Discussion in 'Product Announcements' started by iFi audio, Oct 8, 2020.
I'll just leave it here
does that sort of replace the ifi xdsd? is there a wireless connection?
Seems like an upgrade to the Micro BL (Black Label):
Edit: Fuck, it is. I stated this is what @iFi audio should do next for the successor to the Micro BL. Now, what about the on/off switch?
I hope to have a review unit of the iDSD Signature around the end of this month (October).
planned transducers: Drop JVC-FX01 or whatever it's called, CA Solaris 2020, ZMF Auteur Blackwood.
Edit: IEMatch switch on the side instead of the bottom, hooray!
Hey iFi. I'm always asking the same question, buuuut. Since there is no filter switch, any chance there will be a firmware to have the tried and true BitPerfect as the default? If that is gone from original micro BL I'm not sure I want to upgrade! 4.4mm is sweet, though.
Woops, thanks for that!!
iFi serves up micro iDSD Signature dish
Sporting a host of enhancements both inside and out, one of the most highly acclaimed hi-res DAC/headphone amps on the planet just got even better – meet the micro iDSD Signature
Southport, England – iFi audio, the acclaimed maker of audio devices for home and portable use, has redesigned one of its most popular products to create the micro iDSD Signature, delivering a host of improvements to enhance performance and usability.
Since launching in 2017 as an upgraded version of the original micro iDSD, the micro iDSD Black Label has been iFi’s top-of-the-range battery-powered DAC/headphone amp. The new Signature edition builds on its predecessor’s reputation for exceptional sound quality and versatility with enhanced circuitry in critical areas and a new 4.4mm Pentaconn headphone output, among other upgrades.
The new model is housed in the same 177x67x28mm extruded aluminium enclosure as the Black Label version, as all products in iFi’s longstanding ‘micro’ range have been. But, rather than black, the micro iDSD Signature sports a Space Blue finish – a new colour reserved for ‘Signature’ versions of some of iFi’s most popular products, of which there will be more in the months to come.
Although powered by a built-in rechargeable battery, the micro iDSD Signature is more of a desktop-sized device than pocket-sized one – a transportable DAC/headphone amp that can easily be moved around without requiring a mains socket. Being battery-powered gives it a performance advantage over mains-powered products, too – ultra-clean and stable DC power, negating the issues that can be introduced by AC mains electricity with its dips, spikes and noise-inducing RFI/EMI pollution.
The battery delivers 6-12 hours of playing time, depending on the type of headphones connected and the performance mode engaged. If the battery runs low whilst in use, it can be plugged into a power source to charge and play at the same time.
The micro iDSD Signature’s ‘digital engine’ is based around a Burr-Brown DAC chip that iFi uses extensively, selected for its natural-sounding ‘musicality’ and True Native architecture. Here, as with the previous Black Label version, two of these DAC chips are installed in a custom ‘interleaved’ configuration. This enables four pairs of differential signals – two pairs per channel – which lowers the noise floor, improves channel separation and enhances the DAC’s ability to resolve fine musical detail and micro-dynamics.
Hi-res audio support is state-of-the-art, handling PCM data to 32-bit/768kHz, all levels of DSD up to DSD512, and single- and double-speed DXD. MQA – the hi-res streaming codec, as used by Tidal’s ‘Masters’ tier – is also supported. Thanks to the Burr-Brown chip’s True Native design, PCM and DSD take separate pathways – this enables DSD, as well as PCM, to remain ‘bit-perfect’ in its native form right through to analogue conversion. This is often not the case with DAC devices from other brands.
Extensive jitter-eradication technologies are applied to the digital engine, including iFi’s GMT (Global Master Timing) femto-precision clock and intelligent memory buffer. The micro iDSD Signature also comes with iFi’s GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimized) digital filter installed; alternative digital filters can be loaded as firmware updates if preferred.
