventually gave birth to a beefed up version of the Micro iDSD.

This beefed up version is none other than the Micro iDSD Black Label, iFi Audio’s top-rated desktop DAC and headphone amplifier. Clad in anodized black coating with orange accents which coincidentally matched my default Foobar theme. The color contrast is one of the best combo that electronic devices usually goes for which Sony’s black industrialized theme has pioneered. It still retains much of the OG Micro iDSD features and form factor but has ironically “amped” up features which can be summarized as follows:
  • Performance-tuned 3D® Plus and XBass® Plus
  • ZeroJitter/Femto clock system upgraded for lower phase-noise/jitter
  • Digital engine upgraded with iFi custom ultra-low noise Op-Amp OV2028
  • Analogue section upgraded with iFi custom ultra-low noise Op-Amp OV2627
  • Ultra-low impedance OS-CON polymer capacitors and Panasonic audio-grade ECPU film capacitors
The iFi micro iDSD Black Label currently retails for $549 and ฿21,900 over at ProPlugin’s website. iFi Audio via their exclusive Thailand distributor, ProPlugin, sent me the review unit. If you happen to be around Bangkok, Thailand, I highly recommend you to check out ProPlugin for their extensive Pro Audio solution especially iFi Audio.
Features

3D+ and xBass+
There's currently a collection of signature and distinct technologies that iFi Audio parades and two of those are in the Micro iDSD Black Label, the 3D+ and xBass+ features in its latest iteration is in the Micro iDSD Black Label with signs that such features, even it its current brilliance, are still being worked on for further improvements. What the 3D+ feature highlights is the benefit of providing a more immersive experience by providing broader spatial accuracy which is one of the areas audiophiles are very critical off. The xBass+ feature aims to provide an added oomph to the low-end frequency performance which most gear are delicate with, it allows the user an adaptable option towards certain low-end preferences depending on their specific needs. iFi Audio knows these features would interest a lot of audiophiles and it’s great that they managed to create a detailed account as to what this supposedly do, you can check out their resource about the 3D+ and xBass+ features by clicking on the hyperlinks.

HeadAmp Turbo and iEMatch
iFi Audio’s top-rated desktop DAC and headphone amplifier wouldn’t be as top-rated without the Headamp Turbo feature which addresses all easy to drive and power-hungry headphones and earphones that its potential audiophile users may possess in their collection. Headamp Turbo allows the Micro iDSD Black Label to have 3 distinct power output levels being Eco (2.0V/250mW@16Ohm), Normal (4.0V/1,000mW@16Ohm) and Turbo (2.0V/250mW@16Ohm). The iEMatch feature in the Micro iDSD Black Label is another in-house developed tech which even has its own product line but iFi Audio decided to incorporate it to address the increasing gap of impedance values on different IEMs being released in the market, the iEMatch comes in 3 distinct levels being Off , High-sensitivity (-12dB adjustment) and Ultra-sensitivity (-24dB adjustment). The integration of these 2 features allowed me to tweak and fine-tune to my preferences the Micro iDSD Black Label according to the headphone and earphone that I happen to pick up and use and it worked well. The Turbo toggle was the setting that I used the least since the Eco and Normal power outputs were more than enough to power most of my IEMs and Headphones, a different story happened with the iEMatch as I found myself constantly toggling between the options as I do have a lot of review unit IEMs on my rotation which demanded different gain adjustment. This experience allowed me to appreciate the versatility of the Micro iDSD Black Label.

