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iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon Review

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Disclaimer: The iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon was not provided by iFi Audio or others for me to review. Gryphon is from my humble collection.







Technical Performance:

The iFi xDSD Gryphon is a true marvel of engineering, combining cutting-edge technologies to create a Bluetooth DAC and headphone amplifier that delivers an unrivalled audio experience. With a plethora of features aimed at maintaining audio fidelity and pushing the boundaries of sound quality, the Gryphon is an audiophile's dream come true.


One of the standout features of the xDSD Gryphon is its utilization of Hi-Res Bluetooth Codecs. Employing Qualcomm's QCC5100 Bluetooth processing IC and proprietary circuits, iFi Audio has crafted an impeccable 'Bluetooth engine.' This engine supports an array of high-definition Bluetooth audio formats, including Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive and aptX HD, Sony's LDAC, HWA's LHDC, AAC for Apple iOS devices, and even the baseline SBC codec. The support for 24-bit-capable codecs is a testament to Gryphon's commitment to preserving audio quality.


The integration of the Burr-Brown True Native® chipset further elevates Gryphon's audio integrity. The xDSD Gryphon employs the Burr-Brown True Native chipset to maintain the integrity of file formats and deliver bit-perfect sound reproduction. This chipset ensures that file formats remain untouched, delivering a 'bit-perfect' listening experience. This level of accuracy ensures that you're enjoying your music precisely as the artist intended, in the original format it was recorded. iFi's decision to embrace Burr-Brown is rooted in its natural-sounding 'musicality' and True Native architecture, a testament to their mastery of the technology.


Roon Integration: The xDSD Gryphon offers a Roon integration with a 14-day free trial and an additional free month upon subscription. This integration allows you to access your full Roon library on the go, enhancing your music streaming experience.


The xDSD Gryphon adopts Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology, which allows it to receive and decode MQA audio for a master-level listening experience. MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) technology takes the xDSD Gryphon's audio prowess to new heights. MQA's ability to capture and reproduce the sound of the original master recording is nothing short of remarkable. The Gryphon seamlessly incorporates MQA technology, allowing you to enjoy master-level sound quality with the convenience of streaming or downloading compact MQA files.


Balanced circuits, a hallmark of premium audio equipment, find their place in the xDSD Gryphon. Going beyond the traditional single-ended circuitry, balanced circuits significantly diminish noise and crosstalk, leading to a cleaner and more immersive sound. This high-end feature, once reserved for the upper echelons of audio gear, now graces the Gryphon, delivering superior audio quality across the iFi product range.


iFi's exclusive S-Balanced technology, introduced with the Pro iCAN, is a cornerstone of the xDSD Gryphon's performance. This innovation ensures optimal sound delivery for both single-ended and balanced headphones. The incorporation of the S-Balanced 3.5mm headphone output extends the benefits of balanced connections to single-ended headphones, offering a versatile and satisfying listening experience.


The xDSD Gryphon's engineering prowess extends to its innovative OptimaLoop negative feedback system. Unlike conventional global feedback loops, iFi's approach utilizes multiple feedback paths optimized for specific functions. This intelligent implementation ensures that the feedback is finely tuned, contributing to Gryphon's exceptional sound quality, and minimizing distortion, phase shifts, and other audio artefacts. This incorporates multiple feedback paths instead of a global loop, each path optimised for a particular function and working synergistically with the others to deliver optimal overall performance.


PureWave, the balanced symmetrical dual-mono topology employed in the xDSD Gryphon, showcases iFi's dedication to audio purity. This design effectively isolates the left and right channels, leading to impressively reduced noise and cross-talk. The result is an unmatched level of sonic clarity, characterized by unparalleled linearity and near-zero levels of distortion.



The SilentLine OLED further underlines iFi's meticulous attention to detail. By eliminating electrical noise that could interfere with the audio signal, this OLED display preserves the integrity of the listening experience. The use of FET-based switching, orchestrated by a microcontroller, ensures seamless and sonically transparent transitions between settings.


