Xduoo Xa-10

DeBilbao

100+ Head-Fier
xDuoo XA-10: a serious contender for my Rega EAR + Rega DAC combo
Pros: 1. Impressive sound signature, thanks to the double AKM AK4493 DAC
2. Up to 4 Watt power, capable to drive demanding headphones
3. Ready to the latest high-res audio signals, including full MQA decoding
4. Complete input section, including Bluetooth, can be used as a preamp
5. Complete output section, 1/4" single-ended plus XLR and 4.4mm balanced
6. Convenient, one piece setup
7. Great value, with nice price/performance ratio
Cons: None so far.
My desktop rig has been stable since years ago, and every time I try to replace it I end up thinking that the combination of my Sennheiser HD 650, Rega EAR MK II and Rega DAC offers me the music as I like it, with great dynamics, detail and sweetness at the same time.

It's a fact that my brain is used to this sound, completely burnt-in (my brain, not my gear), and probably someone else won't have the same opinion after listening to it. You'd say that at this point, I should stop and relax enjoying my music with it, but I'm also curious and open to new experiences, so once in a while I try new gear.

Because technology is evolving and a rig like this has its own limitations. The Rega DAC's USB input is only capable of processing 16bit and 44.1kHz signals – but oh my! how well it delivers! -, and through the coaxial digital input I can only reach 24bit and 192kHz, using the U2 converter from Douk Audio.

This is not a problem for my music collection, which basically consists of FLAC ripped CDs at 16/44.1, but the new streaming services are capable of delivering higher resolution signals or formats that I can't process natively. My reference streaming service is TIDAL, and I love how it sounds and the quality I get with players on all platforms, whether it is my desktop computer, my laptop, a tablet, a smartphone with iOS or Android or a dedicated DAP, all of them have good software solutions to get a bit-perfect playback of the highest quality.

In addition, this rig takes a lot of space from my desktop, so finding a more compact and modern alternative is a plus. When I saw the latest proposal from xDuoo with the XA-10, I told myself that I had to try it, because on paper it offers everything I need to be a serious contender.

And it is.

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The difference in size is noticeable and the looks of the XA-10 over the desktop is gorgeous. xDuoo has managed to raise the perceived quality of its products with better materials and finishes, and the XA-10 is no exception. Excellent build quality, sandblasted matte grey color finish accentuated with this prominent, informative red volume wheel. It follows the same line of the XD-05 Bal, the Link2 Bal, alternatives designed for portable audio that I have also been able to try with very good results.

Al specs and data are avialable on the page of the XA-10 on the xDuoo website, where you can buy it for 479 USD, about 450 EUR at the actual exchange rate.

The equipment comes very well protected in a box of generous size, padded everywhere so that it does not suffer whatever the carrier do with the package. The power supply is external and you can select the power cord when ordering to suit your country (here the European connector), a USB cable, a 3.5mm to 1/4" adapter and an antenna for wireless input. The manual is in Chinese, but also in English.

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I'm an iPhone user, but during the last weeks I'm also testing a Google Pixel 4a with the latest version 12 of Android and I'm impressed for the value that this device offers at a fraction of the cost of my iPhone 12 Pro.

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On the front of the XA-10 we find the volume wheel, which is digital and 100 steps. In each quarter of a lap you have 8 steps, and I appreciate this design because this little monster is very, very powerful. It invites you to listen to it at high volume, and I've found a comfortable listening level with my Sennheiser HD 650 at 40 steps, in high gain.

This headroom is a very convenient power reserve that comes in handy when you find a low level recorded album or when you use a less sensitive headphone that requires more power as the XA-10 is able to deliver up to 4 Watt.

The volume control wheel sports a screen inside it. It's cleverly designed appearing to be round, but it isn't. It's a small OLED rectangle that shows source input, gain, filter, signal and volume. Informative and not disturbing.

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At the bottom of the front we find three headphone jacks for, a traditional single-ended with a quarter inch jack and two balanced connections, one XLR and another with the usual 4.4mm connector that I use with an adapter because my balanced cables and devices are ended with the smaller 2.5mm connector.

On the right side we have three buttons, the input selector, menu selector that lets you change the gain or choose the sound filters, and the Bluetooth button.

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I've tested not only the Sennheiser HD 650, but also the AudioQuest NightHawk Carbon and the in-ear headphones that I own: Sennheiser IE 300 are my latest acquisition and I love their fit and the Senn's sound signature and the adictive low-end. I've also tested the IMR R1 and the Final Audio E4000 with no trace of hiss in any of them. The XA-10 offers a clean sound without any background noise with any of them, something that has pleasantly surprised me. More sensitive in-ears could catch some hiss but it's not the case with these.