Packaging and Accessory set
The iFi Audio Micro DSD Black Label comes in the signature iFi Audio packaging in white which would have been great if it came in black to match the Micro DSD Black Label’s updated colorway. It highlights the vast features that is packed inside their Micro iDSD BL and with vast features comes vast accessories. Here’s the complete list.
Accessory list:
  • Horizontal stacking rubber feet
  • USB A Female > B Female Cable
  • Caps for RCA sockets
  • iFi bag
  • USB3.0 A MALE > A FEMALE
  • Silicone bracelet
  • Label of battery charging
  • RCA cable
  • 6.35 > 3.5 adapter
  • 3.5 male > male cable
  • Optical Adapter
  • USB A Female > B Female Adapter
  • User manual
  • Warranty Card
Build quality, Interfaces and Handling
The Micro iDSD Black Label is as industrialized and modernized as it gets build-wise, from its anodized black chassis to its chamfered edges up to its protruding panels screams discrete masculinity. Despite the extensive knobs, ports and switches on the Micro iDSD BL, there are no loose parts to be observed when shook. All the switches offered a great feedback click when toggling as well as the volume knob, it feels smooth to turn and adjust. Handling the Micro iDSD BL was also easy because of its overall familiar vertical orientation which most power banks come in. It also consumes little desk space especially if you manage its connection cables well. The choice of using switches for the 3D+ and xBass+ features was personally great as it was easy to identify if turned on or off unlike a button/indicator LED combo.

Front Panel
The Micro iDSD BL’s front panel features the power/volume knob which gives out a distinct click when turned on, it’s at the 7’oclock mark when off and spins up to the 5’oclock mark for full volume. A single orange tick on the power/volume knob indicates its current volume level. At the center of the front panel is the 3.5mm input port which can be used to feed audio output from various mobile devices, sandwiching this 3.5mm input port are the 3D+ and xBass+ switches, the 3D+ feature only works on headphones when the 6.3mm port is used and doesn’t work for speakers when the 6.3mm port is used. Both the 3D+ and xBass+ are analogue signal processing systems which has their own distinct pathways for audio output.

Back Panel
The Micro iDSD BL’s back panel houses most of its input and output ports such as the Combo SPDIF Coaxial/Optical Input and Output which is auto-switching depending on the presence of USB audio signal. Next to the Combo SPDIF Coaxial/Optical Input is the RCA Line Output port for HiFi systems which I wasn’t able to test. The final port at the back is the recessed USB digital input which also doubles as the charging port. This is the main input port that I use to pair the Micro iDSD BL with my laptop and mobile phone to dish out my favorite tunes.

Side Panel

The side panel of the Micro iDSD BL is ribbed and features the switch toggle for the “Power Mode (Headamp Turbo)”, “Polarity” and “Digital Filter” features, the “Power Mode” button comes in red to differentiate it and also act as an identifier for ease of use. The other side of the Micro iDSD BL is the single USB –A (5V/1.5A) port for the “SmartPower” feature which allows you to charge portable devices such as your mobile phone and music player, it does charge larger portable devices such as tablets but would drain the battery faster making it less battery efficient in the long run. Using the “SmartPower” feature is independent from music playback and you either use the Micro iDSD BL for music playback or for charging. I'm not a fan of this feature, I'd rather bring my own power bank than "waste" the Micro iDSD BL's battery life because my experience with SmartPower feature wasn't positive as it made me to actually lose actual playback time so don't ask me how fast it charges.

Under Panel
All sides of the Micro iDSD BL featues all the necessary inputs, outputs, switches or knob and the under panel doesn’t escape that. The under panel features all the essential Micro iDSD BL specifications and feature descriptions along with the iEMatch and RCA Line Output switches. There is no rubber feet pre-installed this time around but iFi Audio got you covered with a set included in the package. There have been sightings from actual users though of the iEMatch switch dropping so here goes iFi Audio, feedback.

Connectivity and Stability
The Micro iDSD Black Label packs the Burr-Brown Multibit DAC chip to accommodate its main processing tasks and it does it seamlessly, there were no hiccups whatsoever in my experience with it. I have mainly used the Micro iDSD BL’s USB-A input connected to my Windows 10 laptop via the supplied USB A male to USB A female cable, it was as simple as plug and play, there were no driver requests as well. I have used the same connection cable in connecting the Micro iDSD Black Label to my Samsung S10 5G’s USB C port using the Type C OTG cable supplied with the S10 5G, there were also no annoying cutouts experienced and connection was seamless and nuisance-free. The Micro iDSD Black Label’s connection stability continued on to its 3.5mm input port when used as a standalone amp via the supplied 3.5mm to 3.5mm interconnect, it worked great when connected to the Sony A46HN music player as well as the Zishan DSD and encountered no nagging connection issues.

