iDSD micro Black Label. Tour details (page 147). Release info (page 153).
Mar 21, 2014 at 5:41 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 4,252
Mar 20, 2013
Location: HQ in the UK, but spread far and wide.
Micro iDSD Black Label.
Back in Black



We have updated this thread with the 2016 micro iDSD Black Label.
The original iDSD set a new benchmark for portable DAC/Headamps in the US$500 sector. Nothing came close to its sonics, flexibility and outright power. Nothing at least until the evolution into the ‘Black Label:’
  • Satin black chassis with ‘burnt orange’ silk print
  • Major parts changes to the very latest available
  • 3D Holographic+® and XBass+® new implementation are very easy to discern
Sonically, much smoother, more weight and with a full-bodied mid-range. The bass is deeper and cleaner. The Black Label is in every way, the ‘turbo charged’ version of the normally aspirated micro iDSD.
The next iFi advanced skunkworks product is the micro iDSD. It is the bigger brother of the nano iDSD, a top-selling portable DAC in Japan and with a loyal Head-Fi following around the globe.

The micro iDSD saw its global launch on 28 July.

For your local retailer, please click on this link:

Table of Contents: for Noobs start here

Tech Talk with Thorsten - part 1 - iDSD core specs, take one

Tech Talk with Thorsten - part 2 - why Burr-Brown

Tech Talk with Thorsten - part 3 - why not balanced

Which USB Asynch does ifi use? AMR's of course!

Designer's Diary - 1 - early mechanical design

Designer's Diary - 2 - power supply gremlins, back to the drawing board

Designer's Diary - 3 - three prototypes

Software Design Team's Notes - 1 - the XMOS solution

Software Design Team's Notes - 2 - star clocking

The Final Countdown

Super-Duper Features 1.1 - the dual-core Burr-Brown DACs

Super-Duper Features 1.2 - filters, ringing

Software Design Team's Notes - 3 - ARM microprocessor, automated extras

Super-Duper Features 1.3 - the intelligent SPDIF port

Super-Duper Features 1.4 - why not femto clocks?

Measurements Matter (Not!) Part I of III – Hearing a fly fart at 20 feet - Signal to Noise Ratio

Technical Notes - 3 - cherry picking the chipset

Super-Duper Features 1.5 - direct/pre-amp output, ALPS micro switches, volume pot

Super-Duper Features 1.6 - 3D holographic for headphones and speakers

Outta This World 3 and Super-Duper Features 1.7 - SmartPower and turbo mode

Addendum: Super Duper 1.7 SmartPower: charging details

Power Supply Special - 1

Power Supply Special - 2

Super-Duper Features 1.8 - the 3.5mm analogue input

Software Design Team's Notes - 4 - DSD, no ordinary DSD

Why not "more modern and/or better spec chips"?

Super-Duper Features 1.9 - signal polarity +/-

Outta This World 2 - turbo/normal/eco and IEMatch

Super-Duper Features 2.1 - the CCK/OTG USB port

Software Design Team's Notes - 5 - digital and analogue filters

Outta This World 1 - octa-DSD

The 'Octa-Adopter' 512 units and what is iClub?

Super-Duper Features 2.2 - built-in iPurifier

Addendum on the CCK/OTG Port and what accessories are included in the box

Jitter Measurements

Smart Power (part I)

What speakers do you use for development?

How, why and what the Battery recharging function does.

SmartPower (partII)

Measurments of the nano iDSD: just for a bit of fun

"Pop" goes DSD - why does this happen?

 SmartPower - Please feed the Meaty Monster (part 1)

Orico USB Higher-Power USA Charger - one sure way to feed the meaty monster (Part2)

3 Steps: DSD "DoP pop fix" firmware update

iCLUB video announcement!

AKH K-1000: elephunked, on-the-go

Thanks to Bilson and Technobear for this suggestion!

From the staff and directors of team iFi.
NEW for 2016
The Black Label:
World Tour details:
Product Tech:
Part 1. The Grand Tour
Part 2. Exceptional parts quality
Part 3. Exceptional parts quality (cont'd)
Part 4. To know what to drink is to have it tastier
Part 5. RELEASE INFO !!!!
Part 6. Measurements vis-à-vis sound quality
Part 7. Explaining iFi Audio 3D-Matrix - part 1/2
Part 8. Explaining iFi Audio 3D-Matrix - part 2/2
iFi audio Stay updated on iFi audio at their sponsor profile on Head-Fi.
Mar 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM Post #2 of 4,252


New Head-Fier
Dec 20, 2013
1) async USB, SPDIF, TOSlink, coax inputs
2) balanced outs
3) RCA outs
4) headphone jack
5) both battery-powered and 
6) AC powered
7) phase invert toggle
8) LED bitrate/resolution readout
9) Leatherman fold-out multitool (ok, maybe this could wait)
Mar 22, 2014 at 7:42 AM Post #3 of 4,252


