1. potatoe94
    Overflowing With Features !
    Written by potatoe94
    Published Feb 25, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Superbly clean output , Lots of Power , Dynamic , Practical , Features ( 3D Holographic & XBass) , Battery Life , Construction , Design , Value .
    Cons - Cable length provided
    The iDSD Micro. 
    Bought at S$699. 

    Intro 
    This company, AMR iFi, is remarkable to start with. They have made so many amplifiers and dacs with different functions, size and price points, all to their signature minimalist aluminum block design. All of their products have performance which far exceeds their price point, making every purchase, worth it. iFi did not pay me to review their products, but i do own many of them, and i am very much impressed with every single one of them. I will now proceed with the review. 

    Box Contents
    When you first open the box, like every other of their product, it feels like your are unraveling something of very high quality, which turns out to be true. Inside the box you will first see the product itself, underneath, you will get 2 purple RCA cables, a 3.5 to 3.5 short cable, a Long blue usb cable, pair of rubber bands for DAPs, the rubber feets and the Luxurious velvet-alcantara black pouch for the iDSD. The long blue usb cable, which connects the iDSD to the PC, seems alittle long for my preference, and it isnt like the one found in the iFi iDSD Nano, the Nano one was a light blue translucent cable with silver-coloured braiding, which was shorter and had a different connector. Due to the number of switches on this little machine, there is also a usefull guide for each and every switch, explaining what it does briefly and telling you how to start off safety without damaging your iems with too much power.Rubber caps are even provided for those RCA and SPDIF inputs/outputs which i seldom use.   Everything required is present and it felt like it was all geared up to go.

    User-Friendliness
    First thing i immediately noticed when i got the iDSD Micro as compared to the Nano, is the convenience, surprisingly even when the Micro was double in length. The reason i said that is mainly because this has a male USB input, which was amazing, i could simply hook it to my android phone by OTG direct. Unlike the Nano, where i have to hook the given blue cable, and then add my own OTG cable, which made it really long and clumsy. Of course, the size may be a problem for those truly on-the- go users. Even though i pair it with the IE800, UmPro50, i usually only use them when i am settled down in an undisturbed area, like a library, cafe or at home to use it. They do come along with a 3.5mm input, which i did not know how it work and have not tried it, but it's output is a 6.3mm jack which you could just insert an adapter for 3.5mm inears. You can Also output by RCA or SPDIF. The iDSD Micro also acts as a portable charger for your mobile devices from it's usb port at the side. 

    Features & Performance
    Everyone would notice a few rubber switches around the iDSD, Let us first take a look at what everyone with an iDSD Micro would notice first.

    The red switch. The red switch at the side of the iDSD directly facing you has 3 settings, This is the Power mode settings, it does eco, normal or turbo, as claimed, the eco is for iems, normal for moderate impedance headphones and turbo for high impedance headphones. Always start with the Eco mode, then move up if more power is required, speaking of power, the battery life is very very good. it comes with a 4800mah battery which could power portable use for a week or two, depending on duration of use. However, when at home, i could use my laptop's USB power to charge and use the iDSD at the same time, i find this method of power management superbly intelligent and reliable, as the duration i used it on battery is usually shorter than the duration i use it from my laptop, i have found myself to never have charged the battery a single time after the first initial 24 hour charge.

    Moving on the the next switch beside it, Polarity + -, i have not tried the negative one and left it on the positive default, some people enjoy the other, but its all based on preference.

    And the one beside the Polarity switch, the Filters, For PCM which i listen to, it has 3 stages, the Standard Filter, Minimum Phase & Bit Perfect, i leave that to Bit Perfect, because it stated that it was perfect hahaha ! They are different filters to play around with, you'll just have to try each one and see how each one fits you, its once again a preferential thing. 

    At the underside right corner, you'll find the IEMatch Switch. This is for you to select 3 stages of Sensitivity, Naming, Off, High Sensitivity and Ultra Sensitivity, of course, you should leave this off if you are using normal or turbo mode, This is just meant for the InEars, in which you should have already set the power mode to eco. if the off setting is producing a little hiss, you might consider moving up the switch to the next one or the other, it cleans out the little hisses you get if your IEMs are alittle sensitive, however i've realized that when you go up sensitivity line, you realize that the 3D Holographic & XBass effect were also reduced slightly, i know it was intended to be made that way, so there's another preferential option for you to choose. 

