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  1. Takeanidea
    iFi iDSDBL a dacamp for Christmas with all the trimmings
    Written by Takeanidea
    Published Dec 22, 2016
    Pros - Accessories, finish, power, hardware settings
    Cons - Volume unbalanced at low settings
    iDSD BL

    Christmas Dacamp with all the trimmings


    I have been lucky enough to be part of a very special tour.  iFi has given me the chance to look at their heavily updated iDSD. They have called it the Black Label Edition. I’m part of a review tour. As reviewers on headfi, we are bound by only 2 things really; we must post a review and we must keep the unit for the length of time specified by the company. iFi gave me 7 days to find out as much as I can about this dacamp. This is the result. Hope you like it. If you don’t I’m sorry. I did my best in the time I had here. I try my hardest to put myself in the shoes of a prospective buyer and I know iFi any other company only want to know what I think about their products. Not what they think. I don’t get paid for this and I’ve done quite a few reviews this year, both on here and on earphonia.com. This doesn’t make my opinion more valid than anyone else’s. It simply shows I’m in this for the long run. 
    My association with the iDSD is rather short. I used this when I met up with my good friend @glassmonkey on a weekend’s mini meet back last year. I threw a number of headphones at the old model ; the Sennheiser HD800, HiFiMan HE6, Mr Speakers Alpha Dogs were amongst some of my less sensitive headphones. All were powered admirably by the iDSD.  Fast forward to December 2016 and we now have an elegant black number to spend a week with. Micah(aka @glassmonkey) passed it to me last week (it’s a small world isn’t it?) and I have set it off on it’s way with a tearful wave. This is the iDSD but not as we know it. Many things have been changed from the standard model. iFi have moved on since then. Micah has written plenty on the components that have been changed. Suffice it to say, iFi has done more than just a spray job on it. More customisable power but less extreme 3D and bass switching are the order of the day. 


    So what is the BL model and what can the iDSD do? And are these the features you are craving from your source? Or this is overkill for you? When one reads through various threads the impression I get is that there can never be enough spec. Each person has found some aspect of the hifi world that appeals to them, be it DSD or balanced, mp3 or flac. The industry is changing all the time , not necessarily for the better. Many of the changes are to keep up with the changing digital formats available. 200 Gb memory cards are being filled to the rafters with music. These can even fit in some phones, so manufacturers are being forced to get OTG as standard on their units.
    The iDSD is a Dacamp. It can be fed music from a laptop with it’s high quality USB cable. It can also be fed an optical in signal and output a digital signal through optical. OTG is supported, so phones can output to the Black Label. I was able to use Android Marshmallow natively through Deezer and YouTube aswell as the usual USB Audio Player,  Onkyo Player and Hiby Music Player. All the weird and wonderful formats I had on my Macbook were easily taken care of by the iFi.  The iDSD also accepts analogue signals. The 3.5mm jack by the 6.3mm input, is not as I initially thought for IEMs. To my embarrassment I was informed it was for audio sources without digital out connections to be used on the iDSD. In this way the iDSD will act as an amplifier. The iDSD also can be used as a preamp or direct line out, to form part of a full sized HiFi. The F6 power amplifier I have did not cope with the amount of juice the BL was trying to put into it, so I used the preamp which worked suitable well. The Direct Mode will only be using the DAC part of the iDSD. The preamp uses both. There is a smart charge facility on the side of the unit. This allows for your phone perhaps to get some emergency power once it’s been OTG’d to death. I’m presuming many of you  know this already; even larger newer phones don’t last more than a couple of hours playing OTG out to an external device. The iDSD will easily outlast your phone so should be able to keep it going until you can get to a proper power source. Of course you won’t be using the iDSD as a source by this time and the phone will be all but redundant while it’s trying to achieve more charge. 
    Within the analogue and digital in realm we have been given a wide range of choices. There are 3 sensitivity switches on the underside of the unit for IEMs. A minijack converter is provided to plug in your earphones to the output. I found the highest sensitivity setting on all the IEMs I tried to be too quiet even with the volume switched to max. The lowest setting was really loud. Wow! There is enormous scope for getting the right balance of loudness setting within those 3 settings. The settings on the side are for full sized. The highest setting was too quiet even for my 32 Ohm AT W1000Z closed cans. The middle setting was perfectly ok for these. The HE6 needed the lowest one but not to the maximum volume.  With the headphones all dialled in for volume, you must then concentrate on the Digital Filter. This is a 3 way switch for Bit Perfect Minimum Phase and Standard. Standard is the most tweaked filter and is designed towards a DSD file. I settled on the standard filter as I felt it added some good punch to the music without making it harsh. All is not over yet. You must decide whether you want more bass in your life. There is just such a switch for this. Maybe your vinyl rips need a touch of extra or your orchestra is not sounding full enough? The bass has an on off setting. The 3D switch will widen the image of your soundstage considerably. Such features are available through various software. For those who will wish to change between filters on various tracks, this as a hardware feature, could be extremely useful.


    With the iDSD comes many bits and bobs.  
    The packaging is beautiful. The unpacking of the unit was a sensual pleasure. There are things which impressed. A variety of non standard looking cables and stars and bags fell gently out of 2 shiny white boxes neatly tucked into their respective columns hidden under the belly of the iDSD itself.  
    Top left - an analogue cable 3.5mm. Coming downwards a USB converter for OTG. The purple cable is twin RCAs for line out to a full size amp. 2 thick rubber straps to tie your phone or DAP up to the BL. The white shiny card above is a spacer to keep the iDSD from being scratched or rubbed by the thing it’s attached to. The blue USB cable is a thick high quality one. An optical adapter, detailed manual and USB adapter complete things. Other than one really nice extra. 
    A black velvet carry pouch. Very nice indeed. 
    A sizeable number of accessories. For OTG the cables provided here won’t do the trick. There would be far too much cabling once even a tiny micro usb is daisychained on. Chord supplied one tiny usb cable for the Mojo in comparison. RHA also make sure they have lots and lots of goodies in their DL1 Dacamp box. I used the Mojo OTG cable from their accessory pack with the iFi which created a great little stack for out and about. I would have liked to have seen a dedicated optical cable with the bundle. Adapters are very easy to lose. 
    There has been some discussion about the volume control on the iDSD. The original volume control was slated by a vociferous minority for being unbalanced at low volume settings. The volume has not been changed on the BL version.
    It still has issues with unbalanced sound at low volume. It’s therefore extremely important to get the switching sensitivity correct to alleviate this problem. This problem does not exist on either the RHA DL1 IMG_20161129_113738013_HDR.jpg
    or the Mojo. 

    Sound Quality

    I have a semi professional analogue to digital converter, the ART Phono Preamp Plus. It’s ability to rip vinyl without electronic interference in the background recording is the reason I bought it. I soon discovered it had many other benefits. I can hook up any line out source, in this case , the iDSD, and record the output straight into the ART and then onto the MacBook digitally. It’s merely a case of picking a track , plugging the device into the back of the ART and pressing record on Audacity.  Only the source is changed. switching is instant. 
    Once a volume match is attained, my Chord Mojo can then be compared side by side, over and over again, using the same track, same input, same volume. This testing was done by me on day one. They are freely available for anyone who wishes to listen for themselves. There is no load going into the 2 devices. The analogue stage and the quality of the preamp mean that the sound quality is not as good as you would get from plugging your headphones straight into either device. It will give you a flavour of any differences between the Chord Mojo and the iDSD Black Label. In my opinion the differences are there. Please PM me if you wish to be sent a link to them. They are of a DSD recording so should be pretty good quality. I invite you therefore to listen for yourself as to what you might think of the sound quality of the iDSD BL. If you wish to do that I would encourage you not to read any further. STOP NOW!  
    PM me and I will send you the link. Make your own conclusion, listen as much as you can stand, then come back here and see if you agree with me. I really hope some of you do. I am not the authority here, nor are my ears. We all must decide for ourselves using the information out there whether any audio product will suit our needs and improve on what we have. Only the individual can decide that, ideally with an audition. This is the closest I can give anyone to that experience. You are welcome!
    Now it is time for the spoiler, my own opinion of the iDSD sound quality , specifically against 2 devices.  Device one, from memory. The iDSD v the RHA DL1 dacamp. IMG_20161129_113658868_HDR.jpg
    The iDSD is a clear winner against the DL1. I found the RHA to be too shrill in the upper regions and too bloated in the lower regions. This with one notable exception; the CL1 Ceramic IEM in balanced mode  was superb through it. The iDSD v the Mojo; that you can hear for yourself. You can take my opinion with a pinch of salt. For what it’s worth, I did like the iDSD a great deal. The standard filter and mid setting on with the bass and 3D switch off sounded powerful and punchy. It sounded a little thin and slightly recessed in the mid section and less strained in the treble regions than the Mojo. mojorha4.jpg
    The bass and subbass lacked some of the impact of the Mojo. Although the Mojo was probably slightly more rolled back in the higher FR the iDSD seemed like it was being pushed slightly harder. I have had the Chord Mojo since October 2015. 
    Clearly it will take quite some beating. I haven’t yet found a portable device that I preferred the sound to. These differences in SQ are not huge differences. I am subtly trying to defend my views on the differences between the 2 if you are unable to hear them. I am merely stating that buying a different pair of headphones would give you a much more obvious set of differences than changing between the iDSD or Mojo. 


