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.
HansBarbarossa
HansBarbarossa
Nice review mate!
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Ichos
Ichos
Thank you Alexey!

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.

ufospls2

Headphoneus Supremus
iFi xDSD Gryphon
Pros: Vast functionality
Sound
Cons: Not much really, in the context of a complete portable.
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Hey Guys,

Today we are talking about a new piece of gear from iFi Audio. Its no secret I enjoy iFi’s gear, but the XDSD line (original XDSD and XCAN) are two pieces I have never heard. The “X” series is iFi’s more portable line of source equipment and amps, vs the regular iDSD series (which I have heard and reviewed in the past.) The original XDSD was an all in one portable DAC/Amp combo, and the XCAN was primarily an amp for use with the XDSD, but it also had DAC/Amp capabilities, but only via bluetooth. The XDSD, whilst being slightly larger than the original XDSD line, aims to combine the two previous products, whilst also adding a few features and increasing the sound quality. Whilst the $600USD retail price of the new XDSD Gryphon is not insignificant, I think it is reasonable given the feature set, and sound quality.

The first thing we have to talk about are the capabilities of the Gryphon. I will do my best not to forget anything, as it is extensive. First off, inputs. The Gryphon can take USB-C, either separated into power and data inputs, or used combined on one input. It can also take SPDIF via a 3.5mm mini connector, and I think this also takes a mini optical input as a dual use input. The third digital input is the bluetooth input, which is capable of taking all current popular codecs. Lastly, there are both 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm single ended analog inputs to use the XDSD as an amp only.

Secondly are the outputs. On the front of the device there are 3.5mm “S-Balanced” and 4.4mm balanced outputs. The 3.5mm and 4.4mm inputs on the rear of the device are also dual use, to be used as line outputs as a DAC into whichever amp you please.

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On the right hand side of the front of the Gryphon are the bluetooth/input selector, and the “Xspace” and “XBASS” selectors. This button can also be used to access the main menu of the device for setting your preference of filter etc…There are three settings for the Xspace and XBass features, either on, or both on. On the rear of the device, you can also choose if you want to bass setting to only boost bass, the 3000Khz “presence” region, or both. On the bottom of the unit is iFi’s “IEMatch” option, for easy to drive IEM’s, reducing hiss.

The feature set is the most extensive I have seen or tried on any piece of portable gear thus far. The fact the Gryphon manages this, whilst also providing a solid max power output, and decent battery life, whilst also not being huge, is honestly pretty remarkable. Now, all of that doesn’t matter if the Gryphon doesn’t sound good. Thankfully, it does.

In terms of overall tonal balance and “sound” I would say the Gryphon tends to be more similar to the iDSD Diablo flagship portable from iFi vs perhaps the iDSD Black label, or the original silver Micro series gear from iFi. This means the tonal balance is a bit less warm and smooth, and more focused on detail and a neutral sonic performance. I have no problems with this, and although years ago I tended to prefer warmer gear, I have slowly moved towards preferring more neutral gear. Sonic preferences, like most things, can change with time.

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Now, as a pure DAC, using either the 3.5mm or 4.4mm output, the Gryphon performed in a solid manner. I don’t think it was as good as the iDSD Diablo, trailing slightly in terms of technical performance and resolution, but it was also a step up from the ZenDAC I reviewed about a year ago. In terms of using the Gryphon single ended or balanced, if you can, I would go balanced. The Gryphon does seem to perform better from its balanced outputs, either the headphone amp section or the DAC section. I never found the Gryphon bright or sharp sounding, which is something I notice fairly quickly usually if it is present. The overall detail levels, both micro and macro, whilst not groundbreaking, are totally in line with the price point.

Used as an all in one DAC/Amp is where the Gryphon shines in my opinion. It has a fairly healthy Max output of 1W at 32 ohms from the 4.4mm output, and can drive easy to medium difficulty headphones well. For hard to drive headphones I would recommend iFi’s iDSD Signature, and iDSD Diablo, as they will drive them in a much more convincing manner. Again, overall tonal balance is fairly neutral but I do think the amp section is perhaps adding a tiny bit warmth and overall fullness vs the DAC only section. I could be wrong in that thought, but that was what I felt I was hearing a few times. The Xspace setting is similar to the 3D crossfeed on other iFi pieces of gear, and I feel it works great on some tracks, less so on others. It will be entirely personal preference, so experiment with it and see what you personally enjoy. A word of caution, it can increase the upper mids and highs somewhat, so will make things a bit brighter. The Xbass setting is a tasteful boost, and if I wasn’t using software EQ on my computer would use it with a lot of headphones. I like a robust low end however, so again, try it out and see how you feel about it personally. Again, overall detail levels, both micro and macro are entirely in line with the asking price for the Gryphon, but nothing groundbreaking. The amp seemed to do soundstaging quite well and portrayed a nice sense of depth and width. Dynamic swings were handled in a convincing and capable manner. I do think with something like the Susvara it was running out of juice and didn’t have a convincing low end performance, but one can hardly expect the Gryphon to do so, that’s not what it is designed and built to do.

I never ended up using the Gryphon as an AMP only, as I didn’t feel I had a DAC that would be worth trying out in that capacity.

For input choice I usually ended up using the USB C input combined into one input for Data and charging. This made things a lot simpler and easy for connecting my laptop. If you are a purist, I could certainly understanding using the separate inputs, or the SPDIF input if your source has a SPIDIF output. I also used the bluetooth input extensively from my phone and laptop. Both performed well using APTXHD, and AAC. I do think the overall sound quality is still better wired, but the bluetooth was entirely usable and I would recommend it if you need less clutter and cables. Battery life was always a solid 6 hours or more, depending on what you were doing. If you are driving hard to drive headphones loudly, it will be shorter. DAC only mode will likely get about 8 hours, perhaps slightly less.

In terms of direct comparison as a DAC/Amp, I had a Fiio Q3mk2 on hand, which is much more comparable to the iFi Hip DAC V2. However, I figured it would provide a useful A/B test so gave it a go. The Fiio was a bit sharper in the highs, and sounded sort of claustrophobic in comparison. The Gryphon was an overall much more enjoyable listen in terms of tonal balance (less bright) and also had much more accomplished sound staging abilities in particular. The Fiio sounded sort of flat and lacking depth, and the Gryphon definitely improved on those areas. With that being said, it is still a $600USD piece of gear, so won’t compete with more expensive desktop gear, but that’s not what it is built to do.

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The screen and menu are easy to navigate
In terms of negatives, I think the release of the Gryphon may have been rushed slightly. I didn’t personally have any firmware problems, but in following the discussions on forums, some people were having issues like the volume jumping to the maximum setting if the sample rate of the file changed, blowing their ears off. Not good. There were also some other little problems people were having with the firmware, but thankfully most seem to have been rectified with subsequent updates which are easy to install. If you end up purchasing a Gryphon I would recommend just checking out your firmware quickly and making sure you have the most recently upgraded option. It will make for a smoother experience hopefully.

xdsd-g-header-1.jpg
The front also displays the sample rate of the current sing, via colour.
Overall the Gryphon seems like the logical evolution of the “X” Series from iFi. It takes two pieces of gear, makes them sound better, puts them both in one chassis, and even adds some functionality, whilst not massively increasing the units size. If you don’t need the power and features of the iDSD Diablo/Signature, the Gryphon is iFi’s most complete and comprehensive portable unit yet. It’s like a Hip DAC V2 on steroids mixed with the iDSD Diablo. If you need a portable unit, the Gryphon might be the best option on the market currently, as long as it has enough power for your needs. If you are driving a wide variety IEMs and headphones, or just want a real Swiss Army knife of a source, the Gryphon might be worth a look!
iFi audio
iFi audio
Marvelous, than you very much :)
J
Jimmyblues1959
Thanks for the informative review! 😀

SenyorC

100+ Head-Fier
In a league of its own
Pros: Build, aesthetics, functionality, SQ and plenty more.
Cons: More than cons, there are "wishes" that I would add but not really complaints.
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The xDSD Gryphon was very kindly sent to me by iFi Audio for me to try and to post this review. They did not request anything specific, not even the inclusion of links, however, as always in these cases, I will leave the link to the official iFi Audio page below.

I need to add a bit of a spoiler alert as I have already reached out to iFi Audio in order to pay for the Gryphon. This is actually the first time that I have done this. I have had items loaned to me for review that I have purchased at a later date but I have never actually decided to keep the device before I even got to the point of reviewing it.

Anyhow, the official page for the Gryphon can be found here: https://ifi-audio.com/products/xdsd-gryphon/

Intro…

Just as a word of warning, all of my iFi reviews usually turn into long ones, in this case, the Gryphon has so many things going on that it will probably become even longer than usual and even then I may miss something, so forgive me if that is the case.

Before diving into the Gryphon, I want to jump back a year, to March 2021, when I reviewed the iDSD Diablo, a device that changed my opinion of what portable devices can do. Since then, I have been on a search for a device that was close to the Diablo in sound quality but with less power and a few extra options that I found missing on the Diablo for its price point. To be fair, the Diablo is more about hardcore power and SQ, it’s not really something that is built to multifunctional, it is something that is built to run almost any set of headphones you can throw at it while not being tied to a power socket.

In this time I have come across a few devices that I liked, although none of them have been perfect. My favourites (coincidentally the ones that I have actually kept) have been the Aune BU2 and the iFi Go Blu. Both of these devices are very good at what they do but aren’t devices that cover all of my needs. They serve specific functions (which they are very good at) but are not quite versatile enough to be my only portable device.

Basically I want a device that can become my reference setup for testing and reviewing, enabling me to have the same setup at home, in the office and in a hotel room while travelling. Being totally honest, I don’t need the power that the Diablo offers when outside of my home my difficult to drive stuff stays at home, at the side of my full size rig. So, I needed something that would run most headphones, except for very hard to drive models, and IEMs.

This is where the Gryphon comes in. A device that covers all of my needs and then some.

The Gryphon is not perfect, there is always room for improvement, but it is a lot closer to perfection than I thought I would be able to obtain from device of this size.

So, let’s see what makes the Gryphon special and, more importantly, worth its 600€ price tag.

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Presentation…

The packaging is the usual iFi Audio standard. Packaging that is simple but elegant and well thought out.

Inside a white box that shows an image of the Gryphon on the cover, along with specs and other details around the outside, we find the Gryphon, a bag to protect it, 3 cables (USB-A to USB-C, USB-C to USB-C and Lightning to USB-C), the usual iFi warranty card and an instruction booklet.

Everything that is needed is included (even for the Apple users) so I will keep this section short and just say that, as always, the iFi presentation is more than adequate.

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Build and aesthetics…

Both the build quality and the aesthetics of the device are great, in my opinion of course. The unit is made of metal with a small portion at the back being made of plastic (something that is usual on a device that has BT connectivity, as BT has issues transmitting/receiving through metal).

There are smooth ridges along the top and bottom of the unit which make it a bit more aesthetically pleasing than if it was just smooth, along with a gunmetal grey style finish and a screen on the top of the unit, make the Gryphon look rather good, again, in my opinion. I like the fact that iFi are one of those companies that always try to be a little different, you might love or hate the result, but they are never run of the mill and bland.

