iFi iDSD Micro DSD512 / PCM768 DAC and Headphone Amp. Impressions, Reviews and Comments.
Dec 12, 2017 at 5:17 PM Post #8,221 of 9,013

hemipowered007

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Hi guys,

I have the Fiio A3, and my HD650 and THX00 are plenty loud using the Fiio. Does the IFI significantly sound better than the Fiio to be worth the $350 (used price on Amazon)?

Loud does not equate to sound quality. The hd650 needs a good source to really get it's great qualities out of it. I havnt heard the 650 on the ifi, but I know it will give it better sq over that fiio a3. The thx00 ahouldnt scale a whole ton, i have a d2k which is similar, but they do sound more controlled and cleaner out of the ifi than straibht out of my fiio x3. If youre planning on continuing down the audiophile route, the idsd bl is a fantastic purchase as it really is a Swiss army knife and adapts to many rigs. I just can't see myself ever selling it, it's just too good of a piece of gear for the price, and a great multiuse gem FOR ME. Value of an audio purchase is always going to be subjective and individual user based, but knowing how the hd650 sounds on a mediocre rig compared to something of more substance and quality, it's worth the price difference, and I have yet to read anyone saying the black label wasn't a good pairing with their hps, it's done well with everything I have, and that I've tried it with. If you can grab it on Amazon with that 30 day return window then it's a no brainer.
 
Dec 12, 2017 at 5:27 PM Post #8,222 of 9,013

cardeli22

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Loud does not equate to sound quality. The hd650 needs a good source to really get it's great qualities out of it. I havnt heard the 650 on the ifi, but I know it will give it better sq over that fiio a3. The thx00 ahouldnt scale a whole ton, i have a d2k which is similar, but they do sound more controlled and cleaner out of the ifi than straibht out of my fiio x3. If youre planning on continuing down the audiophile route, the idsd bl is a fantastic purchase as it really is a Swiss army knife and adapts to many rigs. I just can't see myself ever selling it, it's just too good of a piece of gear for the price, and a great multiuse gem FOR ME. Value of an audio purchase is always going to be subjective and individual user based, but knowing how the hd650 sounds on a mediocre rig compared to something of more substance and quality, it's worth the price difference, and I have yet to read anyone saying the black label wasn't a good pairing with their hps, it's done well with everything I have, and that I've tried it with. If you can grab it on Amazon with that 30 day return window then it's a no brainer.
I agree with all points. I have done my fair share of reading on the HD6xx/HD650 lately (been staring at the Massdrop sale a lot) and from what I gather the 650s scale really well with the gear. The fact that the ifi BL is smallish, battery operated, can receive optical, coaxial, usb audio, and analog in, allows me to use in on my pc, game consoles, at work, when traveling on a plane/train etc..., powerful amp, and it sounds great? A no brainer purchase.
 
Dec 12, 2017 at 6:07 PM Post #8,223 of 9,013

Roscoeiii

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Thanks. 5 clicks is a bit too loud for me so I guess I won't be buying iDSD just for Andro.

Though I'm still tempted to buy it for my full size headphones..

huh? I wouldn't get too worried about where you are on the volume dial of the iDSD Micro BL (unless you are detecting a channel imbalance which can happen on the low end of some pots, but I've never noticed this with the BL). I love it with my Andros. 9 o'clock with Ultra IEMatch is normal listening level and that's sufficient. Don't get caught up on one single detail like ideal pot position. Even at a less than ideal level on the dial, it may still sound stellar and better than any other options.

And the Andros are VERY picky on sources.

No hiss with Andros is a significant achievement, and the IEMatch settings of High and Ultra hit the sweet spot of output impedance for Andros (~1.5-2.5 ohms). Mojo, on the other hand has such a low output impedance that it makes the Andros a bit bassier than what many folks consider ideal. Higher output impedance makes them a bit too treble heavy for most.
 
Dec 12, 2017 at 8:30 PM Post #8,224 of 9,013

redryder

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Loud does not equate to sound quality. The hd650 needs a good source to really get it's great qualities out of it. I havnt heard the 650 on the ifi, but I know it will give it better sq over that fiio a3. The thx00 ahouldnt scale a whole ton, i have a d2k which is similar, but they do sound more controlled and cleaner out of the ifi than straibht out of my fiio x3. If youre planning on continuing down the audiophile route, the idsd bl is a fantastic purchase as it really is a Swiss army knife and adapts to many rigs. I just can't see myself ever selling it, it's just too good of a piece of gear for the price, and a great multiuse gem FOR ME. Value of an audio purchase is always going to be subjective and individual user based, but knowing how the hd650 sounds on a mediocre rig compared to something of more substance and quality, it's worth the price difference, and I have yet to read anyone saying the black label wasn't a good pairing with their hps, it's done well with everything I have, and that I've tried it with. If you can grab it on Amazon with that 30 day return window then it's a no brainer.


I can’t enjoy the 30 day Amazon return since I don’t live in the US so the decision is a bit harder for me.