    And there's the last rubber switch, on the left of the underside, you will see another switch, linked to the RCA output, which there is an option of having Preamplifier or Direct. I've not found myself using it. 

    Now... for the metal switches, 

    The famous iFi 3D Holographic, it widens the sound-stage of your music beautifully, it is one of the main reason why i upgraded my iCAN Nano & iDSD Nano into this iDSD Micro, it becomes an all in one and whole lot more. The effects are made in the analogue channel, in which iFi mentioned that it holds true to the original source and it is not a digital software kind of effect. It really brings your music to life, makes it more tangible and believable, even for headphones. As the user guide included with the iDSD, it mentioned also that if the 6.3mm jack has been plugged in, the 3D holographic would be their headphones 3D holographic setting, if they do not detect the 6.3mm jack plug in, they would output it as a speaker setting 3D holographic, which is slightly different ; from my experience with the iTUBE Micro. 

    And their other one, the XBass, increases the depth and body of your bass and sub bass, this really brings bass shy headphones or IEM to life, giving them alittle more volume and warmth. 

    All these features are already good enough to be sold on their own ! However there's more !
    iDSD Micro is mainly made as a Digital Analogue Converter + Amp, it reduces the noise of your noisy source input, like from your laptop or PC, all digital-electric noise will be eliminated as this brings your on board DAC, outside. Connected by a USB cable which leads to the already on board iPurifier (another of iFi's invention) to clean up all noise which have made it that far. The Dac chip is a dual Octa BurrBrown DSD Chip, which it can play not most, but every single file you throw at it. The result of all these, Exceptionally clean output, needless to say, its really beautiful and at this price point, it certainly beats many 1-2k desktop DACs and amps already. 

    As you can see the number of switches i have mentioned from above, you can truly customize the sound of your output to your preference, i have never seen a DAC or an AMP deliver so much features into something so small and reasonably priced. Not even the Woo 7 Fireflies come close to price-performance ratios. This iDSD Micro is amazing, it's the "Meaty Monster", it is a show piece. which brings me to my next discussion.

    Build Quality
    A show piece indeed, take a look at that beautifully finished aluminium brick, as minimalist as design can get, sticking true to the rest of their iFi series of products, this one blends in perfect. It is as durable as it seems, knobs and switches feels like they are of quality. The overall product has a very nice quality weight to it, which made it feel really premium, unlike other amps which uses plastic to "reduce weight" which simply made it feels and look cheap. I love the metal, and i don't mind the added weight, it feels expensive, and it should feel that way. 

    Conclusion
    Until now, iFi has never made a product that disappoint, they are a truly remarkable company which makes remarkable products, The iDSD Micro design features was brainstormed with the community in mind, seeking suggestions from the fellow users here in head-fi, which i think is a really beautiful thing to see, the company putting the users first and listening to what the user wants, and includes them in their design, all companies should learn from this. The iDSD certainly is a monster packed full of features, made with quality and made to impress.

    The iDSD Micro has an easily distinguishable house sound signature which carries a little warmth and smoothness to the music with the switches turned off , 
    so that's something you should expect and will come to enjoy over time . The 3D holographic switch not only widen the soundstage ,
    and improves imaging , but also extends a little of the treble and increases it's presence . 

    I would strongly recommend this to my friends.
    For the price, you get the iCAN, 2 iDSD Nano, iPurifier, Portable Charger & New Features.

    There is really nothing not to love about it. 

    I hope that iFi continues to make excellent quality products as such, and i look forward to your next product in the iFi line ! 