    The iDSD BL offers an awful lot of options for the money. It costs more money for the Chord Mojo. The Mojo is a simple device with few options. It can output 2 headphones simultaneously whereas the BL  only has the one. It has arguably better sound quality than the iDSD but the differences are small. It fits a standard 5” smartphone or DAP considerably better than the Mojo without it’s adapter, although for the same money the Mojo has an accessory pack which sorts this problem out.  All choices in the audio world are complicated. If I had my opinion as to which device I would spend my money on, then I would choose sound quality before all else. 
    In this regard I would put the iDSD a close second to the Chord Mojo. But, my dear reader, have a listen to the track which I have painstakingly prepared for you. Click here You may have an entirely different take on the matter
      Cagin, golov17, Whitigir and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Takeanidea
      @gunwale  the differences to me are quite clear but I have cheated a little by listening many many times with everything from $20 IEMs to AKG K1000s. If you aren't noticing the differences then I don't think you need to spend so much money on stuff like this. The money might be better invested in different headphones as they are much easier to pick up the differences on. It's a blessing for you that you are not hearing the differences, or perhaps, imagining the differences.....
      Takeanidea, Dec 30, 2016
    3. Takeanidea
      The files are Ed Sheeran Parting Glass live at Wembley 90 second excerpt and Simple Minds She's a River 90 second excerpt - I have linked them in the review now
      Takeanidea, Dec 30, 2016
    4. gunwale
      now i am thinking of getting the grace m9xx since it was made available again a few days ago.
      is there anyone who have tried both idsd bl and m9xx?
      gunwale, Jan 4, 2017
  2. scootermafia
    Honey, I shrunk the home reference system.
    Written by scootermafia
    Published Dec 23, 2016
    Pros - Abundant power, stellar DSD performance, wide-ranging features to customize the sound
    Cons - Stretch-limo dimensions (narrow and long), 6.3mm output only, unusual USB input
    First off, I want to thank Tim @ Kitsune Hifi who sold me on iFi gear and gave me good advice on improving the digital end of my system (between the transport and the DAC), which was sorely lacking.  However, the iDSD BL could probably stand in for my home system, and at times makes me forget I even have a giant, overcomplicated rig.  
    Pre-disclaimer: I never write reviews and this will be a quick early one - some first impressions and my gut instincts on it - don't expect anything hyper-analytical, just some macro level stuff.  
    First impressions:
    This thing is long and narrow, while it's not for pocket use, it's not going to take up much room on the desktop, just place it judiciously.  It still takes up less area than a Chord Hugo, while clocking in at 1/5 the price.  It is made of hefty aluminum and the switches and knobs feel solid.  It has some heft to it, and the internal photos show a menacingly dense set of boards and exotic parts.  iFi does their own totally custom opamps, the digital clocking comes courtesy of their AMR ultra high end brand, and there are some badass caps and resistors in there for sure.  It's based off the new TI DSD DAC chips, of which it has two.  While you're going to have to make some adjustments to your hookups if you have all balanced stuff, it's well worth it.  
    The bass boost and crossfeed 3D toggles are subtle and don't seem to detract from the experience.  Not annoying me is a good sign, I left them on at most times, especially with the Utopia which can always use a little help to max out its bass capabilities.  The three different filters toggled on the side will take some experimentation and vary in their function for different filetypes so you can have hours of entertainment working out how they stack up.  With three different gain settings, I found that the Utopias do not need the high gain level - the Black Label seems not to flinch at really any of my mountain of headphones, even the hard to handle LCD4.  There are further IEM modes that can be activated to really dial things back and impedance match so it was able to play nice with my various CIEM.
    The iDSD has a male, recessed USB-A in the back panel; the included USB 3.0 cable has a cable mount female on it that slots into the recess.  I'm not going to think too hard about what iFi was going for here, nor am I going to agonize over the best way to hook everything up; copious adapters are included to make sure all avenues are covered.  I just plugged it into my Holo Audio Titanis USB Turbo to further clean up the Macbook's USB output, plugged in my Utopia, and that was what I spent the most time with.  I was really floored flipping through my DSD library (which has been dormant due to my use of the Yggdrasil, but is about to change with the impending arrival of the Holo Spring KTE Edition DAC, which will go head to head in my audio lab rig) as I think even on my home setup I've been missing out on some really insane little details using the Utopia - and this setup is by no means burned in or hooked up to an external amp.  I'm basing this all on about 4 hours listening tonight and on-off listening in the past week.  Loads of power and dynamics, ultra tight bass, and minimal fatigue.  I'm honestly laughing in horror at what i've spent on a gaggle of other portable dac/amps and DAPs.  They're all going to be spending a lot of time on the shelf.  If thieves showed up for the rest of my rig, I wouldn't even be that put out, so long as I had the Utopia or the Z1Rs and the iDSDBL.  The big thing is the dead silent background due to how well implemented the digital end of things is; pair that with the well-above-average power output and the relative efficiency of the Utopias, and they feel like they are being pushed hard even on medium gain.  This little dac/amp gets out of the way and lets the Utopia do their thing, while playing nice with literally every file format, even ones for which there are no files yet (DSD512 lol).  DSD256 classical is just fearsome, I don't even know what to say there, except it's a new level of delicate, nuanced clarity.  The free Mozart violin concerto on 2l.no should be a must have in everyone's test rig, with amazing transitions between the most quiet tiny bits towards the periphery of the soundstage exploding into the full orchestra, and each instrument placed laser-like in the headstage.  At this point in my audiophile career I have a ridiculously short attention span, so the fact that this new toy is not in a drawer somewhere yet is a testament to its value to me.  It's a keeper and at $550 should be on everybody's desk.

    Give it a try - in the very least you can feed your favorite amp with it, use it as a preamp, and everything in between.  iFi does not mess around and this is a disruptive product that has a no-holds-barred assault of technology and synergy to let it perform as it's doing right now.  Once I use it for months I might find something to whine about, but for now, it's a no brainer.  The real reason I'm using it is that it doesn't fatigue me with the Utopia, which is no mean feat.  With the wrong amp and dac, they have ludicrous clarity but will drive you nuts with that little bit of extra edge and attack and shrillness.  The only solution is a really good source and source material, and with some good DSD & hires files and the iDSD Black Label, you're all set.  