The micro black label is a little too expensive for me, should I consider the nano black label or the original micro idsd? I have a range of iems and the aforementioned headphones. Usage will be at home since I don’t see myself pocketing the amp during commutes.
 
Dec 12, 2017 at 11:38 PM Post #8,225 of 9,013

dannyvstheworld

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huh? I wouldn't get too worried about where you are on the volume dial of the iDSD Micro BL (unless you are detecting a channel imbalance which can happen on the low end of some pots, but I've never noticed this with the BL). I love it with my Andros. 9 o'clock with Ultra IEMatch is normal listening level and that's sufficient. Don't get caught up on one single detail like ideal pot position. Even at a less than ideal level on the dial, it may still sound stellar and better than any other options.

And the Andros are VERY picky on sources.

No hiss with Andros is a significant achievement, and the IEMatch settings of High and Ultra hit the sweet spot of output impedance for Andros (~1.5-2.5 ohms). Mojo, on the other hand has such a low output impedance that it makes the Andros a bit bassier than what many folks consider ideal. Higher output impedance makes them a bit too treble heavy for most.
Thanks for the detailed explanation. I was worried about the channel imbalance at low volume, but if you don’t feel any even at 9 o’clock, I guess it won’t be a problem for me either.

Yes Andros can change a bit under different output impedance but most of the time I can live with some lower end uplift. What annoys me is the hiss since I’m listening at such low volume and the hisses become more noticeable. From all the review I’ve read it’s the part that iDSD really excels, even without the ultra settings on (but this is just from what I read somewhere).

Wish I could see your post just a tiny bit earlier because I just missed a 15% discount on iDSD from a local distributor.. Now I’m taking time to decide so I’m gonna spend some time with Mojo and iEMatch, and if I’m not convinced then iDSD is my next step..
 
Dec 12, 2017 at 11:49 PM Post #8,226 of 9,013

Roscoeiii

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Thanks for the detailed explanation. I was worried about the channel imbalance at low volume, but if you don’t feel any even at 9 o’clock, I guess it won’t be a problem for me either.

Yes Andros can change a bit under different output impedance but most of the time I can live with some lower end uplift. What annoys me is the hiss since I’m listening at such low volume and the hisses become more noticeable. From all the review I’ve read it’s the part that iDSD really excels, even without the ultra settings on (but this is just from what I read somewhere).

Wish I could see your post just a tiny bit earlier because I just missed a 15% discount on iDSD from a local distributor.. Now I’m taking time to decide so I’m gonna spend some time with Mojo and iEMatch, and if I’m not convinced then iDSD is my next step..

Find a way to listen to the iDSD Black Label Micro. Let your ears decide.

15% off doesn't end up being too much money. Maybe even see if the distributer will still give you that price. Or try it from someplace with a good return policy. It also seems that sales on these from some retailers aren't too infrequent. Or perhaps keep an eye out for a used one here. If you don't like it you can resell it at a minimal loss.

But trust your ears and try for yourself once you have narrowed down the options to a manageable number.
 
Dec 21, 2017 at 6:13 AM Post #8,227 of 9,013

coklatua

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Let's address this in even more thorough way, shall we?

TL;DR

If you want to keep your iDSD micro on all the time, you can still use the battery mode and normally not worry about the battery state. This is best if you usually use it to play music for a few hours at a time and then shut the music source off to allow the iDSD micro to top up its cells' charge. Using a USB port that is BC1.2 compliant and can deliver 1.5A of current is strongly recommended and essential if using Turbo mode.

If you want 100% availability and 24/7 operation while never worrying about the battery state or which amplifier setting is engaged, power your iDSD micro from a BC1.2 compliant USB port and make sure power is available 24/7.

If you want to have maximum play time "on the go" make sure to TURN OFF the iDSD micro when charging. If you don't need maximum playtime, make sure to TURN ON the iDSD micro when charging. and to make sure that your smartphone battery does not get drained when music stops, flash Firmware 5.2B.

Long Version

iDSD micro has a fairly sophisticated charging system, but in the best Apple style, rather than festooning the device with a million gauges and LED's, we kept it as minimal as possible (we felt there where enough switches etc. as is).

If the iDSD micro is turned on BEFORE being connected to a USB source (or just a USB charger) it is in "Battery Mode" until turned off next time.

If the iDSD micro is turned on AFTER being connected to a USB source (or just a USB charger) it is in "USB Mode" until turned off next time.

Now unless Firmware 5.XB is used, the iDSD micro will actually re-charge in either mode, unless it detects a "weak power source" which is assumed to be a smart phone. Equally, in either mode the iDSD micro may draw on the battery if needed.

So it might be better to call the modes "Battery Power Priority" and "USB Power Priority".

In battery mode, if music is playing via USB or SPDIF power is drawn ONLY from the battery, the USB power connection, if present is shut off.

However, if no music is playing on any input for 3 minutes, the iDSD micro will shut down the whole analogue and amplifier circuitry to conserve power (as these draw the most). And if it has detected a "strong" (500mA or greater) charge capable source it will recharge it's battery while no music is played.