The CyberSync volume control system is the crowning achievement of the xDSD Gryphon's technical prowess. Operating in the analogue domain, CyberSync expertly synchronizes with digital sources. This unique system detects the connected operating system (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS, or Linux) and directs the source device to bypass its software volume control. The result is perfect volume synchronization between the Gryphon and the source, irrespective of the source's operating system or app.


In conclusion, the iFi xDSD Gryphon is an audiophile's fantasy realized. With an amalgamation of advanced technologies, from Hi-Res Bluetooth Codecs to Burr-Brown's True Native chipset, MQA support, and innovative circuitry designs, the Gryphon delivers a transcendent auditory experience. iFi's dedication to pushing the boundaries of audio technology is evident in every aspect of the xDSD Gryphon, making it an exceptional addition to any audiophile setup.


Technical

The DAC section of the iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon is a standout feature with its selectable mode options, each catering to different audio preferences and scenarios. The inclusion of standard mode, bit-perfect mode, and GTO filter mode demonstrates the unit's versatility in handling audio processing.


The standard mode's use of modest filtering provides a balanced compromise between audio quality and processing, making it suitable for a wide range of audio content. On the other hand, the GTO filter mode stands out for its ability to upsample audio to impressive sampling rates (384/362kHz) while maintaining minimal artefacts such as pre-ringing and post-ringing.

This can significantly enhance the overall audio experience, particularly for audiophiles who value detailed sound reproduction.


The bit-perfect mode is especially appealing for purists who prioritize preserving the original source's integrity without any alterations introduced during the conversion process. This mode ensures that the audio remains true to its source, making it a preferred choice for critical listening and audiophile setups.


Furthermore, the xDSD Gryphon's capability to retain its DAC settings even when used as a standalone unit is a convenient feature. The integration of Xbass 2 and XSpace functions, along with the ability to adjust the sound changes, not only on the line out but also through volume control, adds to the unit's adaptability and potential for different audio setups.


The unit's decoding capabilities are highly commendable, supporting impressive formats such as up to DSD512 and PCM 32BIT/768kHz, including MQA. Thanks to the XMOS 16 core tech, the xDSD Gryphon is an MQA Decoder. This enables you to play back MQA audio files and streams, delivering the sound of the original master recording. The LED glows green or blue to indicate that the unit is decoding and playing an MQA stream or file, and denotes provenance to ensure that the sound is identical to that of the source material. It glows blue to indicate it is playing an MQA Studio file, which has either been approved in the studio by the artist/producer or has been verified by the copyright owner. MQA rendering technology (used in the original versions of some other iFi products) connects to an MQA Core signal and completes the final unfold of an MQA file.


Core decoding is included in streaming services such as TIDAL, as well as select media players.

This robust decoding capability ensures that the xDSD Gryphon can handle a wide array of high-resolution audio content without compromising quality.


The amplifier section of the xDSD Gryphon is equally noteworthy. The implementation of the PureWave balanced circuit design maintains the signal purity all the way to the amplifier port. This dual-mono circuit topology, previously used in other iFi models like the Diablo and NEO DAC amplifiers, reinforces the brand's commitment to high-quality audio reproduction.


In addition, the integration of OptimaLoop technology showcases iFi's dedication to addressing feedback-related issues. OptimaLoop's use of multiple negative feedback paths instead of a global feedback loop is a testament to the brand's attention to detail, ensuring minimal phase shifts and group delays that could potentially degrade the audio signal.


Overall, the iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon's DAC and amplifier sections demonstrate a meticulous design philosophy that prioritizes audio quality, versatility, and adaptability. This makes the xDSD Gryphon a compelling choice for both audiophiles and enthusiasts seeking a versatile and high-performance audio solution.


The Gryphon DAC by iFi Audio is a true testament to the advancement of audio technology. Boasting a hybrid Burr-Brown DAC chipset, this device is a versatile powerhouse capable of handling an impressive array of formats, from DSD512 to PCM 32BIT/768kHz, including MQA.