    Disclaimer: I paid retail price for any gear I've bought from Kitsune.  It's worth it to get an extra helping hand on what stuff to try next.  If I really wanted to, I could try to fish around for show samples direct from manufacturers to save a few bucks, not the case here.  
      gikigill and Cotnijoe like this.
  3. stevenyu2000
    Good DAC with Multi-Connect and output
    Written by stevenyu2000
    Published Dec 30, 2016
    Pros - Flexible with lots input and output. Musical and Powerful AMP.
    Cons - Not Support DSD with Coxial input
    IFI Micro iDSD Black Label
    IFI released their new upgrade model of Mirco series , the iDSD Black Label , we called it BL .
    According to the IFI wed page ......
    In short, 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
    In short, 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
    You can expected the improvement in power supply to provide a clean and good support to the DAC circuit.
    A Black outlook let it looks cool and much high class than the original silver color.
    Thank you IFI for let me be one the BL tour in Hong Kong. My BL was totally new in box . I opened it from the box and hear its sound from zero run in .
    Talk back my setup with the BL.
    My setup was a transportable headfi setup. A DX50mod with coxial out to BL . A Venture 4 core Coxial cable was connected between DX50 and BL.
    The BL as DAC with direct mod , RCA out to my DIY AMP , A 8 core pure silver RCA cable was connected between BL and AMP.
    The IEM I used was IE800 with Earmod , 8 core pure silver cable used.
    BL provided lots of solution for me such as PC with USB connect to BL , DX50 coxial out to BL and use BL own phoneout for my IE800 , and my transportable setup , DX50 > BL > AMP > IE800.
    BL support DSD with its USB but cannot support DSD with coxial input. I have try some players with coxial out but BL cannot playback the DSD with coxial in.
    BL has powerful AMP inside, even IE800 can drive well and muscial . the bass+ and 3D+ effectted with more bass and better sound stage.
    I used BL as DAC for my AMP. It was a musical DAC , Warm sound with good punch. Its same style with the old IDSD. Since my BL was new in box , the sound with tight, the dynmic range, Treble extend and Bass punch was not as good as the old one.
    The old IDSD was demo at shop , maybe the run-in time not enough let BL as good as the old one. The good news run-in was improve. The BL at last when I return , it was better than before but still not as good as the old one. But I believe the BL will better than the old model as new BL change lots of capacity as they need run in as well.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. jsplice
      Even with the somewhat-inefficient Beyer T1.2s, the amp in the iDSD is overkill.  I still run the iDSD on eco mode with the T1.2s.  I'd say unless you're looking for a portable unit that can power the HE-6, you'll never use all the power that the iDSD can output.  Headphones now are becoming more and more efficient every day.  The ability to do DSD is nice though, and something I definitely miss with the Dragonfly.
      jsplice, Jan 1, 2017
    3. glassmonkey
      @jsplice You must have more sensitive ears than me, or have a much lower preferred listening level. I listen at about 78dB and the iDSD BL needs to be in Normal mode to drive my HD600 adequately. The Beyerdynamic T1s are more demanding than the HD600, so I have to wonder if you are actually driving them fully. I'd turn the BL to at least Normal (I wasn't a fan of Turbo as noise shot up)--but if your listening level is really low you might get channel imbalance--and see what the headphones sound like.
      glassmonkey, Jan 1, 2017
    4. jsplice
      @glassmonkey I haven't measured the db level after I've set my listening level, so I can't say where I'm at there.  I've also never used the iDSD with the HD600 so can't make that comparison.  Yea, I've got the channel imbalance thing before when having the volume set low in normal mode.  That's the main reason I've kept it in eco.  Also, the Elear are so efficient that there's no way in hell I can use normal mode with them.  Even on eco mode with the Elear, I can't really get the volume past 10 o clock.  I will probably end up keeping my Dragonfly Red instead of the iDSD if I stick with my Elear and get rid of the T1.2.  If you have super efficient headphones, the amp in the iDSD is just overkill IMO.
      jsplice, Jan 1, 2017
  4. dsnyder
    Incremental Improvements...or the start of a new line?
    Written by dsnyder
    Published Dec 31, 2016
    Pros - Lots of inputs and outputs, great features, delightful sound quality
    Cons - Ridiculous USB type-A input, excessive size/weight for portable use, too many switches in too many places, loud POP! on power-up/power-off
    First, I'd like to thank Lawrence and the folks at iFi Audio for lending me a micro iDSD Black Label DAC for a week so that I could experience it firsthand. If you're reading this review, I'm assuming you fall into one of three categories:
    1. you have an iFi DAC and you're wondering if the micro iDSD Black Label is a worthwhile upgrade
    2. you're in the market for a transportable DAC and are curious about iFi's new flagship product
    3. you've followed a link to this page but otherwise, have no idea what this thing is about
    iFi Audio is a brand that requires little introduction here on Head-Fi, but in case you missed the massive crowd design topics in this forum that are associated with the micro iDSD, I'll provide a brief introduction. iFi Audio is a subsidiary of AMR (Abbingdon Music Research), which is one of the UK's largest manufacturers of high-end audio systems. AMR is famous for their Series 77 and Series 777 products, including the highly regarded DP-777 reference class DAC with NOS tubes. For the performance it provides, this 25.4 lb monster is a great value even at its lofty $5K USD price. The problem? Well, apart from cost, it's not very portable!
    In the US, the assembly of gear that renders sound into a room is commonly referred to as a "stereo", even if many more than two channels are enabled. The term, "high-fidelity" is an adjective that describes the quality of a stereo. In the UK, the reverse is true; the term "hi-fi" is a noun, not an adjective, and "stereo" indicates the number of channels supported by the hi-fi. You go to your UK friend's house to listen to their "hi-fi", not their "stereo."
    The name "iFi", then, is a personalized version of "hi-fi". Like that certain American company that is keen to put the letter "i" in front of lots of nicely packaged products, "iDAC", "iDSD" and similar names indicate that these are personal entertainment products with trickle-down technology from AMR. Think of iFi Audio as the "personal hi-fi" (or "i-fi") arm of AMR.
    Ignoring their Pro and Retro lines for a moment, iFi Audio's components come in two sizes: "nano" and "micro". These sizes share the same six-sided cross-sectional dimensions of roughly 2 1/2" wide by 1" tall, differing only in length--3 3/8" for the nanos vs. 6 1/8" for the micros. While too thick to fit unobtrusively into a pocket, these are seriously small components compared to what you'll typically find in a desktop or rack audio system.

    I think of iFi Audio as a one-stop shop for computer audio. In addition to five native DSD-capable USB DACs plus a USB to S/PDIF interface, their product line has the greatest depth and breadth in USB power and signal clean-up devices on the planet...by a huge margin. Their emphasis on purifying the power that is fed to the DAC is particularly telling--it indicates that iFi Audio has a deep understanding of how and why clean power is important to computer audio, and that understanding drives their product design and product enhancements. The most recent product to benefit from this understanding is the new micro iDSD BL.

    Those familiar with the original micro iDSD DAC/amp will find nothing new in terms of function and features with the Black Label model. All of the switches, toggles, inputs and outputs have been duplicated in the new product. The micro iDSD DACs come nicely packaged with a black velvet pull string bag, USB type B to A adapters, USB extension cables, RCA cables, a short 1/8" TRS patch cable, a TOSLINK S/PDIF optical coupler, a gold 1/4" to 1/8" TRS adapter, and elastic bands to strap the DAC to a smartphone or portable player. My original micro iDSD kit also included a set of stick-on rubber feet and a pair of thick plastic spacers to keep the DAC and whatever it is strapped to from scratching each other. I have found the rubber feet to be handy on my micro iDSD to keep it from marring the table or sliding around, but the rubber feet and the black velvet bag are somewhat mutually exclusive, so I can see why iFi dropped them from the BL's packaging. They are easy enough to find at your local hardware store if you want them.
    You might never know it by just glancing at the iDSD BL, but it sports three digital inputs (USB, TOSLINK and COAX S/PDIF), one analog input (1/8" TRS), one digital output (COAX S/PDIF), and two analog outputs (1/4" TRS and RCA, fixed or variable), plus a USB charging port. That's a crazy amount of I/O for such a small device! Think of the iDSD BL as the personal audio equivalent of one of those big, fat pocket knives with a dozen or two different tools. I actually tested all of these inputs and outputs, and they all work as advertised. What's interesting is that the COAX S/PDIF output functions even with the DAC switched off. As expected, there's no signal on the COAX S/PDIF output with PCM material at sampling rates above 192kHz or with DSD. The only thing missing is conversion of the analog input signal to digital on the USB and COAX S/PDIF outputs. :)

    The combination of Power Mode and iEMatch® switches provide, in theory, nine different gain settings; however, iEMatch® is likely intended to be used with Power Mode set to "Eco", so effectively, there are five different gain settings. These are important because both versions of the micro iDSD have volume tracking issues at settings below 9 o'clock. Used together, these switches should enable just about any headphones to operate comfortably at close to the optimal 3 o'clock volume setting.
    The sound can be tailored using the X-Bass®, 3D Holographic Sound®, Filter, and Phase switches. I always felt that the effect of the 3D switch was a little too heavy-handed on the original micro iDSD; however, it seems to be more pleasing on the iDSD BL, making it usable even without the X-Bass switch enabled for most music. My understanding is that these switches have a different effect on the RCA line outputs when the preamplifier mode is engaged, providing enhanced stereo separation in the bass. I did not test this for reasons that I'll explain later. Like all of iFi's other DSD-capable DACs, the behavior of the filter switch depends on input format. Normal and minimum phase are digital oversampling filter settings with different cut-off frequencies, and bit-perfect is a non-oversampling setting with no digital filter. The same positions affect the cut-off frequency of the analog filter for DSD. The phase switch is a nice addition, however, although I'm somewhat sensitive to absolute phase in my loudspeaker + room system, I've never been able to identify a difference by inverting phase while listening with headphones.
    The light on top of the DAC changes color to indicate the source format. I wish that the micro iDSD models used a color scheme that's more similar to the nano iDSD and micro iDAC2. On the latter, green indicates a CD/DAT sampling frequency while any other color indicates high-rez. This is a useful distinction that's lost with the micro iDSD models which illuminate green for anything at or below 96kHz.
    A more significant point against the micro iDSD models relative to their less advanced siblings is the loud POP! that is emitted from both the headphone and RCA outputs when the device is switched on and sometimes when it's switched off and goes in/out of standby mode. I was disappointed when I discovered this issue with the original micro iDSD and even more disappointed to find that it has not been corrected in the iDSD BL. Not only is this POP! somewhat painful if you switch on the DAC while wearing efficient headphones, it precludes the DAC from directly driving power amplifiers and powered monitors. It can be a problem even if great care is taken to ensure that the external amplifiers are always off or muted during DAC power transitions because going into or waking up from standby can also cause an output surge. While not expensive, at the ~$500 USD price-point, I expect an audio product to be more well-behaved. This is why I did not test the preamplifier feature on the iDSD DACs.
    My final gripe with the crowd designed micro iDSD concerns the USB type-A input. Oh my gosh is this irritating! The idea is that the DAC will be directly connected to a smartphone or tablet by way of an OTG or camera connection kit cable, making the combination a tidy digital transport+DAC+amp combo for music on-the-go. Even though the type-A input eliminates the need for a short USB cable, this is an awkward and un-pocketable contraption. What's worse, we now have a ~$500 DAC that is incompatible with standard audiophile USB cables like iFi's own Mercury and Gemini, even though the DAC is sufficiently resolving to benefit from using them. We're left using a low-quality adapter or springing for the type-A iPurifier2 (which I did not have on hand for this review) to connect the micro iDSDs to a PC, which for a DAC this size and weight is likely the more common use case. Frustrating! A type-A input would almost make sense on the smaller nano iDSD models, but, in my opinion, it has no place on the micro iDSD. Okay...end of rant!
    Moving on from form, features, functionality, and my personal gripes to what you're probably more interested in...how the iDSD BL sounds. In a word, "lively". The BL departs slightly from the signature iFi Audio "house sound", which I would describe as erring on the warm side of neutral. Compared to previous iFi DACs, mid-bass on the BL has a little more punch, and vocals soar with a more open, forward midrange. Highs are, in particular, more extended, airy and pure than the iDAC2.

