Quick impression/comparison of iFi Audio Micro iDSD BL.
Manufacturer website: iFi Audio.
Since I prefer a portable audio setup on the go, most of my sources are DAPs. The only exception, while being transportable rather than portable, is Micro iDSD which I enjoy using with my laptop. This DAC/amp is like a Swiss army knife, it does everything with flexibility of so many different connections, very solid build, and of course a great sound. I reviewed the original brushed aluminum version a few years ago, mirrored on my blog here from HF, and I continue to feature it quite often in my reviews as a pair up source or compared to other DAPs.
The original version from 2014 has stood the test of time, and I was planning to continue using it, but in the last year I received a lot of questions why I haven’t switched to their updated BL version. I haven’t seen too many comparisons and thought that BL update wasn’t suppose to be significant. But the only way to be sure is to test it yourself. So, I reached out to iFi, asking to exchange my original Micro iDSD review unit with an updated BL version, and in the process had a chance to compare both side-by-side.
Based on this being a quick impression, you can be rest assured that my original review is still valid and applicable to BL version. But at the same time, I found a few differences related to 3D and XBass effects.
In BL version:
3D – adds more airiness to the sound, creating a natural holographic effect, pushing the sound a little more out of your head.
XBass – adds more sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass punch. Lower mids also get a little more body, but not too much. The sound in upper mids and treble is not affected by this effect.
In Original version:
3D – adds a touch more airiness to the sound, creating a more subtle holographic effect.
XBass – adds a touch more sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass punch. Lower/upper mids and treble are not affected.
When it comes to the actual sound comparison, BL version has a blacker background and a touch more transparency. But other than that, nearly the same tonality. A more noticeable difference is in 3D Sound where original version has a more subtle effect while BL has more holographic, wider, out of your head expansion with a little more airiness. Also, XBass in BL adds more sub-bass rumble and a touch more body in lower mids.
Coincidentally, after I shared my findings with iFi, I was told that in BL version the XBass and 3D were redesigned with a tech from Pro iCan, confirming my finding when comparing to the original Micro version. There were also some component changes, like upgraded caps, which could explain a few other sound differences I heard.
It seems that both, the original and BL versions, are still available for sale on Amazon, with a price difference of $50 more for BL. The functionality and controls of both units are identical, and depending on resolution and transparency of your headphones/iems – some might or might not hear the difference in sound. The real upgrade here is the 3D and XBass hardware effects, and a new stealth look with all black anodized finish and orange labels (a really cool contrast). If you are looking to buy Micro iDSD, I would recommend going for BL version. If you already have the original version and don’t use 3D or XBass – probably no rush to upgrade.
Other than that, I still hope one day to see a DAP from iFi Audio. If they can scale down the design with the same audio performance of Micro iDSD into a portable audio player, it will be one killer DAP!