Xduoo recently sent us a package that contained a newish amplifier called the XD-05. This is a device that is absolutely jam packed with features. But, do feature-rich devices still sound good to an audiophile, or will this be a more general consumer oriented fidelity experience?
It has been my experience with Xduoo that they linger on the budget-audiophile oriented tier, but, one that always offers very good value. Today, we will be looking at their portable XD-05 DAC/AMP unit and seeing just how far down the rabbit hole it can roll.
The entire chassis is aluminum and feels incredibly dense and weighted at around 270g. It is just 10g heavier than the full-sized Sennheiser HD650 set of headphones. The LCD screen is basic in with just one color, but, it is an OLED, so it is quite vibrant and fancy looking when activated. The entire unit puts out a very high-end vibe.
It is very large and bulky for a “portable” DAC/AMP. It is much larger than the older RSA SR71B/Intruder, which was my personal favorite portable powerhouse in past generations. That SR71B was already pretty large, so I am really unable to tote this around in a pocket with any ease at all. This is good for storage in a laptop bag or a school bag of some type.
I’ve tried to keep it connected and strapped to a portable music player while on the go, but the bulk was beyond what I am comfortable with. The size of the unit is progressively large and clearly not intended for usage on the go inside of pants pockets. But, likely to be aimed at just travel, in general. This is well suited for those who want to have a nice, powerful source DAC/AMP next to a laptop or to strap to a phone.
The XD-05 is equipped with an AK4490 DAC chip, as well as OP-AMP rolling. Some of what is in there can be swapped out without much stress if you so choose it. Having a modder-friendly design is always a fantastic option and really opens the door for what is possible with the unit. For now, we will only discuss the stock components and nothing customized.
The USB DAC can bump up to 32bit/384kHz files and the Coax mode tops at 24bit/192kHz. They’ve also made sure to cater to DSD fans who need up to DSD256 support, so anyone using a high-res file type should be covered without much of a problem.
The XD-05 also has a manual toggle for USB/Digital/AUX, as well as a Bass and Gain switch for a more exaggerated flare down yonder and up top. They’ve opted for a ¼ headphone output jack instead of a 3.5mm. So, you’ll be able to leave your adapters at home and directly plug right into the XD-05 with your pick of a larger style cable adapter on a full-size headphone. I’ve enjoyed it very much with my Fostex TH-X00’s ¼ cable adapter. No need for added bulk.
The stock sound, without the bass switch active, offers a smooth appeal overall. With bassy headphones, again, my Fostex TH-X00 being the best test subject in my arsenal for low-end testing, the XD-05 performed just fine.
No, it doesn’t do the headphone justice in a quantity sense of the word. This DAC/AMP feels very flat on the low end and does not add much in the way of depth until the bass boost switch is activated. On a flat EQ (no EQ on your music source) this device will boast a more pure feel with a lacking sense of quantity. The quality aspect of the sound comes across as very good for the price. At just $210, the purity factor is very nice, indeed.
Physical slam factor, the “wince effect” is moderate on this unit. Meaning, if the track calls for it and when using a bass-heavy headphone, the XD-05 can strike a bit harder on the low end than I am comfortable with. I don’t want extra slam, I want extra depth and a sense of guttural, abyss reaching low-end. More broadness. More texture and something of more auditory value.
The quality of the experience degrades noticeably with the bass boost switch active and especially so if you are using an EQ on your music source that is set up with some added dB’s on the low side of the spectrum. Again, for the price at $210 or so, this is more than acceptable quality across the board. I am just not fond of the physical dynamic kick with “slamming headphones” like the Fostex TH-X00.
Comparing to just my portable players from Xduoo that I’ve reviewed in the past, the XD-05 feels like it hits too hard. Even when trying as best I can to adjust the volume to the best of my abilities, I am unable to get the same slam effect on the portable music player as I am when connecting that same player to the XD-05. It is all about tonality. The XD-05 simply has plentiful energy. That isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t hit hard or very annoyingly so, it just isn’t a soft and subtle sound in terms of dynamic punch on the bass end.
As mentioned recently, the XD-05 is a bit of a linear beast. Everything flows and feels very flat when no EQ is active. So too, the midrange feels like it is physically placed in a middle ground area. It isn’t a mid-centric experience like some other amps and DAC’s can be.
