iFi does not disappoint at the sound department as you probably know, and this version of course looked very promising for sound when it was announced. iFi takes the component and circuit design side of things seriously, to give the audiophiles the best sound quality they could offer.
The xDSD is a very clean sounding device overall. That’s the first striking impression. After that I can say it’s quite neutral and doesn’t have coloring, and it also doesn’t have any huge emphasis on one single part of the spectrum. It’s balanced, resolving and crystal clear. The technicalities are good for the price and the bluetooth audio quality is absolutely great, which was the most surprising part for me. It’s also very coherent, consistent and natural. Especially the mids are enjoyable but let’s get into more detail.
xDSD’s bass response is not huge and it stays linear and doesn’t bleed into mid range. It’s a natural, effortless and “how it should be” type of bass in terms of quantity. Overall quality of the bass is also very nice and satisfying. Hits are not very deep and it’s not tremendously layered, but it’s still very good for its own price bracket. Rumble is not extreme, but good for this kind of signature, and the speed & decay are also very competitive.
The bass is under control and this definitely helps to have this clean sound. But the mid bass part is more emphasized than sub bass, and with the wrong pair the mid bass region can become a hump in the spectrum. That is the case with the USB mode, as the device gets a little warmer with more mid bass and overall bass compared to wireless mode. So be careful to pair this one with IEMs / headphones which don’t have a mid bass focus.
Mids are a notch forward in the xDSD, sounding close and enjoyable as well. The mids are musical and they’re mostly organic depending on the recording, not getting too digital. Harmony and richness is good enough for this price, although the transparency is not very very high. But mids have good body, good resolution with a very nice tonality. Note size is more than acceptable levels, as well as the natural performance of vocals and instruments. So the mid region is quite well for pure performance, resolution, quantity and definition for this price level. This is the best part of the xDSD in my opinion, and you’ll love to hear those details and musical presentation across the mids. It definitely shines and excels on mids, like its shiny magnesium alloy.
The xDSD is a clean sounding device but it’s not bright or aggressive. Treble region is successful, having good enough extension and transparency, as well as the overall separation from mids. The articulation could’ve been better like the general transparency level but it’s still good. Of course don’t expect a great performance like much more expensive DAPs or DAC/AMPs here, but do expect a sound that is very coherent, controlled and quantity-wise adequate. Not too much, not too laid back. Trebles are sufficient, respectful for the slight dominance of mids and they don’t get in the way. They don’t stand out in relief compared to the rest of the spectrum.
Sound stage is not where the xDSD impresses, for both width and depth. Sometimes it feels congested with my SH-3. I did not expect a vast staging either, but particularly a little more width would’ve been very nice. It doesn’t feel that way with a open headphone like the HD660S though, but still you can find better sound stage with some DAPs out there. But to xDSD’s credit, you will probably need a bigger budget to have those staging performances.
Other than staging, the resolution is very nice but transparency is not on a very high level, which is not unexpected. For the price though, it’s absolutely fine and I can’t complain. Especially on the mid region things get really enjoyable in terms of details and resolution. Separation is strong, even though the stage is somewhat congested sometimes. It manages to put the right elements to their right places and for that stereo imaging is good. The dynamics are good and the speed and attack is impressive for this kind of a device. Background is mostly black but I’ve of course heard blacker backgrounds. Is it good for 400$? Yes, it’s very good indeed, and with the good resolution level it excels on imaging.
The power output is quite strong and it drives my HD660S easily. Surely this is not the best setup for a headphone like that, but in terms of mere volume it’s more than sufficient, especially indoors. So the amp stage is impressive for power. Noise floor is not dead silent but you’ll need to use very sensitive IEMs to notice that. Totally fine for me.
WIRED – WIRELESS
As I indicated, the wireless sound performance was jaw dropping in my tests. I didn’t expect this to happen to be honest, because there’s not a substantial difference between wired / bluetooth inputs. It has more body and bass with USB mode compared to more flat signature with bluetooth. Transparency is just a little more successful with the USB mode as well. This might sound shocking, but I liked the presentation with the wireless mode more. Mid bass is flatter, and it sounds more relaxed and effortless that way. Sure, this can play differently in your case with different headphones and their synergies with this device, but to hear this success with bluetooth, I can only appreciate and congratulate iFi Audio.
A feature packed, sturdy and a perfectly pocketable device, iFi xDSD is once again a great device from iFi. I especially loved the wireless feature. It’s very flexible to use it that way, and I would’ve bought it merely for this feature if I was a customer. It just works beautifully. It almost has the same size like a cigarette box, but packs a great amount of driving power and most importantly, it sounds very good.
I recommend the xDSD to anyone who look for this kind of a flexible device for their smartphones and computers. Yes, iFi’s done it again. See you around.