iFi Audio xDSD

General Information

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The xDSD DAC is the latest iFi statement in advanced, affordable, portable audio. Its dark titanium vacuum ion plated metal enclosure is pleasingly tactile and compact. The radio-frequency transparent end cap allows full CD-wireless music transmission.

It delivers for music lovers and audiophiles alike.

First, it delivers CD-quality Bluetooth connectivity for Apple/Android to stream the latest music on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and any other streaming platforms.

Second, it delivers the very highest quality PCM768/DSD512 and MQA formats for downloaded and Tidal streamed music in full studio-quality.

Third, with the iFi analogue signal processing circuitry and the original S-Balanced amplification stage, it delivers pure musical enjoyment to in-ear-monitors or headphones.

The xDSD, a new level of musical experience for your headphones, on-the-go.


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High-End Wireless On-the-Go, Ultimate wired performance
Deliver CD-Quality music wirelessly to your headphones from smartphone (Apple iPhone or Android), DAP (Apple iPOD and similar), laptop or smart TV.

AAC and aptX enabled Bluetooth raises sound quality to CD levels compared to the below MP3 levels SBC codec (voice-quality only) found in basic Bluetooth products.

Imagine the xDSD in your pocket driving your headphones while you are surfing on your phone and enjoying Ed Sheeran in the highest quality!

Wired, the USB type A OTG/CCK connector offers the ultimate High-Res audio performance for smartphones, laptops and USB enabled DAPs with 22.57MHz* DSD and 768kHz/32Bit* PCM.

The 3.5mm coaxial/TOSLINK combo S/PDIF input gives older DAPs and disk players a new lease of life as a transport to serve the xDSD with 192kHz/24Bit* full High-Resolution Audio.

* up to these format levels

MultiBit means Musicality
Headphone listening is often tiring and causes listener fatigue.

Not with the xDSD. Time flies by and the listener is immersed in the music. The ‘pluck’ of a guitar can be discerned. A Steinway piano sounds ‘woody’ instead of ‘glassy’ like an electronic keyboard.

To deliver a truly musical performance every technical aspect must be present and correct. From the Burr-Brown multibit DSD1793 DAC Chipset to deliver a realistic, musical sound to the femto precision GMT Clock and intelligent memory buffer system derived from AMR Audio’s USD5,500 flagship DAC products to eliminate jitter. The xDSD is packed with the technology it takes.

Perfected for MQA or non-MQA
Tidal with MQA is defining the future of High-Resolution streaming audio. Ready for MQA out of the box, the xDSD also supports beyond full High-Res Audio with 11.289MHz DSD and 384kHz/32Bit PCM. Simply connect to Tidal (on computer) and check the options to stream MQA ‘like the artist intended’ as the MQA team say.

We also offer an alternative firmware that is optimised for ultra-high resolution audio and which unlocks 22.57MHz DSD and 768kHz/32Bit PCM#. This can be easily downloaded from our website and applied to the xDSD.

# With this firmware MQA is not supported

S-Balanced. Just plug-in and enjoy.
Most premium headphones now include an option for balanced wiring. Balanced wiring is better because it eliminates distortion and crosstalk introduced by the classic unbalanced 3-contact connection that shares the ground return wire and jack connection between channels.


The iFi exclusive S-Balanced technology delivers the maximum performance from single-ended and balanced headphones alike. Compared to standard balanced circuitry, noise and distortion are lowered by up to 3-fold (9dB). Even with non-balanced headphones crosstalk and related distortion are reduced by 50%.

Compatibility for both balanced/unbalanced headphones is straightforward and super user-friendly. Just plug-in and enjoy the music – with live recordings, the xDSD brings out the spaciousness of the concert hall or the intimacy of the jazz club.

Studio sound with 3D+ Matrix and XBass+
You should hear music as if you are in the studio during the final cut. The 3D+ Matrix and XBass+ system help deliver the true musical performance as heard in the studio to your headphones.

Most recordings are made for speakers (not headphones). This produces what is technically known as ‘in-head localisation’, as if the music plays inside your head. Which is unnatural and frankly obnoxious. The analogue-signal based 3D+ circuit restores the correct sense of placement that the artist is in the room and outside your head.

