iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon Transportable DAC/Amplifier: Assessment
iFi Audio is celebrating its tenth birthday in 2022 and the British producer of award-winning and extremely popular desktop and moveable audio options is firing on all cylinders in the mean time. We not too long ago examined the iFi GO Bar Dongle DAC and found that their first really moveable DAC/Headphone Amplifier is among the finest we’ve got tried to date. The iFi xDSD Gryphon, launched late 2021, is a way more highly effective and succesful system than its smaller sibling and we took it for an extended experience.
AudioQuest has owned this class for years however their merchandise have fallen behind IFi, CEntrance, Questyle, FiiO, Apogee, THX, Helm Audio, and a rising listing of start-ups.
When you have been a part of the Head-Fi revolution over the previous decade, you might be doubtless very acquainted with iFi and their merchandise; many people have a number of generations of their merchandise on our desks (or within them) and use their moderately in depth collection of equipment with our sensible telephones, DAPs, headphone techniques, and moveable rigs. The merchandise have turn out to be dearer over time however the high quality has gone up so you might be getting loads of innovation and sturdiness in your cash.
A fast look by means of my very own private assortment reveals the primary technology iFi xDSD which I bought not lengthy after it was introduced in 2018. The system was the Swiss military knife of moveable audio on the time with an extended listing of options and the power to make use of it as a standalone headphone amplifier, DAC/amplifier, Bluetooth DAC/amplifier, and a desktop USB DAC in a bundle barely bigger than a deck of playing cards.
The xDSD supplied roughly 6 hours of battery life and ample energy to run nearly any headphone ([email protected]Ω). For its day, it was a market chief and it nonetheless offers up little or no to most of its current counterparts available in the market.
Nonetheless, 2018 is just not 2022 and the market has modified lots over the previous 4 years; the plethora of Dongle DACs from greater than 2 dozen producers at this level has been nicely acquired by the market and it will seem that buyers choose the idea of utilizing a smartphone and Dongle DAC to deal with the DAC/amplifier facet of the equation versus one thing just like the xDSD.
We will perceive that stage of considering from the angle of measurement/type however that’s solely a part of the equation.
You spend money on a conveyable DAC/amplifier as a result of it has the power to drive your headphones correctly and ship far superior sound high quality to the answer within your supply system.
The problem with that method is that the majority Dongle DACs are restricted by way of how a lot energy they’ll present; thus limiting which headphones can be utilized with them.
In case you are utilizing a USB Kind-C mannequin which might supply [email protected] or a lightning model that’s much more restricted at [email protected], there’s solely a lot that may be completed.
Driving a pair of full-sized headphones and attempting to protect your smartphone’s battery life is perhaps a misplaced trigger.
The aforementioned iFi GO Bar is actually an excellent center floor however it nonetheless can’t drive tough headphones to the identical ranges because the iFi xDSD Gryphon.
Because the successor to the unique xDSD (from a technical perspective, it’s an xDSD Gryphon), it was necessary that the Gryphon supply the identical options of the unique and it does with one exception. The unique xDSD included a mixture Coax/Toslink S/PDIF connector whereas the Gryphon solely affords a Coaxial enter so if you’re utilizing Optical inputs, know that you’ll have to swap to USB or Coaxial if switching to the brand new iFi XDSD Gryphon.
The Optical enter made extra sense in 2018 when USB was nonetheless experiencing rising pains however in in the present day’s world with larger bit charges, and DSD and MQA accessible by means of USB solely, the usage of Coaxial and Optical inputs on moveable units has plummeted, so iFi determined moderately than spend time on an Optical decoder, that it was a greater use of their assets to spend money on different options.
The iFi xDSD Gryphon affords help for USB, Coaxial, Bluetooth aptX Adaptive, LDAC, HWA/LHDC, AAC, aptX, and SBC protocols utilizing the newest Qualcomm Q5100 collection chipset. No matter which enter is used, the sign is synced to a worldwide grasp clock to scale back jitter earlier than being handed to the Burr-Brown chip dealing with the DAC duties.
The xDSD Gryphon helps PCM as much as 32-bit/768kHz, DSD512, and 8x MQA and DXD. The Gryphon additionally exposes the filters of the DAC so customers have a alternative of three modes; normal, bit-perfect, and Gibbs Transient Optimized, every of which affords a barely totally different sound.
The mind of the Gryphon is a 16 core XMOS processor that handles the entire process delegation, controls, show, and MQA unfolding duties because the Burr-Brown chips don’t help MQA natively.
