General Information

xDSD Gryphon: birth of a ‘head-fi’ legend

Delivering remarkable versatility, state-of-the art technology, and class-leading sound quality with digital and analogue sources, iFi’s latest DAC/headphone amp is a portable marvel


Southport, England – Launched in 2018, the xDSD is among the most popular portable DAC/headphone amps in iFi’s range – a feature-packed model that has earned a stellar reputation and a plethora of awards thanks to its supremely judged blend of convenience, versatility and performance.

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Soon after its launch, the xDSD was joined by the xCAN to complete iFi’s mid-level ‘x-series’ of portable devices. Housed in the same distinctive contoured case with ‘dark titanium’ finish, the xDSD and xCAN perform differing functions – the former is a portable DAC/headphone amp for digital sources, with USB, S/PDIF and Bluetooth connectivity; the latter is a headphone amp with purely analogue inputs, plus the added convenience of Bluetooth reception for smartphones and so on. The xCAN also includes a balanced output stage – the smallest iFi amp to do so at the time of its launch.

This autumn, iFi launches its next-generation x-series device, the xDSD Gryphon – iFi’s most ambitious portable DAC/amp yet. It replaces not only the xDSD but also the xCAN, combining the functionality of both with redesigned circuitry that elevates performance to another level. In the world of portable DACs, headphone amps and ‘head-fi’ in general, the xDSD Gryphon is destined to become a legend.

Latest reviews

kmmbd

500+ Head-Fier
Swiss Army Knife
Pros: Excellent build quality and industrial design
– Moderately powerful balanced output
– xBass and IEMatch features are handy
– Warm-neutral tuning that doesn’t sacrifice transparency
– MQA hardware-level decoding
– Excellent BT support
Cons: The Gryphon can feel unwieldy when paired with large phones
– Not powerful enough to drive planars
– Slight hiss with extremely sensitive IEMs (without IEMatch)
– Not the best battery life when driving power-hungry cans
– High recharge times
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iFi Audio has been hard at work lately as they are continually refreshing their existing models whereas throwing in a new model or two to further flesh out their lineup.

The iFi xDSD Gryphon is their latest portable DAC-Amp and in terms of pricing it sits below the venerable micro iDSD Signature. In terms of features and use-case though, the Gryphon seem to be an evolved xCAN. Moreover, the circuitry has similarities with the desktop all-in-one iFi Neo iDSD (reviewed here).

So, the Gryphon appears to be a mish-mash of several past and present iFi products and seem to have taken the best bits from them, at least on paper. Let’s see if the real-world performance stacks up accordingly.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. iFi Audio was kind enough to send me the xDSD Gryphon as a loaner via WOD Audio.
This review originally appeared on
Audioreviews.

Earphones/Headphones used: Dunu Zen, Earsonics ONYX, Campfire Audio Holocene, Sennheiser HD650, ZMF Atrium, Final Sonorous III.
Firmware versions: 1.45

Price, while reviewed: 600 euros. Can be bought from WOD Audio.

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

iFi Audio went for a minimalist package with the Gryphon. You get the essentials: a USB type-C to type-C cable (for connecting to phones), a USB type-C to lightning cable (for connecting with iPhones), and a type-C to USB type-A cable for charging. Alongside, you also get a felt carrying pouch.

BUILD QUALITY

Build quality of the xDSD Gryphon is excellent. The housing is sandblasted aluminum with a wavy pattern on top. The volume pot is also color-matched and has distinct “steps” when rotated.

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There are two buttons on the right side of the volume pot (xBass II/xSpace switch, and input selector respectively) and two headphone outputs on the left side (4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm single-ended). The volume pot has good feedback when rotated but the press feedback is a bit mushy.

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The bottom of the device is extremely busy. From the left, first up is the XBass II adjusting switch. You can tweak the sound of the bass boost or the stage expansion here. Then, there are two type-C ports, one for charging and another for connecting to external devices. Underneath the charging port is a charge indicator LED.

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Next to that is the coaxial/optical input, which is rare to find in device of such class nowadays. Finally, there are the 4.4mm and 3.5mm analog input/line-output. It is a variable line-out, which means voltage needs to be adjusted via the volume pot. You can use the Gryphon as a standalone DAC and pre-amp if needed.

The volume pot also acts as a power button and has an LED on top to indicate a range of SPLs (Sound Pressure Level). Another LED on the side also shows the current sample rate and file format. The following image shows all the colors and their corresponding sample rate or format.

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Engaging either xBass II or PowerMatch lights up the tiny white LEDs beside the button. At the bottom there is the IEMatch switch that can select between the single-ended or balanced output. Finally, at the top faceplate resides the SilentLine OLED display which can be used to modify settings and cycle between inputs etc.

Overall, excellent build quality with no noticeable room for improvement.