Sound Quality and Battery Life
The size of the Micro iDSD BL doesn’t come to naught as it packs a 4800Ah battery in order to sustain all the heavy lifting especially for the PowerMode’s Turbo and SmartPower. iFi Audio provides an estimated battery life of around 6-12 hours within the Eco to Turbo parameters. I tested out the Micro iDSD BL on Eco with all special features turned with iEMatch cycling depending on necessity and it lasted me 11 hours and 38 minutes while at Normal yielded 8 hours and 45 minutes. I wasn’t able to utilize the Turbo mode that much as most of my headphones and IEMs were sufficiently driven already with just the 2 modes. Charging the Micro iDSD BL was easy as the nature of its usage allows it be charged most of the time rather than being forgotten, the LED indicator on the upper panel was just an added bonus to indicate the battery level as I never had the Micro iDSD BL quit out on me while in use. The fact that I wasn’t able to utilize the Turbo mode made things interesting due to the potential that it has in powering future cans that might demand more power than the 2 earlier modes can provide. I only tested the SmartPower to confirm it is working and never had it take on a full cycle of charging another portable device, there were no hiccups and the Micro iDSD BL didn’t warm up too much just like a usual power bank does.

I have already heard ravings about the Micro iDSD BL way before I have ever tried one and most of the feedback were how they were able to drive power-hungry cans and not much about their distinct sound signature or a singular sonic improvement. The Micro iDSD BL started on a weird note from the get go for me as though I used it on the Eco mode most of the time, it always started to provide sound on the right earpiece of any IEM as well as headphone that I plug it into and only balances out when the volume knob was at the 9’oclock position, this continued to happen in all audio related tasks from regular music playback, movies and gaming. While this might be bothersome for some, I’m personally fine with it as it’s a matter of habit before one would be used to it though would be best not to have to do that.

I tested the Micro iDSD BL’s sound while being paired with the Samsung S10 5G via OTG as well as via USB connection with the MSI-GF62 8RE-055TH and Foobar2000 v1.4 with 16/44 FLAC (MCR’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits) and DSD64 files (MJ’s Thriller album). The Micro iDSD BL’s sound is drop dead analytical and sterile and couple that with a dark and silent background gives it a great sound signature that most purists would love, ironic as it might be that with all the special features that the Micro iDSD BL possess. It makes for a perfect analog equalizer with all its knobs and switches. The 3D+ features does indeed work but is more easily discerned in closed back headphones (Meze Audio 99 Neo) than when used in IEMs (LX Ear Pluto and Custom Art FIBAE Black) and open back cans (ATH-AD900x). It creates a subtle expansion emphasized more in width than with creating a better layering delivery, the already dark background compliments well with this outcome. The xBass+ feature is the one that I personally find more appealing and useful as it works on all the gears that I paired with the Micro iDSD BL. It doesn’t add more bass or anything of that sort but instead cleans out the delivery of the lows giving a fuller bodied feel and control on the attack, especially with pure BA setups such as the IEMs I used for this realview. The Micro iDSD BL’s sound signature and technical “improvements” that its features add to the mix of your DAP and HP/IEM makes for overall experience which is more analytical and details-centric on an almost pitch black background to the extent that it sucks out the fun in one’s rig.

Conclusion
The Micro iDSD Black Label is indeed black, its ability to render the totality of the sound signature to be devoid of noise and hiss while pumping out loads of power enough to tackle most power-hungry cans which in turn allows for individuals who possess easier to drive cans to be able to finally check on those harder to drive cans they’ve been checking out. It still retains the inherent sound of the gears in its path and only enhances where most are lacking, soundstage and low-end presence. It packs a lot of features which isn’t gimmicky and actually functions to the point that some of it would be left unused once you’ve settled to your preferred setup. Its footprint also leaves one to always be on edge on bringing in out as a portable device as it isn’t that handy as some would say while being too small to be a true desktop setup solution. The Micro iDSD Black Label’s asking price of $549 is justifiable considering you get standalone product features such as the iPurifier and iEMatch, which if you haven’t tried yet is truly a feature worthy of being included in most DAC/Amps to date. I don’t need the SmartPower feature though and if that could be shelved and make the next Micro iDSD iteration more compact would be great since the direction of the Micro iDSD BL’s sound signature points to an audiophile’s purist ego, but hey, I'm just one of the many that voiced my feedback.
Pros: Very nice chassis

AMP section has remarkable amount of control and drive

Battery lasts reasonably long
Cons: Absolutely horrible DAC

Channel imbalance
With everyone loving these and hyping this lil' box up, I'm gonna play the devil's advocate and call it terrible, and I've owned two over the course of a year, got the first one here for around $320, bought another one brand new for $599.

