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IFI Audio IDSD Black Unboxing

 

Pros&Cons

Pros

  • Incredible sound
  • Lots of power
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • A little bulky
  • 1/4” adapter must be used for headphone out

IFI Micro iDSD Black Label Specs

• Output Impedance: <0.3Ω
• Frequency response: 10 Hz – 90 kHz
• Headphone Impedance: 16Ω – 300Ω
• Built-in battery: 880mAh Li-Po
• Charging time: < 3 hours via 5V/2A charger • Operational time: > 13 hours

ifi audio idsd micro black label

What’s in the box?

  • Micro iDSD Black Label
  • USB cable
  • Male-to-female USB Cable
  • USB-A to USB-B adapter USB-A to USB-B cable
  • 1/4” gold-plated adapter
  • 3.5mm Audio interconnect cable
  • 2.5mm Optical adapter
  • Stereo RCA interconnect cable
  • 2x Rubber/silicon bands
  • 4x adhesive silicone feet
  • 1x Silicon stacking pads/spacers Cloth carrying pouch
  • Warranty card Quick start guide

Accessories

IFI included a great number of bits and pieces with the Black Label. Pretty much anything you could possibly need to use this device are included in the box. You get a simple 3.5mm audio interconnect if you only want to use the Black Label as an amplifier, or you could use the RCA cables if you want to connect it to stereo speakers or a different amplifier, as well as a 3.5mm adapter for optical cables. The only thing not included is a COAX cable. We should also note that the Micro iDSD BL features a male USB port on the back for digital and charging purposes. This makes things quite easy, as with
Android you could then simply use a standard OTG cable to connect the device to your smartphone. 4 small silicone “bubble” spacers are also included, as well as a larger silicone pad to go between the Micro iDSD BL and whichever device you decide to pair it with, which is to prevent any scuffing on either device.

Design

Body and layout

Featuring an all-black body and orange label, the Black Label is indeed a ruggedly handsome device. Whilst I still feel that its looks don’t quite reflect its price tag, I’ve certainly seen worse (ahem, Mojo). To be honest though, I’m not sure if I like the orange, it just seems a bit too childish, and perhaps either white, or having the labels engraved would look more mature.

On the front, we find a 1/4” headphone jacks, along with a 3.5mm input for the amp stage, the volume put, and the XBass+ and 3D+ switches. Along one of the sides are the switches for the Power mode (namely Eco, Normal, and Turbo), a switch to swap the polarity, and a filter switch which toggles between different digital filters (Bit-Perfect, Minimum Phase, and Standard). The other side only has a USB port which is used to connect another device for the purpose of using the IFI as a power bank. The back side Has the Digital input/charging USB port, the stereo RCA jack, as well as a COAX/Optical jack. The underside has 2 more switches; the iEMatch switch, and the Direct/Preamplifier switch. The majority of the text that is printed on the underside of the Black Label is also black, in contrast to the original silver. The only things printed in orange are labels which are actually useful, such as the labels for all the switches and ports. This looks much better than the silver version where the bottom is covered by black text which sticks out like a sore thumb against the silver body. I’m not quite sure why IFI opted to put all this useless information on the device’s body, because the vast majority of it belongs on the packaging, not the device.

Sound

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? The Black Label sounds incredible. Honestly, how is it even possible for a portable audio device to sound this damn good? Up until now I was perfectly happy with the sound quality of my iBasso DX80. But then a really weird thing happened….

After listening to the Black Label for just a few short minutes, I then listened to the DX80 again. I was dumbstruck. The Dx80 is indeed a great sounding device, but the Black Label is just something else. Suddenly, the DX80 sounded so flat and non-immersive. I still think the DX80, for what it is as a stand-alone solution, is excellent, but the sound from this IFI is just on a completely other level. It’s not that it made the DX80 sound unpleasant (not even close), the IFI is just something else. It’s quite a strange sensation to feel like you’re almost listening to a surround sound system, whilst knowing that your headphones or IEMs are only capable of introducing sound to your ears from 2 locations.

