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Ansh Gulati Reviews the iFi Audio xDSD

by Headphone Zone September 21, 2019 5 min read

Ansh Gulati Reviews the iFi Audio xDSD

Disclaimer: The iFi xDSD Portable DAC & Amp was Sent to Me By Headphone Zone India as a Part of a Review Tour in Exchange for an Honest Review. All the Opinions are of My Own (i.e. Subjective) and Free of Bias. This is Not a Paid Review and No has Reviewed/Approved this Review Before it was Published.

What’s in the Box?

The iFi xDSD Portable DAC & Amp Comes with a Nice Velvet Carry Bag, A Really Long Blue (Looks Ugly IMHO) USB 3.0 Cable Meant for Data Connectivity When Used with a Desktop/Laptop, a Micro USB Cable for Charging, a Short USB A Female to USB B Female Cable, a Short Male USB A to Female USB B Adapter, a TOSLINK Optical Adapter for S/PDIF Coaxial or Optical Connections and a Few 3M Command Velcro Strips.

On the Go Users will be Disappointed as there’s No OTG Cable (Neither for Android Devices Nor for iOS Devices) Provided in the Box.

Build Quality & Design

The iFi xDSD Portable DAC & Amp is a Complete Departure from the Previous iFi Product Design. The Understated Look of the Previous iFi Products is Gone and is Replaced with Super Shiny (Not to Mention Super Fingerprinty and Scratchy) Chrome Finish Although Keeping True with iFi’s Minimalistic Yet Highly Functional Design Philosophy.

The Unit is Mostly Made Up of Aluminium-Magnesium Alloy and Has a Tiny Bit of Plastic so that there’s No Hinderance with the Bluetooth Connectivity.

On the Front left, There’s the S-Balanced 3.5MM Jack, Separate LED Indicators for Audio Format & Input Selection. In the Middle is The On/Off Analogue Rotary Cyberdrive (or Volume) Knob with a Multi-Colour LED which Indicates the Gain Level. The Right Side has the Multi- Purpose Settings Button and LED Indicators for the 3D+ and XBass+ Equalizer.

On the Rear, It has the S/PDIF Coxial or Optical Input, a Recessed USB A Male Connector for Digital Input via USB, a Toggle Switch for the Two Filters it has and Micro USB Input for Charging.

Gear Used

  • DAC/Amps
  1. FiiO Q5 (with AM3B)
  2. Chord MOJO
  • IEMs
  1. Campfire Audio Andromeda (Ver. 1)
  2. Fearless Audio S8 Freedom
  3. BGVP DM6
  4. Tanchjim Oxygen
  5. Moondrop Kanas Pro
  6. FiiO FH7
  7. FiiO FH5
  8. FiiO FA7
  • Headphones
  1. Audeze EL-8 Closed Back
  2. Sennheiser HD650

Sound Impressions

Although I’m Not a Big Fan of DACS with Burr Brown Chips, I Must Say the Implementation of Burr Brown Chips in iFi xDSD is Rather Clean, Natural Sounding (Without Any Colouration) with Lots of Detail Being Presented without Any Special Emphasis on Lows/Mids/Highs.

Bass

Since iFi xDSD is Almost Neutral Sounding, It Doesn’t Have Booming Bass. It has Enough Bass to Make You Enjoy the Music You’re Listening to But Don’t Expect the Bass to Be Super Deep. It Makes You Appreciate the Cleanliness and How Well the Bass is Controlled.

One Can Play with the xBass+ Feature of the iFi xDSD but the Tonality and Overall Separation & Sound Quality Takes a Hit So This Wasn’t for Me. Also, This Feature Makes it Less Natural Sounding.

Both FiiO Q5 & Chord Mojo has a Tad Bit Better Bass Extension IMO with the FiiO Q5 having a Bass Boost Feature for the Bass Heads Out There.