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What has surprised me too - and I expected something else - is that I hardly notice any difference from using the balanced or single-ended output. I usually notice immediately a greater volume and more dynamics in other devices, but in this one I get the same sound. I don't know if there is any electronic adjustment to match the output volumes, but with my ears I can't get any difference, as it happens to me for example when I use the HiBy R3 Pro player, in which the outputs of 3.5mm and 2.5mm are like night and day.

Strange.

The XA-10 announces that it is capable of reaching 3,000mW for single-ended output and up to 4,000mW for balanced output. That's 3W and 4W of power, and compared to the memory I have of other xDuoo equipment, that power is controlled and the sound is cleaner and I find more organic, it may be because I use the double DAC AK4493 from AKM, which I personally like more than those of ESS, which I find too cold or analytical.

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The back shows that it is a device designed to be connected with almost everything. Three wired digital inputs, a USB input controlled by an XMOS XU216 circuit that supports PCM signals up to 32bit and 768kHz and DSD up to 512, a coaxial digital input with RCA connector and an optical digital input with Tos-Link connector.

It also has a Bluetooth input that you can use to send the signal from another device, such as your smartphone. I've tried it with both the iPhone 11 Pro and the Pixel 4a and the results are very good. If I compare it with the direct signal through the USB port it loses, but what arrives by Bluetooth is perfectly enjoyable and for an occasional use perfectly valid, being a must-have complement for a party at home with friends, keeping them away from your rig.

It also has RCA line input and output, so you can place it together with your stereo equipment and do the function of preamp and headphone amplifier. Very convenient if you want to improve your listening experience with a pair of high quality headphones next to your Hi-Fi setup.

The power supply is 12V and external, the type used in laptops, and has a connector also on the back along with a good quality on-off switch. Keeping the power supply out of the unit helps reducing the size of the unit and there's less chance to get interferences.

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The experience with the Google Pixel 4a is being so satisfying that it has been the first source I've connected to the XA-10. The first impression with Sweet Jane from the Velvet Underground's Loaded by has been quite impressive. I didn't expect that closeness and definition on the guitars and in Lou Reed's vocals.

In Tidal it is available on 24/192 and the album sounds wonderful.

https://album.link/i/1050415251

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Then I continued with a classic: Green Onions by Booker T. & The MG's. With a base of blues, you get a little bit of everything, from organ to guitars and drums. The recording is quite old and it could be better by today's standards, but the PRAT effect is there and I can't stop moving my feet.

https://album.link/es/i/159363079

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Very, very enjoyable and as with the Velvet, on the screen of the Pixel 4A I see that Universal Audio Player Pro makes the complete unfold of the MQA stream and I am playing a FLAC 24/192 through the USB input, also confirmed by the OLED screen of the XA-10, which also always shows the input, the gain level and the sound filter applied.

As always happens to me with filters, I can't observe differences between each of the different types. I always leave it in Slow roll-off that by its name sounds more relaxed, but it could be in any position.

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Time to move to my desktop and compare the XA-10 face to face with the Rega combo that gives me so many hours of musical enjoyment.

Seeing them next to each other, the feeling is classic versus futuristic. I like both proposals, as I find the XA-10 very nice and understated. The blue light inside that the photo has captured is quite dim and to me that I'm very picky with those things, it does not bother me at all.

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The sound of the XA-10 reminds me of a tube amp, with detail and a point of sweetness at the same time, so I select something intimate highlighting a good voice, like this Waltz for Debby by Bill Evans with Monica Zetterlund, an album that offers sweetness and that the XA-10 reproduces beautifully. Unfortunately it's not available in streaming, and I can't share its link.

With the Sennheiser HD 650 I am using a balanced cable terminated in a 2.5mm connector that I use with an adapter to the 4.4mm balanced input of the XA-10 and with another to the single-ended input of the Rega set. I've matched volumes to "ear" and switching between systems is as simple as plugging in and disconnecting the cable.

I know this album very well, and the result is quite even with the XA-10 doing an excellent job, but looking for nuances, the Rega set using the USB input of the Rega DAC is a tad warmer and more pleasant. Maybe I'm very used to their sound, but that's the first impression.
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I continue with another album that I know very well and with a song that gives me goosebump every time I listen to it. Ada Montellanico's version of Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit is simply stunning. It is not available in streaming, and I keep the cd collection of L'Expresso and La Repubblica in La Casa del Jazz as gold in cloth.
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It starts with the string of a double bass that introduces you to this protest song that talks about the lynching of black americans, comparing the victims with with "strange fruit" hanging on the southern trees. The sweet voice of Ada gives it a less aggressive point than the original version from Billie Holiday. In this case the quality of the recording is excellent and the extra definition point that the xDuoo XA-10 gives is much appreciated. The piano, voice, string, and sustained notes are all accurately distinguished.

