iFi Audio xDSD
When iFi Audio launched its original micro iDSD headphone amp, preamp, and DAC back in 2014, it raised the bar for small portable, high-performing DACs. It's been lifting it higher ever since. Last November saw the introduction of the nano iDSD Black Label, with a host of new features including support for MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio. Now, iFi has excelled itself again with the launch of xDSD - the first in the company's next generation of portable DACs.
The pure analog volume control which retains full resolution at all volume levels means 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. While the 3D+ function provides two separate circuits, one optimized for headphones and the other for loudspeakers, XBass+ delivers a tight and deep bass sound.
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 and AAC, it brings hi-res streaming to Bluetooth. As always, iFi audio likes to cater to user's tastes. Out of the box, the xDSD comes already optimized for MQA and can handle up to PCM384 and DSD256. For those who prefer PCM768 and DSD512, a simple firmware download can be found on iFi Audio's website.
The xDSD is an MQA-optimized DAC/amp that can be ultra-portable or home-based. With aptX and AAC Bluetooth, it delivers high-resolution audio up to PCM768kHz and DSD512 at 500mW per channel to amplifiers, active speakers, and headphones of all types. The xDSD is very much akin to the micro iDSD Black Label as both products are based on the Burr-Brown DSD1793 D/A converter chip and share extremely similar digital and analog stages. The Burr-Brown Hi-Res Native DSD chipset is the one for discerning listeners.
With both aptX and AAC Bluetooth, the xDSD can be wirelessly paired with smartphones or DAPs. Wired, the USB type A OTG/CCK connector offers supreme portability and dependability, and the 3.5mm jack acting as a coaxial/TOSLINK combo S/PDIF input enhances these aspects even further. Out of the box, the xDSD comes pre-installed with firmware v5.30 and optimized for MQA. This can also handle formats up to PCM384 and DSD256. iFi Audio also offers firmware v5.20 which is optimized for music file formats up to DSD512/PCM768 (non- MQA). This can be easily downloaded from the manufacturer's website.
iFi Audio's S-Balanced technology extracts the maximum performance from single-ended and balanced headphones alike. Plugging in unbalanced headphones with a TRS connector instead of TRRS will cause zero issues and, in fact, crosstalk is cut by 50%, compared to using a TRS socket. The 'Cyberdrive' headphone amplifier stage is one of the pivotal new circuit designs in the xDSD. This new design places all parameters of the fully analog system under digital control for a 'best of both worlds scenario'. Performance is increased, both noise and distortion are lowered. A large 2200mAh Lithium-Polymer battery provides six to eight hours of playing time depending on your choice of headphones and connections. S/PDIF 10 hours, Bluetooth 8 hours, and USB 6 hours. The retail price of the xDSD is $399/€449/£399. Info and photos by iFi Audio.