As far as connections, there are plenty, along with plenty of dials and buttons for those of us who like to play around with settings etc.

On the front of the unit, from left to right, we get a 3.5mm unbalanced headphone output, a 4.4mm balanced headphone output, two small LEDs that show kHz and input status, a volume wheel with a coloured led and led ring (more on that in a moment) that is also a push button, two more LEDs that show status of Xbass and XSpace, a push button that controls XBass and XSpace, along with access to the menu, and finally one more push button that selects input.

Both sides of the unit are curved and free of controls, while the bottom has a switch that controls IEMatch and 4 rubber feet and the top sports an oled screen that illuminates behind a mirror finished panel.

Finally, on the back (again from left to right) we get a toggle switch that allows us to choose the effect of the XBass (more on that in functionality), a USB-C charging port with status LED, a USB-C data port (which can also be used for charging), a an optical and coaxial input, a 4.4mm balanced input/output and a 3.5mm unbalanced input/output port.

As you can see, there is no shortage of connections and controls on the Gryphon. Now lets get into what can actually be done with all these connections and buttons/switches.

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Power and specs…

Before getting to the functionality, just a quick mention of the specs. According to iFi, the Gryphon is capable of putting out 1000mW at 32 Ohms, with a max of 6.7v. Now, after looking at something like the Diablo with 3500mW, this may not seem a lot. I can assure you that it is enough to drive the vast majority of headphones unless we are talking about very hungry headphones.

They also state that it uses a hybrid Burr-Brown DAC chipset which is the same as the one used in their Pro iDSD Signature (that comes in at over 3000€).

The gryphon can decode PCM up to 768kHz, DSD512, DXD768 and is also an MQA decoder. I think that should cover almost any file format you may be using especially while on the go.

It also sports Bluetooth connectivity with support for SBC, AAC, aptX, LHDC, LDAC, aptX HD and aptX Adaptive. Again, this should cover everyone's Bluetooth needs (unless you need a mic of course, one of the few things that the Gryphon doesn’t have).

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Functionality…

There is so much going on with the Gryphon that I am not sure I can cover everything, at least not in detail, but I will try to cover everything at least in basic form.

Let me say that I did use the Gryphon “as it came” for a couple of days before updating to the latest firmware, however, as I strongly suggest that anyone who gets the device does the update as soon as they open it, my usage is based on the latest firmware at the time of publishing this review (v1.43).

So, starting with the basics, to turn on or off the device, press the volume dial for a couple of seconds. Depending on whether you have activated the hidden function or not, you get an animation of a Gryphon flying across the screen.

The same push of the volume knob once the device is on, serves to control playback. A single press is play or pause, a double press is next track and three presses is previous track. This works not only via Bluetooth but also via USB, at least on windows. Obviously this is not going to work when using optical/coax or analog line in.

The button just to the right of the volume, as said, is to turn on XBass, XSpace or both, with each press making the next step in the cycle. While the XSpace is the usual iFi function of adding perceived space to the sound, on the Gryphon, the XBass can actually be set to do different things. This is done by means of the three way toggle switch on the back of the unit. By setting the switch to bass, the XBass is just a bass boost. If set to presence, XBass becomes a boost of the higher mids, and when set to bass+presence, it boosts both bass and the upper mids. This gives the Gryphon more sound options than are usually found on iFi units. These EQ changes are done in the analog realm, as always with iFi, and also affect the analog outputs on the back of the unit, so can be used with speakers or other amplifiers etc.

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The same button also gives us access to the menu by means of a long press. This brings up the menu on the screen and allows us to set certain parameters of the device. The options are as follows.

Digital Filter: This changes the filter used in the DAC portion of the device, allowing a selection of Standard, Bit Perfect or GTO. There is also a fourth filter option, Minimum Phase, that can be unlocked by a combination of buttons. I am not sure why iFi chose to hide it (it was available on older firmware versions), but they did.

Screen brightness: This obviously controls the brightness of the screen and can be set to High, Low or Auto, with Auto turning the screen off automatically after a few seconds.

Volume Limiter: This allows us to set a maximum volume level that the Gryphon will not go past. When the unit was first released (on older firmware) there was an issue with volume jumping to high levels by accident, this function stops this from happening accidently. It can be set to Off, 95%, 80% or 60% of maximum volume.

Volume Sync: The Gryphon can sync with the volume of the device it is connected to. However, there was an issue where the volume could be accidently changed in Windows (for example) sending the device to Max suddenly. This option can be set to Off, so that it is no longer sync’d with the source volume.

Volume Soft Ramp: To be honest, I am not sure what this does as I haven’t used it but my understanding is that it makes the intro to playing smoother, with a sort of fade in (I could be wrong, please let me know if I am!).

BT Voice Prompt: This can turn on or off the voice notifications when connecting to Bluetooth.

USB Dual Port Charge: This lets you decide if you want both ports on the back to serve as charging ports for the device or not. In other words, you can turn this off when connected to a phone and it will avoid the battery discharge of your phone.

Factory Reset: I’m sure I don’t need to explain this one.

All of those functions are available in the on screen menu, however, there is one more function that is accessed by the toggle switch underneath the device, the IEMatch. This is something that iFi sell separately and is to change the impedance of the output of a device so that extra sensitive IEMs can be used without and background hiss (something that I mentioned on the Go Blu).

The IEMatch can be set to 4.4 or 3.5, with each of them being designed for the 3.5mm or 4.4mm output. However, the 4.4 also affects the 3.5 and vice versa. This means that there are 2 extra settings that may come in handy for some.

But those are not all of the tricks that the Gryphon can perform. It can also be used as a DAC only device or even as an amplifier only device.

Apart from the digital inputs on the back of the unit, with a selection of USB, Coax or Optical (by means of an adapter for the last two), there are also 2 input/output ports, one balanced and one unbalanced.

These ports, when the device is being fed from a digital source, are automatically outputs, allowing the Gryphon to be used as a DAC to feed another amplifier or powered monitors, be these balanced or unbalanced.

However, these can also be used as balanced or unbalanced inputs, allowing the device to become an analog only amplifier, being fed from another DAC, or even another analog source such as a turntable (as long as the turntable has a built in preamp or you connect one to it).

When used as a DAC only or Amp only, the XBass and XSpace still work as they are in the analog path before the outputs, so you still maintain all the functionality.

I think I have covered everything but I have probably missed something, as there is just so much functionality packed into this device.

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Sound…

So, the million dollar question, how does it sound? Well, that depends.

I could just say that it sounds great, because it does.

However, as I believe I have said many times before, the differences between the sound of various good DACs, or various good amplifiers, is minimal. Yes, there are some differences, and some things just seem to “vibe” better with certain things (the so called “synergy”) but to be totally honest, they are not night and day differences, although some of us like to think so.

Yes, I found things like the S9 Pro to be overly sharp in the treble, yet I don’t hate the THX789, an amplifier that is “sterile” or “sharp” depending on who you talk to. This, in my opinion, is a combination of multiple things. There are minimal differences between (good) equipment, there are also differences in how we interpret sound, we have personal preferences and biases that make us hear things that may or may not be real. But again, all we need is for our brain to like the sound, who cares whether it is due to the different brand of capacitor, the pixie dust cable or simply a figment of our imagination, as long as we like the result, it sounds good.

And again, the Gryphon sounds great to me.

But honestly, there are so many things that can be tweaked on the Gryphon, such as filter settings, XBass, Presence, XSpace, IEMatch, balanced or unbalanced outputs, that the only thing that it can’t change is personal bias. If we don’t want to like the sound of the Gryphon, be it consciously or not, then we are not going to like it, no matter how many things we tweak.

However, for those that are open to loving it, I think that there are enough tweaks to suit anyone's needs and preferences.

As far as how I like it? Well, I already said that it sounds great to me and I also said that I have reached out to iFi to pay for it and keep it, I don’t think I need to say anymore than that.

I have tried it with almost everything I have on hand, well, maybe not everything as I have far too many IEMs to test them all, but I have tried at least 10 different sets of IEMs and most of my headphones. I haven’t found an issue with any of them.

I do find that, as with the Go Blu, that I prefer the single ended output for IEMs. There seems to be just a touch more warmth (all else equal) on the SE output, but this could just be me imagining. The SE output also allows me to use most of my IEMs without engaging IEMatch to account for any background hiss. I don’t have anything against IEMatch, I think it is a great idea and I applaud iFi for including it in the Gryphon (something that I thought the Diablo should have either included or at least shipped with), but it can result in a slight change in the lower frequencies on low impedance IEMs.

As far as headphones, I think I could live with just the Gryphon and the Arya v3. It drives them beautifully and even sounds good with them out of the SE. I do think that the balanced output suits the Arya more, especially the v2, but even out of the SE, the combination sounds better than many balanced options I have heard.

I also spent some time with the HD6XX, the headphone that I can love or hate depending on the time of day, and I must say that it was a very pleasant experience. The same goes for, well, anything I have plugged into it. I haven’t come across a situation where I thought “eww, this doesn’t sound good together”.

Is it the best sound I have ever heard out of a headphone, well no, but it is good enough for me to have been happy with it. There is a nice touch to the sound that reminds me a lot of the Asgard 3, somehow very detailed but not overpowering. Yet, switching over to balanced, bitperfect filter and with IEMatch off, I struggle to notice any difference between the cleanliness and detail of the THX789 and the Gryphon.

Using it as a DAC only, it sounds glorious feeding the Asgard or the P20. I must say that I really like the DAC stage paired with other things.

When using it as an Amp only, fed from the Modi 3+ (or the SU-8), it is clean and articulate, easily replacing the Atom in my usual test chain.

What else can I say without repeating myself? I just find it sounds great.

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Conclusion…

I guess that by this point you know I am not going to say that I hate it 😀

Is it perfect? No.

Is anything I own perfect? No.

Is there anything that can beat it at the same price tag? Not as far as I know.

I am not just referring to things that I have heard, I am actually referring to things that I know exist, and I really can’t think of anything that offers what the Gryphon does, especially at this price point.

There are desktop options that can compete but they are obviously not portable. There are portable units that may be able to compete as far as sound (for example, I like the neutral “no frills” sound of the BU-2), but they severely lack in options in comparison. There are DAPs that may have the same functionality with the added benefit of onboard playback, but I am not sure that DAPs in the 600€ price bracket are “better” in sound terms than the Gryphon. They may be of similar characteristics as far as sound or even power, but they can’t be used as Amp only, nor have multiple digital inputs, nor can they feed multiple outputs at the same time. If any of them come close to this, I can assure you they are not 600€.

If all you want is sound quality, then I am fairly certain that you can find something that competes for the price, especially if you are going the desktop route, but if you want all the functionality of the Gryphon, in a portable format, then I don’t think there is anything out there.

As I said, it is not perfect. I would like a way of bypassing the battery for example, as I would use this a lot with my laptop, so it would be great to avoid the stress on the battery. But then we get into the “clean battery power” discussion, which works in favour of the Gryphon.