    This new DAC is fast. I mean, crazy fast sounding--if that's even an audio descriptor. Listening to acoustic guitar, you get the sense that the DAC is tracking each string and the associated harmonics with tremendous speed and accuracy. No details are lost. Attacks emerge from the soundstage like a flash of lightening, and decays extend like rolling thunder into a deep black background. The more forward balance of the BL brings alluring presence to vocals but also to strings, snare drums, and brass instruments. The sound is energetic, punchy, and engaging both in the big rig and with headphones.
    Switching back to the original micro iDSD, I noted that the presentation is more laid-back and euphoric while still maintaining excellent detail. Soundstage width, depth, and height seem to be slightly greater with the original iDSD while the BL's soundstage is tighter and has a tiny bit more focus. The iDAC2 fits somewhere in the middle with a big, enveloping soundstage and lovely midrange bloom. It falls short relative to the BL only in its treble presentation, which by direct comparison, sounds slightly colored and rolled-off (both DACs using the minimum phase filter setting) vs. BL's pure, airy highs. This difference is most noticeable in acoustic jazz cymbals and hi-hat.

    Others have covered in detail what iFi has changed internally to bring about these sonic improvements, so I won't repeat them here except to say that the new Panasonic OS-CON capacitors should receive much of the credit. They are probably also responsible for the longer than normal burn-in time associated with the micro iDSD BL--this thing should finally settle in sonically after about 400-500 hours of playback.
    All three of these "micro" sized DSD capable DACs from iFi Audio sound terrific, especially considering their relatively low $350 - $550 USD price range. While there's not a huge difference in sound among them, each clearly has its own personality. If you delight in excavating every last micro detail from your music and listening sessions, the new BL is going to be your favorite by a mile. You might prefer the original iDSD if you prefer to just kick back and veg to soothing music with an enveloping soundstage while occasionally digging on details buried in the mix. If you don't require the portable features, the iDAC2 is incredibly resolving and punchy without being fatiguing.
    Your choice among these three may come down to system synergy as well. Listening to the BL with Grado RS2e headphones was an intense experience that could easily become overstimulating and even fatiguing depending on music choice and listening duration. However, the more laid-back Sennheiser HD600s were a delightful match to the BL's liveliness. In the big rig, if your system's balance tends towards forward or analytical, you may find the BL's intensity to be exhausting (perhaps addressable by inserting iFi's micro iTube between the DAC and your amplifier). However, the BL will add a little extra snap to systems with a more relaxed presentation. My big rig system employs room treatments and digital room correction, so the presentation is among the most neutral I have ever heard. As such, I never found the lively, energetic nature of the BL to be fatiguing, and I missed the beautiful, extended treble when I switched back to my beloved iDAC2.
    If you own the original micro iDSD, is there enough difference to justify the upgrade? It really depends on your listening priorities and associated equipment. If you have a dedicated audio PC with high-quality media player (JRiver, AMARRA, Audirvana, etc.) and Sennheiser HD600 or better headphones, you'll definitely appreciate the improvements in presence, detail, and speed offered by the BL. If you're mostly driving the DAC with a smartphone and using IEMs, the differences may not be as apparent or easy to appreciate. The BL is a pretty big step up in sound quality and power from the nano iDSD models, but keep in mind that it's also much larger, heavier, and less portable.
    The Chord Mojo is now the same price as the micro iDSD BL, so you might be wondering how to choose between these two. I happened to have one on hand for this review, so I did some quick listening comparisons. The difference in sound is nearly as great as the difference in size! Considering form factor alone, the Mojo is the way to go if portable audio is a priority for you. It's small, dense, and ergonomic. It has a pair of headphone jacks for sharing music with a friend without a splitter. While I don't love the mini-USB input, at least it's possible to find both OTG and audiophile grade USB cables with mini-USB plugs, including some from Audioquest. The Mojo's sound is even more laid-back, "British", and warm than the original micro iDSD, so the contrast in presentation between the Mojo and the BL is quite stark. Carefully consider your choice of headphones and associated gear before choosing one over the other. Both are beautifully detailed in their own way, but the BL presents a blacker background with greater dynamic contrast and is my pick between the two for best value for money.

    While I do miss some of the benefits of the BL in my system, I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing if iFi will give the iDAC2 the Black Label treatment. If so, that could be a very exciting sounding DAC that will be a welcome addition to an already extremely impressive lineup.
    Associated equipment for this review includes:
    1. Legacy Audio FOCUS SE loudspeakers
    2. Wyred 4 Sound mAMP monoblock amplifiers
    3. Emotiva XSP-1 analog preamp
    4. Morrow Audio and Straight Wire interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords
    5. iFi Audio, XLO, and Wireworld USB cables
    6. iFi nano iUSB3.0, micro iUSB2.0, and iPurifier2 USB power and signal conditioners
    7. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, Sennheiser HD600, and Grado RS2e headphones
    8. JRiver Media Center v22 running on Windows 10 (with Fidelizer Pro) and Mac OS X
    1. View previous replies...
    2. dsnyder
      Fair question...I picked that up during a conversation with Mr. Zero Fidelity himself, Sean Fowler.
      dsnyder, Jan 1, 2017
    3. MLGrado
      I never noticed the pop on power up with my iDSD Micro Silver.  I did notice it with the Black Label.  It isn't that unusual.. I think it indicates lack of a muting relay that would add cost/complexity and is one more item in the signal chain that isn't absolutely necessary.  
      Via my Audeze LCD-X headphones, which, for Audeze, are high sensitivity with very easy to drive low impedance, the thunk was merely just an annoyance.  Not anywhere near loud enough for me to be worried about any possible damage to downstream components. 
      It may be more inconvenience, but if it truly worries you, keeping your headphones unplugged until after power on is a workable solution.  I will also note this only happens via the headphone output.  No such thunks on the RCA outputs (at least not in fixed mode)
      I agree about the increased presence and air.  It is especially welcomed (being done in a quite tasteful amount) in the upper mid lower treble.  Everything has just a bit more life and sparkle.  But I still would not go so far as to characterize the BL as bright.  Actually, as we move on up into the treble the sound is very smooth, sweet, and grain free.  No hint of listener fatigue. 
      Back in 2014 I had a discussion with Thorsten Loesch about the USB type A input.  My concern at the time was possible compromise in fidelity when using the Gemini cable.  The extra cable or adapter seemed to be a potential weak spot where any gains achieved via separation of the power and data feeds could be lost.  Thorsten didn't seem to think the difference would be significant, and I am guessing their lab measurements showed little actual difference.  But that is just a guess.  For me the biggest issue I have is the clunkyness of the heavy aluminum termination on the Gemini cable combined with the added length and weight of the iPurifier 2 and/or the required adapter.  All of those combined together plus gravity puts quite a downward strain on the connector.  
      MLGrado, Feb 13, 2017
    4. dsnyder

      I still contend that the loud POP effectively renders the preamplifier output function of these micro iDSD DACs useless for those who otherwise might consider connecting them directly to powered monitors or poweramps. Disappointing also since the much less costly iFi nano iDSD DACs do not seem to have this issue. Obviously, iFi knows how to build a device that does not emit a huge "POP" upon power-up or wake-up from sleep, but they didn't bother for their flagship micro iDSD models. Like the type A input, I'll continue to complain loudly until I feel that I've been heard.  :)
      As I said, how the BL sounds really depends on the system in which it operates. With the Grado RS2e headphones, it sounds bright (trust me), but it was delightful with the Sennheiser HD600's and totally fine in my Legacy Audio FOCUS SE based big rig.
      Your note about the conversation with Thorsten is helpful; however, the adapter is still appalling. I agree with you on the weight issue as well. Again, going with a type A (or micro USB) input almost makes sense with the ultra-portable nano iDSD products. I personally think it was a terrible choice on the larger, heavier micro iDSD models. This is the sort of thing that sometimes happens when something is designed by committee, sadly.
      dsnyder, Mar 16, 2017
  5. Aerosphere
    iFi Micro iDSD Black Label "The Silhuette of Greatness"
    Written by Aerosphere
    Published Jan 2, 2017
    Pros - Musicality, Precision, Price/Performance.
    Cons - TRANSportable.

    The review was originally posted on quantumears but I wanted to share it with Head-Fi as well.



    We have the iFi’s latest sorcery in our hands!
    We all know iFi. For those who don’t know, iFi is a renowned audio company. They specialize in all sorts of devices, DACs, Pre-amps, Amps, Signal Purifiers, Signal Enhancers etc… They have this crazy habit of supplying you with everything you’ll ever need while using their products.. On a side note, they are a customer-oriented company. A rare thing nowadays.