    DSC_3824.jpg
     
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    BLACK LABEL REVISIT REVIEW
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    This review is written based on my comparison of the iFi iDSD Micro Black Label with the iFi iDSD Micro that I have used over the past 2 years .Let us start by calling the Black label as “B” and the normal , silver item , “S”. The review is in no way sponsored by iFi as they simply sent a unit for me to demo for a week before I’ll have to hand it over to the next reviewer . Whatever you are about to read would be blunt , honest review regarding the fore-mentioned products .

    BOX
    On first look , the iDSD Micro Black Label and iDSD Micro have identical packaging , simple white box , accessories and contents similar too . For those who do not know , the accessories were well decked out, most of the quality cables you require to get it running is provided . The instruction manual is a must-read for first timers , as the iDSD is a powerful amplifier with adjustable gain , so make sure you set things up right before you plug anything into your ears . I will save you on the box introduction as the photo would do a good job explaining it .
    _DSC6215-2.jpg       _DSC6217-2.jpg
     
                                                           
     
    PHYSICAL
    You would immediately notice that the finish on the both products are vastly different , the B being black and the S in silver . Both feels like they were made out of the same solid aluminium body that comes with all iFi amplifiers and dacs . Switches feels tactile, the way I remember how all my new iFi would . The B is detailed in orange letters to make reading of the text easier in an all black body . Everything else feels familiar to a S owner .
     
    _DSC6218-2.jpg       _DSC6219-2.jpg       _DSC6220-2.jpg
     

    SONICS
    I will be comparing them with my daily drivers , the RHA MA750i , which have been burnt in for over 800 hours , in which it now plays smooth and forgiving sound , leaning towards the warmer end of the spectrum . Interesting choice for a daily driver for someone who has owned the IE800 , Noble Savant , Beyer T90 ? I think so too , but I find them really reliable , and they never fail to impress on their scalability with power .

    The audio files used consists of 44.1 FLAC , PCM , Binaural and 192 FLACs .
     
    The thing I love about the iDSD is the versatility of  sound customizations , unlike all other decamps , the iDSD has 3 different power modes , turbo to drive high impedance headphones , down to the eco mode which drives sensitive IEMs . If eco is still too powerful , you could adjust the IEMatch at the bottom of the iDSD , which allows you to make micro adjustments of the supplied power , so even a 16 ohm IEM would not be left out . Leave your filter at bit perfect for the most musical experience . Polarity can be set at any you desire , I cannot seem to hear any audible difference with it being + or - . So , of all the previously mentioned settings , most of them could be left untouched if you plan to use the same IEM or headphone to pair with it . However , like our taste , our cravings change time to time , so the 3D Holographic switch and the XBass switch would meet just that . All in all , you would notice that you have 4 options to play with . both switch on , both switch off , only 3d on , only xbass on . iFi mentioned that they have changed not just the chips , but the switches have been improved as well , however , we’ll just be testing them with both switches on or both switches off on both units .
     
    With both settings switched off (3D Holographic & XBass)
    S – Provides a slight V shaped signature with nice moderate sized room soundstage , leaning towards the analytical sound , has more emphasis on treble , but still comfortable to listen to over extended period of time .
    B – Warmer, smoother overall sound, however, it is also more intimate due to the tighter soundstage, has less emphasis on the treble , and mids more apparent over the S version .

    With both settings switched on (3D Holographic & XBass)
    S- Beautifully open , instrumental separation becomes clear , treble is further emphasised and sub bass is recovered .
    B- Warmer , smoother , relaxed sounding . Treble not as emphasised .

    S PRO : Suitable for more analytical listening or with pairing with an iem or headphone that lacks In the treble department , S would greatly complement it and balance the spectrum .
    S CON : is slightly less pleasurable when compared to listening with B , Treble may be too bright when paired with bright IEMs .
     
    B PRO : Suitable for more pleasure listening , great for balancing with bright sounding , warm lacking IEMs .
    B CON : Sometimes too warm for bassy IEMs .

    DECISION
    I wouldn’t say which is better than another , as I feel they both are very different decamps to fill different needs , i think it would be a silly decision to discontinue S , as I feel that some people would be needing an S more than the B , vice versa .

