iFi xDSD review - expatinjapan


iFi Audio xDSD review 
- expatinjapan


I first laid eyes on the xDSD at a Tokyo headphone Show held by Fujiya Avic in late 2017. I was entranced, its looks were certainly beguiling to the eye. I knew it would be a must to review in 2018.
The design was a shift away from the usual truncated  pyramid shape that I had become accustomed to from iFI Audio. Whilst certainly different the cut off pyramid design did not lend itself easily to stacking.
The iFi Nano iDSD Black was released earlier this year at an entry level price, the xDSD being more mid tier priced.
Its sexy lines and futuristic casing makes this an intriguing piece of gear even prior to the actual experience of listening to it. It eventually becomes a totem, a fetish as many other audio gear favorites have been in the past.

'Luxury, style and quality. 
The xDSD DAC is the latest iFi statement in advanced, affordable, portable audio. Its dark titanium vacuum ion plated metal enclosure is pleasingly tactile and compact. The radio-frequency transparent end cap allows full CD-wireless music transmission.
It delivers for music lovers and audiophiles alike.

First, it delivers CD-quality Bluetooth connectivity for Apple/Android to stream the latest music on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and any other streaming platforms.

Second, it delivers the very highest quality PCM768/DSD512 and MQA formats for downloaded and Tidal streamed music in full studio-quality.

Third, with the iFi analogue signal processing circuitry and the original S-Balanced amplification stage, it delivers pure musical enjoyment to in-ear-monitors or headphones.

The xDSD, a new level of musical experience for your headphones, on-the-go.' - via the iFi Audio site


As usual the photos tell a thousand words, 
or the specifications and details tell you all you really need to know.

The box within a box sleeve with a fold out users manual to get you on track from day one.
Read it carefully as this device has many options and uses.

Told you. Look at that! So many features. iFi has the best features.

Formats. So many formats. inputs and outputs to keep even the most jaded audiophile happy.

I nice little baggie to keep it clean on your Gulliver's travels

warranty, guide and tech stuff, register you iFi Audio purchase and how to attach those velcro strips to make a supaah rig.

Not vacuumed packed for freshness, but fresh as a prince, silica bags to keep it dry inside.

The usual esoteric bevy of cables provided by iFi Audio. Its also handy If you have a few others lying around to meet the specifications of connecting to a wide variety of sources.

Top view of this little finger print collector

Headphone out(Balanced 3.5mm/single ended 3.5mm) - the Headphone port also doubles as a Line out (best to read the manual), (kHz) colored leds, input lights (its ingenious, read the manual), iFi center button with a multiple of uses (on/off, volume, change from wired to bluetooth, mute), 3D+ and XBass+ options -none, one or all, settings:on/off/3D+, XBass+, Both, pairing bluetooth button (manual again, not the Fawlty Towers one).

Back view.
Spdif input, USB-A input (iOS, Android, PC, Mac etc, Digital filter (Listen/measure - quite subtle), Micro USB charge port and a handy battery status LED.

Little feet to keep the underside clean, prevent slippage etc.

iFi Audio xDSD, Shanling M0 connected via bluetooth and Campfire Audio Atlas.


USB Input: up to PCM768kHz & DSD512 (24.6/22.6MHz)
S/PDIF Coaxial and Optical Input: up to 192kHz/24Bit
Dynamic Range: > 113dB (A)
Volume Control: -101dB…0dB in 1dB steps
Output power:
> 2.82V/500 mW @ 16 Ohm
> 3.7V/270mW @ 50 Ohm
> 3.8V/48 mW @ 300 Ohm
> 3.8V/24 mW @ 600 Ohm
Line out Level: > 2.1V @ 0dBFS (& 0dB Volume)
THD &N (1V/16R): < 0.005%
Output Impedance: < 1 Ohm
Battery: 3.8V/2200mAh
Dimensions: 95 (l) x66.5 (w) x19 (h) mm
Weight: 127g (0.28 Ibs)
Warranty period: 12 months


US$399 (Amazon price).

“The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb.”
― Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose


The iFI xDSD follows in the footsteps of its predecessors.

The iFi xDSD is a nice bit of kit, it is above the oh so slightly V shaped iFi nano iDSD Black and below the iFI Black Micro.
The sound can be warm at times, not overly so but at the low end end can definitely be heard and not in the sense of `body`.
The signature doesn't differ much from earphone to earphone, which is a good sign as a good dap or dac/amp should really be fairly transparent in its presentation and give room for the earphones to demonstrate their signature in the manner for which they were designed.
But as I have written there is a warmth to be had in the low end, probably due to the choice of the amp, even so bearing in one mind that it is a whole, not just due to one part.

Whilst the iFi Audio xDSD sticks to the usual choice of Dac Chip, a BurrBrown that is one that occasionally I find to be on the bright side of things, maybe this overall concept was meant to tame that a bit towards a soft L shape
One can lessen the warmth ever so slightly by using the measure switch.
The xDSD is clear sounding, not overly analytical. Smooth in its presentation.
The sound stage is wide, more so than deep..

All in all it does its job as required, fits into its price point. I myself prefer a more neutral signature, but my personal sonic preferences do not detract from the xDSD itself.

Being its main aim is probably to pair up with iphones, cheap daps with Bluetooth, computers  and android phones it it probably best that it is more built towards the smooth, slightly warm end of things, rather than the harsh, analytical unforgiving end of design.


The iFI Audio xDSD is a stunner: visually lavish, luminous in the right lighting, innovative in its feature set, meticulous and effortless in its sonic presentation, exhilarating when held in ones hand.
It is a captivating piece of audio gear with its extensive list of options and functions which could make some earlier dac/amps seem archaic. In short the xDSD is compelling in its basic yet exceptional form and functions.

The size is perfect for hand, pocket or carry bag. The ability to use it wired or Bluetooth adds to its versatility and renders some earlier dac/amps rather redundant.

Price at US$399 places it around mid tier.

Build as usual for iFi is excellent.

it offers several options for connections, volume control is precise.
Separate USB for power and input is a plus.

A slight hiss (with very sensitive IEMs like the Andromeda) is present, but is minimal and disappears when the music gets going. Using iFi IEMatch would solve this minor issue.
With regular ear and headphones its not an issue.

Volume seems to differ with different sources, so check volume first (Tested over bluetooth and wired).

iphone requires CCK for wired connection, or you can just go Bluetooth.

The xbass gives enough of hit to please, not an excessive jump. 3D+ was a bit metallic for my tastes.

I found I could get 6-9 hours usage between charges depending on what functions and connectivity I choose.

The xDSD is a fairly easy to use piece of gear, one needs to read the manual to learn to disable line out when not needed and also how to utilize the on/off volume pot and settings button to cycle through the various functions. then its easy.

Its slightly warm low end and smoothness may not be the signature everyone is looking for, but I have often found this in dac/amps their aim being to improve upon devices with lower audio quality. And although some may say the external dac/amp is separate and should not be affected I find that in my experience the source can have an impact in the chain whether wired or over Bluetooth.
So the warmth can soften the end result of a longer chain.

Its not an analytical beast, but is pleasing and musical.

If you are looking to improve upon your current source the iFi xDSD is one of a few legitimate choices within a vast sea of dac/amps and dap/dacs.

The iFi Audio xDSD and upcoming xCAN

Thank you to iFi Audio for sending Head pie the xDSD for review


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