HANDLING

The xDSD Gryphon, at 215 g, is not too substantial in terms of weight. However, due to the 75mm width can be awkward to hold in hand. This becomes more noticeable when you’re stacking the DAC/Amp with a large phone (most modern phones are large anyway).

As a result, I preferred to use the Gryphon with my laptop in wired mode, and while on-the-go, I paired via Bluetooth with my phone. Fortunately, the aluminium chassis provides decent amount of grip, so stacking is possible.

BATTERY LIFE

Clocking at around 8hrs of playback time, the battery life on the Gryphon is decent if unremarkable. This figure goes down further if you drive high impedance dynamics or use it over BT for long periods.

The 3600mAh battery pack could have been increased for higher playback times, but then the device would become thicker. Recharging takes about 5 hours on a typical phone charger, which is extremely high. I wish iFi employed a fast charging circuit because this recharge time means you can’t just quickly top it off once the battery empties.

INTERNAL HARDWARE

iFi Audio are most comfortable with using the BurrBrown chipset and here it appears again on the xDSD Gryphon. This is the same DAC chip that appears in the flagship Pro iDSD Signature (albeit in a quad-DAC config). The BB DSD1793 chipset offers native DSD encoding and with the updated XMOS controller can now decode MQA files at a hardware level. This feature, admittedly, is of little use to non-TIdal HiFi users but it doesn’t hurt to have an extra feature.

The potentiometer is fully analog, thus not facing some of the limitations that digital potentiometers may have. However, being analog in nature, it may degrade over time. The switches used are all from ALPS, . The amp sections remains unchanged on paper, with quad JFET OV4627 op-amps (customized for iFi Audio). The amp circuit also uses a dual-mono design for the balanced output.

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Other extras include the xBass feature which is an analog EQ and mostly aims to “fix” the sub-bass roll-off issue on open-back headphones. In reality, many open-back headphones suffer from distortion in those regions and applying an EQ might cause further distortion and clipping. The other feature is the iEMatch switch that adds additional resistance to the signal path for highly sensitive IEMs, blocking hiss in the process.

As for the xSpace, it adds a sense of space to the sound that doesn’t sound artificial or overdone. I found the implementation to be tasteful with IEMs especially so give that one a try. The BT5.1 is one of the highlights of the product and has LDAC support. iFi also uses a new proprietary PureWave topology where they go for a dual-mono setup with shorter signal paths than their previous designs.

Speaking of power outputs, the xDSD Gryphon outputs 1W @ 32ohms from the balanced out and 320mW @ 32ohms from the single-ended output (which also supports their proprietary S-balanced tech). The voltage swing can go as high as 6.7Vrms from the balanced out (with a 600ohm load) and this comes handy when driving high impedance dynamic driver headphones. Output impedance is lower than 1ohm on both (with IEMatch turned off).

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The internal components are all high quality as expected. TDK/Murata/Panasonic/Kemet caps, and FET-based switching to mute those annoying “pops” you encounter on some DAC/Amps. The PCB design is excellent and the components are high quality so I have no qualms about the internals of the Gryphon.

TONALITY AND TECHNICALITIES

The general sound of the iFi xDSD Gryphon can be summarized as warm-neutral. It has the characteristic iFi Audio warmth with smooth treble and an engaging, transparent midrange. The bass is mostly neutral but can be pushed higher with the xBass switch. Depending on the xBass mode, the bass can sound atmospheric (with slight bloom and reverb) or mostly focus on increasing punch and slam.

Staging and imaging is excellent on the xDSD Gryphon. No, they won’t rival their desk counterparts, but given the portability it is better than most DAPs in this range. Treble also doesn’t exhibit the rather common “glare” you find in many dongles these days. There is a sense of naturalness to the signature that can be addicting. Despite this slight laid-back delivery, the Gryphon is very resolving, bringing out subtle nuances from tracks and doing justice to flagship IEMs with their detail retrieval capacity.

One thing to note is that changing the firmware can bring subtle changes to the sound due to changes in reconstruction filter. I used both the GTO and non-GTO firmwares. The latter had a more laid-back treble and had a slightly wider stage, while the former had slightly more up-front mids and more macrodynamic punch. Biggest difference happens with MQA files on the GTO firmware, so if you are using Tidal, this is the recommended one.

Overall transparency and resolution was very good, with no noticeable roll-off in the upper-treble frequencies. Separation was very good as well, though the likes of Chord Mojo2 does that better. The background hiss with sensitive IEMs is also not distracting, as once the music starts playing you don’t even notice it. Moreover, there is IEMatch to take care of hiss, though that tends to modify the frequency response of some multi-BA IEMs so keep that in mind.