The Gryphon's sonic character is balanced and authentic, offering a rich foundation with a captivating engagement in the lower frequencies that is often elusive in other portable DACs.


The low-end response is not only present but also impeccably tight, ensuring a gratifying listening experience.


For those seeking an extra dose of low-frequency intensity, the XBass setting stands ready to deliver. Remarkably, the Gryphon's XBass feature maintains remarkable control.

Transitioning to the midrange, the Gryphon demonstrates an accurate and well-calibrated delivery. The mid frequencies are set at a comfortable level, striking a harmonious balance that avoids both excess and deficiency. Yet, it's the sparkling brilliance of the top end that truly defines the Gryphon's signature sound. This top-end sparkle contributes to Gryphon's exceptional clarity and, when coupled with its naturally immersive soundstage, produces an auditory experience that is genuinely pleasurable.


One of Gryphon's standout attributes is its remarkable noise floor, which achieves an astonishing level of quietness. This characteristic underscores the device's dedication to delivering pristine sound quality, creating an immersive environment that ensures no distraction from the audio magic unfolding.


The Gryphon's XBass enhancement is where the magic truly unfolds for enthusiasts seeking a resonating, impactful low-frequency experience. The capability to infuse different headphones with pronounced yet controlled low-end energy at varying volume levels was a revelation. The Gryphon strikes the perfect balance, never crossing into bloated territory while offering an adjustable low-frequency experience tailored to individual headphone preferences.


The Gryphon's versatility extends to its digital filtering options, offering a trio of compelling choices. The bit-perfect filter preserves the signal's integrity, while the GTO upsampling filter elevates the audio to 384 / 352 with minimal filtering, preventing pre-ringing and minimizing post-ringing artefacts. For those preferring more subtle alterations, the STD filter introduces modest pre and post-ringing along with moderate filtering. These filter options cater to different tastes.


Design & Build Quality:

Balance of Power

The xDSD Gryphon uses our PureWave amplification circuitry. It has 1,000mW at 32 Ohms. With a whopping max 6.7v output, bring on the high-impedance headphones because the Gryphon will not break a sweat driving them. This is plenty to drive all manner of headphones. The 4.4mm Balanced is the best for balanced playback. The 3.5mm S-Balanced will max SE headphones. And your premium high-sensitivity IEMs have not been forgotten either – iEMatch will cut out the hiss.


Tailored to your ears:

XSpace adds back the cavernous sound stage of recordings.

XBass II reinstates the missing bass from open-backed headphones or for recordings that you hanker for the bass slam. Under XBass II you can select ‘Bass’ and/or ‘Presence’ so that the upper midrange frequencies are correctly added back into your favourite recording.

iEMatchis proprietary tech that reduces the annoying hiss from high-sensitivity headphones without losing any dynamic range.

With digital sources, users can choose between three bespoke digital filters via the on-screen menu: Bit-Perfect, Standard and GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimised), each having a fine-tuning effect on the sound.


OLED. Seen but not heard.

The OLED display and iFi’s CyberSync operating system combined, usher in a whole new world of user enjoyment – all information from format to battery life is there. Just as importantly, SilentLine technology means the display does not add noise to the system. It can even be set to off if preferred.


Sound Quality:

The iFi xDSD Gryphon continues the brand's legacy of delivering exceptional sound quality.

One of the standout features of the xDSD Gryphon is its commitment to maintaining a clean and uncoloured sound profile.

It's evident that iFi Audio has invested serious effort into component and circuit design, resulting in a device that showcases the brand's dedication to providing audiophiles with the pinnacle of sound quality.

It introduces a warm and musical element to the sound signature, imbuing it with a full-bodied richness that elevates the listening experience. The balance achieved here is a testament to iFi's prowess in crafting soundscapes that are both resolving and crystal clear.

The Gryphon continues to impress as it moves into the realm of mids. Here, iFi Audio has achieved a remarkable equilibrium, providing an equal emphasis across the midrange frequencies. This balance, coupled with an organic and natural tonality, elevates vocals and instruments to a level of authenticity that is nothing short of breathtaking. The Gryphon rectifies any previous digital tendencies, allowing the mids to shine with newfound harmony and richness. The midrange, undoubtedly, stands as the pièce de résistance of the device's sonic performance.