The outgoing micro iDSD Black Label’s amp stage remains widely recognised as the finest available in any battery-powered portable DAC/headphone amp, able to drive all manner of headphones with aplomb, from highly sensitive in-ear monitors to current-hungry planar headphones. For the new Signature version, the circuitry has been fine-tuned – it still delivers the same prodigious power (up to 4100mW) and dynamic ability, but the signal path has been refined to maximise sonic texture and detail.
High-quality components are used throughout the micro iDSD Signature’s circuitry, utilising its larger form factor in comparison to pocket-sized DAC/amps. Custom ultra-low-distortion op-amps feature in both the digital and analogue stages (part numbers OV2028 and OV2627 respectively), together with a hand-selected range of capacitors including the multilayer ceramic type TDK C0G, polyphenylene sulphide film type Panasonic ECPU and aluminium-polymer solid type Panasonic OS-CON. MELF thin-film resistors and inductors from Taiyo Yuden and Murata also feature in the circuit design.
These are all more costly then components, but class-leading qualities such as low ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance), high stability and low distortion pay great dividends in terms of sound quality. Many hours of listening tests, alongside rigorous analysis in the lab, has determined the optimum circuit design to deliver maximum musical enjoyment.
An important aspect of the circuit design is its direct-coupled nature – no coupling capacitor is present. This is achieved without a conventionally applied DC servo; iFi calls this design Direct Drive Servoless.
Versatile sonic tailoring
With the huge variety of headphones and digital music platforms available, all with different technical characteristics, the ‘one size fits all’ approach offered by many DAC/headphone amp manufacturers fails to deliver the versatility many users require to make the most of their music. iFi designs its products to be more flexible, delivering precision sonic tailoring via switchable settings to match any headphone set-up, the variation in quality of digital audio files and, of course, personal taste – the micro iDSD Signature offers this versatility in spades.
The digital stage benefits from a variety of filter settings: ‘Standard’, ‘Minimum Phase’ and ‘Bit-Perfect’ for PCM files, and ‘Standard Bandwidth’, ‘Extended Bandwidth’ and ‘Extreme Bandwidth’ for DSD. The amp stage also has three settings to adjust power and gain: ‘Normal’, ‘Turbo’ (ramps up the level of drive for current-hungry headphones) and ‘Eco’ (dials down the power to suit high-sensitivity in-ear monitors and/or extend battery life).
Further optimisation for sensitive in-ear monitors – an area of weakness for many DAC/amps – is supplied via iFi’s IEMatch technology, which adjusts the output level to suit. Once engaged, two levels of IEMatch are available – ‘High Sensitivity’ and ‘Ultra Sensitivity’.
Those familiar with iFi headphone amps will recognise the company’s XBass+ and 3D+ settings. These proprietary circuits have been performance-tuned for the micro iDSD Signature and may be switched in or out according taste, fine-tuning the sound in the analogue domain to maintain sonic purity. XBass+ adjusts frequency response to enhance low frequencies – useful with ‘bass-light’ headphones, such as some open-back designs. 3D+ compensates for the ‘in-head localisation’ effect that often occurs when using headphones to listen to music that was mixed using a pair of speakers, effectively widening the headphone soundstage to deliver a more speaker-like experience.
At the back of the chassis lie two digital audio inputs: USB Type A and an S/PDIF socket that accepts both electrical and optical signals, the former via a 3.5mm connector and the latter via a supplied adapter.
Unusually, the Type A USB input features a ‘male’ connector, rather than a typical ‘female’ port. This arrangement provides greater mechanical integrity than the USB/Micro USB ports commonly found on DAC/headphone amps from other manufacturers. It also offers an advantage to users of iPhones and iPads with Lightning ports, because it accepts Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter directly without requiring an additional female-to-male USB adaptor.