    Q &A
    So , for people who already own the S , is it worth selling S to go for B ?
    Well you’ll need to see if majority of your headphones and IEMs becomes overly bright when paired with S , if so , I would strongly recommend you to give the B a try , and you’ll most probably like it from the way that it is tuned . It sounds almost like adding a valve tube.

    Would it be reasonable to own both?
    Yes of course , because they act as 2 completely polar decamp , they product almost different sound , owning both of them while you are still familiarlize with their features and buttons would come to great use when switching from one unit to another , based on the pairing of the headphones .
     
    If you do not own any of them and do not know which to get ?
    The answer for this would be to personally try them out if possible , head down to your local distributor and check if they have demo units for you to try out to see if it suits you . I am pretty sure at least one would suit your liking! If ordering online is your only option , you would have to ask yourself what does your IEM or headphone lacks . as S would bump the treble and B would bump the warmth .

    Why do you think they call it the black label ?
    Personally , I think that the name clashes with a whiskey , and coincidentally , it has a warm and relaxed sound , which is comfortable and pleasing at the same time . The word black may also infer that it is the darker sounding twin of the S series , which is brighter physically and sonically .

    CLOSING
    Thus far , I have tried B with a few new IEMs which I find interesting , such as the Audiotechica Live Sound series , which I feel only the LS200 is worth the money (your mileage may differ) , and the Audeze iSIne 20 which sounded wonderful with them . Over the remaining week I have to spend time with B , I’ll most probably bring it out to get plugged by jacks of different size and colour as much as possible :p
     
    And will update my pairing findings here .
    If there are any particular pairings you would like me to try it on your behalf , do comment down below and I will try my best to get them paired up in the days to come . As Singapore is such a small country , majority of IEMs and headphones are easily within reach , yes , even the JH Angels .
     
    ========================================================================================================================
    BLACK LABEL REVISIT REVIEW
    ========================================================================================================================

      Danzas123 and Pokemonn like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Koolpep
      Different implementation of the X-Bass. Did you upgrade them to FW 5.1? And which headphones are you using?
      Koolpep, Mar 13, 2016
    3. JUGA
      fostex TH-900. aste&kern t5p. beyerdynamic dt 770/250 Ohm. 
      in early batches (august 2015 - december 2015) of micro iDSD the X-Bass effect was strongly expressed. But not now. i try to understend.. it's not for me. it' for our customers (i work in Doctorhead.ru (Russia).
       
      JUGA, Mar 13, 2016
    4. Koolpep
      That is weird indeed - all these headphones should react just fine to X-Bass
      Koolpep, Mar 13, 2016
  2. jk47
    powerful amp with useful features; ok dac; good value
    Written by jk47
    Published Feb 18, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - able to drive the most demanding phones; "3d" crossfeed a strong feature; inputs can be coax, toslink or line-in
    Cons - disappointing burr brown dac
    i won't repeat the details available in the review that's already been posted.
     
    i got the ifi micro idsd for several reasons: one was that i wasn't sure my dx90 had a strong enough amp to drive the planar alpha primes that i recently bought.  the ifi micro has a very strong amp, capable of 4w output.  another reason i got it was that i was curious about how a different dac would sound- i have a dx90 with its dual sabre dac, and a gungnir on my home system with its akm chips.  the ifi micro idsd comes with a burr brown dac.
     
    bottom line:  my dx90 could in fact drive the alpha primes pretty well, but they sound even better when i use the dx90 line-out to the micro's line-in, i.e. use the dx90's dac and the ifi micro's amp.  the greater power of the ifi's amp, plus its very impressive "3d" crossfeed feature produces a bigger and cleaner soundstage.  the ifi's dac was a disappointment, at least compared to the dx90's dac.  the dx90's dual sabres produce cleaner, clearer sound.  in comparison, the ifi's burr browns sound muddy.  i don't want to overstate this- if i had just listened to the ifi micro and not had the dx90 to compare with the very same source files run out through the very same amp [the ifi's via line-out-in], the burr browns would have sounded fine, perfectly acceptable  
     
    the ifi micro is not a portable "on-the-go" device, it's too big and heavy for that.  i would call it "transportable," rather than "portable."  the heaviness of the micro is in part a function of its very large 4800mah battery - a trade-off desirable in some circumstances, not others.  
     