Let's not talk about aesthetics. That's what lures me in in the first place. It looks pretty dang neat. A few switches here and there, a 1/4 port on the front, a set of RCAs, one optical and one USB port in the back. A real swiss army knife huh, compact and thoughtful.

But that's where all good news end. I literally cannot find anything positive to say about the sound. It's terrible, no, horrible actually. I bought the second unit just to see if I got a lemon, and bam I did not, it really just sounds that bad.

First of all, the headphone amp is actually pretty decent. It has plenty of drive and decent level of control for high impedance cans. HD600s sound great out of the amp, why the AMP section you say?

Because its DAC section is unforgivingly terrible. I've used the RCA ports in the back many times and everytime I plugged something in, it makes me wonder how on earth would these guys pair such a horrible DAC with such a good sounding amp in such a deceivingly nice chassis. The sound it puts out is lifeless, greyed out and lacks air. Detail retrieval is actually pretty decent, but highs are rough, mids are okay-ish and the bass on this thing is just an abomination. Not only is it loose, it doesn't have much extension down low and lacks quantity. My PS Audio Nuwave and Perfectwave MkII DAC both eat this thing for breakfast. Going back to those two makes me realize how artificial and harsh sounding this DAC/AMP really is, cuz the DAC section ruins what would otherwise be a fantastic dac/amp.

The amp section is pretty decent however. I tried hooking up my desktop DACs to this lil thing with a RCA-3.5mm cable, and it sounds pretty dynamic. Lots of power, pretty good control and reasonably good bottom end extension. Doesn't really sound like a portable unit, but the horrible DAC section makes the unit as a whole very tiny sounding.




In the end, I suggest any other users to steer clear of this dac/amp. The AMP section of this lil box trumps most if not all portable units on the market, however the DAC section is just so uninspiring it ruins the whole experience. It's tiny sounding, doesn't have much dynamics and lacks air. I don't really think its worth it even for the $320 I got it for.
abirdie4me
abirdie4me
Just picked this up used, and I think it sounds great. However, it doesn't sound great as preamp to my Jotunheim amp. I did some A/B testing with Jot balanced DAC, I noticed very little difference (grouped zone via Roon, so they were volume matched). But the iDSD by itself sounds awesome to me, so for me this is a great value for a portable dac/amp. I sold my mojo, it seemed lifeless and uninspiring in comparison. We all hear differently and have different preferences I guess.
Highend75
Highend75
It is obvious that you cannot hear the major details of this DAC, let alone the most subtle.
Some people can't tell the difference between High-end and mid-fi.
The ear just isn't capable.
droido256
droido256
Just got mine, and holy cow. Even on eco mode the LCD-2F is nearly unbearable loud at 12 clock volume. With the xbass on, it (LCD-2) will beat your ears up.
Pros: Fun, excellent technicality and details, silent background, well-priced, well-built, clean clear sound, powerful, flexible, well implemented extra features, generous accessories.
Cons: The carrying pouch is a dust magnet, transportable and hard to use on the go because of the size and long shape, not pocket able. Features can be overwhelming when you get into it.
DISCLAIMER
Hi everyone, Before I start the review, I would like to thank Ifi for making this DAC/AMP.
This review is made by myself based on my observation and listening pleasure of The amp/dac on various gear that I have after about a bit over a month of ownership regardless of price points.

I have no affiliation to Ifi in any way and everything said here is based on my experience over a week.
The pricing in Australia is 799.95 AUD (About 620 USD, converted by Google, not official price), so the review will be made using that as the value.