I would have loved an onboard mic also, like on the Go Blu, as it would be great to be able to take conference calls on my laptop or phone without swapping devices/headphones.

I could probably find more things that I would “like”, which would probably turn the Gryphon into the car designed by Homer Simpson, but it is really so close to perfect, I really can’t complain.

My plan is that the Gryphon will now become my reference source for review also. Until now, even though I listen on multiple setups, I always did my final “detailed” listening via the JDS Labs Atom (unless otherwise noted in a review due to power requirements etc). The Gryphon will replace the Modi 3+ & Atom setup, giving me a solution that offers me the same sound, no matter where I am.

And I guess I should leave it there. I am sure that this review reads more like an ad than a review but it really is nice to review a device (or headphone) that I really like. It makes my time spent with the unit a lot more enjoyable and, in the case of this device, as it is a DAC/Amp, I get to use any headphone or IEM that I want!

As with all of my reviews, this is also available in Spanish both on my blog (here) and on YouTube (here)
J
Jimmyblues1959
Excellent review!
Off2Geo
Off2Geo
The only thing the irks me is that you cannot power this as a desktop DAC/AMP only via the USB-C Data port... you have to use a separate power brick to power it... Correct?
GridIroN
GridIroN
@Off2Geo No, the Gryphon does not require any power bricks.

Headphones and Coffee

Previously known as Wretched Stare
Simply Incredible
Pros: Sound is extremely well done
Power is more than adequate for a portable
Loaded with features like BT connectivity, XBass ,XSpace, 8 hours of use and Build quality is above average. it looks great too.
Cons: Charging time is a little long, would have liked 6.35mm instead of the 3.5mm but really, it's hard to find much wrong.
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  • DAC specs:

    DAC specs:​

    • 32-bit Burr-Brown True Native DAC chip
    • GMT (Global Master Timing) clock reduces jitter and distortion
    • supported audio files: up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM; DSD512 (22.5 MHz); DXD768
    • offers full decoding for MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio files
    • S-Balanced headphone amplifier specs:





    • two headphone outputs:
      • one unbalanced 3.5mm stereo minijack output
      • one balanced 4.4mm output
    • iFi's dual-mono circuitry helps reduce crosstalk between the left and right audio channels
    • XBass II sound control processing lets you add more bass or "presence" (upper midrange) to your music
    • XSpace naturally expands soundstage
    • CyberSync perfectly synchronizes volume levels between source device and headphone amplifier
    • iEMatch helps reduce noise and "hiss" in high-sensitivity in-ear monitors
    • output power:
      • 4.4mm balanced: >1000mW @ 32 ohms; 74mW @ 600 ohms; 6.7V @ 600 ohms
      • 3.5mm unbalanced: >320mW @ 32 ohms; 40mW @ 300 ohms; 3.5V @ 600 ohms
    • signal-to-noise ratio:
      • balanced: 116dB
      • unbalanced: 115dB
    • THD: 0.005%
    • Bluetooth specs:





    • Qualcomm QCC5100 Bluetooth 5.1 chip
      • supported codecs: aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, HWA, AAC and SBC
    • supports over-the-air updates for adding future codecs
    • max. supported Bluetooth resolution: 24-bit/96kHz (using LDAC or LDHC)
    • Connections and controls:





    • front panel:
      • unbalanced 3.5mm and balanced 4.4mm outputs for connecting headphones
      • rotary knob/multifunction button for changing volume and making setting selections
      • settings and Bluetooth pairing mode buttons
    • rear panel:
      • unbalanced 3.5mm and balanced 4.4mm inputs for connecting external sources
      • USB-C and 3.5mm coaxial/mini optical S/PDIF digital inputs
      • XBass II switch
    • Other info:





    • bottom-mounted iEMatch switch for reducing hiss in high-sensitivity in-ear monitors
    • top OLED screen displays battery information, track resolution, source, and more
    • includes USB-C cable, Lightning-to-USB-C cable, and USB-C-to-USB-C cable
    • 2-15/16"W x 3/4"H x 4-13/16"D
    • weight: 0.48 Ibs.
    • warranty: 1 year
    • Our 60-day money-back guarantee
    • MFR # 0310003
Okay this thing has been hyped for good reason; it really is that good so ill cut through the fanfare and get to my opinion on this.

Build quality is as good as most things from ifi well thought of and implemented. accessories are okay honestly; they could have been a little better, but I have my own. Box is a box and we all seen them before inside you will find.

iFi xDSD Gryphon owner's manual

Portable DAC/headphone amp
12" USB cable (Type A USB on one end and USB-C on another end)
5" USB-C cable (USB-C plugs on both ends)
5" Apple/USB cable (Apple Lightning connector on one end and USB-C on another end)
Soft storage case
User Manual
Warranty card

Sound and performance!

It boasts a whopping output of 1000mW at 32 ohms, and up to 6.7 volts at max output. Yes, its just shy of my other favorite the Tri TK-2 but the Gryphon more than makes up for that with a ton of features including Bluetooth. I had no conative issues and it ran my most demanding Full sized great as well as my very sensitive IEMs too no problems, with ultra low noise and almost desktop like power I think most will be happy with this.
Sound: The XDSD Gryphon presents with an almost Neutral /Balanced signature, the lower frequencies have just a little warmth much less than the XDSD and iDSD I used before. The Bass is full and impactful without over emphasis , Mids are rich and lush with a very natural and detailed presentation. imaging, layering and separation are far better than I was expecting for something under the Diablo my benchmark portable. Treble is open and airy with a almost perfect extension in my opinion great details can be hear without harshness.

In conclusion:
This is at the higher end of ones budget but it can easily replace a stack so its cost effective in the long run. I think most people will be hard pressed to find another that offers so much in a portable package.


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gLer

Headphoneus Supremus
xDSD Gryphon: the new portable standard
Pros: Unmatched versatility
Outstanding design, both physical and functional
Premium build quality
Superb sound quality, both wired and wireless
Cons: Some questionable software 'features' and early firmware issues
Could use more premium accessories
Bluetooth 'bug' prevents LDAC connection on some devices
Once in a while, I come across a product in this hobby that doesn’t quite fit into the normal boxes. iFi’s xDSD Gryphon (or just Gryphon if you’ll allow me) is a good example.

Combining elements from two previous products – xCan and xDSD – and adding some interesting new tech of its own, Gryphon is a new portable DAC and headphone amp platform that combines many different technologies introduced and perfected in other iFi products into a compact, advanced, and very accomplished performer.

In doing so, it ambitiously aims to cover multiple bases for multiple use cases. Whether you want hi-res Bluetooth input (including LDAC support), hardware MQA decoding, a proven multibit DAC with native DSD and DXD support, a fully-balanced amp architecture with 4.4mm inputs and outputs, Gryphon does it all, and much more.

In fact, it tries to do so much that it risks becoming a jack-of-all-trades, but as I discovered in the past few weeks, it pulls it off the juggling act remarkably well, making it far more than the sum of its many parts.

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Spec sheet

Before we dive into the review proper, let’s take a bird’s eye view of everything Gryphon:
  • DAC: Hybrid multibit Burr Brown
  • Formats: PCM 768/DXD/DSD 512/MQA Studio Master
  • Outputs (headphone): 4.4mm balanced / 3.5mm single-ended + S-Balanced (3.5mm balanced)
  • Outputs (line): 4.4mm balanced / 3.5mm single-ended
  • Inputs (analogue): 4.4mm balanced / 3.5 single-ended
  • Inputs (digital): USB-C (up to 768kHz), SP/DIF (up to 192kHz), Hi-Res Bluetooth (up to 96kHz)
  • Bluetooth (input only): v5.1 support (SBC, AAC, AptX Adaptive, LDAC, HWC)
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours, separate USB-C charging port and dual digital input/charging port
  • Power output (single-ended): >320mW @32 Ω (headphone); 3.5V variable (line out)
  • Power output (balanced): >1W @32Ω (headphone); 6.7V variable (line out)
  • Output impedance (headphone): <1 Ω
  • THD: <0.005% (1V @ 16Ω)
A boxful of tricks

The unboxing experience is much the same as that of other recent and past iFi products, which is to say very high quality. Gryphon ships in a lidded box, complete with a colorful cardboard sleeve full of specs, features, and lots of pretty pictures. Inside, you’ll find Gryphon covered in a soft wrapper, along with a warranty card, fold-out user guide, a velvet-lined carry pouch, and three cables: two short USB-C to C and USB-C to Lightning cables for connecting to smartphones and tablets, and a longer USB-C to A cable for hooking Gryphon up to laptops and desktops.

I would have preferred a harder protective case (I have one on the way from my go-to case maker, Miter), which would have been a welcome addition for someone like me who babies gear against all manner of domestic household dangers. Also, since Gryphon is small enough to be used in a stack with a phone or DAP, I’m surprised iFi didn’t include any elastic rings to keep the stack together. Quibbles aside, the accessory list is more than sufficient, and any of the add-ons I mentioned should soon be available to buy separately anyway.

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Build and design

On seeing Gryphon for the first time, I had two reactions: it really does look just as good in person as it does in the marketing material, and it also looks and feels substantially smaller than I expected it to be for such a full-featured device.

The last iFi DAC/amp I owned was the original Micro iDSD, and that was big, bulky, and rather ugly by comparison. Gone are the industrial lines of the iDSD, replaced by a flask-like two-tone shell with a premium-feeling (and importantly, fingerprint-resistant) space grey matte finish. The case itself is about the same size and thickness as a pack of playing cards, which is to say shorter than a modern oversized smartphone but more than twice as thick. It’s also fairly stocky at 215g, which is understandable given all the tech and components it crams inside the metal shell.

Inspecting the buttons, dials and knobs reveals high-quality, precision mechanical finishes with just enough tactile give for fluid movement and haptic feedback, but without feeling too loose or wobbly (I’m aware of some reports of rattling volume dials, but my unit has no such issues). Four slim rubber feet adorn the base, cleverly keeping it stable on a tabletop and safely raised off your smartphone or DAP when using them as a source.

For all the possible permutations, not a single space, button or knob is superfluous. Make no mistake, Gryphon is a brilliant piece of industrial design, and one that can serve as a blueprint for even more potential functionality in future iterations (more on that later).

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Features and functions

It’s worth covering all the buttons and their associated features together, because of how interconnected they all are to each other.

Starting with the most visible of these, the volume dial, not so much a dial as a multi-function knob, acts as an on/off power switch, menu selector (when inside the settings menu), and most importantly as an analogue volume control. Did I mention it can also be used to mute the volume (single press) and, with the latest firmware, gives you full pause/forward/reverse track control when connected with Bluetooth?

The fit and finish of the dial is top-drawer. Turning the dial feels very satisfying and solid with perceptible click-click-click feedback in small intervals for fine (1dB) adjustments, but without ever feeling like it’s going to slip or skip multiple volume steps (unless you turn it faster). The way it’s been positioned slightly forward means you can set Gryphon flat on a desk or hold it in one hand and still turn the dial with a gentle one-finger push or pull, which is very well thought through.

