1. 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.
  2. earfonia
    iFi Audio micro iDSD Black-Label: Sound Quality First!
    Written by earfonia
    Published Jan 31, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Feature rich with high performance to price ratio; Multi-platform compatibility; Isolated USB and analog ground with excellent USB EMI noise rejection
    Cons - 1-2 seconds of silence at the beginning of playback (from a stop); 1 LED indicator with complicated color codes
    Many thanks to iFi for the tour program, to let us have some experience with the new iFi micro iDSD Black-Label!

     



     

    iFi micro iDSD Black-Label product web page:
    http://ifi-audio.com/portfolio-view/micro-idsd-bl/

    Manual:
    http://ifi-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/data/manual/miDSDBL_manual.pdf
     
     
    Due to the limitation of max 100000 characters in this review section, I couldn't post here the features and measurement part of this review. Please check the features and measurement part here:
     
    iFi micro iDSD Black-Label - In-Depth Review
     
     

    The iFi micro iDSD Black-Label is the improved version of the previous iFi micro iDSD. iFi has shared to us in detail, many of their design considerations during the development of the micro iDSD. Lot’s to learn from the post, therefore I think it is worth to post the link to the early discussion here:

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/711217/idsd-micro-black-label-tour-details-page-147-release-info-page-153

    I bought the iFi micro iDSD pre-ordered from Stereo Singapore in September 2014. Since then it has been one of my favorite portable DAC. I like the line output sound quality especially when paired with iFi micro iCan, but the headphone output of iFi micro iDSD requires some matching to sound best. My biggest complaint so far from the iFi micro iDSD is the quality of the iEMatch switch that often glitchy and causes loss of the right channel or severe channel imbalance. The volume pot of my iFi micro iDSD also has audible channel imbalance below 9:30’ position. Together with the glitchy iEMatch switch, it makes me difficult to use it for sensitive IEMs. I’m glad to say that I found the channel imbalance of the review unit of the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label has been greatly reduced, and practically I didn’t have any channel imbalance issue even at low volume setting. I hope this will be the case for all iFi micro iDSD Black-Label units. I also hope that the iEMatch switch durability has been improved on the Black-Label version.
     

     

     

    Some of the improvements in the Black-Label version are some of the electronic components, power sections, clock system, and some other improvement on both digital and analog circuit sections, including the implementation of custom Op-Amp. There is no changes in the technical specifications and features from the previous iFi micro iDSD, so feature wise both the iFi micro iDSD and the Black-Label version are similar. The improvement is more on the sound quality. One might ask when there is an improvement in the sound quality, why it is not shown in the specification? The simple answer is, the measured specifications don't cover all aspects of the sound quality. Basic specifications such as FR, THD, and SNR are only a few aspects of the audio quality and quite often are not advertised in detail. THD for example, usually only advertised as average THD, but manufacturer usually doesn't give further detail like what is the distortion profile across the audio band, which type of distortion that is more dominant, etc. Therefore, usually, it is close to impossible to judge the sound quality of a DAC or Amplifier only by looking at the advertised specifications.

    In summary, iFi micro iDSD Black-Label is an excellent sounding, feature rich DAC + headphone amplifier. It does require some knowledge to get the most out of it. Sound quality wise, it is on the neutral side with no obvious coloration. For those who are looking for warm, intimate, mellow type of sound signature, better look elsewhere. Transparency, clarity, speed, and detail retrieval are still the main characteristics of iFi micro iDSD Black-Label sound signature, similar to the iFi micro iDSD. And iFi has improved it further in a more musical manner on the Black-Label version. Besides some technical improvement from the previous iFi micro iDSD, the sound quality improvement that I observed on the Black-Label are transparency, dynamic, and instrument separation. The Black-Label is more transparent and realistic sounding than the already transparent sounding iFi micro iDSD. Not a night and day differences, but noticeable. And I’m glad to say that the increase in transparency and detail retrieval doesn’t make the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label sounding more analytical than the iFi micro iDSD. Subjectively, iFi micro iDSD Black-Label is actually sounding more musical to me. Even though not by much, I do prefer the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label sound quality than the iFi micro iDSD.
     

     

    Pros:
    1. Feature rich with high performance to price ratio.
    2. Neutral sound quality with superb transparency, speed, and detail retrieval.
    3. Good multi-platforms compatibility with various operating systems.
    4. Isolated USB and analog ground with excellent USB EMI noise rejection.
    5. Various digital and analog filters to suit listening preference.
    6. A wide range of gain and headphone output power settings to suit various loads, from sensitive IEMs to demanding headphones.
    7. Useful and good sounding analog bass boost and stereo enhancement analog circuit.
    8. Good battery life.

    Cons:
    1. 1-2 seconds of silence at the beginning of playback (from a stop). This short period of silence causes the first 1-2 seconds of the song gets muted at the start. This can be quite annoying for some songs that start immediately at the 1st second. This is the only most annoying flaw of iFi micro iDSD Black-Label so far, but I believe it can be fixed by firmware update if iFi is willing to fix it, or probably by releasing a special driver only for PCM playback. I notice that the silence period is slightly longer on the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label compared to the iFi micro iDSD. Due to the short review time, I’ve only tested it with foobar v1.3.12 (WASAPI and DSD ASIO). Probably there is a way to shorten the silence from the setting, but I didn’t have enough time to play around with the setting or checked this symptom using other media player applications.​ This short period of silence at the beginning of playback is could be due to ‘pop’ issue described here:
              http://ifi-audio.com/audio_blog/pop-goes-dsd-why-does-this-happen/
    1. 1 LED indicator to indicate many operating conditions. It is not user-friendly to expect a user to memorize so many color codes from a single LED indicator.
    2. Volume level indicator is hard to see.

