Home Amps/DACS iFi xDSD Gryphon Review – The New Swiss Army Knife Of DACS?

iFi xDSD Gryphon Review – The New Swiss Army Knife Of DACS?

iFi's Gryphon pulls out all the stops, but is it worth the investment?

by Stuart Charles Black
iFi xDSD Gryphon Review

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Updates:

  • 1/6/22. Added note about mic input.
  • 3/11/22. Added table/links.
  • 5/8/22. Article revisit.

Shoutout to Lawrance and iFi for sending this demo unit, and for their continued support of the blog and channel!

Greetings mate and Welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…

Video Discussion

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At A Glance

Title
iFi xDSD Gryphon - Ultra-Res Portable Balanced DAC & Headphone Amplifier - INPUTS: Bluetooth 5.1 / USB-C / S-PDIF / 3.5mm SE / 4.4mm Bal
Preview
iFi xDSD Gryphon - Ultra-Res Portable Balanced DAC & Headphone Amplifier - INPUTS: Bluetooth 5.1 / USB-C / S-PDIF / 3.5mm SE / 4.4mm Bal
Chipset
Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC By Burr Brown
Input
USB-C, Bluetooth 5.1 (aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, LHDC/HWA, AAC and SBC Codec), S-PDIF 3.5mm Coaxial, Balanced 4.4mm, Single-Ended 3.5mm
Headphone Outputs
Balanced: 6.7V max (600Ω), UnBAL: 3.5V max (600Ω)
Power Output
Balanced: >1000mW @ 32Ω: >74mW @ 600Ω, UnBAL: >320mW @ 32Ω: >40mW @ 300Ω
Output Impedance
Balanced: ≤200Ω, UnBAL: ≤100Ω
SNR
Balanced: <116dB(A) @ 0dBFS, UnBAL: <115dB(A) @ 0dBFS
THD+N
<0.005% (1V @ 16Ω)
Dimensions
123 x 75 x 19 mm, 4.8" x 3.0" x 0.7", 215g (0.5 lbs)
Features
XBass, XSpace, BT Capability, S/PDIF
Warranty
12 Months
Prime
Price
$599.00
Learn More
Title
iFi xDSD Gryphon - Ultra-Res Portable Balanced DAC & Headphone Amplifier - INPUTS: Bluetooth 5.1 / USB-C / S-PDIF / 3.5mm SE / 4.4mm Bal
Preview
iFi xDSD Gryphon - Ultra-Res Portable Balanced DAC & Headphone Amplifier - INPUTS: Bluetooth 5.1 / USB-C / S-PDIF / 3.5mm SE / 4.4mm Bal
Chipset
Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC By Burr Brown
Input
USB-C, Bluetooth 5.1 (aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, LHDC/HWA, AAC and SBC Codec), S-PDIF 3.5mm Coaxial, Balanced 4.4mm, Single-Ended 3.5mm
Headphone Outputs
Balanced: 6.7V max (600Ω), UnBAL: 3.5V max (600Ω)
Power Output
Balanced: >1000mW @ 32Ω: >74mW @ 600Ω, UnBAL: >320mW @ 32Ω: >40mW @ 300Ω
Output Impedance
Balanced: ≤200Ω, UnBAL: ≤100Ω
SNR
Balanced: <116dB(A) @ 0dBFS, UnBAL: <115dB(A) @ 0dBFS
THD+N
<0.005% (1V @ 16Ω)
Dimensions
123 x 75 x 19 mm, 4.8" x 3.0" x 0.7", 215g (0.5 lbs)
Features
XBass, XSpace, BT Capability, S/PDIF
Warranty
12 Months
Prime
Price
$599.00
Learn More

In The Box

iFi xDSD Gryphon

Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (Apple)

USB On-The-Go (OTG) cable (Android)

USB Type-A to Type-C (Laptop)

Carrying Case

Instruction Card

Warranty Card

iFi xDSD Gryphon Review

Specifications

  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check Apos!
  • Inputs: USB-C, Bluetooth 5.1 (aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, LHDC/HWA, AAC and SBC Codec), S-PDIF 3.5mm Coaxial, Balanced 4.4mm, Single-Ended 3.5mm
  • Formats: DSD512/256/128/64, Octa/Quad/Double/Single-Speed, DXD768/705.6/384/352.8kHz), Double/Single-Speed DXD, PCM768/705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1kHz, MQA384/352.8kHz, Bluetooth up to 96kHz
  • DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC By Burr Brown

