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  1. Johnny Mac
    iFi Audio Micro iDSD Black Label Realview.
    Written by Johnny Mac
    Published Sep 3, 2019
    4.0/5,
    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
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    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
    [​IMG]
    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.
    [​IMG]
    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
    [​IMG]
    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
    [​IMG]
    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
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    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
    [​IMG]
    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
    [​IMG]
    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
    [​IMG]
    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.
  2. SoundApprentice
    Black is Better
    Written by SoundApprentice
    Published Jan 21, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Feature set, Flexibility, Price to Performance
    Cons - Questionable switches, Might be paying for unused features
    [​IMG]

    Shortly after sending my iFi Audio Pro iCAN review unit back, iFi hit me up with its stealthy Micro iDSD BL (Black Label), a portable desktop DAC and pre-amp/headphone amp combo that packs a punch and goes head-to-head against the very popular Chord Electronics Mojo (If you see this Chord, I’d love a demo).

    Much like the Pro iCAN, the iDSD BL is an iFi flagship product, but this time in its smaller portable/desktop Mirco line. Here again, iFi packs in strong feature sets bettered by trickle-down R&D and technology from iFi’s ultra-high-end parent company, Abbingdon Music Research, or AMR Audio.

    You can read about all of the tech specs on iFi’s website, like the dual-core Burr-Brown DAC chips, custom Sanyo OP-Amps, and femto clock, so I’ll just get to the feedback you care about — user and listening impressions.

    Unboxing Impressions

    A relative newcomer to iFi products, I was happy to see the lesser-expensive iDSD BL comes well-packed in higher-end packaging with clean, minimalistic design and aesthetics like the Pro iCAN. It gives off the impression that you’re unboxing a much more expensive product. Inside, you’ll find a very comprehensive accessory set. Everything you need to put the iDSD BL to use is included: USB 3.0 cable, RCA cable, Optical/Toslink adapter, 3.5mm to 6.3mm headphone jack adapter, 3.5mm jumper, some other various USB adapters, a crushed velvet storage bag, a rubber mat to keep the iDSD BL from sliding around on various surfaces when in use, and two bands for securing the iDSD BL to your smartphone or DAP (you can even use the iDSD BL to charge your smartphone).

    Despite its light weight, in hand, the iDSD BL has a sleek and solid feel. I’d say it’s comparatively robust next to products from JDS Labs and Schiit, and maybe a hair less robust than ALO and Chord’s offerings; however, I do have a couple of gripes. The black-on-black text on the chassis is hard to read, and the various recessed slide switches feel, well, cheap. In fact, the first time I slid the iEMatch switch into another position, the round plastic button popped off the switch post. The button easily went back on, but I’d prefer more solid switches on a unit at this price point. I can see these buttons easily popping off their posts if handled less that delicately when traveling. This nitpicking aside, the front panel toggle switches and volume pot operate nicely with good tactile feedback, and the overall look and feel of the device is quite pleasing.

    As for being portable, yes, the 4800mAh lithium battery lets you use the iDSD BL on the go, but it’s long, narrow rectangular shape and overall length does make it rather awkward to carry. It’s approximately 1.5” longer than most standard smartphones when accounting for the volume knob and exposed inputs/outputs. In fact, it’s closer in size to the battery brick for my laptop, so this isn’t something I am tossing into a jacket pocket to use on the train each day. This becomes less of an issue if you carry a bag of some sort.

    Sound Options

    Perhaps the greatest traits of the iDSD BL are its flexibility and versatility. From sensitive IEMs to more power-hungry headphones, mixing and matching the Power Mode (Eco -
    2.0V/500 mW @ 8 Ohm; Normal - 5.5V/1,900 mW @ 16 Ohm; Turbo - 10.0V/4,000 mW @ 16 Ohm) and proprietary iEMatch (Off, High-Sensitivity, Ultra-Sensitivity) settings allows you to dial in the right amount of power and gain to drive your music with balance and authority.

    Because of a strong channel imbalance on the volume pot of my review unit, and my preference for lower listening levels while working, I found these variable settings incredibly useful for balancing the volume output for all of the headphones and IEMs in my collection. For example, I’m back to primarily using the Beyerdynamic Amiron Home as my home-office headphone, which was comfortably driven in just the Eco/High-Sensitivity settings, meaning the more powerful settings will get deafeningly loud.

    Furthering its versatility, the iDSD BL also benefits from two proprietary circuitries — Xbass+ and 3D+ — that help correct some common headphone and loudspeaker shortcomings: sub-bass and imaging. While only “on” or “off” via two front panel toggle switches, instead of being active in varying degrees like on the Pro iCAN, these are still very usable EQ-like features.

    XBass+ is iFi’s solution to bass deficiency in reference headphones and loudspeakers. Through analog signal processing circuitry, XBass+ provides a noticeable, although sometimes intrusive, bass boost. Much like my experience with the Pro iCAN, I was mostly pleased with how the bass boost integrated into the timbre of the amp, but results obviously vary by recording and headphone/loudspeaker selections. XBass+ nicely boosts the deep bass regions of the Sennheiser HD650, Beyerdynamic Amiron Home, and Focal Elear on bass-light recordings. With bass-shy headphones like my old AKG K701 or the updated Q701, XBass+ adds some welcomed warmth and impact. On the other hand, the dark and mysterious AudioQuest NightHawk (review), and the Fostex TH-600 gets boomy with Xbass+. The takeaway here is that you just have to experiment; XBass+ is not a set-it-and-forget-it option.

