The award winner
iFi’s new portable DAC and headphone amplifier, the xDSD, has won what’s sure to be the first of many awards.
EISA, the European Sound and Imaging Association, has awarded the xDSD Best Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier for 2018-2019.
Victoria Pickles from iFi said:
“The release of the xDSD had us excited for a long time, so winning the EISA award for Best Portable DAC / Headphone Amplifier is the icing on the cake.
The xDSD packs a punch and revitalizes the way people listen to music. The award is testament to the hard work of everyone at iFi in striving to create the best audio products possible for our customers.”
Praise for the iFi xDSD
EISA was not only impressed by the xDSD’s ten-hour battery life and sleek, super-light magnesium case, but they also loved its flexibility:
“The DAC Headphone Amplifier turns smartphones, laptops and portable players into great sounding music centres. It exudes quality and is perfect for indulging in music on the move.”
They also loved its S/PDIF and USB inputs as well as switchable, digital filtering to allow the flow of unbeatable frequency balance.
With praise like this, it’s easy to see why the xDSD deserves its place on the winner’s podium.
The tech specs
The award-winning xDSD is perfect for home or portable use. But don’t let its compact size fool you, because it’s packed with some big components:
Wireless Bluetooth - Delivers CD-Quality music wirelessly to your headphones from your smartphone, DAP, laptop or smart TV.
S/PDIF and USB inputs - Wired, the USB type A OTG/CCK connector offers the ultimate High-Res audio performance for smartphones, laptops and USB enabled DAPs. The 3.5mm coaxial/TOSLINK combo S/PDIF input gives older DAPs and CD players a new lease of life as a transport to serve High-Resolution audio.
Burr-Brown TrueNative - Hear music as the artist intended. The Burr-Brown True Native® chipset means file formats remain unchanged for the purest sound.
MQA - For MQA tracks, simply connect to Tidal (on your computer) and check the options to stream MQA.
S-Balanced Performance - The iFi exclusive S-Balanced technology delivers the maximum performance from single-ended and balanced headphones alike.
3D+ & XBass+ - 3D+® creates a louder, deeper soundstage that puts the artist with you in the room with you. XBass+® corrects headphone/speaker bass response to deliver a more profound, tighter, richer bass.
Cyberdrive - 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 analogue system under digital control for a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario.
It’s no wonder EISA was quick to award the xDSD the Best Portable DAC / Headphone Amplifier for 2018/19.
The xDSD, there’s simply nothing like it.
The retail price of the xDSD is US$399 (ex-tax) or €449 /£399 (incl. VAT).
Having sparked a revolution with its low-cost DACs that offered music fans portable 256 stereo for less than £500 a few years ago, iFi has maintained its position at the vanguard of the audio world with the launch of the ground-breaking Pro iDSD. There is simply nothing like it.
We have paid great attention to every section of this DAC/headphone-amp/preamp – no stone has been left unturned. Tried and tested classic noise reduction techniques found in tube equipment have been combined with cutting-edge, 21st century technology to deliver a superlative performance.
The quad section uses a quad “stack” of Bit-Perfect DSD and DXD DACs by Burr-Brown in a custom “interleaved” configuration. This arrangement enables a total of eight pairs of differential signals to be used and mixed totalling four pairs of signals per channel.
In a nutshell
The iFi Pro iDSD is a revolutionary DAC that combines a number of different features to give your home audio system the best possible playback resolution and sound. It can handle all audio formats to DSD1024 or DSD512 or PCM 768K with user-selectable digital filters.
With LINKPLAY™ WiFi/network playback, built-in Spotify and Tidal, and wide protocol support for 32-Bit/192kHz and DSD64, the Pro iDSD can directly link to a router for online music play. This gives it the option to:
• Play direct from SD card
• Link to a router and directly stream (TIDAL/MQA, Spotify etc)
• Use DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) via music stored on HDD
It’s taken a while to come to market but, boy, has it been worth it. This innovative digital engine will shape the next generation of iFi products and they will rock the digital world.
The gang of four
A quad “stack” of Bit-Perfect DSD and DXD DACs by Burr-Brown work in a custom “interleaved” configuration so that up to eight pairs of differential signals can be used and mixed.
The new XMOS XU216 X-Core 200 Series 16-Core processor has a maximum of 2,000 MIPS (two billion instructions per second) calculation power in dual-issue mode as a USB interface.
Crysopeia FPGA Digital Engine
The FPGA excels, by handling the up-sampling duties to attain the DSD1024 audio format. In fact, the Pro iDSD can handle all audio formats to DSD1024 or DSD512 or PCM 768K with user-selectable digital filters.
With LINKPLAY™ WiFi/network playback, built-in Spotify and Tidal, and wide protocol support for 32-Bit/192kHz and DSD64, the Pro iDSD can directly link to a router for online music play.