500+ Head-Fier
Jan 24, 2013
1.) TRRS balanced 1/8" output. XLR takes up too much space. (But include an adaptor please).
2.) PROPER USB-B none of this micro/mini crap.
3.) I2S input, may be for a future iFi transport.
4.) A choice of digital filters.
5.) Defeat-able analogue volume control
6.) A USB interface that doesn't take any of the 5V from the USB cable.
7.) S/Pdif input (RCA is okay, but BNC would be nice).
8.) This is asking a lot, but may be an FPGA implementation, like that of Chord and more recently PS Audio in place of a mass produced DAC chip.
9.) This last one is a bit personal, but I'd love to have feet I don't have to stick on myself. Never sure if I have them in the 'right' places.
Mar 22, 2014 at 8:40 AM Post #4 of 4,252


100+ Head-Fier
Nov 17, 2008
1. LEDs showing sample rate on top of the unit, something like the 3 LEDs on top left of the micro iCan
2. keep the front clean:
   a. Headphone Out
   b. flick switch (on/off) for upsampling option for PCM files (to PCM/384kHz)
   c. flick switch for digital filter (like on iDSD nano, maybe add extra filter so there are three switch positions)
3. on the back:
   a. USB 3.0 in (like on iDSD nano, so that iPurifier and the USB Gemini cable can be used)
   b. RCA out
hope that makes sense
Mar 22, 2014 at 10:23 AM Post #5 of 4,252


500+ Head-Fier
Mar 20, 2007
Parts of this post are a (slightly edited and expanded) re-post I sent to someone within the iFi network, but here are my thoughts:
This is quite cool for what it is. If I needed just a decent desktop set-up this would a fine choice, but I went for the mighty CEntrance HiFi-8 for a very powerful desktop/portable DAC/amp device.​
Looking at some of the suggestions already, I concur with many of them, but here are my suggestions of really good implementations, if possible:​
  1. Long battery power,​
  2. Native PCM conversion, from Redbook all the way up to DSD/DXD (for those crowds who are fans). Truth is I know that this is a feature that's baked in already (from my insider friend), but I'm not sure if many of the Head-Fi crowd knew that, so yay, I guess!!?
  3. True balanced in/out feature (differential perhaps?),​
  4. FPGA DAC chips,​
  5. Both full USB and S/PDIF inputs (I say optical for the current PMP devices,​
    but maybe have various versions of the Micro iDSD for different crowds aka HiFi-M8 style?),​
  6. iFi integrated USB noise/power filters (ie. integrate the iFi iPurifier inside the Micro iDSD).​
  7. LED indicator's of current sample/frequency rate of music playing.
These would make this device my new desktop purchase, over that of the Chord Hugo.​
Even so, my CEntrance HiFi-M8 is hard to beat, especially on the power/portability/​
features, but I can neither afford an advanced DAC beyond the HiF-M8 for my desktop. Cost is not the biggest issue, as I can save for good devices, but it's the value of that device for the long-run.
To be honest, right now DSD has no interest to me as I have no music in DSD, nor are my favorite artists/albums available in DSD quality. I still believe that 24 bit/192kHz (and 96/kHz) to be ultra-fi quality.
I respect that DSD can be sumit-fi, but at this moment about 98% of my music is redbook CD lossless.
However, your Micro iDSD will compete strongly against other DSD implementations, just as the Nano iDSD did against Shiit Audio's Loki.
I'll keep my eyes and ears open to your (iFi) implementation of DSD tech.
Mar 22, 2014 at 1:00 PM Post #7 of 4,252


100+ Head-Fier
Jun 4, 2008
redesign the layout, top led is useless if we stack them , move it to the front, have more led for better understanding
bring the filter switch to the front
bring the RCA output to the rear
Make the RCA output as dual function, selection by a switch between digital and analog, once digital option is selected, the RCA output becomes a Digital output and a Digital Input. 
Keep the Battery and increase capacity by 10%, technically good and still portable
beef up the headphone output to 250mW
Better Windows Driver, especially for the DSD part
1/4 inch headphone jack
incorporate  the iPurifier internally, lesser connectors
PCM to DSD mastering :)

Mar 22, 2014 at 4:18 PM Post #8 of 4,252


100+ Head-Fier
Nov 17, 2008
Ok, here is my design :)
I still think the LEDs for the Sampling Frequency should be on top. Even when stacking items the micro iDSD can be on top.
I used a large headphone out in my design but of course it could also be a 3.5mm out instead



Mar 22, 2014 at 6:20 PM Post #9 of 4,252


Reviewer at Sound Perfection Reviews
Formerly affiliated with HiFi Headphones
Feb 1, 2011
Ok I wont go technical.
Only things I would change are put a 6.3mm socket as it's easier to use a 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter than the other way round.
Also RCA output on the back.
I think that simple is best, so have the USB in and RCA out on the back along with the upsample toggle.
On the front have the headphone out, the volume pot and maybe the filter toggle.
I think Coax and optical is not needed and is over complicated, keep it simple for PC use as there will be another product for all your optical and coax needs.
Also the headphone out could be a little more powerful, if the space allows, lets say 200mw-300mw or close to those values.
iFi are great guys, and it's great to involve the customers! good luck
Mar 23, 2014 at 4:36 AM Post #10 of 4,252