PAIRING NOTES

Sennheiser HD650

The Sennheiser HD650 is one of the few headphones that scale according to the source quality. On paper, the xDSD Gryphon has the required voltage swing to power it, and it does sound good. The HD650 got loud from the balanced out and had some of the dynamics it can display on a more powerful amp. Separation was good as well.

However, you still don’t quite get the “magic” that happens when you connect the HD650 to OTL amps like Feliks Euforia. Granted, that thing is a behemoth and costs over 3 grands. For the size and price, I think the Gryphon did a good job with the HD650, but those headphones can scale higher.

Final Sonorous III

Final Sonorous III is a closed back pair of headphones and are very efficient. Despite the efficiency they are quite transparent to source quality. The Gryphon drove them excellently with no loss in dynamics and the bass was quite pleasant. The mids were transparent, with no evident peaks in the upper mids that tends to creep up on some sources.

I would call the xDSD Gryphon an excellent pairing for efficient dynamic driver headphones.

ZMF Atrium

The ZMF Atrium is a similarly high impedance dynamic driver as the HD650. Their pairing with the Gryphon was surprisingly good. I got great separation, the bass was not loose and had good amount of punch, and the staging was excellent.

The Atrium can scale much higher (with the aforementioned Feliks Euforia for example) but for portable use, the Gryphon are absolutely adequate. Just make sure you use the balanced out.

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Hifiman HE-6se V2

On the planar magnetic side, we have the Hifiman HE-6se V2. With 82dB @ 50 ohms efficiency, these are one of the hardest to drive headphones in the entire planet. The Gryphon failed to get them loud enough to be enjoyable, even from the balanced output. These headphones are notorious for bringing amps to their knees and sadly xDSD Gryphon isn’t designed for such workloads.

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Dunu Zen and Dunu Zen Pro

The Dunu Zen and Zen Pro both exhibited slight hiss from the balanced out of the xDSD Gryphon. However, the overall sound was quite pleasant. The pairing was very resolving without being “on-your-face”. I especially liked how the Gryphon took some edge off of the OG Zen, which can be a bit peaky near the upper-mids.

In general, the xDSD Gryphon pairs really well with most if not all IEMs. The warm-neutral yet transparent signature complements somewhat analytical headphones and even works well with warmer sounding gear. On the other hand, I would not recommend it for power-hungry planar magnetic headphones, or very high impedance dynamic driver headphones due to the relatively lower voltage swing.

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SELECT COMPARISONS

vs iFi micro iDSD Signature

The micro iDSD Signature (reviewed here by Alberto) is priced slightly higher than the xDSD Gryphon, but has a much more powerful amp section and a Dual-DAC implementation.

In terms of physical appearance and handling, the iDSD Signature is noticeably larger and heavier. It’s also more of a transportable DAC-Amp than a portable one. The xBass implementation on the Gryphon is better and offers more fine-tuning. The display is also handy.

Meanwhile, the micro iDSD can replace some desktop amps with the incredible 4W @ 16ohms output. This one is meant to drive full-size cans and apart from the likes of Hifiman HE-6se V2 and Abyss 1266TC, it can drive most headphones including some planars.

On the other hand, the Gryphon offers more flexible connectivity and pairs better with IEMs, which are easily over-driven by the micro iDSD Signature. Background hiss was also comparatively lower on the xDSD Gryphon. Soundwise, the micro iDSD Signature goes for a meatier, denser presentation, whereas Gryphon has better clarity and somewhat laid-back signature.

In short: if your primary use-case is IEMs, then go for the Gryphon. It’s more portable, easier to pair with phones, and there is lower chance of over-driving the earphones. For headphone usage the micro iDSD will be a better fit.

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CONCLUDING REMARKS

The iFi xDSD Gryphon offers a lot of bells and whistles, and in a sense is more versatile than their desktop DAC-Amp, the Neo iDSD. iFi managed to miniaturize the circuitry in a pocket form, while offering the same output power. That’s remarkable indeed. I wish the Gryphon offered a fixed-voltage line-out but that’s a minor nitpick.

The biggest gripe, for me, would be the slow recharge time. For such a moderate-capacity battery I expected lower recharge time. I had to charge the Gryphon every 3 days during review, and if I forgot to charge it overnight then I couldn’t take it out during commute. Bummer.

Nonetheless, those looking for a battery-powered DAC/Amp for all-purpose use via BT or USB, the xDSD Gryphon is pretty much one of the best under $1000. You do not get absolute output power for headphones, but you get excellent transparency in the sound and fantastic pairing with IEMs irrespective of tuning of driver config. Recommended.