Many format options
It can handle all audio formats to DSD1024 or DSD512 or PCM 768K with user-selectable digital filters and also gives the user the option to listen to tracks via MQA.
PCM up to 768kHz
DSD up to 24.576MHz
DXD and double speed DXD (2xDXD)
USB (required for DSD, DXD and sample rates above 192KHz)
AES3 (XLR - single link)
SPDIF (RCA/Optical combo)
BNC multifunction In (SPDIF/AES3id In, DARS In, 10MHz In, Atomic clock in)
BNC multifunction Sync Out (DARS out, 10MHz out)
Balanced XLR at 4.6V (+15.5dBu - HiFi) or 10V (+22dBu - Pro)
Single-Ended RCA at 2.3V (HiFi) or 5V (Pro)
Headphones 6.3mm & SE 3.5mm Jack at 0.55V/2.1V/5V
Headphones BAL 2.5mm Jack at 1.13V/4.6V/10V
Headphones out 1,500mW RMS X 2 @ 64 ohm, 4,000mW max. 2 X @ 16 Ohm
Balanced (quad) Alps potentiometer, motorised with IR remote control
XLR/RCA outputs can be selected as fixed level or adjusted
6.3mm Headphone Jack is always adjusted
Various digital and analogue filters can be selected for DSD and PCM up to 192KHz
Bit perfect (no digital filter, minimal analogue filter)
44.1 - 192KHz, always used for 352.8 - 768kHz
Bit perfect II (no digital filter, analogue filter corrects HF roll-off)
44.1 - 96kHz
Minimum Phase (Filter minimises pre- and post-ringing)
44.1 - 192KHz
Standard FIR (Brickwall Filter)
44.1 - 192KHz
Additional fixed second order analogue filter @ 80kHz
Four different filters (selectable) with varying bandwidth
Additional fixed second order analogue filter @ 80kHz
The retail price of the Pro iDSD is:
US $2,499 (ex-tax)
€2,749 (incl. VAT)
£2,499 (incl. VAT)
And lastly, Wojciech Pacuła of Polish HighFidelity.pl reviewed Pro iDSD and awarded it his Red Fingerprint. English version of this publication is to be found here:
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With a pure analogue volume control retaining full-resolution at all volume levels, the xDSD is a major sonic step up for all smartphones, digital audio players and computers. Its selectable 3D+ and XBass+ functions bring both sensitivity and power to the careful listener. The artist appears in the room with music and lyrics flowing all around.
The xDSD has pulled off the task of being ultra-portable and wireless while supporting high-resolution formats, including MQA, and delivering 500mW of power per channel. By means of aptX HD and AAC, it brings hi-res streaming to Bluetooth.
In terms of attributes, the xDSD is similar to the micro iDSD, though it’s more advanced:
Burr-Brown Hi-Res True Native DSD DAC chipset for discerning listeners
Dual-mono headphone amplifier with 500mW of power per channel, which can unleash the full potential of both 32ohm and 600ohm headphones
High-resolution audio up to PCM768kHz and DSD512
MQA ready for playing back all high-res MQA encoded files
Wireless Bluetooth (aptX and AAC) for CD-quality wireless sound
S-Balanced compatible 3.5mm headphone output brings the benefits of the balanced connection to single-ended headphones
Advanced Analogue Signal Process (ASP), 3D+® and XBass+® headphone optimisation circuits
Pure analogue volume control retaining full-resolution at all volume levels
Audiophile Digital Filter 'Measure/Listen' selectable
Large 2200mAh Lithium-Polymer battery providing six-to-eight hours of playing time
Small is beautiful
All these features have been packed into a rugged magnesium-aluminium body measuring just 95x66.5x19mm and weighing 127g. Though it has some similarities with the micro iDSD, it’s control layout is very different because of its Bluetooth wireless capability.
Take a look at the front panel controls (left to right) below:
3.5mm HP Jack (TRRS balanced compatible, no microphone support, switchable to line out).
Right of the jack, two separate RGB LEDs indicate sample rate and input selection.
Volume (Rotary with ‘push’ button) with translucent centre and volume indication backlight.
Right of the 3D+/XBass+ button are two separate white LEDs to indicate 3D+ and XBass+.
The 3D+/XBass+ button push button cycles between all off, 3D+, XBass+ and both.
Filter switch that slides between ‘measure’ and ‘listen’.
Micro USB connection for charging (power input only, full charger detection for fast charge).
Below the micro USB port, an RGB LED indicates battery status.
Time flies by when the listener is immersed in the music played by the xDSD. Guitars sound real and a Steinway piano sounds ‘woody’ instead of ‘glassy’ like an electronic keyboard. Musicality overflows.
The retail price of the xDSD is US$399 (ex-tax) or €449/£399 (incl VAT).