Ifi Micro IDSD Black Label

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

  1. k4rstar

    k4rstar Friend

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    The only learning experience I got from this is that the $280 you spent on "accessories" would have gotten you a better DAC and amp.
     

  2. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    Eine kleine Nachtmusik ...

    DACs-and-IEMs.jpg

    I'm spoiled. I really am. Being able to play around with this stuff, near-arbitrarily, at-will and on-a-whim, makes for a fair degree of fun for me.
     
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  3. Dash

    Dash Facebook Friend

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    I am actually most interested to hear about the Explorer2 with fancy decoding.
     
  4. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    My initial thoughts about that will be posted in this thread.
     
  5. Cellist88

    Cellist88 Self important pretentious ass

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    you just need a GO v2+ Infinity torq! would make it the best round out for me kkkk...
     
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  6. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    That does seem to be the most glaringly-missing point of comparison.

    If I could find a simple way to "click BUY" and have it show up a few days later, I'd do that. As it is, actually buying one seems to be a terminal pain in the arse. I'm enormously disinclined to place orders for anything without a firm delivery date. And even then, that delivery date pretty much needs to be within seven days or I'll just procrastinate on placing the order.

    Personal fault, for sure, but that's how I work.
     
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  7. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    A few more thoughts on the iFI Micro iDSD Black Label, ahead of posting anything formal (yes, I'm a slacker) as that's the thread we're in ...

    I'm finding that I don't care that much for the iFi unit with anything other than full-sized cans. To get the SE846 hiss-free you have to engage IEMatch aggressively (Ultra) and that has the effect of robbing the music of life. It remains technically rather impressive with IEMs ... but I find myself wanting to put the big-cans back on in fairly short order. It's not as bad with the Vega, but things are still more organic with the Mojo, Dragonfly Red and Explorer 2.

    I would describe the iFI Audio DAC/amp as "exciting, relatively powerful but a bit uncouth". Mojo is quite laid back and smooth in comparison and, depending on your transducers, that might be desirable. Both the Meridian and AudioQuest DAC/amps exhibit notably cleaner sound and neither exhibits the roll-off at the extremes that is apparent with the Mojo NOR the splashiness in the treble that has characterized the Micro iDSD for the time I've been using it.

    For me it's apparent that either the Meridian or AudioQuest DACs feeding the iFI's amplifier yields a more enjoyable net-result than using the iFI end-to-end. That's somewhat surprising to me as I could legitimately be described as being something of a Burr-Brown fanboy.

    Value wise, I don't think the iFI makes a lot of sense unless you're going to use ALL of it's capabilities. On the desktop it is easily out-performed by the Modi MB and pretty much any of Schiit's amps (providing you mate to a suitable headphone). On-the-go it's a bit too big for me to want to deal with. So is Mojo. And with IEMs I find I am preferring either the Meridian from my laptop or the AudioQuest DFR from my phone.

    Driving the Micro iDSD from various sources shows that it's not super-sensitive to USB quality. The built-in filtering/noise suppression seems to work rather well. I didn't note any difference in sound whether run directly off my Late 2016 MBP (via USB-C to USB-A adapter), or the big, noisy, Dell 7600 in the office vs. a Micro Rendu or Auralic Aries. This is in stark contrast to Mojo ... which seems to be affected by someone turning on a light in the next county.

    So far my favorite application of the iFi unit is feeding my TH-X00 from one of my macOS laptops. This is an enormously fun listen and there's a good degree of synergy there. This is enough for me to keep the iFI unit around, with the Fostex, as a nice little solution for listening on the boat.
     
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  8. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    This is interesting because I found the iFi Nano iDSD to be the opposite, having polite, but also fuzzy and sleepy nature.
     
  9. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    I've not heard the Nano iDSD at all, so I can't comment on it specifically or relatively.

    The treble-splashiness that's still present with the Micro iDSD BL prohibits me from calling it polite or refined. It's not sleepy or fuzzy, even driving the LCD-4. I wouldn't call it artificially incisive unlike, say, many ESS implementations, and it's probably a bit truer overall than Mojo, but I'd still have to stop short of calling it polite.

    With IEMs I'd prefer to listen via DFR, Explorer 2 or Mojo. For full-size cans ... actually I think the Explorer 2 with the TH-X00 is a bit more natural, if less exciting, than via the iFI. But for overall enjoyment the iFi/TH-X00 still wins out there.

    If you want to give it a listen I'm happy to send it to you.
     