    Box Contents | Accessories

    iDSD comes with a well designed, elegant cardboard packaging. You can find everything about the Black Label on the box. Specs, features, technologies…
    Accessories are very rich. iFi thought of everything although we’d appreciate an micro usb OTG cable! Anyway, I must congratulate iFi for thinking and including the accessories like no company ever does. The only difference in the accessories between regular iDSD is the improved USB3.0 cable. It looks more durable now!
    Inside the box;
    1. 1x Blue male USB to female USB cable (1 meter) to connect iDSD to a PC.
    2. 1x Male 3.5mm to male 3.5mm (15 cm) interconnect cable to use iDSD as an amplifier.
    3. 1x Purple male RCA to RCA cable. (50 cm)
    4. 1x Female USB Type B to Female USB Type A converter “cable” to connect iDSD to a PC with a audiophile grade USB Type B cable.
    5. 1x Female USB Type B to Female USB Type A converter “dongle” to connect iDSD to a PC with a audiophile grade USB Type B cable.
    6. 1x iFi branded, velvety carrying pouch.
    7. 2x Silicone bands to attach iDSD to a phone.
    8. 1x Silicone piece that protects your phone when you attach your phone to iDSD.
    9. 1x Female 3.5mm to male 6.3mm connector.
    Design | Build
    The device itself is big but not so heavy. If you are carrying a phone that is bigger than 5.2”, pairing it with iDSD won’t be a problem because they are almost the same size but does not have the same thickness. Its thickness is four times bigger compared to my phone. (LG V20)
    Most of the people consider iFi products as transportable, not portable but when you include it in your daily rig and get used to it, it does not cause major problems to you while carrying. Black Label’s finish is truly mesmerizing. I am not a big fan of orange but I must say that black/orange combo worked for this device. It’s fully aluminum and does not have any loose part which makes it very durable. All sockets are gold plated. Its side and bottom switches feel like good quality rubber, Xbass and 3D switches are metal. Please look at my night shots, BL looks utterly amazing.


    iFi re-designed some parts of iDSD to create the Black Label. Changes are shown below:
    1. re-designed output stabilisation
    2. OV2627 op-amps upgraded analogue section
    3. Panasonic OSCON capacitors loaded power supply
    4. OV2028 op-amps loaded DAC power supply
    5. DAC voltage decoupling based on audio-grade ECPU film capacitors
    6. GMT® Femto precision clock system power supply upgraded
    7. 3D and XBass Switches re-designed




    Sound Signature | Sound Quality | Resolution

    Following changes above granted a certain warmth to iDSD BL.
    Increased note thickness resulted in bolder mid presentation. This alteration contributed to female vocal tonality to be more realistic. Plus, added emotion increased the perception of holographic staging. Surprisingly enough, added warmth did not influenced iDSD’s airy presentation dramatically. Same goes for the treble extension. It’s not in anyway crippled or hindered by the new changes of iDSD BL. In short, Black Label sounds more organic and musical compared to regular iDSD. I personally, always wanted my regular iDSD to sound fuller, more natural.. Well, I definitely got what I wanted!
    Resolution is pretty much the same, however 3D switch do improve the perceived detail and texture little bit, which contributes to resolution by a small margin.
    Black Label’s bass is little bit rounder, tighter. With XBass on, the difference is HUGE. I’ll talk more about it later!
    Side note, iDSD BL is a lot more forgiving than the Original iDSD.

    Hiss | Volume Knob

    If you remember our previous iDSD(Silver) review, we implied Android and Windows not being all the same about sound. While using iDSD(Silver), portable devices tend to have a darker background whereas iDSD BL sounds fantastic on everything. USB or Battery Power, Android or Windows.
    Regular iDSD was doing some channel imbalance between volumes 0-30%. It wasn’t a big problem because of the gain modes and iEMatch wouldn’t let you to listen below 50%. Actually it wasn’t a problem at all. It was just a fact. The exact fact remains same with iDSD Black Label. We hoped that they fixed this slight discomfort but I guess it’s related to analog attenuator they’re using. Anyways, the problem persists but like I said this is not a game changer or an unfortunate loss.

    Soundstage | Separation

    iDSD has a wide soundstage. Not very tall, but wide. iDSD BL’s separation is a little better than the regular iDSD but still it is the weakest point of iDSD compared to more expensive systems. (LPG, Hugo etc.) I’m not saying that the separation is bad, I’m just saying everything iDSD gives is beyond its price range, except its separation. Its separation has nothing special but it is surely good for the asking price.

    XBass+ & 3D+

    iFi really did fix the switches, the change is NOT subtle anymore.
    Let’s talk about the “XBass”. It will be the new favourite of bassheads. iFi really outdid themselves on this one because this switch boosts the low end A LOT. I don’t have the required equipment to measure it but I can say that it acts like a 8-9db bass boost. It’s much much better than the Original iDSD’s bass boost which was very subtle.
    Now, the 3D+ switch. Well to be honest I did quite a lot experiment on this switch and I am quite sure that it narrows the soundstage and increases perception of depth when used with IEMs. It is quite different with near-field monitors though. It organizes the stage resulting in more precise and holographic staging. I wouldn’t use it with all IEMs though.


    Driveability | ECO – NORMAL – TURBO | Usability

    iDSD is a beast in this subject and that’s probably why it has so many fans. It can literally drive anything. In ECO mode, sensitive monitors, in Normal Mode, standard headphones and in Turbo Mode it can drive most power hungry cans.
    1. Turbo mode 10.0V/4,000 mW @ 16 Ohm
    2. Normal mode 5.5V/1,900 mW @ 16 Ohm
    3. Eco mode 2.0V/250 mW @ 16 Ohm
    According our tests, it takes 12 hours to drain iDSD in ECO setting while Battery Mode is activated. On USB Power setting, the battery won’t drain itself whether it’s in ECO or Normal setting. I’ve also tested it in Turbo setting. It approximately takes 6-7 hours to drain its battery.


    Digital Filters | Analogue Filters | Polarity

    When it comes to digital filters iDSD has, such as Standard, Minimum Phase, Bit-Perfect, I wasn’t able to hear a noticable difference. If I heard it, I’m not even sure it’s not placebo. The way I understand it, when you’re listening DSD, digitals filters turn into analogue ones.
    When it comes to analog filters such as Standard Range, Extended and Extreme, I was able to hear clear differences and I liked what I heard. When you’re listening to DSD, these analogue filters get activated. Also iDSD has a polarity switch. Like the digital filters I wasn’t able to hear much difference.


    Built-in iPurifier

    iFi integrated an iPurifier technology onto the PCB of the BL. Right off the bat, I didn’t think that it’d benefit me all that much. Boy was I wrong.. I recently bought a pair of JBL LSR305 for mixing purposes. Using LSR305s with my gaming desktop rig + Dragonfly v1.5 caused crazy amount of buzzing, hissing and RF. God, all that interference… I couldn’t stand it. I’ve been searching for a cure and then iFi sent the iDSD to me. Of course I instantly remembered the integrated iPurifier, I gave it a shot and the LSRs were DEAD SILENT. Truly amazing. All that interference from my GTX 1070, power supply and unshielded motherboard was gone as soon as I plug the BL in. I love you iPurifier. I truly do.



    iEMatch is a passive attenuator that increases output impedance of the 6.3mm out a little. iFi doesn’t have a detailed explanation about how much it changes the output impedance but I assume Off <1 Ohm, High Sensitivity ~ 2 Ohm, Ultra Sensitivity ~ 3 Ohm.
    You may ask, “What output impedance affects?”. The general use of this that iFi thought was eliminating the hiss of very sensitive monitors. But it does much more. Output impedance changes the frequency response of an IEM or a headphone. There is a basic calculation for that. If the impedance of the headphone/IEM is at least 8-10 times bigger than the amplifier’s output impedance, it won’t change the sound. If it’s less than that, you may need to greet with a colored sound which may be nice or sometimes unpleasant. I really love the idea of having this switch on a device and it does its work very well.


    Male USB A | RCA Out (Direct/Pre-Amplifier) | SPDIF IN/OUT

    Having a male USB A 2.0 connector for the digital connection was a great idea. When you’re going to connect the device to a phone, all you need is an OTG cable and you’re good to go.
    iDSD also has a RCA output section. You have two different choices for that. Direct or Pre-Amplifier. Direct, as the name indicates, directly gives the DAC’s reference sound. Pre-Amplifier’s sound is more colored compared to Direct mode. It is warmer. Volume knob, XBass and 3D works with it. 3D that comes from RCA outs are different than 3Ds you’re using for headphones. They have a different circuit iFi says. 3D that comes from Pre-amplified RCAs are called “3D for Speakers”.
    Also Direct or Pre-Amplifier, RCA’s are working simultaneously with the headphone output.

    I’ve also had the pleasure of testing the SPDIF input, Toslink. I felt a little difference between USB input. Between digital audio transmission methods, the change is always subtle like this was for me. Toslink has slightly smoother but less detailed presentation than USB but in a very subtle way.

    Installation | Updating iDSD | Smart Power

    When it comes to DACs, installation time and progress matters very much. With a Mac OS, IOS, Android or Linux, iDSD is just a plug-and-play toy. There is no installation. If it is a portable device, to make it work in the Battery Power Mode, you switch iDSD on, then you make the USB connection, if it is a non-portable device, you plug iDSD in and switch it on. That’s it. Cannot be simpler.
    If it is Windows, there is a 2-3 minute driver installation progress. Download from iFi’s website, install and you’re good to go.
    Unlike most of the DAC or DAC/Amp brands on the market, people of iFi are busy with developing new stuff. There are many software versions of iDSD BL Micro. Currently, they are on version 5.2. They do care about your device and continue developing it with softwares. Version 5.2 has a playback delay problem. iFi pointed out that it was related to Sleep Mode. To solve this issue, they published 5.2B. 5.2B doesn’t switch to the sleep mode. They are calling it “the portable version” but I like to call it “the life-saver version”.
    iDSD has a Smart Power feature. If your phone battery is about to be drained you can use iDSD as a power bank. iDSD has 4800mah battery that can be used for that purpose which is more than enough for your phone or your tablet. It gives 5V / 1.5A which is quite standard. This feature is another plus if you ask me.

