iFi audio xDSD Gryphon: birth of a portable legend

Discussion in 'Product Announcements' started by iFi audio, Nov 5, 2021.

  1. limesoft

    limesoft Friend

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    Congrats @iFi audio

    I managed to get my ears on one more extensively - nicely capable DAC (on line outs), sort of like refined dangerous music source (same dac chips i think). Excellent bluetooth audio implementation - sounds great and close to USB.

    I might have some issues with the 4.4mm headout, I feel it might not do the dac justice. I will listen more and post impressions later.

    Love the build quality!
     
  2. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Thanks a lot for the feedback! I can only say that xDSD Gryphon has a rather special place in our roster and it was made to feel like a tank. Your observations about its BT receiver are a spot on, a lot of effort went into that circuit. I look forward to read more, thanks again!
     
  3. limesoft

    limesoft Friend

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    These are my first impressions for the Gryphon. Forgive my verbal diarrhea I don't have time to properly sanitise what I write but still wanted to share.

    I was worried at first pre-burn in, it had little glare/haze out of 4.4mm and the DAC line out was a strange combination of overly euphoric organic smooth, bassy but with slightly metallic treble.This for the most part settled after burn in of around 40-50 hours.

    The DA has juicy mids and plumpy slightly loose but pleasing bass, nice lifelike 3D soundstaging with the rest of the frequency response being quite neutral/clear sounding, but without any of the typical nasties or strange timbre associated with AKM/Sabre chips - it sort of sounds like a cross between R2R and D/S - quite honest, direct and kinda grounded in a retro way with good warmth/focus in lower mids/bass.. there's no splashiness or oversmoothing of the mids, but it is quite neutral and is not afraid to come across as forward depending on the music. It has the warmish burr brown flavour but with a dose of studio and focus, Ifi have squeezed good performance out of it.

    4.4mm hpamp has warmth and power and sounds ok with most headphones - it's not a desktop level wide and effortless sound lets just get that out of the way; even the Monolith Liquid Spark sound larger and more mature but that's ok. There's also an ever so slight hash in the treble I feel - burn in helped but not quite 100%. I think there's room for improvement with the 4.4mm headamp (maybe discrete amplification), but it's good - it works hard to imitate desktop as much as it can. I feel Mojo 2 has more headroom and grain/glare free amplification, but that a different story (I don't like Chord dac as much as this one).

    3.5mm hp amp is more relaxed and more natural sounding, doesn't have that oomph of the 4.4 but it also doesn't have the slight treble hash/glow - depending on your headphone combination it might be better. It doesn't lose out a lot vs the balanced out, but if you have a 3.5mm trrs balanced it can get better sound (better separation I thought)

    Line out with headphones - I was naughty and plugged in the 7hz Timeless in the 4.4mm line out on the back of the unit, and to my surprise it sounded rather good; cleaner, little less glare, tighter bass, more relaxed mids, somehow both cleaner and more relaxing treble, a more seemingly studio presentation - not as dynamic though. I also plugged in my HD800S here, and it also sounded good (also due to the high impedance which the Senns like) - again I'd say a little cleaner with higher resolution and nice warmth and taming of the 6khz spike. It's not necessarily "better" than the headout, but for a change it's nice to have something different for different synergies.

    Line out with active speakers - it made my Genelecs 8050 boogie with bouncy and plumpy bass (perhaps a bit too much at times ), made them sound bit retro in a good way: dynamic, jumpy, no ringing or splashiness but also nicely mid forward - The RME ADI 2 makes me sit back and analyse every little nuance and instrument, the Gryphon gets my foot tapping and stop giving a crap about the "space between instruments" and "hearing the room and reverb tails" or if an art farted few miles away etc - it doesn't beat an Apogee Element which is able to do everything: imaging, boogie and analyse, or the RME which is a detail monster. It has it's own flavour as I mentioned earlier kinda R2R almost, and a bit retro tape like warm forwardness to it. There's standalone desktop DACs that can beat it in same price range yes, but also many don't have it's musicality. It's fairly unique sound signature in the vast ocean of akm/sabre dacs. I am pleased with it as it gives an organic warmth but with a good dose of neutrality. It's a grower.