    While XBass+ helps correct bass deficiency, 3D+ helps correct sound stage deficiencies, like that closed-in feeling when the sound is stuck right between your headphones. In other words, 3D+ was designed to create an “out-of-head” headphone listening experience that emulates listening to well-placed loudspeakers in a room.

    Much like the XBass+ feature, 3D+ is rather hit-or-miss. I particularly liked this feature on the Pro iCAN, which had varying degrees of impact. On the iDSD BL, 3D+ is again “on” or “off” only, which limits its usability. In particular, I found 3D+ to work well with live recordings and videos, like Ben Howard’s 2015 Glastonbury Festival performance, where it widens the sound stage and makes for a more cohesive and deeper blending of sound. Testing it with the tracks I used in my Pro iCAN review, the 3D+ function again worked well enough with jazz classics like John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” where instrument localization is very apparent and added depth and dimension enhances the experience. Admittedly though, some tracks get too busy and displaced with 3D+ engaged, especially when it has adverse effects in the treble region, injecting a strange artificial tizzy-ness to cymbals or an intrusive reverb effect to the entire track. Here again, it’s a feature that’s easily experimented with. Does it truly emulate properly positioned loudspeakers? No, but with the right tracks, it does make welcomed improvements to that “stuck in your head” feeling during long headphone sessions.

    [​IMG]

    Toned Up

    Coming from the Pro iCAN, which was surprisingly neutral and precise, I was expecting more of the same from the iDSD BL, but I was met instead with a tuning tipped towards warmer tones and marginally less precision in detail retrieval and treble clarity. It seems while the iDSD BL still seeks transparency, its tone plays it a bit safe, emphasizing more body in the bass and mids, probably for more versatility with headphone/IEM selection. I suspect this is also in part due to the tuning of the dual-core Burr-Brown DAC chips. For what it’s worth, the iDSD BL sounds more like the tube modes of the Pro iCAN than the solid-state section.

    In comparison to my JDS Labs Objective2 headphone amp and OL DAC (review), the iDSD BL offers more bass impact and dimension, even without the XBass+ and 3D+ features engaged. However, the JDS stack takes the edge in neutrality and clarity, which is a touch dry in comparison, but perhaps more sonically accurate. I also still use an older ALO “The Island” at work, which comes off as much warmer and textured in comparison to both.

    Overall, my takeaway is that the iDSD BL is relatively crisp and clear, with good bass impact and timbre, a touch rounded in the mids, but with nice dynamics, good space and dimension, and the right amount of treble and resolution for it to be hi-fi without being analytical.

    Accuracy and neutrality are what come to mind with the Pro iCAN, which simply lacks a notable “house sound.” The iDSD BL moves a step back from its big sibling, adding a hint of coloration that gives it a touch of flavor for your desktop and portable needs. Add in the simple sound tweaks possible with XBass+ and 3D+ and you have a small amp/DAC that dishes out a darn good listening experience.

    Parting Thoughts

    Lastly, it’s well worth noting that the iDSD BL’s flexibility doesn’t stop with power and tone controls for your headphone listening sessions. The iDSD BL can serve as a DAC and pre-amp for your powered monitors, where XBass+ and 3D+ also work. It accepts USB and digital coax inputs (and optical/Toslink with the provided adapter) for greater input versatility. It natively plays all DSD, DXD, and PCM files, including Quad-DSD256, Octa-DSD512, and bit-perfect Double-DXD and PCM768. Consider all this on top of the innumerable headphones and IEMs that can be driven efficiently with the various Power Mode and iEMatch configurations and it’s clear that the iDSD BL offers scalability, flexibility, and performance well beyond its weight class.
  3. OSiRiSsk
    The dac/amp chameleon
    Written by OSiRiSsk
    Published Mar 22, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - 3D+ and XBass+ effects, ability to drive sensitive IEMs and demanding headphones, musicality
    Cons - unsuitable for portable use, minor issue when using as a DAC
    iFi Audio Micro iDSD Black Label
     
      Intro




    I have received Black Label from iFi company as part of the review tour, in exchange for my honest opinion
    You can find specification here
    http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/micro-idsd-bl/
    The price is currently at 549 USD on amazon, and the official iFi distributor in my country (Czech) is selling it for roughly 650 USD
    So what is Black Label? It is a headphone amplifier+dac combo in the first place. It supports pretty much every music format humankind has every invented.
     
      Design, build, portability



    The design is very smooth in my opinion and I quite it very attractive. There is just something special about that dim black finish of the device.
    All iFi amps and dacs reminds me of a star destroyer. Which I really love as a Star Wars fan :-D
     
     
    star.jpg
    I can't help it, but it reminds me Star Destroyer! Another reason to love it!​

    For a desktop amp/dac the size is rather small, no external power cord is needed and you can simply hook it up via provided usb cable to your laptop. It has even some battery inside which allows it to run as a amp alone, without the need of powering it. However, given its size I feel like this is quite impractical and for my use case I have never used it and didn't even plan it. It was just too clunky in my opinion, to stack it with your DAP or something like that. Not sure what was the intention behind this battery thing, but in my case, I was always running it hooked via USB cable. Though maybe for somebody it will make sense to run it just from the battery.
     
    ifi.jpg
    I will miss you Black Label!​

     
     
    Features - I would say this is the strongest advantage of the Black Label. It is definitely one of the most versatile device on the market, pretty much only thing which is missing is the balanced input/output. Otherwise it's really all-in-one solution. There are lot of switches and I must admit that stuff like "Polarity" and "Filter" didn't really change the sound at all - at least I couldn't hear any sort of difference, so even after reading the provided manual, I had no idea what it's supposed to do.
     