Many otherwise excellent and expensive open back headphones lack low bass. XBass+ restores deep, clean and tight bass and puts the ‘meat’ back into the music, without muddying up the midrange – now EDM or Drum & Bass as they should do, really plumb the depths of the bass notes.

Hear your music as the artists intended.

Pure Line Out mode for ultra-fi
Whether at home or in the car, the Line Out mode means the volume control, 3D+ Matrix and X-Bass+ are bypassed and the output stage is configured specifically for the best line operation, avoiding ‘double-amping’.

The xDSD delivers the musical goods when used with expensive ultra-fidelity home or car audio systems. The more expensive the system, the better the xDSD is able to demonstrate its sonic attributes.


Cyberdrive amplifier design for lowest noise
Got difficult to drive over-ear headphones? No sweat. The xDSD can drive them to eardrum splitting levels (although not recommended!). Have super sensitive in-ear-monitors that show up noise from all sources? With the xDSD silence reigns supreme.

The Cyberdrive headphone amplifier stage is one of the pivotal new circuit designs in the x-series. This new design places all parameters of the fully analogue system under digital control for a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario. The Cyberdrive design incorporates the iFi exclusive OV4627 ultra low noise FET input Op-Amp and W990VST digitally controlled stepped attenuator to deliver a new level of sound-quality.

From lowest noise for IEMs to extreme drive levels: no need to switch anything! Just set the volume control as desired and let Cyberdrive do the rest.

New Cyberdrive System
Nothing is worse than running out of juice in the middle of your favourite tune. The xDSD uses a separate power input (micro USB) for unlimited compatibility with smartphones and no extra power draw from the smartphone’s battery reducing your phone’s up-time. And it packs a battery to keep your music playing.


The new 3.8V/2,200mAh Lithium Polymer battery offers 12% greater actual capacity in the same size package. Depending on the headphones and the connection used, playback times of up to 10 hours for S/PDIF, 8 hours for Bluetooth and 6 hours for USB are achieved.

Latest reviews

BenKatz

100+ Head-Fier
The answer to -ALMOST- all of your hybrid desktop-mobile DAC/AMP needs
Pros: - excellent sound quality
- beautiful design (it is a fingerprint magnet though)
- no-nonsense layout
- solid bluetooth connectivity, and quite possibly the best bluetooth SQ out there (even without LDAC)
- solid battery life
- very versatile
Cons: - bluetooth is not capable of handling calls, at all (no sound during calls or ringtone)
- had one bluetooth bug (had to re-pair)
- no music controls
- no OTG cable out of the box
A little background to HOW I ended up buying the xDSD:

I've been searching for a capable hybrid mobile-desktop solution for years, already. I've had some success, but was never truly happy with the choices I've had. I've been through a bunch of Fiio products, Qudelix 5k, Audioquest Red and Cobalt, and even the cheaper iFi hip-dac. But now that I've had the xDSD for little over a week, it is indeed (ALMOST) what I've been searching for, and overall the best out of everything else I've had (true, it is the most expensive, but I got it at a discount for around 300 euros vs 400).

One very important thing to note is that I'm searching for a DAC/AMP that offers excellent sound quality (primarily), and NOT huge amounts of power, since my listening device is an IEM (Campfire Dorado 2020) which is quite sensitive and requires very little power.

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1) Excellent Sound Quality:

Sound quality is relative to what you compare it to. And I've compared it directly to 5 sources, which I will list here in from best to worse in terms of sound quality (not power):

Audioquest Cobalt (usb DAC/AMP dongle)
Audioquest Red (usb DAC/AMP dongle)
Xperia 1 mark 2 (smartphone)
Qudelix 5K (bluetooth DAC/AMP stick)
Fiio BTR5 (bluetooth DAC/AMP stick)

I will not go in details regarding each and every - but in short, I was searching for something that definitely sounds better than my smartphone's 3.5mm output (Xperia 1 mark 2) so that I can have great sound from my laptop as well. I'll compare it to the Audioquest Cobalt - and the comparison is pretty easy:
It has more authority in the lower registers, more rumble in the subbass, slam in the upper bass, and more heft to the vocals. It's warmer, has sweeter trebble slightly rolled off, but where the cobalt has crispier highs, the xDSD has a wider soundstage and grander presentation. The separation is about equal, but the xDSD sounds definitely more musical. Funnily enough, when switching the xDSD to "measure" mode, it sounds much closer to the Cobalt.

