That’s an extra $15 on top of the already semi-hefty price tag (roughly $400). Why can’t they just include it? Kind of irritating if you ask me. Anyways..
Let’s get into build!
The xDSD feels a little underwhelming in your hand, not gonna lie. I wouldn’t call it cheap, but it does feel fairly lighter than I was expecting given that great looking magnesium-aluminum finish. There’s matte black on the end which does compliment nicely with the small rubber feet on the bottom. You’re not going to have to worry much about this unit moving around on your desk.
The volume/power knob on the front feels solid enough, if a bit to plastic feeling for my tastes. For the price, I thought this amp/DAC should have felt more substantial all around in your hand.
The Connections on the back are all fine.
Overall, I can’t dock too many points simply because I don’t approve of how it actually feels. It holds up well, and that’s all that matters. The only other minor complaint I have is that it gathers fingerprints with reckless abandon. Fortunately, the velvet pouch takes care of that or you can just wipe it with your shirt or something. I found it to be a bit off putting but it’s a minor nit pick at the end of the day.
Here’s where it gets interesting, as the xDSD, in the tradition of iFi, is capable of quite a lot. Let’s run it down:
It can be used wireless bluetooth with your phone, if you can get aptX enabled. I tried it on my phone and the particular model (LG-X Charge) does not support it. Womp. The steps are simple to get it going though. Check out Headphone Zone’s great post on How to Activate aptX on your smartphone in 5 easy steps.
It supports MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) and makes a great pairing with Tidal/Lossless/Master tracks. More on the experience later!
These two come in handy when you want some extra bass or Soundstage. I really have enjoyed the Soundstage feature on both the xDSD as well as the Micro iDSD Black Label. It really does open up the instrument separation on my HD600’s and adds a nice amount of air and spacing.
Obviously this unit supports DSD as it’s in the name! I myself kind of tend to forget, lol. The big knob front and center doubles as a power button as well as volume control. To turn it on, just hold it until it lights up. It also lights up different colors according to which format you’re in. Let’s dive deeper:
Green = PCM 44.1/48/88.2/96kHz
Yellow= PCM 176/384kHz
White = PCM 768kHz
Cyan = DSD64/DSD128
Blue = DSD256
Red = DSD512
Magenta = MQA
Off = No Valid Signal
The Volume level also uses colors to correspond with dB level, and the unit will cycle between wired and wireless depending on which you’re using.
Red= -9 to 0 dB (100 – 91%)
Yellow = -27 to -10 dB (90% – 73%)
Green = -45 to -28 dB (72% – 55%)
Cyan = -63 to -46 dB (54% – 37%)
Magenta = -81 to -64 dB (36% – 19%)
Blue= -101 to -82 dB (18% – 0%)
Off = Mute (Press once to mute – flashes red)
White = Line Output Mode (2V)
The input LED indicator to the left of the volume knob also displays certain colors depending on your connection:
Flashing Green = Awaiting Source
Green = Wired (S/PDIF or USB)
Red/Blue Cycle = Wireless BT pairing in progress
An audio format LED sits above the input one.
As alluded to earlier, there’s two LED’s for the 3D+ and XBass+. Press once for bass, twice for 3D+, and a third time to enable both. A 4th press turns them all off.
Let’s take a look at the connections!
3.5mm/Line Output. This utilizes 3.5mm TRRS/TRS connection.
S/PDIF/Optical. Just use the supplied adapter for Gaming. More on how to hook it up in a bit!
Micro USB Input (Charging Only)
There’s also a measure/listen switch. Measure is a filter for critical listening whereas listening is for just that. The only difference is pretty subtle. The “Measure” setting provides a bit more detail retrieval and clarity while the “Listen” setting is a bit warmer and more enjoyable overall.
This is another one of my gripes about the unit. Like the Chord Mojo, you have to charge it but that’s not really the issue. In that case I would just treat it like my phone. The problem is that you may run into a situation where you want to Game or listen to music and the thing is dead because you forgot to charge it.