    Sensitive IEMs/IEmatch - with Andromeda I only tried it out of the 3.5mm headamp, and it was a bit too warm due to low OI to be usable, with a little hiss (but not too bad at all).. Using the iematch on 3.5mm setting, frequency balance was much better, but the dreaded crushed dynamics trait of the iematch was present here too, there's just no escaping it, Andromeda deserves better.. Interestingly, when I moved the IEmatch to 4.4mm whilst Andro plugged in 3.5mm there was again improvement in frequency response but the dynamics weren't crushed so much. Still, it feels like a crime using IEmatch with Andromeda.. I just can't really enjoy them with the Gryphon directly - I need to use EQ to fake a slightly higher OI.

    Xbass/Presence: This works on all the outputs (if you want to use external amplifier) - Xbass goes well with HD800S depending on my mood, it can be a bit overdone I find, wish it was bit less pumped and more sub bass focused but it's usable for sure. I tried it also with the Presence switch hoping it'll fill out the HD800S mids suckout, and it does to an extent making them sound almost like an HD650 - but it's again overdone by few DB and its a little too low a frequency focused (I think around 1khz); it needs to be a little higher up. I don't really use it anymore as it's a bit much for me. The XSpace can be nice with Andromeda and the 7hz/HD800S - it gives more density to the mids and does the crossfeed stuff, sounds quite nice; better than typical digital ones I've heard for some reason, including Mojo 2.

    Line in is quite clean, and I can hear similar traits of it's headamp with different sources; it homogenizes the different signals a little, its usable and with something like Hiby RS6 line out I can hear differences which is nice change.

    Bluetooth: Not much to say - it's stellar, it can sound very similar to USB especially with LDAC. This is the best sounding bluetooth device I've heard. Ifi killed it here.

    Digital/USB/Clocking/Features
    Ifi have done very good with the digital section - reclocking/cleaning the signal; I don't notice lot of difference with my USB decrapifiers - Good job. SPDIF sounds better to me however, less grain.
    Cybersync thingie syncs volume with source, it;s hybrid and works both ways wether i adjust volume on computer or Gryph - coolio.
    Can't noticed much difference with filters - maybe default sounds best.
    Hiss is generally not a problem on all my headphones. Earmen Colibri is much worse for example.


    Some issues:
    * The volume is resistor-digital driven, sometimes the resistors don't register when turning the volume so it jumps up/down wrong way by a DB; this is uncommon but makes me concerned what'll happen over longer time.

    * Audio started cutting out from time to time when via USB dac + Roon and even Apple Music. Not sure why, don't think it's a network issue - has me a little concerned.

    * The display is neat, but I think it's covered with plastic or something non glass... it scratches if I look at it the wrong way. I chopped up and stuck my own screen protector after getting some scratches just by wiping it with a soft lens cloth. Cmon ifi, why no glazz?

    * 4.4mm jack is as tight as butler's cuff. I get the chills every time I unplug/plug as it requires so much force (with all headphones)

    VS

    Mojo 2: Impressive on first listen - after long listening sessions I realise that it sounds a little fake, a little digital, almost like it compresses the mids so that all details are impressively audible but with little nuance and volume gradation between. I have to say Gryphon as a DAC is better to me - it's more analogue and relaxed, has a free flowing nature where the mids wash over me like a summer breeze.. the Mojo just hammers my brain with detail and punch. to summarize: Mojo 2 impresses on first listen, Gryphon doesn't as much but it grows on you over time more so - over time I found it's qualities more likeable.

    Hiby RS6: This has a better sounding DAC, it's R2R circuit with good dsp/feedback network - and it sounds almost like a desktop R2R dac - forward, bold, filterless, precise and unconstrained - the Gryphon is a little smoother and woolier, not as wide, but still very musical. Headamp of Gryphon has more power.

    Other ifi gear: nano black/xdsd - Gryphon is superior sounding to both: more mature, cleaner, larger, less hazy, dynamic - you name it.

    Apogee Element/RME ADI 2 - these have superior resolution and simply sound like desktop, the Gryphon doesn't quite reach here; it's about 75% of the way..

