iFi ShootOut - xDSD, xCAN, Nano BL, Micro BL
Jan 2, 2019 at 5:08 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 70

Grimbles

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This is a ShootOut review of some of iFi's most recent line-up – namely the two black labels and the two new "x" products. Before I start however, I thought worth setting out a few ground rules and my method, followed by a dive into scoring. Slightly differently to normal, I have given my method first before my conclusions (so that the conclusions have some context). I then go into a deeper dive for each category I have scored, giving my reasons and detail.

20181129_203756.jpg

Method

For the purposes of this shootout, I have scored the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label ("Micro BL") , Nano iDSD Black Label ("Nano BL"), xDSD ("xDSD") and xCAN ("xCAN"). You will see in the table set out in the Scores section below, that I have ranked each of these products in the categories listed, giving each of them a total score. The product which is the best in each given category is ranked "1" and the worst ranked "4". Accordingly, the lowest overall score is the winner. I think worth noting that I am not saying that any of these products is objectively good or bad – I cover that detail in the full reviews (see below). What I am saying is that, ranked amongst the four iFi products I am looking at for the purposes of the ShootOut, the product which receives a score of 1 is the best of the four in that category.

To try to keep things consistent, I have reviewed the sound quality ("SQ") of these products by:

(i) plugging in headphones, playing a constant 10khz tone, then adjusting volume to the same level using the microphone on my Samsung Note8 and the SPL Meter app (to get an approximate volume match);

(ii) reviewing using the Sennheiser HD600 headphones and the CTM DaVinci X IEMs which I had on loan from CTM for a review (in both cases, volume matched as above); and

(iii) using the same tracks from Tidal (all 44.1/16, not MQA) through USB input on each of the Nano BL, Micro BL and xDSD, and Bluetooth input on the xCAN (given it is an amplifier, I found it quite source dependent for SQ – as one would hope!) . Just for clarity, this means the xCAN is not being fully and fairly compared in these sections, but it is a different product (an amp with a Bluetooth input rather than a "full" amp/DAC).

I have decided not to mark for boxing and accessories as all products would receive the same mark here – top class product packing and all necessary accessories included in box.

In the full ShootOut section below, I then go into some detail justifying each of my scores. I have also written full reviews for each of these products:

Micro BL – to follow

Nano BL - https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ifi-audio-nano-idsd-black-label.22770/reviews#review-19514

xDSD - https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ifi-audio-xdsd.23046/reviews#review-20586

xCAN – to follow

Conclusion

My overall conclusion is that, if you were planning to spend your money on one of the four products reviewed, the best buy is the Micro BL. Controversially though, it isn’t the one I would choose to buy! The device that I keep going back to, and that I want in my stable is the xDSD. I could have rigged my scoring system to deliver the result I wanted, but I have tried to be objective, and I stand by the conclusion that, objectively, the Micro BL delivers the most out of all of these iFi products… it is also the most expensive. However, it is most definitely a desk based unit, and the perfect mix of SQ, features and overall desirability for me is the xDSD. As ever, YMMV and you would be perfectly entitled to tell me that this whole ShootOut was a massive waste of time because despite the fact it was designed by me, I disagree with the result.

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ShootOut Tables_1.jpg

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ShootOut Tables_3.jpg

ShootOut Tables_4.jpg
 
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Jan 2, 2019 at 5:20 AM Post #2 of 70

davidmolliere

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Thanks for this, just when I am looking at the idsd micro BL and still undecided with the xDSD :)
Food for thoughts!

The xDSD is quite compelling if you think about its features it should be compared to Poly+Mojo and not just Mojo so value for money is pretty amazing. This being said I think I’ll go for the idsd Micro BL...
 
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Jan 2, 2019 at 5:24 AM Post #3 of 70

Grimbles

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No worries chap. Genuinely think the xDSD is a one box solution for everything for me. Gutted to give the thing back again... may just ask @iFi audio for an invoice instead!
 
Jan 11, 2019 at 4:31 AM Post #5 of 70

davidmolliere

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I love the Micro BL so much I think I have become a stacker, will probably get rid of the WM1Z and downgrade my DAP to purchase a xDSD as a portable alternative to the Micro BL :D
 
Jan 11, 2019 at 4:12 PM Post #6 of 70
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I love the Micro BL so much I think I have become a stacker, will probably get rid of the WM1Z and downgrade my DAP to purchase a xDSD as a portable alternative to the Micro BL :D

...and we won't stop you :ksc75smile:
 
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Jan 15, 2019 at 4:56 AM Post #7 of 70

davidmolliere

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...and we won't stop you :ksc75smile:

Ah and I strongly look at the Pro iDSD for 2019, I guess you won’t stop me either :D (this will wait a bit though, tapped out :p)
 
Jan 15, 2019 at 5:27 AM Post #8 of 70

Grimbles

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Ah and I strongly look at the Pro iDSD for 2019, I guess you won’t stop me either :D (this will wait a bit though, tapped out :p)
Ah @davidmolliere I'm driving past Paris in late May/early June. If you buy the Pro iDSD, I'll have to swing by to have a listen! Unfortunately (predominantly due to having a 4 year old daughter and an old house requiring quite a lot of renovation) it is way off my budget for a couple of years!
 
Jan 15, 2019 at 5:32 AM Post #9 of 70

davidmolliere

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Ah @davidmolliere I'm driving past Paris in late May/early June. If you buy the Pro iDSD, I'll have to swing by to have a listen! Unfortunately (predominantly due to having a 4 year old daughter and an old house requiring quite a lot of renovation) it is way off my budget for a couple of years!