While Gryphon features a variable brightness OLED screen, you can also eyeball the volume level by the colour of the LED ring around the volume dial and the LED light on the dial itself. There are six possible ranges, from mute (no light) through to -2db to +6dB (red). Visually setting the dial to magenta (-56 to -39dB) or green (-38dB to -21dB) is an easy and safe way to know you’re not going to blow your ears off when you hit play with sensitive IEMs or headphones plugged in.

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Speaking of which, I’ll be remiss not to mention the elephant in the room when it comes to the volume issues that plagued Gryphon initially. Gryphon includes a new iFi feature called CyberSync that attempts to take control of the volume function from the host device under certain circumstances, so that changes to the volume on the host or Gryphon adjust both devices simultaneously.

It’s a good idea in theory, but as it turns out, a rather confusing (and with the original firmware) potentially dangerous one. For a small number of users, connecting Gryphon to some devices (most commonly Windows PCs but also some smartphones and Macs), and then using certain host software (like Tidal) resulted in a sudden and unpredictable volume spike, setting Gryphon to full volume (6dB +Turbo). As you can imagine, having IEMs in your ears when this happens is not a pleasant experience.

The biggest problem, it seems, was not only a CyberSync bug that caused the dangerous volume jump (thankfully corrected with the latest firmware update), but also the inconsistent nature of the CyberSync adjustments on Gryphon and/or the host device. For example, I can still connect Gryphon to my Macbook Pro running Audirvana, and if my master volume is set high on the Mac, it will be sometimes be adjusted up on Gryphon or down on Audirvana. I’m sure that if I take the time to observe when it does what, I can better predict what’s going to happen, but it’s unnecessarily complicated for a feature that’s meant to simplify volume control.

Since it’s purely a software feature, I’d like to see a future firmware revision that allows me to manually disable CyberSync in the settings menu, and to therefore have the option of controlling the volume from Gryphon independently with any device. Another useful firmware function would be to set a volume limiter on Gryphon, which would at least prevent earsplitting disasters if CyberSync is left unchecked.

All that said, I have never had a single volume-related issue with my Gryphon and MacBook, DAPs or smartphones, but I’d still suggest getting into the good habit of lowering volume level before you hit play.

There are two more mechanical push buttons on the front face – a smaller selector button (furthest right) that switches between input types (more on these later), and a slightly larger button that toggles between the built-in XBass II and XSpace functions (again, more on these later), and also activates the settings menu with a longer press. Opposite the buttons, on the left-hand side of the face, are the two headphone output ports, 3.5mm S-Balanced and 4.4mm fully balanced, sized the same as the adjoining buttons to create a neatly symmetrical layout on the fascia.

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There are also two other levers on Gryphon: one on the base that lets you activate two different levels of iFi’s IEMatch technology for sensitive IEMs, and one at the back, which toggles between three different options for the XBass II feature.

Starting with IEMatch, the options are labeled 3.5mm, 4.4mm, and OFF (default), supposedly because the more powerful 4.4mm output requires higher output attenuation than the ‘weaker’ 3.5mm output, although both settings work with both outputs. Since I don’t use IEMatch I didn’t spend much time testing for quality differences between the two, but iFi have since confirmed this is the same IEMatch technology used on its standalone and well-received balanced IEMatch accessory, which makes it a great value-add for sensitive IEM users (notably any IEM from Campfire Audio).

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The additional XBass II functionality is quite different, and as far as I know, unique to Gryphon. According to iFi, with 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 something I would have missed entirely had I not checked what the back toggle was all about. It also means that XBass II is more than just about bass, because it can boost upper midrange independently of bass, a potentially useful feature for IEMs or headphones that dip the presence region but don’t need any bass correction.

Combined with XSpace, which mainly affects the treble frequencies to add more air into recordings, Gryphon now has limited but effective analogue-based EQ toggles for bass, upper-midrange and treble, either independently or together in different combinations. I can personally attest to using all three settings to add flavour to some recordings, and in different ways depending on the IEM or headphone I’m using. The fact that it’s so easy to do, and that the effects are never overdone, makes this a very powerful addition to Gryphon’s feature set.

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Even more features

Given the smorgasbord of genuinely useful features packed into Gryphon, perhaps the best feature of all is the DAC itself. When I reviewed iFi’s other new portable Bluetooth DAC/amp, GO blu, I noted the ‘missing’ hybrid multibit Burr Brown DAC that iFi uses for almost all of its products. Thankfully, the BB DAC is back with Gryphon, and with it, the very respectable hi-res decoding numbers and formats I felt were lacking on the smaller dongle, including full PCM 768, DXD 768, and native DSD 512 support.

Admittedly these ultra-hi-res formats are only available with direct USB input, but the fact that they’re available at all is the point here.

The DAC is ably supported by a plethora of hardware and software features, including a customised negative feedback amplification design that iFi calls OptimaLoop, which apparently uses different types of negative feedback circuits for optimal performance. Another amplification tech iFi calls PureWave is meant to be a type of optimised dual-mono balanced topology (previously only found in iFi’s higher-end NEO and Diablo amps) for Gryphon’s balanced inputs and outputs, which in theory reduces distortion and improves linearity.

Switching to software features, Gryphon offers a choice of three DSP ‘filters’ (in fact two filters and one unfiltered bit-perfect mode), selectable via the settings menu from the OLED screen. STD is a moderate digital filter with zero pre-ringing and modest post-ringing properties, while GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimised) is a proprietary iFi digital filter that upsamples all content to 384kHz/352kHz depending on the clock source, with only moderate pre- and post-ringing, which, from what I understand, combines the advantages of oversampled delta-sigma processing without the associated ringing artefacts.

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Whether or not you think these filters add anything useful is again entirely up to you to decide, but I have to admit hearing some added clarity and dynamics in the sound with GTO enabled, without the presentation becoming too digital.

Speaking of the OLED screen, this is yet another major feature that’s entirely new with Gryphon, and to my mind changes it from a dumb terminal-like DAC/amp (i.e., every other iFi portable product) to something entirely different, and better. Not only does the screen look really cool, it’s also dimmable, can be switched off, and offers a second, very visible and very easy way to check which settings, volume levels, Bluetooth codecs, and inputs and outputs are active at any one time.

The screen also makes it easy to visually make fine volume changes, and is a good way to double-check you’re not about to blow your eardrums with a CyberSync malfunction. iFi has also gone as far as using special low-power circuits for the screen that supposedly don’t add any interference (noise) to the sound. They’ve even given it a name, SilentLine, if you can believe that.

But aside from being a marketer’s dream device for cool-sounding feature names, Gryphon is undeniably packed full of genuine audio-optimised hardware parts from the likes of Alps, Kemet, MuRata, Panasonic, TDK and Diodes, and I believe the quality of parts reflects in the quality of sound.

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Ins and outs

Okay, this is the last stop before we get to the good stuff about sound, but to me, the star of the Gryphon show is quite simply its versatility. By that I mean all the different ways it gives you to get your music in from different devices, and the simple yet powerful ways it lets you push it out again with exceptional quality.

Starting with inputs, Gryphon supports an almost full range of digital and analogue inputs, especially for a battery-powered portable device. These include 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced analogue inputs, S/PDIF optical and USB digital inputs, and the piece de resistance as far as I’m concerned, hi-res Bluetooth digital input. There’s even a separate USB-C input port for charging the battery independently, letting you charge up while connected to any other input (though you have the option of charging while connected to the USB-C digital input as well).

For playback, Gryphon features four types of outputs: dedicated 3.5mm (single-ended or iFi’s 3-pole 3.5mm S-Balanced) and 4.4mm fully-balanced headphone outputs, and dedicated 3.5mm and 4.4mm line-outs. To save space, Gryphon’s analogue inputs cleverly double as line-outs, switching function automatically whenever you’re using a digital input (like Bluetooth or USB) at the same time.

Since most of the above is self-explanatory, I want to rather spend some time focusing on what I consider Gryphon’s biggest advantage over other similarly-priced (and even higher-priced) portable DAC/amps: Hi-Res Bluetooth. While Bluetooth input is nothing new, the level at which iFi has implemented and refined its Hi-Res Bluetooth input technology sets it apart from any other Bluetooth-equipped device I’ve heard to date. If GO blu surprised me with the quality of its Bluetooth sound – which was only marginally inferior to its wired input – Gryphon pushes Bluetooth quality even closer.

In fact, the difference in sound quality between Gryphon’s LDAC and USB inputs is so small, for anything but the most focused listening sessions, I don’t even bother to wire it up.

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There is a small sting in this tail, however. I found a bug – not in Gryphon, but rather in some source devices, like the LG V60 smartphone and a few other smartphone models – that prioritise the AptX Adaptive codec over LDAC, and therefore won’t allow Gryphon to switch into LDAC mode. While this is a very niche bug that affects a very small number of devices, the solution is seemingly a simple one – allow users to manually enable/disable the various Bluetooth codecs in Gryphon’s settings menu. By disabling AptX Adaptive in Gryphon, the buggy sources will see it as an LDAC device.

Sadly, this is not possible, yet, but I’m reliably told that the feature request has been escalated, and hope to see it made available soon. It’ll certainly return Gryphon to optimal functionality for my use case.

There’s also one more feature I’d like to see added, either to the current Gryphon – if it’s at all possible – or to a future version: Bluetooth transmission. While it might seem counterintuitive to pack Gryphon full of dedicated, high-quality audio components designed specifically for analogue output – only to bypass all of them by switching to Bluetooth – there’s a case to be made for turning Gryphon into the ultimate audio interface with this one, simple tweak. Just a thought, iFi; you can thank me later.

Sound impressions

This is the part where I tell you how amazing Gryphon sounds compared to anything else you’ve ever heard. Seriously though, I always add a disclaimer before discussing how a source device – be it a DAC, amp, or both in this case – actually sounds, because they don’t actually have a sound of their own other than how they control and affect the sound coming from your IEMs and headphones. Give two people two different IEMs and one Gryphon, and you’ll get two versions of what Gryphon ‘sounds like’.

All that aside, I can tell you how I hear Gryphon with my IEMs and headphones, how it compares to other sources I own, and what I think about the overall quality of the pairings based on my own preferences and music choices.

I mainly tested Gryphon using a pair of Sennheiser IE 900 IEMs, but I’ve also made notes on how it sounds with other IEMs and headphones, including Sony’s IER-Z1R IEM and MDR-Z1R headphone. Digital sources included HiBy’s RS6 DAP, LG V60 Thinq smartphone and MacBook Pro. I used a variety of test tracks that I’m very familiar with, including (but not limited to):
  • Lana Del Rey – Dark But Just A Game
  • BEYRIES – Alone
  • Brandi Carlile – The Story
  • Eagles – Hotel California (Live)
  • Agnes Obel – The Curse
  • Bjork – Hunter
  • Daft Punk – Contact
  • James Gillespie – What You Do
  • Jillette Johnson – Bunny
  • Jethro Tull – The Waking Edge
  • Angels of Venice – Trotto
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Tonality

I hear Gryphon to have a fairly neutral and linear tonality, with slight warmth in the lower registers, but overall a clean, balanced, and generally transparent presentation. It follows a similar tuning philosophy to GO blu, which again seems to be a departure of sorts from the company’s more pervasively warmer house sound that it still uses in the Micro iDSD series.

