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iFi micro iDSD


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I don't think there is a thread dedicated to this yet, and so I figured to start one.

 

I just got my hands on the new micro iDSD and have a few hours on it. It's too early to say much but my initial reaction is very positive. I also have the very good iDAC and the iDSD is better. I haven't heard the nano iDSD so I can't comment on the comparison. It really shines with DSD material. The basic sound signature will be familiar if you are used to iFi: the ultimate emphasis is on being smooth and musical vs absolute detail. It strikes a more sophisticated balance than the iDAC which sounds a bit grainy in comparison.

 

The headphone amp section of it is really good. It is amazingly flexible with 5 gain settings and supposedly can drive anything from IEMs to HE-6. It has no trouble driving my Alpha Dog and LCD-3 planars. It is not good enough to make me consider giving up my dedicated headamp, but it will be AWESOME for traveling.

 

I will give some more detailed impressions after I've had more time with it.

Roon ->UltraRendu + CI Audio 7v LPS-> Kii Control -> Kii Three

Roon->BMC UltraDAC->Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

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I also received my micro iDSD and I would say it is even smoother and clearer than the nano. Still has plenty of detail. Very little dynamic range compression at all. No point in having absolute detail if it is not realistic. I do not want to hear all the digital artifacts of acoustical recordings. My listening sessions is ongoing.

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Same here - it is head and shoulders above the Nano, which I thought was very good to begin with.

 

Very dynamic sound, incredible "drive" and solidity. The extra power to the headphone amp in "Turbo" mode really drives my HiFiMan HE-500, and even the lowest "Eco" setting is enough to power my V-Moda XS and my KEF M500.

 

Very worthwhile upgrade, for sure.

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - MacMini running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > Topping D90 > Topping A90 > Dan Clark Aeon 2 Closed / Focal Elegia

Home Theater - Mac Mini running Roon Server / AppleTV > Blue Jeans Cable HDMI > Denon X3700h > Anthem Amp for front channels > Revel F208-based 5.2.4 Atmos speaker system

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I posted this review on another site. Re-posted here for your convenience.

 

BACKGROUND

 

 

It was around February of 2014 when I first read of iFi while skimming the _____ forums. I was looking for a DSD capable DAC in the sub $500 range to replace the first generation Audioquest Dragonfly serving my desktop listening needs. There was only a handful of options at the time, and my interest in DSP free DSD playback further limited the choice. Actually, my choice was made for me. The iFi iDSD nano was the only DAC I could find that fulfilled this requirement in my price bracket. The only problem was I knew nothing about iFi, and I was concerned by the incredibly low price. Surely the raw sound quality would be compromised at this price point. Then again, at a mere $189 there was little risk, so with a 'What the heck?' attitude I ordered one. And wow. Wow. Wow again.

 

I am glad I took the risk of a blind buy. In addition to being impressed with the sound quality, I became equally impressed with the crew at iFi/ AMR. Their customer interaction and support is superb. And they are truly committed to their vision of Hi-Fi, which is unapologetically different than the hi-fi norm. In the end, they are committed to providing the best sound and most useful feature set for the dollar.

 

 

It should come as no surprise, then, that I followed closely the crowd design of the iDSD Micro, and am among the first 512 owners. An 'Octa-Adopter.'

 

 

OCTA-WHAT???

 

 

'Octa' as in 8x DSD, or DSD512. Yes, this DAC will playback DSD rates up to 24.6 Mhz! This is the first example of such support in a consumer level product. It also supports PCM up to 768khz. Although I know of no content currently available at these high rates, upsamling to DSD512 is possible in software, and PCM 768 allows for DSD256 playback via DoP, which means ASIO is not required for playback at that rate. Although I am not as familiar with the state of Mac computer audio, I believe this may be the first time DSD256 is available on the Mac without a need for special driver software.

 

 

A DIFFERENT KIND OF HI-FI

 

 

I mentioned earlier that iFi doesn't follow the hi-fi norm. What does that mean? iFi believes in minimal DSP, and believes that one should be listening to as close to the source audio as possible. DSP's such as upsampling, volume control, format conversion, etc. create unavoidable mathematical losses. The more conversions, the greater the losses. The more changes to the source signal, the more likely the changes become audible. This may especially be the case with DSD. DSP such as filtering, sample rate conversion and volume control require conversion of the 1-bit bitstream to a multibit intermediary, and remodulation back to 1 bit.

 

As such, the iDSD Micro uses a chipset that converts DSD to analog natively with no extra digital conversion or DSP. The 1 bit DSD signal is sent to an analog FIR filter for conversion. That's it! Also, the iDSD micro has a 'BitPerfect' filter option for PCM. This eliminates the oversampling reconstruction filter used in PCM conversion.