But I stay with the original version where Billie Holiday's voice, broken and torn, narrates the drama in a very close way. Here you can see one of the interpretations he made of this song and that he always included in his repertoire, a fact that more than once caused him a problem. Here's a fruit, for the crows to pluck...



The xDuoo XA-10 asks me to continue listening to well-recorded voices, and I decide on the delicious voice of the New Zealander Nadia Reid, which I recommend you listen carefully if you do not know her. The start of this 2015 album, Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs is perfect for a spring sunset looking at the sun.

https://album.link/es/i/1153582180

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But Jazz calls me. I'm a follower of the Italian Jazz scene where it's very easy to find works that combine a good voice and the warmth of a trumpet played as Enrico Rava does, accompanied here again by Ada Montellanico. Another album to taste calmly, like many others from the Philology label. In Quasi Sera the balance between voice and trumpet produces an almost magical result and the XA-10 transmits it to me clearly, and although I would say that I like the Rega set a little more, in this case I do not think it passed a blind test.

https://album.link/i/307671049

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I leave Jazz looking for xDuoo something more recent and with an impressive production quality. Parcels is a group that seem to be from the Berlin whexre they recorded this Vol. 1, but in fact they are Australian and make an electronic pop that sounds like fantastic. Both the xDuoo and the Rega are able to reproduce it wonderfully, but in this case I think I like a little more the extra definition that the XA-10 offers, but again I see them very, very close to each other.

https://album.link/es/i/1506250361

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But this XA-10 asks me to enjoy the voices, and I turn to the rock side of my brain (which I do not know how many sides it has, but it is very polyhedral), and I switch to Patti Smith's Horses and here I don't care if the XA-10 or the Rega sounds, both get me moving my feet or head.

I find the reproduction of Patti Smith's voice very remarkable in the XA-10, and once again I have the feeling that the Sennheiser HD 650 is capable of going even further.

https://album.link/es/i/266367955

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And finally, the incredibly full-sounding soundtrack album of the documentary Uprize!. A pure sonic enjoyment that seems to be made for the XA-10 to show off all its virtues. The song with which he opens the album, Bantu Education, has the full range of frequencies there and as a test song it's priceless.

https://album.link/es/i/1527489888

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The XA-10 did not have very good measurements by Amir in his AudioScienceReview review, but for me the measurements are secondary and the sensations and musical enjoyment that I achieved with it is what really matters. If you read the thread, you can see that there are a few who have tried it and rate its sound as good or very good.

I am convinced that if I got rid of my Rega equipment I would miss it, but I have to admit that this xDuoo XA-10 is a worthy rival for its sound and is much more prepared for new formats and ways of consuming music.

It's still with me and l'll continue testing it, comparing results and sharing my experience with you, Head-fiers.

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:):):)
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cqtek
cqtek
¡Enhorabuena por la reseña y la portada!
rocketron
rocketron
Great review.
garcsa
garcsa
Zorionak! Bilbo maite dut. :wink:

Harisankar

New Head-Fier
Most economical endgame balanced Dac/Amp combo
Pros: 1) Inexpensive for a class A balanced Dac/Amp
2) Very Powerful (4W@32 ohm)
3) Both XLR and 4.4mm balanced outputs
4) Punchy bass, lush mids and non fatiguing treble
5) Precise volume control
6) MQA decoding (I know the controversy about MQA and it not being truly lossless , however as Golden Sound himself has said if it is a choice between unfolded MQA and non unfolded MQA, take the unfolded always)
Cons: 1) May produce hiss with sensitive iems
I am here to tell you that this unit is the most affordable balanced dac/amp available currently in the Indian market that has the potential to be your endgame setup for all your headphone needs whether dynamic or planar. The only exception is if you are an exclusive iem user as there are multiple reports of this unit causing hiss with sensitive items. So, exclusive iem users can give this unit a pass. However, still if you only occasionally use iems and your iem is not very sensitive (let's just say a Tinhifi P1 or P2), you can give this unit a try preferably in low gain.

