xDuoo XD-10

REVIEW - xDuoo XD-10 Poke – Portable Amplifier & DAC



Website – xDuoo




Specifications


Price: U$249.

Available in Black or Blue color.


The xDuoo XD-10 unit was kindly provided by Xtenik store, official distributor of xDuoo products. XD-10 is available here.




The box is very unusual and quite unique for xDuoo products. It is very fancy and colorful. It opens like a book with the manual attached to box itself; it can be annoying if you want to actually read it, though. The upper layer holds the XD-10 unit and beneath all the included accessories. The package is quite complete including all the needed cables – a short 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable, USB to micro-USB cable for charging, USB to USB cable for computer use, and three USB short cables with micro-USB, Type-C and Sony Walkman series plugs. Also there is an adhesive silicone pad to attach the device with any portable source, instead of using rubber bands. A very complete set and just missing a USB to Lightning cable for Apple iOS devices.


Design

The XD-10 is a very compact device, well designed for daily portable use. While it is clearly being advertised as a ‘perfect’ match for the Sony Walkman portable players, and particularly matching the dimensions of the NW-30 series (40 and 50 as well), the size is right for any compact player or smartphone. With the same specifications it may appear to be a mini version of the previous and well regarded XD-05, cutting the weight to half and much smaller dimensions. It is about the same size and weight as the recently reviewed XP-2 model. Build quality is very good. All aluminum alloy chassis, anodized and sandblasted with a smooth texture and well rounded edges. There are different writings on both top and bottom panels.


The layout is simple and well organized. At the front there is the 3.5mm audio jack and the small OLED screen. Like the XD-05, the screen is too basic primitive without much brightness. It shows all the current info, battery, volume and gain levels and the selected input, USB or AUX. Moreover, on the USB input it will show the current sampling rate, digital audio quality, PCM or DSD, and the selected filter.


On the left side, there are three physical buttons, volume ‘+’ and ‘-‘, and filter switch for USB use. What I find a bit annoying  is the distance between the volume buttons is a bit too far, while the filter button is too close to the ‘-‘ so can be easily pressed by mistake. It might surprising for xDuoo to have changed the volume knob used on the XD-05, XP-2 and other models to single buttons, but it is probably to match the sides buttons of the Sony and similar players design with all control buttons on the placed at sides.


On the right are placed the four switches, power off/on, input for USB or Aux, bass, and gain for low to high. There is a little of rattling sound from the switches, nothing annoying but could have been easily fixed.


The rear part has the audio 3.5mm plug that works for line-in when the ‘Aux’ input is selected, and apparently can be used for line-out too. In the middle, there is the USB for digital input. Like the XD-05, the XD-10 uses an inverted standard USB, Type-A, socket. With the various cables included it can be connected to either USB Type-A, micro-USB or to Sony players’ proprietary line-out. Lastly, there is a small micro-USB socket for charging only, so the device can be used while being charged. Unlike the XD-05, there is no optical input and more importantly no option for op-amp rolling which was a key feature for the 05 model.


Battery

Battery time is very good on ‘AUX’ input, close to 20hrs with low gain and at moderate volume levels. However, on USB mode the battery drops to 8, or below depending on the audio quality. Charging time too, is rather slow taking around 3hrs.

Sound Quality

Main gears used:
final E5000 & E4000, final Sonorous II, Meze 99 Classics, Dita Audio Twins.
Sources:
Fiio K3, xDuoo XD-05 & XP-2, Fiio M6 & M3k, iBasso DX220, Asus Notebook (Win10 OS).

Technical hardware specifications are almost identical to the previous and very popular XD-05 model. AK4490 DAC chip and same bit and sampling rates support, output levels and more. As such it is not surprising the XD-10 despite being smaller and really portable still presents a very similar sound presentation. Of course, it is not possible to completely compare both models, because as mentioned, the xDuoo had dropped the multiple input options of optical and coaxial, and also limited the gain options to only one. What is really missing is the op-amp rolling option which was a selling point of the XD-05, so the XD-10 cannot be ‘upgraded’ to a better sound.