As far as the 2 extra functions, Xbass+ and 3d+, from my point of view they have the following functions:
xbss+ - this should be used if your headphones lack a bit of heft in the lower registries. I see no point on my Dorado 2020 since it has more than enough bass, but it can be a great function for headphones with weaker bass response
3d+ - this seems to do 2 things, making the soundstage narrower but taller, and elevating the trebble. It can make some songs sound a bit shouty, but again, i think this is useful for headphones that don't have a great soundstage - it also seems to take away a bit of separation

As for the listen/measure switch on the back, it seems "measure" makes the sound a little bit more flat and less exciting. I see no reason for ever using it.

Matching - this seems to be great for IEMs, but I will note that for my Dorado 2020s (10ohm, 94db/1khz) has a TINY TINY amount of hiss - not enough to bother by ANY means. I did try out the iFi IEMatch+ - it completely silences the hiss, but it has 2 disadvantages: it seems to make the soundstage a tiny bit narrower, and because you need to crank up the volume due to the attenuation, in bt mode you will end up with a shorter battery life. For anything more sensitive than what i have, the hiss might be a bit of a bother, so maybe avoid or use the IEMatch (especially if you're not planning in using the BT function on the go).

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2) Beautiful design

I see a lot of people saying that the design is "bad" because it's a fingerprint magnet. What isn't a fingerprint magnet these days? My ceramic Dorado 2020s are fingerprint magnets (but you gotta admit, visually, the Dorado 2020 + xDSD work perfecly, almost the same color), my Sony Xperia 1 II (and many other smarpthones) is a fingerprint magnet. I don't feel like that's such a big minus.
On the upside, it looks gorgeous, unique, from the magnesium alloy case to the led-illuminated volume know which changes color according to volume level. I just like it, and it's small and light enough to be great on the go.

3) No-nonsense layout

It's rather simple - on the front you have a jack, the color-changing infinity-spinning (but analog circuit) volume knob, and another multifunction button for bt pairing/3d/xbass.
On the rear you got a usb-c (for the 2019 models) for charging, iFi's strange but very solid male USB port for data, a listen/measure swich and a SPDIF. Nothing is too much or too confusing.

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4) Solid bluetooth connectivity, and quite possibly the best bluetooth SQ out there (even without LDAC)

Regarding connection stability - I have had NO issues. Be it in the house (5 meters and still no dropouts) or on the go/biking/gym (smartphone in one pocket, xDSD in the other) - I experienced 0 dropouts.
Regarding latency - it has less latency than the Fiio BTR5 and Qudelix 5k. I used it for gaming, and it's quite obvious.
Regarding bt sound quality - it's possibly the best. Why? I can't really explain, there's a very in-depth explanation on how iFi implemented the bluetooth and built it themselves, with a separate clock and circuitry to eliminate jitter and all of the bluetooth "bugs" that make almost any bluetooth device, even with LDAC, to sound too "digital" and bluetooth-y. This one doesn't, there's VERY little sound quality loss when using with bluetooth. Of course, you won't get MQA. The only element that probably is responsible for the -SLIGHT- SQ loss (generally less top extension and soundstage) is probably down to the aptX codec which will affect the digital info, particularly if you're listening to anything above mp3 320kbs quality.

5) Solid battery life

This is pretty straight forward to relay - I get anywhere between 7 and 7:30 hours when using on bluetooth (the only time I use it on battery). That's at around 60-70% volume, since that's very loud with my IEMs. That's solid. The other BT DACs i've tested, the Fiio BTR5 and Qudelix 5k, lasted for around 5 and 6 hours respectively.

6) Very versatile:

Well...you can use it as a desktop MQA capable DAC/AMP, which is probably the BEST DAC/AMP you can get, sound quality-wise, at this price, for your desktop (especially if you get it at a slight discount, 50$/EUR off), and then you can use it as a mobile bluetooth music device connected to your phone, which also is, I'd say, most definitely the best bt dac/amp you can get at it's price - especially since the only ones I know of, and which are much cheaper, are the Fiio BTR5 and Qudelix 5K - and the xDSD is simply in ANOTHER LEAGUE compared to those - no point comparing.

