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iFi xDSD Quick Review (vs. the LG V30 "Quad DAC")

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by RockStar2005, Nov 16, 2018.
  1. RockStar2005
    Quick review of the iFi xDSD (see pictures below):

    General info: Just bought the xDSD last week and finally had a chance to audition it last night. The device has a fantastic high-end feel and metallic look to it, and is both very portable and easy to use! The boxing and presentation is really nice too, including the velour-type soft case that comes with it for the xDSD. There is even a small hole in the back of the case in case you want to connect something back there like a charging cable while using it. This is good because the device itself is very easy to get smudged by your fingerprints, so I kind of like that they did that.

    I connected my new OnePlus 6T to it via aptX, and after that initial pairing (which was pretty easy), the device was even easier to pair thereafter. The plan was to compare the sound quality of the xDSD in a semi-wireless setup (connected only via wired cable to my headphones) vs. my LG V30 and it's "Quad DAC" (aka Sabre ES9218P DAC), and see if I could hear a difference. The xDSD comes built with the legendary Burr Brown series of DACs, which are Texas Instrument's "luxury line" of DACs, as well as a VERY strong amp. The headphones used were my 250-ohm Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, and the music played were sections of the following 3 Hi-Res quality songs: 1) Fleetwood Mac - Crystal 2) Lenny Kravitz - Believe (outro/solo) 3) Meg Myers - Parade.

    Sound Quality: On all 3 songs, both devices sounded great (with the V30 STILL being the smartphone audio champ IMO), but the xDSD was simply better. It offered more weight or "punch" to the sound at what sounded like the same volume, and I just felt more engaged with the music while listening on it, ESPECIALLY during the Kravitz solo. Everything clearly sounded more alive just when I didn't think it could! It was quite breathtaking!!

    **UPDATE: I highly recommend turning on the "3D+" feature on the xDSD as well. It gives you a little wider soundstage, and makes everything sound better too. You may not always notice it, but at least some of the time I do.**

    Amp Quality: I also noticed it offered a very DARK or HISS-FREE background, which is what I'd hoped for. It was only when I put it up to very dangerous levels during very quiet music parts that I could hear any at all, but you'd have to be insane to listen at that volume level anyway. lol As far as volume goes, even on "Crystal", which is one of the quietest songs I own due to how that album was mastered for Hi-Res, I got PLENTY of volume output from the xDSD and still had several notches to spare too!! :L3000:

    Misc Thoughts/Comments: I really love the convenience & freedom that comes from not having to deal with holding up a cable from my phone anymore. Having the cable going from my headphone to the xDSD off to my side was hardly noticeable as well. Some people in the official xDSD thread on here (and/or elsewhere) have claimed that the xDSD using aptX (Note: iPhones will connect via AAC) still sounds significantly better than cheaper devices do with Sony's superior LDAC codec. I am inclined to agree with that. However, I'd STILL appreciate it if at some point iFi added LDAC to the list of options, either in an update or in whatever future device succeeds the xDSD.

    You actually can toggle the codec to be used for Bluetooth connections from your phone. However, if on Android, your only other choice is SBC, which is the original Bluetooth codec, and is now considered both outdated and subpar compared to aptX & AAC. So I would NOT recommend toggling this. An engineer at iFi by the name of Thorsten has gone on record as saying that he feels aptX is actually superior to AAC if implemented properly, which I believe means making sure there's no interference with the signal to the xDSD. But I seriously doubt most people who have iPhones would even notice a difference anyway, so I don't think it really matters to be honest.

    Conclusion: I could NOT recommend the iFi xDSD more!! By offering a very high-quality semi-wireless setup, iFi has finally freed me from the hassle & annoyance of having to limit my smartphone choices by how strong their DACs & amps are. Now I no longer need to worry about that, and can just focus on buying a phone I like and that I know will ALWAYS sound fantastic as long as I can connect it to the xDSD.







    Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
    Essence STX and bencherian like this.
  2. bencherian
    The last sentence regarding mobile phone and audiophile was quite important to all those who seek portability plus higher audio. Am sure its painstaking as hell to choose audio oriented mobile phone. Guess more and more products being introduced at more budget range.
    Nice writeup Rockstar. Please mention which hi-res file you have used. Like dsd or flac files
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  3. RockStar2005
    Yes Ben, it really is important, which is why I wanted to make sure to comment about it in my review. The xDSD gives you a nice compromise. Yes you still have a portable device you have to carry around, but you don't have to deal with a wire dangling from your phone and getting in the way anymore. And since this is a step up from the V30, that's another reason to get it too. The price isn't cheap, but this is a device I plan to use for years to come!

    Thanks man! Everyone's input is MUCH appreciated!!

    All 3 song files were derived from Hi-Res albums (I believe all were 24/96), which I then downsampled to 256-512 kbps AAC files (or bought that way, which is how it is if purchasing off iTunes Store), which based on my own experiences and statistics, do not sound ANY different than their original FLAC format. They're now simply easier to store and require less power to play vs. their original FLAC formats.
  4. Bansaku
    Highly agree! I was floored with how good my 256kbs AAC files sounded over Bluetooth. I bought a genuine Apple CCK last week (because my $5 eBay one was hit or miss, mostly miss) and I almost regret wasting $40 as Bluetooth sounds phenomenal!

    RockStar2005 likes this.
  5. RockStar2005
    Yeah it has gotten better. Although I should reiterate that my setup is SEMI-wireless...........ALL of the audio processing (aka "magic" lol) is done in the xDSD itself. NONE of it in the phone. I guess in some cases it would be done in the phone still, but certain players like Poweramp and USB Pro Audio Player (UAPP) have in recent times been given options where you can COMPLETELY bypass what's known as "Android Audio" (aka the internal INTEGRATED DAC found on the Snapdragon chips) so all the processing gets done in either the other higher quality DAC found in the phone (like with the V30 and it's "Quad DAC") or with a DAP or DAC/Amp like the xDSD. Since I use Poweramp, I went ahead and enabled it under the "Hi-Res Output" section in Settings for BT. See pics below.

    Screenshot_20181117-124255.jpg Screenshot_20181117-124303.jpg
  6. TheoS53
    When using other people's work (I'm referring to the first 2 pictures), please do credit the original source :)

    Other than that, it's a good write-up of your impressions
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  7. RockStar2005
    Thanks Theo!

    Why only the first two though? lol I don't know if these sources were the original or not anyway.
  8. TheoS53
    Coz the first 2 are my pics
    RockStar2005 likes this.
  9. RockStar2005
    Oh. lol

    I just grabbed them from online. Ok thx for letting me know!!

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