Usually, bottom end tiers of the mid-budget audiophile wallet ($100-300) tend to be good all around products without a specific focus on anything. This seems to be the case here in the XD-05. Physical placement of the vocalist experience is certainly setup somewhere in the middle ground distance, not recessed, not forward and intimate.
Vocal fidelity is actually very good as well. I don’t detect too much grain or shakiness in the upper midrange at all, even with headphones I know to be prone to sound nasal with improper rig pairing. That is a good thing. The XD-05 handles the upper mid areas very well for the price. By comparison to the iDSD from Tempotec, the experience is noticeably more refined and well formed on the XD-05.
Tonality is very important to me. I enjoy a very dense and solid appeal and I am not totally receiving that as much as I had hoped for, even at the $210 price. That doesn’t mean it is bad sounding or at all poor. It means that those who like solidity factor to be plentiful may be a bit unhappy with the sound signature that vocals tend to carry.
Some amps out there possess a solid appeal, something very weighted and firm. Others can feel aired out, fluffy, maybe even thin and lacking. The XD-05 is somewhere on the aired-out field and almost always forces me to add extra bass to make the sound more interesting. At least, to cover up the linear feel of the entire experience as a whole.
Subjectively, I’d prefer more solidity, but that won’t be factored into my final thoughts at all. However, it is important, from a consumer standpoint, to know that solidity factor in vocals carries less weight than some out there may prefer. If you are into the highly musical appeal, something not pure and clinical, then this might not be what you want in your vocal tonality experience. If you want a more pure sound, then this is a good pick.
Sometimes, I feel like the top end feels artificial and overly boosted with the gain switch is active. I prefer to keep it off at all times and mod the EQ on my source player instead.
Depending on what your portable player/phone is, I would recommend investing in a good music app, like Hiby. Something with a good EQ setup that lets you tinker, at least a little, to get the sound you want. Otherwise, if you are on a flat EQ, also, with the XD-05’s gain switch deactivated, the experience can sound very smooth and subtle even at times. I’d call it polite.
With the switch active, quantity doesn’t really increase too much to bother me at all. That wasn’t my issue. It was, again, all about tone. The gain switch adds in an artificial flavor to everything up top. I am not fond of it.
So, for personal usage, I have kept the switch off and invested just a few dB’s extra dropped into my source players EQ function. That really helps with the sound quality, at least, in my opinion. For $210 or so, I can’t name a specialist DAC/AMP player for treble needs. What is there in this XD-05 is just fine, so long as you keep the gain switch off. I would only be using this on very dark headphones, something like the older Sony XB1000, or something with a very easy going treble experience that you might want to hike up a bit.
Due to the very nice and aired out flare of the upper midrange and lower treble experience, the XD-05 is a very solid performer with staging. I have a few other DAC/ amps from other companies, such as ALO Audio’s International and the older Intruder from RSA, some other phone DAC’s from Kitty and even Hidizs that do not feel as open and aired out when using the same headphone and source player.
If you like staging and are okay with the size of this unit, grab it. It sounds pretty spacious for a portable DAC combo. The height and width feel well tailored and setup with various headphones that I find to be very spacious. However, depth of field feels the lacking of the trio of void potentials to my ear. Realism factor is to be expected at the $210 price point and reflective the likes of a Fiio X5 portable player. The XD-05 does, indeed, sound more spacious than the portable players I’ve tested from Xduoo.
I am not at all fond of the AK4490 chip tuning in this DAC. I really didn’t enjoy the sound on the PC through the USB function and required heavy EQ alteration through Foobar2000 to destroy the stock sound of the unit. But, again, that is vividly subjective. I know a ton of people who love it.
This DAC tuning is very flat to me, as mentioned in the previous segments and normally the AK4490 is more musical than that. On a flat EQ, the experience is just that flat. The problem is that it lacks too much on the low end and in the case of this XD-05, the treble feels lacking any interesting engaging qualities. I would much rather be using a good portable source if you are on the go, instead of using the USB DAC function with a laptop.
Again, because the unit itself is so large and bulky, I feel like the cons are outweighing the pro’s but only with regard to the USB DAC function. When you strap a good phone or portable music player to it that has great EQ functions, the XD-05 is a real winner for the price.