And now, we go to the CONS:

1) Bluetooth is not capable of handling calls, at all (no sound during calls or ringtone)

Quite simply, this is the single REAL fault with this device. It cannot accept calls at all. It has no on-board mic. 3.5mm cables with in-line mic do NOT work. When you get a call on your smartphone, you get NO notification besides the fact that the music STOPS (this is how you can tell that you're getting a call), and the sound of the call will not go through the xDSD, you have to use your phone to talk. This is valid for all types of calls - phone calls, whatsapp calls, signal calls, regardless of app. That's quite unfortunate. If (or..."when"?) iFi will launch a revised/next gen xDSD device, they simply MUST (no questions) include the call feature. Doesn't even matter if it doesn't have a built-in mic, it just needs to accept 3.5mm in-line mic connections. This will result in the absolute greatest "swiss army knife" type of product in the audio headphone DAC/AMP industry.

2) Had one bluetooth bug (had to re-pair)

This morning, the BT didn't work. It did connect, both to my laptop and smarpthone. But there was NO SOUND coming through. IDK why. I've tried everything, and the only fix is to unpair and re-pair on the source devices.

3) No music controls.

The only 2 controls you get for your music (usb or bt use) are volume, and mute (when you press the volume knob). There's absolutely no controls for next/previous/play/pause. That's a shame but not SUCH a big deal.

4) No OTG cable out of the box.

It should definitely include an OTG cable in the box. The Dragonflies have one, the Fiios, the Qudelix. Hell, even the cheaper iFi hip-dac has one. Simple as that.


So there you have it. In short, the sound quality is SOOO GOOOD that at the moment I'm using it on the go for every single activity - walks, going to the store, going to the gym - besides biking. And that's because it has no call handling and while it's quite acceptable to take out an IEM out of your ear, take out your smatphone and have a conversation on it when on the go/gym, it's very problematic when biking. And I HATE using TWS buds with much worse sound quality when biking. I want to use my xDSD. Please, iFi, make that happen in the next generation - CALL HANDLING.

10x!
S
S0undJunk1e
If you need a desktop solution. Go for the RME-ADI 2. It has a specific IEM output and it will even drive my Aeolus with tons of headroom on the regular jack as well. Sounds really fantastic with my Thieaudio Monarch.
tisquinn
tisquinn
i think compared to the RME-ADI, this is a totally different price-point and use case. thanks for the super review, Ben! I appreciated the quick and to the point comparisons.
ajlolo
ajlolo
wooo,很好

joaojp1

New Head-Fier
Pros: Great Sound Quality
Great BT implementation
Cons: Horrible surface finish
Lacks an OTG cable out of the box.
Disclaimer: This unit as send to me by iFi UK however, all the thoughts shared in this review are my own and reflect my honest opinion about this product.



I am new to the head-fi world and I have only recently started to appreciate the intricacies of the high resolution audio, so don’t expected this to be a technical review It will be a review that will address the major features of the product from the consumer point of view specifying its usefulness or not.

Packaging and accessories

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The product Is well package in a white box enclosed in a cardboard sheath, the device rests in a cut out and in front of it is a little white box containing the included accessories (iFi bag to carry the device, an 3m dual lock in order to create an stack, a USB-to-USB Type B dongle, a USB3.0 A Male to A Female cable as well as an optical-to-3.5mm adapter that fits into the rear combined coax/optical input.) Although the box contains all the necessary cables to connect it to the computer it lacks an OTG Cable to able to connect It to your android or an equivalent solution for an Apple device. Which it’s kind of a bummer since one of its use cases it’s the possibility to connect it to your smartphone and up your audio quality while on the go. Another minor annoyance is the fact that the unit itself doesn’t have any buttons, like next track or pause to use while connected to the phone over Bluetooth.


Build Quality

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The device feels robust and overall has a very nice build quality, unfortunately the surface finish doesn’t do this product justice, it smudges very easily and 5 minutes after you take it out of the box its already full of fingerprints and looking like you didn’t clean it for a whole year.

