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  1. Takeanidea
    iFi iDSDBL a dacamp for Christmas with all the trimmings
    Written by Takeanidea
    Published Dec 22, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Accessories, finish, power, hardware settings
    Cons - Volume unbalanced at low settings
    iDSD BL

    Christmas Dacamp with all the trimmings

    Introduction

     
    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. 
    IMG_20161222_114115160_HDR2.jpg
     
    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. 
     

    Features

     
    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.
    IMG_20161222_114041235_HDR2.jpg
     
    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. 
    IMG_20161222_114102031_HDR2.jpg
     
    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.
     

    Build

     
    With the iDSD comes many bits and bobs.  
     
    IMG_20161222_112555761_HDR2.jpg
     
    IMG_20161222_112619348_HDR2.jpg
     
    IMG_20161222_113516518_HDR2.jpg
     
     
     
    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. 
     
    IMG_20161222_1136287082.jpg
     
     
    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.
     
    IMG_20161222_114102031_HDR2.jpg
     
     
    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. 
     
    [​IMG]
     

    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. 
     
    IMG_20161222_114135294_HDR.jpg
     
     
    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!  
     
     
    IMG_20161222_114347079_HDR2.jpg
     
     
     
    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. 
     

    Conclusion

     
    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. 
     
    HD800MojoDX100.jpg
     
     
    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. jk47
    powerful amp with useful features; ok dac; good value
    Written by jk47
    Published Feb 18, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - able to drive the most demanding phones; "3d" crossfeed a strong feature; inputs can be coax, toslink or line-in
    Cons - disappointing burr brown dac
    i won't repeat the details available in the review that's already been posted.
     
    i got the ifi micro idsd for several reasons: one was that i wasn't sure my dx90 had a strong enough amp to drive the planar alpha primes that i recently bought.  the ifi micro has a very strong amp, capable of 4w output.  another reason i got it was that i was curious about how a different dac would sound- i have a dx90 with its dual sabre dac, and a gungnir on my home system with its akm chips.  the ifi micro idsd comes with a burr brown dac.
     
    bottom line:  my dx90 could in fact drive the alpha primes pretty well, but they sound even better when i use the dx90 line-out to the micro's line-in, i.e. use the dx90's dac and the ifi micro's amp.  the greater power of the ifi's amp, plus its very impressive "3d" crossfeed feature produces a bigger and cleaner soundstage.  the ifi's dac was a disappointment, at least compared to the dx90's dac.  the dx90's dual sabres produce cleaner, clearer sound.  in comparison, the ifi's burr browns sound muddy.  i don't want to overstate this- if i had just listened to the ifi micro and not had the dx90 to compare with the very same source files run out through the very same amp [the ifi's via line-out-in], the burr browns would have sounded fine, perfectly acceptable  
     
    the ifi micro is not a portable "on-the-go" device, it's too big and heavy for that.  i would call it "transportable," rather than "portable."  the heaviness of the micro is in part a function of its very large 4800mah battery - a trade-off desirable in some circumstances, not others.  
     
    in sum, the ifi micro is a very capable, multi-featured, transportable device.  it will accept inputs via coax or toslink to run through its dac stage, or line-in to skip its dac and just use its powerful amp.  there are a multitude of adjustments that can be made depending on the power demands of your phones, as well as a choice of filters controlling how it samples.  [i only use pcm flac files and so used the bit-perfect filter.]
    1. View previous replies...
    2. jk47
      i don't know why you'd want to buy both a hugo and a micro - each has a dac and an amp, so they serve identical functions.  i haven't heard a hugo so can't comment on sound differences.  
       
      as to whether dacs have differences, i would say from this experience that they do.  otoh, i suppose the differences i heard could have arisen elsewhere in the chain.  for example, to use the ifi's dac i connected the dx90 to the micro with a coax-spdif cable that came with the dx90.  perhaps there was something in that connector that produced the differences in sound.  or perhaps the dx90's coax out is somehow distorting the output.  i hadn't thought of those explanations when i wrote the review.  i can't fully check these alternate theories, even if i wanted to spend the time, which i don't.  i could certainly get a different connector to use instead of the one supplied.  but i don't have the knowledge or the means to check whether there's a problem in the dx90's coax out.
      jk47, Feb 24, 2015
    3. 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
    4. jk47
      i haven't used the ifi micro for some time and i don't believe i ever even tried the x-bass function.  i've just been using my qp1r dap.
      jk47, Mar 13, 2016
  3. 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
    20161229_114425_HDR.jpg
     
     
    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. 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
  5. silvrr
    iFi Audio micro iDSD Black Label (The swiss army knife of the Head-fi world)
    Written by silvrr
    Published Jan 5, 2017
    3.0/5,
    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.

    [​IMG]

    INTRODUCTION:
     
    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. 
     

     
    DISCLAIMER:
     
    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.
     

     
    HARDWARE AND SPECIFICATIONS:

    [​IMG]
     
    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.
     
    Specifications:
    http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/micro-idsd-bl/
     
    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.  
     

     
     
    DESIGN AND BUILD:

    Inputs:
    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)
    [​IMG]
    Outputs:
    RCA (Rear) Fixed or variable output
    6.35 mm TRS (Front)
    USB Power (provides 5V 1.5 Amp when BL is off)
     
    [​IMG]
     
    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.  
     
    [​IMG]
     
    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.  
     
    Build:
     
    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.  
     

     
    USING THE BL:
     
    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.  
     

     
    HOW DOES IT SOUND:
     
    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.
     

     
    CONCLUSION:
     
    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.
     

     
     
    OTHER BL REVIEWS:
    http://www.head-fi.org/products/ifi-audio-micro-idsd
     
    OTHER REVIEWS FROM ME:
    http://www.head-fi.org/users/365069/reviews
      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
  6. lambdastorm
    Horrible.
    Written by lambdastorm
    Published Sep 21, 2018
    1.0/5,
    Pros - Very nice chassis

    AMP section has remarkable amount of control and drive

    Battery lasts reasonably long
    Cons - Absolutely horrible DAC

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

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

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

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

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

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




    In the end, I suggest any other users to steer clear of this dac/amp. The AMP section of this lil box trumps most if not all portable units on the market, however the DAC section is just so uninspiring it ruins the whole experience. It's tiny sounding, doesn't have much dynamics and lacks air. I don't really think its worth it even for the $320 I got it for.
      joeydgraffix and Sabron like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. joeydgraffix
      We may just have different taste's in sound. I had both the silver and black versions & I had everything set correctly. They both handled poorly with EQ. XBass just muddied the bass. The 3d was absolutely disappointing, to me there was no concert like sound to it, just boosted treble with some sound being pushed to the sides. It had a ton of power but the sound from it just seemed to be on the bad side for me.
      joeydgraffix, Mar 1, 2019
    3. abirdie4me
      Just picked this up used, and I think it sounds great. However, it doesn't sound great as preamp to my Jotunheim amp. I did some A/B testing with Jot balanced DAC, I noticed very little difference (grouped zone via Roon, so they were volume matched). But the iDSD by itself sounds awesome to me, so for me this is a great value for a portable dac/amp. I sold my mojo, it seemed lifeless and uninspiring in comparison. We all hear differently and have different preferences I guess.
      abirdie4me, Apr 9, 2019
    4. Highend75
      It is obvious that you cannot hear the major details of this DAC, let alone the most subtle.
      Some people can't tell the difference between High-end and mid-fi.
      The ear just isn't capable.
      Highend75, Aug 26, 2019