    in sum, the ifi micro is a very capable, multi-featured, transportable device.  it will accept inputs via coax or toslink to run through its dac stage, or line-in to skip its dac and just use its powerful amp.  there are a multitude of adjustments that can be made depending on the power demands of your phones, as well as a choice of filters controlling how it samples.  [i only use pcm flac files and so used the bit-perfect filter.]
    1. View previous replies...
    2. jk47
      i don't know why you'd want to buy both a hugo and a micro - each has a dac and an amp, so they serve identical functions.  i haven't heard a hugo so can't comment on sound differences.  
       
      as to whether dacs have differences, i would say from this experience that they do.  otoh, i suppose the differences i heard could have arisen elsewhere in the chain.  for example, to use the ifi's dac i connected the dx90 to the micro with a coax-spdif cable that came with the dx90.  perhaps there was something in that connector that produced the differences in sound.  or perhaps the dx90's coax out is somehow distorting the output.  i hadn't thought of those explanations when i wrote the review.  i can't fully check these alternate theories, even if i wanted to spend the time, which i don't.  i could certainly get a different connector to use instead of the one supplied.  but i don't have the knowledge or the means to check whether there's a problem in the dx90's coax out.
      jk47, Feb 24, 2015
    3. JUGA
      did the X-Bass function works?  if yes - can you here difference? we have 4 unit and in all 4 devices X-Bass das not works. There is no difference between switch off and switch on.
      JUGA, Mar 13, 2016
    4. jk47
      i haven't used the ifi micro for some time and i don't believe i ever even tried the x-bass function.  i've just been using my qp1r dap.
      jk47, Mar 13, 2016
  3. MLGrado
    A great sounding Native DSD DAC with plentiful and innovative features
    Written by MLGrado
    Published Aug 14, 2014
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Crystal clear, lifelike audiophile sound, with a touch a warmth that is great for long listening sessions. TONS of power to drive any headphone.
    Cons - switches are a bit fragile. On both examples, back in 2014 and in 2017, one of them came flying off!
    It was around February of 2014 when I first read of iFi while skimming the Head-fi forums. I was looking for a DSD capable DAC in the sub $500 range to replace the first generation Audioquest Dragonfly serving my desktop listening needs. There was only a handful of options at the time, and my interest in DSP free DSD playback further limited the choice. Actually, my choice was made for me. The iFi iDSD nano was the only DAC I could find that fulfilled this requirement in my price bracket. The only problem was I knew nothing about iFi, and I was concerned by the incredibly low price. Surely the raw sound quality would be compromised at this price point. Then again, at a mere $189 there was little risk, so with a 'What the heck?' attitude I ordered one. And wow. Wow. Wow again.
     
    I am glad I took the risk of a blind buy. In addition to being impressed with the sound quality, I became equally impressed with the crew at iFi/ AMR. Their customer interaction and support is superb. And they are truly committed to their vision of Hi-Fi, which is unapologetically different than the hi-fi norm. In the end, they are committed to providing the best sound and most useful feature set for the dollar.
     
     
    It should come as no surprise, then, that I followed closely the crowd design of the iDSD Micro, and am among the first 512 owners. An 'Octa-Adopter.'
     
     
    OCTA-WHAT???
     
     
    'Octa' as in 8x DSD, or DSD512. Yes, this DAC will playback DSD rates up to 24.6 Mhz! This is the first example of such support in a consumer level product. It also supports PCM up to 768khz. Although I know of no content currently available at these high rates, upsampling to DSD512 is possible in software, and PCM 768 allows for DSD256 playback via DoP, which means ASIO is not required for playback at that rate. Although I am not as familiar with the state of Mac computer audio, I believe this may be the first time DSD256 is available on the Mac without a need for special driver software.
     