The XMOS and Burr-Brown DAC use a customized firmware developed at iFi. After passing by means of the DAC part, the sign is fed to a dual-mono amplifier circuit with the ultimate quartet of chips in every channel biased at 0v DC. This permits the amplifier to function with out capacitors within the sign path which helps cut back noise and distortion as does the balanced circuit design.
The detrimental suggestions system designed by iFi to manage the amplifier additionally helps additional cut back noise. iFi calls this Purewave and Optimaloop and each applied sciences began out of their professional line with the Diablo and Gryphon being their first moveable units that implement the know-how.
The amount management is within the analog area and is extra intricate than most; iFi has developed what it calls CyberSync which detects the supply OS in use and bypasses that system’s inner software program quantity management. Because of this the amount adjustment is at all times executed on the Gryphon even when the person adjusts the slider in Home windows or Android.
This permits iFi to customise the amount changes for various working techniques; it additionally additionally make sure that the supply sign is just not degraded by the software program quantity controls earlier than reaching the Gryphon.
One of the spectacular features of the iFi xDSD Gryphon is its versatility; the power to go from a conveyable DAC/headphone amplifier to desktop preamplifier related to a pair of energetic loudspeakers is moderately distinctive within the moveable class. None of this could matter if the unit didn’t ship sonically, however it’s clearly close to the highest of its class in that respect.
All of these options and energy include some dramatic modifications to the bodily design as nicely; the xDSD Gryphon is double the scale of the unique unit (5″ x 3″ x .75″) and weighs 8 ounces.
iFi have retained the wave sample of the unique unit however the matte end works higher and is way simpler to maintain clear.
The entrance panel options 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone jacks, two LEDs that point out the kHz and enter sort, a big multi-function knob that’s useless middle on the faceplate, and two extra LEDs for XBass II and XSpace. The best facet of the panel additionally features a button for the settings, and enter choice button.
The rear panel is moderately busy however nicely spaced out; customers will discover a 3-position XBass/Bass Presence swap, and two USB Kind-C ports (one is for charging and the opposite is a supply enter).
The USB charging port has a battery indicator LED which modifications coloration when you find yourself charging and totally charged. The ultimate items of actual property are occupied by the digital Coaxial enter, 4.4mm enter, and a single 3.5mm enter.
iFi supplies a carrying bag for the xDSD Gryphon however I’d recommend selecting up the brand new devoted case for the unit that was simply launched and supplies higher safety.
The provided handbook is necessary studying; I spent two days studying it and experimenting with each attainable setting and connectivity possibility. Don’t attempt to determine every thing out by trial and error — learn the rattling handbook. It’s going to prevent loads of questions and frustration.
I did discover that pairing was easy and Bluetooth connectivity was above common utilizing each LDAC between the Gryphon and A&Ok’s KANN MAX DAP and my Samsung cellphone with aptX HD and HWA.
The unique xDSD was an awesome sounding unit, however I questioned if the the brand new xDSD Gryphon priced at $599 would ship a greater efficiency this time. All of those options wouldn’t imply very a lot if the unit didn’t evaluate favorably to the Chord Mojo 2 and the CEntrance unit that I simply completed reviewing.
I related the xDSD Gryphon to a MacBook Professional, Home windows laptop computer, iPhone 12, and a Samsung S21 to see the way it dealt with totally different sources; I did play with the entire DAC settings however determined that the bit-perfect mode labored one of the best.
With the XBass II setting disabled, it was moderately clear that the xDSD Gryphon has very spectacular low finish efficiency; bass notes have sturdy definition, affect, and loads of texture. The readability within the low finish was additionally glorious and after I used headphones that would present it off — it was clear that the unit is able to letting you hear the variations between bass guitars and percussion devices.
That’s not quite common with moveable models like this and I used to be comfortable to listen to that the efficiency didn’t fall off as we moved into the mid bass and higher bass areas; the affect remained very sturdy however with glorious linearity and texture.
There was no bleed into the decrease midrange and it retains issues very clear on this vary; even turning the XBass II on didn’t trigger the bass to overwhelm the remainder of the music.
With it engaged, bass notes are pushed additional ahead within the presentation however it by no means turns into distracting and it actually by no means loses its definition. That’s the approach it ought to be executed. Nicely executed iFI Audio.