This Review will also touch on the difference between the micro and the nano, and whether it is worth it to get the micro over the nano.

INTRODUCTION (If you read my other review, you can skip this)
I'm an Indonesian working as a Web Developer in Melbourne, Australia.
Other than programming/coding, listening to music is another one of my hobby.
When I start my headphone hobby, music listening has been a very rewarding experience for me and has helped me in many aspects of life other than music enjoyment, but, with the booming price of high end headphones/IEM, it has become a bit of a heavy hit on my wallet.

Starting from almost 4 years ago I've been really hooked by metal music, and nowadays my everyday music listening always incorporate metal tracks, I guess you can call me a Metal-head.

Other than that I also like Progressive Rock, Jazz, etc basically anything that is very technical and well made except classical, and no I don't really listen to modern music.

Metal music is my primary focus, so this review will appeal more for people who likes Metal music like me and less so for people who likes modern music like Trap music, pop music, ed sheeran, Taylor Swift, etc.

I don't actually listen to all kinds of music, lets say for example Classical, therefore it is important to understand that this review is based on my observation on the kinds of musics I like, and those are mainly:
- Metal (many kinds, mainly the extreme kind, like 80% off the time)
- Rock (mostly Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Riverside(rock/metal), Radiohead or something like it)
- EDM (Mostly trance)
- Jazz (Norah Jones, Diana Krall and the likes)
- Folk (just start lately, but I've been listening to Fionn Regan and found it enjoyable)
- Indonesian Song (it's basically the Indonesian version of pop, guitar used is mostly acoustic guitar, sounds natural and relaxing however, mastering of the song is usually poor, this is good to test how good a headphone/Iem handle poorly recorded material)
- etc

Genre's that I don't listen to, not even one bit, unless forced like in shopping center.
- Rap
- Classical
- Bollywood stuff
- Modern pop

GEAR USED
- Meze 99 Classic
- Focal Utopia
- Shozy Stardust
- Fiio X7 II
- Violectric HPA v281

ARTIST/MUSIC USED IN THE REVIEW
- Porcupine Tree
- Be'lakor
- Opeth
- Shadow Gallery
- Cynic
- Lurker Of Chalice
- Amorphis
- Novembre

PACKAGING
Simple white box, containing the unit and 2 more white boxes inside containing USB cable and rubber bands for stacking, you will also find some documentation in there, simple and clean packaging.
A lot of accessories is packaged in the box, neatly and well organized.

box-up.jpg box-front.jpg

ACCESSORIES
- USB adapter (USB to USB-A)
- Blue USB cable for digital input
- 3.5mm to 1/4 inch adapter
- RCA to RCA cable (Ifi Micro to your amp, unbalance in)
- 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable (for stacking your DAC to the AMP section of the Micro)
- Optical/Toslink adapter
- USB-A Female to USB-B Female short adapter
- Black carrying pouch case
- 2 black rubber amp straps for "stacking"
- Extra rubber feet (4, white in color)
- Rubber insert mat for stacking (It will stay in between your device so that it doesn't rub each other and causes scratches)
- Documentations and warranty

acc.jpg

I/O
- 1/4 inch headphone out
- RCA unbalance out
- 3.5mm unbalance In
- USB digital In
- USB "smartpower" charging in
- SPDIF In/Out

ifi-micro-bl-back.jpg ifi-micro-bl-front.jpg

PLAYBACK ABILITIES / SOUND ENHANCEMENT
- MQA
- DSD playback
- XBass
- 3D +

BATTERY LIFE
About 8 hours depending on loads

BUILD QUALITY
Excellent! Metal Chassis, with great Black Matte finish, screwed together nice and tight.
Switches are great and tactile, volume pot with good resistance, USB and headphone Jacks have a secure feel to them when you connect your devices.

ifi-micro-bl-top.jpg ifi-micro-bl-right.jpg

SOUND QUALITY
SOUND SIGNATURE

It is quite neutral, with a little bit of boost and coloration in the bass department, so the bass has a lot of power and attack, however unlike the typical bass elevated signature, where the overall sound can have some lushness to it, this Micro is not like that at all, the amount of body is about straight in the middle of being thin and lush.

