iFi Audio micro iDSD Signature
The highly acclaimed iDSD Black Label hi-res DAC/headphone amp just got even better. With enhanced circuitry in critical areas, the new Signature edition builds on its predecessor’s reputation for exceptional sound quality and versatility. The new model is finished in a Space Blue color and it now features a 4.4mm Pentaconn headphone output.
High-quality components are used throughout. Custom ultra-low-distortion op-amps feature in both the digital and analogue stages, together with a hand-selected range of capacitors and resistors. The sleek and trimmed faceplates feature a redesigned volume knob and new switches for XBass+/3D+. A multi-colored LED that indicates the sampling frequency is now also fitted on the front panel, while the IEMatch control has been moved to the side. A USB-C charging port now resides on the right-hand side, next to a new battery status indicator. Damping feet now adorn the underside of the unit, too. It all adds up to a range of improvements that make this the best-ever micro iDSD.
With the huge variety of headphones and music platforms available, the common ‘one size fits all’ approach fails to deliver the versatility many users require to make the most of their music. iFi designs its products to be more flexible, delivering precision sonic tailoring via switchable settings to match any headphone set-up, the variation in quality of digital audio files and, of course, personal taste.
Whether in preamp mode or driving a pair of headphones, volume is controlled by a precision analogue potentiometer delivering the quality expected of full-size hi-fi equipment. From highly sensitive in-ear monitors to current-hungry planar headphones. The direct-coupled 4100mW amp stage is able to drive all kinds of headphones with even more sonic texture and detail than its Black-label predecessor. This is achieved without a conventionally applied DC servo; iFi calls this design Direct Drive Servoless.
The micro iDSD Signature features a Burr-Brown DAC chip that is selected for its natural-sounding and True Native ‘bit-perfect’ architecture. Hi-res audio supports streams to 32-bit/768kHz, all levels of DSD up to DSD512 plus single- and double-speed DXD. MQA is also supported. Extensive jitter-eradication technologies are applied, including iFi’s GMT (Global Master Timing) femto-precision clock and intelligent memory buffer. As with the previous Black Label version, two of these DAC chips are installed and enables a differential (balanced) signal which lowers the noise floor, improves channel separation and enhances the DAC’s ability to resolve fine musical detail and micro-dynamics.
The iDSD Signature is fitted with an S/PDIF socket that accepts both electrical and optical signals and a USB Type A input. Besides a greater mechanical integrity, this type-A connector offers an advantage to iPhones and iPad users because it directly accepts Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter without an adaptor. The iDSD is equipped with a stereo RCA-output to connect an amplifier or a pair of active speakers, a 6.3mm single-ended and a balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn headphones output. Both outputs utilize iFi’s ‘S-Balanced’ output circuitry, delivering the sonic benefits associated with balanced connections by cutting crosstalk and associated distortion in half.
The iDSD Signature benefits from a variety of filter settings: ‘Standard’, ‘Minimum Phase’ and ‘Bit-Perfect’ for PCM streams; ‘Standard Bandwidth’, ‘Extended Bandwidth’ and ‘Extreme Bandwidth’ for DSD. The amp stage also has three settings to adjust power and gain: ‘Normal’, ‘Turbo’ (for current-hungry headphones) and ‘Eco’ (for high-sensitivity in-ears and/or extend battery life). Further optimization for sensitive in-ear monitors is supplied via iFi’s IEMatch technology with ‘High Sensitivity’ and ‘Ultra Sensitivity’ settings.
XBass+ and 3D+ settings have been performance-tuned for the micro iDSD Signature and may be switched in or out according taste, fine-tuning the sound in the analogue domain to maintain sonic purity. XBass+ adjusts frequency response to enhance low frequencies of some open-back designs. 3D+ compensates for the ‘in-head localization’ effect that effectively widens the headphone soundstage to deliver a more speaker-like experience.
Despite its built-in rechargeable battery, the micro iDSD Signature is more of a desktop-sized device than pocket-sized one. Being battery-powered it provides an ultra-clean and stable DC power, negating the issues that can be introduced by AC mains electricity with its dips, spikes and noise-inducing RFI/EMI pollution. The battery delivers 6-12 hours of playing time. If the battery runs low whilst in use, it can be plugged into a power source to charge and play at the same time.