Ifi Micro IDSD Black Label

Discussion in 'Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Cellist88, Dec 6, 2016.

  1. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Friend

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    Has anyone used their micro iDSD as a DDC for USB to S/PDIF? Other than, for example, allowing the use of the Mimby's "better" coax input, how would the quality of the iDSD's digital out compare to other dedicated DDCs?
     

  2. SHAWN P. WATSON

    SHAWN P. WATSON Rando

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    So, I'm over on Youtube this evening at 2AM in the morning. All the lights are off and I've got the iFi Micro iDSD Black label all warmed up and operating on pure battery mode with my 17" laptop. I go to the following link: with Alison Kraus + Union Station LIVE in HD 60fps video and HD audio. I've got the X-BASS and the 3D engaged and the power on Normal with volume at 3 O'Clock (high). Then at 47:52 into the Youtube video they're all singing acappella. I'm listening with my Beyerdynamic T5p (Second Generation) cans and the goosebumps start. After this short "Down to the River" tune, the band all gather tightly for some stunning vocal and acoustic action when at 52:13 two member step up to the microphone to play guitar and dubro guitar. And this is when I know, after watching this entire video, that this iDSD Black Label is a masterpiece. What more could you ask for? Alison Kraus has won more Grammy Awards than any person in history. Her voice is so pure. The iDSD Black Label does her and the band HUGE justice with fabulous spacious, warm, sound with wonderful decay and plankton. Check it out.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
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  3. loplop

    loplop Rando

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    I have, gixxerwimp. I switch between 2 amps for my speaker-based listening; an almarro A318B (tube) and a T+A Music Receiver (SS). The T+A has a built in DAC but no USB input, so I spent some time feeding it S/PDIF from the iDSD BL. I don't have another USB converter to feed it with, so I can't really compare for you; but I can say that the "flavor" of the internal T+A DAC was maintained exactly to my ears: that is, feeding it via the iDSD BL S/PDIF vs streaming to the internal DAC, sounded the same. If there were differences, they were too infinitesimal to care for my purposes; I wasn't searching for ultimate fidelity, but just checking to see if I could use it to stream Tidal and the like to the T+A. Satisfied, I moved on and rolled back in my A318B for some tube fun :)

    I'd say that makes it at least a useable USB to S/PDIF converter.

    As an aside, it makes a really a rather good source for my Almarro, as well. Using my Sony ZX2 > iDSD BL > A318B (using the single-ended outputs of the iDSD BL, of course), it made for a nice listen. On some recordings, I forget I'm not listening to my analog rig.

    All that in mind... I'm starting to find the DAC implementation in the iDSD BL rather overachieving for the price. It digs pretty deep into the "grooves" of your bits and reveals a whole lot of detail for the price, without straying into an analytical spotlight onto your music. I do like that quality.

    I'm also starting to think the headphone amp section isn't quite up to as high standards. When listening to it as a headphone amp, my overall feelings are starting to tilt towards a slight hardness somewhere in the upper mids or lower treble region that occasionally manifests itself and makes the resulting sound a bit brittle. The upper treble seems fine to me (it did take some hours to settle in) as long as you're feeding it good material, a clean signal, and not running off USB power. The head amp section also strikes me as a bit mechanical in nature, diverting from the more silky sound I prefer, especially in the mids.

    That said, in isolation, I'm still enjoying it and the music it plays. I still only have ~120 hours on it, so I should probably let it bake for another hundred or so before I form final opinions, and when not using it with my traditional hifi in my music cave, I'm mostly running this thing with my LCD2F in my office system, so please take these observations with a large grain of salt as other headphones may reveal different qualities than the LCD2F.
     
  4. Cellist88

    Cellist88 Self important pretentious ass

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    yeah that amp section.....was hoping they would fix that, but it was always the weaker point of the ifi micro....though it has power, its not as refined.
     