Since this is a class A dac/amp combo featuring dual AK4493 chips, this is especially suitable for planars and even among planars this is best suited for Hifiman planars. It is because this unit has a warm and spacious sound signature that goes well with the slightly bright and analytical sound of most Hifiman planars. I myself use this with my Hifiman Sundara (through the XLR balanced port) and the combo produces great dynamics, wide soundstage along with tight bass, lush mids and non-fatiguing treble. If you are considering buying a Hifiman Sundara or Hifiman He400se, I recommend that you save up a bit and buy a balanced cable and the Xduoo XA-10 as well. It might seem like a large investment at first, however, keep in mind that this is an endgame system and you can use the cables and the XA-10 in the future as well when you upgrade to a Hifiman Ananda/Arya/He1000v2/He1000se. Thus saving your cash in the long run as well. Some of you may be turned off by the poor performance of this unit in the ASR website. But do not worry, most of those measurements won't be audible to human ears and don't serve any purpose other than bragging rights. In case, you want further proof, Andrew from The Headphone Show and Resolve Reviews recently made a video debunking the whole concept of SINAD and showing why it is not important. Even ASR many times admitted in his reviews that a poor performing unit may subjectively sound fine

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wakokokoyz
wakokokoyz
iv been in this hobby for quite some time. i dont consider myself an "audiophile", instead, just a person who enjoys good music. this is end game dac/amp for me with sundara and zeus (maybe not the headphones 😁). 4watts, everything just sounds full and big, plus clean desk.👌👌 got mine for about 405usd. worth every cent
H
Harisankar
Glad to see more people recognise the value of this underdog Dac/Amp combo.
J
Jimmyblues1959
Excellent review!

Headphones and Coffee

Previously known as Wretched Stare
xDuoo XA-10 Review
Pros: Balanced out puts, Solid build , plenty of IO , Versatility
Cons: No balanced inputs or XLR in back, BA and hybrids IEMs that are sensitive tend to his
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The package is minimal inside another simple box probably for display, inside a power brick similar to a laptop or printer one. the unit also comes with a USB cable. The back of the XA-10 has various input outputs RCA in and out optical, USB , and coaxial as well as a Bluetooth antenna and power in. In the front you get a 4.4mm XLR and 6.35mm for good compatibility. The screen is small but easy to read and the very nice looking red ring hides a Volume knob, there is a sexy blue light on the side vents I like and think would work great for gamers. The unit also has 3 buttons input select menu , Bluetooth pairing its has High and Low gain and filters other than that its very easy to use.
The xDuoo supports a large variety of files and features full MQA if you like that.


Product highlights
  • Full MQA decoding
  • DSD512
  • PCM 32 bit/768kHz
  • Fully balanced architecture
  • 4,000mW output power
  • THD+N 0.0008%
  • SNR 120dB
  • Eight ins and outs
  • “POP” protection relay
  • Designed for compact spaces
  • Output power:
    • Balanced: 4,000mW (32Ω@1kHz)
    • Single-ended: 3,000m@ (32Ω@1kHz)
  • USB support sampling rate:
    • PCM 16-32 bit/ 44.1K-768kHz
    • DSD64-512
    • DXD: 24-32 bit/ 352.8K-384kHz
    • MQA: 16-32 bit/ 44.1K-192kHz
  • Optical support sampling rate:
    • PCM 16-24 bit/ 44.1-192kHz
    • DSD64
  • Bluetooth formats: SBC: AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX LL, LDAC
  • Volume value: 100 levels
  • Power supply: DC12V/3A
  • Suitable headphone impedance: 16-600Ω
  • Screen: 0.96” OLED
  • Gain: +18dB
  • THD: 0.0008%
  • SNR
    • Balanced: 120dB
    • Single-ended: 115dB
  • Crosstalk
    • Balanced: 108dB
    • Single-ended: 73dB
  • Weight: 1.9lbs (0.9kg)
  • Size: 8.6 x 2.7 x 3.9” (22 x 7 x 10cm)
What’s included
  • xDuoo XA-10
  • Power cord
  • USB cable
  • Bluetooth antenna
  • ⅛” female to ¼” male adapter
  • An all-in-one DAC/amp with prestige features and a modest footprint




Full MQA decoding
Did you know that MP3 files deliver just 10% of original studio recordings? That’s one-tenth of the nuance, depth, and richness that the artist intended for you to hear. MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) files, on the other hand, deliver the full, uncompressed sound of the original master recordings in all their richness. The XA-10 features full MQA-decoding, delivering the best possible version of your music.

Top-of-the-line decoding
Thanks to double AKM AK4493EQ DAC chips, the XA-10 can decode the highest sample rates outside of MQA. The 32-bit, 2-channel chips are capable of decoding up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and 22.4mHz DSD512. A newly developed capacitor filter allows the chips to achieve all this while using far less power consumption than previous generations.

Fully balanced architecture
The XA-10 was designed with purists in mind. Its fully balanced architecture, which features double DACs, amplifier circuits, and balanced outputs, goes above and beyond to eliminate interference and crosstalk.