The midrange is where the xDSD Gryphon truly shines. Its technical prowess is immediately evident, with coherence and consistency that makes the listening experience feel natural and immersive. The layering and resolution in this device are nothing short of exceptional, creating a sonic landscape where every element finds its distinct place. This attention to detail culminates in mids that are articulate, slightly warm, and profoundly musical.

When it comes to the bass, the xDSD Gryphon strikes a harmonious balance. The bass response is characterized by its naturalness and effortlessness, without overshadowing the mid-range. The device delivers bass with the perfect quantity—neither too much nor too little—accompanied by a touch of mid-bass warmth. This nuanced approach ensures that the bass remains well-layered, textured, and resolving, offering a controlled rumble that complements the overall sound signature. The control over the bass domain contributes to Gryphon's overarching sense of clarity and separation.

Treble has been refined in the Gryphon. The treble region seamlessly integrates with the mids, creating a cohesive transition that adds to the overall sense of musicality. Quantity-wise, the treble strikes the perfect balance, offering ample definition, detail, and extension, that audiophiles will relish.


Soundstage and Staging Excellence

One of the most notable improvements of the xDSD Gryphon is the expansive soundstage it presents. Unlike its predecessor, the Gryphon offers a soundstage that is both wider and deeper, effectively eliminating any sense of congestion or cramped audio. The newfound spaciousness allows for a breath of fresh air on the stage, with dimensions that truly immerse the listener. iFi Audio has succeeded in addressing an area of potential improvement, creating a soundstage that offers remarkable space and dimension.

Moreover, the xDSD Gryphon showcases an impressive ability to separate and layer sound. Despite its increased body and fullness, the Gryphon manages to maintain exceptional separation, enhancing the overall listening experience. This ability to cleanly differentiate between individual elements of the music enhances stereo imaging and contributes to a more immersive sonic landscape.


Resolution and Transparency

The xDSD Gryphon continues to impress with its high level of resolution and transparency, particularly within the mid-range. Details are rendered with exceptional clarity, and each element finds its rightful place within the musical arrangement. This precision allows for an enjoyable exploration of the subtleties and intricacies of the music. The Gryphon's adept management of stereo imaging further reinforces its prowess in resolution and transparency, resulting in a captivating auditory experience.


Dynamic Prowess and Amp Performance

Dynamics, speed, and attack are paramount qualities that the xDSD Gryphon excels in. The Gryphon boasts outstanding dynamism and PRaT (Pace, Rhythm, and Timing), contributing to a lively and engaging listening experience. The amp stage showcases its impressive power output, easily driving headphones such as the Hifiman Edition XS and Sennheiser HD660S. While not the ideal setup for full-size cans, Gryphon's amp performance is more than sufficient for indoor listening, ensuring a robust and immersive sound quality.

Furthermore, Gryphon's noise floor is impressively silent, a feature further enhanced by the inclusion of the IEMatch capability. This ensures that even with sensitive IEMs, the background remains free from unwanted noise, highlighting Gryphon's flexibility as an all-around performer.


Wireless Performance Considerations

While the Gryphon offers wireless sound performance with LDAC, it's important to note that the wired mode still reigns supreme in terms of audio quality. The wireless mode, while convenient for commuting, lacks the same level of body, fullness, and layering as its wired counterpart. The Bluetooth sound is perceptibly cleaner and more digital in comparison to the USB mode's natural and engaging performance.

For audiophiles seeking the utmost in sonic quality, the wired mode is recommended due to its superior transparency, body, and bass. The USB mode provides a more captivating and immersive experience, making it the preferred choice for those with the space and convenience to utilize wired connections.