     
    A DIFFERENT KIND OF HI-FI
     
     
    I mentioned earlier that iFi doesn't follow the hi-fi norm. What does that mean? iFi believes in minimal DSP, and believes that one should be listening to as close to the source audio as possible. DSP's such as upsampling, volume control, format conversion, etc. create unavoidable mathematical losses. The more conversions, the greater the losses. The more changes to the source signal, the more likely the changes become audible. This may especially be the case with DSD. DSP such as filtering, sample rate conversion and volume control require conversion of the 1-bit bitstream to a multibit intermediary, and remodulation back to 1 bit.
     
    Therefore, the iDSD Micro uses a chipset that converts DSD to analog natively with no extra digital conversion or DSP. The 1 bit DSD signal is sent to an analog FIR filter for conversion. That's it! Also, the iDSD micro has a 'BitPerfect' filter option for PCM. This eliminates the oversampling reconstruction filter used in PCM conversion.
     
    So in a DAC loaded with features, simplicity characterizes the nature of the actual audio conversion. This matches my personal audio values.
     
     
    THE iFi EXPERIENCE
     
     
    Unboxing an iFi product is a treat! Packaging is reminiscent of that other "i" company.
     
    In the box you will find a plethora (hyperbole, of course) of quality adapters and cables. Which calls attention to the unique 'OTG' USB port on the back of the Micro. It is a unique port engineered for mobile convenience. To use it with a standard desktop USB cable, an adapter is required. Two versions of the adapter are included. The adapter I chose to use is cable-less. The other adapter has a very short cable between terminations. I chose the first adapter presuming higher quality, but the cabled version may be more convenient when space behind the DAC is a concern. The 'hard' adapter combined with my iFi Gemini cable requires several inches of clearance.  It is also an interesting little detail that the 'hard' adapter comes packed in an anti-static bag, like what you would expect to find enclosing delicate computer components.  Also, I think it is important to add that the included USB cables are OTG cables, so if you don't already have an expensive USB cable like the Gemini, I would suggest forgetting about the adapters and going with one of the included cables.
     
    This is all I will have to say about the adapters, mobile uses, battery, etc. I will leave that to others, as I use this iDSD exclusively in a desktop environment, and cannot adequately review mobile functionality.
     
    Build quality and appearance is typical iFi. The iDSD micro is well built but take care with the switches. They feel a little fragile, and as a matter of fact, I had some trouble with a sticky switch.  My over aggressive tugging, attempting to 'un-stick' it, caused the red 'Turbo' switch that controls amp output level to go flying off into the floor!! Fortunately it easily reattached, and works properly now.
     
     
    THE SOUND
     
     
    Now on to the good stuff! The sound! Crisp detailed highs, smooth upper mids, slightly warm lower mids and upper bass. Clean extension into the lows. Not too much bass; just about right. Does it deviate from neutral? That is something I am not sure I can answer. Tonal balance is the product of an entire system, and all I can tell you is how it sounds in mine, which is a custom built AMD PC running the latest Jriver Media Center software, iDSD micro, iFi iUSB power, iFi Gemini 'split' USB cable, and a modded USB cable eliminating the 5v line pre iUSB Power. The review headphones are Grado RS1i's.
     
    In comparison to the iDSD nano, the sound is the same tonally, but there is a notable increase in detail and dimensionality. On the Nano, audio images are wide, but slightly flat in comparison. The Micro has greater depth of soundstage. Never is the extra detail harsh, though. The micro is always delightfully smooth and listenable.
     
    DSD was the strong suit of the iDSD nano, and is improved in the Micro. I feel the greatest improvement, though, is with PCM material, especially using the BitPerfect filter. The promise of the Burr Brown DSD1793 segment DAC is realized more fully here. PCM sounds both silky smooth AND extremely detailed, like a hybrid of true PCM and Delta Sigma conversion, which is EXACTLY what the segment DAC is.
     
    For headphone use, which is how I exclusively use the iDSD, power is abundant and flexible. There are three settings, from Eco mode to 'Turbo' mode, which will tear paint off the walls with my Grados!!! Eco mode is already stronger than the headphone amp in the iDSD Nano, but I have settled on the middle 'Standard' mode for all my listening.
     
