AAC (Advanced Audio Coding)

AAC is one of the most commonly-supported Bluetooth codecs in the wireless headphone and speaker markets. It’s also the default audio compression codec used by Apple’s iTunes and YouTube, and is supported across both iPhone and Android smartphones.

Active Noise Cancellation

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) reduces unwanted sound by the addition of a second sound wave specifically designed to cancel out the first. This basically results in no sound at all as it reaches unwanted sound even at the lowest frequencies.

Passive noise cancellation is done by means of insulating filters and works best on the middle to high frequencies. It does not work on the lower frequencies meaning that some sound can still be heard.

Active 'v' Passive Speakers

So, what's the difference?

Active speakers have an in-built power amplifier and just need a power cable (or battery) to operate. Passive speakers require an external power amplifier to operate.

In short, you need an amplifier for passive speakers, you don't with active speakers.

Airplay

Apple AirPlay is found on all Apple devices. It lets you share videos, photos, music, and more from Apple devices to your Apple TV, favorite speakers, and some smart TVs.

AKG K-1000

The AKG K-1000 headphone has been around since about 1990. It is extremely high performance. AKG described it as an "ear speaker".

Some say that it feels like you can reach out and touch the sound they produce, such is their visceral quality.

Analogue 'v' Digital Signal Processing

Most modern systems use Digital Signal Processing. DSP samples analogue soundwaves into a limited set of numbers and records them. The overuse of DSP can result in an overcompressed unnatural sound and the translation and reassembly of data make digital devices prone to loss of quality.

All iFi products use Analogue Signal Processing as we believe it is better suited to audio. ASP does not cause signal quality to be lost as it records waveforms as they are and produces a more natural sound. 

Analogue 'v' Digital Volume Control

For cost and convenience, modern DAC chips have a built-in digital volume control. The drawback is that a digital volume control works by 'truncating' the signal. Or 'chopping Bits' of resolution. For a 16-Bit music file at 50% volume level means the listener is actually listening to 14.5-Bits!

All iFi products bypass the digital volume control and use a separate analogue volume control which does not 'lose Bits' so a 16-Bit file stays unchanged which delivers maximum resolution.

Losing Bits of resolution (quality) is like having missing pixels on a computer or TV screen.

Apple CCK and Android OTG

So, why don't we provide these two cables with our products?

The Apple CCK cable can only be purchased from Apple. We can't make one ourselves as it has a special chip in the cable that we'd need to use for them to actually work with Apple hardware. Sadly, Apple has not released this chip to anyone. 

We can and do make two versions of an Android OTG cable - Type C and micro.

aptX

aptX Bluetooth transmission is found in most Android phones, media players, Apple computers (macOS on iMacs and MacBooks) and on higher-quality Bluetooth headphones. It is not available on iOS (iPhones and iPads use Advanced Audio Codec).

aptX LL

aptX™ Low Latency audio ensures your Bluetooth® wireless enabled device can deliver sound in sync with visual media. It reduces delay and improves end-to-end speed of the audio transmission, resulting in a high-quality, synchronised user experience.

With aptX™ Low Latency you can enjoy the freedom of wireless for applications such as gaming and watching videos.

ASP v DSP

Most modern systems use DSP - Digital Signal Processing.

DSP samples analogue soundwaves into a limited set of numbers and records them. The overuse of DSP can result in an overcompressed unnatural sound and the translation and reassembly of data make digital devices prone to loss of quality.

All iFi products use Analogue Signal Processing as we believe it is better suited to audio. ASP does not cause signal quality to be lost as it records waveforms as they are and produces a more natural sound.

Balanced audio

This is a type of audio circuitry topology that uses individual left & right channels.

It is a superior method to the single-ended circuit approach. Balanced circuits reduce noise and crosstalk.

While single-ended is used by most at this price level, iFi is implementing balanced circuits across the Zen range which is quite a step-up.

Balanced

This is a type of audio circuitry topology that uses individual left & right channels.

It is a superior method to the single-ended circuit approach. Balanced circuits reduce noise and crosstalk. Less Interefence - clearer sound.

You normally find this set-up in products at the higher end of the spectrum such as the Pro iCAN but iFi is now using it across its product ranges to produce interference free audio.