Connections:

Separate Bluetooth + DAC + amp stages: each optimised for maximum performance

Digital sources via USB, S/PDIF or Bluetooth

Analogue sources via 4.4mm or 3.5mm inputs


Using the latest QCC 5100 series Bluetooth v5.1 as the starting point, for wireless connectivity, the xDSD Gryphon is at the bleeding edge when it comes to the latest formats:

aptX Adaptive and aptX HD

LDAC and HWA/LHDC

regular aptX and aptX Low Latency

AAC

SBC (plain vanilla Bluetooth)


In terms of wired connectivity, the xDSD Gryphon handles all the formats using a hybrid Burr-Brown DAC chipset which is the same as used in the iFi £3,000 flagship, the Pro iDSD Signature. Rest assured that all the following latest formats are catered for but most importantly, are pushed to their zenith.

On USB:

PCM (768/705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1 kHz)

DSD (512/256/128/64)

DXD (768/705.6/384/352.8kHz)

MQA (Decoder)

On S/PDIF

PCM (192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1 kHz)

DoP


1. S-Balanced 3.5mm headphone output Connect 3.5mm headphones.

2. Balanced 4.4mm headphone output Connect balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn headphones.

3. Audio Format LED (kHz)

The LED colour scheme indicates the audio format and sampling frequency received by the xDSD Gryphon from the music source.

LED Mode Yellow PCM 48/44.1kHz White PCM 768/705.6/384/352.8/192/176.4/ 96/88.2kHz Cyan DSD 128/64 Red DSD 512/256 Green MQA Blue MQA Studio Magenta Original Sample Rate* *MQB

4. INPUT LED LED INPUT Magenta USB Blue Bluetooth Green S/PDIF Yellow Line (Balanced 4.4mm/S-E 3.5mm)

5. Volume LED The LED colour scheme indicates the current volume level. LED Volume Red -2 to +6 dB (100%-92%) Yellow -20 to -3 dB (91%-74%) Green -38 to -21 dB (73%-56%) Magenta -56 to -39 dB (55%-38%) Blue -95 to -57 dB (37%-0%) Flashing LED -Mute


Conclusion:

In conclusion, the iFi xDSD Gryphon proves to be a remarkable and feature-rich device that excels in both performance and portability. The iFi xDSD Gryphon raises the bar for mobile DAC/Amp devices in terms of sound quality. Its warm and musical approach, coupled with exceptional midrange performance and refined treble articulation, makes it a remarkable contender in the audiophile realm. If you're seeking a mobile audio solution that offers a harmonious blend of technical prowess and musicality, the xDSD Gryphon deserves a worthy place on your list.


The iFi xDSD Gryphon impressively advances the technical performance of its predecessor, delivering an expansive soundstage, enhanced resolution, and dynamic excellence.


The inclusion of the new screen feature and the enhanced build quality adds to its appeal, making it a flexible and visually pleasing device to use.

Despite its compact size, the xDSD Gryphon boasts impressive driving power that translates to exceptional audio quality.


Its ability to deliver high-grade sound quality with substantial power output sets it apart, making it a prime choice for those seeking a DAC/Amp with top-tier portability.

xDSD Gryphon stands as the ultimate solution for audiophiles who prioritize portability without compromising on audio excellence.


Its ability to create space and separation within the music, while maintaining exceptional transparency and resolution, elevates the listening experience to new heights. While wireless performance offers convenience, the Gryphon truly shines when connected via USB, providing a sound quality that audiophiles will find captivating and engaging. In all, the xDSD Gryphon is a testament to iFi's dedication to technical excellence and their commitment to delivering an exceptional audio experience.


The Gryphon DAC from iFi Audio is an embodiment of audio excellence. With its hybrid Burr-Brown DAC chipset and an array of exceptional features, it embraces the audiophile's quest for precision and immersion. Its balanced yet captivating signature sound, coupled with the dynamic XBass enhancement and immersive XSpace feature, creates an experience that transcends genres and personal preferences. The Gryphon delivers a harmonious blend of technological innovation and sonic artistry, promising an auditory journey that will captivate even the most discerning listeners.


Congratulations to iFi for producing a device that truly raises the bar in the realm of portable DAC/Amps.




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