Ichos

Reviewer at hxosplus
Mythical
Pros: + Neutral, transparent and accurate
+ Natural and musical sounding timbre
+ Dead silent
+ Great technicalities
+ Clear and resolving
+ Plenty of power for a portable device
+ Various sound enhancements
+ OLED screen
+ Multitude of inputs and outputs
+ Excellent Bluetooth implementation with minimal sound loss
+ Separate USB charging port
+ Compact and lightweight
Cons: - Average battery life
- A protective case is missing
- Some buttons feel loose
The Gryphon was kindly loaned to me in exchange for a honest review.
The review was originally featured in hxosplus printed edition and website.
This is the translated and adapted version for Head-Fi.

iFi Gryphon

Griffin, the legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion but the head and wings of an eagle.
Yes, you read that right, this is still an audio review, the subject is the new iFi portable DAC / amp with the emblematic name xDSD Gryphon, which aspires to combine the best elements of the two previous models xDSD and xCan in a slightly only larger chassis.
It is a compact, lightweight battery-powered device that combines a high resolution digital converter with a powerful balanced topology headphone amplifier.

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Technical highlights

IFi uses a Burr-Brown Hybrid MultiBit chip, the same one found on the flagship Pro iDSD Signature, which acts both as a digital converter and a signal receiver.
A global master clock is used to greatly minimize jitter.
Thanks to the Burr-Brown chip's four-channel True Native design, PCM and DSD follow separate paths.
The xDSD Gryphon uses an amplification circuit called PureWave, it is a balanced, symmetrical dual-mono topology with short, direct signal paths.
Maximum power output is 1,000mW at 32 Ohms and a whopping max 6.7v output to drive high impedance headphones with ease.
The automatic "turbo" function adds +6dB in addition to the maximum output level, greatly increasing Gryphon's ability to drive difficult loads, making it one of the most powerful, battery powered, DAC/amps in the market.
Furthermore iFi engineers recognised that different parts of a circuit benefit from specifically optimised feedback loops and have developed a negative feedback system that is much more accurate than the usual approach.
This incorporates multiple feedback paths instead of a global loop, each path optimised for a particular function and working synergistically with the others to deliver optimal overall performance.
The amplifier section is essentially the same as the one found in iFi's portable flagship, the Diablo, with the only difference being the lower output power due to the smaller size of the power supply.

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The volume control

A multifunction button is used to adjust the volume and navigate through the various menus.
iFi uses for the first time a software-driven volume control, called CyberSync, that operates in the analogue domain and the way it synchronises with any digital source to which the xDSD Gryphon is connected is very different.
It provides perfect volume synchronisation between the source and the DAC.
It detects which operating system (OS) the DAC is connected to – iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS or Linux – and instructs the source’s OS to bypass its software volume control. Whether volume is adjusted using the xDSD Gryphon’s rotary control or on the source device, CyberSync ensures the change is performed purely by the Gryphon’s superior analogue control chip, while also displaying the adjustment on the source device’s screen.
Volume curves differ between operating systems and apps, but CyberSync ensures perfect synchronisation between the source device and the DAC every time.
A very handy feature is that the multifunction button is illuminated by a LED that changes color depending on volume level so you can instantly know the setting in order to protect more sensitive earphones from accidents.

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OLED screen

The Gryphon is the first portable DAC/amp from iFi, to use an OLED screen for easier navigation through the system menus.
This is not a simple OLED screen though, it is a SilentLine design which ensures that there is no electrical noise to interfere with the audio signal.
The way its switches between settings has been engineered to ensure sonic transparency – FET-based switching is handled by a microcontroller, which only ‘wakes up’ when the user changes a setting, thus eradicating any sonically deleterious interference.

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Tailor your sound

The Gryphon incorporates the following, exclusive iFi technologies that offer fine tuning to the sound.

XSpace adds back the cavernous sound stage of recordings.
XBass II reinstates the missing bass from open-backed headphones or for recordings that you hanker for bass slam.
You can select these two options by the means of a button that is located in front of the unit.
Under XBass II you can select ‘Bass’ and/or ‘Presence’ so that the upper midrange frequencies are correctly added back into your favourite recording.
This is done with a handy switch that is located at the back corner of the chassis.
iEMatch – is a proprietary tech which reduces the annoying hiss from high-sensitivity headphones without losing any dynamic range.
The option is available for both the headphone outputs and can be selected through a switch that lies underneath the chassis.
With digital sources, users can choose between three bespoke digital filters via the on-screen menu: Bit-Perfect without signal processing, Standard which is a simple low pass filter and GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimised) that does upsampling to 384/352kHz, each having a fine-tuning effect on sound.