In the bottom it was four silicone feet that prevent it from sliding or scratching your smartphone when it's attached via the 3m dual lock in.

Features

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On one side you have the volume wheel which changes colors while you rise the volume, acts as the power on/off switch and is resposible for selecting the input type. The wheel does not sit flush with the chassis, which unfortunately led to scratches on my dap and the xDSD volume wheel when carrying then booth in the same pocket. On the right side of the volume wheel you have your settings/bluetooth button which configures the Bluetooth functionality (Bluetooth 4.0, AAC and aptx, lacking LDAC support) (Pairs up to 8 devices), activates the line out mode when long pressed changing the volume wheel light to white and changes between the 3d or xbass filters when pressed. On the left you have your 3.5mm TRSS output.

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On the back side from left to right you have your SPDIF socket to connect standard TS or TRS, the standard iFi usb input (full usb female), two filters measure and listen and the 5v power input via micro usb.

Sound

The iFi xDSD performs extremely well sound quality wise, it has very good detail retrieval and doesn't color the sound in any way, providing much better sound than your standard smartphone. It’s a league above the previously reviewed iFi Nano iDSD BL and its comparable to my Onkyo DP-X1 DAP in terms of general detail retrieval.

This unit gets compared with both Chord Mojo and Hugo 2, unfortunately I never listened to the Chord Mojo so I cannot make any commentaries in regards to that but in comparison to the Chord Hugo 2, the Hugo 2 its still on a league of its own in terms of general detail retrieval and micro detail.

The sound performance thought bluetooth is on par with the amazing quality via its wired outputs which is astonishing to say the least.

When using it with my Mr. Speakers AEON I found out the xbass filter to be quite useful to give the bass more life and punch and the amp power turned out to be quite enough ending up being a great match for this little device.

Conclusion

Completly feature packed and portable, the iFi xDSD is a great addition to your phone due to its bluetooth capabilities or as an standalone dac/amp on your desk due to it sounding so good.
iFi once again created a very flexible device with an amazing price to quality ratio.
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RockStar2005
RockStar2005
Nice review!! I agree with all of it as I've owned the xDSD for around 2 1/2 years now!
ajlolo
ajlolo
Nice review

Johnny Mac

New Head-Fier
Pros: Compact and unique design, dark background, great BT implementation, multitude of connectivity options.
Cons: Lack of BT5.0 and LDAC support, no OTG cable out of the box.
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It’s common knowledge to everyone that the “i” in iPhone stands for Internet which is perfect for its brand which allows its users to interact seamlessly with the Internet. I then found myself interacting and checking out iFi Audio, a UK-based electronics company launched in 2012 with a vision of improving sound quality and eradicating distortion, noise and hiss from different audio equipment.

iFi Audio has since been a staple in audio setups, thanks to their line of DACs, AMPs, AC and DC purifiers and a lot more, all designed to give an “improved” sound. I first got a taste of their tech when a friend of mine brought the iFi micro iDSD Black Label which made me a fan then and there of iFi Audio with how the micro iDSD Black Label tackled the trio of cans lying around that time, the Audeze EL-8, Hifiman 4xx and the ATH-M70x. Fast forward a year later and now, I finally get to be in bed with one of iFi Audio’s newer offerings, the iFi xDSD. iFi Audio via their exclusive Thailand distributor, ProPlugin, sent me the review unit. If you’re visiting Thailand, I highly recommend checking out ProPlugin since they not only carry iFi Audio’s products but also a vast collection of audio solutions.