Balanced 'v' Unbalanced

Let's talk headphone cables.

An unbalanced headphone cable has a left + and right + wire, for each respective side. The other, the third - wire is shared by both left & right channels. As this is shared, this gives rise to undesired coupling noise which is commonly referred to as 'crosstalk.'

A balanced cable has the same left + and right +. But it has a separate left - and right -. With totally separate wiring 'crosstalk' is negligible.

Therefore, a balanced connection is the superior headphone wiring configuration.

Bit-Perfect

If a file is "Bit Perfect' it means it has stayed the same. For example, if a PCM file is played through a DAC to improve the sound quality and the DAC does not change the file format. The file is 'Bit Perfect'.

Bluetooth 5.0®

This is the latest version of the Bluetooth wireless commnunication standard.

Its main benefits are improved speed and greater range - it's faster and can operate over greater distances than older versions of Bluetooth. You can find out more here.

Busbar

A busbar is simply a conductor through which current flows.

CD Transport

A CD transport concentrates on reading the information held on a compact disc without expending effort in turning that digital signal into an analogue output, unlike a CD player. All you need to do is add an external DAC.

Class D Amplifier

A class-D amplifier or switching amplifier is an electronic amplifier in which the amplifying devices operate as electronic switches, and not as linear gain devices as in other amplifiers. Just like SMPS (Switch Mode Power Supplies), standard Class D amplifiers have an inherent noise issue due to their 'switching' nature.

Common Noise Filter

The common noise filter cuts out most noise gremlins found in typical audio systems such as RFI/EMI.

DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter)

DACs convert digital information, stored or streamed by computers, into music we can hear through speakers or headphones.

Every device that's a source of digital sound has a built-in DAC (TVs, games consoles, CD players, phones, portable music players etc). Dedicated external DACs sound much better than standard DACs used in digital devices such as phones.

DAP (Digital Audio Player)

A DAP is a device like an iPod or an MP3 player that stores and/or plays back music digitally.

DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic device or application used for recording, editing and producing audio files. It's basically a mixing desk.

Dolby Digital

Dolby digital is one of the most popular formats for surround sound. It's used by DVD's and Netflix.

It is a compressed format, so the newer uncompressed formats sound better.

DoP

The DoP protocol is a method for transferring DSD Audio over PCM. DoP simply uses PCM frames as a carrier for the native DSD data. A DSD stream can be carried over a lower data stream and will be completely unchanged at the end of the process.

DSD (Direct Stream Digital)

DSD is a very high-quality digital audio format that's even better than CD quality. The higher the 'DSD rate' – DSD64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024 - the greater the amount of music information available, which means better sound quality.

Files can be remastered to higher file rates to improve sound quality. The pinnacle of this is DSD1024. Not many machines out there are capable of this feat.

DSP (Digital Signal Processing)

Digital signal processing (DSP) is the use of digital processing, such as by computers or more specialized digital signal processors, to perform a wide variety of signal processing operations. When it comes to audio the overuse of DSP can result in an over-compressed, unnatural sound.

DTS

DTS is a company that licences codecs. They dominate the physical disc market with DTS5.1 and DTS Master Audio.

Electrostatic headphones

Electrostatic headphones work completely differently than conventional "dynamic" or "moving coil" headphones.

Dynamic headphones have a coil of wire inside a magnet. This wire coil is glued to a stiff cone that's held in place with springy suspension. Current passes through this coil and electromagnetism creates force on the coil while in the field of the magnet. The resulting force vibrates the coil which, as it is glued to to a heavy cone, moves the entire set-up in and out and creates sound.

Electrostatics place a non-moving static electric charge on an ultra thin film that floats between two metal plates. When audio voltages are applied across the plates, static cling and repulsion cause the film to move by itself. There is no contact.

This process requires very high voltages and special amplifiers to drive them which is where the Pro iESL comes in.

EMI (Electromagnetic Interference)

EMI is a type of interference caused by errant and unwanted electromagnetic waves that are received and amplified by an audio system. They cause some of the annoying 'audio gremlins' we often talk about.

File formats

MP3 – this is the most popular format, every device in the world can use it.