Mids

Mids are the Only thing that Pops Out of This Otherwise Neutral Sounding DAC & Amp Combo. The Mids aren’t Muddy so to Speak but a Bit More Separation Could’ve Made a Huge Difference. The Extension and Layering is Otherwise Pretty Good. Mids Stays Where They Should Be and Doesn’t Bleed into the Highs.

Here, Chord Mojo Takes the Cake for Having Natural & Lush Mids.

Treble

Treble is Best Part About this DAC & Amp Combo. It’s Not at All Bright Sounding or Sibilant. Treble is Clean and Well Separated. It Has Just the Right Amount of Treble. It Doesn’t Make Your Ears Bleed When Listening for Long Hours.

Both FiiO Q5 & Chord Mojo are a Bit Laid Back in the Treble Department.

Soundstage

While iFi xDSD May Have a Bigger Soundstage than the FiiO Q5, It Simply Looses to the Chord Mojo.

The Chord Mojo has a Wider Soundstage with Great Details. The Chord Mojo is Overall More Natural Sounding, Has More Depth and Just a Better Presentation & Smoothness than the iFi xDSD with it’s 3D+ Soundstage Feature Turned On.

Extra Features (Actually, Gimmicks)

xBass+ - While iFi Claims this Feature Cleans and Restores Bass for a Richer & Deeper Sound, But for Me It was Not Worth Loosing Overall Separation and Sound Quality. Your Mileage May Vary.

3D+ - All This Feature Did was Degrade the Sound Quality.

MQA - Out of the 3 DAC/Amp Combos I Had, iFi xDSD Portable DAC & Amp was the Only One Capable of Handling & Processing MQA Files. MQA Doesn’t Matter to Me Much. So, it was Useless for Me.

CyberDrive - A Fancy Name for the Otherwise Mediocre & Cheap Feeling Volume Control & a Few Other Bits Like an Analogue System under a Digital Control.

S-Balanced – This is Straight Up Useless for 99% of the Folks Out There. While I Applaud iFi for this Feature, No One is Using a 3.5MM TRRS Balanced Connector.

Measure/Listen Filter – Seriously What Was This?

Pairing

Nearly All of the IEMs and Headphones I Had at My Disposal Paired Well with the iFi xDSD Portable DAC & Amp.

But There Was a Perceptible Hiss Especially with the Campfire Audio Andromeda (Ver. 1), BGVP DM6 & Fearless Audio S8 Freedom.

It Didn’t Pair Well with the Campfire Audio Andromeda (Ver. 1) at All.

It has Plenty of Power for Planar & Dynamic Headphones.

The Main Issue for Me was the Bluetooth Connectivity. I Suffered a Lot of Connection Dropouts with My Apple iPhone XS Max. After Getting Frustrated with This, I Just Skipped Using Bluetooth for the Duration of this Review.

Conclusion

iFi xDSD Portable DAC & Amp is a Very Good Proposition. It’s Remarkable in Terms of Sound Quality. Build Quality is Good too Minus the Fingerprinty Chrome Finish. Implementation is Great. Everything Works in Conjunction to Give You that Un- Coloured, Well Detailed Sound with Good Depth and Separation. Don’t Forget MQA. And You Might Use Those Extras Feature Like xBass+ and 3D+ too. Who Knows?

Sure a Few Changes Will Make It Even Better, But for Someone Whose Looking for a Portable, Versatile, Lighweight, Powerful & Clean Sounding DAC/Amp Combo, This Might be It.


Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Compact Form Factor.
  • MQA.
  • Balanced Sound.
  • Wide Soundstage.
  • Plenty of Power.

Cons

  • Slight Hiss Can Be Heard with Sensitive IEMs.
  • Bluetooth Pairing Issues.
  • Recessed Male USB A Connector.
  • Missing USB C Connections in 2019.
  • OTG Cable Not Provided in the Box.
  • FingerPrint Magnet.
  • Chrome Finish is Scratch Prone.

Pro Tip for Audiophile: Don’t Take My Word for it. Always Audition for Yourself and Then Decide.

Headphone Zone
Headphone Zone



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