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iFi iDSD Micro DSD512 / PCM768 DAC and Headphone Amp. Impressions, Reviews and Comments.

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by mlgrado, Jul 26, 2014.
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  1. tf1216
    Has anyone got the LED to turn yellow for 192 kHz or 382 kHz tracks?
     
  2. john57
    No problem in getting the led to turn yellow with PCM at 192k
     
  3. tf1216
    Ahh, forget me.  I had my JRiver settings messed up. 
     
  4. technobear
    Got the T1 plugged into the iDSD for burning in. I don't usually listen much during equipment burn-in as it's normally torture but I wanted to watch a movie so I thought what the heck let's give it a go. The movie was very good. I don't know if I picked a movie with a fantastic sound track by pure luck but I was conscious throughout that the sound was unusually clear and when music appeared it was tuneful and well timed and clean.

    OK, well that went well so I thought I'd play some music and see what transpired. Now I should at this point tell you that I am used to an Audiolab 8200CDQ (CD player of the year 3 years running, more awards than you can shake a stick at, still king of the hill at its price point 3 years after launch) so I have pretty high expectations. That machine has been taking my breathe away and sending shivers down my spine every day for more than 3 years now. The previous ifi effort, the iDAC, failed to impress me by comparison so I was a little nervous about the iDSD. How well would it hold up?

    My misgivings were dispelled in 5 seconds flat! I could tell straight away that this was a cut above. I'd stuck on a Chris Rea track, "Texas" just to chill out after the movie. There were chills alright. Wow. So, a tougher test, some Eva Cassidy and "Stormy Monday" from "Live At Blues Alley" (if you haven't heard it, you really should). Superb. Sounded like I expected it to, only, errm, a bit better. Something about the treble. It's very clean.

    OK, let's try something a bit dirty. Linkin Park? Walk in the park more like. Nirvana? Audioslave? Led Zepellin? Drenge? Hmm. Seems there's no wrong footing this baby. Plenty of chair-dancing going on here. I know it's a cliché but it really does sound a lot like analogue. It times wonderfully. It isn't in the least fatiguing. Bit Perfect eh? I think they are on to something there.

    Two all time favourites, "Love Over Gold" by Dire Straits and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" by Elton John were equally good. Can you tell I have broad musical tastes? :D Pearl Jam and Metallica were also well served as was some early Black Sabbath ("Sabotage").

    By the way this is all 16/44.1 FLAC played by foobar2000. I'll try torturing it with some MP3 tomorrow. For now, time for the ultimate test then...

    There's one track I always love to play at hifi shows. I wish I had a dollar for every $$$$$$$ system that has fallen in an embarrassed heap trying to reproduce it. It's fast, it's dense, it's intense but also has moments of supreme musical beauty, tonal colour and passion. Yes, it's "Lines In The Sand" by Dream Theater. I was in tears by the end (in a good way).

    Well, what can I say but ifi Audio, you have hit the ball right out of the park with this one. The micro iDSD is
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    *** AWESOME ***

    ...and it's not even hardly begun to burn in yet :cool:

    (somebody please buy my Audiolab)
     
    costa0607 likes this.
  5. KmanChu
     
    I am using the micro iDSD into a Red Wine Audio Cassabria. I am comparing it directly to the (far more expensive) BMC PureDAC. My amp has two inputs so I can alternate between dacs by merely switching the output device in JRiver and flipping a switch on the amp. 
     
    The iDSD sounds very, very good as a dedicated DAC. It definitely does not embarrass itself and I could be very happy listening to it as my main DAC. I have the iDAC and the sound is in some ways similar, but ultimately the iDSD is smoother and makes the iDAC sound a little rough. When playing PCM it has a very good sound, that has a nice sound stage. I would say that iFi emphasized a smooth and non-fatiguing sound.
     
    Next to the BMC, however, the iDSD definitely gives up some spaciousness and some detail. I would call the iDSD warm of neutral, where the BMC is almost dead neutral (maybe slightly warm, but not near as much.) Where the iDSD really, really shines, however, is with DSD material. DSD sounds completely different than PCM. The BMC has more similar sound between DSD and PCM (makes sense as its a single chip Sabre device.) 
     
    I think the bottom line is that iFi components have a sound to them, that is a little warm. (I own the iDAC, iDSD and iCAN, so I feel I can say this with a little certainty.) My only criticism of it is that sometimes it doesn't quite have the sparkle that some other components may have. If you have heard other iFi devices and like how they sound, then you will love the iDSD as I think it is the most impressive component they have put out under the iFi badge. The iDSD is by far the best compact dac I have used. Even without all of the impressive headphone features, it would be worth its cost just as a straight USB DAC. Highly recommended.
     
  6. Nuttinbutair
    Intriguing reviews so far all!  I will be very interested in impressions following a longer burn-in.  In the mean time, I may be selling a few items to free up some cash. [​IMG]
     
  7. rptlead
    Really excited! My iDSD micro arrived in my US address early this week but unfortunately, i have to wait a bit more for the gf to bring it over where I am now. very good reviews!
     
    that being said, anyone else here who has this stack:  
     
    iUSB>iGemini>iPurifier>iDSD Nano>iTube>iCan Micro  
     
    Should I just replace the iDSD Nano with my IDSD micro?  Or should I take out the iCan? If i do, will the iTube still be in the same position on the pipeline?  and what should i still be using +6db on the iTube?  Should I take out iPurifier as well in favor of the built in ipurifier in the iDSD Micro?
     
    lotsa questions! I hope our friends from iFI can chime in as well!
     
    thanks!
     
