Two different DACs from the same company are separated in price by about $200. They are about the same size and cater to a similar audiophile. But is the jump from the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label to the iFi xDSD worth the extra cash? Today I’ll try to answer that with this iFi xDSD vs iFi Nano iDSD Black Label Comparison Review.
iFi xDSD vs iFi Nano iDSD Black Label Comparison Review
In the Box – iFi xDSD vs iFi Nano iDSD Black Label Comparison Review
|iFi xDSD||iFi Nano iDSD Black Label|
|iFi xDSD DAC/amp||iFi Nano iDSD Black Label DAC/amp|
|USB-A female to male||USB-A female to USB-A male|
|USB-B female to USB-A female||USB-A female to USB-B female|
|USB-A male to USB-B female||USB-A male to USB-B female|
|toslink optical adapter to 3.5 mm mini jack||velvet pouch|
|velcro patches for attaching to phone or music player||silicone straps for phone or music player|
Specifications – iFi xDSD vs iFi Nano iDSD Black Label Comparison Review
|iFi xDSD||iFi Nano iDSD Black Label|
|Headphone Output||3.5 mm||3.5 mm|
|Maximum Power||500 mW @ 16 ohms||285 mW @ 30 ohms|
|Output Impedance||< 1 ohm, direct; <4 ohm, IEM match||< 1 ohm, direct; <4 ohm, IEM match|
|Battery Playback||6-8 hours||6-8 hours|
|Inputs||Bluetooth (AAC, aptX), USB, SPDIF||USB|
|Line Output||x||3.5 mm|
|DAC||Burr Brown||Burr Brown|
|Formats Supported||PCM 768, DSD 512, 2x DXD||PCM 384, DSD 256, DXD|
|Filter Switch||listen / measure||listen / measure|
|Clock||low jitter crystal clock||low jitter crystal clock|
Design – iFi xDSD vs iFi Nano iDSD Black Label Comparison Review
Look and Feel
Both the iFi xDSD and the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label are clearly designed for audiophiles who are on the go. They both pay attention to detail, and yet their vibes are very different from each other. The xDSD has a louder design, with a metallic, chrome-like finish. It’s worth noting that this finish is prone to collecting fingerprints. On the other hand, the Nano iDSD Black Label is classier, with a simple matte black finish.
Additionally, the xDSD has attention grabbing lights for its loudness level, its input type and sample rate, and whether or not bass boost and 3D filter is engaged. Conversely, the Nano iDSD Black Label has just one light indicating that it is powered up and that it has signal passing through it.
In a sense, it feels like trying to compare these two is like trying to compare apples and oranges. Both look good and feel good, but will appeal to two different tastes.
The sizes of both the iFi xDSD and the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label are similar. They have the same length and width, but the Nano iDSD Black Label is a bit thicker. However, despite this size difference, the Nano iDSD Black Label is lighter than the xDSD. As a result, they’re pretty evenly matched when it comes to portability depending o your setup and size of your pockets. In reality, both are about the size of a pack of cards, but are slightly bigger than some other portable DAC/amps on the market. However, the xDSD does have one thing in its favor in regard to portability: Bluetooth compatibility! You can use it with your wired headphones to connect to your phone or listening device wirelessly! This is a huge advantage and makes listening on-the-go that much more convenient.
Both the iFi xDSD and the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label are capable of working flawlessly with low impedance, highly sensitive headphones or earphones because of their IEM match output option. This provides less power to the headphone which avoids overpowering it. But how do they compare with more difficult to drive headphones?
As a test, I listened to both the iFi xDSD and the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label with the Beyerdynamic DT1770. This headphone has an impedance of 250 ohms and a nominal sound pressure level of 102 dBSPL (1mW/500Hz). While listening at low levels, the headphones seemed to have a sturdier, tighter low end when I listened with the xDSD. The Nano iDSD Black Label could still provide plenty of power to get the headphones to a loud level, but it seemed to feed less power to the speakers. As a result, I needed to listen at louder levels in order to have the same low-end emotional impact as the xDSD.
Sound – iFi xDSD vs iFi Nano iDSD Black Label Comparison Review
The low frequencies of the iFi xDSD, in addition to sounding tighter, seemed to extend deeper with more audible length and clarity than the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label. For example, when I was listening to the song Normal by Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, the kick drum felt punchy with the Nano iDSD Black Label. A lot of its emphasis sat in the high-mids and upper portion of the low frequency spectrum. As I turned the volume up, it started to get more emphasis in the sub frequencies. On the other hand, when I listened to the same song with the xDSD, those subby lows seemed richer and more powerful. As a result, the kick felt deeper overall. Additionally, this low end energy affected the bass guitar’s low harmonics which felt longer. As a result, they created a stronger foundation at lower listening levels and seemed to have more separation from both the lows of the kick and the midrange of the guitars.
Both the iFi xDSD and the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label represented the midrange in an active and thick way. Both had quick transients that maintained musicality, especially in the low-mids. However, the xDSD represented the soundstage in a more precise way in the midrange. As a result, the midrange felt more spacious, like it there was more separation between midrange-rich instruments.
For example, when I was listening to the song Don’t Take the Money by Bleachers, all the synthesizers provided really nice movement for the song as a whole. They provided great emotional impact with both the iFi xDSD and the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label. However, with the xDSD, there seemed to be more subtlety among the different synth layers. On the other hand, they felt a bit more homogenous with the Nano iDSD Black Label.
Much like the middle frequencies, the transient response of the high frequencies was quick and detailed with both the iFi xDSD and the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label. However, there was a greater sense of space around the highs with the xDSD.
For example, when I was listening to the song Quizas Quizas Quizas by Pink Martini, the high end of the percussion had a greater sense of extension and soundstage height when I listened with the xDSD than with the Nano iDSD Black Label.
Overview – iFi xDSD vs iFi Nano iDSD Black Label Comparison Review
Overall, the both the iFi xDSD and the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label perform well and enhance the sound of my phone greatly! They both provided a greater sense of transient and emotional impact. However, the xDSD created a bigger soundstage and a tighter low end, indicating to me that it had a lower noise floor. Therefore, if you’re trying to decide between these two DAC/amps, you might ask yourself what your listening environment is like and what you want out of your DAC. If you prioritize soundstage and transient response, you’ll be happiest with the xDSD. However, if you are willing compromise on soundstage a bit because of the better price of the Nano iDSD Black Label, then you’ll be happy with it.
Both the iFi xDSD and the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label are available for the best price at Audio46. Use code “majorhifi” for 10% off.
iFi xDSD: https://audio46.com/shop/ifi-xdsd/
iFi Nano iDSD Black Label: https://audio46.com/shop/ifi-nano-idsd-black-label/
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