  5. loplop

    loplop Rando

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    I've been playing with the 3D+ on the iDSD BL quite a bit lately. It's so hi and miss. At times, especially with ping-pong stereo jazz, it is an improvement you might not want to live without after hearing it. At other times, and rather often quite unexpectedly I might add (in that it's not "bright recordings become unlistenable" or "all old jazz is awesome in 3D+"), it just seems to make things bright and phasey. In any case, I dig that it's a switch I can use, and I usually try it on every recording. 1 time out of 10 I love it.

    Would love a quick thought on iFi Pro iCan; my finger is hovering over a "Buy Me!" button. I'm thinking of using the iDSD BL > iCan Pro for now, until the iDSD Pro arrives, relegating the iDSD BL to portable and swiss army knife functions. I'll be using LCD2F, LCD3, and LCD-X mostly. I'm thinking the iCan Pro will "fix" the iDSD BL's somewhat more ruffian-like amp section.

    A quick response, even as quick as "buy" or "you're an idiot if you don't just buy a Jot" would be super appreciated :)
     
  6. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    Yes.

    It does a reasonable job here. It's certainly better than using the Modi MB directly off a regular USB connection. And it retained a lead with a Jitterbug on that USB connection (I only keep the Jitterbug around for testing). The gap narrowed a lot feeding the Modi MB via USB with one of my special, DIY, USB cables and driving the power legs with a low-noise dedicated PSU. But, in general, the COAX feed out of the iDSD did a better job than the USB into the Modi MB.

    This is not something I would do unless I had the micro iDSD BL anyway, and certainly wouldn't buy one just for the purpose.

    Compared to a Singxer SU-1, or the output from an Auralic Aries, the Micro iDSD doesn't fare as well, but those are, in my opinion, both overkill solutions for Modi MB even though it's an excellent DAC.

    I can say a bit more in my proper write-up ... but that's what I found so far.
     
  7. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    I should be posting my proper impressions this evening, which includes a comparison with Jotunheim, Lyr 2 (with tubes and LISST), among other things. The Pro iCAN is an interesting unit, but as I've mentioned in that thread, it's a bit of a challenge from a value perspective unless you're going to use all of it's functionality. And if you're not going to do that, then all I'll say for now is that you should compare it back to back with a Jotunheim if at all possible
     
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  8. loplop

    loplop Rando

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    Thanks, Torq!

    EDIT: I decided to buy it, at the price I got I figure if I only like one of the combinations it'll be worth it. Curious to compare the 3D/XBass implementations with the BL, as well, for context at least.

    I'm listening to some DSD through the BL. Sounds good. The BL seems to like DSD.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
  9. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Friend

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    I already have the original iDSD so it's good to know that it will do a reasonable job as a DDC if/when I upgrade to a standalone DAC with a coax input.

    What audible differences were there between the iDSD and Singxer SU-1 as a source/converter to the Modi MB?
     
  10. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    I have to answer that in a somewhat roundabout way ...

    Using the COAX S/PDIF input into the Modi MB, instead of the USB input, at least from the MacBook Pro (12,1) I used in that particular test, regardless of how you achieve that, resulted in what I can best describe as more natural reproduction. Resolution improves, the high-end becomes cleaner and the general presentation relaxes some. Via USB I find a the Modi MB can be a bit fatiguing after a while - to the extent that via S/PDIF I'll gradually turn the volume up over a listening session where as with USB it tends to go the other way - regardless, so far, of what the S/PDIF interface was.

    The fundamental difference between the Micro iDSD BL and Singxer SU-1 is that any sense of artificiality, of which Modi MB doesn't have much of in the first place, is further reduced with the SU-1 vs. the iDSD. It's less that there are specific, discernible, point differences, and just that the presentation becomes a little more coherent and enjoyable.

    Either way, we're talking small percentage point differences - to the point I'd say use what you have.
     
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  11. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    I don't think you'll be disappointed.

    There are, I feel, other, better-value, approaches to getting most of what the Pro iCAN offers - at least if you're not going to use all of it's features. But it is a unique offering and for those that want the option to easily flip between solid-state, tube and rich-tube presentations, there's really nothing comparable at this point.