    However, there are many useful switches too - especially the "IEM match" and "Power Mode". These two allows you to configure gain of the amplifier, which makes Black Label compatible with all sorts of headphones ranging from sensitive IEMs such as Shure 846 to hard to drive planars. I have tried to set "Power Mode" to "Turbo" and it almost killed me, so I just switched it back to "Normal" for the remaining time.
     
    I used "IEM Match" functionality when I was testing the Black Label with my Shure 535 which are considered quite sensitive. It worked brilliantly and it gives you great flexibility on how much power you want to feed your headphones with. 
    The Black Label was also always dead silent - I haven't heard any background noise or hiss with any of the tested headphones, which is really great. No interference whatsoever.
    From harder to drive headphones I have used Fostex T50RP MK3 which was easily driven by the Black Label. My current main go-to headphones are Lawton Audio LA2000 which is a modification of famous Denon AHD2000 and the result was spectacular.
     
    k5-vs-ifi.jpg
    Not so much difference between Black Label and FiiO K5+FiiO X7...unless you use effects!​

     
    It's a bit tricky for me to evaluate amp or dac quality, as I feel most reviewer tend to focus on the headphones itself, which I don't want to do. With all of the tested headphones (Shure 535, Lawton Audio LA2000, Fostex T50RP MK3, VE Monk Plus) I have received satisfactory results - I was able to squeeze maximum potential from these headphones, drive them really easily and the sound was always which I consider a good match. My current desktop combo is FiiO X7 docked into the FiiO K5 amp. Sound wise it's quite similar, with one difference - FiiO K5 is a bit sharper in sound, while iFi was slightly more musical. But the dac section - i.e. the detail, resolution was pretty much on the similar level. I am not sure whether this is a compliment for or insult for either of these rigs, but that's just the way it is.
    But here comes a twist - Black Label has two magical buttons - 3D+ and XBass+ - which as the name suggest, first should increase the sense of space and second enhance the bass. When I first switched these on, I was disappointed - the change wasn't as big as I was expecting. But nevermind, I kept on listening. After 15 minutes or so, I switched them both off. Only then I've realized what a drastic difference it was. I am listening to a lot of EDM music - drum and bass, techno, house, hip hop, RnB.. So the XBass+ effect was extremely addictive with me. Without these effects off I'd call Black Label a decent amp/dac combo. However, with some track, the synergy of these effects is so immersive that it takes the whole device to a completely different level. For a longer listening session, it can     be a bit fatiguing, because the intensity of the music you will hear is just huge. Still, for me this was the decisive point which catapulted the Black Label to a whole new level and I really recommend everybody to it, because some tracks were just made for 3D+ and XBass+. 
     
    With XBass+ the bass had much more body, it became more physical. With fast pace tracks there was more rumble. But the bass duration wasn't really changed, so in the end it didn't really overflow to other frequencies, and that's what made it great.
    With 3D+ I have felt almost concert like experience. The instrument separation just become much greater which gave you that extra feel of space. Again, some tracks didn't benefit so much, but some were excellent.
    This is what made Black Label such fun and versatile device to use.
     
    However I have found also some quirks, which I need to mention. When Black Label is used as a DAC, it has always 1-2 sec initial delay when it's turned on - meaning, when you start to play some music or video, the Black Label will be silent for 1-2 second and only after that it will start playing sound. Once it starts, there is no delay though and the sound is perfectly synchronized, which makes it suitable even for watching movies. 
    Also, couple of times it happened, that when connected initially, the sound was completely distorted almost unbearable to hear. However, after re-connecting the device it always went back to normal.
    I was using Black Label only with my Macbook so can't comment on how it works with Windows or Linux systems.
     
     
    So let's sum this up.
    Powerful amp with the ability to drive most sensitive IEMs to most demanding headphones ✓
    Plenty of detail, resolution, and nice musical sound ✓
    Support for every possible music format every invented ✓
    3D+ and XBass+ effects , yes please ✓✓✓✓✓
    Affordable price ✓
     
    On the other hand:
    When used as DAC - ddd quirk of initial 1-2 silence when first playing the music 
    When effects are off, the sound quality is in range of FiiO K5+FiiO X7 which I am still undecided whether it's compliment or not :) 

    All things considered - if you are looking for an affordable all-in-one AMP/DAC solution, with ability to switch from sensitive IEMs to most powerful headphones (Turbo most truly does this, trust me) with fun effects to play with (3D+ and XBass+) you have my permission to pull the trigger :wink:
  4. monster2046
    BLACK Background can pay my full attention on my music
    Written by monster2046
    Published Mar 14, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Good Sound, Affortable Price
    Cons - connectivity is not fit to eastern music lovers
    This is my pleasure that I will be the tester of ifi new product, idsd black lablel (let us be short as BL).
    As a newbie of headfi, I am whole heartly to try difference devices.  
    When I first read about the spec of the BL, I talk to myself that "woo......."  From technical perspective, the components are good and I reach to exited mode that I want to test the BL.
    The appearance is just as as the previous version, just changing the colour from silver to black. To me, I don't care on the appearance while I just focus on the sound is match with my preference or not.
    The device can support optical, usb  but unfortunately, my on hand dap (Paw Gold and DX 90) haven't optical out, the coxial in of BL can't match with DX90 coxial out.  The usb connection, is difference with mojo and vantam.  I just can test the amplifier function.  (iDSD primary design is for desktop connection)
    I think there are many reviews of Paw Gold and I don't explain anymore.  I just talk about my personal feel of Paw Gold line out to BL.  I listen my sound with using a pair of CIEM, Oriolus 2 only.  I set the power to normal.  
    My comment is very simple, just same as the colour of the device, BLACK.  I can't hear any noise from the BL.  The background is too dark and I just can pay my full attention to listen my music with no any interference.  
    The power is enough and driven my earphone give me a sense of "enrich, solid".  Even less than medium volume can drive my earphone.  To my sense of hearing, the vocal (especially female singer) is charming and attractive.  This is easily for me to imagine a lady ,standing on a stage, is singing a song for me.      
    When the Bass enhance button is on, the bass will be increase 3db (I guess).  As Oriolus 2 is a 4-driver hybrid earphone, this can give me a sense of warm surrounding me.
    However, 3D function is really bad to me.  Once open the function, I just feel that all sounds stick together and spoil all music that I am listening.
     