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I/O interface

Gryphon is a swiss army knife with a variety of inputs and outputs both analog and digital.
The user can choose between the wired USB type C and S/PDIF digital inputs or go wireless thanks for the Bluetooth 5.1 Qualcomm QCC5100 chip that supports all known codecs, from the legacy SBC to the high resolution aptX Adaptive, aptX HD,
LDAC and HWA/LHDC as well as multipoint coupling.
All digital inputs are housed in the back of the chassis together with the USB type C charging port.
The Gryphon has a separate USB type C port exclusively for charging its battery which allows it to be connected via USB while charging at the same time to accommodate for long term desktop use.
The USB digital input is compatible both with PCs and all types of tablets and mobile phones.
Sampling rates up to 768kHz / 32bit, DSD512, DXD768 are supported with full MQA decoding, while Bluetooth reaches up to 96kHz.
The Gryphon can also be used as a dedicated headphone amplifier to amplify signals through the two analog inputs (4.4mm and 3.5mm) that are located in the back of the chassis.
Input selection is done with a button that is located in the right corner of the front face.
At the left of the front face there are the balanced (4.4mm) and single ended (3.5mm) headphone outputs that can also be configured to act as dedicated line outputs with variable level.
The 3.5mm headphone output is supported by iFi's unique S-Balanced technology which delivers the benefits of the balanced connection to single-ended headphones.

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Build quality and appearance

iFi has managed to accommodate all that tech inside a chassis that is just slightly longer and thicker than the xDSD and the xCAN, a pretty novel achievement.
The compact body measures 123x75x19mm and weighs only 215g making the Gryphon your perfect travel companion while you can also accommodate it in a larger pocket.
The chassis fits in the palm of your hand and operation can be done one handed, thanks to the handy function shortcuts that can be performed by the means of the two press buttons and the rotary switch.
The all metal body has a beautiful and modern looking wave pattern while build quality is excellent.

Accessories

The Gryphon comes bundled with three beautiful looking, good quality but rather short cables, a USB type C to C, a USB type C to type A and a USB type C to lighting connector.
A nice carrying pouch completes the package but a protective case should have been a nice addition.

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Listening impressions

As per usual practice, the unit was left playing music for 150 hours before listening to music.
iFi was generous enough to allow for an extended loan so I was able to have my time with Gryphon rather than doing a hasty review.
Various earphones and headphones where used, like the FiiO FD7, FiiO FH9, Focal Clear Mg, Sennheiser HD8XX, Sennheiser HD660S, HiFiMan Sundara and many others.

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The Gryphon is dead silent and with the aid of the iEMatch is especially suitable for use with sensitive earphones while at the same time there is enough power for driving the majority of the full sized headphones without any distortion.
This makes the Gryphon extremely flexible and can be used both as your high end portable source and a desktop replacement at home.

As expected, the powerful amplifier and all the advanced electronic circuits have an impact on the battery life, which due to its small size has a rather limited capacity, thus offering an operating time of about six hours.

The sound is, without a single trace of exaggeration, excellent as it lacks absolutely nothing and it really became impossible to find anything negative of blame, considering of course the type of device and the price point.
A unique combination of transparency, precision and fidelity with an involving and highly musical imprint with the usual iFi naturalness of timbre and a diverse range of harmonic richness.
Visceral, deep and impactful bass with excellent layering, absolute control and great dynamic antithesis.
Rich and emotionally engaging mid-range with the most realistic tonality, instruments and voices sound lifelike and tonally correct.
Crystalline, sparkling and extended treble presentation without a hint of brightness or aggressiveness , the Gryphon is highly resolving without sounding analytical or artificial.
What is remarkable for a battery powered device is the supreme recreation of the soundstage which is extended, spacious, layered, with pinpoint imaging and great proportions, especially from the balanced output.
So if you have an earphone with good soundstaging properties then with the aid of Gryphon you are going to experience an utterly holographic sound with great ambience as I did when listening to the following French baroque album.

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After trying all three digital filters, "bit perfect" became my favorite one.
The least intrusive of the three, lets the sound, without any digital manipulation, transform into wonderful music that evokes the senses and rewards the listener with great moments of pleasure.

The Gryphon may not reach the absolute technical perfection and driving ability of the Diablo but it manages to be very close while having the advantages of the smaller size and weight, much lower price and extra functions such as the bluetooth connectivity and the handy OLED screen.

Bluetooth performance

Speaking of bluetooth, it's probably the best implementation I have come across so far, in a portable device, with minimal sound quality losses.
The Bluetooth mode on the Gryphon is absolutely stellar and while the wired connection is definitely better and should be preferred when possible, the wireless performance is so good that you are not going to miss much when you need it, just make sure to use LDAC.
The Bluetooth is one of the strongest selling points of the Gryphon and it would have been just fine even if it was only wireless.

In the end

Eventually the iFi experiment was a successful one.
The xDSD and xCan were merged into one, the mighty Gryphon which is not the Frankenstein but instead a divine and majestic creature that commands the powers of music.
With the Gryphon, iFi is writing the story from the beginning, redefining the portable DAC/amp category and putting itself at the top of the list with a price to performance ratio that its competitors will have to work very hard in order to overcome.