This is not neutral in the sense that it’s reference or worse, lifeless, but rather strikes a very healthy balance between overt cleanliness and musicality. It’s not overly analytical, though it won’t do much to change the analytical nature of IEMs that lean that way unless you make use of its sound-shaping features. Instead, I find it delivers quite a rich palette for IEMs and headphones to work with, excellent timbre throughout, and just the right amount of emphasis without oversaturating the sound.

It doesn’t make sense to break down the bass, midrange and treble response other than to say there’s no obvious boost or dip in any of these frequencies, other than a slight emphasis on note solidity and speed down low, and some added air up top. Whether or not that’s a good thing for you depends on what you’re looking for from a source, and what you’re pairing with it. Personally, I prefer linear and transparent sources that support rather than those which affect specific frequencies and run too warm or too cool.

In saying that, with XBass II (and its midrange-shaping capabilities) and XSpace, Gryphon can indeed ‘correct’ the shortcomings or enhance the qualities of IEMs or headphones that need some tweaking. More importantly, it does this in hardware, not software, so there’s no quality hit to the audio chain.

I found XBass II’s bass impact is more prominent than GO blu’s, but can be tempered down using the Bass + Presence setting. The Presence-only setting is also useful for restoring upper midrange bite to IEMs like IE 900, in cases where its dip in this region is too deep for your liking.

XSpace is less a treble bump and more a subtle spatialisation effect, still affecting mainly the treble region but less obviously so than GO blu. If you’re using IEMs or headphones with limited stage width, depth or height, it’ll give you some much-needed breathing room, but I mostly left it off since stage size is never an issue with my gear.

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Technicalities

The key to Gryphon’s technical performance is its ultra-low distortion and noise floor, allowing the technical performance of the IEMs and headphones I used to shine through. I don’t perceive any drop in detail or resolution, and if anything, resolution is slightly improved over the R2R-based HiBy RS6 (I’m splitting hairs here, but the RS6 does cost almost three times as much as Gryphon).

Essentially, you’re not making many – if any – technical compromises to resolution, imaging, dynamics or layering and separation when switching from a higher-end source to Gryphon. Some may perceive a slight drop in stage width compared to higher-power desktop amps, but this really depends on what you’re driving, and how well your IEMs/headphones scale with more power. In every torture-test I put Gryphon through, such as the collision sequence in Daft Punk’s brilliantly atmospheric ‘Contact’, it didn’t skip a beat, keeping the different elements separate but cohesive, and keeping a tight grip on the drivers, be they 7mm in IE 900 or 70mm in MDR-Z1R.

There are caveats to this otherwise sterling scorecard, of course. You will hear a slight drop in technical performance when switching to Bluetooth input, especially when using lower-bitrate codecs like AAC or (shock-horror) SBC. Even with LDAC, with its support for almost 1Mbit of bandwidth, the soundscape will flatten, and the fringes of vocal and instrument transients may not be rendered quite as crisply as they would with a bit-perfect wired connection.

Gryphon is also, ultimately, a highly portable, hand-held source, and as such it won’t give you the same headroom as even a basic AC-powered desktop stack. But again, unless you’re driving large planars or similarly insensitive headphones, you probably won’t notice the difference, especially with easily-driven IEMs.

Even if performance is not 1:1 on par with similarly-priced desktop gear, the convenience and freedom of being untethered from a desk (or phone) outweighs any performance issues. Moreover, Gryphon is less affected by cable power noise issues that can be problematic on desktop sources, and sometimes cost more than the sources themselves to mitigate, so you may in fact find its performance exceeds your desktop gear in some aspects.

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Select pairings and comparisons

Gryphon is one of three recent releases in iFi’s portable product portfolio, along with GO blu and hip-dac 2. hip-dac lacks GO blu’s Bluetooth input functionality, but compensates with added power and more robust format support with its Burr Brown DAC and higher-end audio components. Gryphon combines the best features from both devices, and ups the ante across the board: more power, better Bluetooth quality and range, higher-spec components, broader format support, more inputs and outputs, and an overall bigger, better user experience.

Compared to Go blu ($299), Gryphon refines both wired and wireless sound quality. You can step further away from your source when connected wirelessly, and take advantage of higher-res format support, and even questionable software features like CyberSync if you’re so inclined. Both devices are tuned similarly, with a clear, crisp but still engaging and musical presentation, but Gryphon adds more note weight, definition and stage size, and is able to drive bigger and less sensitive headphones. Its sound shaping features and DSP filters are also more robust.

Where GO blu wins hands-down is ultra-portability, and the simplicity of being able to connect-and-forget while on the go, and sound performance is close enough to leave Gryphon at home and take GO blu on the road, even for longer trips.

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Compared to HiBy RS6 ($1400), Gryphon takes a different approach sound-wise, being more neutral and transparent compared to RS6’s warmer, fuller and more organic tilt. RS6 does sound more natural with certain genres, especially with vocals, by virtue of its discrete R2R DAC, although Gryphon’s hybrid multibit DAC and features like the GTO digital filter get Gryphon really, really close in terms of naturalness. Gryphon also has more output power and a lower overall noise floor, even though both devices are hiss-free and more than powerful enough to drive all but the most stubborn headphones. In terms of absolute SQ, Gryphon matches RS6 blow-for-blow and is even slightly more advanced technically, with a wider stage and better clarity.

I’ve actually found the two to be complementary in the time I’ve spent with them so far, often using RS6 as my wired and Bluetooth source for Gryphon, especially when I want to use Gryphon’s extra output power. Another benefit of using the two together is connecting them using a balanced cable, effectively combining RS6’s excellent R2R DAC with Gryphon’s powerful, low-distortion amp.

Since RS6 is a self-contained DAP, it has its own advantages over a DAC/amp like Gryphon, not requiring external sources for one, and being able to navigate and manage multiple music sources from the device itself. If you’re after a standalone device for music playback and want to keep your music player, phones and computers separate, then RS6 is an excellent Segway from devices like Gryphon, but if sound quality is your only measure, you won’t lose anything with Gryphon and it’ll cost you significantly less.

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I can highly recommend iFi’s brilliantly-made 4.4mm interconnect cable if you’re planning on tethering Gryphon to a balanced DAP or desktop amp – easily one of the best-looking, best-built and best-performing interconnects I’ve had the pleasure of using.

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It’s been a while since I’ve used any of iFi’s larger portable devices, and I haven’t had the pleasure of trying out the newer xDSD and hip-dac series for that matter, but I’m confident enough to say that I don’t really see a use case for myself with any of them. Gryphon’s Bluetooth support and quality, for instance, makes the thought of using a wired-only external DAC/amp or dongle unpalatable at best. We’re fast-moving towards a time when wireless source quality will match wired performance, and with Gryphon (and GO blu to a lesser extent), the differences are already too small to warrant wired sources most of the time.

What hasn’t changed is our reliance on wired IEMs and headphones for maximum sound quality. Pairing Gryphon with a good pair of IEMs is the optimal use case for me, and the synergy with both the IE 900 and IER-Z1R is exceptional. But Gryphon is just as adept at powering easy-to-drive full-size headphones, like Sony’s MDR-Z1R. Unless you need the absolute portable freedom (and advanced features) of true wireless IEMs or headphones, you’ll get maximum sound quality with only a small loss in portability using Gryphon as a Bluetooth streamer for your wired IEMs, and if you want to get even more portable, GO blu.

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Verdict and closing thoughts

When I first read about Gryphon, I didn’t quite see how it would fit for me, having switched to using IEMs exclusively, and using them exclusively with a DAP. It was GO blu that opened my eyes to the usefulness of a Bluetooth-enabled source for my wired IEMs, especially when I wanted to use my higher-end IEMs on the go. That’s when I joined the dots and fully understood Gryphon’s potential.

In one compact and still (for me) very pocketable device, iFi has evolved the concept of a portable Bluetooth streamer, bringing along all the advantages – and sound quality – of its upmarket wired DAC/amps, throwing in a few extra new and improved features in the bargain. For much less than the cost of a high-end DAP, you can now buy equivalent sound quality, better versatility, and enough power to drive not only IEMs but also full-size headphones, and still be able to move about freely with your music.

From the very first time I used it, Gryphon started changing the way I engaged with my music. For one thing, I credit Gryphon with encouraging me to re-look at getting a full-size headphone as an alternative to my IEMs. Then, using a smartphone with more ‘smarts’ and speed than any DAP, meant I didn’t have to skip a beat between the music player interfaces I’m already familiar with (specifically UAPP on Android).

With its outstanding Bluetooth input quality, I also wasn’t constrained by having to wire up the phone, and in fact, could even use the DAP as a source if I needed the phone for other tasks. And, when I wanted to max out sound quality, Gryphon includes everything I need to wire up my sources in the box.

iFi may have been a bit ambitious in claiming Gryphon as the ‘birth of a head-fi legend’, but I will say it’s easily the best portable device I’ve used in all my time as a portable audio enthusiast. That includes the flagship Lotoo and HiBy DAPs I’ve used in the past (and still use today), both in terms of sound quality but, just as importantly, flexibility, functionality and versatility. It liberates you from worrying about how to get your music in or out, which sources you can connect to, or which IEMs, headphones, or even speakers you want to use, without having to worry that sound quality and driving power will be compromised.

Sure, it had some teething issues, CyberSync being the most obvious and one that I suspect will still take some time to fully resolve. It has some missing parts – a case would be nice, and some stack loops too while we’re at it – and if someone at tech central could please fix the annoying AptX Adaptive ‘bug’ for me that would be much appreciated!

But these are hair-splitting gripes. Gryphon is just about the complete package, and I believe it’s only going to get better as iFi fine-tunes existing (and potentially new) features in firmware. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess, but knowing iFi, there’s an upgrade path in development, if not already in production. As a version 1.0, Gryphon sets the standard for what’s possible in portable audio today, and I keenly await to see how the platform evolves in the future.

If, like me, you prioritise portability as much as you do absolute sound quality, and don’t want or need the extra headroom (and potential benefits) of full-size desktop gear, then Gryphon is an unequivocal must-buy. Highly recommended.

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dsrk
dsrk
J
Jimmyblues1959
Excellent review! This is one of the nicest looking portables on the market.
J
Jimmyblues1959
And if it sounds half as good as it looks, iFi will have another winner on its hands! 😀

Voxata

Headphoneus Supremus
xDSD Gryphon Review
Pros: Sonic performance & staging, excellent tonality, aesthetically pleasing, BT performance, musicality
Cons: Cybersync (Volume Sync with device), noise floor with ultra-sensitive iems & IEmatch increases output impedance, battery saver doesn't work and no setting to enable it. Sub bass rolloff/freq compression.
Earlier in the Gryphon thread I had posted some early impressions and comparisons of the xDSD Gryphon compared to some other units. While those impressions still stand after a good number of weeks I've become more familiar with the device and would be happy to share my full review. The xDSD Gryphon to me strikes a fantastic balance between neutrality and musicality. The device is linear with a wide sound stage yet doesn't let the analytical nature of modern devices take over. Going forward let's cover my thoughts on the features and sound quality of the device.

