iFi Audio Micro iDSD Signature Review

Sound

The new iDSD Signature has a very clean presentation, a great background blackness, a similarly great resolution, excellent dynamism, and clarity. It has a neutral response with a very slight warmth, good bass quality, and good transparency in mids & treble.

The Signature sounds crisp and the sound has a linear response in general except for the small mid-bass warmth. The impressive parts here are the separation and background. iFi usually nails these two areas in every product I’ve tried or tested from them. It also has a great amount of power for almost every headphone out there. So we have a very versatile and all-around premium DAC/Amplifier here.

Bass

The bass is not huge, but it’s definitive with great accentuation and the mid-bass presence gives the device a certain warmth. It has good texture, resolution, and impact. The decay is really nice and the bass has a good kick without sounding boomy. This is basically “quality over quantity”, but with that certain warmth in the mid-bass region.

I think it presents a truthful bass response. There’s no bloated mid-bass of any kind, no excessive boom or anything in that nature. It does not give a huge bass but if you need some more juice, you can open the xBass feature. This adds a bit more warmth and quantity to both the sub-bass and mid-bass regions. However, when you do that, the bass becomes a bit bloated, and you give away that great control and tightness. So it’s up to you. I usually don’t prefer any effects so I left it closed. Overall it’s a warm and full bass presentation without too much quantity.

Mids

The mids are dynamic with good definition, clarity, and transparency. The sound here is very lively and organic with a warm-ish touch. Although it is a neutral kind of sound, you still feel slight warmth and emotion in mids with an organic presentation. So it’s not like a Hugo 2 I would say, it’s not that analytical. Thanks to the noise-free background, the separation and positioning of instruments are very successful. With the HD800S for instance, you get excellent mid-range performance from the Signature. Particularly the stereo imaging is awesome.

Mids have good air and the instruments sound breathy with good definition. The timbre is satisfying with great naturalness and overall the instruments sound dynamic and definitive. The note size is just right and mids have a good body and resolution. Transparency here is also quite successful. I think all in all the Signature performs very well in mids, one of the best DAC/Amps available in this budget range.

Treble

The treble is well articulated and clean sounding without being aggressive. There’s plenty of detail and extension with good crispness. The treble is quite refined and well-executed with a good definition. It’s not an in your face kind of treble presentation. It instead has a good distance and positioning with good thickness.

There’s nothing added or nothing taken away, it gives what your headphone gives you without too much coloration or alteration. Depending on the ear/headphone you use, you might prefer a more aggressive approach in the treble, yet it’s a bit laid back and unaggressive in that regard. However, the resolution and detail are great in this area and I can easily say that this is a dependable treble performance.

Technical Performance

The overall sound-stage is fairly good, wide and deep. This of course would change with the headphones you pair it up with. If you’re asking how is it for the price, I would say it’s very good for both width and depth. The HD800S creates a great wide sound stage with the Signature for instance.

The best part of this device is the background though. It just sounds tremendously clean. This creates a situation where the device sounds especially good when it comes to stereo imaging. The positioning is exceptional, the definition of instruments and vocals is great.

The timbre with the Signature is also very good as it feels very natural and life-like. It’s not incredibly dynamic, it instead has an effortless and easy going nature without any business and congestion in the songs.  Overall it presents a realistic sound in a neutral form with a slight hint of warmth which feels very relaxing.

Power-wise you can drive almost every headphone as I shared the figures on the first page already. The device is very strong and it drives the HD800S with ease. So even if you have a 300 Ohm headphone like the HD800S, you probably wouldn’t face a problem regarding power.

The Signature is also great with sensitive IEMs with its IEMatch feature. That’s why it’s so versatile. It’s fully quiet with the IEMatch on so that’s impressive. Whatever you pair it op with, it will perform well. It’s one beast of a device.

3D Effect

iFi has the 3D sound effect button on their devices for a long long time now. Although I appreciate the extra feature, I’ve never used this effect except for testing. The sound becomes wider, but you lose timbre quality and the mids are pushed back. The sound becomes quite thin and unnatural. Therefore I didn’t like the effect as usual.

Comparison with the NEO iDSD

The NEO iDSD is going to be reviewed here very soon but I wanted to include a quick comparison between these two. They’re selling for the exact same price right now but of course, they serve different purposes. NEO is a desktop/home audio device with a much bigger chassis and additional features. Sure the Micro iDSD Signature is also for desktop use, but it’s much more portable when compared. NEO also has a Bluetooth feature with the latest technologies available. It has XLR outputs, fixed and variable output modes as well.

In terms of sound, the NEO gives you a flatter sound presentation with a bit more sterile approach, whereas the Signature provides a warm-ish sound that feels a bit more fluid. Both have great layering, resolution, and transparency. I think the Signature has a wider staging performance but they both have good imaging capabilities with a clean background. I feel the NEO is a bit dry compared to the Signature, with a bit more analytical sound. The Signature gives a bit more musical feeling. But in technicalities, they’re pretty close so choose depending on your needs. NEO surely is a feature-packed device.

Conclusion

The iFi Micro iDSD Signature is surely a special unit. It is an excellent performer with a premium build, design, and internal components. It’s also very versatile with outputs and features. If you need something more out of a DAC/Amp then I don’t know what else would fulfill that. When it comes to sound, iFi always delivers and the Signature is no exception.

The original Black Label was already an awesome unit itself, and the Signature follows suit with the MQA certification, 4.4mm BAL output, additional S-Balanced feature for the 3.5mm output, and improved internal components.

We never had a chance to write down a review for the Black Label, so it hasn’t been on our recommended list, but the Signature makes it into our Best DAC/Amp Recommendations without a doubt.

See you next year?

 

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A keen audiophile and hobby photographer, Berkhan is after absolute perfection. Whether it is a full frame camera or a custom in-ear, his standpoint persists the same. He tries to keep his photography enthusiasm at the same level with audio. Sometimes photography wins, sometimes his love for music takes him over and he puts that camera aside. Simplistic expressions of sound in his reviews is the way to go for him. He enjoys a fine single malt along with his favourite Jazz recordings.

4 Comments

  • Reply December 31, 2020

    Chris Lai

    Thanks for the review, Happy New Year

  • Reply January 4, 2021

    Suman Saxena

    Nice review. Thanks for sharing this piece of information.

  • Reply January 19, 2021

    Markus

    Hallo Berkan,
    thanks for the good rewiew.
    How do you compare the signature to the chord mojo.
    Thanks
    Markus

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