 

So in a DAC loaded with features, simplicity characterizes the nature of the actual audio conversion. This matches my personal audio values.

 

 

THE iFi EXPERIENCE

 

 

Unboxing an iFi product is a treat! Packaging is reminiscent of that other "i" company.

 

In the box you will find a plethora (hyperbole, of course) of quality adapters and cables. Which calls attention to the unique 'OTG' USB port on the back of the Micro. It is a unique port engineered for mobile convenience. To use it with a standard desktop USB cable, an adapter is required. Two versions of the adapter are included. The adapter I chose to use is cable-less. The other adapter has a very short cable between terminations. I chose the first adapter presuming higher quality, but the cabled version may be more convenient when space behind the DAC is a concern. The 'hard' adapter combined with my iFi Gemini cable requires several inches of clearance. It is also an interesting little detail that the 'hard' adapter comes packed in an anti-static bag, like what you would expect to find enclosing delicate computer components. Also, I think it is important to add that the included USB cables are OTG cables, so if you don't already have an expensive USB cable like the Gemini, I would suggest forgetting about the adapters and going with one of the included cables.

 

This is all I will have to say about the adapters, mobile uses, battery, etc. I will leave that to others, as I use this iDSD exclusively in a desktop environment, and cannot adequately review mobile functionality.

 

Build quality and appearance is typical iFi. The iDSD micro is well built but take care with the switches. They feel a little fragile, and as a matter of fact, I had some trouble with a sticky switch. My over aggressive tugging, attempting to 'un-stick' it, caused the red 'Turbo' switch that controls amp output level to go flying off into the floor!! Fortunately it easily reattached, and works properly now.

 

 

THE SOUND

 

 

Now on to the good stuff! The sound! Crisp detailed highs, smooth upper mids, slightly warm lower mids and upper bass. Clean extension into the lows. Not too much bass; just about right. Does it deviate from neutral? That is something I am not sure I can answer. Tonal balance is the product of an entire system, and all I can tell you is how it sounds in mine, which is a custom built AMD PC running the latest Jriver Media Center software, iDSD micro, iFi iUSB power, iFi Gemini 'split' USB cable, and a modded USB cable eliminating the 5v line pre iUSB Power. The review headphones are Grado RS1i's.

 

In comparison to the iDSD nano, the sound is the same tonally, but there is a notable increase in detail and dimensionality. On the Nano, audio images are wide, but slightly flat in comparison. The Micro has greater depth of soundstage. Never is the extra detail harsh, though. The micro is always delightfully smooth and listenable.

 

DSD was the strong suit of the iDSD nano, and is improved in the Micro. I feel the greatest improvement, though, is with PCM material, especially using the BitPerfect filter. The promise of the Burr Brown DSD1793 segment DAC is realized more fully here. PCM sounds both silky smooth AND extremely detailed, like a hybrid of true PCM and Delta Sigma conversion, which is EXACTLY what the segment DAC is.

 

For headphone use, which is how I exclusively use the iDSD, power is abundant and flexible. There are three settings, from Eco mode to 'Turbo' mode, which will tear paint off the walls with my Grados!!! Eco mode is already stronger than the headphone amp in the iDSD Nano, but I have settled on the middle 'Standard' mode for all my listening.

 

The headroom it provides for the dynamic orchestral recordings that dominate my listening is welcome. This addresses the only other weakness of the iDSD Nano. The iDSD Micro has plenty of power, dynamic swing and driver control to keep up when the music gets loud and complex.

 

I enjoy the 3D and XBass 'Analog Signal Processing'. The effect of both is subtle but notable. They never get in the way, and depending on soundtrack can really enhance the experience. For instance, the bass drum on orchestra recordings has deep authority with XBass turned on, and 3D mode really does widen the soundstage nicely, and puts the center image more 'out in front.' But I did notice that with 3D mode engaged, images on recordings I know well were placed too far to the edges for my liking, and overall imaging suffered. Instruments gain a greater sense of space, but lose their precise placement 'in space', so I do the majority of my listening with 3D mode disengaged. XBass seems ESPECIALLY useful at lower to moderate listening levels, filling in the low end nicely. At higher levels, or with music recorded with little dynamic range, the bass emphasis may be a bit much. But as most of my listening is to very dynamic music with moderate average levels, I leave XBass engaged most of the time and do enjoy the effect. Ultimately, results vary from soundtrack to soundtrack, though.