    Doing some final tweaking on my Pro iCAN notes ... but still expect to post them this evening/night/morning ...

    3D+ and X-Bass on the Pro iCAN are quite different to that on the Micro iDSD BL (in a good way).
     
  12. eastboundofnowhere

    eastboundofnowhere Acquaintance

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    Very, very early observations. I agree with the splashy treble so far. No hiss from Andromeda with iematch engaged and very little without it in the loop on eco. Can't say sonically it is the best I have heard them, but probably premature. Extremely sensitive as a dec/preamp in my system…bordering on unusable; will elaborate or throw out that comment later. I do immediately like the way the midrange sounds which seems so simple but I often find immediate issue with. Probably play around with it over the next couple of weekends to see if I have a real use for it.
     
  13. SHAWN P. WATSON

    SHAWN P. WATSON Rando

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    Well shoot! My brand new iDSD Black Label took a crap on me. I was listening last night through my laptop and all of the sudden the music sounded way off in the distance--just out of the blue. I've tried everything, every switch, every configuration, but to no avail. Even on Turbo with the volume at full blast, with a full charge, I just barely get any sound. Sending back to Music Direct which has a 60 Day satisfaction guarantee. I sure hope there aren't Q.A. problems. I was really starting to fall in love. : (
     
  14. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Friend

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  15. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    I find the feature sets of their devices more baffling- they always seem to be going for a "swiss army chainsaw" approach. I can't be the only one who prefers a more focussed device that does one (or even a few) thing(s), but does it well. I've often enjoyed the industrial design/form factor, but can't get away from the feeling of "jack of all trades master of none"- and that you're overpaying for a feature set that you don't necessarily fully want.

    So I have always been mildly tempted, but never compelled enough to pull the trigger. Maybe it's a sales proposition more suited to the random scattergun purchasing patterns of the average slightly confused HFer? I can't see the compelling reason why most iFi gear is a "must have" for anyone.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017
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  16. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Friend

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    For me, when I was still but a young grasshopper wandering the fields of HF, the micro iDSD seemed to be the best choice for my needs: a battery powered DAC/amp with enough power for any headphone I was ever going to buy, capable of playing any resolution/type of file (didn't know if there was anything to it but I didn't want to be limited), bass boost and crossfeed (thought it might come in useful), and functionality as a DAC/preamp for possible future usage models. I'm pleased with it overall and use everything except the 3D (it's just weird) and preamp out (no need for it yet). It serves me well for my current usage scenarios and though there might have been better options cost/performance-wise that I wasn't aware of at the time, I'm fairly satisfied with it overall.

    They have other products designed with more specific purposes that I don't really understand, like the iTube, but I wasn't interested in a mini-iFi-stack so I never really bothered to figure it all out. Too much fighter jet hocus-pocus hyperama in their marketing speak. And they always dodge legitimate technical questions with responses like, "Oh, that's our secret sauce and we can't reveal the recipe since our competitors might steal it." What a crock.
     
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  17. Warrior

    Warrior Friend

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    I had the idsd on loaner as I was always interested in it. Love the look of their devices. Anyway, I didn't find it to be as great as people claimed, but then again that's been with a lot of the gear that's been hyped up on HF. Not that it was bad, it wasn't... I just wasn't overwhelmed. I couldn't tell between that and the Mojo either. I guess I don't have the ears for those subtle differences. I definitely liked what I heard but was expecting more, similar with the Mojo. I like the Mojo, great device, but definitely not overwhelmed.
     
  18. loplop

    loplop Rando

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    A month's retrospective: I'm quite enjoying my iDSD BL. It is indeed a swiss army knife, so if one doesn't want or desire all the various features a different ifi unit may be a better buy. I've used all the features at one time or another, save the USB port for phone charging (which I have not found a use case for), and have enjoyed the unit in many situations.