Line Section

  • Outputs: Balanced: 6.7V max (variable), UnBAL: 3.5V max (variable)
  • Output Impedance: Balanced: 200Ω, UnBAL: 100Ω
  • SNR: Balanced: <100dB(A) @ 0dBFS, UnBAL: <110dB(A) @ 0dBFS
  • THD+N: Balanced: <0.007% @ 0dBFS, UnBAL: <0.015% @ 0dBFS

Headphone Section

  • Outputs: Balanced: 6.7V max (600Ω), UnBAL: 3.5V max (600Ω)
  • Output Power: Balanced: >1000mW @ 32Ω: >74mW @ 600Ω, UnBAL: >320mW @ 32Ω: >40mW @ 300Ω
  • Output Impedance: Balanced: <1Ω, UnBAL: <1Ω
  • THD+N: <0.005% (1V @ 16Ω)
  • SNR: Balanced: <116dB(A) @ 0dBFS, UnBAL: <115dB(A) @ 0dBFS
  • Battery: Lithium-polymer 3600mAh
  • Power System: Charging via USB-C, BCV1.2 compliant up to 1900mA charging current
  • Dimensions: 123 x 75 x 19 mm, 4.8″ x 3.0″ x 0.7″, 215g (0.5 lbs)
  • Warranty Period: 12 months

What about the xDSD Gryphon makes it stand out?

Well, nothing really, aside from the fact that it’s essentially an xCAN and xDSD rolled into one.

In other words, it combines the features and the price of both into a sleek, compact package (that costs more, yes).

Another notable difference between the Gryphon vs. the older models is a top-lit interface revealing volume level, battery charge status, format indicator, and input.

You’ll love this added convenience of the Gryphon, which is also longer than both the xCAN and xDSD. You won’t have to squint your eyes or strain your neck to see what’s on the front-facing panel.

A quick glance on top makes everything super easy to decipher.

In addition to that, it doesn’t collect fingerprints as the others did and instead looks to be a matte black/grey metallic finish.

Furthermore, it feels great in your hand and at 0.5 lbs. is rather hefty and robust.

From Lawrance over at iFi in one of his emails to me:

It’s personally one of the products that I’ve been most excited about from us in a long long while. A lot of the ergonomic and usability issues that we’ve been criticized for in the past were fixed with the gryphon, and it really does a ton well.Lawrance, iFi

Front Panel

Pressing the settings button (small gear) switches between XBass, XSpace, etc., and is also visible on the interface. Long pressing the gear button enters you into another settings menu containing:

  • USB Dual Port Charge
  • BT Voice Prompt
  • Screen Brightness
  • Digital Filter

To change any of these, just press the volume pot in once and use the scroll wheel to adjust. To exit out, just wait or press the gear button (the button right of the Volume Pot) once more.

The input selector on the far right cycles between Bluetooth, S/PDIF, Line, and USB.

On the left-hand side of the unit there’s your standard 3.5mm single-ended jack and iFi’s usual 4.4mm balanced jack, as well as 2 LED indicators:

One is for audio format (specified above), and the other is your input LED.

iFi xDSD Gryphon Review

Pictured below: iFi Zen

iFi xDSD Gryphon Review

For audio format:

  • Yellow – PCM48/44.1kHz
  • White – PCM768/705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2kHz
  • Cyan – DSD128/64
  • Red – DSD512/256
  • Green – MQA
  • Blue – MQA Studio
  • Magenta – Original Sample Rate*

For input LED:

  • USB – Magenta
  • Bluetooth – Blue
  • S/PDIF – Green
  • Line (Balanced 4.4mm/S-E 3.5mm) – Yellow

Rounding out the front we have the Volume Potentiometer. Just push it in to fire up the unit. It also changes colour depending on volume level which you’ll likely agree was a nice touch.

  • Red: -2 to +6dB (100%-92%)
  • Yellow: -20 to -3dB (91% – 74%)
  • Green: -38 to -21dB (73% – 56%)
  • Magenta: -56 to -39dB (55% – 38%)
  • Blue: -95 to -57dB (37% – 0%)
  • Flashing LED: Mute

In addition to powering the unit on and off as well as being a mute button, the Volume Pot is also an analogue volume control.