DSDDirect Stream Digital is a very high-quality audio format, better than CD quality. The higher the number (sample rate), the better the recording - DSD64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024.

PCMPulse Code Modulation is the most common format for CDs and DVDs.

DXDDigital eXtreme Definition is a very high-quality PCM format. It was developed to edit hi-res (high quality) recordings recorded in DSD.

Filters

Filters are used in music to alter the harmonic content of a signal, which changes its timbre or sound.

Just as using a coloured filter on a camera lens will alter the look of the resulting photograph to set the right mood, filters work in a similar way in audio.

Gain

Gain is the amount of increase in audio signal strength. Gain is often expressed in decibels (dB).

Galvanic Isolation

Galvanic isolation is a design technique that separates electrical circuits to eliminate stray currents that contain noise. Signals can pass between galvanically isolated circuits, but stray currents, such as differences in ground potential or currents induced by AC power, do not pass. This means little or no noise interference to the audio signal from stray currents.

Ground Loops

In an electrical system, a Ground or Earth loop occurs when two points of an audio system both have a ground reference which causes a 'potential voltage difference' between them. Ground loops are a major cause of the noise, hum, and interference in audio, video, and computer systems.

HWA

HWA is Bluetooth® wireless audio powered by LHDC™ and used by Huawei.

LHDC™ is codec developed by Savitech and stands for 'low latency and high definition' audio. Compared to standard Bluetooth®, it allows 3 times more musical date to be transmitted.

IEMs

IEMs stands for In-Ear Monitors.

These fit inside your ear. You've been using them for years. You just called them something else.

You will also see these referred to as earphones, ear buds and CIEMs. CIEMs are Custom In-Ear Monitors - IEMs made specifically to fit your ear shape.

JAS Hi-Res logo

When you see the Japan Audio Society (JAS) Hi-Res logo on a product it means that has this certification and conforms to the high standards for high resolution music put in place by the JAS consortium – to which the largest global electronics manufacturers and the biggest music labels have all subscribed.

Koss

Founded way back in 1958, Koss now produce a wide range of headphones to cater for varying tastes. One of their most acclaimed creations is the ESP950, over electrostatic ear headphones which retailed at about $999.

LDAC

LDAC is an audio coding technology developed by Sony, which allows streaming audio over Bluetooth connections up to 990 kbit/s at 24 bit/96 kHz (also called high-resolution audio).

It is used in Sony headphones, smartphones, portable media players, active speakers and home theaters.

LDAC is a lossy codec which means is disgards some of musical info to make the file smaller.

Linear Power Supply

A linear power supply design applies the AC line voltage to a power transformer to raise or lower the voltage before being applied to the regulator circuitry. They have very little output noise.

Lossy v Lossless

Lossless and lossy compression are terms that describe whether or not, in the compression of a file, all original data can be recovered when the file is uncompressed.

With lossless compression, every single bit of data that was originally in the file remains after the file is uncompressed.

On the other hand, lossy compression reduces a file by permanently eliminating certain information. Lossy audio files do not retain the natural authenticity of the original.

MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)

MQA is an award-winning British technology that delivers the sound of the original master recording. The master MQA file is fully authenticated and is small enough to stream or download. More here.

NAS (Network Attached Storage)

Network-attached storage (NAS) is dedicated file storage that enables multiple users and client devices to retrieve data from centralized disk capacity.

Users on a local area network (LAN) access the shared storage via a standard Ethernet connection. NAS devices typically do not have a keyboard or display and are configured and managed with an app.

Native playback

Native playback simply means that the file format has not been changed.

You wanted to listen in PCM, you'll still be listening in PCM. The DAC does not change the format of the original file.

Noisebusters!

Reference to the 1984 film Ghostbusters. Four guys, a girl and ghosts. And proton guns that would destroy the world if you crossed the streams. Watch this.

Omotesando

Omotesandō is known as one of the foremost 'architectural showcase' streets in the world, featuring a multitude of fashion flagship stores within a short distance of each other.

These include the Louis Vuitton store (Jun Aoki, 2002), Tod's (Toyo Ito, 2004), Dior (SANAA, 2004), Omotesandō Hills (Tadao Ando, 2005) and Gyre (MVRDV, 2007), amongst others. More here.