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  10. SHAWN P. WATSON

    SHAWN P. WATSON Rando

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    Even with a "better" DAC/AMP, from this experience I'm sharing, you still need a good USB cable to maximize your DAC's potential and the iPurifier2 for $109 can lift any mid-fi DAC/AMP to another level for mere peanuts. I doubt very seriously that I could do much better in terms of sound for the total cost of ($550+280) that I've already spent. What could you buy with $830 that would sound any better with no iPurifier2 and a junk stock USB cable? I'm open to suggestion. Fire away.
     
  11. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    Wyrd + Modi MB + Schiit AMP of your choice will outperform the iF Micro iDSD BL for any non-portable use case. And for less than $650, never mind $830.

    I have those combinations here.

    The iFI Micro iDSD isn't bad, if your'e going to use all of it's functionality, but in terms of raw, realized, sound quality, the Modi MB clobbers the iFis DAC section and the Magni Uber or Vali 2 is a more convincing amp. And it has enough power to drive demanding full-size cans. But that comes at the cost of refinement.

    ...

    I didn't find the iFI BL to benefit from USB de-crapification ... even using hardware that's an order of magnitude more sophisticated (and more expensive) than the inline filter that iFI (and various other parties) offer.
     
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  12. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    I should add that I have designed, build, and offer for sale "special" USB cables that get around many of the common pitfalls with computer-driven USB audio. But even using those, and a dedicated low-noise, task-specific AOIP interface, they won't elevate the iFI Micro iDSD BL above the Modi MB with a suitable alternate amp pairing.
     
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  13. jexby

    jexby Raised by Carthusian Monks - Friend

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    been down the iFi iDSD (not BL) road with cables and de-crapifiying parts.
    even a GO2A $299 or GOV2+ $399
    +
    LH Labs revive $399 (optional, not mandatory IMO)
    and USB cables that are *at spec*, would be at $800 price point and deliver better sonics.

    YMMV of course, depending on taste and those Beyer things you own.
     
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  14. SHAWN P. WATSON

    SHAWN P. WATSON Rando

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    Wow, the Schitt stuff must be....well the shit....lol... : ) All I can say is I'm pretty happy with what I have. I'll put the Schitt stuff in my upgrade path some day then. I was originally looking for portable but honestly I use it like a desktop so Schitt might work out some day.
     
  15. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    No distributor/dealer markup means that, all things being equal (which they almost never are) you have to consider Schiit's stuff in the context of gear 2x to 3x the price it gets listed for.

    The iFi Micro iDSD BL isn't bad ... it just lacks refinement. It's not bad value at $549 ... particularly if you use all the functionality that it offers. It's better still if also used as a transportable (or portable, at a stretch) unit. But I don't personally think it benefits much, if it at all, from external USB tweaks (it has a USB cleaner built-in anyway) and any additional money you might spend there is really better off spent just buying a better overall solution.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
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  16. loplop

    loplop Acquaintance

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    @Torq I'm not getting a splashy treble on the iDSD BL; it was a bit rough when the unit was young, but I've got about 300 hours on mine now and it's well settled. That being said it's such a fortuitous pair with my LCDX I've not been using other cans with it; I always pair my LCD3 with something else, for instance, although it's not like the sound is bad with that can. my TH-X00 PH's came last week and it sounds like I need to try them, pronto. Maybe I'll hear the uncouth treble then, as my early impressions are that the TH-X00 is a bit exciting in the treble, itself. I did try my Beyer T1v2, which was not a good match. I wouldn't say I felt the treble was splashy or rough, as I found it quite crystalline and pure; but that can is like an ice pick to the ear at times (ok, mostly) and the iDSD isn't warm, dull, or rolled off to rescue it so it didn't get a lot of ear time.

    I'm not much of an IEM guy, much preferring full size cans... but I have tried my IEM's a few times on the iDSD BL and decided it wasn't worth the added bulk. I'd say on that note my assessment falls right in line with yours, albeit being less objective and more of a "feel" assessment.

    I just rolled in an ifi nano iUSB3, no serious listening yet, but my first impression was it did exactly nothing for the sound. That is in stark contrast to what the iUSB3 did for my Audeze Deckard, which was nothing short of remarkable. I agree with you on the quality of the built in purification. Not worth pursuing, for me at least.