  8. MLGrado
    I just wanted to add for those of you reading these reviews and wondering what the heck this 'Bitperfect' talk is all about, it is simply iFi's fancy term for non-oversampling.  
     
    Normally PCM DAC's use some kind of oversampling reconstruction filter to eliminate images.  If you look at a graphic of a digital signal, you will see it contains a series of stair-steps rather than a smooth sine wave.  The reconstruction filter smooths out these stairsteps to give us an audio signal that is more like a sine wave.  
     
    If you don't filter the audio, these stair steps are images of the actual audio in the 'non-audio' band above the Nyquist frequency.  
     
    But again, we can't hear them directly, so a lot of people think it is a good idea to just leave it alone and not filter, since filtering creates a whole new set of problems that may very well affect the audio in a negative way.  Well, at least that is the position of people who believe in NOS filtering.
     
     
    So that is NOS, or non-oversampling, in a nutshell, as best I understand it.  
     
    I agree with iFi and their technical director, Thorsten Loesch, that NOS or 'BitPerfect' is the best filter, or as it is, non-filter option. 
     
  9. MLGrado
     
    Oh, definitely replace the Nano and leave in the iCan!  
     
    The headphone amp in the Micro is quite good, and is very powerful, but it uses an Op-amp while the iCan uses discrete analog circuitry.
     
    And the analog circuitry in the Micro is head and shoulders above the Nano.  The Digital section in both is pretty similar, actually.  It is the superior analog circuitry that makes all the difference.  
     
    It is interesting I just had a discussion today with Thorsten L. about exactly what components make the most difference in the various iFi products.   
     
  10. ClieOS Contributor
    iCAN isn't fully discrete though, just the gain stage. The headphone driver is still integrated chip based.
     
  11. jexby
     
    Oh to have been a fly on the wall in that conversation!
     
    anything shareable in summary from that talk would be very welcome.
     
    back to micro iDSD and IEMs for late night listening....
     
  12. rptlead
    Thanks! Although ill definitely try 'mix and match'-ing, reading this is very reassuring indeed!  So looks like ill have the full stack desktop micro version and a portable ican-idsd nano to take with me on the road.  

    i've read somewhere that although the iDSD micro has ipurifier on board, it can still benefit from the dedicated iPurifier?  is that accurate?
     
    thanks again!
     
  13. RadioWonder737
    Quote from iFi Audio... Love this... "But if you run on USB power and use the iUSB, Gemini and iPurifier, you are putting in Shell Nitro."
     
    "Hi,
     
    Some background, in descending order of impact (see brackets for equivalent hifi-examples):
     
     
    1. iUSB Power = PS audio mains regenerator (pure, clean mains)
     
    2. Gemini = separate audio+power cables you don’t twist ICs and PCs together in hifi system?)
     
    3. iPurifier = audio + power filter (eg mains filter, but in this device for audio as well)
     
    Tech Notes here for more exhaustive reading: http://ifi-audio.com/tech-notes/
     
     
    So as you can see, they all perform different tasks. Fundamentally, USB was not originally designed for high-quality audio playback.

    The micro iDSD has the iPurifier built-in. Please read previous post on Super Duper feature 2.2 (no point to repeat here).
     
     
    Analogy
    If you have a Ferrari (the micro iDSD), normal USB power is the equivalent of putting Tesco Unleaded in.
     
    With the work we have done and if you run it on internal battery and with its internal iPurifier, it is the equivalent of putting in Shell Super.
     
    But if you run on USB power and use the iUSB, Gemini and iPurifier, you are putting in Shell Nitro.
     
    There is always no harm in doing the best that one can do. But with the case of the micro iDSD, it will not be as large as with another DAC.
     
    Thanks"

    Edited by iFi audio - 7/16/14 at 6:22am
     
  14. BillsonChang007
    Eagerly waiting for mine to arrive. Said to arrive this Saturday but does anyone know if FedEx open business on Saturdays? @.@
     
  15. MLGrado
    Not a whole lot more than what I have already posted, actually.  
     
    Gain stage in iCan is discrete vs Op-amp in iDSD.  
     
    There was a significant investment in the iDSD Micro's analog stage.  The Nano has by comparison a primitive analog stage; most of the Nano budget is in the USB chipset and the Digital engine.  The Micro's digital engine didn't add a lot of cost to the design; it is basically the same.  The fact that the Micro can do DSD512 PCM768 is just a function of having two DAC chips instead of one.. Two can go twice as fast.  Therefore there is little or no extra cost by adding those features.  They are just a matter of programming.  The bulk of the extra cost is in upgraded analog components and power supply.  And that makes  a HUGE difference.  
     
     
    That is part of what makes iFi so great.  Thorsten and Vince are very accessible guys, who are very willing to interact with their customers.  If you have a technical question, Thorsten is quite willing to share info on the nuts and bolts of his products, and more importantly, the 'why' in his choices.  They don't ever seem too busy to interact with their customers, either.  
     
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