Orpheus

The Sennheiser Orpheus HE90 are legendary headphones created in 1991 and limited to 300 pairs. They came with their very own valve amp and cost $16,000. Phew!

Polarity

In simple terms, polarity refers to the way a signal flows.

Audio signals generally flow one way, like DC current, and have positive polarity. Inverting the polarity can have a negative impact on sound and equipment.

Pulse Load

A 'load' refers to a current drain that is applied to a battery. For example, charging the flash in a camera. The term 'Pulse Load' indicates that the load is automatically applied for a specific period of time, then disconnected without user intervention.

RFI (Radio-frequency interference)

Radio-frequency interference (RFI) is very similar to electromagnetic interference (EMI) but is found in the radio frequency spectrum. It is another source of irritatiing, unwanted noise often talked about as an 'audio gremlin'.

Top tip: just don't add water.

Shigeru Ban

Shigeru Ban (坂 茂 Ban Shigeru, born 5 August 1957) is a Japanese architect, known for his innovative work with paper, particularly recycled cardboard tubes used to quickly and efficiently house disaster victims.

He was profiled by Time magazine in their projection of 21st-century innovators in the field of architecture and design. Find out more here.

Switch Mode Power Supplies (SMPS)

A switched-mode power supply is an electronic power supply that incorporates a switching regulator to convert electrical power efficiently. It transfers power from a DC or AC source to DC loads, such as a personal computer, while converting voltage and current characteristics.

Switch-mode power supplies are widely used because of the advantages they offer in terms of size, weight, cost, efficiency and overall performance. They are in themselves noisy and were not designed with audio in mind.

Solid-state 'v' Tubes

A solid-state amplifier uses electronics such as diodes and transistors to amplify the music signal. A tube amp uses valves/vacuum tubes to do the same job.

There is a noticeable sound difference between the two methods. Some feel that tube amps create a warmer, more musical tone. Some companies choose to build 'hybrid' models that combine the two methods.

Soundstage

So, what is soundstage?

Imagine yourself in a small theater, 10 rows from the front, dead center, watching an orchestra perform on stage. Now close your eyes. This is the 'sound stage'.

In audio speak, it is an imaginary 3D space created by the high-quality reproduction of sound in a stereo speaker system. In other words, the soundstage allows the listener to hear the placement of the orchestra vis-a-vis instruments when listening to a given piece of music.

Spotify Premium

Spotify Premium allows you to listen better quality music. It's all about bitrates. The bitrate is the amount of data processed over a certain amount of time. The higher the bitrate, the better the quality.

On normal Spotify you listen at 96kbps, the 'standard' bitrate on mobile or at 160kbps, 'standard quality' on desktop and 'high quality' on mobile.

With Spotify Premium, you get 320kbps which is 'high quality' on desktop and 'extreme quality' on mobile. Basically, more bitrates for your buck.

Square wave

The square wave pattern is what is desired in audio. It contain more harmonic content than a sine wave or a wave full of distortion and jitter.

Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando (安藤 忠雄 Andō Tadao, born 13 September 1941) is a Japanese self-taught architect whose approach to architecture and landscape was categorized by architectural historian Francesco Dal Co as "critical regionalism".

Read more here.

Tidal Masters

Tidal is a subscription-based audio streaming platform, similar to Apple Music and Spotify, but with lossless-quality audio. Tidal Masters is the section with the highest-fidelity music streamed including some files in partnership with MQA.

Lossless-quality means that no music quality is lost in this format.

USB Audio

USB audio is a digital audio connection used to send digital music from your computer to a digital to analogue converter (DAC). Usually computer manufacturers spend most of the overall budget on the processors and screen, leaving minimal budget for the built-in DAC and audio outputs.

Volumetric Efficiency

In electronics, volumetric efficiency quantifies the performance of some electronic function per unit volume, usually in as small a space as possible.

ZEN

Zen emphasizes rigorous self-control, meditation-practice, insight into the nature of things and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. Discover more here.

iFi audio xDSD

xDSD

Our portable DAC and headphone amplifier will improve the sound quality of your music.