    Wishes
    * One thing I've mentioned elsewhere - if Ifi could give us a few digital PEQ adjustments via it's nice screen... EQ haters hear me out; - given the swiss army knife nature of the Gryphon, not being able to use the Andromeda with it just makes me a little sad, if there was some eq it would make Gryphon suitable for 90% of headgear - just being able to tame the treble a little of 7hz timeless, or to bring down the mid bass of Andro would make the Gryphon fly. I dislike resorting to software EQ as I have many sources.

    * Option to mute line out when headphones plugged in. I use powered monitors, it's a chore to have to turn them off each time I want to listen via HP

    Summary
    It sounds good even if not quite reaching some competitive desktop gear, It has it's own sound: good technicalities combined with organic/analogue flavor, bit retro but like high quality tape, musical but resolution isn't quite top tier. Balancing neutral with organic trait is well done by ifi.
    Headamps are good for the space they take up - it's an opamp sound, but well handled. Dedicated headamps in the 150$ region can sound better.
    IEmatch is awful - it kills the sound quality. Ifi needs to stop using it and look into gain adjustment options or other circuitry.
    All the other features are great and well implemented. Build quality is great, unit is stunning. Ifi really did this unit with pride and attention to detail - all the little lights sparkling, the display, the RGB volume control - it's a gadget fiend's wet dream.

    Value proposition is OK as it giveth so much. I wish it was say 100$ less to be really nice value. I got it on a little discount so I was OK, but I might not have purchased it at full price.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 23, 2022
  4. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Great stuff, thanks, that's a very insightful review right there! As for muting line out and extra EQ settings, I'll pass these ideas internally. As for acrylic screen versus glass, the former is less prone to damage and that's the main reason why it's there. Glass would look differently and possibly nicer to some folks, but would be less practical. Thanks!
     
  5. Tachikoma

    Tachikoma Almost "Made"

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    I think the line out is quite a bit better than the headphone out for my tastes. To my ears, the soundstage expands in all directions from the line out, and the headphone out obscures a fair amount of plankton too (with the ES-R10 and Fiio FD7).

    Although I am somewhat disappointed that the headphone amp is that much weaker than the DA, it does make me wonder how the idsd pro would sound, since it just uses a beefed up line out as its headphone out.

    Why not try the Andromeda out of the line out too?
     
  6. limesoft

    limesoft Friend

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    Yes indeed the 4.4 headout does obscure plankton. The 3.5mm is fairly better in this sense, though a bit warmer/smoother too.

    I did try the Andromeda on line out - the output impedance is way too high as expected, their frequency response has zero bass this way.
     
  7. limesoft

    limesoft Friend

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    If there's only one thing you can add in the future, please consider PEQ.

    I have no way to reduce the treble of 7hz timeless or reduce the mid bass of Andromeda on iPhone with apple music or Qobuz, Apple doesn't allow it - effectively rendering these IEMs non usable for me with the Gryphon, and I have to resort to Qudelix and suffer reduced sound quality, but at least it's tonally correct.

    Android has UAPP with qobuz/tidal clients and full PEQ but I'm IOS user. You'll open the flood gates to a big user base from Qudelix who are looking for better sound quality with EQ, or RME ADI who want a portable solution.

    I don't even know if it's possible? Is there some DSP on the Gryph that can be utilised? Perhaps you can open source your firmware I'd be happy to take a look

    No need for bluetooth app or fancy graphics which is a big effort, it can be added to the device UI - just add few more lines in the settings, even just having 1-2 bands editable in the UI would be amazing.

    eq1 freq | 100hz
    eq1 type | peak
    eq1 Q | 1
    eq1 db | -3

    eq2 freq | 1200hz
    eq2 type | peak
    eq2 Q | 6
    eq2 db | -6

    if all eq settings have db=0, then eq is bypassed.

    I know IFI's focus isn't in DSP, but the benefits are massive with the Gryphon which lends itself as a desert island device.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2022
  8. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    I'll pass on your feedback and we were asked about PEQ a lot. The thing is, we don't do digital EQ, so I'm not sure whether xDSD Gryphon's software layer would allow for something along those lines. I'll ask internally nonetheless :)
     

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