The re-charge is set to not fill the battery up to 100% capacity as this would cause cells to wear out quickly, instead charge is capped at 75%, which means battery life in this case is equal to shelf life.

Powersave mode is indicated by a blinking green LED, and if the iDSD micro is in powersave + recharge mode, it with show a blue LED.

This means as long as 'eco' mode is used and you do not play music for more than 8 hours without interruption (and your computer settings allow the iDSD micro to go to sleep and charge), the iDSD micro may be operated in battery indefinitely, if it remains connected and turned on, because it will recharge automagically whenever there is no music playback for any length of time.

In USB mode the iDSD micro will first and foremost apply USB power to keep internal systems 'alive'. If any power from the USB is "left over" after operating internals, it will be used to charge the battery.

If the power available from USB is insufficient, the iDSD micro will automatically draw the difference from the battery, which acts in effect as a booster pack.

If no music is played on any input for 15 minutes, the iDSD micro will shut down the whole analogue and amplifier circuitry to conserve power (it draws the most). Then more power is available to top up the battery.

Again, the re-charge is set to not charge the battery to 100% capacity as this would cause the cells to wear out quickly. Instead charge is capped at 75%, which means battery life in this case is equal to shelf life.

The power from a standard USB port is sufficient for operation of the iDSD micro ONLY in 'eco' mode, using a standard USB port and USB mode with normal/turbo may slowly drain the battery even in USB mode, unless the iDSD micro is allowed to enter powersave frequently enough to allow it to keep the cells topped up.

This is because the iDSD micro is USB standard compliant, so it will never draw more than 500mA, unless the USB port it is attached to includes USB standard BC1.2 signaling, in which case the iDSD micro will draw the current it needs up to a maximum of 1.5A which is enough for both 'turbo' mode operation and charging a flat battery to 80% in under 12 hours.

The iUSB nano & micro implement BC1.2 and will supply the iDSD micro with all the power it needs at a quality that rivals battery operation.

Many inexpensive USB hubs also implement BC1.2 and can supply the iDSD micro with the power needed, though the results will not be as good as the iUSB.

Further, if the iDSD micro is switched off when charging, it will fill the battery to 100% capacity. This will maximize playback time in portable use, but as the battery is now cycled past 75% it's lifespan will be shortened compared to the lower charge.

So if you do not need maximum battery charge, keep your iDSD micro on while charging to be easier on cells.
Hi, is this mode also applied for the new IFi idsd Nano black label too?
 
Dec 21, 2017 at 5:28 PM Post #8,228 of 9,013
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Hi, is this mode also applied for the new IFi idsd Nano black label too?

This quote of ours doesn't apply to nano iDSD BL. In case of this device, just plug it and charge making sure the unit is switched off of course and you're good!
 
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Dec 22, 2017 at 10:46 AM Post #8,233 of 9,013

Themordent

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Thanks for the detailed explanation. I was worried about the channel imbalance at low volume, but if you don’t feel any even at 9 o’clock, I guess it won’t be a problem for me either.

Yes Andros can change a bit under different output impedance but most of the time I can live with some lower end uplift. What annoys me is the hiss since I’m listening at such low volume and the hisses become more noticeable. From all the review I’ve read it’s the part that iDSD really excels, even without the ultra settings on (but this is just from what I read somewhere).

Wish I could see your post just a tiny bit earlier because I just missed a 15% discount on iDSD from a local distributor.. Now I’m taking time to decide so I’m gonna spend some time with Mojo and iEMatch, and if I’m not convinced then iDSD is my next step..
I sold my vanilla Micro iDSD on USAM just a few weeks ago, RIP... was a couple of years old but still in perfect condition. If only I had joined sooner, could have given you a good deal.

I've owned both the Mojo and the iDSD and heard the Andros out of a few other sources. The iFi unit is the only portable DAC/amp unit I've come across with such a low noise floor, no hiss with any IEMs I threw at it. Maybe the IEMatch can do this as well, but it's definitely more unwieldy than a single-box solution.
 
Dec 22, 2017 at 12:26 PM Post #8,234 of 9,013

dannyvstheworld

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I sold my vanilla Micro iDSD on USAM just a few weeks ago, RIP... was a couple of years old but still in perfect condition. If only I had joined sooner, could have given you a good deal.

I've owned both the Mojo and the iDSD and heard the Andros out of a few other sources. The iFi unit is the only portable DAC/amp unit I've come across with such a low noise floor, no hiss with any IEMs I threw at it. Maybe the IEMatch can do this as well, but it's definitely more unwieldy than a single-box solution.
Yeah the iEMatch is really good at eliminating hisses. Put one between Mojo and Andros and there's absolutely no hisses at all. But it's cumbersome to add another item between your gears, especially with Mojo which already has one more cable to deal with than most portable DACs.. With iDSD you only need a OTG cable, which is much more convenient.
 
Dec 23, 2017 at 12:02 PM Post #8,235 of 9,013

hemipowered007

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Hey ifi, please do us a favor and make a dap with the sound quality close to the black label, under 1k$. Even if it's almost the size of the micro, I would still be interested! So, if you could get on that, that'd be greaaaaat.
 

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