    Suggestions for improvements:
    1. To shorten the start play silence.
    2. A more user-friendly LED indicator. Suggested 3 LEDs indicator as described at the end part of this review.
    3. White or silver volume level indicator for better visibility.
    4. Better design rubber feet with a stronger attachment to the metal case. It is preferable to have better rubber feet that have been fixed to the metal case from the factory.
     


     
     
     

    Sound Quality

    Sound quality observations were done using my regular test tracks as shown at the end of this review. As for headphones and IEMs, I mostly used the following during this review:
     
    Headphones:
    Audio-Technica ATH-R70x
    Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7
    Beyerdynamic T1
    HiFiMan HE-6
    Massdrop HD6xx
    Sennheiser HD800
    Philips Fidelio X1
    STAX SR-L300 + SRM-252S
     
    In-Ear Monitors:
    AK T8iE Mk2
    Brainwavz B200
    DUNU DN-2000
     

     

    Headphone Output Sound Signature:
    Transparent with good detail and dynamic is probably the simplest way to describe iFi micro iDSD Black-Label sound signature. Generally, it sounds quite neutral with no obvious coloration. The iFi micro iDSD Black-Label is not a warm and mellow sounding type of DAC that tends to ‘beautify’ recording flaws. It is a bit on the dry and analytical side, but iFi has done it in a nice and musical way. It is still lean on the analytical side but it doesn’t sound thin. iFi micro iDSD Black-Label has excellent stereo imaging, spacious and holographic with good depth. The headphone output is powerful with lightning fast transient, always giving the impression that it can drive any IEMs and headphones with ease. iFi micro iDSD Black-Label might not be for those looking for smooth warm and polite sounding DAC, but I imagine that the Black-Label could easily be the sound engineer favorite portable DAC.

    With the mentioned headphones and IEMs above, I prefer to match the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label with the less analytical sounding ones. Though pairing the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label with HD800 and T1 give and impressive transparent and holographic sonic presentation, but overall still rather too bright for my preference. The iFi micro iDSD Black-Label despite the small size also surprisingly able to drive the HiFiMan HE-6 quite well, but the pair also a bit too bright for me.
     

     
     
    So the headphones and IEMs that I consider pairs well with iFi micro iDSD Black-Label are:

    Audio-Technica ATH-R70x
    Philips Fidelio X1
    STAX SR-L300 + SRM-252S (Connected to Line Output)

    AK T8iE Mk2
    Brainwavz B200

    Most surprising is how iFi micro iDSD Black-Label improves the sound quality of the new Brainwavz B200, dual BA drivers IEM. B200 usually sounds polite with soft treble with my Onkyo DP-X1, not so much excitement. But when driven from iFi micro iDSD Black-Label, the treble suddenly shines and sparkling nicely. B200 sounds more lively and exciting with iFi micro iDSD Black-Label. Quite a significant improvement. The Audio-Technica ATH-R70x and STAX SR-L300 + SRM-252S (Connected to Line Output) are also wonderful pairs with the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label.
     

     


    Comparison to iFi micro iDSD Headphone Output
    At the same volume level, the Black-Label sounds more powerful with greater dynamic and sense of driving power. Bass sounds slightly thicker, tighter, punchier, and has a better texture. I feel both bass and midrange texture and micro dynamic seems to be improved on the Black-Label, giving a slightly better perception of depth, transparency, and instruments separation. Treble is more or less the same, but on some recordings with sibilance, the sibilant sounds a tad more prominent on the older micro iDSD, and a tad less sharp on the Black-Label. Just a tad, basically the difference is quite small. The level of treble and treble sparkle are about the same, but with slightly different character. The sparkling character of the treble of iFi micro iDSD Black-Label is somehow sounding a tad more natural to my ears. In summary, the Black-Label sounds more transparent, bolder, and more energetic than the previous micro iDSD. The difference is audible but not a night and day kind of differences. What I mean is, that if we already have the micro iDSD, I think it is not necessary to sell it to get the Black-Label. But if I have to choose, I would definitely choose the Black-Label over the silver micro iDSD.
     

    iFi micro iDSD Black-Label Line Output + iFi micro iCan
    I remember that in past, ever mentioned in the forum that some suggested to iFi to tweak the headphone amplifier of the micro iDSD to be closer to the sound signature of the micro iCan. So is the headphone amplifier of the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label now sounds close to the micro iCan? Well not quite yet. The headphone output of iFi micro iDSD Black-Label sounds dryer than the iCan. In my opinion, the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label line output connected to micro iCan still sounds better. They do share some similarity, like the level of transparency, detail retrieval, and dynamic are probably about the same, but the micro iCan sounds slightly smoother and warmer that makes the micro iCan more friendly for analytical headphones like HD800 and T1. The micro iCan has slightly longer decay than the Black-Label headphone amplifier that makes it sounds less dry and more pleasing to my ears. I’m still hoping that one day I could have a new generation of micro iDSD with the headphone out sound quality that is similar to the micro iCan sound quality. So I don’t have to bring two units to enjoy the sound quality of the combination of micro iDSD + micro iCan. In the past, I’ve compared the line output sound quality of my micro iDSD to bigger and more expensive desktop DACs, and micro iDSD line output has been proven to exceed its price bracket. iFi micro iDSD Black-Label line output doesn’t disappoint and even improved it further on the transparency, detail, and instrument separation. Very impressive line output sound quality from such a small portable DAC. IMHO, iFi micro iDSD Black-Label is worth it even just for the DAC section alone.
     