New Head-Fier
Mar 23, 2014
I currently own the nano iDSD and like how it sounded for the price I'm paying.
I also own the exaSound e28 which is based on ESS Sabre Ref DAC chip, and of course the iDSD is no match to it in terms of sound quality.
I must say the Burr Brown DSD1793 chip on the nano iDSD is not very good (especially on low frequencies where it sounds fat and boomy).
If the new micro iDSD is consider a higher class of nano iDSD, then I would think it make sense to go for ESS DAC chip for improve sonic quality.
Also, I think the gain output of the headphone jack and the RCA should be separated. Current, the RCA output level is way too low as line level (I only measured 1.65V @  max. with 1kHz @ FS) , but this is consider too high when driving high sensitivity IEM. Perhaps a gain output sensitivity control will be good to take care of this issue rather than the expensive approach of using 2 different op-amp circuits (although it would be good to have
Better in-build USB noise isolation is a must as the current nano iDSD is extremely poor in filtering computer noises.
DXD and DSD playback capabilities should stay as this is the main reason why I purchased nano iDSD. For those not interested in these formats, iFi already has the iDAC which is pretty good (and happens to be based on ESS DAC chip).
If all this are make available on the micro iDSD, I would not be hesitate to buy it and retire my current iDSD
Mar 23, 2014 at 8:45 AM Post #11 of 4,252


100+ Head-Fier
Nov 17, 2008
I was thinking about an alternative design which does not include any headphone amp section. Lets call it more DAC focused design
Without an external power supply the headphone amp will always be limited by the power available, so why not complete remove the headphone amp section and built a killer desktop DAC!
That means removing the volume knob and headphone out from the front, there will only be the 2 flick switches for the Filter and Up-sampling option and if you wish, the LEDs for the Sampling Frequency at the front (same labeling of LED's like my on top design but 2 rows of 3 LED's next to each other instead)
Then go nuts inside the DAC, I don't have to much technical knowledge but things that come to mind is a dual DAC design and the already mentioned iPurifier implementation.
In combination with the iCan (or any other desktop headphone amp) this DAC only design would be a great desktop combo for all available High Res Audio formats.
For mobile use the nano iDSD will be a viable alternative with a different user group in mind.
Another feature I would like to add is a USB upgradable firmware option for the DAC section.
Mar 23, 2014 at 6:25 PM Post #12 of 4,252
Mar 20, 2013
Location: HQ in the UK, but spread far and wide.
Wowzers, this is a stonking start.
A few answers to questions received already:
1. The micro iDSD is a pure DSD/PCM/DXD dac. So it plays all 3 main formats in their purest form (ie: without conversion to one of the other formats). More on this in the coming weeks. It does not ONLY play DSD! It is pretty darn powerful, just like its baby brother the nano iDSD!
2. The micro chassis size is very much a "cigar box" type size. Approximately 158(l)x68(w)x28(h)mm. Its aims is desktop whilst being portable. A few very good suggestions have already come our way on this so watch this space!
thanks and keep em coming!
iFi audio Stay updated on iFi audio at their sponsor profile on Head-Fi.
Mar 23, 2014 at 6:36 PM Post #13 of 4,252


Headphoneus Supremus
Feb 16, 2009
yes ampless DAC only
RCA at rear
differential signal pairs on circuit board to reduce noise.
transformer coupled outputs
on top display indicators
rubberized coating if going to be portable.
DSD analog LPF
Mar 24, 2014 at 5:11 AM Post #14 of 4,252


100+ Head-Fier
Nov 17, 2008
1. The micro iDSD is a pure DSD/PCM/DXD dac. So it plays all 3 main formats in their purest form (ie: without conversion to one of the other formats).

Just to clarify on that - that means no PCM only up-sampling either? For example 16bit/44khz PCM recordings upsampled to 32bit/384khz PCM (that was my suggestion) 
Chord Audio even claims the sound quality limit for sampling lies in the MHz region but they seem to build their DAC strategy mainly on implementing these filter algorithms.
I had an AQVOX DAC in the past which had a load of options for oversampling, filters and a phase invert option. Out of the three I found the Phase Invert setting useful sometimes. 
So maybe that could be an option as well at the front of the suggested design (instead of an up-sampling option)
I am not sure how many of the old master tapes that are released in DSD or High Res PCM might be affected by an inverted phase but I assume that could be an issue. 
Looking forward to hear your thoughts on that. 
Mar 24, 2014 at 10:43 AM Post #15 of 4,252


Nov 23, 2011
Features from a mobile practitioner and not too technical product requirements, focus on usability and pairing with mobile phones:

1) NFC chipset for NFC to Bluetooth handover upon tapping of NFC handset to amp for automatic pairing via android streaming via Bluetooth a2dp
2) tap again to disconnect
3) dsD support
4) enough power output to drive full sized headphones adequately at a volume that is reasonably good
5) chassis cool enough with heat dissipation
6) noise reduction from plugins including USB
7) color options of the shell
8) rubberized corners that protect chassis from scraping against desk
9) toggle for lower volume selector out of the box, seems to be a requirement in uk if I'm not mistaken to comply to so that there is always a low volume trigger to protect ears
10) muses 01 and muses 02. Perhaps?


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