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xDuoo XA-10 Review (DAC and Headphone Amp)

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the xDuoo XA-10 combination DAC, Headphone Amplifier and Bluetooth receiver. It was kindly sent to me by one of their sellers, Shenzhenaudio audio. It costs US $479 from their store.

The XA-10 breaks the mold for desktop DACs with one attractive industrial design:

Xduoo XA-10 review dac and headphone amplifier.jpg


The rotary controller feels nice and overall look is super nice to look at. Alas, there are some usability issues. The fonts are rather small and when you have your hand on the rotary control, you could be blocking the display. The is a small issue compared to lack of acceleration on the rotary control. I estimated that you need to make 7 full rotations of the control to go from lowest to highest volume! Normal rotations left and right barely change the sound level. This is deadly in a playlist when one track may all of a sudden be much louder. It could be many seconds before you can turn the level low enough. It was actually faster to take my headphones off than getting the volume down.

I was surprised that there were balanced headphone outputs on the front, but only unbalanced pre-out:
Xduoo XA-10 review dac and bluetooth headphone amplifier.jpg


I also could not control the level of pre-out. Maybe there is a way but I could not find it in the simple menu provided which only changed the gain and filter settings.

As you see a beefy laptop style, 36 watt power supply is provided. I had wished that in this size enclosure, the power supply was internal.

But let me be very clear: it was love at first sight when it comes to overall look of the unit.

xDuoo XA-10 Measurements (DAC)
I used USB input and RCA rear jacks to test the DAC subsystem. I must say, I was not at all prepared for the poor performance that I saw in my dashboard:
Xduoo XA-10 Measurements DAC.png


Company advertises THD+N of 0.0008% which translates into a SINAD of 101 dB. We are not even close to that at 89. Even if we were, that is way poor compared to devices that XA-10 competes with.
Best DAC and headphone amplifier review 2021.png


A volume control chip from TI is used to assure channel balance which I suspect is partly the reason for much reduced performance than what the DAC chip alone could get.

Signal to noise ratio was better but still not competitive:
Xduoo XA-10 Measurements DAC dynamic range.png


I thought maybe it would do better at lower voltages but that is hardly so:
Xduoo XA-10 Measurements DAC THD+N vs level.png


Jitter measurements showed rather elevated noise level which hides artifacts (which are still present but inaudible):

Xduoo XA-10 Measurements DAC Jitter.png


IMD distortion showed early rise in such:
Xduoo XA-10 Measurements DAC IMD.png


Linearity was perfect (this test excludes noise):
Xduoo XA-10 Measurements DAC Linearity.png


As usual, I tried to measure the different filters provided bus strangely all of them measured the same:

Xduoo XA-10 Measurements DAC Filter.png


This is a slow filter and unfortunate to be the only one working. Clearly this is a firmware bug.

Multitone test showed the problems we already know about:

Xduoo XA-10 Measurements DAC Multitone.png


The reduced max level of this test allows performance to be better than the dashboard but still not remotely what we like to see in a desktop DAC.

xDuoo XA-10 Headphone Amplifier Test
A test of output at 50 mv showed that this output also suffers from too high of a noise level:
Xduoo XA-10 Measurements headphone amplifier balanced 50mv SNR.png


most quiet headphone amplifier.png


So be careful about using sensitive IEMs which ironically the reason to use the volume control IC (to have good channel matching).

We do have healthy amount of power with 300 ohm load:
Xduoo XA-10 Measurements headphone amplifier power 300 ohm.png


Noise and distortion levels are not competitive however. Same is true of 32 ohm load:

Xduoo XA-10 Measurements headphone amplifier power 32 ohm.png


Strangely, there is hardly any benefit to high gain mode. It raises noise floor but gives you no more power. Something is strange there as there.