     

     
     

    Chord Mojo (Headphone Output Comparisons)
    Listening to classical DSD tracks, Super Artists on Super Audio sampler vol.5 from Channel Classics Records, when using the analogy of medium and large concert hall, Chord Mojo sounds like we are listening to the concert in a medium size hall, with a tad better micro detail and impact. Listening to Chord Mojo is like sitting closer to the musical performance, more intimate presentation with a tad clearer micro detail and slightly better sense of micro-dynamic. iFi micro iDSD Black-Label, on the other hand, provides a more spacious sensation, like listening in a larger hall. Less intimate with a larger sense of space. iFi micro iDSD BL is also perceived as a tad smoother sounding than Mojo. The difference is not day and night, but quite easy to distinguish. Both performs admirably in their own ways. I do need more time for better comparison between Mojo and iFi micro iDSD Black-Label, but the most distinguishable difference is in the presentation, between the more intimate presentation of Mojo and the more holographic presentation of iFi micro iDSD Black-Label. Honestly, I can’t really tell which one is better. I guess it is not for better or worst but more about personal preference.


     
     
     
    Features and Measurement
     
    Both the older version of iFi micro iDSD and the Black-Label version have similar features and specifications, therefore I listed only the Black-Label version in this table of features.
     
    Table of Features in comparison to Chord Mojo:
    Parameter
    iFi micro iDSD Black-label​
    Chord Mojo​
    DAC
    Dual-Core Burr-Brown (2-DAC Chip)​
    Chord Custom FPGA DAC​
    PCM
    PCM 768/ 705.6/ 384/ 352.8/ 192/ 176.4/
    96/ 88.2/ 48/ 44.1kHz​
    PCM 768/ 705.6/ 384/ 352.8/ 192/ 176.4/
    96/ 88.2/ 48/ 44.1kHz​
    DSD
    up to DSD 512​
    up to DSD 256​
    Multi-platform compatibility
    Yes​
    Yes​
    USB Input
    USB 2.0 type A “OTG” Socket
    (with iPurifier® technology built-in)​
    Micro-B USB​
    SPDIF Coaxial Input
    RCA - Up to 192kHz PCM​
    3.5mm jack - Up to 768kHz PCM​
    SPDIF Optical Input
    Up to 192kHz PCM​
    Up to 192kHz PCM​
    SPDIF Output
    RCA Coaxial - Up to 192kHz PCM​
    -​
    USB to SPDIF Conversion
    Yes - Up to 192kHz PCM​
    -​
    Selectable Filter
    Yes - 3 options for each PCM and DSD​
    -​
    Analog Line Input
    Yes - 3.5mm socket​
    -​
    Analog Line Output
    Yes - Dedicated RCA​
    Integrated with headphone output​
    Line Output Level
    Direct: 2V Fixed
    PreAmp - Eco: 0 - 2.18 V
    Variable - Normal: 0 - 5.66 V
    Variable - Turbo: 0 - 6.43 V​
    0V - 4.79V Variable​
    Headphone Output
    1x 6.5mm socket​
    2x 3.5mm socket​
    Adjustable HO Gain
    Yes - 9 combinations​
    -​
    Maximum HO Voltage -
    measured @ 600 ohms load
    9.71 Vrms​
    4.79 Vrms​
    Maximum HO Current -
    measured @ 15 ohms load
    306 mA​
    199 mA​
    HO Output Impedance
    IEMatch Off: 0.34 ohms
    IEMatch High Sensitivity: 4.1 ohms
    IEMatch Ultra Sensitivity: 0.95 ohms​
    0.44 ohms​
    HO SNR @ 50 mV @ 33 ohms
    (for very sensitive IEM)
    Eco - Ultra Sens. : 87.3 dB
    Normal - Ultra Sens. : 87.0 dB
    Turbo - Ultra Sens. : 83.0 dB​
    82.9 dB​
    Volume Control
    Analog Potentiometer​
    Digital​
    Extra Features
    XBass Plus, 3D Matrix Plus, Polarity Switch,
    & USB Power Bank (5V, 1.5A)​
    -​
    Weight
    310g​
    180g​
    Dimension
    177mm (l) x 67mm (w) x 28mm(h)​
    82mm (l) x 60mm (w) x 22mm (h)​

     
    I did some test and observation of the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label features, like testing the iFi iPurifier® technology on the iFi micro iDSD Black-Label USB input and how effective that feature to remove unwanted EMI from USB audio, here:
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Unfortunately I cannot post all the features and measurement part here due to the maximum limit of the characters that can be posted in this section.
    Therefore, Please check the features and measurement part here:
     
    iFi micro iDSD Black-Label - In-Depth Review
     
     


    iFi micro iDSD Black-Label is probably the most unique and feature rich DAC+Amp combo in its class. The Black-Label version is a proof of iFi main priority in their design philosophy, which is sound quality. The Black-Label version has similar features to the older version of micro iDSD, and all the effort and improvement is only to achieve one goal, better sound quality. And I think iFi has achieved it. Kudos to iFi!
     
     

     

     

     

     
     



    Equipment used in this review

    Headphones:
    Audio-Technica ATH-R70x
    Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7
    Beyerdynamic T1
    HiFiMan HE-6
    Massdrop HD6xx
    Sennheiser HD800
    Philips Fidelio X1
    STAX SR-L300 + SRM-252S
     
    In-Ear Monitors:
    1964 Audio V3 (universal)
    AK T8iE Mk2
    Brainwavz B200
    DUNU DN-2000
     
    DAC and Amplifiers:
    Chord Mojo
    iFi micro iDSD
    iFi micro iCan
    Audio-Technica AT-HA22Tube
     
    Measurement Equipment:
    QuantAsylum QA401 - 24-bit Audio Analyzer
    Owon VDS3102 - 100 MHz Digital Storage Oscilloscope
    Brymen BM829s - Digital Multimeter
    HRT LineStreamer+ - Analog to Digital Converter
    ZKE EBD-USB+ - USB Power Meter
     
    Computer & Player:
    DIY Desktop PC: Gigabyte GA-H77-D3H-MVP motherboard, Intel i7-3770, 16 GB RAM, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit SP1.
    foobar2000 v1.3.12



    Some recordings used in this review:
     

    1. View previous replies...
    2. MLGrado
      nice!  I am still waiting on it.  I am near the end of the line for review.  I am also on the list to review the new Aune S6.  I am looking forward to that comparison!  
       