    The headroom it provides for the dynamic orchestral recordings that dominate my listening is welcome. This addresses the only other weakness of the iDSD Nano. The iDSD Micro has plenty of power, dynamic swing and driver control to keep up when the music gets loud and complex.
     
    I enjoy the 3D and XBass 'Analog Signal Processing'. The effect of both is subtle but notable. They never get in the way, and depending on soundtrack can really enhance the experience. For instance, the bass drum on orchestra recordings has deep authority with XBass turned on, and 3D mode really does widen the soundstage nicely, and puts the center image more 'out in front.' But I did notice that with 3D mode engaged, images on recordings I know well were placed too far to the edges for my liking, and overall imaging suffered. Instruments gain a greater sense of space, but lose their precise placement 'in space', so I do the majority of my listening with 3D mode disengaged.  XBass seems ESPECIALLY useful at lower to moderate listening levels, filling in the low end nicely.  At higher levels, or with music recorded with little dynamic range, the bass emphasis may be a bit much.  But as most of my listening is to very dynamic music with moderate average levels, I leave XBass engaged most of the time and do enjoy the effect.  Ultimately, results vary from soundtrack to soundtrack, though.
     
     
    IN CONCLUSION
     
     
    There are many more features included in this incredible product that I have not mentioned, but I believe I have covered everything that stands out to me after two days of listening. This is a special product, both in feature set and sound quality. Designed by a renowned audio engineer, with customized software and extreme functionality. Oh, and it sounds in a word, amazing. If you are looking to spend in the $500 to $1000 range, and maybe even more, you owe it to yourself to hear the iDSD micro.
     
    Highly recommended.  
     
     
     
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    ADDENDUM 

     
    I am back to review the iFi iDSD Micro Black Label Edition.  I was part of the tour group that was so lucky to receive a one week audition of the Black Label, simply abbreviated BL from here on.  Unfortunately, I cannot create a new review entry.  I am only allowed by the Head-Fi system to edit my existing review.  So here is an addendum with my impressions of the BL Edition.  
     
     
    Based on my observation of the posts here on Head-fi, it seems many people see the iDSD Micro as a 'jack of all trades' at its price; that is, a device that squeezes in so many features at the expense of some quality.  As if without all the many features and functions, more 'quality' could have been squeezed in.  Maybe.  It seems a logical assumption.   But iFi is very resourceful.  With their own software team and one extremely clever engineer at the helm, whose designs have long held considerable acclaim in the traditional audiophile world and the DIY audio community, they can get a LOT done for not a lot of money.  
    Features were not added in compromise of audio quality.  Actually, when iFi went to the 'crowd design' concept with the iDSD Micro, there was already a prototype design, which was of course scratched for the actual final crowd-designed product.   But in the end, perhaps the largest difference between the prototype and the final iDSD Micro was the increase in audio quality the higher price point afforded.  It wasn't just about the bells and whistles.  
     
    Yet, here we are more than two years later, and iFi has managed to squeeze even more audio quality out of the iDSD Micro with just a slight price increase.   And I say 'BRAVO'.  
     
     
    The increase in audio quality relative to price increase is impressive.  For not a lot more, you get the same fully featured product that NOW has just enough of a refined sound to truly go head to head with the dedicated desktop DAC's in what I consider the next major price bracket of $1000.  Not to mention how it stands up against other portables and head-amp/DAC combos.  
     
    So if the original iDSD is a 5 star product, and it still is, what is the BL?  5.5?  Yeah, something like that, if we could do such a thing.  
     
     
    So how does the BL differ from the original?  I would say in overall refinement.  Less grain.  A more airy, extended top end.  Oh, and the KILLER mid-range that just kept me coming back for more and more.  It is pretty amazing, actually.  I in many ways prefered the BL in my main head-fi system, in place of my Wyred4Sound DAC-1 LE Femto clock edition DAC, which is double the price!  Was the BL better?  No, it wasn't better.  But it was competitive, and did exceed in a few areas, like the aforementioned mid-range.  The mids take on a smooth, silky and full tube like presence, that never lacks for micro-dynamics or detail.  And I personally just love that kind of sound.  But don't stop reading if you don't.  For it gets balanced out by a more forward and lively presence region, and more treble 'air' as audiophiles like to say.  Bass?  Bass is well delineated, strong and full.  No complaints.  
     