Between the digital inputs reside a pair of RCA analogue outputs – the micro iDSD Signature can be connected to a pair of powered speakers, or a power amp and passive speakers, to act as a DAC and preamplifier. When used in this mode, a different version of iFi’s 3D+ analogue signal processing may be engaged if desired, specifically designed to create a more spacious soundstage with speakers rather than headphones. Whether in preamp mode or driving a pair of headphones, volume is controlled by a precision analogue potentiometer delivering the quality expected of full-size hi-fi equipment.
On the front panel, beside the volume knob and XBass+ and 3D+ switches, are a pair of headphone outputs – a 6.3mm output for headphones that have a standard single-ended connector (headphones with a 3.5mm jack can be connected using an adapter) and a 4.4mm Pentaconn output for headphones offering balanced connection. An increasing number of high-quality headphones and in-ear monitors either come so equipped or give the option of detaching the cable and upgrading to a 4.4mm Pentaconn connector – this output makes the most of them.
Both headphone outputs utilise iFi’s ‘S-Balanced’ output circuitry, delivering the sonic benefits associated with balanced connections with all headphone/earphone types – even those with single-ended connectors – cutting crosstalk and associated distortion in half.
While the most obvious changes from the previous Black Label version of the micro iDSD are the fine-tuned audio circuitry, the 4.4mm Pentaconn headphone output and the new Space Blue finish, numerous other enhancements have been applied to the new Signature edition.
The faceplates at the front and rear have been trimmed for a sleeker look, with a redesigned volume knob and new switches for XBass+/3D+. A multi-coloured LED to indicate the sampling frequency of the music being played is now also sited on the front panel, while the IEMatch control has been moved from underneath the unit to the side.
A USB-C charging port now resides on the right-hand side, next to a new battery status indicator. Damping feet now adorn the underside of the unit, too – it all adds up to a range of improvements that make this the best-ever version of iFi’s much-lauded micro iDSD.
The iFi micro iDSD Signature is available later this month from selected retailers, at an RRP of £649, (€699, US$649). Only a limited number will be made, so those wishing to get hold of the Signature edition of iFi’s landmark transportable DAC/headphone amp should act fast to avoid disappointment.
does it mean this product is special edition of Micro black label and not its successor? Also will it be launched worldwide or only selected markets?
micro iDSD Signature is the successor of micro iDSD Black Label. As such it'll replace the BL and will be available worldwide
I'll make sure that one is sent to SBAF!
It's a streamlined micro iDSD BL. Under this one word hide several things our customers have been asking us for a while, i.e. 4.4mm headphone out.
Didn’t I read it would be a limited release?
I'd be very curious to compare this against the Xduoo XD-05+.
Yes, but not limited like our products made exclusively for Drop. It will be available through our regular distribution channels worldwide.
Ok, so no limit on duration (beyond normal life cycle)?
No limit. Availability might be something to take into consideration, though. When we run out of stock, we run out of stock
@iFi audio when will they be available in USA?
Early November or so.
Well, thanks again to an iFi Club rep, having a good time with iFi micro iDSD Signature recently.
Sources: MacBook pro USB, and iPad Pro with dongle to USB out. playing Tidal lossless files.
headphones: ZMF Blackwood Auteur and Campfire Audio Solaris 2020. a few hours with Focal Clear. planars not owned any more.
Previously around July 2019, had a good experience with nano iDSD Black Label and also owning the iFi xDSD, both which were/are only used for IEM listening.
Feature quick takes:
Build quality of this dark blue iDSD Sig is superb. switches all on side a bonus from previous models where IEMatch switch was on bottom.
this newest micro iDSD Signature always runs off battery power now (no USB power as mains), so to keep online in desktop usage, keep the side USB-C cable plugged in I guess.
The iDSD Sig when idle seems to have a reduced draw from the battery compared to the first model of iDSD way back when? I left the iDSD Sig disconnected from sources and left on over a couple nights, and the LED battery indicator never dropped lower than the “white / 75%” charge level.
I don’t use Xbass or 3D switches, IMO it forces transducers into differing spacial queues and image or vocal placement gets wonky.