As a disclaimer my xDSD Gryphon was purchased personally and was not part of a demo/review program.

Features:

The xDSD reminds me of the iDSD BL series in terms of system compatibility - even more so with what they've crammed into this device. 4.4mm is the new standard for mobile friendly balanced (and for good reason) and is the perfect choice for the Gryphon. With it you get the full power for your harder to drive headphones. On the back you've got 3.5&4.4 connections that can either be used as output from the internal DAC or inputs to use the Gryphon as a dedicated headphone amp. XBass&XSpace are rather enjoyable implementations that do not overpower the sound like some previous devices did when enabled. With my stable I did not prefer using these but I can definitely see it's use for certain headphones or perhaps listener preferences.

Easy swapping between USB, SPDIF, BT and Line In are possible with the front buttons, as is accessing the menu and navigating it. It's incredibly easy to get the Gryphon running and the speed of swapping between each of these is blisteringly fast. It's so nice being able to get the Gryphon going in just about any scenario I want with excellent results. Bluetooth performance is exceptional as well with only a minor degradation in sound quality, you'll really have to focus to detect the difference between wired and wireless.

The Volume knob changes colors based on power output easily letting you know where you're at and the tactile feel of it is incredibly pleasing. The buttons are easy to use and the screen brightness can be adjusted. Fit and finish is exemplary and it shows that Ifi took their time on the hardware side of designing the Gryphon. Jacks are all solid and there is little concern for durability with the Gryphon. The screen is bright and clear, and doesn't appear to induce noise which is fantastic. I do wish they'd used glass instead of acrylic as a cover for the screen but, this is a minor nitpick.

**EDIT** The Gryphon has a built in battery saver, this is always enabled. Great job Ifi!
Missing however is an ability for eco battery when used as a desktop DAC/Amp. Ifi states to turn on the device then plug it in so that the unit doesn't charge all the way, though in practice I've not had much luck and you'd have to unplug and turn it off every time you are finished using it, then turn on and plug in when you are ready to go again. There is an option in settings however to have one cable both charge and supply data - which is an excellent toggle addition if you've got clean USB. If the battery charge control would be implemented as a menu option in settings the Gryphon would be a completely desktop friendly device in my opinion.

Cybersync is a feature better in marketing and not so much in practice. This allows the volume of the Gryphon to be controlled by the device it's connected to. Ever accidentally maxed out your OS or phone volume with too long of a button press? Imagine that combined with 1W of power and a set of IEMs. Before a firmware update was provided by Ifi myself and others had experienced volume spikes between tracks in certain players and in other scenarios with the Gryphon. When dealing with 1W of power and a device marketed as IEM friendly this is a big problem.

Firmware has thankfully corrected most of these volume issues, but knowing I could accidentally adjust the volume on my android device while it is in my pocket is a constant worry. What if my phones volume button were to be held down while exercising or moving about blowing my ears out or damaging my IEMs? This concern has made the Gryphon unusable while on-the go and forced it to the desk or sitting positions where I know I've got full control of the environment. A firmware option to remove this 'feature' would be very welcomed.

IEmatch is another feature issue of the Gryphon, though mostly for users of ultra-sensitive IEMs. Unfortunately as a CA Solaris owner I was impacted here. The Gryphon is very powerful, and thus the noise floor presents itself with ultra-sensitive IEMs. The 4.4mm IEmatch setting squashed dynamics and changed the FR of my CA Solaris IEM. Without IEmatch the Gryphon hissed quite loud. 3.5mm is serviceable, though not ideal. The output impedance changes up to almost 10Ohm with IEmatch enabled which is important to keep in mind. With other IEMs I did not have an issue and the Gryphon performed incredibly well.


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Sound:

The Gryphon's signature is more neutral leaning with a hint of warmth. It's decently fast yet not sibilant. I think it's a rather nice balance however I will start with the obvious "Birth of a Head-Fi legend" as being a bit of a marketing overstatement. It's not nearly as fast and detailed as my dedicated desktop devices, though it is important to note the price of the Gryphon is a fraction of what my desktop rig costs.

What does push it towards legendary though is that I prefer it's presentation, sound quality and overall experience to the iDSD BL. For a do-it-all device this puts the Gryphon into being a benchmark for this segment. The soundstage is well represented with fantastic positioning. Instruments are defined and the three blob soundstage of the iDSD BL series is gone. This is replaced by correct placement and significantly more precise imaging. A very slight bit of warmth really helps the package come together. Mids are fluid and come across neutral yet are forgiving. Highs are extended and airy with great sparkle. Bass is engaging and tactile, despite not being the end all in bass resolution I've not heard a device this size present such a fantastic grip on the lower registers. It however does not dig deep into the sub area, pushing focus towards lower mid bass. This is still an incredible accomplishment for Ifi.

As a DAC the Gryphon performs admirably well. Feeding a signal into my Freya S was made easy with a 4.4 to XLR L/R cable. The experience was more than acceptable and I was toe-tapping in no time. The Gryphon is so incredibly close to a do-it-all device leader in it's price segment. As an amp I felt the Gryphon did quite well. I feel that the amp of the Gryphon has it's own sound characteristic - and it's a rather pleasing sound at that. Given the internal DAC performance though I don't see myself using the Gryphon as a dedicated amp. The Gryphon shines as a combo plenty bright.

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Conclusion:

The Gryphon on a hardware level is a fantastic device. Nothing on the market currently is pushing such a diverse featureset like Ifi and the Gryphon's sonic performance carries it to the skies. Unfortunately software and marketing choices have kept Gryphon from being above the clouds. Ifi can easily correct these issues through updates, aside from the IEMatch/Noise floor - this is a hardware level problem impacting Campfire IEM owners but let's be honest, MOST devices have problems with CA IEMs so this really is a nitpick of compatibility. If Ifi was to offer a Cybersync free firmware and proper battery saving this review would easily be rated higher and I'd be free to use this device on the go, in the chair and at my desk without any issues or concern. If this occurs I shall update my review - thanks for reading!
Last edited:
Voxata
Voxata
It does not. 3.5 is serviceable, 4.4 is completely crushed. This is with 4.4 output - 3.5 setting still impacts 4.4.. it's... weird. I'll need to test 3.5mm output on its own. It is likely much quieter.
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merkster
Hey @Voxata, can you do a quick comparison with your WM1A pictured?
Voxata
Voxata
It was in my prior comparison. I prefer the soft modded WM1A for it's unique flavor.

McCol

Headphoneus Supremus
Ifi-Audio produce another great bluetooth DAC/AMP
Pros: Sound Quality
Build Quality
Functions
Ease of use
Design
Cons: Minor niggles (although improved with updates)
Disclaimer - I was sent this by Ifi-Audio for my honest opinion, it is not a free sample. I will either send back or purchase after review period.


Background

The Gryphon is IFI-Audio's newest addition to their portable range of DAC/AMPS that can be used either with Bluetooth or wired to a source. My usage has been exclusively with my Samsung S21 Ultra smartphone (UK model). I haven't tested with either of my laptops as I already have options I use with them one being the excellent IFI Senn Signature AMP/DAC duo.

I recently reviewed the GO Blu from IFI and really love the little device, works flawlessly from my phone and drives my IEM's with ease. Liked it so much I bought and found myself using my DX300 DAP less and less, not because the Go Blu was better but just so easy to use and cracking sound quality for the price. I had high expectations for the Gryphon.

Like many others on Head-fi I seem to search for what I consider to be the ideal solution for a source. I always like the idea of a DAP but they inevitably end up disappointing me due to the majority having a reliance on Android, although this always seems appealing I find myself being disappointed due to them not being able to compete with my mobile phone in regards to ease of use and speed of the operating system, I also find that I have issues with the apps that I use for streaming. This always brings me back to the idea of using a DAC/AMP solution with my handset. Over the years I've tried various different options both wired and bluetooth but always find them lacking in some respect, either due to interference issues, sound quality, poor build or various other reasons.

For the last few months alongside the go Blu I had been using a DX300 which I loved the sound quality from but again found issues with Android and software/apps.

The Gryphon

Comes nicely packaged with a little felt like carry case and a usb-c to c cable for connecting to smartphones (Android), and a USB-C to USB-A cable is also included.

The Gryphon itself is a lovely looking unit and very tactile with its ridged body, has a narrow OLED screen that runs the length of unit, this shows sample rate, volume and battery level etc. Buttons and connections are well laid out, 3.5mm SE and 4.4mm balanced on the front of the unit and two usb-c connections on the back, one for charging and the other for connecting to source. There is a S/PDIF connection as well as 4.4mm and 3.5mm analogue connections.
I only used the USB-C connection and Bluetooth so can't comment on the other connections.

Here is a list of the Specification taken from IFI-Audio's product page at https://ifi-audio.com/products/xdsd-gryphon/

InputsWireless

Wired (digital)


Wired (analogue)
Bluetooth 5.1 (aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, HWA, AAC and SBC Codec)

USB-C
S/PDIF co-axial

Balanced 4.4mm
Single-Ended 3.5mm
FormatsDSD
PCM
DXD
MQA (Decoder)

Bluetooth
DSD512/256/128/64, Octa/Quad/Double/Single-Speed
768/705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/ 96/88.2/48/44.1kHz
768/705.6/384/352.8kHz, Double/Single-Speed DXD
384/352.8kHz

Up to 96kHz
DACBurr-Brown
BatteryUSB-C charging. BC1.2 compliant up to 1900mA charging current
Dimensions123x75x19 mm
4.8"x3.0"x0.7"
Weight215 grams
0.5 Ibs
Line Section
OutputsBalanced
S-Bal (SE)
6.7V max. (variable)
3.5V max. (variable)
Output ImpedanceBalanced
S-Bal (SE)
≤200Ω
≤100Ω
Balanced
S-Bal (SE)
<110dB(A) @ 0dBFS
<110dB(A) @ 0dBFS
Balanced
S-Bal (SE)
<0.007% @ 0dBFS
<0.015% @ 0dBFS
Headphone Section
OutputsBalanced
S-Bal (SE)
4.4mm Pentaconn
3.5mm SE
Output PowerBalanced


S-Bal (SE)
>1000mW @ 32Ω
>74mW @ 600Ω
>6.7V max. @ 600Ω

>320mW @ 32Ω
>40mW @ 300Ω
>3.5V max. @ 600Ω
Output ImpedanceBalanced
S-Bal (SE)
<1Ω
<1Ω
SNRBalanced
S-Bal (SE)
<116dB(A) @ 0dBFS
<115dB(A) @ 0dBFS
THD+N<0.005% (1V @ 16Ω)


Ease of use

There really isn't much to say here, for my purpose it was easy to set up and had no issues with the process, pairing was quick and simple, found my phone with no issues, the whole time I have been using it has held a constant LDAC codec at highest audio setting.
Wired connection with the Samsung S21 Ultra was a little problematic initially due to Samsung's poor implementation of USB Audio drivers and limited sample rates (that's my basic understanding of this). This means that you often hear pops and crackles when playing some tracks from streaming services, Audioquest (similar issue with Cobalt) explained to me that it is a limitation of Android and Samsung that causes this. I've had various DAC/AMPS that have struggled with this if they don't use their own driver.
Using USB Audio Player Pro app is a good workaround, it uses it's own audio driver and can now be opened as an app then it will use it's driver while you use apps such as Apple Music or Amazon that are not supported within the app.