Test playlist

Copyright - Petros Laskis 2022.
Ichos
Ichos
Thank you Alexey!
revand
revand
You can read my comparison of the iFi xDSD Gryphon and EarMen Colibri on my Hungarian blog here.
Use Google Translate to read it in English.
My opinion:
The Gryphon is excellent sounding device!
Great soundstage, very smooth and natural timber.
Best genres are classical, country, pop, blues, jazz.
Huge amount of functions, great wireless playback with LDAC.
The only issue was that switching on the device the volume is too high (ear deafening!)
Always check the volume level before listening music with your headphones!
Ichos
Ichos
Have you updated to the latest firmware?
Switching my unit ON the volume was the last setting used.
I also have the Colibri but I am not ready to post my review.

Another Audiophile

500+ Head-Fier
The Benchmark.
Pros: Versatility, Connectivity, Power,
Cons: I need to think of any Cons and probably invent some. So what's the point?
The @iFi audio XDSD Gryphon Vs the Chord Mojo 2 is the most anticipated and requested review. I bought the chord Mojo 2, Poly and the original Mojo at full retail price. The gryphon was sent to me for review by Ifi Audio. All thoughts and opinions are of my own.

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To begin with, the Gryphon is well packaged and is more luxurious compared to the the mojo 2 packaging. The Gryphon comes with all essential accessories and especially cables. You get a carrying bag, which I’ve been using a lot, and 3 cables for iPhone, android and computer. The cables are on the stiff side but better than nothing. The Mojo 2 comes with a short micro USB cable. Fro iphone,desktop computer and USB-C devices you will need extra cables and/or extensions.



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I would like to approach this comparison and review by sharing my experience with the units rather a robotic progression with bass, mids, treble, stage etc. After all, and in my experience, this kind of devices will not give you a “day and night” difference. I truly believe that features are equally, and sometimes more important. If you are interested on specs, battery life and other public information please visit the company’s website.


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In terms of features the Ifi Gryphon is not just a winner. Is on a different level, but the price is also different with the Gryphon at £599 and the Mojo 2 at £450. So what do you get for almost £150 more? Well, a bit more than a lot. The mojo 2 offers 3.5 coax input, usb-c and micro data port, along with the usb micro for charging and an optical input. For analog out the mojo has 2x3.5mm headphone jacks that can be used simultaneously and at certain volume level it can be used to feed integrated amplifiers or a preamp. From the other hand the Gryphon offers 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced headphone output, SPDIF 3.5mm Coaxial/optical inputs, USB-C data and separate USB-C charging port, 3.5mm input/output and 4.4mm balanced input/output. I can finally have one connector which is the 4.4mm balanced. In my opinion that should be the one and only universal connection for headphones. Along with several sound and matching adjustments, it comes with a screen for playback, battery, and menu info. Last but not least the gryphon has bluetooth and we will come to that. To put it mildly, the gryphon is the most versatile portable, transportable DAC and headphone amplifier I’ve ever came across. It can be a DAC, a headphone amp, a preamp for active speakers, an amplifier only for headphones or speakers and all these conditions in a small package that you can easily put in your pocket. The only issue I came across with the Gryphon’s features was the way the volume was controlled. The Volume was in sync with the mobile’s volume buttons. That meant the volume would go up and down either by using the volume knob or the mobile’s buttons. You understand that the first thing I did was to turn up the volume in my mobile and adjust the volume from the Gryphon. That was a big mistake… nevertheless the issue has been fixed with the latest firmware uptake and now you have the option to have the volume in sync or only controlled by the Gryphon’s rotary knob. That’s what I have been doing with the mobile at max and adjusting the volume with the Gryphon’s knob. The problem I came across when using the Mojo 2 was interference when bundled with my mobile. Every time my mobile would connect or change from 3G to 4G network I would get clicks and pops. I am not an expert but that killed the mojo2 as a portable device and is not a faulty device. I owned 3 original Mojos and all had the same issue. My conclusion on that front is that if you want the mojo 2 then you might consider the poly as an essential part.I own the poly and would never take the mojo 2 out and about without it. With the poly the price doubles.

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Build quality also is distinctively different. The Gryphon feels solid with enough weight to hold on your desk but light enough to carry it around. Assembly, fit and finish are exceptional. The Chord Mojo 2 has a smaller form factor which makes it more manageable. Nevertheless, the Mojo 2 rattles and the finish is not as good as the Gryphon. The assembly gaps are large enough to see the lights and the board inside the mojo. From that front it looks objectively that Ifi has payed more attention to quality control.


