For the purpose of this review, I used the FiiO FA9 (review incoming) for IEM testing and the Sennheiser HD-800S for headphone comparison. All files were streamed from Qobuz in Hi-Res, when available, Spotify and my own catalog.
Out of the box, it’s hard to discern any difference between the XD-05 and the XD-05 Plus.
Fortunately, it’s a good thing as both devices impressed me by their performances. The sound signature is flat, dynamic range excellent and all the good things I said about the previous version, remains true to this day : “The sound is sharp, with tight lows and clean highs”.
Switching from the AK4490 DAC to the newer AK4493 was a sweet move from the brand. Highs are more refined, voices softer and most of all, the dynamic range extends a bit more, so you can now discern subtler micro-details.
Instruments are more defined, transients are sharper and if not massive, the improvement is vast enough to justify the DAC its “plus” title. In Weird Fishes by Lianne La havas – a good reprise of Radiohead mythic song – the singers go solo for nearly a minute, the perfect test-track to magnifies the difference between the regular and Plus version.
There is a slight channel imbalance at very low volume (the right side will get more volume), but once you reach the first quarter, the problem disappears and everything will sound even. On a positive note, the xDuoo XD-05 Plus remains hiss-free on low gain, and only displays a faint hiss on sensible earphones when you reach for mid/high gain.
As usual, I tried the different filters, but could not really hear a huge difference between the four of them. Same for the “boost” option, whether on or off, my HD-800S sounded as good as the same.
Still, the xDuoo XD-05 Plus remains one of the most natural-sounding DAC/Amps at his price-point. Whatever the track, or genre, the little box achieved little wonders and managed to transcribe every little nuance. From Run The Jewels raging flow in DJ Shadow Nobody Speak, to Charlotte Day Wilson soft whispers in Rhye Patience, the little DAC never faltered.
The sound signature is mostly linear, but each frequency range got its own flaws and qualities. A quick overview.
Bass : tight and clean. The xDuoo XD-05 Plus can reach deep notes and, thanks to the beefier amp circuit, the device is now on-par with higher tier DAC/Amp. Even with the bass boost off, I was able to get satisfying results on my ears and cans.
Mids : naturally accurate. Excellent dynamic range, combined with an excellent DAC make for a very velvet sound. It feels both smooth and balanced and thanks to the wide sound stage, voices feel so so sweet. The best news ? It works the same if you only use the amp section.
Highs : airy and flat. As for the lows, the XD-05 Plus takes the upper hand over the previous generation. Highs are sharper, cleaner and this time, it’s thanks to the new DAC, more than the new amp. Head-to-head, the Plus version is much more impressive, with unheard details, now vividly audible.
Power and drive
It comes as no surprise, the xDuoo XD-05 Plus is pretty powerful.
At low volume, you’ll hear some channel imbalance, but once you reach your regular listening volume, that completely disappears. Apart from that, there is not much to be said: it’s able to drive all major headphones/earphones and honestly, you’ll never need to push higher than mid-gain.
Ah yeah, one last thing: if boost mode is supposed to adapt the output impedance, I couldn’t hear any difference between on, and off position.
The xDuoo XD-05 Plus follows the path carved by its predecessor. A great-sounding, versatile, DAC/AMP, that supports almost every source thanks to its wide range of inputs.
The brand took all the good points found in the “regular” version and polished them. Better sound stage, finer highs, empowered lows, and the same delightfully natural sound signature. As before, this is a device that you won’t grow tired of listening to, even after weeks or months.
Plus, now that xDuoo gave the XD-05 a USB-C port, it’s virtually future-proof. Bulky case? Yes. Great design? Also. Would I recommend it? For sure!