    As for the DAC, I find the DAC section of the iDSD really good. I like the BitPerfect filter a lot, and have come to enjoy its natural sound. I like that there's no added sheen of upsampling (I use HQPlayer when I want that). I do sometimes use the other filters to add excitement and the artificial attack that can be pleasing on some types of music, such as piano. I find the stage fairly solid and well laid out, with excellent 3-dimensionality of images, and very good instrumental timbre; that is all when fed to a better amp. (See my earlier post for thoughts using this end to end). Additionally, with how well it scaled in my home hifi (I like it better than my T+A, which surprised me), and with the fact that I find the built in amp a bit weaker in execution than the DAC, our thoughts are at odds there. I suppose out tastes differ a bit on DAC seasoning :)

    That said, I agree on principal: it is generally an exciting listen, and seems to pair best with cans that build off that excitement. If used end-to-end it lacks refinement of the best, but fortuitously paired it is quite enjoyable (and it'll drive any can on the planet, at the volumes I listen at).
     
  17. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    To be clear, the treble splashiness I'm hearing out of the iFI BL is apparent with all of my cans (LCD-4, HD800S, HD650, Utopia, Abyss and my IEMs), not just the TH-X00. It's not at a problematic level by any means, but it's definitely there.

    Since @Marvey says his experience with the Nano iDSD is rather different to what I'm hearing with the Micro iDSD (and from what I've generally come to expect from Burr-Brown based DACs), and @loplop isn't experiencing the splashy treble that I am, I'll take another look at this before I post a proper write-up on it.

    It may be the combination of DAC and amp that's responsible for what I'm hearing. This wasn't something that manifested itself when running the Explorer 2 or Dragonfly Red into the BL's amp, but I'll re-check to see what happens when I feed the thing's DAC stage straight into my other amps.
     
  18. loplop

    loplop Acquaintance

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    I apologize for not being clear, @Torq . What I meant to suggest was that I don't have the varied selection of headphones that you have; of my stable, none could be considered to be very incisive in the treble. My LCDX, which I have found to be a felicitous pairing with the iDSD BL, are the most extended and honest in the treble of my phones--and yet the LCDX does "edit" a bit in the treble, adding a bit of forgiveness where something like an HD800 would not.

    The only other 'phones I've used a lot on the iDSD BL are my LCD3 (Fazor) and B&W P9. Neither are very revealing in the treble regions, IMO. I tried my Beyer T1v2 (bad match), PSB M4U4 (IEM), B&W P5s2, and Thinksound ON2, very briefly all, and none of those headphones are what I'd call very revealing in the treble, save the T1v2 which really wasn't a good match so I didn't listen much. Of those, only the ON2 held promise with the iDSD BL, but I haven't gone back to investigate.

    To the point: I did recently get a pair of TH-X00 which I haven't really listened to, as I'm letting them settle in on a tertiary system. Since you have heard the splashy-ness on the TH-X00/iDSD BL pairing, I need to try that pairing to see if I hear what you are hearing.

    Hope that makes more sense.

    All that being said: I have used the iDSD BL a lot RCA out into my man cave hifi or the ifi iCAN Pro I recently purchased. Probably more so in that role than and end-to-end transportable. I'm curious as to what you find, in that regard. I'm looking forward to comparing the iDSD BL in that role vs. the iDAC2 I just bought... Assuming I get a working iDAC2 to do so :/
     
  19. Logan Ross

    Logan Ross Rando

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    Hi.
    Thanks for your insight. It is interesting. I am having a different experience with the BL. I am finding it as refined, but a little less harsh than the mojo. I am also finding I am missing the mojo less and less. Originally I thought the mojo ran circles around the BL. With careful volume matching using the same amp (and the BL set to direct), they are pretty darn close to my ears. But, the BL has just a little less intense impact when the vocala/instruments get momentarily loud. That's good for me, as my ears are a bit sensitive.

    I am using a Woo Audio WA5 and a Pro iCan. My comments above are on the woo audio, but I recall that the difference was more pronounced with the ican (perhaps the Woo smooths out the Mojo).
    I am using LCD4 headphones.

    I wonder if the difference has to do with the chain. I am running an ifi IUSB 3, which to my shock, has made a big difference. I recall you are running though something as well? Have you tried a different chain? I am curious to see if that effects your findings.

     
  20. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    I was more worried that I wasn't being clear.

    --

    Did a little specific testing for the treble issue (while trying to focus on properly listening to the Vega before I send those out tomorrow).

    It did not manifest itself just from the DAC section into my WA5-LE or Ragnarok. It was not apparent feeding an Explorer 2, DFR or Mojo into the AMP section. It was only apparent using the combined DAC/amp in the BL. If I'm the only one hearing that, it's possible it's a unit-specific issue. Tempting to put it down to "burn in" (though I don't put a lot of stock in that) but for once I let this play on its own for a lot longer than would let that make any sense.

    Since we both have Mojo and BL, and we're local, it'd be interested to swap them and see what comes of that ...
     

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