Switching to balanced we get double the power at 300 ohm:
Xduoo XA-10 Measurements headphone amplifier power balanced 300 ohm.png


But not with 32 ohm load:
Xduoo XA-10 Measurements headphone amplifier power balanced 32 ohm.png


Current must be the limiting factor here.

xDuoo XA-10 Headphone Listening Tests
No surprise that the good amount of power provided has no trouble driving either my Drop Ether CX headphone, or Sennheiser HD-650. Alas, I could not do my usual testing where I blast the volume to near max for a second or so to see if the amp distorts. As noted in the intro, the volume control is so slow that by the time I would get any volume, my ears were suffering and I had to back down. So I don't know how well XA-10 would behave driving more difficult loads than I had. Or how distorted it gets at the limit.

Conclusions
Ah, what a missed opportunity! Nice design/looks damaged by usability, performance and potential bugs. I had such high hopes for the XA-10 but at the end, it was a real let down. Hopefully they can spin a version 2 that does justice to the form factor. For now, the design choices such as digital volume control, "class A" discrete amp, etc. is coming to hound this unit.

It is with some sadness that I cannot recommend the xDuoo XA-10. Subjective performance is likely fine but there are other choices where you get that, plus excellent objective results and no usability issues.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

3125b

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#2
Wow, this is refreshingly terrible, certainly for the price they are asking.
 

3125b

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#7
Lets hope they were consciously not designing to measure well.
I don't think so, they market this the way Topping or SMSL do - by specs. They're just missing them completely.
And this is not their first underwhelming product, I've seen a couple equally mediocre reviews of their other stuff.
High-ish noise floor, non-functional filters (and what the hell is the one that does work even supposed to be, it's not one of the standard options of the 4493) - it's just incompetent. I guess you'd be hard pressed to get worse performance out of not one but two AK4493 (supposedly).
And the feature set doesn't make sense either, why would there be a balanced headphone output but no balanced preamp out? I'd say the latter is more valuable.
I don't know, strange product, they're not doing themselves or the customers any favours with this.

That is too funny! :D
I just feel like desktop DACs and headphone amps are too much of a solved problem as of late, I want some excitement in the reviews :)
Just think, what would minesweeper be without the mines?
 

Racheski

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#8
Is it possible Amir tested a lemon? Filters don’t work, SINAD is grossly lower than spec, gain does diddly squat...
 

Racheski

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#13
I just feel like desktop DACs and headphone amps are too much of a solved problem as of late, I want some excitement in the reviews :)
I think the $400-$700 all in one DAC/Amp is not quite solved yet, because I can't think of a unit that can get recommended without a second thought. Depending on the price, the upcoming FiiO K9 Pro may be it.
 
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#14
Really really disappointed,
2x4493, Altera max 2, xmos 216 on paper was really promising but something is really messing up the product.
Any way thank Amir for the review and for saving me a lot of money!
I guess I will go with E30 +A50 (and save 70$ in the way)
 

raif71

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#15

Helicopter

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#16
Thanks Amir. I agree it looks great and good of them to send it in. The biggest flaws are external power supply and no balanced pre outs with volume control. Anything sessile over $300 should have IEC mains in.

Other flaws are the slow volume control and objective performance, but I could live with those.
 

acbarn

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#17
I think the $400-$700 all in one DAC/Amp is not quite solved yet, because I can't think of a unit that can get recommended without a second thought. Depending on the price, the upcoming FiiO K9 Pro may be it.
The JDS Labs Element II is solid.
 

HiFidFan

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#19
It's most redeeming quality that I get from the review is the industrial design. Yawn.

From my perspective the XA-10 is a pretty solid fail.
 
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#20
This completes the circle of disappointment that started when I found out that there's no way to turn the unit on and off from the front and no remote. Now we learn that the rca out may be just a pass through and the volume control isn't analogue despite the rca out.
On top of it's unique industrial design this unit could have provided something very difficult to find: a full preamp/dac/headphone amp in one box (not including the unfortunate use of an external brick). To get all these capabilities from Topping you need three boxes if you want to listen to rca input with headphones. The Gustard 16 combo is two boxes and you still have rear mounted power switches and the headphone and rca out are always on...I hope Xduoo are following this forum and come up with a better version.
 
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