Lastly, Bluetooth pairing should be rather quick and painless.

First press the rightmost button and cycle to Bluetooth. Then get your phone and go into Bluetooth settings. Press search and wait.

The Gryphon should come up as “iFi Hi-Res Audio.”

Pair and you’re set!

Back Panel

iFi xDSD Gryphon Review

The back panel reveals a Bass/Presence/Bass + Presence switch that allows you to cycle between the 3.

Next to that is the USB-C (5V) charging input. Fully re-charging takes 12 hours (standard charger), or 6 (high-powered charger) for a full re-charge.

The LED for battery status:

  • Green: >85%
  • Yellow: 85%
  • Red (flashing): 10%

Next to that is the USB-C input.

Plug it straight into your laptop via the USB-C to Type-A or use any of the other supplied cables with your phone (Lightning to USB for Apple or USB OTG for Android).

Do keep in mind that iFi supplies a Type-C to Type-C for android as micro USB is slowly being phased out.

Next to the USB-C input is the S/PDIF 3.5mm Coax/Optical input.

The best part about it?

You don’t really need it to connect to a PS4. The Gryphon is plug and play. So just plug it in via USB and you’re ready!

Gryphon also has a balanced 4.4mm line input/output:

  • A) Output (variable) – when the input mode is USB, Bluetooth, or S/PDIF.
  • B) Input – when the input mode is line.

In addition to that, you’ve got a standard 3.5mm input/output as well.

  • A) Output (variable) – when the input mode is USB, Bluetooth, or S/PDIF.
  • B) Input – when the input mode is Line

So as an example, I used a DragonFly Red as a DAC into the Gryphon via 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable. Just set the Gryphon to Line and switch to the DragonFly in your PC’s settings:

iFi xDSD Gryphon Review

For output mode, just think of active speakers like the Presonus Eris e3.5 or something similar.

The 3.5 is nice because you can use them balanced (TRS) with an audio interface like the Solo/2i2 or unbalanced (RCA) with any Amp/DAC that has RCA outs or a 3.5mm line out.

With the Gryphon, just snag an RCA to mini and you’re set.

You can start to see now how versatile this unit is!

AFAIK, you can even use your phone to play music through the Presonus’ with the Bluetooth setting.

Back when I had a 1st generation Scarlett 2i2, I could easily swap between listening on monitors (JBL LSR305) and headphones.

With the Gryphon, the idea is similar. I can listen on headphones or speakers with essentially the press of a button, and because it’s USB plug and play, I can easily disconnect it from my laptop, walk to the living room, and game or watch Hulu/Netflix with it on a console.

Lastly, there’s an iEMatch Switch, meaning even the most sensitive In-Ear Monitors can be matched to the Gryphon. I’m not a huge IEM guy, but it’s there if I ever utilize a pair. Your mileage may vary!

With all that technical mumbo-jumbo out of the way, how does this puppy sound?

Sound

iFi xDSD Gryphon Review

This is your typical iFi outfit, a cross between neutral and warm.

Again we have the Burr-Brown chip, which is pleasant without bordering on being too sterile (clean) or too gooey (hazy/warm).

Whether or not the XBass sounds “good” entirely depends on the track in question, but I do think that it’s handled nicely; i.e. the boost isn’t overly done like your mom’s meatloaf.

You’ll notice XSpace really does result in a marked difference and is ideal for some headphones, but not all.

For instance, you won’t need it with a K702 as those already do a good job with spacing and separation.

On the other hand, XSpace really benefits from something like an HD600 whose image feels somewhat narrow/closed in sounding.

I’ve been trying out a free trial of Hulu, and I tested the Gryphon with some headphones and it sounds excellent. Normally I set it to around -12dB which is just the right amount.

One thing I found interesting in the intro music to Hey Arnold! sounded different than I remember, but this likely has a lot to do with the intimate nature of the headphones – something I was obviously not using back in the mid to late ’90s.

The point is that everything will sound crystal clear, articulate, and detailed – all of which definitely helps with immersion and overall enjoyment in video games and film alike.

If you haven’t listened to some of your old favourite shows with headphones and a good DAC like the Gryphon, you’re really missing out!

You’ll start noticing sounds and subtle details that you may have otherwise missed.