4,000mW output power
The XA-10 boasts 4,000mW of output power, allowing you to drive popular high-impedance headphones like the Sennheiser HD 660 S, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, and the Audeze LCD-4. Anything with an impedance less than 601Ω is fair game. 4,000mW of power isn’t quite enough to drive passive speakers, but you could use the XA-10 as a preamp for a pair of powered speakers.

THD+N of 0.0008%
The XA-10 has a Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise rating of 0.0008%. Great, you may be thinking, but, uh, what does that mean? It can be difficult to wrap your head around the concept of a “pure” signal, so let’s speak in terms of liquid. Imagine that the XA-10 outputs drinking water instead of sound. If you were to pour a soda can’s worth of water from it, only 0.2 milliliters of it would be “impure”. That’s about the size of a grain of sand. The other 99.9992% of it is pure and potable. Unless you’re a machine, you’re just not going to notice such minor impurities.

120dB SNR
If you’ve ever cranked an old stereo system without any music playing, you probably noticed a hissing noise. That’s the noise we’re talking about in SNR, or Signal-to-Noise Ratio. The higher the number is, the better. An SNR of 120dB means that you’d have to crank the XA-10 louder than an ambulance siren before hearing hiss. For the love of your hearing, please don’t do that.

Eight ins and outs
With eight ins and outs, the XA-10 is an exceedingly capacious hub for most audio systems. On the back panel, you can connect a turntable via RCA, a laptop or desktop via USB, a phone via Bluetooth, and a gaming console via coaxial or optical. On the front panel, three outputs allow you to run single-ended headphones or balanced headphones with a 4.4 TRRS or 4-pin XLR.

Never hear that “pop!” noise again
A special relay in the XA-10 prevents that awful “pop!” noise that occurs when turning on some amps. Not only is this sound annoying and painful, but it can damage your headphones and eardrums. Do yourself a favor and never hear it again.

Designed for compact desk space

Product highlights
  • Full MQA decoding
  • DSD512
  • PCM 32 bit/768kHz
  • Fully balanced architecture
  • 4,000mW output power
  • THD+N 0.0008%
  • SNR 120dB
  • Eight ins and outs
  • “POP” protection relay
  • Designed for compact spaces
  • Output power:
    • Balanced: 4,000mW (32Ω@1kHz)
    • Single-ended: 3,000m@ (32Ω@1kHz)
  • USB support sampling rate:
    • PCM 16-32 bit/ 44.1K-768kHz
    • DSD64-512
    • DXD: 24-32 bit/ 352.8K-384kHz
    • MQA: 16-32 bit/ 44.1K-192kHz
  • Optical support sampling rate:
    • PCM 16-24 bit/ 44.1-192kHz
    • DSD64
  • Bluetooth formats: SBC: AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX LL, LDAC
  • Volume value: 100 levels
  • Power supply: DC12V/3A
  • Suitable headphone impedance: 16-600Ω
  • Screen: 0.96” OLED
  • Gain: +18dB
  • THD: 0.0008%
  • SNR
    • Balanced: 120dB
    • Single-ended: 115dB
  • Crosstalk
    • Balanced: 108dB
    • Single-ended: 73dB
  • Weight: 1.9lbs (0.9kg)
  • Size: 8.6 x 2.7 x 3.9” (22 x 7 x 10cm)

What’s included
  • xDuoo XA-10
  • Power cord
  • USB cable
  • Bluetooth antenna
  • ⅛” female to ¼” male adapter

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Sound:

The XA-10 presents with a reasonably neutral and clean sound its got some decent details and speed but is forgiving with MP3 and lower streaming options. Bass has power and depth, the Mids are clear and well represented while highs are smooth with good details and energy , stage is big and open. this will of coarse depend on what your listening to and listening with, the DAC amp cant do miracles but it can definitely drive those hard to drive headphones.

Conclusion : Is this the best option in its price range probably not but there are a dozen reasons why its a good option for the novice audio enthusiast, Gamer or budget minded person looking to upgrade. With 3W single ended and 4W balanced there will always be plenty of power, it takes up very little space. only one thing to plug in for power and it built like a tank among some. I really like the XA-10 and while its not the best its very good and very convenient.


Wiljen

Headphoneus Supremus
Xduoo Xa-10 Co-flagship DAC/AMP
Pros: great build quality, very clean sound, good power, lots of input options.
Cons: Price, hiss with high sensitivity iems
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disclaimer: The Xa-10 was provided for the purpose of this review by XDuoo. If you have an interest in purchasing any of the Xduoo amplifiers I have recently written about, I suggest you check out Xduoo’s website and follow them on facebook for more information. I have no financial interest in Xduoo, nor did I receive any compensation beyond the product itself for reviewing it.

