In this review, I’m checking out the xDuoo XD05 BAL2 DAC and headphone amplifier. The XD05 BAL2 features dual ES9038Q2M DAC chips and output power up to a crazy 1500mW. It can serve as a fully-featured desktop DAC or a portable unit for on-the-go. The price is $429 USD.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Shenzhen Audio for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
xDuoo XD05 BAL2 Review
An incremental upgrade over the original but with a massive boost in output power.
The xDuoo XD05 Bal2 lives up to its name, offering a fully balanced design from the digital to the analogue circuit. This portable unit serves as a versatile solution, perfect for both on-the-go use and as a complete desktop DAC/amp setup.
Impressively, the XD05 Bal2 boasts 1500mW of output power, capable of driving pretty much any headphones. While it may not match the sheer power of some desktop devices, having 1500mW at your disposal in a portable package is genuinely remarkable.
To ensure top-notch audio performance, the XD05 Bal2 is equipped with dual ES9038Q2M DAC chips, capable of handling an extensive range of sample rates, supporting up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512. The unit offers a wide array of input options, including balanced AES, coaxial, optical, USB, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Speaking of Bluetooth, the XD05 Bal2 does not compromise in this area and comes with Bluetooth 5.1. It supports various codecs, including SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX-LL, aptX-HD, and LDAC, ensuring seamless wireless audio transmission.
Flexibility is at the core of the XD05 Bal2’s design. It allows users to easily swap out the opamps, empowering them to customize the sound to their liking. Whether it’s SparkOS or Texas Instruments opamps, the process is made simple and user-friendly.
Furthermore, the XD05 Bal2 offers multiple digital filters, Boost mode, and dual gain settings, providing users with ample opportunities to tailor the sound to their preferences and listening environment.
Finally, the XD05 Bal2 grants users the choice of running on either battery power or an external power supply. When connected to an external power source, you get maximum power for desktop use. On the other hand, the internal battery comes in handy for mobile scenarios, ensuring super-clean DC power delivery.
Externally, the xDuoo XD05 Bal closely resembles the original XD05, with the only noticeable change being the gold plates surrounding the headphone outputs, which are now combined under a single cover. The sleek anodized grey finish, a hallmark of xDuoo’s recent products, adorns the chassis, while the volume barrel stands out with its vibrant red colour.
On the front panel, you’ll find the familiar 6.35mm and 4.4mm headphone outputs, along with a power switch, BOOST switch, Gain mode switch, and an OLED display. The display provides valuable information such as the selected input mode, current Bluetooth codec, sample rate, filter setting, and battery level.
Moving to the back panel, you’ll discover various input options, including auxiliary, USB, coaxial/optical, AES inputs, a USB power input, and an external/battery power select switch.
The left side of the unit houses three buttons: a Bluetooth pairing/playback button, a digital filter select button, and an input select button. The buttons are thoughtfully designed to be flush with the surface, minimizing the chance of accidental presses. However, it’s worth noting that their placement opposite the volume barrel might lead to inadvertent presses while adjusting the volume.
Speaking of the volume barrel, it is conveniently located on the right side of the unit. It features a satisfying level of resistance, making it almost impossible to change the volume accidentally, which is especially beneficial when carrying the XD05 Bal in your pocket.
Battery Life & Bluetooth
The battery life is pretty solid considering the amount of output power available. You can get around 9 hours using the USB input and up to 24 hours with the AUX input. XD05 Bal2’s charging time is less than 3 hours with fast charging and around 6 hours if charging from a PC or laptop.
During my testing, the Bluetooth worked flawlessly. I connected my Sony NW-ZX300 with LDAC and was very impressed with the audio quality and the stability of the connection.
The XD05 Bal2 impresses with its excellent end-to-end extension and fullness. Its energetic and enthusiastic sound brings your music to life, yet it can also deliver nuanced and serene moments. A true master of dynamics, this DAC/amp effortlessly adapts itself to the essence of each musical piece.
In the bass department, the XD05 Bal2 shines with concise yet full-bodied bass notes. The low end is impeccably tight and controlled, offering a delightful combination of speed and power. While not boosted in quantity, it avoids sounding anaemic or reserved, and instead, delivers a punchy and layered bass experience.
The midrange reproduction of the xDuoo is nothing short of exquisite. It effortlessly shifts between being light and airy, or deep and sonorous, offering a perfect balance between technical precision and musicality. This harmonious blend results in a presentation that is not only rich in detail but also emotionally captivating.
When it comes to vocals, the Bal2 truly shines. Whether it’s male vocals exuding warmth or female voices with pristine clarity, the portrayal is engaging, rich, and vibrant. Every vocal nuance is skillfully articulated, allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves in the emotive power of the music.
The XD05 Bal2’s treble can be best described with two words: extension and naturalness. The high frequencies demonstrate remarkable precision and accuracy in timbre, striking a perfect balance between not being muted or overly pronounced but simply present in their true form. Even when paired with brighter IEMs, the XD05 Bal2 manages to avoid any harshness, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience.
Staging and Technicalities
The XD05 Bal2’s staging strikes a delicate balance, neither overly expansive nor cramped, but instead, it positions itself neutrally. However, what truly stands out is the exceptional quality of the imaging and the precise placement of vocals and instruments. Each instrument exhibits a fullness and density that brings them to life with a lifelike and tangible quality. The sound is not airy or ethereal; instead, it exudes an earthy and grounded essence, a testament to the accomplished neutral tuning.
Moreover, the XD05 Bal2 excels in delivering a palpable sense of rhythm, owing to its natural and organic presentation. The sound signature is dynamic, realistic, and highly musical, combining transparency with vibrancy. This perfect synergy creates an audio experience that is both captivating and authentic, allowing listeners to connect deeply with the music and appreciate every subtle nuance. The XD05 Bal2’s ability to strike a harmonious balance between transparency and vibrancy makes it an excellent choice for audiophiles.
Should you upgrade from the original XD05?
In short, the answer is no; there is little justification for upgrading to the Bal2 from the original model unless you specifically require the additional power output it offers. The Bal2 introduces incremental changes, but overall, it may not provide significant enhancements to warrant replacing the original.
In conclusion, the xDuoo XD05 Bal2 DAC and headphone amplifier stands as a true testament to compact audio excellence. With its balanced design, versatile connectivity options, and exceptional sound performance, it caters to both audiophiles on the go and those seeking a complete desktop setup.
The Bal2’s exquisite midrange, natural treble, and well-defined staging showcase its dedication to precision and musicality. Its palpable sense of rhythm and organic presentation further elevate the listening experience, making it a compelling choice for anyone in search of a high-quality, immersive audio solution. The xDuoo Bal2 promises to deliver an unparalleled journey through the realm of sound.