Boosting Audio Output
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Music on the move has become an increasingly popular past-time as we adopt a mobile life style. Unfortunately the audio output of many mobile devices used to store and deliver the audio entertainment is often relegated into second and sometimes an even lower rating position when it comes to improvements being made to the new version of devices. Stepping in to help in the respect of improving audio output is the nano iDSD Black Label DAC/headphone amp from iFi.
The nano iDSD Black Label is a portable DPC (Digital to Analogue Converter) device. As its title might indicate, this product, developed by iFi, is rather compact in size and black in colour. Small enough, with dimensions of 96 x 63 x 24mm (L x W x D) and reasonably lightweight at 141g, the Black Label device can be slipped into a pocket so that it is easily available whenever it is needed to boost the audio output from mobile devices. The Black Label device is powered by a built-in battery facility.
Arranged along the front of the nano iDSD Black Label are a pair of 3.5mm headphone jacks plus an LED light indicating the audio format and battery status. There is also a protruding knob which is used to control and adjust the type and level of the output. The dual 3.5mm headphone and in-ear jack options give the user a choice of Direct or iEMatch connection. The Direct option is meant to be used when connecting regular sensitivity headphones while the iEMatch option is the preferred choice for high sensitivity devices that can provide reduced background noise and matched gain.
Working in conjunction with these headphone sockets is a Headphone Amplifier that is rated at being ten times more powerful than your average smartphone unit. Once connected to an appropriate audio source the LED light will display a colour scheme to indicate the sampling frequency being received. With power turned on, you could see Blue, Cyan, White, Yellow, Green, Magenta, or Red in a steady glow or either a flashing Green or Red alternating with any of the other mentioned colours.
Located at the rear of the nano iDSD Black Label device are a pair of connection sockets mounted either side of a small flip switch to change the mode between the two digital filters that form part of the product When accessing the audio output delivered from this Black Label device, you can select from streams entitled Listen or Measure. The Listen route works with a Minimum Phase Bezier filter while the Measure route makes use of a Linear Phase Transient Aligned filter.
When communicating with the attached headphones, the nano Black Label unit features the S-Balanced wiring system for the output sockets. This wiring system provides a “balanced” output when being used with appropriate headphones and IEMs (in-ear modules) that are fitted with balanced wiring systems set to accept low noises and distortion. Even when the headphones are of the unbalanced variety, the S-Balanced wiring system has the capability to cut the effect of crosstalk in half.
When developing this nano Black Label product, iFi has taken the decision to incorporate quality components to help enhance performance capabilities from the device. These elements include thin film resistors, rather then the more standard metal or carbon units to deliver lower noise and distortion. Tantalum polymer capacitors feature in the power supply along with TDK COG capacitors for the analogue filter and a Panasonic ECPU film capacitor for the DAC reference voltage plus an analogue volume control potentiometer to improve sound quality.
iFi has priced this quality piece of kit at £199 and it is aimed at those looking for improved performance from the audio output of their mobile device.
|Dynamic Range (Line)||> 109db(A)|
|THD & N (0dBFS Line)||< 0.004%|
|Output Voltage (Line)||> 2.15V|
|Output Impedance (Zout)||< 240Ω|
|Channel Separation||< 99dB (@ 1kHz)|
|Jitter (correlated)||Below AP2 test set limit|
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