    Thanks
  5. noobandroid
    Super versatile, great functionality, great SQ
    Written by noobandroid
    Published Mar 6, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Wide range of format supported, multiple I/O to choose from, a power bank i guess?
    Cons - Black on black lettering on the back, $ (as always)

    Intro

    Special thanks to iFi Audio and local distributor for setting u[ this review tour of iFi Audio micro iDSD. First off we will be going into the looks of the BL, and then into SQ from RCA out and then the HO, and finally the software side of them.
     

    Appearances

    I'll just shove a couple of pictures in your face and not write a lot.
    20170306_211427.jpg 20170306_211454.jpg 20170306_211508.jpg 20170306_211521.jpg 20170306_211536.jpg 20170306_211553.jpg
     
    As the pictures show, there is quite a lot of I/o to go with and on the 5th picture is actually a USB power output  aka charger to external devices.
     

    Setup

    20170301_214846.jpg 20170306_211641.jpg
     
    My setup will be using the iFi BL sourcing from PC - iFi iUSB, and on the second picture you can see a supplied OTG female to a printer connector female cable, which is a totally weird way to use them, but then USB OTG cable becomes a useful tool to use, readily available. The speaker used is Alesis Elevate 5.
     
    Secondary setup is similar but on the headphone jack with HD650.
     

    Alesis Elevate 5

    On the RCA out to the speaker, the BL can serve as a pre-out, which enables the usage of X-Bass + and the 3D+. On music these both are hell of a weird thing to use as on the 3D ON, it makes the music sound so thin but wide, studio albums get totally out of shape by using this. So, i switched to the cleaner direct output, which disables amplification on the BL and it sounds so much better. 
     
    Bass power isn't exactly the strongest, but it gets the job done cleanly. On Metallica's newest album "Hardwired", it gives the thump and pace up so the whole momentum is in tempo.The bass drum stumps are clearly heard and bass guitars doing the magic . I am digging this setup on metal genre, totally not bad at all.
     
    Mid vocals are very clear but not overly forward. Pronunciations can be heard and spelled out clearly. James Hetfield doesn't have the best of English, and that I can hear lol. 
     
    Treble is clear and crispy, not overpowering the other portions of the music, and just stays together with the percussion. Different cymbals type can be differentiated clearly.
     
    Soundstage I couldnt comment much, maybe due to the properties of my speakers. What I heard is not very wide soundstage, and so I couldn't tell whether it is the limit of the BL or my speakers.
     
     

    HD650

    In order to use the headphone out, I had to mute the RCA while having it connected, since both can output AT THE SAME TIME!! Tha'ts one weird feature, or maybe a flaw? I don't have a clue.
     
    On the HD650 connected, the Trebles are set even clearer maybe because of the closer proximity of the drivers to my ears, but the quality of it still maintains, with every different cymbal notes differentiable.
     
    Bass thump on the HD650 is much stronger, and gets even more with the X-Bass on. Bass goes on full force but with so much control on it that I can set this up with the X-Bass on as a "compensation / correction" for some songs with weaker bass. Definitely worth considering enabling this on certain situations only, as not everything needs so much bass on it.
     
    Vocals are slightly weaker on the headphone out, and guitars + drums can slightly drown out the main vocalist, but there are some other factors which are to be considered. The metal genre might have a characteristics of such, where emphasis is more on the guitars and vocals are secondary only.
     
    For soundstage test, I enabled the 3D+ and tested Nightwish. All I can say is 3D+ is not suitable for music at all. Placements of instruments get disrupted and becomes unbalanced. With the 3D+ off, it has better balance and becomes less artificial. One scene I tried which I find totally digging the 3D+ is movies!! I used Jungle Book to try the 3D+ and boy I enjoyed the movie that I get emotional and goosebumps all over. I think 3D+ has found it's place in my books, movies~ oh yeah~~
     

    Software

    As like other iDSD, installation of their special driver is neccesary, and in Foobar2000, ASIO has to be selected, to avoid interruptions from Win Mixer. I haven't tried OTG mode, but it should work straight off the bat without much hitch.
    2017-03-06_21-48-58.jpg 2nd.jpg stream.jpg
     
     
    In the second image, under USB streaming mode, there are multiple selections, shown in 3rd picture. Asio buffer size is also selectable from 64 samples up to 8192 samples.
     