Nevertheless, the XD-10 Poke offers a very good sound quality, especially now with the compact size it makes a perfect match for weak or at least not very strong sources. I don’t have any of the Sony DAPs of NW series, but the FiiO’s players M6 and M3k make good references. Both in line-in and USB connections, the gain in driving power is very high when using more demanding IEM sets, like the final E5000 and B1 or the Dita Audio Twins, all that sounded rather weak and limited directly from the small players. With very sensitive stuff, the XD-10 has a surprisingly clean background and no hiss to be heard at least on low gain.

Either on low or high gain, and with bass gain off, the sound out of the XD-10 is very clean and quite transparent. It is pretty neutral with no coloration to the sound. The improvement in extension is very immediate with greater dynamics and openness. That said, the sound is kind of flat on the bass region, lacking a bit of depth on the sub-bass, but then very well controlled on the mid-bass area. There is still better definition and layering and a clean transition to the upper frequencies. Towards the midrange, it can be perceived a slightly forward with a fuller texture, but nothing out of neutral to break the imaging. The texture is a bit ‘synthetic’ where vocals can sound kind of more artificial; they are detailed and forward but miss some emotion on them. There is a strong sense of transparency and clearer separation with a good improvement on details. Treble has very good quality too, and shows greater control with brighter sets. If anything there is little of extra tilt at the lower-treble that can sound kind of artificial. The resolution is very good for the price, micro details are easily picked.

The bass gain, unfortunately, is not well implemented. It only works well on very light and neutral earphones and headphones adding some lift and body to the lows. However, with anything above neutral, the bass gain is just overwhelming and uncontrolled. Furthermore, it affects the whole midrange making it overly muddy. The bass gain on XD-05 works much better, but with the XD-10 keeping it off is best.


Pairings

final E5000

The E5000 is one of those IEM that strongly benefits from extra power. Also, the E5000 sound signature holds a strong bass response and has a better synergy with a source with good clarity and resolution. The XD-10 is a very good option for that. The bass is full and with good mid-bass control, though lacks some layering between sub and mid-bass. The midrange is slightly forward and puts vocals even ahead but not with the most natural texture; the E5000 can give very sweet voices, even more than the E4000 if paired correctly, and XD-10 is still not the best in that regard. Treble is smooth and more energetic. Soundstage is wide, not much depth but the presentation is very detailed.


Dita Audio Fidelity

Another demanding IEM, not as E5000, but still needs a good source to shine. The Fidelity can sound bright and aggressive too where the XD-10 gives a good control to the treble. Overall the sound is very neutral with a tad forwardness on the midrange. The Fidelity is one of the very few sets that the XD-10 bass gain has a good effect; the sound is fuller from the lows to the whole midrange, and still remains very clean. Very good resolution, just do not expect to sound as high-end as the Dita Fidelity price may suggest with just the XD-10.


Meze 99 Classics

Strong bass with the usual mid-bass lift the 99 Classics have, yet controlled and clean towards the lower midrange. Midrange itself is not very sweet and lacks the emotion on the vocals. Treble is a bit forward and with the XD-10 the slight dip on the lower treble is less obvious. The soundstage is not very impressive, though; the 99 Classics can offer a wide stage for a closed over-ear headphones.


Comparisons

XD-10 VS XP-2

Priced about half the XD-10 and sharing similar compact form factor and build quality, the xDuoo XP-2 offers different features for portable use. It also works as an amplifier and DAC device (and with a standard micro-USB slot), but has the additional function of a wireless amplifier via Bluetooth 5.0.
When it gets to sound performance, these two devices are different. Technically, the XD-10 is clearly more powerful, about twice the XP-2 output, and also supports a higher audio quality rate. More importantly, they both really differ in the sound quality and presentation. The XP-2 is darker sounding with a stronger emphasis on the low-end, more distant and less present midrange and very smooth overall presentation. The laid-back nature put details at a second priority, though for the price the sounds is fairly natural. The XD-10 not only is just more powerful but presents a more forward and much detailed sound. Greater bass control and resolution with wider extension on both lows and highs ends. Micro details are easily heard and overall makes a much better all-rounder device, in a similar way to the XD-05.

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