It’s kind of a hassle only because in my humble opinion, the charge simply doesn’t last that long. 6-8 hours is a bit meh with as much music/gaming as I do. I’d say make sure you always remember to turn it off when you’re not using it. I suppose this may not really be the fault of iFi but it does take quite a bit of getting used to if you’re new to these types of Amp/DACs Related:What is a USB DAC?
White = >75%
Green = 74% – 25%
Red = 24% – 10%
Red (Flashing) < 10%
Whew! Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s talk a bit about Ergonomics.
Boring, but had to be done. The xDSD is also equipped with a Burr-Brown Hi-Res Native DSD DAC chipset, and this thing will power pretty much anything you throw at it without question. Never having to worry about power is most certainly a good thing.
But how do you set it up for console gaming? Glad you asked.
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Click to see the xDSD!
What about sound?
Sound quality here is marvelous. I would say the overall vibe I got was detail and clarity mixed with some warmth. It struck a nice balance of not being too overly clinical and not overly warm like the sound you’d get out of a tube amp. Now, the iFi xDSD vs. Chord Mojo? That’s an interesting comparison. The Mojo to me had a bit more of a warmish tilt to it, while the xDSD came across as more sterile/clinical. Learn more: Chord Mojo USB DAC Review!
The 3D+ feature is one thing that really sets apart iFi from it’s competitors. Soundstage is such an important thing in audio, and sometimes headphones don’t really provide all that much of it. Related: What is Soundstage? Take for instance the venerable HD600. A great headphone with narrow imaging. It’s younger brother HD650 actually provides a bit better soundscape and immersion, especially for gaming.
But if you want to really open up the HD600, using the 3D+ with a unit like the xDSD or Micro iDSD is extremely satisfying. I found it to provide more air and spacing to the tracks, really opening things up and giving instruments and voices room to breathe.
Thoughts from Stu’s Notepad
Sources: Tidal with Lossless (FLAC) and Masters, Sennheiser HD650
The HD650 with Chon’s “Book” is a fantastic example of how well instruments are spaced out. Left to right there is better clarity and the separation of guitars specifically on this track is excellent.
Mac Miller – Ladders. The resolution at the beginning was incredible. You could hear so much more going on specifically in the background. There’s this pulsating sound that really comes to life. At 3:26 there’s a sound in the background that becomes so lifelike. Had to rewind.
Mac Miller – Ascension. Car crash sounds heard. Ridiculous clarity. A bad omen for Mac? Crazy. The song was from an album that came out 3 years prior to his death.
The overall impression of the xDSD is that of extreme clarity with a touch of warmth. It’s never a chore to listen to a song through this Amp/DAC. I loved it!
A couple of potential issues I had was that I had to turn it off and on quite a few times in the beginning when I first received it. The audio was skipping, with some static and dropouts. I contacted Lawrance just the other day at iFi and here’s what I wrote:
“Going well. I think the issue that I thought was the Black Label and xDSD is actually my computer or Tidal itself and not either amp. It’s happened with the FiiO Q1 and also the HA-2 so that’s good news I think. I don’t know if running an old outdated laptop with Windows 7 has anything to do with it, but I update Tidal when it asks, etc. Do you know of anyone else that has issues with streaming or is it common? Music will just randomly stop playing and you have to close it and re-open it.”
Going to give the xDSD an A-. It’s not without it’s shortcomings, namely the lack of an OTG cable included for phone, charge time (in my opinion) and some other minor nitpicks like the fingerprint thing and strangely unsatisfying build when you hold it in your hand. I just wanted it to be a bit heavier is all. I know, it’s ridiculous.
I absolutely love that I can plug and play for gaming without having to do anything else. It sounds amazing, has plenty of features, lots of power, and supports wireless bluetooth as long as you have a phone that supports aptX. It’s also MQA supported and works wonderfully with Tidal.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His strict attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel and stand out among-st the crowd.