The midrange efficiency of the xDSD Gryphon began to make me suppose that the Chord Mojo 2 may not be one of the best within the class anymore; the iFi affords glorious decision, transparency, element, and really quick transient response which gave electrical guitar a moderately satisfying growl and a few roughness which I discovered to be moderately lifelike sounding.
Strings and piano additionally displayed glorious decision, timbre, and simply sufficient vitality and presence to sound fairly lifelike; the extent of decay and coloration with every instrument actually made me sit up and pay nearer consideration to the music.
The treble is nicely prolonged with sufficient airiness and element to provide every thing within the vary loads of presence; the xDSD Gryphon is clearly designed for listeners like myself who need that further sparkle however with out feeling any sense of fatigue or a closed-off high finish. Music by no means feels rolled off and it will be incorrect to recommend that the treble is elevated in any respect.
Percussion has excellent snap and cymbals sound fairly lifelike and by no means overly metallic; offered that your headphones are as much as the duty.
Typical of the iFi home signature and perhaps the Burr-Brown DAC it makes use of, the highs are a contact skinny which helps with readability and definition, however received’t have as a lot heft as some others, Personally, I discover this tuning extra pure in its general tonality.
Vocals minimize by means of the combo nicely no matter pitch and feminine voices stand on an excellent footing with their male counterparts. Male vocals are a contact thicker than their feminine counterparts which once more sounded extra pure to me and the xDSD Gryphon made listening to Pentatonix enjoyable with its punchy bass and nicely prolonged higher vary.
It’s tough to provide a DAC/headphone amplifier an excessive amount of credit score for the scale of the soundstage or imaging; each are so depending on the headphones on the opposite finish however I’ll say that listening with the Sennheiser HD800 and Audeze LCD-4 was very fascinating in that regard.
Each headphones are famend for his or her capacity to throw an enormous soundstage and lesser headphone amplifiers don’t have the power to construct on these capabilities — the iFi xDSD Gryphon proved to be on equal footing and I used to be fairly impressed by the way it didn’t exaggerate the width and depth with the XSpace characteristic engaged.
One last be aware — the iFi xDSD Gryphon is designed for more durable to drive headphones and you’ll have to interact IE-Match on the underside for many IEMs to keep away from listening to some stage of hiss.
The battery efficiency will depend on various variables; quantity stage, headphone sort, and the way you utilize the options. Bluetooth actually drained the battery much more shortly than utilizing the USB enter and excessive impedance/low sensitivity headphones induced a extra speedy decline than excessive sensitivity IEMs.
The worst efficiency state of affairs nonetheless delivered over 7 hours of playtime earlier than requiring a cost, and finest delivered nearly 10 hours. What does that imply for you?
The iFi xDSD Gryphon is able to making it by means of a enterprise day on the workplace on a single cost or a full day on campus; the draw back is that it requires all evening to recharge (nearly 12 hours) until you might be utilizing a 2.1A charger which cuts the charging time to solely 6 hours.
The unique iFi xDSD was a class main system when it was launched in 2018 as a result of it supplied a lot efficiency for the cash. It did nearly every thing you would want. The casework was a little bit of a problem due to the slick surfaces and end that was a fingerprint magnet.
iFi has taken these classes to coronary heart and delivered a brand new xDSD Gryphon with a rougher and matte completed aluminum shell. It’s not as slick however more likely to get up higher long-term to abuse and stay very clear.
The brand new unit helps the entire new Bluetooth protocols apart from aptX Lossless, affords higher battery efficiency, extra tuning choices, and double the quantity of energy.
The flexibility of the xDSD Gryphon can also be an enormous promoting level; it will probably feed a desktop amplifier as a DAC or function a DAC/pre-amplifier for a pair of energetic loudspeakers.
The improved battery life makes it moderately very best for the commuter or pupil who want a robust DAC/headphone amplifier that won’t run out of juice even when it’s a must to keep late within the workplace or library after class. The improve in energy is substantial which solely widens the enchantment.
The general bundle faces some stiff competitors from the Chord and CEntrance choices that sit on the high of my beneficial listing — however taking every thing into consideration, the iFI xDSD Gryphon is extra versatile than both of them, affords extra tuning choices, and delivers higher sound high quality relying on the headphones you utilize.
Does it make sense to spend $599 on the iFi xDSD Gryphon?
When you think about that it’s extra reasonably priced than its two primary rivals, it is perhaps essentially the most logical one to purchase.
A “Better of 2022” product for certain.
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