      I am curious about the cutoff you are talking about on PCM material.  Is it on PCM only?  Correct?  Hmmm.  Let me get my iDSD Micro out and have a listen.  This is not something I recall experiencing with my PC.  I think if I did have that issue I would remember because I would find it extremely annoying.  That is still one of the maddening things about USB audio, and I am sure it drives these companies crazy...  especially with PC audio, since hardware configs are practically unlimited in possible combinations, it is probably impossible to get it perfect for everyone.  
       
      I know over time these little glitches in the iFi software have improved immensely.  To the point where I felt the user experience was a good as one could expect considering all the functionality.  The software has come a long way, and I think that shows you both sides of the coin when your relatively small company has its own in house software and design team.  
      MLGrado, Feb 2, 2017
    3. MLGrado
      And thanks for the comparo with the Chord.  I have yet to hear a Chord product, but I know many swear by them. 
      MLGrado, Feb 2, 2017
    4. earfonia
      @MLGrado, Looking forward to your review!
      The initial silence is short on my micro iDSD, but a bit longer on micro iDSD BL that starts to get me annoyed. Hope I could find the right setting with foobar to get rid of it. 
      earfonia, Feb 3, 2017
  3. 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
  4. 00lunar
    A marvelous all-arounder
    Written by 00lunar
    Published Jan 18, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound, functionality, build quality, price-to-performance ratio
    Cons - Nothing major. Black writing could be orange.
    Introductory word
     
    They say that once you go black.... yeah. This is quite self-explanatory. And behold, black iFi Audio product emerged. I can only say - finally. Cheers to 'em English folks. Even though I enjoy iFi stuff, I had a pleasure to know said manufacturer's every device out there, silver color doesn't make me pleasantly anxious. Don't get me wrong, it looks OK. It fits where it needs to fit. Though I wondered if we'll see black puppies from iFi, that was my desire number one for a long, long time. And to know that BL version is supposedly better than stock iDSD is yet another reason to be happy. Improvements are usually good in our hobby. And if a company with very extensive know-how is able to further improve its circuitry here and there, the outcome surely is something to look forward to. So we looked forward, waited. And waited. And then waited some more.
     
    _MG_3288.jpg
     
    My experience with iDSD Micro was very enjoyable overall. In order not to make this story longer than needed (it's long enough), let me just say that for the price, this was and still is IMO a very nice product to have. I believe that it defended itself over time, it held its ground firmly against numerous rivals. Several of my friends own one and are perfectly happy. Yes, they do AMR window shopping, but are happy nonetheless. When I used my iDSD Micro on the go with a laptop, its one feature stood out of the crowd, namely organics. With right tracks and right CIEMs/headphones, this deck had it. This lifelike, rich and musical approach I subjectively enjoy and pay attention to since literally forever.
     
    _MG_3302.jpg
     
    Original iDSD sound wasn't thin, dull, fuzzy or unpleasant in any way. For the money it was simply right. Chord Hugo elevated this experience to even greater extent, but for a completely different, much higher asking though. When my buddies asked me about a transportable DAC/amp combo they should buy, I suggested to go with iDSD Micro as a complete have-it-all package that'll cover most of their needs. If budget to spend was higher, Hugo was my pick. After many sources auditioned, my all time favorites up to $3'500 were iDSD Micro, Hugo and desktop AURALiC Vega in that logical order exactly, namely from the most affordable to the most pricey.
     
    _MG_3290.jpg
     
    Years have passed, iDSD is no longer with me and the same story is with Hugo. I'm a home stereo person of heavy calibre these days. But iDSD BL is something I noticed in an instant. One of my friends planned to grab one unit for his own needs anyway. Needless to say, I've exploited his kindness. In short, to evaluate iDSD BL's skills, ENIGMAcoustic Dharma D1000 and HiFiMAN HE-1000 V1 cans were very helpful in writing this piece. Apologies for not being able to compare said English deck to any competition as I currently don't own anything suitable for the job.
     
    Functionality and stuff
     
    Before we'll dive into the sound, a word about fit'n'finish and said product's functionality. iDSD BL is a typical iFi Audio device, nothing much can be said about it as there's been a lot of reviews out there already. That's hardly any surprise at all. In any case, black iDSD Micro looks dandy. Subjectively this color is great, much better than the original. Stealthy impressions, anyone? Yes, please. And the paint job itself is done nicely too, even all across the product's chassis. Orange writings do the trick nicely as well. Perhaps this is just me, but black&orange mix is something that IMO simply works. My only gripe is with our English deck's bottom. Some descriptions visible there are orange, whereas vast majority is black, therefore unreadable while looking directly at the product. This could have been done better. Therefore please iFi, put orange lettering everywhere. The product is durable, every part of its chassis is nicely finished and properly matched. Rubbery knobs look more decently than in the original, namely aren't wobbly at all, but my memory might not serve me well here. 3D and Xbass knobs feel solid and properly clicky. I can't remember how these functions were implemented in the first iDSD Micro. But their input is very audible.   
     
    _MG_3305.jpg
       
    As far as iDSD BL functionalities go, things are as good as they get for the price. This device can be used as an S/PDIF converter which I've exploited in home stereo with ease. FPGA based Audiobyte Hydra-X+ was audibly better in this task (greater resolution, even punchier and organic sound, a bit blacker background and wider imaging), but not by a lot. And Audiobyte's thing was sold for about $800 or so, these days it's in EOL state. Moving on, the ability to bypass iDSD BL's volume control is handy. Just for the sake of this review I've tried this product in standalone and heavy $$$ environment solely as a source and it handled itself in there nicely. Nowhere near my main DACs (LampizatOr Golden Gate, AMR DP-777). Yet to a point where the switch from said sources wasn't painful, which is more than surprising. Volume bypass will be probably very rarely exploited, but it's good that iDSD BL's signal path can be shortened when needed.
     