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The iFi xDSD is iFi Audio's ultimate portable DAC/AMP solution for audiophiles and music lovers that just can’t live without their tunes. The iFi xDSD is spec’d out with the Burr Brown multibit DSD1793 DAC chip, XMOS-based USB circuitry, W990VST and quad J-Fet OV4627A op amps, zero-jitter operation via AMR (Abbingdon Music Research, iFi Audio’s sister company) Global Master Timing clock, re-clocking and data management, aptX and AAC BT support, S-Balanced technology, Cyberdrive headphone amplifier stage and their trusted and upgraded 3D-Matrix+ and XBass+ technologies. That’s typically the most feature packed DAC/AMP featured in my young but growing realview journey. I was already a fan of the 3D-Holographic+ tech and hearing this Matrix iteration is keeping me a fan, this just acts as an appetizer of yet to come from the iFi team.
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The iFi xDSD is priced currently at $399 and ฿15,900 over at ProPlugin’s website. The iFi xDSD presents itself as a premium solution for both wired and wireless use as well as a portable and desktop use audio solution. It is smacked right in the middle with its notable peers around such price bracket like the Oriolus BA300S, Cozoy REI, Shozy Magic and the Fanmusic BL-2. Each boasting and parading its own set of features. Given that the xDSD is made by iFI Audio. Could it be that not only does it X’s out its competition but also give credit to my assumption that the “i” in iFi Audio stands for “improve” thus resulting in improved Fidelity? Let’s stop the assumptions here on out and check the out the xDSD.

Specifications and Packaging

iFi xDSD Spec sheet:

  • USB Input:up to PCM768kHz & DSD51(24.6/22.6MHz)
  • S/PDIF Coaxial and Optical Input:up to 192kHz/24Bit
  • Dynamic Range:> 113dB (A)
  • Volume Control:-101dB…0dB in 1dB steps
  • Output power:> 2.82V/500 mW @ 16 Ohm
    • 3.7V/270mW @ 50 Ohm
    • 3.8V/48 mW @ 300 Ohm
    • 3.8V/24 mW @ 600 Ohm
  • Line out Level:> 2.1V @ 0dBFS (& 0dB Volume)
  • THD &N (1V/16R):< 0.005%
  • Output Impedance:< 1 Ohm
  • Battery:3.8V/2200mAh
  • Dimensions:95 (l) x66.5 (w) x19 (h) mm
  • Weight:127g (0.28 Ibs)
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The iFi xDSD came enclosed in white rectangular box adorned with all the unique iFi Audio technologies that they have integrated into the xDSD. Opening the box will show the xDSD enclosed in a matte plastic sheet which I felt was treated as it doesn’t stick to the uber shiny chrome finish of the xDSD, my review unit was a demo one so it lacks some minor accessories notably the black velvet pouch and the USB data cable. The rest of the accessories included are as follows:
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  • USB-A to USB-B adapter
  • USB-A to USB-B cable
  • 3.5mm Optical adapter
  • 2 sets of Velcro strips
  • Warranty and Manual card
This particular accessory set is great and hits all the necessary cables needed for a connection to any source you’d need to pair the xDSD with, an OTG cable as a bonus would have been great. I would have loved to get to try the storage pouch since the xDSD’s chrome finish is a fingerprint magnet and see if the pouch is velvet-lined in the interior as well for those nagging fingerprints.

Build quality, Interfaces and Handling
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The 1st time that I held the xDSD was a joy, its zen inspired contours allows for a well-managed grip not to mention that the back panel is a matte black plastic which transitions well with the glossy chrome finish. The 4 built-in corner rubber feets on the underside was also great since I wouldn’t want myself to be the one to install such and have the adhesives coming loose in time and not to mention that it’s black, perfectly matching the back panel and all the other body connections which are all black. The 4 visible allen screws are tempting to open (care to suggest if this needs any internal upgrades or so?) as well.

Front Panel
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The xDSD’s front panel houses its signature round volume control knob/button which also doubles as the power switch. A long press on the translucent round button which also shows the iFi logo will turn on the xDSD and can cycle between wired (green illumination) and wireless (blue illumination) connection, the cycle can last at around 20 seconds before it turns off again.

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This same power switch which also acts as the volume knob which is pure analogue and would light up in various colors depending on the volume level. A mute function is also embedded on this same button once playback is present on the xDSD and is indicated by a blinking red and the current volume light indicator.

There is also an input indicator LED besides the volume/power knob. The usual red/blue cycle is indicating a wireless BT connection pairing is in progress which stays blue when wireless BT connection is established. This same indicator stays on green when wired connection is established, be it S/PDIF or USB input. An Audio Format LED is also present above the input indicator LED. The other 2 indicator LEDs are for the iFi Audio 3D-Matrix+ and XBass+ tech, basic operations here, a white LED appears when this 2 functions are used.

