Ifi Audio is a special brand for me. Back in the days, I had the chance to make a trip to Hong-Kong for a business trip. The first day I went for the HKTDC, one of the biggest tech fairs, and the first stand I saw was… iFi Audio ! They were displaying the first generation of iCan and a set of products from AMR, the big venture at the origin of iFi Audio.
Disclaimer: This post is part of our Picture Sunday series, you can find all of the previous ones here.
Ifi Audio Black Label
Now, iFi Audio stands as one of the finest makers in terms of portable audio gear with the iDSD series. They even offer big amplifiers for your power-hungry cans with the Ifi Audio Pro iDSD and wireless DAC with the xDSD. Still, the most interesting products, at least for me, remains the iDSD Nano Black Label ans iDSD Micro Black Label, two masterpieces in their respective price range.
Compared to the previous generation, you can see a few improvements :
- a full-size USB port, to connect your smartphone or DAP with a short cable,
- a sleeker, black, nicer aluminium casing that feels smaller in the hand
- a balanced output, even if it’s only available in 3.5mm and 6.35mm TRRS
- MQA support and IEMatch directly integrated
Of course, the black case is the first noticeable of quirks of the Black Label Series. I know some of you liked the silver, shiny casing of the previous iFi Audio iDSD Series, but I think the Black coating really does the trick. Like a tuxedo, it looks and feels premium, the orange font underlining both the potentiometer and the headphone outputs.
Ifi Audio iDSD Nano Black Label
The iDSD Nano Black Label is the one which has undergone the most changes :
- the RCA Output was replaced by the IEMatch headphone out,
- the USB 3.0 port transformed into the Full USB port,
- the coaxial out was ditched but the filter switch remained
The edges have been smoothed out and the DAC back and front plates doesn’t stand out anymore. Those things bugged me since the first iCan came out and I’m surprised iFi had to wait until the Black Label came out to get rid of them.
Other than that, there is not much to say, it’s very sturdy, a bit bulky and yet light enough to become your first true companion, if you want to upgrade your phone’s sound performance. Sonically speaking, I always liked the sound of the iDSD Nano first edition and the Black Label felt even better.
Of course, my colleague Berkhan could give you a better tour as he reviewed back in the days.
Ifi Audio iDSD Micro Black Label
The iDSD Micro Black Label aims for higher grounds and more demanding audiophiles. It’s still black, still bulky but it’s also twice longer so you cannot put it in a jean pocket. If you manage to do it, you’ll have to fit your source next, so let me guarantee you : it’s an impossible task.
Still, this should not stop you to check out this portable powerhouse. The iDSD Micro Series were always fitted with a full range of outputs, inputs, knobs and the iDSD Micro Black Label makes no exception.
Your DAC gets :
- a full size headphone output 6.3mm (un)balanced output
- a 3.5mm input and a RCA Output
- a double way SPDIF port, making the iDSD Micro truly versatile
- switches for 3D Sounstage, Xbass, filter, power, current and even polarity
- a last switch to configure your DAC as a pre-amplifier or a line out
The output power, even compared to a desktop amplifier, is astounding as the iDSD Micro is capable of outputting up to 4000mW ! I don’t know any headphones apart the old Hifiman HE-6 who’ll need this much power, but know that you can.
Compared to its smaller sibling, the iDSD Micro Black Label gains a double DAC / four amplifier circuit. The chip remains a Burr-Brown so you should not expect a massive difference in term of sound signature. Personally, the main difference really comes for the power, on my good old Sennheiser HD-800 it gives me a wider sound stage and much more realistic bass.
If you would like to see a review of this DAC, don’t hesitate to ask it in the comments below. We covered the iDSD Nano and the xDSD, so why not go for the full tour ? Unless, iFi Audio has something new for us that is, who knows ?