    _MG_3293.jpg
     
    iEMatch works as intended, we'll return to this topic down below, for now I can only write that it simply does the job with my Vision Ears VE5. I'm not a huge fan of filtering of any sort, therefore bit-perfect mode is my path with every source out there (LampizatOr excluded for obvious reasons, DSD upsampling is mandatory in this product's case). And during two weeks spent with iDSD BL I have to confess that I've used it as a power bank two times. Not much to say here, it charged my phone no questions asked and literally saved the day.
     
    _MG_3295.jpg
     
    Some people might be picky about iDSD BL's size and I understand this as its bulky. But once my mate shared it with me, I've always had it with while going to work, to a point where it became a habit. To have it developed in such short time counts for something. And once on the spot, iFi's deck worked with a laptop all day. Needless to say, I got attached to it as quickly as with the original iDSD Micro years back. And I got used to iDSD Bl's size, that's not an issue for me as I don't do smartphone + DAC/amp rubber-strapped on-the-go combos, that's not my thing. Functionality wise, iDSD BL covered all of my needs and in proper, predictable fashion. This kind of a package for this kind of dough I consider as a steal. YMMV, though. In the end, would I change anything in said machine's design/functionality? Orange writing aside, at the moment no, not really. Perhaps over longer time span I'd nitpick something, but not past my two weeks adventure. The loaner turned out to be a perfectly healthy deck. No hiccups, hisses or any other unpleasant surprises happened along the road. And dead silent too.
     
    Sound
     
    Let's move to sound quality. iDSD BL was used solely as a transportable integrated solution as this is its main function. My guess is that vast majority of you out there use that exactly and rarely anything else. Vision Ears VE5 came in as the first order of business. These are sensitive, midrange focused, bass light and wide sounding little devils. What they need is a bit more body and shove downstairs to sound properly. iDSD BL delivered just that and without any resolution loss. Also, this transportable deck doesn't sound sharp at all once burned-in. At least not with highly resolving VE5 CIEMs. These not only sounded clean and very informative, therefore as per usual (...and presumably to iEMatch tech inside iDSD BL), but also properly punchy, with spot-on texturing and imaging as wide as per usual. In short, I couldn't single out one particular element of this listening session that bothered me. Perhaps because of my subjective, not overly analytical and at times forgiving approach. When the overall experience is simply enjoyable for me, I'm not into pigeonholing. And that was the case with iDSD BL and VE5 combo. It was pleasant and highly synergistic, simple as that. Come to think of it, Lotoo PAW Gold provided me with even more lifelike experience a while back, yet for what iDSD BL is, it turned out great with said German CIEMs. A word about Xbass trickery is in order, though. With VE5 this works like a charm. In short, Xbass pumps up both the lowest and above departments in said CIEMs in a particularly great fashion, yet at no cost at all. I can't say the same thing with D1000, these cans subjectively don't need it. But VE5? Holy cow...    
     
    _MG_3307.jpg
        
    Moving on, it was high time to use the main headphones - HE-1000. Their slightly mellow, wide and enjoyable character pushed all my buttons in an instant. These cans are the reason why I sold my Sennheisers HD 800 and never looked back. The distinctive difference between these two models is in company needs. 800s crave for a very specific amplification to sound good, usually times more expensive. Picture Bakoon HPA-21, Trilogy 933 and (poor version) old Phoenix amp by Audio-Gd. HE-1000 on the other hand will go with literally everything out there in more enjoyable fashion. Heck, I've had a blast with these and HiFiMAN's SuperMini DAP. It didn't drove 'em to their full potential, but the outcome was pleasant still. I expected nothing less from iDSD BL. In short and in above mentioned headphones' case, this deck provides what's needed.
     
    _MG_3296.jpg
     
    First of all, this transportable machine has lots of juice to handle HE-1000, which roughly translates to properly punchy attitude. Said cans can be a bit too mellow and watery (yet not boring!) at times, but with iDSD BL the sound is honestly feisty and engaging. Proper crack and shove is there, nicely rounded, generously textured and not overly contour or stiff. The gist is that their amazing soundstage is as wide and deep as usual, nothing is missing in there. The layering is grand too, one can peel off rows one by one with decently recorded tracks. And at this point it's worth to know that iDSD BLS as a package is slightly on the warmer side. Not cold, bluntly warm or plainly fuzzy and overly cozy in the process. It is simply spot-on in that regard, even though not being neutral in 100%. The density is there too, but not overbearing. HE-1000's bass never became boomy or unpleasant, but what it had instead is both proper control and great texturing. The midrange felt quite vivid and clear at the same time, the resolution was there too. To hear all 'em tasty details properly flavored, vibrant in the process and without any veiling at all is a fabulous experience in general.
     
    _MG_3303.jpg
     
    HE-1000's highs were decent too, without metallic tint, yet finely decayed, smooth and present. There was no need to either tighten their screw or make it a bit loose. Yet again, YMMV. But what stood out of the crowd is this 'organics' feature I've mentioned above. The gist is that iDSD BL and HE-1000 combo is tangible, vivid and with this lifelike tissue present all across the board. This in my book seals the deal as said feature is the one I'm subjectively after. It distinguishes good equipment from great one and said iFi's deck is able to pull this off. I could now dive into "I'd tweak this, I'd tweak that", but that'd be unnecessary nitpicking past HE-1000 experience. Let me simply state that the outcome was very involving and subjectively enjoyable as a whole. And at this point it was clear to me that iDSD BL doesn't fulfill the magnifying glass duties, it's focus is in texturing instead of sterile dissection. And that's always good for this audiophile.
     