Unboxing / Packaging:
The Xa-10 is a fairly light unit but is well packaged for travel all the same. The outer box is a heavy cardboard shipping container with a lighter display packaging appropriate to a resale resting inside. The packaging is fairly non-descript, but highly functional with all components packed neatly and kept from rattling around in transit. The kit contains the main unit, Bluetooth antenna, USB cable, and power cord . No interconnects are provided so you’ll want to make sure you have the necessities.

Build/Fit:
First off, if you’ve seen pictures online you probably have an idea of the size of the Xa-10 and if you are like me, you are probably wrong. I was surprised by the size of the Xa-10 when I got it out of the box. At four (4) inches tall, three (3) inches wide, and just under nine (9) inches deep, the unit is very compact. The unit is light as well as because it uses a switching power supply (external) and uses an output buffer it has no heavy transformers inside the case. Build quality is good as the unit uses a heavy gauge aluminum shell with an even heavier front plate. All of the surfaces are gun-metal gray anodized and the familiar X pattern of ports for venting is cut into the sides of the units housing. In keeping with other recent models, the large volume knob is also anodized aluminum in a deep red. The volume knob is pretty cool as the display is centered in the middle and stays stationary while the outer ring turns. Beneath the volume knob are (from left to right) a 6.3mm single ended headphone port, a 4 pin XLR balanced port, and a 4.4mm pentaconn balanced port. Controls for the display are on the right side of the unit with 3 buttons for input selection, menu items, and Bluetooth. On the rear of the unit, we find RCA input and outputs at top left and bluetooth antenna connector top right. Beneath the RCA jacks are the coax, optical, and usb inputs on the left and power switch and 12V DC power input on the right.




Internals:
We expect the internals on the Xa-10 to be fairly high end with it being the co-flagship of the Xduoo line and it doesn’t disappoint. Inputs are handled by Xmos (Xu216) for USB, The Qualcomm CSR8675 handles Bluetooth, while a Cirrus Logic CS8422 handles Optical and Coaxial inputs. Next in sequence is a CPLD (complex programmable logic device) that is fed all inputs and handles jitter correction via two clocks (44/48) before feeding the signal to dual AKM4493 DAC chips. The filters on the dacs are exposed to the end user via the front controls and give the option to tune the sound. (more on this under controls). The Amplifier stage is composed of a quartet of OPA1612 followed by a Class A buffer. This combination of op-amp and buffer gives a higher output power than would be possible with either by itself and helps prevent droop when large power demands do occur. Finally, before exit, the signal passes through a digital volume control and protection circuit that keeps power on noises from being heard in the attached headphone. This is a smart feature as anything with nearly 4 watts of output power is capable of destroying headphones if an aberrant spike were to occur. Remember it is always wise to plug the headphone in before powering on the amp, but this does give a margin of safety as well.
File support includes up to and including 32bit/768kHz PCM, DSD64-512, DXD 24-32, and full MQA support (32/384 max). Optical and coaxial inputs are limited to 24/192 PCM and DSD64. Bluetooth supports ,AAC, AptX HD, and LDAC in addition to the base SBC and AptX protocols giving plenty of input options. Output power is up to 3Watts (with a 32Ω load) in single-ended and up to 4 Watts in balanced (also assuming a 32Ω load). I found this had plenty of power for everything in my collection although the He6 does have more headroom on the Ta-30 so for those really hard to drive headphones, audition the Xa-10 before purchase may be wise. Still with 600Ω Beyerdynamic and AKG models, I had enough headroom to listen at volumes entirely louder than recommended or safe.




Is it Balanced?
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room, some have called models that have the same power output on both single ended and balanced connections “Fake Balanced”. This is due to ignorance as balanced does not define output power and it is entirely possible to be balanced without increasing output power. The term balanced signaling means simply that conductors have equal impedance to ground. Single ended (R+,L+, Gc) is not balanced because of the combined return. Since each signal has to compete with the other on the return side, the impedance will vary. If instead the system is wired where left and right have separate grounds (R+ Rg and L+ Lg) as is the case with the Xa-10 (and the Sp200 as well) then the connection is balanced as the routes to and from the transducers have equal impedance to ground.
The confusion comes from the fact that balanced connections are often differential connections as well. Differential implies that the two conductors carry the same signal in opposite polarity and while differential does not require a separate ground, we often see a 3rd wire used for it. Almost all XLR interconnects are both balanced and differential as they are wired +,-,ground and only carry a single channel per connection. The separate ground helps with eliminating voltage potential between components while the differential connectors increase signal strength and help improve signal to noise ratio which is of high importance on the low power signals often traveling between components. Differential amplification gives twice the voltage swing as single-ended as the swing is from positive to negative rather than positive to zero.