Important Note

Though I (thankfully) didn’t experience this issue, some others reported the volume inexplicably maxing out which can really be a disaster for obvious reasons.

As a precautionary measure, I went ahead and updated the firmware via this link, which you should do as well right away.

Just choose “Gryphon” from the drop-down menu, enter your serial # (it’s on the back of the unit), download the update and you should be good to go.

The volume issue has since been fixed as of the time of this writing, but I haven’t had any issues regardless.

Value

That said, the burning question is “Is the Gryphon worth the money?”

Many of you know my growing disdain for Amps & DACS, to the point where I won’t be reviewing nearly as many (evidenced in this video), but the versatility here cannot be denied.

There are a ton of useful features – so many in fact that this could theoretically replace any unit you may have; even a Zen, K5 Pro, etc. – both of which are mainstays in my studio and ones I recommend quite often to people just starting out.

The Gryphon can be used with a phone, on your desktop, with a console, with a separate pair of speakers, as just an amp from a separate DAC (balanced or unbalanced), as just a DAC into a separate amp, and it’s got plenty of onboard features for discerning snobs.

It also doesn’t gather fingerprints, and the sound retains everything you love about iFi’s house signature. There’s not much you can’t do with it, thus why I believe it’s an excellent value.

iFi xDSD Gryphon Review

If there’s one thing it doesn’t do (and something I thought about after writing this) it’s FPS gaming with a mic. You can’t really use it with a Boom Pro (or something similar) as you can with a G6, which is pretty much made for shooters.

So if you do need a DAC with mic support, I’d absolutely look to the G6. The Gryphon is more of a single-player homie.

My previous go-to all in one (minus Bluetooth and a mic option) was the Black Label, which has since been replaced (by iFi) with the Signature iDSD.

The Black Label was around $600 IIRC. The Signature is around $750 vs. roughly $600 for the Gryphon.

I recommended both the xCAN and xDSD when they came out, so by default I almost have to recommend this as it’s both of those rolled into one and would make a nice step up from something like a Go Blu or my top overall BT recommendation in the BTR5.

My all in one desktop recommendation is the K9 Pro, but I think the Gryphon is a good top choice on the portable side of things – i.e. if you’re looking for an all-in-one that can be used out and about with a phone, get the Gryphon. If you’re looking for an all-in-one desktop solution, I like the K9 Pro.

The problem with companies is that they tend to replace stuff fairly often and it becomes hard to stick with a good recommendation when it simply gets phased out and discontinued by the new flavour of the week product.

For example, I’d still be recommending the Black Label if they hadn’t discontinued it.

The Signature is basically the same thing as the Black Label AFAIK, but it’s around $250 more and I’m not entirely sure why as I haven’t actually demoed it yet.

If I wholeheartedly recommended the Black Label at $600 without Bluetooth, the Gryphon at around the same price seems fair.

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this iFi xDSD Gryphon Review.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Just want to make a one-time donation? Click here. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps keep this site running!

Is the Gryphon worth a purchase? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Photo Album

Media

The Outer Worlds (2019)

Gone Girl (2014)

Nip/Tuck (2003-2010)

The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

Fargo (2014-present)

Thundercats (1985)

Regular Show (2010-2017)

Hey Arnold! (1996-2000)

Animaniacs (1993-1998)

Sinead Harnett – Ready Is Always Too Late (2021)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Into The Great Wide Open (1991)

J Dilla – The Shining 10 Year Anniv. (2006/2016)

Minus The Bear – Highly Refined Pirates (2002)

Minus The Bear – Menos El Oso (2005)

Mac Miller – Circles (2020)

Jay Dee a.k.a. King Dilla – 2016

Jeru The Damaja – Heroz4hire (1999)

Jay Dee’s Ma Dukes Collection (2016)

J Dilla – Motor City (2017)

From Indian Lakes – Everything Feels Better Now (2016)

Allman Brothers Band – Eat A Peach (1972)

From Indian Lakes – Dimly Lit (2019)

J Dilla’s Delights, Vol. 1 (2017)

Day Wave – Crush (2020)

Blind Faith – Blind Faith (1969)

Minus The Bear – This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic (2001)

America – America (1972)

From Indian Lakes – Absent Sounds (2014)

From Indian Lakes – Able Bodies (2012)

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