Well, I set my sights on it more for xMas 2019 or who knows Black Friday at the earliest... I too have children (two of them actually :p) so it might be early!

But sure happy to share the goodness once it’s there :)
 
Jan 15, 2019 at 3:14 PM Post #10 of 70
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Well, I set my sights on it more for xMas 2019 or who knows Black Friday at the earliest... I too have children (two of them actually :p) so it might be early!

But sure happy to share the goodness once it’s there :)

We keep our fingers crossed that your plan will work!
 
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Jan 22, 2019 at 3:45 PM Post #11 of 70

audiomonkey777

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This is a ShootOut review of some of iFi's most recent line-up – namely the two black labels and the two new "x" products. Before I start however, I thought worth setting out a few ground rules and my method, followed by a dive into scoring. Slightly differently to normal, I have given my method first before my conclusions (so that the conclusions have some context). I then go into a deeper dive for each category I have scored, giving my reasons and detail.



Method

For the purposes of this shootout, I have scored the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label ("Micro BL") , Nano iDSD Black Label ("Nano BL"), xDSD ("xDSD") and xCAN ("xCAN"). You will see in the table set out in the Scores section below, that I have ranked each of these products in the categories listed, giving each of them a total score. The product which is the best in each given category is ranked "1" and the worst ranked "4". Accordingly, the lowest overall score is the winner. I think worth noting that I am not saying that any of these products is objectively good or bad – I cover that detail in the full reviews (see below). What I am saying is that, ranked amongst the four iFi products I am looking at for the purposes of the ShootOut, the product which receives a score of 1 is the best of the four in that category.

To try to keep things consistent, I have reviewed the sound quality ("SQ") of these products by:

(i) plugging in headphones, playing a constant 10khz tone, then adjusting volume to the same level using the microphone on my Samsung Note8 and the SPL Meter app (to get an approximate volume match);

(ii) reviewing using the Sennheiser HD600 headphones and the CTM DaVinci X IEMs which I had on loan from CTM for a review (in both cases, volume matched as above); and

(iii) using the same tracks from Tidal (all 44.1/16, not MQA) through USB input on each of the Nano BL, Micro BL and xDSD, and Bluetooth input on the xCAN (given it is an amplifier, I found it quite source dependent for SQ – as one would hope!) . Just for clarity, this means the xCAN is not being fully and fairly compared in these sections, but it is a different product (an amp with a Bluetooth input rather than a "full" amp/DAC).

I have decided not to mark for boxing and accessories as all products would receive the same mark here – top class product packing and all necessary accessories included in box.

In the full ShootOut section below, I then go into some detail justifying each of my scores. I have also written full reviews for each of these products:

Micro BL – to follow

Nano BL - https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ifi-audio-nano-idsd-black-label.22770/reviews#review-19514

xDSD - https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ifi-audio-xdsd.23046/reviews#review-20586

xCAN – to follow

Conclusion

My overall conclusion is that, if you were planning to spend your money on one of the four products reviewed, the best buy is the Micro BL. Controversially though, it isn’t the one I would choose to buy! The device that I keep going back to, and that I want in my stable is the xDSD. I could have rigged my scoring system to deliver the result I wanted, but I have tried to be objective, and I stand by the conclusion that, objectively, the Micro BL delivers the most out of all of these iFi products… it is also the most expensive. However, it is most definitely a desk based unit, and the perfect mix of SQ, features and overall desirability for me is the xDSD. As ever, YMMV and you would be perfectly entitled to tell me that this whole ShootOut was a massive waste of time because despite the fact it was designed by me, I disagree with the result.







Really interesting. Been looking at iFi stuff on here. This is a great guide to their main gear. Thanks.
 
Jan 22, 2019 at 4:29 PM Post #12 of 70

Grimbles

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Really interesting. Been looking at iFi stuff on here. This is a great guide to their main gear. Thanks.

You're welcome chap, that was definitely my intention!
 
Jan 22, 2019 at 11:36 PM Post #14 of 70

MarkF786

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Thanks for the comparison. I was torn between the xDSD and the FiiO Q5 and vacillated for a couple weeks, but finally went with the Q5 mainly because of a couple niggles you and others have pointed out: the intermittent Bluetooth issues and the fingerprint magnetism.

Hopefully iFi will address these issues in a future model. I’d definitely buy one then.

Maybe iFi could release a firmware update to address the Bluetooth issues, and a case to address the fingerprints, then a future model isn’t even needed!
 
Jan 23, 2019 at 1:51 AM Post #15 of 70

Grimbles

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Thanks for the comparison. I was torn between the xDSD and the FiiO Q5 and vacillated for a couple weeks, but finally went with the Q5 mainly because of a couple niggles you and others have pointed out: the intermittent Bluetooth issues and the fingerprint magnetism.

Hopefully iFi will address these issues in a future model. I’d definitely buy one then.

Maybe iFi could release a firmware update to address the Bluetooth issues, and a case to address the fingerprints, then a future model isn’t even needed!
Re/bluetooth i understand your hesitance though TBF in about 3-4 weeks in total with the xDSD this problem only manifested once for me and was solved with a powercycle.

IMO the fingerprint magnetism isnt actually a problem and when you've been using either for a bit, you get a sort of "rainbow patina" effect. Ultimately (volume knob aside) the x products look and feel v expensive and, fingerprints or no, turned a lot of heads when i was listening in the office.
 

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