A few years ago iFi launched the xCAN and xDSD as part of its x-series line of portable DAC/amps. This autumn, iFi launches its next-generation x-series device, the xDSD Gryphon – iFi’s most ambitious portable DAC/amp yet. It replaces not only the xDSD but also the xCAN, combining the functionality of both with redesigned circuitry that elevates performance to another level.
Key to the xDSD Gryphon’s flexibility is the sheer breadth of equipment to which it can be connected. Digital and analogue cable inputs are provided – the former in USB and S/PDIF flavours, and the latter via balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn and single-ended 3.5mm sockets. High-definition Bluetooth reception is also provided, enabling smartphones, tablets and more to connect wirelessly with blissful simplicity and optimal sound quality.
This flexibility makes the xDSD Gryphon the ultimate ‘swiss army knife’ of the portable DAC/amp scene, delivering fabulous sound across a host of possible applications – a headphone amp to use with digital and analogue sources; a pure DAC or DAC/preamp to use with an amp and speakers; the heart of a home-based audio system; or a mobile music lover’s dream. The xDSD Gryphon is a high-end audio system you can take with you wherever you go.
Built into the top surface is an OLED display strip, showing a range of useful information including input selection, volume level, battery level, digital audio format and sample rate, along with various other settings. This combines with crisply engineered controls and front-panel LED lighting to ensure the xDSD Gryphon is a pleasure to use, despite the complexity inherent in such a versatile device.
The xDSD Gryphon’s ‘digital engine’ is based around a Burr-Brown DAC chipset that iFi uses extensively, selected for its natural-sounding ‘musicality’ and True Native architecture. iFi’s experience with this IC means it knows how to make the most of it; but whilst intrinsic to the resulting sound, the creation of an exemplary DAC stage involves much more than the selection of a particular DAC chip.
One such critical component is the XMOS chip that processes the audio data received via the USB and S/PDIF digital inputs. The xDSD Gryphon uses a low-latency, 16-core XMOS microcontroller delivering enhanced processing power; iFi’s in-house digital development team has programmed the XMOS firmware to optimise sound quality and ensure a perfect partnership with the Burr-Brown DAC. Extensive jitter-eradication technologies are also applied to the digital stage, including the latest generation of iFi’s GMT (Global Master Timing) femto-precision clock and the intelligent memory buffer.
Every music format at the highest quality
Hi-res audio support is state-of-the-art, handling PCM data to 32-bit/768kHz, all levels of DSD to DSD512, and single- and double-speed DXD. Thanks to the Burr-Brown DAC chip’s four-channel True Native design, PCM and DSD take separate pathways – this enables DSD, as well as PCM, to remain ‘bit-perfect’ in its native form right through to analogue conversion.
MQA – the hi-res streaming codec, as used by Tidal’s ‘Masters’ tier – is also supported through the USB and S/PDIF inputs, with full decoding of MQA files up to 384kHz. This means that the full ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to only the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’. Globally, MQA has become an important consideration for any comprehensively equipped DAC; for Tidal Masters subscribers, the xDSD Gryphon is a great way to make the most of the superior sound of which this streaming service is capable.
Making full use of Qualcomm’s latest four-core QCC5100 Bluetooth processing chip, every current high-definition Bluetooth audio format is supported, including aptX Adaptive and aptX HD, LDAC and HWA/LHDC. Other codecs covered include regular aptX and aptX Low Latency, AAC and SBC (the ‘plain vanilla’ Bluetooth codec). This means that every possible source device is handled at the highest audio resolution its Bluetooth specification allows.
PureWave – fully balanced circuit design for the purest sound
The digital stage is only half the story in any DAC/headphone amp; when it comes to the crucial analogue circuitry, many such devices fall short. Balanced, differential analogue circuit design has long been championed for its ability to reduce noise and crosstalk within the signal path by fully separating the left and right channels. However, this is more complex and costly than single-ended circuitry, and so has traditionally remained the preserve of high-end hi-fi components.
iFi has gradually introduced fully balanced circuit design across its range – first in the flagship Pro Series components, then in the entry-level ZEN Series devices – with varying levels of sophistication. PureWave is the name iFi has given to the advanced, symmetrical dual-mono circuit topologies found in its latest premium-level devices, such as the NEO and Diablo DAC/amps. The name refers to the sonic purity these designs achieve, thanks to exceptional linearity and infinitesimally low levels of noise and distortion; the xDSD Gryphon is the smallest and most affordable device to feature PureWave design.
The iFi xDSD Gryphon is priced at $599 and is available to pre-order at Audio46.