This is an update to 2017’s idsd black label and we’re going to see what’s new, what’s improved, and how this unit measures up.
What’s in the Box?The signature idsd comes in a plain white box that’s covered in a simple sleeve. This features a photo on the front, and a list of the massive amount of features and specs.
When you open the box, you’ll see a detailed tri panel double sided starter guide and then the unit itself. The rest of the contents are located underneath in two different small boxes.
The first contains your USB C charging cable, a mini type b adapter and an attachable 3.5mm to quarter inch jack. The second box has an RCA cable, a Toslink mini plug adapter and a very soft velour storage pouch.
The biggest feature here in terms of aesthetic is the brand new solid blue color all the way around. It’s a nice rich, dark shade with the silver lettering and gold color inputs and outputs that gives this unit a really sleek and attractive look. This really lends this product an air of class. The chassis is made out of sturdy aluminum.
On the back you have some lettering underneath your switches, as well as more spec information on the back. It’s pretty much illegible due to the color, so I don’t really know why they put this info on here as well, but it has a neat look. And you can see just about every logo under the sun has been placed on here due to all the different technology that has been integrated.
In terms of feel, this has a good solid weight to it, but is not overly heavy - which is ideal seeing as this is marketed both as a desktop and portable DAC/AMP. The size is a little big lengthwise, and it's not the most natural if you’re going to be carrying it around - this definitely sticks out more than a portable player might - but it's slender and feels good and secure in the hands regardless.
See our video review below if you are interested.
Ins and OutsWith your inputs and outputs here, the front has a quarter inch unbalanced input jack, which you can easily use with your 3.5mm headphones thanks to the included adapter. Next to that you have a balanced 4.4mm jack, but there is no adapter for this, so it’ll only be an option if you already use a cable for it. You can also see switches for ifi;s classic 3d and xbass, and the volume nob which doubles as the power button. You also have an LED light here, which will change color depending on your sampling quality.
On the backside, you have a 3.5mm coaxial input for the Toslink mini plug connection. Also located here is your RCA , and a USB type A input for those who opt to go with digital. With this design here, it is possible to connect via USB to a lightning adapter or USB otg for smartphones or similar devices. This is also an MQA compatible unit, so you could plug right into your phone or desktop to get the full effect of something like Tidal’s master quality.
FunctionalityApart from these, there are also some slide control switches that I briefly mentioned before.
The first is this red power mode switch that allows you to toggle between normal, turbo and eco modes depending on the sensitivity of the gear you are using to listen. Turbo will work well with headphones, while eco is delegated toward IEMs. The normal mode will drive units that have a more medium sensitivity.
Next, in the middle you have your digital filtering switch. This switches between modes demarcated as standard, minimum phase, and bit-perfect.
The third is especially notable here because it offers technology not found in many other comparable amp/dacs. Thanks to the True Native design of the 4 channel Burr Brown dac chip, PCM and DSD format information travels through different pathways, allowing itt o remain uncorrupted in its native form all the way through analogue conversion when using this mode.
Finally, the last slide control switch on the unit is your IEM match, which functions as a control for your IEMs when in eco mode. This allows you to match the output voltage of high sensitivity and ultra high sensitivity IEMs to the ifi signature, which gives your IEMs a gain boost before you go maxing out the volume. This is another valuable feature as this is one element where many other units are weak.
Under the HoodThe signature is a sophisticated piece of technology that has a lot going on under the hood in order to deliver the maximum high res audio experience possible. The double Burr Brown dac chip I mentioned just a bit ago is implemented in a kind of overlapped configuration that allows for a lower noise floor by 3db, and strong channel separation. This helps provide highlighting of musical detail and very subtle changes in dynamics.
The signature retains the versatile and powerful amp stage of the black label model, as is evidenced by easy and capable driving of a wide range of different units from super high powered headphones to very sensitive IEMs. This, like the previous version, is capable of generating up to 4100 megawatts.
What has changed, is a slight refining of the signal path to get the most out of different sonic details and textures. This is thanks mostly to the ultra high quality resistors and capacitors used here, leading to high stability and low distortion for a pristine and unparalleled sound quality in a battery powered unit.
SoundNow speaking of which, let’s move onto the quality of the sound itself.
One pair of headphones that I pulled out while listening to this is one of my favorites - the Sivga Phoenix. I use these for testing quite often just because I love the warm sound of them and they are pretty accessible.
The sound signature of these is typically a little rounded out and more low end focused, but I felt that the high mids and the top end really came alive through this player in a way that was really nice and refreshing without tipping over the sound signature that I like so much. Frequencies here had more resonance than I typically find with these and the amount of detail in the stage was really high, very wide and very open.
Turning on the 3d mode made it even more so, adding an extra crispness to everything that really gave these an elevated quality, especially with live music. Pj Morton’s cover of How Deep is Your Love from his live album Gumbo sounds wonderfully rich and layered with a huge array of instruments, while the Xbass switch tastefully deepens the soulful low end and gives it an extra bit of weight and punch.
As far as IEMs, I grabbed the Campfire Vega 2020 since it is a unit that’s fairly new and that I had just reviewed. This is a model that I really like, but found the mids to be a bit more recessed than I had initially anticipated upon first listen. When I ran these through the idsd, I actually found it to alter the signature a decent amount. I flipped on the high sensitivity mode for a comfortable nominal gain, and overall found that this added a decent amount of depth to the soundstage.
It also pushed some of the slightly recessed mids a bit forward here in a way that was noticeable and enjoyable, but not huge. The xbass performed the same deepening of the low end which sounded decent as well, but I found the 3d switch to be less successful in this instance, as it just muddled the details somewhat.
The ifi idsd micro signature is just about as versatile as it gets for compact AMP/DACs that aren’t going to break the bank. With a wealth of high end technology, customization, and a good look to boot, there isn’t much not to recommend here if you’re serious about a great high res experience.
You can order iFi micro iDSD Signature at Audio46.