Whether you are listening via headphones on the bus or via your system on the sofa, the award-winning xDSD makes your music sound better.

Mobile Content

Wireless. Wired.

The xDSD is for people who love to listen — on the go or at home.

You choose wireless via Bluetooth® or wired via USB or SPDIF.

Apple or Android, DAP, games console or TV, just connect the xDSD and enjoy the ultimate audio experience.

Desktop Content

Wireless. Wired.

The xDSD is for people who love to listen — on the go or at home.

You choose wireless via Bluetooth® or wired via USB or SPDIF.

Apple or Android, DAP, games console or TV, just connect the xDSD and enjoy the ultimate audio experience.

iFi audio xDSD

Hi-Res. Future-proof.

The xDSD plays high-quality digital audio file formats up to DSD512. Listen to your favourite tracks as they were meant to be.

In love with Hi-Res streaming? Listen to Tidal HiFi and Spotify Premium with ease.

The xDSD is also MQA ready straight out of the box. Use with Tidal Masters on your computer or mobile.

Mobile Content

Bluetooth freedom

The convenience of Bluetooth® means your headphones connect to the xDSD, leaving your phone or chosen device wire free. Pop the xDSD in your pocket and it’s business as usual but with much better sound.

The xDSD boasts both aptX™ and AAC™ Bluetooth® for CD-like quality. With standard Bluetooth®, the sound quality drops by 30%, not so with the iFi Bluetooth® implementation. Just a little iFi magic for you!

Desktop Content

Bluetooth freedom

The convenience of Bluetooth® means your headphones connect to the xDSD, leaving your phone or chosen device wire free. Pop the xDSD in your pocket and it’s business as usual but with much better sound.

The xDSD boasts both aptX™ and AAC™ Bluetooth® for CD-like quality. With standard Bluetooth®, the sound quality drops by 30%, not so with the iFi Bluetooth® implementation. Just a little iFi magic for you!

iFi audio xDSD

Superior sonics

With amazing amplification, driven by 500 mW of power, the xDSD handles almost any headphones and it easily partners up with active home speakers.

And, of course, we’ve included our exclusive optional ‘sonic fine-tuning extras’ to add further nuances to your listening.

xBass+® cleans and restores the bass to give you a richer, deeper sound and 3D+® opens up your music to bring a live-concert atmosphere into your living room.

Mobile Content

Perfectly balanced

iFi’s exclusive S-Balanced technology means that you gain the advantages of a balanced connection even when using an unbalanced one.

On headphones this means lower distortion, less interference, and reduce crosstalk.

Desktop Content

Perfectly balanced

iFi’s exclusive S-Balanced technology means that you gain the advantages of a balanced connection even when using an unbalanced one.

On headphones this means lower distortion, less interference, and reduce crosstalk.

xDSD by iFi audio

Smart. Stylish.

The battery lasts up to 10 hours and ‘smart’ tech ensures you enjoy optimum listening time adjusted according to your usage. The xDSD has a separate USB charging socket.

And finally, with its metallic chrome finish and elegant, ergonomic design, based upon the Japanese Zen garden, it puts the ‘x’ back into sexy.

The Burr-Brown True Native® chipset means file formats remain unchanged. Listen to music as the artist intended in the format in which it was recorded.


Hi-Res True Native® playback for all music formats from MP3 to DSD512, PCM768 and 2xDXD.



Listen to Master Quality Authenticated audio straight out of the box. Connect to Tidal Masters and check the option to stream MQA.

Our video tutorials on You Tube show you how.


iFi’s exclusive S-Balanced® circuit delivers maximum performance from single-ended and balanced headphones alike.

See our Tech Note to dig deeper.


This unit features the iFi Cyberdrive® headphone amplifier stage. You won’t find it in Star Wars or Star Trek. Unravel its mysteries here.


Connect your phone or device wirelessly via aptX™ and AAC™ Bluetooth®.  Whatever your device, we’ve got it covered. Read more on iFi’s take on Bluetooth® here.


We use the USB Type-A connector as it provides a more stable audio connection for better playback and because of the OTG cable for Android and CCK Lightning to USB cable for Apple. The 3.5mm coaxial/TOSLINK combo SPDIF input allows connection to older DAPs and CD players.