    Another area where I feel the BL, and the original as well, exceeds the W4S DAC is with DSD material.  Well duh, one might say, since DSD is right there in the model name, so one can only assume that DSD is done extremely well.  And it is of course.  I must confess that I was at one time a DSD 'zealot'.   Not so much anymore.  I am more format agnostic these days.  Other factors are important, or even more important than the delivery format.  But, whatever that format is, I want my DAC to convert it in the best way possible.  
     
    The iDSD uses a FIR filter in the analog domain to convert the DSD signal.   The 1-bit DSD signal needs to be stripped of its square-wave high-frequency ultrasonic content to exit the DAC in a listenable format.  And that is really all it needs.  And that is all the iDSD does.  Relatively simple process, and it uses a moving-average filter that is just 8 bits long.  (8 bits in the time domain).  Which means as the sample rate increases, the time distortion of the filter lessens!  By the time you get up to DSD512, there is truly excellent time domain performance here, which is one of the oft stated advantages of 'native' DSD over PCM.  
     
    My W4S DAC uses the ESS chipset, whose highly knowledgeable and respected designers took a different approach.  They don't really tell us a lot about what they do to DSD, other than showing some response graphs that seem to show it isn't decimated all the way down to what we consider 'normal' PCM sample rates. (DXD and lower) We also know that the high frequency content of DSD is removed in the DIGITAL domain via AT LEAST an IIR filter, as opposed to analog ala iDSD and its Burr-Brown chip.  But in order for DSD to be filtered digitally, it has to be turned into a digital multi-bit format.  Absolutely has to be.  It has to be digital multi-bit for the volume control, and the ASRC too.  This is TYPICALLY accomplished within the architecture of a filter.  The result might be called 'DSD-wide', or 'PCM-narrow'.  Some would pass it off as true multi-bit delta-sigma, (especially those that sell ESS based DAC's with DSD as a major selling point) but I would disagree with that.  That would require a modulator.  Then again, the difference between multi-bit Delta Sigma and "Noise-Shaped low-bit-depth high-sample-rate PCM" might be semantics.  ANYWAY.  The point being, the ESS chipset requires more DSP and manipulation of the original DSD signal.  DSD is subjected to the filtering, then possibly volume control, sample rate conversion, and THEN is re-modulated into another Delta-Sigma format (the ESS Hyperstream converter) before being filtered again at the final output stage for conversion to analog.  It just seems to the layman like me more complex and involved (unnecessary?) than filtering to analog with an FIR filter realized in the analog domain.  
     
    And to my ears, this comes to fruition.  DSD sounds more natural via the iDSD, and what I consider its characteristic sound is distinguishable from PCM.  Via the W4S, though, DSD sounds, well, more processed. And very little different than PCM.  
     
    If you are a DSD lover, or if you have lots of DSD files such as myself, then you really are going to want the iDSD Nano, iDSD Micro, iDSD Micro BL, or something like it.  Say, the upcoming iDSD Pro?  :) :) :) Can't wait to hear THAT one!  
     
     
    In conclusion, I am VERY thankful for the chance to review the Black Label.  iFi is quite the company.  They are customer oriented, forward thinking, and create excellent products.  In all this they distinguish themselves from the rest of the very competitive industry.  
     
     
     
    iDSD Micro Black Label   5.5/5 stars  
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
      WNBC, Anjolie, Vartan and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. WhiskeyJacks
      Is the IFI nano idsd still a good buy? or would say screw and jump right in the micro idsd at the difference in price?
      WhiskeyJacks, Sep 24, 2014
    3. tre9
      MLGRADO Is full of it. What a big LIAR
      tre9, Jan 22, 2016
    4. JUGA
      did the X-Bass function works?  if yes - can you here difference? we have 4 unit and in all 4 devices X-Bass das not works. There is no difference between switch off and switch on.
      JUGA, Mar 13, 2016