With many XLR connections being both balanced and differential, the two terms have been used interchangeably and some have lost sight of the fact that it is not necessary to be differential in order to be balanced. Differential amps are usually more expensive as you have to have 4 amplifiers instead of 2 to create the positive and negative signals. For this reason budget gear opts for balanced, but not differential.

So yes, the Xa-10 is balanced, no, it is not differential. One can test this fairly simply by using the negative connection for one channel or the other of the XLR connector and connecting the other to ground to test using an ammeter. If voltage is present between the negative and ground, in equal and opposite amount to the reading from the positive to ground, the circuit is differential. If positive to ground yields a voltage reading but negative to ground sits at zero it is balanced using a ground per channel (the negative connector) and is not differential. remember to use bare metal for the return as anodizing acts as an insulator. I did my tests with the case removed so I had access to the internal ground.

Controls:
There are 3 buttons immediately behind the face on the right hand side of the unit. The top is input select and clicking it cycles through the various input options available. Remember when using the usb, there is a windows driver that is required to support full resolution although the Xa-10 will work as a 24/192 DAC without use of a windows driver on recent builds of windows 10. The second button is the menu which exposes the gain and filter options. turning the dial switches between gain and filter and clicking the menu button again opens a list of choices for each. Gain has only two options low or high, but filter offers eight (8) total options, six for PCM and 2 for DSD. On Screen, these are listed as FIR1-8 at middle left. The first six are the PCM filters with 1 = sharp roll-off , 2 = Slow roll-off, 3 = Short Delay Sharp, 4 = Short Delay Slow, 5 = Super slow, and 6 = Low Dispersion Short Delay. Options 7 and 8 are DSD filters with 7 offering low and 8 high. The bottom most button is the bluetooth pairing button and leads us into our next section.



Bluetooth:

To pair the Xa-10, first make sure the input is set to Bluetooth using the input select button. This should make the display flash the Bluetooth symbol and display the word unpair. The unit should automatically go into pairing mode if not already paired and once connected the symbol will change and say connected. Once paired, the unit will search for existing pairings at each startup (when in BT mode), so to switch devices connected, one needs to press and hold the bluetooth button (bottom button on side) for 3 seconds to force the unit back into pairing mode. I found connection strength to be fairly good (although best with LDAC or AptX HD) and one can move around inside and not lose signal unless several layers of drywall are present. (I used the pre-amp function to test BT as none of my headphones have a long enough cable to test this). Average distance in open air before break up is roughly 25 feet.

Sound:
Sound is tough to discuss on any DAC/Amp as it often is more a matter of source material and headphones that influence what we hear. I tested the Xa-10 with a few select headphones and iems that I am intimately familiar with to avoid attributing characteristics of the headphones to the Xa-10.

Power:
The Xa-10 had plenty of power for all but the most demanding of headphones and even then, it has enough power to run the He6, it just doesn’t have the headroom of the Ta-30 for driving the beasts. the Xa-10 was great with the T50rp which also has a reputation of being something that needs a ton of power to do well. The down side to all that power is even on low gain, the Xa-10 produces some hiss on things like the Magaosi K5 and other extremely high sensitivity in-ears. I think the fact that the 3 jacks on front are 6.3, 4.4, and XLR probably hint at the idea that it wasn’t really designed with extremely sensitive in ears in mind.

Bass:
The Xa-10 has good linearity and enough power to deliver big hits when called upon without an attendant droop and recovery like some lesser amps. Even when running 600Ω Beyer and AKG models, the Xa-10 had more than enough power to keep big bass hits coming with good speed and clarity and no loss of definition in repeat strikes. Overall the Xa-10 does a good job of presenting what the source sends it with no coloration and very little smoothing. (I’m happy to see this as AKM can trade a bit of detail for smooth delivery).

Mids:
The Xa-10 delivers here in spades, great detail, good transient speed, and no coloration. Vocals are tight and are not markedly lifted (at least by the Xa-10) which lets the tuning of the headphone attached really shine through. Very clean, controlled, and detailed mid-range.

Treble:
The Xa-10 has good extension and clarity at the top with enough energy to again let the headphones tuning really show through. Very similar to the mids in detail level and clarity, but here we do see the AKM smoothing a little more than in the lower registers as tracks that are sibilant are slightly less abrasive and strident when played back on the Xa-10 when compared to something a bit less forgiving like the RME ADI-2.


Soundstage / Imaging:
I have always thought the job of a good amplifier was to stay out of the way and let the headphone deliver. For that reason I test stage with the Hifiman Ananda and Sennheiser HD800 which both have a reputation for massive stage. I can’t say that the Xa-10 expands the stage, but I can say it does not do anything to detract from it either.