Battery life is up to 10 hours. Charging is via the separate USB charging cable included.

Support

Specifications
USB Input: up to PCM768kHz & DSD512 (24.6/22.6MHz)
SPDIF Coaxial and Optical Input: up to 192kHz/24Bit
Dynamic Range: > 113dB (A)
Volume Control: -101dB…0dB in 1dB steps
Output power: > 2.82V/500 mW @ 16 Ohm
> 3.7V/270mW @ 50 Ohm
> 3.8V/48 mW @ 300 Ohm
> 3.8V/24 mW @ 600 Ohm
Line out Level: > 2.1V @ 0dBFS (& 0dB Volume)
THD &N (1V/16R): < 0.005%
Output Impedance: < 1 Ohm
Battery: 3.8V/2200mAh
Dimensions: 95 (l) x67 (w) x19 (h) mm
Weight: 127g (0.28 Ibs)
Warranty period: 12 months

Reviews

IFi XDSD Review

iFi is a brand who knows how to present a product. We have in test the xDSD as well as the SPDIF iPurifier: they both have a white box with a render of the product on the front and sides, while on the back there are all the useful information about the product itself and its technical specifications. The xDSD won the EISA award for being the best product of 2018/2019…

(Click name to read original review)
More reviews…
More reviews…

iFi Headphone Amp and DAC Lineup Review

The entry into the world of headphones can be confusing but it doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re looking for an affordable headphone amp to bring life into your cans, iFi will have the solution. Whether you use IEM’s or the most stubborn open-back, iFi can push them and give you the lifelike music you’ve been wanting.

(Click name to read original review)

Ansh Gulati Reviews the iFi Audio xDSD

The iFi xDSD Portable DAC & Amp Comes with a Nice Velvet Carry Bag, A Really Long Blue (Looks Ugly IMHO) USB 3.0 Cable Meant for Data Connectivity When Used with a Desktop/Laptop, a Micro USB Cable for Charging, a Short USB A Female to USB B Female Cable, a Short Male USB A to Female USB B Adapter, a TOSLINK Optical Adapter for S/PDIF Coaxial or Optical Connections and a Few 3M Command Velcro Strips.

On the Go Users will be Disappointed as there’s No OTG Cable (Neither for Android Devices Nor for iOS Devices) Provided in the Box.

(Click name to read original review)

LAPTOP, BEAUTIFUL AND COMPETENT: iFi xDSD

Increasingly, portable audiophilia is gaining market relevance. XDSD is a British iFi handyman, known for his high-end digital gear – and one of his most affordable creations. Is it good?

(Click name to read original review)

iFi xCAN and xDSD Shootout

(Click name to read original review)

iFi xDSD Review

(Click name to read original review)

Compare

micro iDSD BL xDSD nano iDSD BL nano iDSD LE
Primary use Transportable Portable Portable Portable
Headphone Output 6.3mm 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm
iEMatch Yes Yes / Auto Yes
3D Matrix On / Off On / Off
XBass On / Off On / Off
Max. power 4,000mW @ 16 Ohm 500mW @ 16 Ohm 285mW @ 30 Ohm 150mW @ 30 Ohm
Output Impedance <1 Ohm (Direct) <1 Ohm (Direct) <1 Ohm (Direct) <1 Ohm (Direct)
<4 Ohm (iEmatch) <4 Ohm (iEmatch) <4 Ohm (iEmatch)
Battery playback 6-10 hours 6-8 hours 6-8 hours 6-8 hours
Inputs
Bluetooth (aptX / AAC) Yes
USB Yes Yes Yes Yes
SPDIF In / Out In
Line Out RCA 3.5mm
DAC Burr-Brown (Dual) Burr-Brown Burr-Brown Burr-Brown
Formats PCM768 / DSD512 / 2xDXD PCM768 / DSD512 / 2xDXD PCM384 / DSD256 / DXD PCM384 / DSD128 / DXD
Filter switch Bit-Perfect / Min Phase / Standard Listen / Measure Listen / Measure
MQA Yes Yes Yes Yes
Clock Low-jitter crystal clock Low-jitter crystal clock Low-jitter crystal clock Low-jitter crystal clock
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