 

 

IN CONCLUSION

 

 

There are many more features included in this incredible product that I have not mentioned, but I believe I have covered everything that stands out to me after two days of listening. This is a special product, both in feature set and sound quality. Designed by a renowned audio engineer, with customized software and extreme functionality. Oh, and it sounds in a word, amazing. If you are looking to spend in the $500 to $1000 range, and maybe even more, you owe it to yourself to hear the iDSD micro.

 

Highly recommended.

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Hmmm, I feel like I might have a relatively new (bought in early June) iFi Nano DSD for sale very shortly if anyone is interested. The nano sounds great and there is nothing wrong with it but I might be coming down with micro envy imagining the micro sounding even better.

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I received one of these yesterday. It's a bit early to say yet as it has still to burn in, but initial impressions are...well...incredible.

 

I previously had been using the headphone output on my M1 SDAC which I thought was good, but the Micro iDSD blows it away. It has this amazing ability to sound detailed, but also warm and non fatiguing at the same time. My Beyerdynamic T90 headphones are pretty bright, but seem a perfectly balanced match for the iDSD. The XBass and 3D Holographic, whilst sounding a bit like something Sony might put on a £39 Walkman, are absolutely brilliant. Well conceived and judiciously applied.

 

Currently listening to Qobuz on my iPad via a Camera Connection Kit and one of the many supplied leads. Stunning hifi that you can take anywhere. Genius.

 

You know that feeling you get when there are a million other things you know you should be doing, but you just can't bring yourself to press stop..... That's me tonight. Sod painting skirting boards...

27 " iMac with SSD > Audirvana Plus > Supra USB 2.0 > Musical Fidelity M1 SDAC + Homemade Mains Filter > Chord Cobra VEE3 > Musical Fidelity M1 PWR + Homemade Mains Filter> Van Damme Studio Blue > Monitor Audio RX6

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JRIVER only gives me the option for DSD64 and DSD128. These work, what do I have to do to get 256 and 512? Does HQPlayer do these rates?

Roon ->UltraRendu + CI Audio 7v LPS-> Kii Control -> Kii Three

Roon->BMC UltraDAC->Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

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Having listened to this for a few days (with a MB Air/A+ and HD 700s), I believe this is one of those products that bats completely out of its price league. I am comparing it with the Stax 009s/SRM 007t11 Kimik combo, and IMHO it holds its own. A bit different in presentation, but overall as good. Astonishing!

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JRIVER only gives me the option for DSD64 and DSD128. These work, what do I have to do to get 256 and 512? Does HQPlayer do these rates?

 

JRiver just introduced DSD256 in their latest update. They don't do DSD512 yet.

Roon Server: Core i7-3770S, WS2012 + AO => HQP Server: Core, i7-9700K, HQPlayer OS => NAA: Celeron NUC, HQP NAA => ISO Regen with UltraCap LPS 1.2 => Mapleshade USB Cable => Lampizator L4 DSD-Only Balanced DAC Preamp => Blue Jeans Belden Balanced Cables => Mivera PurePower SE Amp => Magnepan 3.7i

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Yes, HQPlayer can upsample to DSD256 and DSD512. With DoP on Linux/Mac things work up to DSD256 on iDSD Micro. For DSD512 you'll need to use ASIO driver on Windows. (just like ASIO is needed to make DSD256 work on iDSD Nano)

Thank you. So the "previous" DoP limitation at DSD128 is not in the standard itself but in USB bandwidth, is it?! With the iDSD Micro is possible to do DSD256 (Mac or Linux) because USB receiver is capable of 768kHz. Right?!

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I received one of these yesterday. It's a bit early to say yet as it has still to burn in, but initial impressions are...well...incredible.

 

I previously had been using the headphone output on my M1 SDAC which I thought was good, but the Micro iDSD blows it away. It has this amazing ability to sound detailed, but also warm and non fatiguing at the same time. My Beyerdynamic T90 headphones are pretty bright, but seem a perfectly balanced match for the iDSD. The XBass and 3D Holographic, whilst sounding a bit like something Sony might put on a £39 Walkman, are absolutely brilliant. Well conceived and judiciously applied.

 

Currently listening to Qobuz on my iPad via a Camera Connection Kit and one of the many supplied leads. Stunning hifi that you can take anywhere. Genius.

 

You know that feeling you get when there are a million other things you know you should be doing, but you just can't bring yourself to press stop..... That's me tonight. Sod painting skirting boards...

Qobuz sounds fab on my iPad playing 16/44 sounds better than high end cd transports/players I've used in the past. Still haven't bought a hi-res dac/downloads yet, do you think it's worth investing now? Cheers

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Thank you. So the "previous" DoP limitation at DSD128 is not in the standard itself but in USB bandwidth, is it?! With the iDSD Micro is possible to do DSD256 (Mac or Linux) because USB receiver is capable of 768kHz. Right?!

