iFi Audio’s latest creation is a fusion of its popular xCAN and xDSD ‘x-series’ of portable devices, borrowing the xDSD’s digital approach to DAC/Headphone duties and the XCAN amp’s analog sensibilities. The result is the xDSD Gryphon, a half-pound battery-powered DAC/Headphone amp endowed with redesigned circuitry that takes performance to new heights.
Gryphon’s portable capabilities fall a tad short of pocket-worthy material, but its size does allow for comfortable transportation in a small bag. Protected by a robust alloy enclosure with a slick gunmetal grey finish, Gryphon possesses rugged looks that are fingerprint-resistant. Its innards, however, are where the true magic happens, giving Gryphon the necessary tools to handle digital and analog headphone duties. And to maximize its utility, Gryphon can play double-duty as a DAC/preamp in a 2-channel traditional speaker arrangement as well.
Connectivity-wise, Gryphon presents 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4 balanced Pentaconn sockets, along with USB and S/PDIF Digital inputs and Hi-Res Bluetooth powered by a Qualcomm QC5100 SoC (aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, LDAC, AAC, and HWA/LHDC). Processing is handled by a Burr-Brown DAC chipset, with a 16-core XMOS chip assigned exclusively to digital audio sourced via the USB and S/PDIF inputs. Custom XMOS firmware ensures playback is optimized, while extensive jitter-eradication technologies keep sound-quality in step and perfectly aligned.
Up to 32-bit/786kHz PCM and all levels of DSD to DSD512 take two different pathways to the Burr-Brown DAC. This keeps digital streams bit-perfect as they travel toward analog conversion. If MQA is of interest, Gryphon has you covered with full decoding of MQA files up to 384Hz. All three ‘unfolding’ processes are handled by the unit, making it friendly for subscribers to TIDAL’s Masters tracks.
iFi’s design team didn’t ignore analog purity, as Gryphon carries symmetrical dual-mono circuit topologies. This balanced approach achieves linearity and “infinitesimally low” levels of noise and distortion.
A healthy amp section delivers a continuous power output of more than 1000mW into a 32-ohm load. And volume is controlled using iFi’s CyberSync technology, a software-driven volume control that operates in the analog domain. CyberSync coordinates volume synchronization between a source and Gryphon by detecting the operating system of the source device and instructing the source’s OS to bypass its software volume control. Any changes to volume, either directly using Gryphon or by way of a source device, result in a change that’s performed purely by Gryphone’s advanced analog control chip.
Gryphon’s slick OLED display strip shows a range of useful information, including input selection, volume, battery, audio details, various audio filters. To help tailor a listening experience, owners can select from three different digital filters and three analog filters, including a sophisticated form of bass boosting that can improve low frequencies, upper-midrange frequencies, or both. Another mode, called XSpace, compensates for the “in-head localization” effect that results from using headphones to listen to music that was mixed using a pair of speakers.
The iFi xDSD Gryphon is available from mid-November with a recommended retail price of $599.