Browse portable DAC and amplifier iFi xDSD — now without wires

The company iFi — is not new in the market of portable audio. Once, long ago, I did a review on the first three models in their lineup. Since then, it took a lot of time, but more recent developments in my hand did not fall. And now, more recently, in a review managed to get their most recent development xDSD.

Fresh line received index X, has become a new milestone in the development of the company, it is here that they plan to offer a maximum of innovativeness, starting with design and ending with features. So, the first product in this series, a portable DAC and headphone amplifier xDSD for the first time in the history of the company has received the support of Bluetooth. Despite the innovations, much remains familiar on the previous practices of the company: commitment to the BurrBrown DACs, very powerful amplifiers and control from the processor. In xDSD used a lot of technology taken iFi their older products: fully balanced amplifier, volume control, providing low noise, high precision specifies generators, and more.

The price for this put is quite humane, xDSD is around 400 dollars, it is certainly not a “ball”, but cheaper than many of its competitors.

Specifications

  • DAC: BurrBrown DSD1793
  • USB maximum resolution: 768 kHz/24 bit, DSD512
  • Maximum resolution S/PDIF: up to 192 kHz/24-bit
  • Dynamic range: >113 dB
  • Output power: >2.82 V/500 mW @ 16Ω, >3.8 V ~ 24 mW @ 600Ω
  • Total harmonic distortion+noise: <0.005%
  • Output impedance: <1Ω
  • The Bluetooth codecs: aptX, AAC
  • Battery: 3.8 V, 2200 mAh
  • Work time from a single charge: up to 10 h via S/PDIF, up to 8 hours on Bluetooth, up to 6 h USB
  • Dimensions: 95 mm × 66.5 mm × 19 mm
  • Weight: 127 gr.

Packing and delivery

Here is the box design of the iFi not to change traditions: a vertically elongated package made of thick paper, which is maximally saturated with information. Inside are:

  • DAC itself
  • three different USB wire/adapter
  • adapter for S/PDIF output
  • velvety pouch to store the device
  • self-adhesive Velcro for mounting the device to the source

As you can see, all the right package put.

Design and management

Until line X, the developers, the companies used almost the same design, varying only in their sizes. Decided it was time to change something, iFi had done for xDSD most unusual design: metal body with dark chrome and a striking ribbed form — that’s what creates the appearance of the device. I, unlike the “experienced experts” do not have perfect taste, but I subjectively appearance Kuzmina like it is unusual, but not tacky. The body slightly to collects fingerprints, but they are easily rubbed and is not very noticeable, so I would not say that it is a problem.

xDSD is a bit large for a “pocket” device, but if you use the wireless module, portable its use is possible. In the case of a wired connection to wear “sandwich” you will probably need the bag. Very good the device will look in the form of a micro-hospital, standing on the desktop of the owner, rubberized feet help avoid slipping under the weight of the wire.

All controls are placed on the front and back sides. Let’s start from the reverse side, we assume that we give a tribute to the best Pink Floyd album. The rear part of the body xDSD made from plastic, you have somewhere to place the antenna. Here you will find:

  • S/PDIF input
  • USB input for connection of the source of the figures, it is made in the form of recessed in the recess of the plug, which will facilitate its use with the Apple USB adapter and different USB OTG adapters
  • filter switch (about him a bit in the section sound)
  • MicroUSB socket for charging and an led indicator light used in the process of filling the battery

On the front face posted:

  • headphone output, it is 3.5 mm, but works with 4-pinoyme balanced connectors this size (standard HiFiMan) with conventional connectors with a common ground. Separately, the developers are proud that in the latter case, the quality of the sound is the same as when balanced connection
  • two led-indicator, with different colors showing the selected input and the frequency of the signal (including MQA)
  • volume control, combined with the indicator, it is possible to press, it is the main control device, so that a
  • two led indicator modes of 3D and Xbass+
  • the button for switching these modes, it also enables Bluetooth pairing

Almost all settings are carried out using the Central wheel. A simple press and hold switch on / off, rotation controls the volume while the indicator changes color, it looks funny. To switch inputs of the device must be switched off and then hold down the center button xDSD will turn on, but the button must not let go, then it will switch between available inputs. On the right you want release the button. DAC automatically remembers the selected option and the next time will also be included with it. Not very convenient, but in General you can use.

If to speak about nutrition, it is worth noting a very good decision in the form of separate entrances for charging and data, it reduces interference and saves the battery source. In USB mode xDSD really works from 6 hours and above, depending on the load (I usually go out about 7), fully charging the battery takes around 3 hours, maybe a little more.

The Bluetooth quality is good enough, put 10 meters, the device ensures that if the path has no capital walls. In other reviews I saw complaints about the stability of the wireless connection, but my problems were not observed, so I suspect it all depends on the source.

The Assembly-level, of course, is close to perfect, no backlash, no squeaks and not loose.

Sound

To listen to the device used the following headphones: iBasso IT04, 99 Meze Classics, Audio Zenith PMx2, Noble Kaiser Encore, Campfire Andromeda Audio, Unique Melody Mason V3, HUM Pristine and others.

