In this article we review the $149 xDuoo Link2 Bal DAC/AMP dongle.
Disclaimer: The xDuoo Link2 Bal was sent to us free of charge by xDuoo directly, in exchange for this review.
Based in ShenZhen, China, xDuoo is a good Chi-Fi representative. Proudly designed and made in China Mainland, they were first a classic ODM factory. Then, the team decided to create their own brand, and produce for themselves, with success.
We have reviewed many xDuoo product here on Headfonia, including the X10T portable source, the TA-10 DAC/AMP, the X10Tii portable turntable, the TA-20 amp, the XD-05, the XD-05 Plus DAC/AMP, the TA-30 DAC/AMP and the Link2 DAC/AMP dongle.
Today we’ll be looking at the xDuoo Link2 Bal dongle-sized DAC/AMP.
USB DAC/AMP dongles are incredibly popular and all the companies are pushing out new versions all of the time. Over the last 2 months alone, we have reviewed the following units:
- Cayin RU6
- iBasso DC06
- Audirect Beam 3 Plus
- Hidizs S9 Pro
- Fiio KA1
- Shanling UA5
- EarMen Colibri
- DDHifi TC44C
- Moondrop Moonriver 2
So why are these DAC/AMP dongles so popular?
Everyone loves small, portable USB dongles that can be used on your computer, phone and tablet. They’re small and highly transportable, they sound much better than your onboard soundcard and they are very affordable. What’s not to like?
There are so many of these devices on the market that it’s impossible to cover them all. The xDuoo Link2 Bal is the last dongle in my possession to review, though we have plenty more dongle reviews coming up by the HFN team.
xDuoo Link2 Bal – Features
Today we’ll be looking at the xDuoo Link2 Bal, the second version of their Link2 unit. Looking at the name it’s quite clear already where the biggest difference is compared to the original Link2: it now has a 4.4mm balanced output. But that’s not all what’s different. We’ll get into that later.
The xDuoo Link2 Bal sports both a 3.5mm single ended as well as a 4.4mm balanced output, just like most of the latest dongles. On the inside we find dual CS 43131 DAC chips and an independent amp circuit with a TI LM27762 chip, providing ultra low noise (127dB), and a much lower THD+N compared to the original Link2.
The xDuoo Link2 Bal DAC/AMP dongle is super versatile. It is built to be used with all kinds of sources such as phones, computers, gaming consoles, etc. To make that possible it even has two UAC modes where USB 1 is for Switch & Play station.
One of the xDuoo Link2 Bal’s features is the LED of which the color changes according to the sample rate of the song/file:
- Red LED: PCM 48k/44.1kHz
- Blue LED: PCM 88.2k-384kHz
- Green LED: DSD 64-256 (DOP-Native)
The xDuoo Link2 Bal does not support MQA, but I doubt the majority sees that as a downside.
xDuoo Link2 Bal – Design, Build Quality
The xDuoo Link2 Bal is small in size, like all of the DAC/AMP dongles. It measures 63mm*23.5mm*13mm and only weighs a mere 28g. It comes 2.5D double sided glass, and while that looks really cool, it makes the unit extremely slippery. It’s also a fingerprint magnet.
The Link2 Bal’s whole Body is CNC’d and there are no seams or screws. The surface is sandblasted, oxidized and colored. xDuoo calls it an elegant design. I have to say I quite like the design, especially with the red play/pause button.
Build quality-wise the xDuoo Link2 Bal also delivers: beautiful glass, quality sockets, sturdy switches and nicely clicking buttons. All-in all xDuoo delivers in both design and BQ.
xDuoo Link2 Bal – Lay-out & Usability
The top of the unit only has the xDuoo logo at the bottom, with the Link2 Bal product name below. The back of the unit shows xDuoo’s website url and a series of certification logos.
On the top of the unit, you have the USB-C input, at the bottom you have both the 3.5mm and 4.4mm output.
The left side of the unit has the USB mode selector and the Mode selector (Normal & Turbo). The latter basically being the gain setting. On the right side of the unit, we have the volume control, the play/pause button and the typical small yellow Hi-Res Audio sticker.
Using the xDuoo Link2 Bal is easy as it’s plug and play. The buttons also are easy to push and you can work the device without having to look at it. Just pay attention to the volume, as it increases fast with double steps. That being said, it still allows you to listen to low volumes (and completely noiseless).
xDuoo Link2 Bal – Accessories & Price
The xDuoo Link2 Bal is selling for $149 USD, making it slightly cheaper than the competition (see later). The dongle comes in a simple but nice box.
On the inside of the box you will find the following:
- The Link2 Bal dongle
- 1 short USB-C to USB-C cable
- A USB-C to Lightning cable
- A USB-C to USB-A adapter
- A manual
- A warranty card
For the price this is an incredible set of accessories, and it probably is the dongle with the most accessories on the market, certainly at this price point.
xDuoo Link2 Bal – Specifications
DAC chip: CS43131*2
Input port: Type-C USB
Output port: 3.5mm+4.4mm
Output Power: 3.5mm: 125mW@32ohm & 4.4mm: 270mW@32ohm
Sample Rate Support: PCM: 16-32Bit /44.1-384kHz & DSD: DSD64-256
Frequency response: 20Hz~20kHz(±0.5dB)
THD+N: 0.001%1kHz (3.5 Headphone AMP) & 0.0007%1kHz (4.4 Headphone AMP)
SNR: 123dB(3.5 Headphone AMP) & 123dB(4.4 Headphone AMP)
Crosstalk: 3.5 Output: ≥77dB & 4.4 Output: ≥120dB
The review continues on the second page of this article. Click here or use the jumps below.