Musicality lovers generally want something engaging and interesting to snack on, but this tuning doesn’t offer me enough of anything to want to continue to use it. Purists, however, seem to really enjoy this version. I understand that appeal, it is very flat feeling and even, as mentioned, subtle on the treble end.
If you are using an Android phone as your music source, which I highly recommend, you can digitally output the source audio from the phone to the XD-05. Be careful with your adapter purchases though, because the XD-05’s socket is recessed and some adapters may have a head that is too large to fit.
I purchased one online, randomly, and it actually didn’t fit properly. I then found something else at an electronics store that did fit normally. With that, you can bypass the ¼ output of your phone and get potentially better sounding audio from the source player. These OTG cables aren’t expensive. Mine cost me roughly $7usd including shipping on Amazon.
The XD-05 is rated at 500mW and suitable for up to 300ohm headphone usages…and I don’t agree. I don’t think 500mW is nearly enough for a 300ohm Sennheiser HD800. Sufficiently powerful enough to offer loud volume with 300ohm models out there? Sure. But, not suitable for actually driving them properly. You’ll need more than that to get that job done and older models.
Again, I’ll reference the SR71B from RSA due to it providing massive output power by comparison to this XD-05. I have trouble feeling sufficient bass energy and firmness until I swap to a much more powerful portable amplifier. For IEM usage, you’ll need a ¼ adapter and, in most cases, IEM’s will be more than suitably powered by a 500mW driving force behind it.
I would stay away from the absurdly inefficient model earbuds out there that can actually reach into 300 and even 500ohm! You’ll get almost nowhere with those types of portable headphones and this XD-05. Beyond that, more humanely efficient headphones are more than powered enough. Those with good portables, such as the ATH ESW11LTD, or a good custom IEM, will be more than happy with the driving power of the XD-05.
Xduoo took a leap and scored very nicely with this DAC/AMP combo unit. Despite being too large to be toted in a pocket in a comfortable manner, the essence of the product makes more sense when used as a toted in a bag item that will be paired with a person who is a frequent traveler and home DAC user.
The ¼ output factoid is the real proof of that concept. That is a lovely thing. Lots of listeners want a ¼ adapter capable DAC on the go, in their dorm or even on a plane if need be. For a unit as large as it is, I would expect a more powerful amplifier circuit in there than one that offers 500mW. But, from a consumer point of view, that 500mW is more than enough to power 95% of the headphones out there properly. Just make sure you aren’t using inefficient model headphones and you will be fine.
Xduoo did a good job with this one. Outside of some tonality issues, I really enjoyed this model. It is a great all arounder and exceptionally well built, rich with features and offers good customized options with opamp rolling and some bass/gain switches. Offered at a very good price of only $210MSRP? For that price, it is a very nice bargain, considering it is DAC/AMP combo as well.
XD-05 Technical Specifications
Enclosure: Anodized, sandblasted aluminum alloy
Screen: 0.9 in (2.3 cm) OLED display
Audio processors: CS8422, XMOS XS1-U8A-64
DAC coder: AKM AK4490
Low-pass filter and OPA voltage amp
Current amps: Dual BUF634 (left and right)
Supported sampling rate, USB in, PCM: 16 – 32 bit / 44.1 – 384 kHz
USB in, DSD: DSD 64 – 256 (1 bit / 2.8 – 11.2 M)
sampling rate, USB in, DXD: 24 – 32 bit / 352.8 – 384 kHz
sampling rate, optical/coaxial in, PCM: 16 – 24 bit / 44.1 – 192 kHz
4 PCM digital filters: Sharp roll-off, slow roll-off, short delay sharp roll-off, short delay slow roll-off
3 DSD digital filters: Reserved cutoff, 50K cutoff, 150K cutoff
Gain settings: Low, mid, high (+6, +9, +15 dB)
Bass boost: 0 / +6 dB
Output power: 500 mW (32-ohm load)
Suitable headphone impedance: 8 – 300 ohm
THD + N: 0.0025% (at kHz)
Signal-to-noise ratio: 112 dB
Supported OS: Windows 7, 8, Vista, XP; Mac OS X: iOS; Android with OTG
Battery: Built-in 3.7 V / 4000 mAh rechargeable lithium-polymer battery