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Also in the front panel is the trademark S-Balanced headphone 3.5mm/Line Output port which utilizes and maximizes 3.5mm TRRS/TRS connection while also being able to work with the standard non-balanced 3.5mm connection. The xCAN features the 2.5mm balanced out which is far more common as a balanced port, I guess the 4.4mm pentaconn balanced port will be saved for the xDSD’s upcoming big brother.

Back Panel
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The xDSD’s back panel is as feature rich as its front panel, safe to say the xDSD could take you front or back and you’d have fun. The 1st port is the S/PDIF input followed by a USB-A input, this is where we will be missing the OTG cable which wasn’t supplied in the accessory set like what the Audirect Beam and Zorloo ZuperDAC-S did, I guess a missing OTG cable is the thing.

Another iFi Audio proprietary tech is its digital filter between “Measure” and “Listen”. By the naming scheme itself, the “Measure” filter is a frequency optimized filter for critical listening and for those graph-guys which I am not. I’m a “Listen” type of a guy and so are my realviews, I’d be leaving the measurements towards my fellow exceptional technical reviewer peers.
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The final port on the xDSD’s back panel is the micro USB charging port which is purely made for charging and avoids further power draw by allowing their new Cyberdrive tech have full control over this port yet I would still prefer that they integrate and opt for a type C port because right now, only my main camera isn’t under type C so the xDSD isn’t thinking ahead in this aspect.

Connectivity and Stability
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The xDSD’s S-Balanced/Lineout port is a versatile port which I would have personally liked how all balanced out ports should have been all along and not by going through the 2.5mm connection sysetm which although has its perks (sound-wise but not build-wise), I’m personally not a fan of. The 4.4mm pentaconn balanced connection is another story though. The S-Balanced/Lineout port works great and as advertised.
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Speaking of DAPs and DACs, the xDSD ergonomically stacks well with most of my portable DAPs when the DAC/AMP function is used. The xDSD’s silhouette is great for this due to its almost phone-like width as well as its 4 installed rubber feets, this is where the included Velcro strips comes to play as well. The xDSD’s Burr-Brown PCM1793 Multibit DAC chip supports PCM768kHz & DSD512 at 24.6/22.6MHz, xDSD also got the TIDAL users back with its support for MQA tracks (88.2/96/176.4/192kHz). Its DAC function via my MSI GF62 8RE via Foobar2000 v1.4 performs great too with no hiccups as advertised.
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Bluetooth connectivity is stuck at the almost ancient BT4.0, ancient in iFi Audio standards since basically, the tech that they have incorporated on the xDSD warrants that this should then and there support BT5.0. One thing is notable though about how iFi Audio implemented the BT4.0 output pathway for the xDSD, instead of the usual cookie cutter route used by the majority of BT output functionality, iFi Audio decided to route the forthcoming BT output signal towards the Burr-Brown DAC chip to ensure that you get that iFi Audio quality sound.

Sound Quality and Battery Life

The xDSD packs a 3.8V/2200mAh battery devoid of quick charge capability. I’ve used the xDSD mainly connected via USB off my laptop with a mix of 16/44 and 14/96 FLAC files and it easily lasts approximately 8-9 hours with a little noticeable warming on its aluminum body. BT use via my OnePlus3T device lasted roughly the same time (8-9 hours) as well with no dropouts of connection and with a great reliability and stability be it when inside my backpack or my jeans, stationary or mobile. The choice of having a dedicated charging port was also convenient especially in relation to my lifestyle which I have grouped my electronic devices which needs charging at a specific time and have them all charged unused as well as when used. I would however refrain from using the xDSD when charging as it gets way warmer than it should be which isn’t the best circumstances especially if you want to extend the xDSD’s lifespan. I would however doubt that since we audiophiles are mostly going to upgrade our stuff every once in a while.