 

Yes, exactly. 768k is also the maximum sampling rate iDSD Micro supports with PCM.

 

Because with DoP application cannot tell apart what is the maximum supported DSD rate vs maximum supported PCM rate, the maximum supported DSD rate is usually dictated by the maximum PCM rate. With ASIO there's no such limitation and available PCM and DSD rate sets are completely separate. Thus DSD512 can be supported while maximum PCM rate would still be 768k.

 

USB MCU's used by DACs can impose some bandwidth limitations also, but USB itself has plenty of bandwidth for stereo, so it doesn't easily become limiting factor. With 32-bit PCM samples and 8 channels, DSD512 over DoP is already too much for USB 2.0 in reality; it would be 345 Mbps.

 

At the moment HQPlayer can support up to DSD1024 over DoP. I have added DSD1024 for ASIO too and it'll appear in 3.4.0 release.

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Now I want one too. Damn you, lucky audiophile peeps!

 

:P

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

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Qobuz sounds fab on my iPad playing 16/44 sounds better than high end cd transports/players I've used in the past. Still haven't bought a hi-res dac/downloads yet, do you think it's worth investing now? Cheers

 

This is by far the best £400 I have spent in HiFi to date. The fact that I can listen to excellent quality sound on an aeroplane/hotel room/by the pool on holiday makes it worth the money alone, never mind the fact that it is better than the DAC/Pre amp in my lounge.

 

An audition is a must if you are in the market for a new DAC.

27 " iMac with SSD > Audirvana Plus > Supra USB 2.0 > Musical Fidelity M1 SDAC + Homemade Mains Filter > Chord Cobra VEE3 > Musical Fidelity M1 PWR + Homemade Mains Filter> Van Damme Studio Blue > Monitor Audio RX6

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This is by far the best £400 I have spent in HiFi to date. The fact that I can listen to excellent quality sound on an aeroplane/hotel room/by the pool on holiday makes it worth the money alone, never mind the fact that it is better than the DAC/Pre amp in my lounge.

 

Rub it in, g3act

 

:P

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

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I have always been skeptical of if break-in is a real thing or not with electronics, but the micro iDSD thing just keeps sounding better. I have other DACs that when played side-by-side soundstage bigger, or might be more detailed sounding, or this or that. The iFi just has an ease to it that sounds very natural and is very addicting. From following the iFi threads on head-fi (where iFi staff post daily) this seems to be the calling card of their sound. I can only imagine how awesome the AMR DP-777 must be ...

Roon ->UltraRendu + CI Audio 7v LPS-> Kii Control -> Kii Three

Roon->BMC UltraDAC->Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

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This is by far the best £400 I have spent in HiFi to date. The fact that I can listen to excellent quality sound on an aeroplane/hotel room/by the pool on holiday makes it worth the money alone, never mind the fact that it is better than the DAC/Pre amp in my lounge.

 

An audition is a must if you are in the market for a new DAC.

Thanks, what I'd really like know is how hi-res sounds on Qobuz/Ipad compared to redbook, is it worth buying hi-res music?

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Ordered mine from Music Direct but they are back-ordered and not expected for a couple weeks. So in the meantime I will have to just settle for micro envy on this forum.

 

I had a nano (sold it when I ordered the micro) and it took a couple days to warm up when I first started listening to it.

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Thanks, what I'd really like know is how hi-res sounds on Qobuz/Ipad compared to redbook, is it worth buying hi-res music?

 

Ermm, you're asking the wrong person really. I'm afraid I cannot reliably tell the difference between the standard Redbook and Hi Res versions of tracks I have bought. I am also aware of how Expectation Bias plays a massive part in comparing things like this. I personally think the mastering of Hi Res is probably better (emphasis on high DR) and therefore responsible for the better perceived quality. Having said that, I'm keeping an open mind, but lets say I have yet to be convinced of the whole Hi Res thing.

 

Also, I haven't listened to any Hi Res via iPad and Qobuz as I subscribe to their streaming service which is normal Redbook AFAIK.

 

I am 100% happy listening to Redbook as 99.9% of my music is in this format and I agree with Chris C; Real music, not Scottish Nose Whistle!

27 " iMac with SSD > Audirvana Plus > Supra USB 2.0 > Musical Fidelity M1 SDAC + Homemade Mains Filter > Chord Cobra VEE3 > Musical Fidelity M1 PWR + Homemade Mains Filter> Van Damme Studio Blue > Monitor Audio RX6

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