With headphones and IEMs:
In both cases, easily prefer both the ZMF Auteur and Solaris 2020 when connected to the 4.4 Bal jack on the micro iDSD Sig compared to the 1/4” SE jack. benefits include tad more clarity and definition. precision. no huge deltas in tonality or imaging as most of the headstage is L to R without a lot of depth or middle (center) presentation.
ZMF Auteur more lively via moar power from the iDSD Sig compared to iFi Neo iDSD, and of course the xDSD just doesn’t deliver enough except to IEMs or super sensitive cans which I don’t own.
the micro iDSD Sig does present an over-all “up front” and L-to-R soundstage that reminds me of SS amp presentations by schiit.
IEMs compared to xDSD:
using Solaris 2020 with the micro iDSD Sig means turning on the built in IEMatch (Ultra Sensitive) to reduce air (not a loud hiss) and set the amp power on Eco or even Normal. since the knob controls power on and volume, “zero” volume is around 9am on the dial.
in Eco and Normal mode, I could detect NO channel imbalance at low listening levels. very cool.
with the Solaris 2020 and 4.4 Bal, the micro iDSD Sig is a legit big brother upgrade to the xDSD for certain.
the xDSD has softer and looser bass presentation, that can bleed into the mids at times and overlap the presentation. None of that occurs with iDSD Sig where the air is more expansive, instruments have their location, and bass has tighter lines. if using sensitive Campfire Audio IEMs the xDSD does NOT have IEMatch built-in, so use the external dongle to remove that bit of air which is noticeable in between music or quiet tracks.
of course the xDSD does offer bluetooth connection option to your phone/tablet, etc, a feature that does not exist on micro iDSD Signature.
quick note comparing iDSD Sig to Neo iDSD with Solaris 2020:
in comparing connections between 4.4 Bal Sig and Neo (SE + external IEMatch) with the Solaris 2020, there is one good difference the Neo delivers- improved layering and depth, providing a cohesive sound. the Neo is not as up front, less audio right at your nose with better imaging in between the left and right stereo.
that being said, the Neo iDSD outputs are just too noisy for sensitive IEMs, the 4.4 has not only hiss + air, but also a low squelch static in the background. clearly a no go. with no 4.4 IEMatch, back to the Neo SE output requires the 3.5mm IEMatch and adapter to 1/4”.
As a transportable All In One:
the micro iDSD Sig is a superb piece to relocate around the house (or travel in future covid-reduced days) with either full sized headphones or IEMs. having tried all in ones way back to the original CEntrance HiFi-M8, the only other AIO that consistently delivered a high quality experience was the Woo Audio WA8 Eclipse (sold off to facilitate OneWheel XR).
the WA8 had tube glory without being too soft or bloomy, delivering a black background no matter the headphone.
One aspect where the micro iDSD Sig lacks is a “front / middle” presentation with depth, the WA8 has better depth as does the Neo iDSD.
WA8 and Neo iDSD presentation is a few steps back from the stage, which sounds more realistic than the micro iDSD Sig more pronounced Left to Right flatness, with a bit of a hole in the middle.
Lastly for IEM use, in my case CampFire Audio products, the iFi micro iDSD Signature is a superior choice for a transportable rig. given available budgets, I personally would choose it’s features + quality over a small schiit solid state stack and other iFi products such nano, HipDac, xDSD and Neo - unless having a sensitive and well matched headphone with Neo 4.4 bal delivers it’s synergy of depth and layering.
the iDSD Sig flexibility, built-in IEMatch even on 4.4 bal jack and a precise, slightly warm of neutral, not brittle nor bright delivery makes it a versatile and stellar sounding unit.
Not having heard amps like 789 or xDuoo XD-5 with Solaris 2020, sorry I can’t compare to the micro iDSD Signature, but if one has a 4.4 bal IEM cable at the ready, would recommend trying the micro iDSD Signature as a one-stop DAC/Amp.
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