Priced at 450€, the xDSD is one of many DAC/Amps of the iFi line-up. Here in its USB C version, it’s an interesting product under various points of view.
I want to thank Karina for providing this unit in the purpose of this review.
Unboxing and specifications
The xDSD comes in a white box with just some manuals and some Velcro straps to stack it with other products, and an OTG cable. The build quality of the product itself is good, and the materials used are metal and plastic. The metal body is chromed and it keeps a lot of fingerprints; it’s honestly a bad choice in my opinion, because you have to wipe it very often (an opaque metal body would have been better, that way, while maintaining the same dissipation). The first thing I didn’t like is the instruction manual: it’s confused, too summarized and if you are a newbie you will find difficult to change modes. The second puzzling thing is the fact that USB C can only be used for charging: in my opinion, this is the most senseless feature of this item. In fact, for a wired connection, you have to use a male USB type A port (or S/PDIF). I don’t even understand why to use a male port instead of a classic female one. And you have to already own a USB C cable because it doesn’t come in the box (at least, in mine). I’m also asking myself: all these colors on the main knob to know the volume range, but also the active connection, are really that useful? I’m sure it’s not a colorblind-friendly object, anyway. The switch between Bluetooth and wired could have been a toggle, exactly like the “measure/listen” on the back of the device, which is less useful, at least for my use. And the volume ranges could have been indicated by a led ring, in a more intuitive way.
The back of the device has the charging port, the USB port, the S/PDIF port and a “filter” toggle to switch between “measure” or “listen”. I’ve only used the “listen” mode. On the front, the single ended 3.5mm output, the volume knob/power on and off button and another button to activate a surround virtualization, a bass boost, both of them (by just pressing it), switch between settings and put the device in pairing mode while in wireless mode. For 450€, it could have been equipped with a balanced output, at least. In my opinion, the buttons and the way you switch between modes are improvable.
Specifications (from the website):
|USB Input:||up to PCM768kHz & DSD512 (24.6/22.6MHz)|
|SPDIF Coaxial and Optical Input:||up to 192kHz/24Bit|
|Dynamic Range:||> 113dB (A)|
|Volume Control:||-101dB…0dB in 1dB steps|
|Output power:||> 2.82V/500 mW @ 16 Ohm
> 3.7V/270mW @ 50 Ohm
> 3.8V/48 mW @ 300 Ohm
> 3.8V/24 mW @ 600 Ohm
|Line out Level:||> 2.1V @ 0dBFS (& 0dB Volume)|
|THD &N (1V/16R):||< 0.005%|
|Output Impedance:||< 1 Ohm|
|Dimensions:||95 (l) x67 x19 (h) mm|
|Weight:||127g (0.28 Ibs)|
Sound and modes
Songs/artists/albums I’ve listened to: “Colour the Small One” by Sia, “Djesse Vol.1” by Jacob Collier, “Where are You?” by Frank Sinatra, “Ghost Stories” by Coldplay, “O” by Damien Rice, and many other tracks by Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Radiohead, Billie Eilish, …
Earphones paired: BGVP DM6, FiiO FA1, Tin HiFi T3, BGVP DMG, SIMGOT EM1, Sennheiser Momentum On Ear, others
I’ve used the xDSD with my MacBook Pro mid-2012 and my Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 as sources, via USB with the provided cable (and an OTG adapter for the USB C on my phone). I used Tidal with Master quality activated, in both devices, while I think the MQA can only be used by the desktop version (so, even with the Master quality on, on my phone, I think there was a conversion). They are proud of this MQA support, because this format could be “the new MP3”; I like this will of reducing the storage (or the data if we talk of streaming) while maintaining a high quality. I can’t hear any noticeable difference between a Tidal MQA and a FLAC (on VLC) of the same song (great, because the MQA is compressed!). I’ve also listened to some casual tracks on SoundCloud (like some Chineseman amazing works) and some movies and YouTube videos to try the surround mode.
When connected to my Mac, the xDSD captured a lot of noise and interferences of both my working hard disk and the charge of the pc itself. That is very disturbing with IEMs or generally high-sensitivity earphones (and low impedance ones, too, I believe); with my Momentum On Ear, the situation is better. My 100€ Focusrite 2i2 audio interface has none of these problems. I don’t want to think that they want to sell you their signal purifier, but… However, when the device is reproducing music, the noise is not hearable. And the music is pretty good, when listened from the xDSD. I’m impressed by the micro details you can catch by listening to this device, in comparison to an entry-level DAP like the FiiO M7 or a similar (because of the chip) mobile DAP like the Audirect Beam or the Zorloo ZuperDAC-S. Regarding the FiiO M7, it is compatible with the xDSD, while it’s not with the Beam. And it is actually the best pairing I’ve obtained (to my ears, even better than the desktop experience, because there aren’t any noises but also because of the soundstage and body of the sound, which I don’t know why but I find more pleasant).
I’m stunned by the bass, very precise and quick, yet punchy; it provides a perfect layering, which is not always easy to achieve in the lower range. When activated, the bass boost adds some body to both the sub and the mid-bass. I don’t find it exaggerated effective, but I can hear a difference: I prefer listening to my music without activating it.
Mids and highs are perfect. I don’t think I need to talk about a DAC the same way as I do for earphones, because they are different instruments. I just need to say that this is a bass machine, and you can understand this will by the booster. I’m not a basshead, but this experience has been really enjoyable and fun to my ears. I think the surround virtualizer is not a game changer. I usually dislike this kind of things, because the effect is bad most of the times. I don’t find it bad here, just something very soft which may improve the experience of listening to live recordings or while watching certain kinds of movies. What I can say, in the end, is that I really like the sound signature provided by the xDSD, while I thought the soundstage would (and could) have been wider (not deeper).
The xDSD supports AptX and AAC (not the better protocols). I paired it with my Mi MIX 2 and my FiiO M7 via Bluetooth. Ironically, this is the way I’ve enjoyed it the most. I’m not a fan of wireless audio, but I think this is a great device to make you change your mind. I have Bluetooth earphones, I tried the M7 itself as a Bluetooth receiver, and I’ve never been satisfied because of the latency, the loss of signal, the poor battery life. The xDSD has a decent battery, and it has absolutely no latency when you are watching to multimedial content. The analogic volume wheel is always nice, it works exactly like it does while wired. The quality is absolutely great, even if you can here that it lacks of body with the same tracks, especially when they are high quality DSD (I talk about a Pink Floyd DSF in particular). If this machine had LDAC, it may have had that body because of the larger bandwidth. But I don’t see it as a con; LDAC, in my experience, has more latency. I’m good with this “basic” Qualcomm AptX, because the final result is a nice compromise.
The xDSD has a lot of good features. For 450€, I could expect more cure under certain ways: a balanced output (you have to choose a brother device to have it), a larger battery, and more isolation when you pair it via USB. Like I’ve said before, the functions and the manual could be rationalized and become more intuitive. But if you learn how to switch modes, it becomes easy and you can enjoy a good machine, well crafted, with a next-level sound if you come from a lower end.
- Build quality
- Sound signature
- Bass reproduction
- No latency in wireless mode
- High compatibility with third party devices
- It’s small!
- Not much intuitive
- Electric isolation in wired mode