Everything just sounds so open, so natural, so immersive and surrounding. It’s night and day. I don’t mean that in the usual “audiophile” sense of over-hyped, exaggerated impressions…but rather a genuine, undeniable awesomeness. A while back I reviewed the Chord Mojo, but (from what I remember) not even it left me with such a lasting impression. It really is difficult for myself as a mere mortal to even begin to comprehend the idea that a portable audio rig could possibly sound better than this. There are only 2 advantages that I can see the Mojo having: size and dual headphone outputs. But other than those 2, the Black Label has it beaten in every aspect. Another advantage of the IFI over the Mojo is that it plays DSD natively, whereas the Mojo converts DSD to PCM.

Read: iBasso DX80 DAP Dual CS4398 DAC and Native DSD

Micro iDSD VS Micro iDSD Black Label:

Compared to the first iteration of the Micro iDSD (silver), the Black Label does exhibit some sonic differences. Volume matched, the Black Label does sound a bit clearer, and has a wider sound stage; a healthy improvement in my opinion.

The Black Label also features an “improved” bass boost (XBass+) and 3D filter (3D+). I must admit that I was not a fan of the 3D functionality on anything other than live recordings, and found it terrible of binaural recordings (but this was expected). Actually, for live recordings it was great, as it gave you an almost realistic sense of sitting in the crowd. The bass boost, on the other hand, came in quite handy. What I particularly liked about the XBass+ system is how little impact it had on any of the non- bass frequencies. If I listened to a song that naturally had little or no bass, flicking the switch made absolutely no significant difference to the sound; however, when a bass-heavy song was playing, the bass boost was evident. This is an excellent implementation in my opinion.

Will it improve my audio experience?

This is an almost certain YES! I honestly don’t know if a stand-alone portable player that sounds this good even exists. But if it did/does, boy it would be pricy. As such, I feel that adding the IFI to practically any portable setup would yield a satisfying improvement in audio quality and enjoyment.

Value

The IFI makes perfect sense for someone who would prefer to use their smartphone as the source. I say this, because relatively speaking, that works out cheaper. For example, let’s use the iBasso DX80 as an example. The DX80 costs roughly $360 (sometimes cheaper), and the IFI costs around $550. That’s a total cost of over $900 for a portable audio setup of this sonic quality. Alternatively, chances are you already have a smartphone, so it makes sense to disregard the cost of that phone as your sole intention of buying that phone was not strictly as a portable audio device. In which case you only need to consider the $550 price tag of the IFI. Whatever rationale you decide to use, the IFI is a great addition, bringing true desktop performance in a portable package.

 

Read: Chord Electronics Mojo DAC/Headphone Amplifier Review

Rating

The rating system is based on 2 premises; the 1st is a 60-point rating of the AMP as a whole. This is an attempt to take every aspect of the device into account. The 2nd is a rating which focuses solely on the device as a portable AMP, disregarding all the (essentially) unnecessary bells and whistles such as packaging and accessories, for example.

Packaging

Look and feel: 4 / 5

Total: 4 / 5

Included Accessories

Power adapter: NO Protective case: YES Stacking bands: YES Stacking spacers: YES Cables: YES (7)

Total: 10 / 5

Build

Metal body: YES
Premium look and feel: YES Excellent quality control: YES

Total: 3 / 3

Sound

Multiple Gain: YES Bass boost: YES Sound Quality: 10 / 10

Total: 12 / 12

Portability

Small size: 8 / 10
Relatively low weight: 8 / 10
Battery life more than 10 hours: YES Fast charging: NO

Total: 17 / 22

Connectivity

Balanced output: – COAX: YES Optical: YES RCA: YES

USB: YES

Total: 5 / 6

Value

Competitive price-point: YES Relative value: 9 / 10
Total: 10 / 11

Overall Rating: 9.5 / 10

Portable Hi-Fi Rating

Sound

Multiple Gain: YES Bass boost: YES Sound Quality: 10 / 10

Total: 12 / 12

Portability

Small size: 8.5 / 10
Relatively low weight: 8.5 / 10 Battery life more than 10 hours: YES Fast charging: NO
Total: 18 / 22

Connectivity

Balanced output: – COAX: YES Optical: YES RCA: YES

USB: YES 1/4” jack: YES

Total: 5 / 6

Value

Competitive price-point: YES Relative value: 9 / 10
Total: 10 / 11

Overall Rating: 8.8 / 10

 

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