The mids is slightly recessed especially the vocal and upper mid and Treble are about right in line with each other with about the same amount of emphasis and straight down the middle in the body department, I feel that it has a slight rise in the upper mids but nothing too major, due to this personality, the Micro has the benefit of being clinical without sounding sterile, where the details pop but still musical.

BASS
The Bass is powerful but tight, the attack are strong, and this combine with very fast blast beat in metal music makes for an excellent combination. The distinction of each hits are apparent, you can almost feel the physicality of the play and it is very engaging. I really like the bass interpretation of the Micro, it has the speed, attack and tightness that enables you to hear notes as fast as this with very minimal effort.

The Bass is slightly boosted, I feel that it is a couple DB more than the mids and treble at any volume level, and this is without XBass, it is also slightly more forward to you, although not by much, so positioning is almost spot on for me.

Despite the slight boost, it has never intrudes the mids at all, I think the tuning of the bass is spot on, it combines very well with the mids and treble, and when all spectrum is playing together in the music, nothing takes over, you can everything that is going on and gives the music cohesiveness.

MIDS
The mids is very natural sounding with some slight clinical tilt to it, listening to violin work of Ne Oblivisacris is a very enjoyable experience, It almost feel a little thin sounding, but not really so, to put it simply, it is just about right to hear all the intricacies before sounding thin while staying smooth.

The mids is slightly more laid back as compared to the bass, but it is only slightly and does not sound recess at all, positioning is good, singer comes out about in the center stage, depending on the recording.

Vocals are natural and is slightly relaxed in presentation, a bit behind the guitar I would say, Amorphis use both clean and harsh vocals in their music, and on the clean vocals side, it sounds clean and smooth, and dare I say a little sweetness in it, slightly mellow and syrupy to portray the emotion.
When transitioning to the harsh vocals, it still remains smooth without harshness and the growl is powerful and guttural, portraying the rage and stronger more raw emotion in the music.

When two singers sing together, I can hear the distinction very clearly and they don't cover each other up which says a lot about the resolving ability the unit has.

When hearing string instruments, you can feel the string as it is being pluck by the player, there is a little "jolt" that can be heard and the sound transition naturally to the decay, the decay is quick but not abrupt, which means that the micro handles reverb very well.

Talking about the guitar, it has an excellent amount of bites, and combines well with the layered sounding distortion, that at times sounds big and grand enveloping the atmosphere.
The guitar tone is very natural both for electric and acoustic guitar, as a metal music fan, I'm a massive addict when it comes to electric guitar sound and I really enjoy the presentation that the Micro offers in this regard.

TREBLE
The treble is flat starting from the upper mid, which is a little behind the bass in emphasis, the rise start in the frequency where the guitar usually lives.

After passing this region, it goes flat, maybe very slightly more so it can get a little bit exciting.
This is quite similar as in the nano, but not as prominent and instead of dipping after the upper mid, the micro stays flat.

Guitar Solo shines when it needs to be, trebly guitar has some sweetness into it and sounds very melodic without sounding thin and sharp, a lot of Melodic death metal music can benefits from this.
Unlike the Nano, the treble is quite linear and is not tamed at the upper region, at least not as much to my ears. Cymbals and Hi-hats are heard clearly and is not in the background, it is not the sparkly type, so don't expect super sparkly treble here.

I think going for the approach that they did in the bass and mids, this is an excellent decision, as we want to keep the general sound clean and fatigue free, too much tizz and spark can reduce haziness to the sound.
If you are a treble addict, I feel that the 3D feature despite being marketed to increase soundstage actually did some trickery to the treble and makes the whole sound brighter, so you might want to try that.

SOUND STAGE / SEPARATION
Sound stage is about average for a unit at this price range, although this is a bit hard for me to test as all my headphone are not the best in sound stage, and I'm also not a big sound stage addict.

The amount of width, height and depth is very close, so this is the #D spherical type as opposed to the nano which I think is more oval in shape.

Regardless, Instrument separation is great, nothing overlap each other, they just do their own thing and play harmoniously.