     

    Final thought

    On the appearance side, hoped they have changed the black on black text, and then the outlook will be just nice. Other that that, I have no problems or nags with this product at all. It can be used on battery power, charging devices too , and be sounding awesome while at it. What more can you demand for in format support? DSD, DXD and all common formats are there ready to be used. Really wished I could keep the unit but then it's a Lucid dream haha, oh well.
  6. jinxy245
    Black Label: The Signature Sound Of ifi
    Written by jinxy245
    Published Feb 4, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - clarity, power, versatility, build quality
    Cons - crowded front panel, questionable filters
    It is with great pleasure that I can say that I have been selected to take part in the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label listening tour. My thanks to Lawrence from iFi for helping to organize the USA East leg of the tour. What this means, is that I have 1 week to listen to & evaluate the ifi Micro iDSD Black Label, which is a DAC utilizing a dual core Burr-Brown DSD512/PCM768/2xDXD chip and headphone amplifier. Although I am very grateful to be able to participate in this tour, I receive no compensation other than the joy of listening in the comfort of my own home, and the following review is my honest opinion. This is my 1st ever review of a DAC/amp, so please bear with me as I try to hit all the pertinent points.
     
     
    I’ll start with a little about myself. I’m pushing 50 and have less than perfect hearing (50 is pushing back). I’ve been a music lover for as long as I can remember, and I learned to listen a little more critically during the few years I sold audio equipment (and the more I listen, the more I learn). My fascination/infatuation with headphones began about 4 years ago, and has only gotten stronger. I’ve only recently taken a more serious look at the hardware end of the audio equation, and I’m enjoying the journey. I've never had the opportunity to hear the original iDSD, so I'm particularly glad to spend some time with the Black Label. The majority of my listening was done listening to FLAC, WAV & various MP3s with my Shanling M2, Fiio x3 (1st gen.), Samsung Galaxy S7, or through my HP all in one PC as a source for the iDSD BL. My tastes are fairly eclectic, but my listening centered on classic rock, folk, jazz, classical and various genres of EDM.
     
     
    First, let’s get a couple of ergonomic niggles out of the way. When using the iDSD BL as an amp only, the front panel gets awfully crowded, (especially if you’re using a ¼” to 1/8”) adapter making it difficult to adjust the volume or activate/deactivate the Xbass+ or 3D+. Perhaps changing these 2 filters to the right side would alleviate this issue, especially since I didn’t find myself using them a whole lot. Occasionally, I found the selectors on the bottom of the unit to change positions during normal movement of the unit from one place to another. In fact, at one point one of the plastic knobs fell off of the selector switch it was attached to (giving me a slight heart attack since I don’t own the unit)
    IMG_0592.jpg
     
    Fortunately I found and reattached it without further incident. A set of raised feet would likely prevent this from happening.  I also found the volume pot can use a bit more resistance. It was too easy to turn, and although I give kudos for the orange font on the bottom, a volume indicator line that’s not black on black would be much more useful (and greatly appreciated).
     
     
    The iDSD BL came with a generous amount of accessories. There are 2 of the usual rubber bands for stacking, RCA cables for preamplifier use, a storage pouch, USB A to USB B cable, 3.5mm (male x male, for use with the line in) adapter, 3.5mm x 6.35mm adapter (the front panel has a ¼” headphone out only), an optical by RCA adapter, USB A (female to male) adapter, and a rubber mat. There’s really not much more I could say I’d like to see included.
     
     
    There are so many things this little beast can do I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to cover it all. On the front panel from left to right, you have a ¼” headphone input jack, Xbass+ control (on/off), 3.5mm audio input jack,  “3D+” control (a filter said to create a larger soundstage, also on/off), and the volume control dial.
    IMG_0566.jpg
     
    The right side is bare, except a USB Type 'A' Female connection for charging other devices.
    IMG_0568.jpg
     
    Around the rear there is an “Intelligent In/Out SPDIF Digital Optical/Coax” connection that automatically configures to Coaxial or Optical use, a left & right female RCA output, and a USB Type 'A' male digital input.
    IMG_0590.jpg
     
    Moving along to the left side, there is one portion of the gain control (Eco/Normal/Turbo), a polarity switch (+/-) and filter control (Bit Perfect/Minimum Phase/Standard).
    IMG_0591.jpg
     
    On the bottom of the unit, there are markings to identify all the controls on the sides and back (orange on black is very legible, thank you!)
    as well as the other portion of the gain control called IE Match (Off/High Sensitivity/Ultra Sensitivity) and control for the rear RCA outs (Preamplifier/Direct).As I said there is a lot the iDSD BL can do, and given I was only able to spend a week with it, I’ll concentrate on what I did use.
    IMG_0574.jpg
     
    There are five power output modes, Eco, Normal and Turbo, High Sensitivity, Ultra Sensitivity. Their website states that the micro iDSD BL is able to have the power and gain dialed-in to”perfectly suit all headphones”. In truth, everything from my 64 Audio U6 to my Sennheiser HD600, the ifi easily delivered whatever power was needed. It had copious amounts of power when called for, never needing to go over 11:00 on Normal gain with the HD600, and more often closer to 9:00. I am not the best judge of hiss due to persistent (and tenacious) tinnitus, however without music playing using my U6 on Eco gain, there was no discernible noise whatsoever (YMMV). Obviously, when using the High Sensitivity or Ultra Sensitivity settings, there would be even less noise. I’ll note that I’m not sure what “type” of amp the iDSD BL utilizes, but it never felt more than warm to the touch, even during heavy usage.
     