    _MG_3291.jpg
     
    Next in line were Dharma D1000 cans. I'll allow myself to be somewhat shorter here, as HE-1000 was my main evaluation tool. The initial observation was that these headphones' rich, expansive and well-textured aspects behaved as per usual with iDSD BL. Said transportable piece allowed them to be what they are. Simple, ain't it? The bass was punchy, well-bodied and was of pleasant nature in general. It didn't sound distorted and with ENIGMAcoustics product that was the case once or twice. But the lowest extension wasn't there, it was hard to shake off the feeling that these cans put emphasis on upper bass region. Additionally, their tonal balance is usually shifted a bit towards downstairs department and this was heard as well. But because of SBESL driver, the FR is complete nonetheless, or at least it feels like it. These features make Dharma D1000 a rather unique performer, peculiar to say the least, yet pleasant overall. My point is that iDSD BL showed all that and of proper quality. Bass we've already covered, yet moving above things are tasty too. Grain-free, smooth and texturally rich vocals among other things simply work. I honestly hadn't had a viable reason to complain.
     
    _MG_3306.jpg
     
    Yes, HE-1000 gets this midrange job in even better and more organic way and price wise it should. But Dharmas represent somewhat similar, joy focused approach and iFi's product is perfectly capable of delivering it. Highs are one of American cans' trademarks. These are nicely extended, have proper body and are free from overbearing shininess. Some good words can be said about imaging as well. Everything is in order there, though in D1000 case it was heard, that iDSD BL tends to paint a picture somewhat shorter than usual. That wasn't the case with HE-1000 or VE5, on the contrary to this paragraph's main cans. The same story is with resolving power, it was slightly decreased with these and again, I had no reasons to be vocal about it during two other models' listening sessions. The gist is that the overall experience was of enjoyable sort. I got the impression that iDSD BL was able to show their character in a proper way. The outcome was less spectacular than with HE-1000, but that was somewhat expected. And Dharmas D1000 are strange.
     
    Summary
     
     
     
    I'll try to make this chapter as short as possible. iFi Audio iDSD BL is a great product to have. It's well-made, exceptionally versatile, quite convenient to use, has enough power to handle literally every set of cans out there and it's price-to-performance ratio is - in my humble opinion - off the charts. I can't tell, perhaps for iDSD BL's $549 asking, things can be different sound wise, to some of you even better. But what counts for me is that this English deck sounds really good and it sports that organic, tension-free and tangible approach, which I never have enough of. Hence if someone asks me what transportable and affordable device to buy, "Go for iDSD BL, you'll thank me later" is my answer.   
     
    1. some leftovers:
     
    _MG_3297.jpg _MG_3304.jpg
    _MG_3300.jpg _MG_3299.jpg
      dpwolfordMD, Krisna13 and x RELIC x like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. frogmeat69
      Yeah, I wonder the same thing? Deal breaker how?
      frogmeat69, Jan 19, 2017
    3. Wyd4
      Great review thanks :)
      RCA Deal breaker indeed.
      I hate how my original iDSD conveniently plugs into my amp via RCA.  Drives me nuts :p
      Wyd4, Jan 19, 2017
    4. Krisna13
      Very well written review, good job!
      Krisna13, Mar 9, 2017
  5. bapspidoff
    iDSD Micro Black Label - An incremental improvement to an already outstanding product (World Tour Review)
    Written by bapspidoff
    Published Jan 17, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Noticeably improved bass and smoother sound compared to the original.
    Cons - Volume knob position is hard to see on the black edition. I prefer the look of the silver to the black.
    First of all, thank you so much to Ifi-Audio for sending me a black edition to review for free! Really awesome of them to involve the audio community to such a degree.
     
    I will keep this review relatively simple. I have the original silver Micro iDSD so it only makes sense to compare the two. I A/B tested the two units side by side while listening to some go-to tracks on my HifiMan HE-500 headphones. I had XBass enabled and 3D disabled for every track (just my personal preference). I did my best to volume match them by ear but I’m sure it was not perfect.
     
    Tracks I used for testing:
     
    Kurt Vile - Wheelhouse
    Danny Brown - Get Hi
    Neon indian - Local Joke (tons of sibilance on this terribly mastered track, so a good test)
    Dirty projectors - About to Die
    Dinosaur Jr. - Plans
    Matthew Dear - Ahead of Myself
     
    After listening (and re-listening) to these 6 tracks I found that I was hearing the same differences over and over again and so I felt comfortable sharing my fairly conclusive findings.
     
    Results:
     
    1. These two units are different but not to a startling degree. They are still similar in overall sound.
    1. The clearest improvement to the Black unit is far and above the bass. The bass goes deeper and hits harder. This was apparent in every song. The added bass makes listening to the Black edition quite enjoyable. I will miss the added bass when going back to my original Micro iDSD!
    2. Time and time again I found the Black unit to be smoother than the original Micro iDSD. Sibilance is less noticeable on poorly mastered tracks and the overall presentation of the music is easier on the ears. The black edition sounds silky where the silver, by comparison, sounds more dry. The black sounds cleaner and has a sound signature that is a bit more immersive.
    3. The black edition has an improved soundstage, but only marginally so. It seems deeper and more realistic.
    4. Detail retrieval is basically identical between the two units. I found that I sometimes noticed details more readily on the Silver unit but that could be because it sounds slightly “brighter” than the black.
    5. When I briefly tried out the 3D setting, I found it to be much more enjoyable than on the original silver unit. I never use it on my old unit because it makes the sound too bright for my taste. The 3D enabled on the black edition colored the sound it a pleasant, perhaps more immersive way. I could definitely see myself using 3D on the black edition.
     