EXTRA FEATURES:
We have a lot of these, just look at this switches everywhere:

ifi-micro-bl-bot.jpg ifi-micro-bl-left.jpg ifi-micro-bl-front.jpg

IEMatch (Off, High Sensitivity, Ultra sensitivity)
I didn't play around with this much, I did try the High sensitivity and the off one, I feel some differences in the blackness of the background just like I did in the nano, I leave this on almost all the time.

When going from High to ultra, after volume matching by ears, I feel that there is no difference whatsoever, if there is any it would be too small for me to catch with my current gears as I'm not an IEM user.

XBass + (Off, On)
Does it work? Yes!, Does it work Well? also yes.
I think it mostly does the work on the sub-bass as I feel the kick and rumble of the music much more when I have this on.

I think this feature works very well, although I would like one more level between on and off as I feel that the strong can be a bit on the strong side when left on all the time.
I'm not a bass addict and mostly content with the bass I get from the off set up.

However the implementation of this feature is excellent, I heard nothing weird going on in the bass while having this on, no distortion, no boominess and no softness to it.
The attack still remain strong just with more weight and loudness to it.

This feature is also really useful for playing games and movies, when you turn it on the sound of explosion, gunshot just becomes more powerful and more exhilarating.
I think the XBass is the most useful feature out of all the features the unit has.

3D + (Off, On)
Does it work? Yes!, Does it work well? depends.
This is where it can be a little experimental, I found that they approach this by doing something to the treble, which makes the presentation sound more lively and has a bigger scope of view.

For comparisons sake, we will using a clock as our 360 degree point of view:
When listening to Lighbulb sun from Porcupine tree, the guitar sounds like it's coming from the left around 10.30 in direction, with the 3D on, it sounds like it's coming from 9.30 in direction, plus the treble becomes more lively and brighter. I found that in the lightbulb sun record, it works quite well.

However when I play some Opeth or other metal songs, maybe due to the guitar distortion having a lot of distortion already, the brightness and extra liveliness makes the guitar sounds artificial, as it now sounds too distorted, it loses the cohesiveness and just doesn't sound good at all to me, at least for Metal.

I mostly have this feature off due to my music preference being mostly metal in this review, but I think if you listen to a lot of rock music, you might want to try this.

Extra notes on XBass & 3D (+ some analysis for use case):
Turning this on will skew the tonal balance as you may already know, but the amount changes depending on your listening level.

For example if you are allow level listener, I feel that the amount of boost that the XBass adds to the bass is most likely a fixed number, let's say + 6db.
This means that it will always add 6db regardless of your volume, for example:
You listen to music at 60db, + XBass + 6 db, so the bass boost is 10% in decibel
You listen to music at 80db, + XBass + 6 db, so the bass boost is 7.5% in decibel (you get less boost in percentage compared to 60db volume listening level)

Bottom line is, you get more bass boost at low volume level, and don't forget that decibel is a logarithmic measurement, 1db increase means 10 times louder in sound.
Similar thing could apply to the 3D Natrix, although I think that they work in a different way.

This is actually quite common in other portable amplifier as well, as they usually add a fixed amount to increase the intended frequency, usually the bass.

*notes:
If some has a better understanding on this than me, feel free to enlighten me in the comments, this is just my observation, I could be wrong.


Power Mode (Turbo, Normal, Eco)
This sets how much power the unit use on default, lets say if you use IEMs you may need to go with eco mode, as the ifi documentation say:
"Tip: With a new pair of IEMs/Headphones, ALWAYS start
with the volume no higher than 9 o' clock and with the
Power Mode set to ‘Eco’"
I mostly use the unit in normal power mode.

Polarity (-, +)
I had no idea about this one, I assume it might have something to do with the dynamic transition, I had it on all the time.

Filter (Standard, Minimum Phase, Bit Perfect)
I had it in bit perfect phase all the time, as most of my music is PCM, according to iFi:
"Tip: For PCM we recommend ‘Bit-Perfect’ for listening and
‘Standard’ for measurements. For DSD, select
Extreme/Extended/Standard to find the one that sounds
best for listening and ‘Standard Range’ for
measurements."

Pre-amplifier output
I didn't use this at all, so no comments here.