    Quick Comparisons

    vs. Lotoo Paw Gold ($2000)
    LPG has a better resolution, separation, deeper soundstage and it is easier to carry around. iDSD has a wider soundstage.
    Tonality-wise, LPG has a sharper imaging and a punchier sound because of its energetic upper mid region, iDSD is warmer because of its midbass and mid forward presentation.
    vs. Chord Mojo ($599)
    Mojo is warmer, it has a narrower stage and it is more intimate. iDSD BL has a more balanced sound compared to Mojo. Resulting in better detail revealment. They are both very musical. BL has superior resolution and soundstage. I’d personally go with BL. (Device size is real though, you may need to evaluate that matter in your mind first)
    vs. Audioquest Dragonfly Red ($200)
    Audioquest have a similar sound signature. It’s not as detailed as iDSD. iDSD have better PRaT and handles complicated passages more successfully. iDSD has more natural timbre.
    Red sounds kind of thin, especially with classical music. iDSD has more bass weight.
    vs. Audioquest Dragonfly Black v1.5 ($100)
    Dragonfly Black has a lot less treble extension.Technicality-wise iDSD has a better resolution, detail, separation and soundstage. When used without a Jitterbug, Dragonfly is more likely to hiss.


    iDSD BL is the definition of bang for the buck in every way. More or less expensive, there aren’t many options other than Mojo. Furthermore, iFi is a concerning company, they care about you, also they care about their product, iDSD’s resolution is very good and it can literally drive anything. It has tons of features and I think iDSD BL is the real deal.
    If you are looking for a DAC/AMP between 350-750$ this is your safest bet. Go get one! 
    Side note: MSRP is 549$ without tax U.S / 599 eur incl. vat E.U
    1. View previous replies...
    2. PxOR
      I am seriously considering one but i am afraid of the channel imbalance at the lower side of the pot because i do plan to use some sensitive IEMs with it too. so far i have seen people say it's not an issue at all to very apparent...which is really not helping :D. What would you say about that?
      PxOR, Mar 6, 2017
    3. khaja
      EXCELLENT review. You help me to buy best doc/amp while I was confuse which one should I buy. now I bought it and I am very happy to use it.....Thanks
      khaja, Apr 1, 2017
    4. slingshot80
      Very thorough review. Seems to offer the most at the price point. I will connect it to mono amps in my office to drive some small Monitor Audio speakers.  I will check out the headphone capabilities also. 
      slingshot80, Apr 19, 2017
  6. silvrr
    iFi Audio micro iDSD Black Label (The swiss army knife of the Head-fi world)
    Written by silvrr
    Published Jan 5, 2017
    Pros - Plays just about anything, great build quality, good sonic.
    Cons - Tries to be a all-in-one but should focus on doing one thing really well.


    When I decided to sell my Chord Mojo the iDSD was one of the units that got put on my list to research more.  If you have a box to check, the spec sheet of the iDSD BL probably does it.  Super High PCM sample rates, check, DSD, check, absurd wattage output, check, optical, USB, coax and analog inputs, check.  On top of that iFi follows some great design and build practices, high quality material and parts are standard on every iFi product I've seen to date.  
    With my past AMP/DAC being truly portable with the Mojo and my current AMP/DAC Schiit Jotunheim) being more a standard desktop solution I found the iDSD BL to fall somewhere in between.  With a price for the BL at $549.00 and the Mojo ($529.00) coming in slightly lower and the Jotunheim ($499.00) coming in even lower than that the iDSD BL has some stiff competition to compete against in the eyes of this reviewer. 

    I received the BL as part of a Head-Fi loaner tour.  It went on to the next person when I was finished with my review.   I have no connection to ifi other than this loaner tour.


    Packaging & Accessories:
    The BL comes in a nice box with a sleeve on the outside that has the graphics.  The inner box is like a iPhone box and there are two smaller boxes below the iDSD to hold the accessories.  There are a ton of accessories.  USB 3.0, RCA, Optical mini adapter, 6.35 to 3.5mm TRS adapter, a bag, non skid silicone mat, two silicone bands and two adapters to go type A to type B usb.  If you plan on using USB your going to need a lot of these cables and adapters as the USB input is a Type A male connector, not the typical USB type B (printer cable) you see on a lot of DACs.
    One of the things I see repeated about the BLs specs is its 4 watt power output.  Yes, it can do 4 watts, however that output is only into a 16 ohm load and it's likely only for a fraction of  a second.  Notice that the continuous power output figures are much lower and not at 16 ohm.  Furthermore if you look at the continuous power output (which is a more real measurement of what the amp can do) they rate it at 64 ohms and its 1560 mW.   Or wait, is it 1000 mW into 64 ohm continuous output, they are both listed on the page I linked.  
    I'm not saying the BL isn’t capable of powering most of the headphones out there, however, I think iFi should concentrate on providing solid ( and not conflicting ) values for output instead of some values for marketing to throw around.  Additionally, those power values are given using turbo mode, yet for some reason the dynamic range measurement is done in ECO mode.  Something tells me figures aren’t so pretty when measured in Turbo mode.  


    USB (Rear)
    SPDIF Coax (Rear)
    SPDIF Optical (Rear)
    *Note that the SPDIF ports are combined and limited to 192Khz PCM
    3.5 mm TRS (Front)
    RCA (Rear) Fixed or variable output
    6.35 mm TRS (Front)
    USB Power (provides 5V 1.5 Amp when BL is off)
    I find the BL design to be a bit odd.  Is it portable or more of a desktop solution?  It's small-ish and can run off battery which would lead a lot of people to believe that it's portable product.  However, it only has a 6.35 mm headphone output, which is normally found on full-size cans.   I don’t see a lot of people rocking full size cans on the go.  Also, with the exception of the apple CCK you're going to need some type of speciality cable to hook up your your Android phone or a DAP.  The USB input is a male port and won’t work with the common cables I see being used with phones and DAPs.   Yes, optical and coax are available to mobile users, however, your aren’t going to listen to anything over 192khz and DSD is out of the question.  Additionally, all the cables they give you are for full size applications.  
    I was pretty excited to see the 5V 1.5A port on the side of the BL  Thoughts of Volumio running on my Raspberry Pi feeding the BL while I move around the house were flying around my head.  That is until I clicked on the BL and noticed that the power to that USB port is cut when the BL is powered on.  I thought this would be nice for mobile users until I really thought about it, if my phone is dying/dead and I want to listen to music I need to charge it via a USB port.  The power port on the side of the BL is not a USB input only power.   OK, so someone with a DAP with plenty of power could listen to that while they charge their phone on the go.  Nope, useless there to, don’t forget once you power the BL on that port goes dead.  Not to mention with the BL connected to a DAP and your phone there is a mess of wires and quite a bit of bulk, not really portable.  I really don’t get how someone would use this port.  There are battery boost packs the size of my thumb that can charge my iPhone 6s a couple of times, Id much rather keep that in my bag than the BL.  
    OK, so the BL is more of a desktop solution.  This makes sense given the 6.35mm headphone jack and the RCA outputs (variable and fixed output available).   Then why have it use a battery, why try to make it small and powered off of USB?  If it's meant to be a desktop solution, provide a traditional power input and increase the footprint a bit, give use a bigger volume knob.  
    I kind of get the feeling that the BL is like a swiss army knife, yes it's great when you can pull that toothpick out of your knife, or save the day with your bottle opener or some other trick tool.  To have all that stuff you're making sacrifices in size or design somewhere else and most of the time all you really want is a good knife.  
    The BL and all the accessories it comes with actually are very nicely built.  The chassis feels very solid and all the ports, knobs and switches feel solid.  The black coating on the BL should hold up, if feel like I see this coating on a lot of products and it holds up well.  Overall, the BL has very good build quality and is what you would expect at this price point.  

    The BL has three power levels, Eco/Normal/Turbo.  I kept the BL in ECO most of the time with my Ether Cs. .  Only when I needed a bit of a boost on a track with a low recording level did I use normal.  The turbo made the volume knob a bit touchy as the power increases very quickly.  With my HD6XX I used either normal at the very top of the range or turbo at the very bottom.  Small volume adjustments in Turbo with the HD6XX were much easier.
    I used the BL via USB with two Linux variants; Mint and Arch Linux (volumio) and both times was plug and play.  Connecting the BL to my iPhone 6s via a CCK worked also and the CCK plug fits into the male USB port on the BL nicely without the need for any other cables.  On Windows (7 and 10) a driver is required.  I hate having to install drivers (this is a windows problem not a iFi problem) but iFi does make it easy, single file, click and it's installed.  It's also just a single item in your programs. (unlike Chord which left 3 or 4 programs to uninstall)
    The battery.  It lasts a long time, I really didn’t use it in a portable situation during my review.  However, I did have it connected via optical and wondered how it would fare without its USB power source.  It lasted over night without going dead even though I left it powered on.  The one issue I have is that it cannot run straight off the USB power source, it has to get some juice in the battery if left totally dead before you can listen again.  This was one of the reasons I sold my Mojo, I guess I'm bad at remembering to plug it in at the end of a listening session. Also, if I am constantly going to have something plugged in why not just have a desktop solution with a real power source.  By the time I unplugged the optical and USB it was just as easy to unplug my Jot power cable and the USB to move them.  

