iFi iDSD Signature is the newest transportable DAC made by iFi. It pushes 4W of power into the headphone output, decodes MQA, and it is priced at 649$.
Sound quality for the price
iDSD Signature, same as the iDSD Neo, has refreshed design of the box. It is grey with the Signature’s photo on the front.
Inside you will find a long list of useful accessories:
6,35mm jack adapter, USB OTG cable, adapter OTG – USB-B, two rubber bands, optical adapter, RCA cables, soft pouch, and 10cm USB-C cable.
As always, it is packed inside in smaller cardboard boxes.
iFi again shows how it cares about the details and build quality, but there’s one thing that could be better. It is almost the same as iDSD Micro Black Label but in the new navy blue color, which looks definitely better in real than on the renders. iFi also removed some switches on the device, but that doesn’t change much at all.
Beginning with the front, you will find the 6,35mm jack output and the 4,4mm one. iFi cut the 3,5mm analog input. The next thing is a pretty huge LED indicator that shows the quality of the files. It is matte and quite dark, but I don’t have any problems recognizing the color in the daylight. Thanks to the low brightness, it also doesn’t light up the whole room during nighttime. Going further, two switches – XBass mode and 3D. I’ll talk about them more in the next paragraph, here I can say they’re delicately too small for me, sometimes I have to try a few times to change their position. The last thing placed on the front is the potentiometer, which also turns on the iDSD Signature. It isn’t the best I’ve ever used. After turning for about 30 degrees, it starts playing, but with disbalance – only the left channel is working. I have to rotate it for another 10 degrees for the right channel to begin working. After that, it is working linear, but the first step isn’t encouraging.
On the right side, there is only a USB-C connector for charging. It is placed pretty deep, I have problems with some cables to work correctly, and the attached cable is too short to charge it comfortably.
The left side is equipped with three sliders, the same you can find on iDSD Micro BL – power mode, digital filter, and the iEMatch.
On the rear there are placed USB Type-A, SPDIF input, and RCA outputs.
iFi is a company that loves to put new technology into its devices, and it isn’t different this time.
As the first, but an obvious thing, MQA decoding for Tidal Master Quality files. The second thing that is definitely worth to be mentioned is S-Balanced output circuitry. It means that Signature delivers improved sound quality, usually reserved only for balanced output, within both outputs, even the single-ended one. It cuts crosstalk and distortions in half based on the iFi’s words.
The functionality behind the two front switches, which were also in iDSD Micro BL, was hardly improved. XBass function works way better than ever. It isn’t only a loudness. It truly warms the whole sound, without any echo feeling.
The 3D function is also useful in the music when in the iDSD Micro BL, I would use that only for games or movies. It doesn’t work such strikingly in iDSD Signature, but it is way more accurate. It is hard to get used to it in one minute, but after some time, in my case, after about one hour, it began being useful also in gaming.
On the left side, you can see three switches that work in the same way as in iDSD Micro BL. Power Mode, which is similar to the gain, iEMatch to use the Signature with low impedance IEMs, and the filter – Bit-Perfect, Minimal Phase, and Standard. It is basically from the sharpest to the most natural.
Battery life is also great at about 12 hours.
It is time for the essential part of every audio device, the sound. iFi iDSD Signature is a pretty nice upgrade compared to iDSD BL. It has the same sound signature, so it is natural to neutral (depends on the filter), wide soundstage, great holography, but it is different in one thing. iDSD Micro BL isn’t imposing much from itself, and it lets your cans sound just how they are meant to. The new Signature came up a little less saturated, more technical, keeping the headphone of choice a little bit tempered down.
The bass isn’t the party king. It isn’t much saturated, but really flexible. It doesn’t matter if you prefer the speedy bass or the sloppy one, iFi provides both of them. If you prefer the juicy bass just turn on the xBass option, it will be closer to the Neo bass, but with extra weight.
Lows aren’t as highly textured as I like, but I love how they disappear after the strike—just boom and silence, but only when it has to. In the other situation, it can be slower but never gets muddy. It all depends on the mix and the song. In two words, this bass is clear, tight, speedy, and very flexible.
The midrange has delicately more life than the bass, but it isn’t on the iDSD Neo level. It is pretty smooth with female voices and provides a lot of air with excellent separation, which can be really surprising. The midrange doesn’t have any charming feeling, more like the natural flat. Lower vocals are nicely textured, without dryness. For me, it is the best part to get focused on. Even the awful recordings of Rammstein provides fantastic impressions after listening to the Till Lindemann voice.
As I mentioned above, the Signature doesn’t impose almost anything, but it doesn’t get way too technical and transparent.
It’s just very detailed, very accurate, and correct.
The treble is spot on, again. Not sharp, not smooth, just natural with lovely sparkles and click. All wind instruments, drum plates, or even some triangles have a full body. There’s no feeling of emptiness at any point. Click is awesome in the calm, slow songs where it behaves like the bass. Clicks and disappears in the black background.
All the sparkles are pretty calm, without any chance to sibilance.
My favorite song for the treble last time is “Pristine” by Snail Mail and it sounds wonderful also here. Listening to this pretty bright song, with pretty bright Craft Ears Four doesn’t cause pain, it pleases my ears for long hours.
The soundstage is very similar to the Micro BL overall but is broader and more profound. Also, the height is way better, it can go way higher and lower compared to iDSD Micro BL. The Signature’s soundstage is definite, without any false markings around. It doesn’t fly around with many sound sources changing their place to make the listener immerse himself in the performance. All sound sources are holding their positions, which is also great, just different.
As I mentioned in the “Technical” paragraph, the 3D function is great in gaming, but you have to get used to it. The iDSD Signature didn’t trick me even once, letting me play peacefully with a trusted sound source.
Short comparison to the iDSD Neo
iFi iDSD Neo and iFi iDSD Signature are absolutely different devices.
The newest stationary iFi DAC provides a lot more fun, saturation, and it is vibrant. The iDSD Signature is more technical and flat. The Signature has more body in some situations, with heavier sound overall. Neo has a more innocent playstyle. It is like comparing the strict father and the one that prefers a stress-free upbringing.
The soundstage is similar in terms of width and depth, but as I mentioned above. The Signature is more spot-on when the Neo gives a lot of magic, and it just swims around.
I’ll go once again with a comparison, Signature is like the F1 race, where everything has to be in place, and the Neo is like free-roam with friends at night, where you can ride how you like to.
The iFi iDSD Signature is a great successor of the iDSD Micro Black Label, but it isn’t a revolution. It provides better features, micro details, and the soundstage but overall doesn’t kill its predecessor. It is a totally different device compared to the iDSD Neo. Still, it is definitely a great refreshment that provides very high SQ with flattened natural sound signature, wide, high, and profound soundstage, but without much juiciness and vibrance. It isn’t a sound signature for everybody, but it is great if you’re looking for a flat sounding device.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Philips Fidelio X2HR, Kennerton Odin, Vision Ears EVE2020, Audeze LCD-3, Bqeyz Spring 2, Craft Ears Four, Hifiman HE400i 2020,
- Sources– Topping DX7 Pro, SMSL M300+SP200, Chord Mojo, iFi iDSD Neo, Topping DX3 Pro, EarMen TR-Amp
For Hifiman He400i 2020 do you recomand The Signature or The Neo (electronic music, edm, pop)? Thanks?
Id personally go for the Signature for your music – Neo is more gently and etheral sounding, has less “in your face” factor 🙂
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