Quick impression/comparison of iFi Audio Micro iDSD BL.
Manufacturer website: iFi Audio.
Available on Amazon: Micro iDSD BL, Micro iDSD original and on Audio46.
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!
3 thoughts on “iFi Audio Micro iDSD BL”
I found the 3D effect less natural on the iDSD BL than other iFi gear. For me, it brought some percussive elements in the treble to the front of the stage, which is not where they would be.
Micah, to be honest, I prefer not to even use these effects. Micro iDSD is good as is 😉
I don’t like Xbass and 3D ,when using them trible slightly too much .