    First off I would like to cover some of the ‘sound enhancement’ features and switches of the BL.  
    3D+: Maybe this didn’t pair well with my headphones or just isn’t my cup of tea but I found this ruined whatever song it was applied to.  I think the same effect could be gained with some bad EQ adjustments.  The output from the BL becomes harsh and I could never leave it on for more than a short stint.  
    Xbass+: A bass head may like this feature.  If you like the sound signature of your headphones and just sometimes just want a bit of a bass boost this isn’t going to be your cup of tea.  There is a large boost in the bass and while it remains clean and I never heard distortion from it, it's just too much.  Some of their other products have multiple stages of this bass enhancer but the BL does not, it's on or off.  A dial or multiple stages is needed here.
    The rest of the review is done with these two items in the off position.
    Filter: Switching between bit perfect, minimum phase and standard resulted in no difference for me.  
    Other Gear Used During this Review:
    Mr. Speakers Ether C  v1.1 (No tuning pads): https://mrspeakers.com/shop/1-headphones/ether-c/
    Sennheiser HD 6XX Headphones: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-sennheiser-hd6xx
    Schiit Jotunheim w/DAC: http://schiit.com/products/jotunheim [Jot used in single ended mode only]
    [Source 1] Raspberry Pi running Volumio: http://www.head-fi.org/t/795895/a-70-bit-perfect-audio-player
    [Source 2] Desktop PC (Windows 10 via USB running Foobar)
    Overall Impressions:
    My initial impression of the BL when I first plugged it in was that there was way too much energy in the high end frequencies.  Songs like The Chain from Fleetwood Mac would have an over emphasis on the tambourine and cymbals which became a bit distracting.  As I normally do with a review, I spent a few days listening to only the BL, let my ears become accustomed to it and get to know the sound signature.  Over this period the high end emphasis became less apparent but would still be noticeable during some songs.
    I spent quite a bit of time listening to the BL, trying different genres and going through my normal review playlist.  I found the BL to be extremely competent and it drove my Ethers (low impedence) and HD6XX (high impedence) with ease.  I never found it running out of steam trying to reproduce low frequencies and it pulled a the detail out of my recordings that I was used to.
    After a few days I started doing some A/B testing with my Jot.  If you look at my other reviews I generally go through specific recordings and note the differences between a known (my Jot in this case) and the review sample.  I ended up finding that I was writing the same thing over and over again so I figured I would just provide it once and save some bandwidth.
    From a technical perspective I could be happy with the BL or the Jot.  They both power my cans with lots of room to spare and other than the BLs high end issue I noted above they are on par with how they reproduce the music.  Here and there I would think one was pulling a bit more detail than the other but without a switch box to rapidly switch it's really hard to say reliably that one is better than the other.  
    Overall, it will come as no surprise that I prefer the high end reproduction of the Jot.  For bass and mids I really like the Jot better too.  The BL has plenty of authority and control for the low frequencies but I just prefer the Jot.  I found guitars coming out a bit warmer from the Jot, and it should be, an acoustic guitar really isn’t a cold instrument.  We are starting to split hairs here though.  
    I think the biggest difference I noticed between the BL and Jot is I could sit back and listen to the Jot.  With the BL I was always in review mode, not really enjoying the music.  When doing my A/B tests I often end up getting off task and just listen to the music with a review sample.  That never happened with the BL, I was always listening to it and not the music or just sitting back and enjoying myself.

    I think the BL is a great example of what is possible today in audio.  A device that can easily be transported, plays basically every format and bit rate available, and can power anything from IEMs to super high impedance over ear headphones.  The BL provides a ton of options and flexibility, it can be used as a DAC and pre-amp for your speakers and has a wide variety of input options.  The construction is top notch and all the ports and materials are top notch.
    Furthermore, with the exception of the high end reproduction on certain songs I think it's very good sonically too.   However,  I never really enjoyed the BL, I never got lost in the music with it, I never ended up halfway through an album wondering how I got there.  I wish I could give a characteristic or specification to express this better but I'm failing at finding a way to express it in more objective terms.
    Finally, would I recommend the BL to someone?  With the exception of someone who has very power hungry cans and wants a transportable (not portable) solution; I would say no.  If you want a very competent portable player the BL isn’t it, it's not portable, I would only put it in the transportable category.  You really can’t stuff it in a pants/coat pocket with your DAP.  If someone doesn’t have the need for portability there are a ton of full-size and even transportable (within a house) solutions that come in at a lower price than the BL and are just as competent sonically.
    This review is a bit short on details of the sonics of the BL but I found it really hard to spend a ton of time reviewing a product and trying to communicate every last detail about the sound when I really don’t think people should buy it.  As I said earlier in the review I feel like the BL is the swiss army knife of the Head-fi world; if you're in the market for a DAC/AMP figure out what you really need and get a ‘knife’ that does what you really need and leave the gimmicks behind.

      Ancipital likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. silvrr
      @MLGrado I never said they compromised for cost or that it isn't a sonically good amp/dac.  Its compromised in function.  Its to big to be truly portable (ala the Chord Mojo) and while trying to keep the size down you have to compromise for things like standard connectors and on a desktop amp I like a nice big volume knob.  Furthermore the fact you NEED their cables/adapters to use the BL is just odd to me.  
      silvrr, Jan 5, 2017
    3. rickyleelee
      Hey man long review and covered a lot. though to critize it for being a bad battery charge or average dac is very hard and I have heard other stuff at higher price ponts that sound s*it that are raved about here. at end it may not be oyour sound but guess you tried the power and imatch settings to get things rite for your hphones. the cable is for droid and apple phone - they all have female a sockets. they dont make you buy their cables bro
      rickyleelee, Jan 6, 2017
    4. ZetsuBozu0012
      Thanks for your insight, @silvrr. I own the original iDSD Micro and have to say I agree with most of your findings, save for the high-end being particularly pronounced (I paired mine with DT880s, for poop's sake!). I admit I was somewhat tempted to upgrade when I heard there was a new release, but the orange-on-black aesthetic and minimal improvements don't really do much for me; might just get a Jotunheim and relegate the iDSD to DAC service. Hope you're too discouraged by the negative feedback, critical reviews are almost always poorly received for some reason :p
      I'm on Android and ordinary micro USB/TypeC to USB-OTG cables work well enough when I'm running music out of my mobile. The supplied blue one is good enough for regular desktop use. Not quite sure you necessarily have to use iFi's own stuff, though some would argue the SQ is superior that way.

      And hey, I find the power-bank functionality useful! Saves me having to carry an extra gadget to and from school/work. You wouldn't believe the number of times the iDSD saved my ass when I was stranded with a dying phone, haha.
      ZetsuBozu0012, Mar 24, 2017
  7. mathieu89
    IDSD Black label - A great gear ... Not only for Headphones
    Written by mathieu89
    Published Jan 9, 2017
    Pros - True hifi gear - Quality for monney - Powerfull enough output to drive power amps
    Cons - none
    The unit arrived in perfect condition, packaged in the  usual iFi nice boxing.
    - The IDSD was powered through the  iUSB2 unit and an Uptone power supply
    I don't use headphnes, so my judgement is only valid for the RCA output.
    We connected it on two different hifi systems :
    1 - Krell / Vecteur Alpha / with and without the  Audio Research Preamp. USB cables is  Absolute Creation and  Howland for the RCA and speakers
    2 - A large Acoustat  44 electrostatic system, amplified with Electrocompanie mono amps, with and without a modified Perreaux SM3 preamp.
    Audio files are all non compressed, mainly Classical and Jazz (P.Herreweghe/Beethoven/9th - Harnoncourt/Haydn/7th words of Christ/Teldec - McGegan/Arias for Mantegnana- Ahmal Jamal/Live concert ...)

    Immediate comparison between the  Standard and Black label unit show indiscutable improvements/
    - Voice are more natural, I would say more transpare,t, but without loss of impact and presence.
    - Bass seems to extend deeper, lighter, but this extension comes without any negative artifact, at the  opposite of an 'Hifi' sound. There is more music there.
    - The unit is more dynamic than the  standard IDSD, an loses the  slightly 'warm' sound of the  former.
    Longer listening session shows that the Black label is more regarding toward the system on which it is connected than the  older one. It may reveal some defects of the others components, such as harshness or 'bummy bass.
    In some cases the addition of the preamp added some warmth, but removed some neutrality and tones reality.
    I clearly prefer this new unit. It is more of my taste : closer to the reality of dynamics, voices humanity and quick low response.