Before talking about the sound, it is worth noting that xDSD, there are two firmware, with support for MQA and without it, but optimized for recording very high resolution. iFi explained by the fact that they tried to “overclock” the device, even using software tweaks to limit the sound. Supported xDSD resolution is really amazing (like the other iFi devices), but in practice — the material in this format simply does not exist. Well or there, but in the form of several test tracks, nothing more. So the only way to “enjoy” it — to use transport with upsampling. I tried to enable this feature in Audirvana, didn’t hear much of a difference, except, of course, fan noise MacBook ofonarevshy from the increased load on the CPU and turned off this self-indulgence. MQA format in my opinion thing is more useful as it allows you to stream Tidal signal with better quality using less bandwidth, therefore on the IOS MQA I stayed in the tests.

Sound developers xDSD turned out in signature style, but they are a bit smoother treble and slightly emphasized bass, providing a very organic flow. If we talk about the switch of filters, I prefer the mode of “listen”, he cuts a bit of the upper treble and it is not for the benefit of quality material, especially when listening with headphones, with extended treble (but I recently often listen to IMR R1).

Very good work improvers sound. 3D+ is expected some version of crosfade improving an imaginary scene, especially in depth. It shows itself well on the old tracks, which often drove without regard to headphones, modern music, the effect can be a bit unnatural, but it is a matter of taste. Xbass+ adds a little weight to the bottom of NCH, giving a little more warmth in the flow, but this is done very sparingly and carefully.

The bass here is very well controlled and has decent depth. It is not extremely deep, but the lack of natural music there is absolutely. The speed is so managed, as well as the textures. NCH have a small addition of massiveness, but it’s also done very moderately, so in addition to adding the sound of “credibility” of other effects it makes. The lower register instruments sound very natural and well separated.

The middle also served without bias in microdialysate, xDSD feeds the material musically, with a little extra physicality and warmth, which for my taste is for the benefit of natural sounding instruments and vocals, especially male. It’s not a device for listening to minute details of sound, but allowed to complain here obviously do not have, the nature of the record, passed very well, the emotions are carefully underlined. Imaginary scene a little more average in depth and width with a normal separation plans.

The upper frequencies I would like to hear more abruptly, it would allow to compare xDSD with some of the top devices, but the developers decided to “hammer out” the sound more comfortable and made the treble not harsh, which has affected primarily on the “layering” of this part of the range. In the rest the treble is very good, they have a well practiced attack and decay, resolution, and the length is also quite decent. This allows the harvester to show overtones and minor details, balancing the emphasis on bass.

Overall, pleasantly surprised listening via Bluetooth. Of course, the sound is simplified, especially for top of the range, but to call the change great I can not, moreover, sometimes even a Bluetooth option I liked more, as subjectively midrange sounded a little more emotional (I don’t know how to explain it).

Speaking about comparisons, the main competitor of xDSD in the face of Mojo I have. In other reviews usually agree that they are similar in “level”, although different on the pitch, but to act in the “neighbor sang” I will not. Let’s talk about what I have in a similar form factor.

Hidizs ‘ DH1000 part of the device-the antithesis of the hero of our review. If you discard the difference in power and functionality, xDSD will be better in the bass, a little better on LF, but at HF the creation of Hidizs ‘ prevails, as this part of the range it does best.

FiiO Q5/Centrance BlueDAC I’m not vain combined these two portable combine together, since they both are more neutral and monitor flow. On their side the best resolution and the larger the bias contrast on the side of the harvester from iFi is more emotional and warm flow is less critical to the quality of the recording.

Compatibility

Power from xDSD quite good, although not extraordinary. So the majority of earphones it will rock, except for very tight patterns, but for the last iFi in store gadgets Micro series, capable of delivering absolutely wild amount of energy. In this processor, the developers have made some efforts in order to ensure no noise even with sensitive IEM, and have built into it a scheme similar to the iFi IEMatch, which also had a positive effect on dynamic range at low volume levels. The idea overall is good, the processor makes no noise, the only noise that I heard from him was in Bluetooth mode when no signal. After playback starts, apparently, turns on the attenuator and the noise disappears. When the USB connection is still better.

Genre the device is absolutely neutral, the main thing to consider your own taste preferences. To the material of this DAC/amp is very tolerant of scores 6 on 10-point scale.

But traditional tracks-examples

Massive Attack — Angel For this track you need to have good earphones as deeply as possible able to play bass. In this case, you have an almost trance journey on the waves of bass, well-managed xDSD.

Dream Theater — Panic Attack ‘s Classic work classic composition “Theatre” fascinates with its speed, complexity and diversity. With a good source like xDSD to relive the track is available for dozens of times, and still you will find in it something new.

Caetano Veloso — You Don’t Know Me Before listening to this track, think about what kind of music do you associate with Brazilian musician guitarist? Now run track. Well, I guess? An unusual composition, on the one hand we anticipated, and yet full of unexpected. In the embodiment, the flow xDSD it acquires additional liveliness and sound with a spectacular volume.

Insights

Of course, with the experience of the iFi they couldn’t release a bad device, and it did. xDSD good “refreshing” the company’s lineup: a bold and unusual appearance complements the signature sound, and the Bluetooth will be a nice help for users of modern smartphones.

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