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Reviewed on: SoundStage! Solo, October 2018

I measured the iFi Audio xDSD using a Clio 10 FW audio analyzer and a Neutrik NL-1 Minilyzer. For all of these tests, I used the xDSD’s coaxial digital input. Note that this is the first DAC-headphone amp I’ve measured for SoundStage! Solo; I’ve decided to focus my efforts on tests that confirm such devices’ basic functionality, and that gauge the efficacy of any special features and functions that might be measurable.

Frequency response 192kHz

This chart shows the xDSD’s frequency response in its Listen and Measure modes, and with XBass+ engaged, with a 24-bit/192kHz S/PDIF signal and the xDSD set for 1mW output into a 32-ohm load. The response in both modes measured -0.16dB at 20Hz and -0.26dB at 20kHz. Listen mode actually measured slightly better here, with less rolloff above 65kHz; apparently, the switch is mislabeled. The bass boost in XBass+ mode was 6.48dB at 20Hz.

Frequency response 48kHz

This chart shows the xDSD’s frequency response in Listen and Measure modes, and with XBass+ engaged, with a 16/48 S/PDIF signal and the xDSD set for 1mW output into a 32-ohm load. The treble response at 20kHz in Measure mode is -1.91dB, and in Listen mode -0.32dB. Definitely, the switch is mislabeled. According to the xDSD manual, the Listen filter is “transient-optimized minimum phase” and the Measure filter is “frequency response optimized,” but a filter with -1.91dB rolloff at 20kHz is certainly not “frequency response optimized.”

THD vs. power output

This chart shows the output of the xDSD vs. its total harmonic distortion (THD) into loads of 32, 250, and 600 ohms. Although iFi specifies the xDSD’s power output into 16, 50, 300, and 600 ohms, which renders most of my measurements not directly comparable, those measurements do suggest that iFi’s specs are on the mark. The xDSD’s output into 32 ohms is 291mW at 0.5% THD and 304mW at 1% THD; into 250 ohms, the output is 53mW at 0.5% THD and 54mW at 1% THD; and into 600 ohms, the xDSD puts out 22mW at 0.5% THD and 23mW at 1% THD.

Distortion

Here you can see the xDSD’s spectrum of harmonic distortion and noise floor when driven by a 24/192 S/PDIF signal and referenced to 1.5V RMS output at 600Hz. Note that the distortion profile of the Measure and Listen modes is effectively the same.

I measured the xDSD’s output impedance as 0.8 ohm at 1kHz, which confirms iFi’s rating of <1 ohm. I prefer a headphone amp’s output impedance to be 1 ohm or less; the output impedance will then not react significantly with the reactance of the headphones, and thus won’t affect the ’phones’ frequency response.

. . . Brent Butterworth
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