    Right now my main usage is iDSD BL > iCAN Pro, so I've ordered a iDAC2 to take up that role. I'll use the iDSD more for portability sake from now on, assuming the iDAC2 sounds as good or better in the stationary role.

    I really enjoy this thing. I have found the sound quite addictive; it's not as 3-dimensional or tonally weighty as ideal, and I do think the headphone amp section lags behind the DAC section itself... But as an end-to-end solution, it's still very enjoyable. I'd say it's main characteristics are an absurdly black background, very low noise, wide soundstage, smoothness, dynamic prowess, bass control, and an enjoyable, "colorful" and lively take on your music. It pairs extremely well with my LCDX, which I didn't expect to be honest; the iDSD BL is a bit tonally light, as are the LCDX, but audiophilia is not exactly like baking a cake and so when you find a combination that sings you just need to run with it. I often use that combo around my house when I want to be generally untethered to one spot, and it's been a hugely enjoyable pairing.

    I'd buy it again. Haven't tried a mojo, but although I'd like to, I'm not going to make a purchase/swap. I'm satisfied.
     
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  19. silvrr

    silvrr Rando

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    I came to basically the same conclusion after my week as part of the BL tour. I kinda felt like their marketing team is to involved in the design process. Its like they wanted to be able to check every box yes on a feature set questionnaire. As usual there are people posting comments that my review is bad, however, those people all seem to be ifi fanboys who have a bunch of ifi gear listed in their profile.

    My other major issue was their power ratings. 4W is BS imo. They only rate that as maximum and their actual continuous ratings are conflicting on their own product page. All the power measurements are done in turbo mode and the SQ orientated measurements are done in eco. Hmmmmm.
     
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  20. SHAWN P. WATSON

    SHAWN P. WATSON Rando

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    Dear iDSD Black Label fans,

    Well, I'm a newbie to personal audio in the last year-and-a-half, and when I tell you all what I've discovered, you'll likely tell me I'm "late to the party". But there's magic in the telling.

    Well here goes: I was using my iDSD with the stock blue cable and my Beyer T5p.2 cans. The whole system sounded pretty good--I thought. I certainly didn't skimp on headphones and the iDSD BL is a very respectable DAC/AMP. My listening habits are mostly listening to Youtube and ripped CD's to JRiver via my laptop. I have pretty good ears and very good upper-mid quality home and office stereo equipment.

    So I bought this little device from iFi after doing some research called the "iPurifier2" and I'm still using the stock blue cable. After I hooked it up, OMG! What a difference! The sound takes the iDSD to a whole other level. So much cleaner sound....so much more ambiance and dimension that I could flip the 3D+ off most of the time. Best $109 I ever spent--BARGAIN.

    Next up after doing some research is upgrading the USB cable. I HATED the thought of spending $200 on a damned cable. "You'd have to be crazy" I thought. "Digital is digital, how much difference can there be?" So just to prove there was no difference to myself, I ordered a Kimber Silver cable with one solid silver wire conductor for the signal and one "silver plated" conductor for the power leg (they have a cheaper model with two silver-plated conductors.) It arrived today and hooked it up to the iDSD BL with the iPurifier2 and let it warm up for 30 minutes before listening.

    Within about 10 seconds my jaw hit the floor! What a freaking difference a good USB cable makes. Now this Micro iDSD BL absolutely sings....it's smooth, detailed, dynamic, spacious, and refined. This new USB cable and iPurifier2 together simply makes the iDSD a COMPLETELY different animal for the better. The 2 items together subjectively improve the entire listening experience AT LEAST 20-25%. I don't even need the 3D+ and X-Bass+ engaged at all now!



    My next "experiment" is that I've ordered an even higher end USB cable from MOON AUDIO called the "Silver Dragon" which has solid silver conductors on both the signal and the power legs of the USB cable. We will see what that does for the iDSD sound experience and I'll report back to this forum with the results.

    Goodness what a learning experience. The additional $280 spent on these accessories was well worth it. Hope this sharing helps some other newbie be enlightened.
     
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