     
     I’m a firm believer that amplifiers for the most part (at least amps of the solid state variety) should be the proverbial “Wire with Gain” in that they shouldn’t impart much “color” onto the sound. That being said, in reality I think there is always some sonic coloration passed along when creating an audio chain and an amplifier is no different. I’ll admit that there is the possibility that I haven’t acquired the skill of breaking the sonic influence into bass/mids/treble/soundstage, but I believe that these influences are much more subtle than that. I would go so far as to call an amp full, thin, warm etc. but not much more, especially without having equipment to back up my claims. I find the amp section of the IDSD to fall on the warm side of neutral without sounding thick or muddy in any way. When comparing to other amps I have on hand, my ALO National or the RHA Dacamp1 (On loan for a listening tour, comparing amp only here) I find there to be more similarities than differences. Because they are all so close in fidelity, without volume matching, it’d be impossible to comment on detail retrieval and the like, but the overall impression I had was that they are all warm-ish amps: everything I played sounded full bodied and satisfying.
    IMG_0560.jpg
     
    If you’re using a PC and you want to use the iDSD BL as a DAC, you need to download the driver from their website ( http://ifi-audio.com/micro-idsd-ifi-xmos-firmware/ ). If you’re a MAC lover, it is supposed to be plug-n-play, I believe. Downloading and installing the appropriate driver was more of a challenge than I expected (IOS users, this is your cue to laugh). Every time I downloaded the driver to install, it would literally disappear after a few seconds. It was there, and then it wasn’t. To say I was perplexed would be an understatement. I assumed that there must be an explanation, so I read a bit online until I came across one post noting that you may have to turn off your anti-virus. How a driver could look like malware is beyond my computer knowledge, but someone figured it out, and I’m glad they did. I turned off my Norton, and we were back in business. Once the driver was downloaded, and the  ifi took over DAC duties, the synergy of the DAC/amp combo became readily apparent.
    Since the front panel does get crowded once the line in is being used, I mostly opted to use it through the Coaxial input or as a DAC/amp. The coax from my Fiio or Shanling sounded terrific, with plenty of detail and space, definitely a step up from the line out IMO. The iDSD BL is unwieldy, but is indeed portable enough to move from room to room, or to take with you for listening while writing in a coffee shop or other stationary activity. This was quite welcome if I didn’t feel like being tied to my computer to listen, or wanted to continue my listening session elsewhere if it was getting noisy. The iDSD BL did pair easily to my Samsung Galaxy S7, and though there was no faulting the sound quality, it was awkward at best given the size difference. Again, if being used while stationary, it wouldn’t be a big issue, but it’s not really a portable solution.
    IMG_other_0586.jpg
     
     I do think most people will opt to use this primarily as a DAC/amp, either on a desktop, or portably with a laptop. If I were to do a blind test, I would be very hard pressed indeed to distinguish between the coax & the USB, at least with my current sources, and I think that’s a very good thing since I enjoyed the iDSD BL so much either way. Again, without a proper A/B test I don’t feel confident enough to give a definitive answer as to which one is better, but I am inclined to say the DAC in the iDSD BL would be the superior choice. It definitely has a synergy with the amp section, and benefited from being fed higher bitrate files without being too unforgiving of MP3s. I could (and did) listen to this for hours, enjoying every minute.
     
     
    Moving on to the filters, I’ll start by saying, I’m not a huge fan. When testing the polarity switch and filter control, I heard no appreciable difference at all, regardless of the position, so I left them in positive & Bit Perfect respectively. There is a possibility that they would have a greater effect on speakers if the DAC was used through the line out, but I never got the chance to test it that way. I don’t know if the Xbass+ and 3D+ switches are considered filters, but even though I didn’t use them much, I did hear an effect on the audio when using them. The Xbass+ seemed to have an effect primarily on the sub bass, whereas the 3D+ is intended to be a spatializer of sorts, to widen the perceived soundstage. I found the 3D+ to effect the treble mostly and added some “grain” up top. I mostly left these off, but did occasionally find them helpful when used together as a sort of loudness control, adding a bit of clarity for low level listening. My personal preference (and recommendation to RHA) would be for the iDSD BL to have an adjustable treble and bass control, +/- 5 or so, which seems to me would be a more universally useful tool.
     
     
    Since fortune smiled upon me and I happened to have the RHA Dacamp L1 (also priced $549 USD) on hand at the same time, it seems only appropriate that I give my impressions of both.  Build quality between the two is about on par, with the RHA being just a tad more robust overall IMO. The RHA also has the smaller more portable form factor: it’s smaller in every dimension. The RHA has a balanced headphone output as well, but it’s a 4 pin mini XLR input, which seems to only be compatible with their own headphone the CL1 Ceramic (at least I don’t know of any other headphone using that connection). Furthermore, the benefits of using that connection was not readily apparent…it sounded just about the same when used single ended or balanced (reviewer Brooko did record measurements that seem to back this up). The RHA does have bass/treble controls (+9/-3 for both) and 3 gain levels, but the iDSD BL has 5 gain levels, Xbass+, 3D+ and a preamp output. They both can be used to charge a dying cellphone, have about the same battery life/charge time and have digital inputs (coaxial and optical for the ifi, optical for the RHA). I’d say all the bells and whistles come down to a matter of preference, and I’d give RHA a slight advantage being more portable. Ergonomically, there isn’t too much to complain about in either case. The biggest problem with the ifi is a somewhat crowded front panel, on the other hand the volume wheel RHA chose, while having better resistance than the ifi, is much harder to control…it steps up in volume more rapidly and is awkward to turn. Sound quality is where the rubber meets the road, as they say, and sonically I’d say it would be a matter of preference. Power output seems comparable overall, with the ifi being more versatile (at least 5 different gain levels). While I find both of these to be on the warm side, I’d say that the ifi is more on the analytical side of warm, while the RHA sounds a touch smoother. These are not night and day differences, and there was no clear sonic winner for me. I’d honestly be more than happy to have either of these in my audio chain. I lean slightly toward the ifi, simply because my DAPs utilize coaxial outputs and I could see myself using that often, but that could easily change with a DAP upgrade.
     