That’s it, it’s the end of this realview. Oh yeah, almost forgot that we are here to talk about sound! It’s easy to be caught astray in checking all the cool stuff packed inside the xDSD that some would focus on the specifications more rather than giving this miniscule beast an actual listen. The iFI xDSD is damn dead silent and hiss absent on all my entry level IEMs (BGVP DM6, Magaosi K5 v2 and Whizzer Kylin) and some mid-tier IEMs (Custom Art FIBAE Black, Hisenior T4 and UFOEAR UFO-112) as well mid-tier full-sized cans (ATH AD900x and Sony MDR-CD900st)

The xDSD wired sound was tested with the Hisenior T4 which showcases an overall warm tonal ability along with MJ’s Thriller album in 16/44 FLAC(S/PDIF, xDuoo X10Tii) and via my MSI GF628RE laptop (USB, Foobar2000 v1.4). The xDSD gave out an overall engaging and lively tonal ability which rendered the Hisenior T4 more enjoyable with the low-end gaining a much controlled impact. The complimentary effect of the already dark sounding background of the T4 with the xDSD’s dead silent background allowed the midrange and upper midrange tones to transition with authority. The upper frequencies is where the xDSD likes to retain the IEM’s inherent ability while it cleans the low-end and enhances the midrange.

I’ve been pampered with LDAC use via my Sony CAS-1 and with the xDSD’s BT4.2 specification, my hopes weren’t high although the xDSD’s portability is taken into consideration. The BT sound of the xDSD sounded way better than what my other music players (xDuoo X3ii and xDuoo x10Tii) was able to offer, the better being defined as giving the overall sound more full-bodied and resolving with respective frequencies being right on timbre. The LDAC’s function on the Sony CAS-1 still trumps the iFi xDSD with how dark the background was yet it’s safe to say that the mid-level expectation I had with the xDSD’s BT sound was exceeded. The “Measure and Listen” filters exhibited miniscule sound signature changes with only a touch of micro detail clarity and retrieval as its main observable effects, I personally preferred the “Listen” filter.

Conclusion
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With a name that already screams DSD in your face paired with a $399 price tag, iFi Audio’s xDSD needed to not only needs to meet high expectations but also surpass them at a high degree. Packed with a multitude of features which are completely absent in competing brands such as their 3D-Matrix+ and XBass+ tech as well as parading Cyberdrive power management platforms and S-Balanced tech made the xDSD's $199 in its price tag justifiable, the rest of the price tag can be attributed to the clean and balanced sound with ample power to make some headphones sing along with the premium aluminum aesthetic silhouette of the xDSD. The single key point of interest that tickles a potential xDSD buyer is the lack of LDAC and BT5.0/5.1 support which would have made the xDSD an almost complete portable DAC/AMP (2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced outputs says Hi).

Yet even with a lack of LDAC/ BT5.0/5.1 support, the xDSD was able to trounce my other portable BT devices and with great stability to boot which made that key point almost just a technical and numbers issue rather an actual real life complaint.

For the all the times that I used the iFi xDSD, it clearly made sense that the “i” in iFi Audio means improved. It’s safe to say that I love the iFi xDSD while only liking its price.
ajlolo
ajlolo
Nice review,Thank you

Comments

KaiserTK

100+ Head-Fier
Thanks for your review!
Bluetooth being a bit buggy is slightly concerning, but I hope iFi finds a way to smooth it out.
Do you know how the xDSD matches up against the iFi BL Series (Micro and Nano)?
 

tacit

100+ Head-Fier
Dear Friends,

I initially liked xDSD very much, while listened flac rips from CD but very soon it turned out that xDSD badly compromised PCM rendering quality for the sake of MQA in 5.3. Is it just my problem? Like I wrote the same files are not problem for Centrance DACportable or Chord Mojo.

Revision 3: xDSD could not handle even PCM 24/192 with firmware 5.3C, gives clicks and noises. Very disappointing because CD resolution flacs sound better with 5.3 firmware. Contacted iFi - answer "it does".

Revision 2: downgraded driver to 5.2 and it fixed the situation now it plays PCM files up to 384kHz perfect. I wish iFi would be more responsible in depicting the situation. Ruining good performance for the inconsequential MQA is total nonsense.

Revision: it is not able to handle correctly PCM files 384kHz (in spite of company's statement that it could), what a disappointment! It makes clicks and noises. These files are not a problem at all for Centrance DACportable or Chord Mojo.
 
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