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But how it sounds? Well, first of all it in NOT a day and night difference. After extensive listening with both units on the go and at home I came across the simplest way to put it forward. The Gryphon sounds like the mojo 2 with crossfeed two clicks up. Is not a question of better but different. I am sorry but to my ears it is not a huge difference and certainly not a difference you will realise if you are using the equipment to listen to music rather than comparing one to each other. The difference is minimal and the mojo 2 might come across with instruments placed more accurately in the soundstage while the gryphon has more focused and centred image which makes it for slightly more relaxed and intimate presentation. Personally I like more the presentation from the Gryphon but I can see why some might prefer the mojo 2. The X-bass had too much bass for me and didn’t use it a lot.

From the other hand X-space adds perceived clarity and defines better the space between interments and vocals. In contrast, it Sounds like the mojo with reduced corssfeed. I used several headphones and IEMs which will be listed at the end. The Gryphon is more versatile in terms of headphones and IEMs it can drive. The higher output voltage made it a better match for high impedance headphones and the impedance adjustment made it an excellent fit for IEMs. In comparison the mojo 2 didn’t offer the power and authority the Gryphon had over high impedance headphones. Consequently, the gryphon is not just a great portable device but a device that can be used as a desktop unit with ease. When the units are used as DACs on my main system then there was a clear difference between the two. The Chord mojo 2 offered a deeper perceived soundstage. What I mean is that the image had better defined depth. The Gryphon had depth but it was blurry in comparison. For example if the singer was recorded two meters from the guitar then this distance will be easier perceived with the Mojo in a two-channel system. From the other hand it didn’t mind so much if at all when used as a portable devices with headphones. That was the clear difference between the two and again not a day and night difference especially with modern recording where “depth” is not part of the mixing, or at least not a top priority.

I believe the most underrated feature from both sound quality and usability is the bluetooth offered by the Gryphon. I was on my way to the office with the mobile bundled. All good and nice without any complain. At the office I had to charge my iPhone and had to disconnect the usb cable. I thought, lets use the bluetooth instead. Not only I was able to use the device, unlike the mojo 2, but I was happily surprised with the sound quality coming out of the bluetooth connection. I know that some, me included, would think the bluetooth as the anti-christ. But really, I dint get the glare or harshness i experienced from past bluetooth devices. It is actually so good that the compromise, if any, is so minimal that it take an effort to realise the difference. Personally I prefer to listen music instead of comparing equipment. As a result I really didn’t feel that my music enjoyment is compromised by using the bluetooth connection. That happened 2 weeks on my review and have been using the bluetooth connection exclusively when out and about. After all is what makes me listen to music and the Gryphon perfectly gets out of the way. My comparison with the mojo as a portable device can be done only when paired with the poly due to the mentioned interference issues with 3G and 4G. If you need a portable device when you are out and you are between the Mojo 2 and the Ifi Gryphon then i don’t think there is a comparison. One works and the other kind of works.

To give Mojo 2 some credit and to be fair I would say the most underrated feature for the Mojo 2 is the EQ adjustments. This is not a review for the Mojo 2 but the Original mojo was one sounding device and the Mojo 2 is a sounding chameleon. The gryphon is more conservative with limited number of options in terms of tailoring the sound signature. As a desktop unit I have been using both with my active speakers. From my experience the difference in sound quality is not significant to justify buying one over the other. Again are not exactly the same but slightly different. The Gryphon offers more centred image with a bit warmer tone. The mojo is sharper and brighter in comparison. Not day and night but there are slight differences which you have to pay attention if you want to pin them down. From features again the gryphon is a more versatile device. Can do all the things the Mojo 2 can do and more. I found again the availability of bluetooth really useful especially when I am using the devise to watch movies, TV shows and Youtube videos. I used it also with an external DAC but didn’t make a difference. Nevertheless, the option is there. In comparison, the Mojo 2 has a great feature. Once fully charged it goes to desktop mode which preserves and protects the battery. Basically you can leave it connected forever and you don’t have to worry about it.


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My Conclusion is simple. Today I need a device that I will actually use and will do the job. I want to enjoy music and make the most out of a device. If you are after a portable device the Gryphon wins in any front and the perceived sound difference is not a question of better but slightly different. To be frank and honest the only use case I can think of the Mojo 2, without the poly, is as a desktop DAC in a main 2-channel stereo system. Not so much because of the sound quality but the “desktop mode” powering feature. I admit though that the soundstage depth offered by the mojo 2 is something to comment upon. The Gryphon is a powerful device with the versatility you would expect from a modern device. The Mojo 2 is a good device but nonetheless a device from yesterday. The Gryphon is a device for audiophiles, like myself, and normal people. You know, most of my friends didn’t even understand what the Mojo 2 is and why they should be using it. All of them said the same thing “you need cables?”. The Gryphon was easier to understand and even my mother could use it. Just bluetooth an play. My point is that the Gryphon has the potential to bring more people into the hobby and we shouldn’t underestimate this quality. The Mojo 2 is a more intimidating device and I can’t see how this unit will bring more people. As a closing though, and in comparison, the Ifi Gryphon is a device from tomorrow made today. The Benchmark.

