Disclaimer: I received the Nano iDSD Black from dukkanhifi, the official distributor of iFi Audio in Turkey. Special thanks to them for sending out the device. It goes for 200$ on the market. I’m not affiliated with the iFi brand and this review reflects my own, unbiased thoughts like always.
You don’t always need to have a full dedicated DAC + amplifier on your desktop to have a fine desktop system. There are some devices that can do it all. And if you have headphones that ate a chunk out of your bank account, then you can definitely opt for an all in one device. iFi wants to prove that, and they want to do so with a very compact package in a competitive price range. Their proof is the Nano iDSD Black Label.
iFi doesn’t necessarily need a detailed introduction to the audiophile domain, as they’re a distinctive brand in the market already. They’re operating under the group AMR (Abbingdon Music Research Group), which is one of the largest audio equipment manufacturers in UK, London. Their most popular model, as far as I know, has been the Micro iDSD. I know friends who have/had the Micro iDSD for long time, and it’s a highly regarded DAC/Amp in the market. Last year iFi released the Black Label version of it as well, and it also was very successful and high performing.
They also offer other supportive products such as iPurifier, iUSB 3.0, DC iPurifier, IEMatch 2.5 and so on… If you seek perfectly clean audio signals from your sources, or if you are in search for improving the performance of your system by cleaning the power/USB inputs, iFi has the answer for you.
iFi also is an active brand here in Turkey, with many HiFi stores selling their products. We appreciate their focus on our market. Last year I reviewed their Nano iOne here, which is a product that shows their effort to appeal to the home audio folk out there. I’ve recently been using it with my pair of studio monitors and it performs great. Let’s see how it goes this time around.
You can check out iFi’s website here.
UPGRADES & USABILITY
The Nano iDSD Black Label is the upgraded version of the already successful Nano iDSD. The upgrades include stronger power output, improved power supply, audiophile Thin – Film Resistor and Polymer Capacitors, a new “IEMatch” feature, MQA support and a new volume knob design. iFi claims that 600 Ohm headphones can now be driven from the BL, but I can’t prove that as I don’t have any 600 Ohm headphones with me at this point.
With the IEMatch feature and the high power output, it’s a perfect choice for audiophiles who have a wide range of phones from IEMs to full sized cans. It has lots of connection options for you to use with your smartphone, computer or other sources. With all of these features, it feels like iFi’s version of the famous Chord Mojo, but costing only 200$. It’s incredibly useful and flexible with any type of device you hook up to it. It’s also very lightweight and compact for mobile use, with a battery that can serve you for about 8 hours in real life conditions.
Everything you need is inside the package, including adapters for USB-B type cables, except the USB OTG cable for smartphones & DAPs. Since it’s very easy to find those cables everywhere, I personally don’t mind this absence at all. Be careful about the size of the connectors though. The Nano iDSD Black has a recessed USB port, so you might want to check out the cable you’re going to buy beforehand.
Did I say it supports every kind of file format with its Burr Brown chip?
DESIGN & BUILD
The design of the iFi products has been identical for a long time, and that is perfectly fine in my book. I love brands that have a distinctive, original and consistent look with their products. You’d easily figure out an iFi device even if you looked at it from a distance, and even if there wasn’t any logo on top of it.
And actually the BL iteration is quite stealth looking with its full black color scheme. But if you know iFi, than you’ll distinguish the device easily. Since I love black with everything, I absolutely love this device’s look. Orange text on the front and the back also gives it a very professional tone. iFi’s silver colored products maybe are classics, but this one also makes a great impression with a more serious outlook.
Build quality is top notch just like we’re used to from iFi’s previous devices. There’s not much for me to highlight here. With the full aluminum body, very tight and robust connectors and a sturdy volume knob, this device is perfect in terms of build quality.
The LED on the front lights up with different colors as you switch to different bit rates. This was also present with the Nano iOne. The volume knob moves very smooth and seamless and I just love playing with it up and down. It’s not stiff but not very easy to turn at the same time, which proves they’ve found the perfect balance there. It actually also acts as an on/off switch. There’s also a switch on the back which gives you options between “Listen” and “Measure”. This affects the output sound to a degree, but to me it’s very subtle and not easy to hear at first listen.
Let’s get to the listening.