    Once again, AMR/iFi gives the opportunity to put one foot in the 'tru living music' for many audio enthousiasts. Thanks !
    I don't see any concurrence below 2000e to beat the  IDSD, and even more the  Black label. A true bargain.
  8. dburna
    iFi Audio Micro iDSD BL - Tour Review
    Written by dburna
    Published Jan 10, 2017
    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):
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Bottom line: during those two initial days, I enjoyed the heck out of the BL. It's a more immersive experience than the iDSD.
    • iDSD BL > original iDSD (possibly '>>', though I hate hyperbole, especially my own)
    • BL's black color is classier than iDSD silver.....but I'm not a fan of silver, so YMMV.
    • BL has better dynamics, air, soundstage depth, and bass control.
    • BL has a fuller, more refined presentation; iDSD seems a little thin in comparison.
    • 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. 
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • The better/more revealing your headphones are, the more pronounced the difference should be.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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:
    • JBL LSR305 active monitors
    • Macbook Pro
    • iTunes, JRiver
    • Monoprice RCA-to-XLR cables
    • Stock iFi input cables
    • 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:
    • Wes Montgomery “Echoes of Indiana Avenue” (2016)
    • Andy Narell & Relator “University of Calypso” (2009)
    • These Immortal Souls “I'm Never Going to Die Again” (1992)
    • Sean Watkins “What to Fear” (2016)
    • Vilde Frang “Korngold, Britten Violin Concertos” (2016)
    • Various Artists “Bureau B – Katalog I” sampler
    • Roedelius Schneider “Stunden” (2011)
    • Erroll Garner “Ready Take One” (2016)
    • Alejandro Escovedo “Burn Something Beautiful” (2016)
    • The Spinanes “Strand” (1996)
      lucasbrea and proedros like this.
  9. heliosphann
    Great things come in small packages.
    Written by heliosphann
    Published Jan 16, 2017
    Pros - Huge feature set, compact, powers almost anything and plays almost anything.
    Cons - Poor LED placement, volume knob not marked well, battery can't charge while playing on USB power.
    *I was provided a review sample by iFi for the Black Label tour*
    iFi Micro iDSD BLACK LABEL
    Packaging and Build Quality
    The iDSD Black Label came packaged in a sturdy, well presented box. Most welcome were the plethora of accessories that it came with. Multiple different kinds of cables, connectors a storage bag and even rubber feet for the main unit. The lack of accessories is one complaint I've personally had with several other mid to high end audiophile amps/dacs, etc... iFi certainly didn't skimp in this area and I'm very happy they didn't. Also included was a small, but very well written instruction manual/guide.
    I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the micro iDSD BL unit itself. I actually thought it'd be bigger, but the size to me is very spot on. I was also always a little weary of the long, rectangular form factor, but it turns out it's quite accommodating. This makes it especially handy if you had a small area/work-space and real estate was a premium. The unit feels very sturdy and has a good weight to it, but it's not excessively heavy for portable use. I must say, the black matte finish with the orange markings looks fantastic. The numerous switches located on every side of the unit (minus the top) are very well marked and have great mechanical and tactile feel. I only had a few issues with the physical build of the micro iDSD BL. My biggest was with the placement of the sole LED indicator. It's placed towards the top/rear of the unit on a bevel and if placed to the left of you, is impossible to see. Placement towards the front of the unit, possibly right above the volume pot would be far more effective. It would also be nice if the LED, or perhaps a secondary one, would display if you are using USB Power or Battery Power. I also felt that the volume knob should have used some of the orange paint to mark the position indicator.
    Features and Sound Quality
    One thing for certain about the micro iDSD Black Label is it certainly isn't lacking in features. This is one very versatile piece of kit. I utilized most of the features that I would normally have if I owned this unit. That means I didn't didn't use the IEM matching as I only use full size headphones. I also didn't utilize the smart charging feature, but that's certainly a great feature if you plan on taking this unit on the go.
    I mostly used used the Black Label with several PC's via USB. The software download was super easy and installation was a breeze. Using Foobar I went through pretty much every format the micro iDSD could handle. With the exception of DSD/DXD, everything played exceptional. The sample rate change delay was slightly longer than some units I've used, but nothing too excessive. Back to the DSD/DXD playback, I initially had a few playback issues, but they were quickly remedied by increasing the buffer size. DSD all the way up to 256 and DXD played very well after that. I also used the Black Label as a portable unit with my iBasso DX80 as a transport via digital-coax and was very pleased by the results. I didn't run down the battery completely during my testing. However, the listed playtimes even in Turbo Mode, are more than acceptable.
    During my time with the Black Label, I used a variety of different full sized headphones with the unit. Everything I threw at it was easily powered from the HE-1000 to the HD650. I found myself mostly using the Normal and Turbo power mode depending on the headphone, although the ECO setting was nice to have especially if you wanted to get longer battery usage. The XBass Plus setting was solid as far as bass booster's go. Most of the headphones I used with the Black Label didn't really need it, but I quite enjoyed it when using my stock HD800. The 3D Matrix Plus feature was interesting, but I overall found myself not using it much. It seemed very dependent on the source material and the headphone used. On some headphones I felt it added far too much treble and on headphones with great soundstage/imaging it sometimes sounded strange. However, I did quite enjoy it with my TH900's.
    As I mentioned earlier, the micro iDSD Black Label did a great job powering all the headphones I threw at it. I also felt the sound quality the Black Label delivered was solid. Just straight out with base settings, the Black Label delivers a fairly neutral sound. I own a Chord Mojo and decided to do some A/Bing of the two with my DX80 feeding both as a transport via Digital Coax. I consider the Mojo to be an exceptional piece of hardware and feel it delivers far above it's price class. When comparing the Black Label to the Mojo, I felt it fell behind in a few areas. Most notable soundstage, instrument separation and detail retrieval were lacking. The Black Label also felt slightly warmer than the Mojo. All this aside, the iDSD sill sounded very good and I honestly prefer many of it's aesthetics over the Mojo.
    Final Thoughts
    Overall the iFi micro iDSD Black Label is a fantastic portable amp/dac, especially at its price point. This is a great all-in-one unit that can be used in a multitude of ways and is able to play pretty much any format out there. I’d easily recommend it to someone who’s looking at similar priced/featured portable amp/dac units.
      Vartan likes this.
  10. bapspidoff
    iDSD Micro Black Label - An incremental improvement to an already outstanding product (World Tour Review)
    Written by bapspidoff
    Published Jan 17, 2017
    Pros - Noticeably improved bass and smoother sound compared to the original.
    Cons - Volume knob position is hard to see on the black edition. I prefer the look of the silver to the black.
    First of all, thank you so much to Ifi-Audio for sending me a black edition to review for free! Really awesome of them to involve the audio community to such a degree.
    I will keep this review relatively simple. I have the original silver Micro iDSD so it only makes sense to compare the two. I A/B tested the two units side by side while listening to some go-to tracks on my HifiMan HE-500 headphones. I had XBass enabled and 3D disabled for every track (just my personal preference). I did my best to volume match them by ear but I’m sure it was not perfect.
    Tracks I used for testing:
    Kurt Vile - Wheelhouse
    Danny Brown - Get Hi
    Neon indian - Local Joke (tons of sibilance on this terribly mastered track, so a good test)
    Dirty projectors - About to Die
    Dinosaur Jr. - Plans
    Matthew Dear - Ahead of Myself
    After listening (and re-listening) to these 6 tracks I found that I was hearing the same differences over and over again and so I felt comfortable sharing my fairly conclusive findings.
    1. These two units are different but not to a startling degree. They are still similar in overall sound.
    1. The clearest improvement to the Black unit is far and above the bass. The bass goes deeper and hits harder. This was apparent in every song. The added bass makes listening to the Black edition quite enjoyable. I will miss the added bass when going back to my original Micro iDSD!
    2. Time and time again I found the Black unit to be smoother than the original Micro iDSD. Sibilance is less noticeable on poorly mastered tracks and the overall presentation of the music is easier on the ears. The black edition sounds silky where the silver, by comparison, sounds more dry. The black sounds cleaner and has a sound signature that is a bit more immersive.
    3. The black edition has an improved soundstage, but only marginally so. It seems deeper and more realistic.
    4. Detail retrieval is basically identical between the two units. I found that I sometimes noticed details more readily on the Silver unit but that could be because it sounds slightly “brighter” than the black.
    5. When I briefly tried out the 3D setting, I found it to be much more enjoyable than on the original silver unit. I never use it on my old unit because it makes the sound too bright for my taste. The 3D enabled on the black edition colored the sound it a pleasant, perhaps more immersive way. I could definitely see myself using 3D on the black edition.
    I think that the differences between the two units can be distilled to this:
    The black edition is a marginal but not insignificant upgrade to the original. The bass is much improved and it sounds smoother overall.
    That being said, would I upgrade to the black edition? Probably not. One reason I wouldn’t is I actually much prefer the look of the silver unit to the black edition. It looks more high-end in my opinion. One thing that quickly annoyed me about the black edition is the inability to see the position of the volume knob. Such is the trade-off with black-on-black design. A dark grey unit would be the best of both worlds, in my opinion.
    I think if you are buying a Micro iDSD for the first time, shelling out the extra cash for the black edition is an absolute no-brainer. Do it. It’s an excellent sounding unit - Ifi-Audio moved the ball forward on this one and the original was (and is) fantastic so that is no small feat. Upgrading from the original to the black is a harder decision. I would personally be more inclined to upgrade to something that is a big jump in quality, not an iterative improvement.
      blackyangell and proedros like this.