Dislcaimer & Editor’s note: After a break, Dave realized he missed writing for Headfonia, and so he’s back to share his views with us all. Welcome back, Dave! If I’m not mistaken he got the IFI iDSD directly from IFI for this review and it will be returned. Do check out my short note at the end of the review (my opinion of the iDSD). A lot of people have been asking about this review, sorry for the delay.
IFI – iDSD
As I welcome myself back to the pages of Headfonia, I do so by bringing IFI Audio with me, as this Micro-iDSD review makes the first time one of their products has graced out pages. I doubt it will be the last. Let’s jump right in and see what the Micro-iDSD is all about.
It seems the iDSD was partially “crowd designed”. Ifi Audio asked people what features they would like to see on their next product. I think that was smart. Why not get a gauge on what your audience would like to see (hear) in their audio gear? The joke here is it looks like the people answered “everything”, because that’s how one would describe all the bells and whistles that come with the iDSD.
These bells and whistles are housed within a very nice silver enclosure. It feels quite solid, and quite resistant to fingerprints. It is a battery powered unit that charges via an included USB cable. Although this COULD be used as a portable DAC and/or AMP, I would put it in the transportable category as opposed to the portable one.
Under the hood lines a dual Burr-Brown chipset handling the DAC function. What chip, it does not say, but what it does say is that it “is the only DAC in the world (at any price) to play True Native Octa-DSD512/PCM768/Double DXD.” Now, I have to admit that my eyes tend to roll and my attention breezes out when I read things like that. Give me a well recorded CD, and you can keep all of your silly other formats. I shouldn’t hold that against IFI Audio, however. Some people like it, and it handles file types that us mortal still use. It’s not like they are charging an extra arm or leg for it. In fact, for the going price of $499, the sound would have to outright stink for this not to be considered a great deal (spoiler: the sound doesn’t suck).
I had a thought, only half joking, about writing two reviews of the Micro-iDSD: one simply covering all the buttons and features of the iDSD, and the other about the sound of the unit. While that might be going a bit too far, there are more than a few buttons to flick on this unit. Let’s start with the front.
From left to right:
- ¼ inch headphone output which does… exactly what you think it does
- on/off switch for their XBass feature which will be discussed later
- 1/8 inch input (yes, an input. So don’t sit there, like I did, with IEMs plugged into it, wondering why no sound is coming out)
- on/off switch for the 3D sound enhancement, again, to be discussed later
- dual purpose volume and power knob, which has just the right amount of pressure to the turn. There is enough so you won’t accidently turn it, but not enough so it is difficult to turn.
There is a lot going on the front here, but it only feels cluttered to me when you have something plugged into the 1/8 input.
Looking at the back, again from left to right:
- SPDIF input/ output. If the iDSD is taking a signal from the USB port, it is an output, if not, it is an input
- RCA analogue output
- USB input
On the right side of the unit:
- USB charging port which will allow you use the iDSD to charge a device with a USB charger. Both my phone, my HM700 and my daughter’s iPad connected and charged without any issue. The only catch is the Micro iDSD has to be turned off for this port to work.
On the left side of the Micro iDSD (back to front)
- Gain switch (eco/normal/turbo)
- Polarity switch
- Analouge filters: standard/minimum phase/bit-perfect for PCM and Extreme/extended/standard range for DSD. The filter for DXD is fixed. Filters will also come up later.
On the bottom (yes bottom!) of the unit, we have:
- Line out/preamp switch which allows you to use the iDSD as either a DAC with a direct line out to another amp, or use it as a preamp and keep the volume pot in play.
- iE match for use with extra sensitive iems. If the eco gain setting is still too loud for your monitors, you can flick this switch to either high-sensitivity or ultra-sensitivity to give yourself even more latitude with the volume pot.
Also listed on the bottom is what all of the switches, inputs and outputs are for. So, should you become forgetful during use as to what is what (not hard giving the preponderance of options), just take a peek at the bottom. Also, a thing to remember is if you want the iDSD to be powered off a USB port, plug the cable into the iDSD and the computer before you turn the unit on. Should you plug it in after, it will run strictly off battery power.
So, this little machine can do my taxes for me, but how does it sound? Find out on Page 2 of this review, right after the click HERE or below.