Sound Quality - Wired

Equipment used

Etymotic EVO
Fiio FD7
64 Audio U6T
IMR Elysium
Sennheiser 660s
Mitchell and Johnson MJ2

Some comparisons with Ibasso DX300, IFI Audio Go Blu and very briefly with Astell and Kern SP2000T

Selection of tracks used including

Mogwai - Mogwai fear satan
Mogwai - My Father My King
David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album
The Smiths - I Know It's Over
The Smiths - Well I Wonder
The Velvet Underground - Oh Sweet Nuthin
Lou Reed - Waves of Fear
The Wedding Present - various tracks
Belle and Sebastian - various tracks
Pet Shop Boys - various tracks
New Order - various tracks
Martin Rossiter - Three Points on a Compass and Drop Anchor

Most tracks were streamed in their possible quality from either Amazon HD, Tidal or played from memory on the handset.

Low/Bass response - The Gryphon does a really good job of pairing well with all of my earphones to produce accurate bass that is never overwhelming but will give a kick when the track requires, an example of this being the two Mogwai tracks, Mogwai's music to me has a constant low frequency rumble especially when listening to live versions of the tracks, the gryphon reproduces with great accuracy and depth, bass is detailed and layered with excellent sub bass response.
Bass on electronic tracks from Pet Shop Boys and New Order is snappy and again very accurate.

Mids - These are probably the stand out for me, smooth and detailed which is how I like my mids to be on any device. In a similar vein to the bass response the mids are very accurate and never feel forced or unnatural. They don't sit far forward in the mix either, on the Martin Rossiter tracks which are just vocal and piano the mids are simply stunning, the emotion in his voice coming through wonderfully.

Highs - Starting to sound repetitive but again these are wonderfully presented and don't stray from the natural sound of the rest of the frequencies, guitars on Wedding Present songs have the crunch and snarl I would expect from them and the punch of guitars from Mogwai on their quiet/loud presentation is again stunning. The highs don't add anything extra that they shouldn't, if anything they may be slightly laid back compared to the other two but that maybe just to my 50 year old ears, and when I say slightly laid back that is a mere smidgen, if anything I probably hear this on all of the IFI equipment I have owned/tried. I always consider them to be a fairly natural sound with an excellent musical presentation and it's maybe this slight laid back approach of the highs that create this sound.

3.5 S-Balanced and 4.4mm connections both sound excellent to me, I had no issues with any hiss or background noise, clean signal at all times to my ear and headphones. The 4.4mm connection is the one I probably used most and it provided plenty of headroom and power to my Senn 660s. Never had to go above 70-75% on either connection, Etymotic EVE sounded wonderful from the 3.5mm, as is usual with Etymotic, the more power you give them the better they reward you and the Gryphon was no slouch with them.

Soundstage and depth is very good, competes with my DX300, maybe not quite as depth but not far off.

Features such as IEM match, Xbass and Xspace I only briefly tried. Probably not enough to really comment, xbass gives a little boost to the low end but I never felt I needed to use it.

Wireless

As can be seen from the specs the Gryphon supports a wide range of Bluetooth codecs, my use was with the LDAC codec and it never skipped a beat. Connection was reliable with no drop outs even when going into a different room, a lot better than my Go Blu that can drop out at times when using LDAC.
Sound quality from Bluetooth is virtually identical to wired, there is a difference but it's barely noticeable unless you are really scrutinising. It is by far the best wireless sound quality I have heard from a device.
There isn't much I can add to the wireless thoughts really, it is quite simply stunning.

Brief comparisons

IFI-Audio Go Blu - Different level really, don't get me wrong the Go Blu is an amazing device for the price but it can't compete either wired where it's support for higher sample rates is limited and although it is excellent as a bluetooth device it doesn't sound as good as the Gryphon, less power and not as detailed and less depth to the overall sound.

Ibasso DX300 - Now this is really interesting and there will be people who won't believe this but in many respects the Gryphon is as good as the DX300. The level of detail in the mids and highs competes with the DAP, the bass response is also more natural to my ears but maybe not as deep as the DX300. Overall soundstage and depth goes to the Ibasso but I found myself reaching for the Gryphon more as the weeks progressed, partly because it's a snappier experience with the high end smartphone but also because it just sounds so good and despite being half the price it runs the Ibasso close.

Astell and Kern SP2000T - Now this is very brief as I've only had it a few days but again like the Ibasso the Gryphon does a good job against a player that is 3 times its price however I think the gap is bigger. The AK SP2000T with it's tube/hybrid amp mode gives it an edge that neither the Gryphon or DX300 can match. The level of detail in the mids and highs on the AK are a different level of stunning, however this is probably not a fair match up.


Reported issues

There has been some reports on the Gryphon thread of issues with build quality around buttons (only 2 users i think) and volume spikes when using Tidal.
I've had no issues with build or quality control, it is built like a premium product and feels like it, buttons are excellent with no rattles etc.
I did experience the volume spike once when starting Tidal but never between songs or during songs. It happened when I connected in a certain way, never happens if I connect in a slightly different way and it hasn't happened since latest firmware update.
Some mis reporting of sample rates on the Amazon HD music app however this is something that happens on my DAPS and on smartphone, seems to be an issue with the Amazon app which is a truly terrible app.
No issues with Apple Music (only briefly tried) or Tidal (since update)

Overall impression

I've really enjoyed my time with the Gryphon, to me it is a potential replacement for those who don't want to use DAP's especially if you are mainly a music streamer. The sound quality and ease of use was was enough to make me sell my DX300, not because it was better but because for a fraction of the cost I could get within a certain percentage of the sound quality. Despite this I did buy the AK as I was curious about the triple amp system, I will keep the AK and need to decide if I will buy the Gryphon....Chances are I probably will, it gives me enough of a different sound experience and I'm more likely to use it outdoors than the AK so it will serve me well in that respect.

The Gryphon is another great product from IFI Audio that ticks all the boxes in regards to build, ease of use and most importantly excellent sound quality

Pictures -

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Last edited:

HansBarbarossa

100+ Head-Fier
iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon: Soar to sound heights
Pros: Sound, design, functionality, price.
Cons: No
"High, high
What a feeling to fly
Over mountains and forests and seas
And to go anywhere that I please.."
ABBA - Eagle

Hi friends!

I am glad to inform you that today we are scheduled to meet with the new masterpiece of portable audio from the British brand iFi Audio!

In 2021, which we just had, iFi brought the world a range of absolutely amazing audio devices, updating already highly popular models with the release of HIP-DAC 2, micro iDSD Signature and the grandiose flagship of the iDSD line - Diablo, a line of PRO devices and ZEN-series, and also expanded its assortment with new products: Zen Stream (network player / streamer), desktop audio combine NEO iDSD and miniature masterpiece - GO blu.
And now there has been a landmark update to the xDSD line, which many audiophiles have been waiting for with awe - the brilliant Gryphon DAC / Headphone Amplifier! The Gryphon is a mythological winged creature with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle. Indeed, if you ride our flying beast from iFi you can soar to the most distant sonic heights! Flying high, high I'm a bird in the sky!

But before proceeding directly to the review, let me wholeheartedly congratulate everyone on the already come New Year, wish you good health, happiness and all kinds of blessings! And if Santa Claus has already given out his gifts, then the audio-ph editorial board is just starting to do it.

So let's flap our wings, take to the skies and fly into the realm of sound, "flying high, high like a bird in the sky" with xDSD Gryphon!



DSCF7726 1.jpg




Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa)


Specifications

DAC chip: Texas Instruments Burr-Brown DSD1793 (Bit-Perfect Burr Brown DSD, DXD, PCM)
Display: OLED / CyberSync (monochrome)
Formats: PCM / DXD 32 bit / 768 kHz and DSD512
Full support for MQA x16 up to 384 kHz
Digital filters: Standart, Bit-Perfect, GTO
Bluetooth: 5.1 (aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, LHDC/HWA, AAC and SBC Codec)
Inputs: USB-C (Charging), USB-C (Data), S/PDIF, 4.4mm (Balanced), 3.5mm (Single-Ended)
Headphone Outputs: 3.5mm (S-Balanced), 4.4mm (Balanced)
3.5mm (<1 ohm) / 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced (<1 ohm)
3.5mm output power: 320mW @ 32Ω, 40mW @ 300Ω, 3.5V @ 600Ω
Output power 4.4 mm: 1000 mW at 32 ohms, 74 mW at 600 ohms, 6.7V at 600 ohms
iEMatch: Yes
Functions: Xbass + and Xspace +
Battery: Lithium-polymer 3600mAh
SNR: Balanced S-Bal (SE) <116dB (A) @ 0dBFS / S-Bal (SE) <115dB (A) @ 0dBFS
THD + N: <0.005% (1V @ 16Ω)
Dimensions: 123x75x19 mm
Weight: 215 gr.



Appearance and kit

xDSD Gryphon comes in a presentable white box, the top of which is a print wrap. Above is the brand logo, next to it there are already two golden stickers, Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Audio wireless, in the center is a photo of the device in all its glory, and below is the designation of the model and its type of activity: xDSD Gryphon - Ultra-Res portable DAC + Headphone amp.


DSCF7659.jpg



A complete list of technical features and specifications can be found on the side and back of the package.
Next, put forward a boiled white box with silver letters "ifi". Everything, as always, with my beloved Britons - stylish, laconic, neat, but without the slightest hint of boring stiffness.

With trepidation, we open the box and extract all the contents from it: the xDSD Gryphon itself, three connecting cables (USB type-C / USB type-C, USB type-C / Lightning, USB type-C / type-A), then we take out the fabric case, an "iFi" sticker, instructions and a warranty card.


DSCF7670.jpg



Well, now let's get down to admiring the device, without this, in the case of iFi creations, it is absolutely impossible.
Like its predecessor, the first xDSD, Gryphon received an original and striking appearance. It resembles an exquisite cigarette case or flask with longitudinal ribs. However, a number of key points have been improved here.

To begin with, the dimensions of the device have slightly increased (123 x 75 x 19 mm), its weight is 215 grams, the color is now silver-gray matte metallic, the material is aluminum. Looks Gryphon, I want to tell you, unusually beautiful, but in the hands it feels even better!


DSCF7707.jpg



The upper part has taken over a nice oblong OLED screen, which displays all the necessary information about the format being played, connection, battery level and additional functions.