     
    I am truly sorry to see the iDSD BL leave. In my opinion, except for some small niggles, ifi has done a great job with the iDSD BL. It’s well built, very versatile, has plenty of power on tap, and sounds fantastic. The price is a bit high, but you do get a lot for your money. My thanks again go to Lawrence and ifi. After spending a week with the iDSD, I can definitely recommend checking it out if you‘re in the market for a DAC/amp. It is definitely worth a listen.
  7. Sil3nce
    iFi Audio Micro iDSD
    Written by Sil3nce
    Published Jan 22, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Packed with features, Extremely strong amp section, Clean and resolving sound
    Cons - A little warm and tilted towards the lower spectrum, Not the best transparency, Too many features?
    *This review comes from my Portable Amp / Dac Shootout.
    Posted as a reference for users. For the full review, see: 
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/798562/portable-amp-dac-shootout-ifi-micro-idsd-vs-resonessence-concero-hp-vs-chord-mojo-vs-ifi-idac2-vs-hrt-microstreamer

     

     
    Manufacturer: iFi Audio

    Model: micro iDSD

    Price: $499 at musicdirect.com

     
    Volume Control: Precision analogue volume control knob (On/Off)

    Power Connector: USB 3.0 Male, USB 3.0 Female

    Battery Life: 4800 mAH battery, depending on which mode is selected, drains battery accordingly (Eco, Normal, Turbo). Estimated 12 hours playback on Eco mode.

    Inputs: 1x USB 2.0 type A “OTG” Socket

    1x SPDIF Coaxial

    1x SPDIF Optical

    Outputs: 1x RCA L+R

    1x SPDIF Coaxial

     

    Specifications:

    Consult this page for detailed specifications. (http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/micro-idsd)

     
    DAC

    Dual-core DSD, DXD, PCM DAC by Burr Brown

    2-DAC Chip; 4-Channel; 8-Signals, custom interleaving for maximum SNR

      Bit-Perfect DSD processing, Bit-Perfect PCM processing

     
     

     

     

    Clock

    Ultra low jitter GMT computer controlled Femto Clock

    RMS jitter 12kHz – 1MHz < 280 Femtoseconds

     

     

     

    Audio Formats

    DSD 512/256/128/64

    24.6/22.6/12.4/11.2/6.2/5.6/3.1/2.8

    All native decoding, no internal hardware conversion

      DXD 2x/1x

    768/705.6/384/352.8kHz

    All native decoding, no internal hardware conversion

      PCM 768/705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/

    48/44.1kHz

    All native decoding, no internal hardware conversion

     

     

     


    Build and Finish: Surprisingly lengthy unit made out of machined aluminum. Decent weight with quality metal switches and knobs. The iDSD is well-finished, a quality product with no quality control issues. On the back of the unit, iFi Audio was thoughtful enough to place a detailed specs report for easy consultation.
     
    Accessories: I’ve never seen a product come with this many accessories before. iFi Audio definitely wanted the consumer to have every single option available for the long haul.
    The original packaging is also quite useful. It comes with a foam insert, that allows you to place the iDSD back in its original alignment. The box serves as a carrying case of sorts.
     
    Comes with: 1x Velvet Pouch, 2x Detailed Instruction Cards, 1x 3.5mm Male to 3.5mm Male Adapter, 2x Silicone Bands, 1x 90° Male USB to Female USB Cable (Type A), 1x Female USB (Type A) to Female USB (Type B) Cable, 1x Purple RCA Cable, 4x Rubber Soles for Amp, 1x 3.5mm to 1/4th Adapter, 1x Jumper, 1x Short Female (Type A) to Female (Type B) Adapter, 1x Blue USB 3.0 Male (Type A) to Female (Type A) Cable
     
    Technology and Design:
     
    The Micro iDSD is easily the most technologically well-equipped product I’ve seen from a manufacturer. For the price, you’re getting so much to work with.
     
    First off, supported playback includes just about everything under the sun. It’s definitely future-proof with Octa DSD 512, Double DXD 256, and PCM 768 playback.
     
    Additionally, the iDSD can drive just about anything under the sun with 10V of power @ 16 ohm when “Turbo” mode is selected. This includes orthodynamic headphones such as the HIFIMAN HE-6.
    The iDSD is designed around getting the cleanest signal from the amplifier/dac to your headphones. There’s a built-in iPurifier on the rear USB port, eliminating EMI interference on its way to the iDSD. For the DAC section, there’s an ultra-low jitter Femto clock--something I’ve never seen at this price range.

    There are also three filter options (PCM, DSD, DXD), iEMatch for IEMs sensitivity matching, X-Bass, 3D Holographic Sound, and a power socket on the right side where you can utilized the iDSD to charge your portable devices. Yes, you can use the iDSD as a charger. iFi Audio has even included that as an option.
     
    Included accessories are also a bonus. You have everything you could possibly need to get started.