Comparisons:

Xduoo Ta-30 – The Xa-10 and Ta-30 arguably hold co-flagship positions in the Xduoo line-up with the Ta-30 being a tube hybrid using an ESS dac and being more amp focused while the Xa-10 uses dual AKM dacs and is arguably a bit more of an overall package rather than a tube amp that happens to have a dac internally. Having said that, the Ta-30 is a solid DAC/amp and for many offers more flexibility with the ability to roll both rectifier and pre-amp tubes. In addition the Ta-30 is also a bit more potent delivering a full 4 watts into its single ended connection. The Ta-30 doesn’t have any balanced outputs though and can’t match the SNR, or THD numbers of the Xa-10. The Xa-10 also adds MQA support which the Ta-30 does not have so for those who are using Tidal or other MQA capable streamers, the Xa-10 has a clear advantage. I love my tubes, but if I had to choose for an office desk, the Xa gets the nod, smaller, more capable, and less breakable has its advantages.

Topping D50s/A50s – The closest comparison to Topping’s line is their D50s/A50s that was recently released. Topping has focused on match separates rather than building an all-in-one device at this price point but at $249 for the dac and $219 for the amp, the price for the total package is roughly the same. The topping uses a pair of ESS 9038Q2m chips vs the AKM4493 pair in the Xduoo so this is pretty much a wash as these two are pretty evenly matched. Both Dacs offer optical, coax, usb, and Bluetooth inputs, so here again, no huge winners or losers, unless you use Tidal and then the Xa-10’s support for MQA outshines the Topping. The amps do differentiate a bit more. TheXa-10 is more potent at 3 Watts in single-ended vs the A50s at 1.4 Watts. And the Xa-10 offers both 4.4 and XLR jacks vs the 4.4 only of the A50s. Both have disgustingly low THD and incredibly good SNR but here the A50s shows off. The Xa-10 is listed as 120 dB SNR and <.0008 THD vs the A50s with its <.00007 THD and nearly 140dB SNR. Purists will opt for the A50s, while realists will realize both of these models are good enough that any difference is inaudible. This one will come down to MQA/Tidal use for many as both are very good, but the Xa-10 offers more capability while the topping may be slightly more flexible.

SMSL M500 – Here we have SMSL’s entry into the $500 market space. The M500 utilizes the 9038Pro chip so is a step up from the 9038q2m mobile chip in the Topping as it is the 8 DAC chip and uses 4 dacs summed per audio channel which helps reduce noise and improves resolution by reducing errors. Arguably the M500 is more dac than amp with balanced outputs for connecting to another amplifier but no balanced headphone output. It has less power than the others as well with only 600mW compared to the 1+ watt of the other two in the round up. Still, it has enough power to be a solid headphone amp for office use, does support MQA, is roughly the same form factor as the Xa-10, and again sports THD and SNR numbers that mean differences in the 3 should be inaudible. SMSL does not get the respect that either Topping or Xduoo have earned due to some early hit or miss QC issues, but of late, SMSL products have been improving and the M500 is worth a look, particularly if you intend to use IEMs where the lower power output may be a plus. For full sized headphones, the Xa-10 offers a better fit.

Thoughts / Conclusion:

Man you couldn’t have hit me more solidly wrong with this one. I’m a tube guy, everyone knows that, I’m not a huge fan of wireless as I have never had a problem wearing wired headphones, and I’m a file library guy who grudgingly uses Tidal and Quboz to test with. So what am I doing testing a solid-state, Bluetooth, MQA DAC amp? Well, I’m enjoying it, a lot. No it doesn’t fit with my usual preferences, and yes, I’d still prefer a little tube flavor in the sound at times, but this thing is really good. Once we get past the “Fake balanced” garbage of recent internet posts and realize that balanced does not have to be differential, we understand the power output numbers for the Xa-10, and the other specs are really amazingly good for a product that costs less than $500 out the door. On low gain it worked well with all but super sensitive iems (this is not the amp for Magaosi K5 or Campfire Andromeda that tend to hiss). On high gain it has more than enough power for 600Ω Beyer and AKGs and even enough to run the vaunted He6 (although not with as much headroom as the Ta-30). On top of impressive specs and power, its small enough to fit under my Dell monitor at work and all but disappear when not in use. As a desktop companion, it’s hard to imagine much better. Well worth your time to audition and on my short list of desktop recommendations.
D
dmac6419
Uh this measure bad,better off with a FiiO K5 pro $149 USD,unless you need the amp power,but you'll get that with the k5 pro,should have a sound signature since it's a dac/amp unit.
Wiljen
Wiljen
Uh this measure ok, even ASR that you are quoting said it sounded fine but did not measure as well as some others. If you want to chase inaudible measurements, go ahead, but I wouldn't tell everyone else to do the same.
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