On the front panel of the device there are two headphone outputs (3.5 mm TRS and 4.4 mm Pentaconn TRRS balanced), two indicators that display the selected input and the frequency of the reproduced signal, and a round volume control with a small LED signaling the level in different colors signal. The regulator, in combination, is also a button, when pressed, the device turns on / off. Slightly to the right are two indicators of the XBass + (bass increase) and XSpace + (space expansion) modes, the button for switching these modes, which, when pressed for a long time, takes us to the function menu (all information is displayed on the screen): Selecting a digital filter - Standard / Bit-Perfect / Gto; Voice assistant; Adjust the brightness of the screen; Dual USB Type-C charging capability, and reset function. Next comes the button for switching inputs: USB / BT / SPDIF / Line-Out. She, when pressed for a long time, searches for devices for pairing via the Bluetooth protocol. All information is clearly displayed on the screen of the device.


DSCF7675.jpg

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On the rear panel there is a switch (Bass / Presence), a USB type-C connector for connecting a power adapter and charging the device (under it there is an LED indicating the battery charge level), digital inputs: USB type-C and S / PDIF, and also two analog line outputs: balanced 4.4mm (BAL) and 3.5mm (SE).

The bottom side received a three-position iEMatch: switch (3.5mm / 4.4mm / Off) and four silicone feet placed at the corners of the device. The back side of the case, where the BT-receiver is located, is covered with plastic, as a result of this approach, there should be no problems with the wireless signal.


DSCF7679.jpg

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The build quality raises no objections, no backlashes and gaps. Everything is extremely reliable.
Separately, I would like to mention the chic volume control, reminiscent of a flask lid, with precise, "clacking" adjustment, an unusually smooth ride and a multi-colored LED.

The battery, when switching between different digital signal sources (USB / Coaxial / BT), on average, lasts about 8 hours. Charging time takes approximately 4 hours.
As I already mentioned, the battery charge level is shown on the screen, and is also highlighted by an LED on the back of the device (a handy thing, especially if you charge the device in the off mode):
Green:> 85%
Yellow: ≤ 85%
Red (flashing): ≤ 10%
The indicator flashes / lights up while the device is charging.

Now let's summarize what's new in the second version:
1) Informative OLED display.
2) 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced output (TRRS).
3) High power of the device.
4) Bluetooth 5.1 QCC 5100 / (codecs: aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, HWA, AAC and SBC).
5) Full support for MQA x16 up to 384 kHz.
6) Choice of digital filters: Standard, Bit-Perfect, GTO.
7) Improved work of functions: Xbass + and Xspace +.
8) iEMatch for 3.5mm / 4.4mm.
9) New volume control.
10) USB type-C charging and USB type-C digital input
11) Updated design.
12) Kit.

With such updates, Gryphon can honestly be considered a completely new product!
At the same time, we have not yet reached the main reason for which this review was written - the "voices" of our hero. And here, I want to inform you, the most impressive leap has occurred. But let's talk about this a little later.


DSCF7711.jpg

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When connecting the device to a computer via USB, it is recommended to go to the manufacturer's website and install the appropriate USB audio (ASIO) driver. The driver is downloaded and installed quickly. After installing the driver, an icon with the iFi brand logo appears in the tray and the system automatically finds the xDSD Gryphon. If you, like me, use the foobar 2000 software player, go to preference / output and select the device we need from the list. I also recommend updating the product software (firmware), which is also posted on the manufacturer's website in the "support" section. Personally, when I received the device, I fully charged it and immediately rolled the new firmware.

My scenario for using the device turned out to be the following: xDuoo x10t II digital transport via S / PDIF (optics, coaxial), Huawei p20 pro smartphone (USB) using the UAPP software player + Bluetooth (HWA) connection, Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 plus tablet - Bluetooth (LDAC), PC via USB with foobar2000 player (Asio iFi driver). In all these cases, no problems arose.

Well, we seem to have figured out the kit, appearance and functionality, now we raise our wings and fly forward to the sound heights!


Sound Impressions

The xDSD Gryphon's capabilities are impressive without any caveats, both for wired and wireless connections.
The device is built on a Texas Instruments Burr-Brown DSD1793 DAC chip.
Before listening, the device was burn-in for about 70-80 hours.

We used: Beyerdynamic DT250/250, Phonon SMB-02, Phonon 4400, Softears RS10 & RSV, FIR Audio M5 & VxV, 64 AUDIO A12t & A18, Vision Ears VE8, EVE20 & VE4.2, InEar ProMission X & ProPhile 8.
Mostly the 3.5mm output was used, with the exception of the IEM FIR VxV which was connected to the 4.4mm balanced output.
The device played very well with all IEM / CIEM / Headphones, no genre deviations were noticed.

Digital signal sources: Dell XPS laptop, Huawei P20 Pro smartphone + USB Audio Player PRO, Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 plus (BT), xDuoo X10t II portable digital transport.


DSCF7702.jpg



Let's start with impressions when using USB and S / PDIF connections.
In fact, it is quite difficult to describe the sound of the device, which is almost impossible to find fault with.

From the very first minutes of listening, the device takes a rather serious approach to sound production, demonstrating excellent dynamics, practicing attacks, separating instruments, as well as working out plans, with a stunning transfer of the volume of an imaginary space. This is a neutral, well-balanced and unusually melodic manner of conveying the material.


DSCF7693.jpg



The device transmits well the timbre component, the development of quiet and loud sounds, reverberations, as well as macrodynamics with a moderate, sensitive display of micro-contrast.
Gryphon does not try to push forward all the smallest details of the composition, he does it delicately, correctly outlining the volume of virtual space, portraying audio images harmoniously and proportionally, in a balanced and extremely naturalistic way.

In terms of the "level of competence", so to speak, the sound of xDSD Gryphon gravitates to what the flagship iFi shows us - iDSD Diablo, but in terms of sound habits, their handwriting, their manners are still different.

Where the older brother strikes with scale, conveying the width of an imaginary soundstage and his analytical manner of presenting material, Gryphon, with a slightly restrained rendering of the width of space, takes depth, conveying volume and macrodynamics. That is, switching from iDSD Diablo to xDSD Gryphon is not perceived as a transition from a higher quality sound source to a lower quality one. Rather, it is like comparing two exemplary audio systems with partially similar and at the same time different manner of sound delivery, realized in different acoustic conditions.


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And, of course, it is worth noting here the fact that the scenario of using the iFi iDSD Diablo with sensitive IEM/CIEM is very doubtful, since it has excess power for this. Whereas xDSD Gryphon is ideal for such purposes.

In general, I will say this, if you need a sound source that can cope with a wide range of headphones, including even planar full-size models, and for all its portability can be a good replacement for a stationary system, then you probably won't find a better iDSD Diablo. And if you need portability in a more compact size, with a flexible use case and the ability to work with both sensitive in-ear IEMs and high-impedance full-size headphones (we do not take planar models into account, here you need to look towards the older brother - Diablo), then the choice Gryphon would be the best solution in my opinion. Well, do not forget that there is still the possibility of receiving a digital signal over the air (Bluetooth), which is perfectly implemented, which the older brother does not have.

Ok Ok, let's go back directly to the description of the sound of our hero, otherwise I got carried away a little by comparisons.


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The sound of the xDSD Gryphon is thoroughbred, smooth and clean, with a bodily filling of sound images. The device has a wide dynamic range, excellent speed characteristics, excellent tonal balance and amazing musicality. This is a living layer of sound, in which a plastic, neutral, well-balanced manner and refined melody coexist harmoniously.


Frequency amplitude

The low-frequency range is worked out precisely and bitingly, striking the ear with a clear pop and a tight, powerful blow. The bass is fast, prominent, dense and well-assembled, maintains the atmosphere with its dynamic manner, keeps the rhythm clearly and fills the middle with a dense velvety substance. The drums are extremely accurate, like artillery volleys, shoot their blows, scattering on both sides of the listener, and the parts of the bass guitar, cellos and double bass are transmitted unusually deep, lively and dynamically. The strength of each individual blow is clearly discernible. The register is transmitted cheerfully and harmoniously, powerfully and with the proper pressure!


Mids are distinct, smooth, natural, rich in timbre and texture. Here, every musical instrument and audio image is conveyed accurately and vividly. It is a well-balanced, pliable and multidimensional picture, with striking contrast and wide dynamic range, where every sound or instrument and every note played is clearly in its place in space. Stringed instruments, pipes and pianos - everything sounds pure, noble and harmonious. Male and female voices are displayed in relief, dense and naturalistic. There are no bright peaks or dips, everything is clear and to the point. This is a neutral, unusually dynamic, melodious, detailed and at the same time comfortable manner, presented in a melodic form.


High frequencies cleanly and clearly work out their own, correctly adding gloss and charm to the listening compositions. There are not many and not a few of them, just as much as needed. They are moderately restrained, there is not the slightest hint of friability or distortion in them. Everything is as honest, accurate and natural as possible. xDSD Gryphon transmits this register extremely competently, gracefully and multifaceted, smooth and informative, with good articulation, which completes the overall frequency harmony. Qualitative development of this range and nothing more. How I like it!


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In terms of preference for musical genres, no weak points were found in the iFi xDSD Gryphon. He perfectly copes with everything: classical music, instrumental, jazz, electronics, old school rock and all kinds of brutal music styles.

Signal transmission via Bluetooth protocol.
When switching to a wireless connection, the sound of the device remains at a sufficiently high level, which is truly surprising. This is still the same manner as through the wires, but a little denser, with a little warmth and a greater depiction of the depth of the imaginary space.
Yes, the audio canvas loses a little in the transmission of micro-contrast, but at the same time it adds plasticity in relief, giving audio images more convex, and in general it becomes more musical. An amazing result. To be honest, I have never heard such sound quality when using various devices via Bluetooth. Although, it would seem, only recently I was very surprised by the capabilities of the iFi Go Blu baby, which I am not parting with now, but here the iFi engineers went further, making the sound even more serious.


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Conclusion

xDSD Gryphon is, without exaggeration, an amazing machine! Everything is perfect in it: from design, implementation of the technical part, to the main thing - sound. It is a completely complete device in all respects, harmonious and balanced in everything. Without a doubt, the xDSD Gryphon will become one of the most revered and beloved portable tsapoi among audiophiles and music lovers.
I warn you that very loud words will be heard further, but this is my fully balanced opinion. So, I believe that at the moment in the world you can hardly find something better, given such functionality, sound quality and price. Although, of course, don't forget about the excellent Diablo! But here, when choosing, you need to proceed from the needs and scenario of using the devices.

At the time of writing, the MSRP for the iFi xDSD Gryphon was $599. Without a shadow of a doubt, I highly recommend this portable audio combine for your purchase.

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MalinYamato
MalinYamato
I am confused about your answer. Can you answer clearly if the amp in xCAN sounds better, worse, or the same as the amp in xDSD Gryphon?
HansBarbarossa
HansBarbarossa
Gryphon sounds better
alphaman
alphaman
My gawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwd ... it ONLY uses an old-skool PCM1793 for DAC chip?!!! Now that's cheap, iFi!!! I can literally go to Ali and get a similar product, way cheap, with a (say) ES9038.
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