COMPARISONS
Fiio X7 II

The Fiio X7 II is a good little unit, it is a DAP that I'm currently using on the go now as I grew tired of stacking.
The X7 II I feel has a more neutral sound signature, the mids is a little more forward than the BL, where it is slightly recessed.

However after using both units, I'm confident to say that the Ifi Micro beats the X7 II in power and dynamic, the bass has a stronger attack and treble more defined.

Other than that I also feel that they have a different sound stage, I feel the Micro is more spherical compared to the X7 II, cohesiveness is really close, both are cohesive all the way through the frequencies, where the sound just envelop around you.

The question is, is the BL strong enough to make me give up the X7 II?
the answer is no, the X7 II just have way more functionality for an all in one device, no stacking around with cable, can act as transport, and the sound is really closely match.

Chord Mojo
I used to own one, and back in the day the chord mojo and the ifi Micro has a fierce rivalry!

I have sold my chord mojo probably last year, so I can't do a direct comparison on it, however the iFi micro BL has a different sound signature and feel from the mojo, the mojo was warmish and more lush, details are there but due to it's sound signature, the mojo can sound less detailed compared to the BL, I personally like the BL better, the mojo wins hands down with portability though, the BL is transportable but too bulky too use while on the move.

The BL to me just sounds cleaner and details pop a little bit better, soundstage is slightly bigger and sounds more cohesive.

iFi Nano BL
The nano is more geared and focused on music enjoyment that is fatigue free.

Due to this the the treble is more subdued compared to the Micro, where it can gat a bit exciting at times.
Both are smooth at the top, however one has more emphasis is brighter than the other, if you are very sensitive to treble, you may want to test the Micro before buying the unit.

For long hours use, it might be safer to get the nano if you are unsure about the Micro's treble.
Details, clarity, cohesiveness and bass tightness is superior on the Micro, the bass attack, mids naturalness has some upgrades too but not significant.

POWER OUTPUT / HEADPHONE PAIRING
This unit is extremely flexible, I have no doubt that it is powerful enough to power through everything from IEM to full sized, except maybe the HE-6, which I don't have so I can't test this for sure.

Meze 99 Classic
My on the go set up. I'm still using the small pads on my meze 99 classic as I think the bigger pads has more bass.
Good strong dynamic, with clear mids and controlled treble, bass attack is strong and punchy with good speed, it synergize well with the BL.

ifi-v281-meze99.jpg

Focal Utopia
My main gear at home, the BL powers it up perfectly, unlike the Nano BL where I can feel that my Utopia is not performing at its max, the Micro BL certainly brings out the potential of the headphone.
Cohesiveness and details are the strong point in this set up, you just hear everything in the music, from the guitar plucks, violin strokes, voice vibration, absolutely lots of information you can hear with this combo!

ifi-v281-utopia.jpg

Shozy Stardust
Clear sweet unoffensive sound with controlled treble and excellent bass for a small earbud, for a super lazy set up this works pretty well.
I mostly use this to watch movies, play games etc.

ifi-stardust.jpg

AS DAC
When used with my V281, along with my focal Utopia, The BL did an excellent job, the Violectric HPA V281 just takes cohesiveness, separation and attack to the next level, my utopia sounds very dynamic and smooth.
More natural sounding mid that sounds vivid and personal.
Treble sounds more refined, and controlled, very enjoyable to listen to.

Sound signature is very similar to using the BL asa standalone, this leads me to believe that the amp section of the BL is quite transparent.

ifi-v281.jpg

CONCLUSIONS
The Ifi Micro iDSD BL is an excellent unit, the main duty for this product for me is as transportable, you can leave the unit at your office at work and just use it everyday while doing some productivity work.

The sound quality for the price range is excellent, it has a lot of features which can be overkill sometimes, but you don't need to use it!

Battery life is good and accessories are pretty generous.
Pricing is good, considering all those extras above and it's performance, I found it well justified.
4.5 Stars
droido256
droido256
The size isnt that much of a problem, its smaller than I expected and its light, much lighter than it looks. I do agree all the switches and options can be a bit overwhelming at first.

Comments

There are no comments to display.
Top