Thank you for Reading

AA

Equipment used

Headphones:
Sennheiser/Drop HD6XX (My Reference)
Sennheiser HD800S (Classical, Acoustic, Jazz)
Sennheiser HD25(On the go, undistractable, great Isolation with punchy sound)
Grado SR80e (Used for calls, video conferences and podcasts)
ZMF Aeolus Cocobolo (Hot chocolate kind of headphones)
Audeze LCD-MX4 (Dynamic, Powerful and Visceral sound. Pop, EDM, Electronica, Techno)
Audeze LCD-X (2020) (I am still figuring this out)

IEMs:
Sony IER-Z1R (My Reference)
Fiio FH5 (it works with nice bass)
Blon BL-03 (it works)

Comparisons:

Chord Mojo
Chord Mojo 2
Both used alone and with the Chord Poly streamer.

Music Used:
  1. Melanie De Biasio - Your Freedom is the End of Me
  2. Hans Zimmer - Mountains
  3. Gillian Welch - The Way it Goes
  4. Florence & The Machine - Ship to Wreck
  5. Dire Straits - Water of Love
  6. Antonio Vivaldi - Winter Concerto in F minor
  7. Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake, Swan Theme
  8. Biig Piig - Roses and Gold
  9. Amber Rubarth - Hold On
  10. Billie Eilish - Everything I wanted
  11. Metallica - Enter Sandman
  12. Led Zeppelin - Ramble on
  13. Beyonce - Daddy Lessons
  14. Kenny Burrell - Chitlins Con Carne
  15. Dave Brubeck - Take Five
  16. Air - Talisman
  17. Bombino - Iyat Na Hay
  18. GoGo Penguin - Totem
  19. Hans Theessink - St. James Infirmary

Attachments

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Another Audiophile
Another Audiophile
@Edyeded86 other than power I didn't observe any difference in the sound. The 3.5 from the mojo 2 is more powerful compared to the Gryphon's 3.5 power.
Simple Man
Simple Man
Very nice review. Thanks. I’m not sure if you can help me: is it serious better than a Fiio BTR5?
used with a Campfire Andromeda.
Another Audiophile
Another Audiophile
@Simple Man I have the BTR5 and is different use case all together. As a purely bluetooth device I wouldn't call it better but slightly different. If you just want a portable device to connect your mobile and use the Andromeda on the go then the BTR5 is a better solution.

Comments

rafaelo

100+ Head-Fier
Fantastic. What I suggested in my xcan review 2 years ago. Well done ifi, it seems that it ticks all the boxes now.
 

The1Signature

500+ Head-Fier
the problem i have again: you pay so much for all the different bluetooth connections. all of them will be soon outdated since qualcomm introduced aptx lossless - which will be a pure game changer in the bluetooth / wired marked anyway.
 

Ben86

100+ Head-Fier
the problem i have again: you pay so much for all the different bluetooth connections. all of them will be soon outdated since qualcomm introduced aptx lossless - which will be a pure game changer in the bluetooth / wired marked anyway.
This one is aptx lossless compatible
 

srkbear

100+ Head-Fier
Finally iFi releases a premium tier option with full features and tone controls, to satisfy both audiophile purists and those who listen to genres that benefit from some bass boost and excitement! Mine’s on order. 🙏
 

amorrish

New Head-Fier
Much more power, and many more features.
And better audio in tHenry as this is an X series I.e. their midfi device, still wondering how well it will handle low impedence down to 8 or 16 ohm full size planars though, will it have enough current
 

pk4425

100+ Head-Fier
And better audio in tHenry as this is an X series I.e. their midfi device, still wondering how well it will handle low impedence down to 8 or 16 ohm full size planars though, will it have enough current
Good question. The question of adequate power from my hip-dac steered me away from buying a pair of Dan Clark Audio planars this week, since they are notoriously hard to drive. But to be fair, my hip-dac drives my HiFiMan HE-400se with ease.
 

amorrish

New Head-Fier
Good question. The question of adequate power from my hip-dac steered me away from buying a pair of Dan Clark Audio planars this week, since they are notoriously hard to drive. But to be fair, my hip-dac drives my HiFiMan HE-400se with ease.
Hip Dac is basically the Zen Dac that and the Zeb Can are better at high impedence and not so good at low impedence current hungry planar drivers. I’d like to try for myself though as I have never got a straight answer out of ifi. I would hope an X series would be ok, when I asked ifi the same question they just replied it can drive most headphones and has iematch.
 
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