    I think that the differences between the two units can be distilled to this:
     
    The black edition is a marginal but not insignificant upgrade to the original. The bass is much improved and it sounds smoother overall.
     
    That being said, would I upgrade to the black edition? Probably not. One reason I wouldn’t is I actually much prefer the look of the silver unit to the black edition. It looks more high-end in my opinion. One thing that quickly annoyed me about the black edition is the inability to see the position of the volume knob. Such is the trade-off with black-on-black design. A dark grey unit would be the best of both worlds, in my opinion.
     
    I think if you are buying a Micro iDSD for the first time, shelling out the extra cash for the black edition is an absolute no-brainer. Do it. It’s an excellent sounding unit - Ifi-Audio moved the ball forward on this one and the original was (and is) fantastic so that is no small feat. Upgrading from the original to the black is a harder decision. I would personally be more inclined to upgrade to something that is a big jump in quality, not an iterative improvement.
      proedros likes this.
  6. heliosphann
    Great things come in small packages.
    Written by heliosphann
    Published Jan 16, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Huge feature set, compact, powers almost anything and plays almost anything.
    Cons - Poor LED placement, volume knob not marked well, battery can't charge while playing on USB power.
    *I was provided a review sample by iFi for the Black Label tour*
     
     
    iFi Micro iDSD BLACK LABEL
     
    Packaging and Build Quality
     
    The iDSD Black Label came packaged in a sturdy, well presented box. Most welcome were the plethora of accessories that it came with. Multiple different kinds of cables, connectors a storage bag and even rubber feet for the main unit. The lack of accessories is one complaint I've personally had with several other mid to high end audiophile amps/dacs, etc... iFi certainly didn't skimp in this area and I'm very happy they didn't. Also included was a small, but very well written instruction manual/guide.
     
    I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the micro iDSD BL unit itself. I actually thought it'd be bigger, but the size to me is very spot on. I was also always a little weary of the long, rectangular form factor, but it turns out it's quite accommodating. This makes it especially handy if you had a small area/work-space and real estate was a premium. The unit feels very sturdy and has a good weight to it, but it's not excessively heavy for portable use. I must say, the black matte finish with the orange markings looks fantastic. The numerous switches located on every side of the unit (minus the top) are very well marked and have great mechanical and tactile feel. I only had a few issues with the physical build of the micro iDSD BL. My biggest was with the placement of the sole LED indicator. It's placed towards the top/rear of the unit on a bevel and if placed to the left of you, is impossible to see. Placement towards the front of the unit, possibly right above the volume pot would be far more effective. It would also be nice if the LED, or perhaps a secondary one, would display if you are using USB Power or Battery Power. I also felt that the volume knob should have used some of the orange paint to mark the position indicator.
     
    Features and Sound Quality
     
    One thing for certain about the micro iDSD Black Label is it certainly isn't lacking in features. This is one very versatile piece of kit. I utilized most of the features that I would normally have if I owned this unit. That means I didn't didn't use the IEM matching as I only use full size headphones. I also didn't utilize the smart charging feature, but that's certainly a great feature if you plan on taking this unit on the go.
     
    I mostly used used the Black Label with several PC's via USB. The software download was super easy and installation was a breeze. Using Foobar I went through pretty much every format the micro iDSD could handle. With the exception of DSD/DXD, everything played exceptional. The sample rate change delay was slightly longer than some units I've used, but nothing too excessive. Back to the DSD/DXD playback, I initially had a few playback issues, but they were quickly remedied by increasing the buffer size. DSD all the way up to 256 and DXD played very well after that. I also used the Black Label as a portable unit with my iBasso DX80 as a transport via digital-coax and was very pleased by the results. I didn't run down the battery completely during my testing. However, the listed playtimes even in Turbo Mode, are more than acceptable.
     
    During my time with the Black Label, I used a variety of different full sized headphones with the unit. Everything I threw at it was easily powered from the HE-1000 to the HD650. I found myself mostly using the Normal and Turbo power mode depending on the headphone, although the ECO setting was nice to have especially if you wanted to get longer battery usage. The XBass Plus setting was solid as far as bass booster's go. Most of the headphones I used with the Black Label didn't really need it, but I quite enjoyed it when using my stock HD800. The 3D Matrix Plus feature was interesting, but I overall found myself not using it much. It seemed very dependent on the source material and the headphone used. On some headphones I felt it added far too much treble and on headphones with great soundstage/imaging it sometimes sounded strange. However, I did quite enjoy it with my TH900's.
     
    As I mentioned earlier, the micro iDSD Black Label did a great job powering all the headphones I threw at it. I also felt the sound quality the Black Label delivered was solid. Just straight out with base settings, the Black Label delivers a fairly neutral sound. I own a Chord Mojo and decided to do some A/Bing of the two with my DX80 feeding both as a transport via Digital Coax. I consider the Mojo to be an exceptional piece of hardware and feel it delivers far above it's price class. When comparing the Black Label to the Mojo, I felt it fell behind in a few areas. Most notable soundstage, instrument separation and detail retrieval were lacking. The Black Label also felt slightly warmer than the Mojo. All this aside, the iDSD sill sounded very good and I honestly prefer many of it's aesthetics over the Mojo.
     
    Final Thoughts
     
    Overall the iFi micro iDSD Black Label is a fantastic portable amp/dac, especially at its price point. This is a great all-in-one unit that can be used in a multitude of ways and is able to play pretty much any format out there. I’d easily recommend it to someone who’s looking at similar priced/featured portable amp/dac units.
      Vartan likes this.
  7. dburna
    iFi Audio Micro iDSD BL - Tour Review
    Written by dburna
    Published Jan 10, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound improvements across-the-board vs. the original (silver) iDSD; greatly improved headphone sound
    Cons - Hard to see volume level on volume knob (minor)
    I was fortunate to be part of the iDSD BL Tour (US).  Below are my findings of a direct comparison versus the existing iDSD (silver) which I own.
     