     
    Sound / Comparisons:
     
    All listening was done on Eco or Normal Power Mode, - Polarity, Bit-Perfect Filter, iEMatch disabled, X-Bass and 3D Holographic disabled. I found this offered the most neutral and true flavor of the original recording. I won’t be commenting on the results of experimenting with these settings.
     
    I found the iDSD a very interesting listen. Quite frankly, it’s as close as you can get to reference for the price of $499. However, I have a hard time giving it the ultimate nod for transparency and neutrality. Even with all its technology, at the heart of the iDSD is still the Burr-Brown DAC chip. This gives the iDSD a slightly warm tinge that’s most evident with neutral headphones like the Ether or the Audio Technica R70x. That’s not to say the iDSD is lacking in details. In fact, I would say the opposite is true. I had no trouble hearing all the subtle nuances in each track, and I didn’t hear any flaws smoothed over despite the warmer presentation.
     
    For most people, the iDSD offers a clear improvement over lesser offerings and a window to musically accurate sound. Fundamentally speaking, the iDSD works well with just about every headphone on the market. It also always manages to sound just right; the soundstage is never too expansive and is often portrayed with a good sense of intimacy. But on tracks that require a medium to communicate an effective sense of space, the iDSD doesn’t disappoint either.
     
    Bass is tight, well-rounded, with slightly above average dynamics and impact. On a headphone like the Ether, I looked to hear the sub-bass and excellent bass response. The iDSD did precisely that, without over-emphasizing and glossing over the bass details I’ve grown accustomed to.
     
    Mids and vocals are fairly neutral, I didn’t feel as if the iDSD was particularly forward or distant. In my mind, the iDSD passed the realism test. Vocals sparkled when they should, crooned when called upon, and sounded pretty darn good overall.
     
    The treble on the iDSD is slightly accentuated. Perhaps this has something to do with the house sound of iFi Audio, since the iDAC2 and other offerings I’ve tried have a similar presentation. The iDSD, fortunately, has the least coloration of all its brethren. The treble sounds quite lean juxtaposed against the full-bodied and warm bass thumping in the background. I’ll have to say I prefer this dry and slightly analytical treble personally. It makes Electronica and Rock music a pleasure to listen to, similar in the way Grados handle treble (but without the harshness).
     
    The iDSD also excelled at imaging and transient speed. Fast and difficult recordings were played back without a hitch with perfect instrumental placement. It is this particular trait, coupled with an  “open” sound that allows the iDSD to be considered reference in my book.
     
    While not as musical as the Mojo, or as dynamic as the Concero HP, the iDSD nonetheless holds its own as a contender for one of the better portable amps/dacs. It serves as an all-purpose and well-honed unit that offers so much possibilities in terms of playback and usage.
     
    Clarity, cohesion, openness, and accuracy. The Micro iDSD has all of them in spades.
    Conclusively, I highly recommend the iDSD for a long-term purchase that doesn’t disappoint.

     
    Overall Score: 8.9
     
        -Bass: 9
        -Mids: 9
        -Treble: 8.5
        -Transparency: 9
        -Dynamics/Transients: 9
        -Resolution/Details: 9
        -Soundstage/Presentation: 9
  8. mathieu89
    IDSD Black label - A great gear ... Not only for Headphones
    Written by mathieu89
    Published Jan 9, 2017
    4.5/5,
    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.
     
    Mathieu
  9. stevenyu2000
    Good DAC with Multi-Connect and output
    Written by stevenyu2000
    Published Dec 30, 2016
    3.5/5,
    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
    500x1000px-LL-03b6ca5a_SanyoOSCON.jpg
    500x1000px-LL-584a7743_AMRCD-77-Digital-Engine.jpg
    500x1000px-LL-a73e217a_B_P1070660.jpg
    500x1000px-LL-c4a69a70_B_P1070561.jpg
     
     
     
    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.
    20161229_114351_HDR.jpg
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    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
  10. davide256
    Worth the price but not a giant killer
    Written by davide256
    Published Aug 23, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Made to work with iPhone thunderbolt camera adaptor, excellent asynch USB, swiss army knife features
    Cons - setting buttons on bottom need to be recessed to avoid accidental change when amp is moved, doesn't have the tonal solidity of a full desk top amp
    I think there are quite a few reviews on this headphone amp so I see no need to do another long winded one. Consider this rather some
    observations on what is a fine product but does have its quirks.
     
    First my setup is typically UPNP streamed music out to asynch USB/ DAC. For headphones I currently use Hifiman HE-400 and Grado SR-225,
    For comparison headphone amps I have Hifiman EF-5 and Musical Hall 25.2.
     
    Ergonomics:  one has to be careful to check all switches if the amp is moved as its easy to accidentally brush one on the bottom and change settings... this happens
    often with the IEM button
     
    Asynch USB section: this is quite good and used in my main system marginally better than the Gustard U12
     
    Amp section: excellent detail, balance and range. However compared to the tube desktop amps the Micro lacks solidity for tone colors.  They in turn aren't
    quite as delicate in detail and are less forgiving of bad source.
     
    DAC section: works quite well feeding my other headphone amps. However in main system compared to Metrum Octave the Micro DAC section sounded thin,
    not as good as the DAC section on an Oppo 103. This seems to be the weakest part of the amp.
    1. JUGA
      did the X-Bass function works?  if yes - can you here difference? we have 4 unit and in all 4 devices X-Bass das not works. There is no difference between switch off and switch on.
      JUGA, Mar 13, 2016