     
    IMG_20170105_184441.jpg
     
     
     
     
    A couple introductory notes on my review (skip this if you just want the conclusions, though it provides useful context):
    • The set-up (pictured) is my work-at-home rig; I listen to the iDSD on a desktop set-up, rarely as a portable rig.
    • I also listen through JBL LSR305 active monitors a lot as I need to be on/off the phone for work and switching headphones to phone and back again all day is a pain. The 305s are surprisingly good for low cash.
    • I tried the setup comparison between iDSD and iDSD BL (called BL going forward) with all listed headphones but keeping the rest of the rig (iFi USB purifier, cables, iUSB) constant. As the picture shows, I had both iDSD and BL side-by-side so I could just move cables in seconds to compare specific passages, not just whole songs.
    • I did some tweaking with all kinds of settings, just for comparison, but I don't play around with these in 'real' listening – I find most of the knobs and switches useful for dialing in a good combination with whatever particular headphones I am using, then I leave them alone. However, I do appreciate the flexibility these different settings provide for personal customization.
    • For two days I listened solely to the BL. I find plugging in a new component can appear to make it sound 'better' at first mainly because it is different. I wanted to “get to know” the BL before doing any comparison.
    • Bottom line: during those two initial days, I enjoyed the heck out of the BL. It's a more immersive experience than the iDSD.
     
    Summary:
    • iDSD BL > original iDSD (possibly '>>', though I hate hyperbole, especially my own)
    • BL's black color is classier than iDSD silver.....but I'm not a fan of silver, so YMMV.
    • BL has better dynamics, air, soundstage depth, and bass control.
    • BL has a fuller, more refined presentation; iDSD seems a little thin in comparison.
    • BL seems considerably more powerful.....even though the specs for both seem the same. I had to turn the volume down ¼ to 1/8 on the BL dial to achieve similar volume with the iDSD. Start low with your initial settings, fellow tour members – you could be in for a loud surprise. 
    • I think BL's 3D and xBass are better, but the difference was subtle to my ears. They may be better on the BL, but the major difference was the overall sound improvement. That seemed to dominate any differences I could hear in the 3D/XBass comparison.....but that's just me.
    • BL had me just listening/enjoying for days without any nagging critical audiophile thoughts; I can't achieve quite the same level of immersion with the iDSD.
    • The better/more revealing your headphones are, the more pronounced the difference should be.
    • One (minor) suggested improvement: it would be good if there was an orange line on the volume control notch. It is hard to see the volume level on the BL, easier on the silver iDSD.
    • Sennheiser Momentum Over-Ears recommended only for cell phone/mobile use. :)) Now I understand what people mean when people say they are bass-heavy. Bass didn't seem so pronounced using my anemic cell phone. I'll keep using them when on-the-go.....not at home.
    • I don't like in-ear 'phones pretty much at all. Not comfortable to my ears, and I've tried more than a few. Not going to pony up for custom IEMs.
     
    By the end of my “tour time”, I lost interest in comparing the two and just wanted to maximize my time with the BL. The devil on my shoulder kept suggesting, “Hey Dave, just slap a coat of black paint on your iDSD and send that along to the next reviewer. I doubt anyone would notice.”
    ANSWER: Yes – yes they would.
     
    Job very well done, iFi. The BL is is an evolutionary improvement in most ways over the iDSD. Anyone still using an iDSD (like me), don't run it over with a truck – not that this would hurt the iDSD in any way. The iDSD is still a fine performer and I am quite happy with mine. However, the BL is noticeably better and well worth the audition, even if you are considering more expensive gear.
     
    -dB (with audiophile envy - again.....curse you, iFi)
     
     
     
    Equipment Used:
    • JBL LSR305 active monitors
    • Macbook Pro
    • iTunes, JRiver
    • Monoprice RCA-to-XLR cables
    • Stock iFi input cables
    • Headphones: Sennheiser Momentum Over-Ears v1.0, Sennheiser HD650s with Stefan Audio Art cables, KZ ATE KZ-ATE Dynamic Balanced Armature IEMs (bargain basement ear buds)
     
    Music Used:
    • Wes Montgomery “Echoes of Indiana Avenue” (2016)
    • Andy Narell & Relator “University of Calypso” (2009)
    • These Immortal Souls “I'm Never Going to Die Again” (1992)
    • Sean Watkins “What to Fear” (2016)
    • Vilde Frang “Korngold, Britten Violin Concertos” (2016)
    • Various Artists “Bureau B – Katalog I” sampler
    • Roedelius Schneider “Stunden” (2011)
    • Erroll Garner “Ready Take One” (2016)
    • Alejandro Escovedo “Burn Something Beautiful” (2016)
    • The Spinanes “Strand” (1996)
      lucasbrea and proedros like this.
  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. 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
  10. Aerosphere
    iFi Micro iDSD Black Label "The Silhuette of Greatness"
    Written by Aerosphere
    Published Jan 2, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Musicality, Precision, Price/Performance.
    Cons - TRANSportable.

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

     

    Intro

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

    Box Contents | Accessories

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

    Improvements[​IMG]

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

     

     

     

    Sound Signature | Sound Quality | Resolution

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

    Hiss | Volume Knob

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

    Soundstage | Separation

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

    XBass+ & 3D+

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

     

    Driveability | ECO – NORMAL – TURBO | Usability

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

     

    Digital Filters | Analogue Filters | Polarity

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

     

    Built-in iPurifier

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

     

    iEMatch

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

     

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

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

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

    Installation | Updating iDSD | Smart Power

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

    Quick Comparisons

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

    Summary

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