xDuoo Link 2 DAC/AMP Review

 

 

 

 

 

xDuoo Link 2 DAC/AMP Review

 

 

Introduction:

xDuoo is a Chinese company located in ShenZhen, China and is specialized in production of Headphone Amplifiers, Hi-Fi DAC’s for PC, Desktop and Portable use and Portable Audio Players (DAP’s).

The xDuoo Link 2 is an upgrade of the predecessor Link 1 USB DAC Dongle and features an ESS9118EC DAC Chip that supports up to PCM 32Bit/384kHz and up to DSD256 decoding.

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank xDuoo for providing me the Link 2 DAC for review purposes. I am not affiliated with xDuoo beyond this review and these words reflect my true, unaltered opinions about the product.

 

 

Price:

The MSRP Price for the xDuoo Link 2 Portable USB DAC is $99,00 USD

 

 

Package and Accessories:

The xDuoo Link 2 came in a small box white box that was wrapped with a blue cardboard sleeve that has the Link 2 brandings on the top.

This box is including the following items;

  • 1 x xDuoo Link 2 USB DAC
  • 1 x USB Type C to USB Type A Adapter
  • 1 x USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable
  • 1 x Lightning to USB Type-C cable
  • 1 x Magic Glue
  • 1 x Warranty Card & User Manual

The xDuoo Link 2 came beside of 3 different UBC Type-C cables with the xDuoo Magic Glue which is a very useful tool to fix the Link 2 to the surface of your tablet or smartphone without to damage the painting or surface of your Link 2and devices.

 

 

Design and Build Quality:

The xDuoo Link is a very small and lightweight USB DAC with a body/shell that is made of CNC machined aluminum alloy material and is available in 3 (three) different color variants which are grey, green and the one in red color like my review unit.

The dimensions of the Link 2 are 52.9x21x12 mm and weight’s only 21 grams which makes it to a very pocket friend solution.

On the top of the xDuoo Link 2 is the USB-Type C female data connection.

At the bottom is the 3.5mm headphone jack (unbalanced).

On the front of the Link 2 DAC is a LED light status indicator, a small rounded multifunctional play/pause button and the volume up/down button.

On the back of the device are some brandings and the serial number of the device printed in white color.

At the right side of the Link 2 are two separate sliders one dedicated for the bass adjustment and one for the soundstage adjustment.

The overall build quality of the Link 2 is very good without to show any unwanted imperfections such like uneven gaps.

 

 

 

Technical Specifications:

  • DAC Chip                    : ES9118EC
  • Sampling Frequency   : PCM 16/32bit 44.1kHz-384kHz // DSD 64 – 256
  • Output Power             : 150mW @ 32Ω
  • Frequency response   : 20 Hz – 20kHz (±0.5dB)
  • SNR                            : 110dB
  • Crosstalk                    : ≥75dB
  • Bass Boost                  : +6dB
  • THD+N                       : 0.0018%@1kHz
  • Internal resistance      : <1Ω
  • Input port                    : USB-C
  • Output port                 : 3.5mm
  • Earphone Impedance  : 16 – 300Ω
  • Dimensions                 : 62.9x21x12mm
  • Weight                        : 21g

 

 

Hardware & Software:

The xDuoo Link 2 is an ultra-small portable USB DAC that offers some impressive hardware specs that I will now share with you bellow.

  

DAC (Digital to Analog Converter):

The xDuoo Link 2 features ESS Technology’s ES9118EC HiFi SoC that comes with the patented 32-bit HyperStream architecture. The DAC delivers actually a SNR of 110dB (DAC supports up to 120dB) and a THD+N of 0.0018%@1kHz. It also supports the industry’s most popular high resolution and lossless audio formats including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV.

 

Amplification & Noise Floor:

The xDuoo Link 2 has an “Independent Amp Circuit” and offers an output power of 150mW @ 32 ohm. It can drive full sized Headphones like the iBasso SR2 and HiFiMAN DEVA to pretty loud volume level and shows ideal conditions for headphones & earphones between an impedance from 16 Ω to 300 Ω.

What I do really like about the Link 2 is the very dark background and pretty silent noise floor. The Link 2 did offer pretty silent conditions with some sensitive IEM’s like Campfire Audio ARA and SOLARIS 2020.

 

xDuoo Link2 versus xDuoo Link1:
  • The Link 2 offers more output power: 150mW @ 32Ω versus 32mW@32Ω
  • The Link 2 has a lower power consumption
  • The Link 2 comes with bass and soundstage adjustment buttons
  • The Link 2 can be connected with both USB Type-C and Lightning devices

 

 

 

Equipment’s used for this review:
  • DAC’s             : xDuoo Link 2, Audirect Beam
  • IEM’s              : Oriveti OH500, FiiO FA9, BQEYZ Spring 2, Campfire Audio ARA & SOLARIS
  • Headphones  : iBasso SR2, HiFiMAN DEVA
  • Source           : Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, iPad Air 2, ASUS TUF FX505DU

 

 

Albums & Tracks used for this review:
  • Barry White – Just The Way You Are (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Isaac Hayes – Walk On By (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sting – Englishman in New York – (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Elton John – Rocket Man (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Edith Piaf – Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Aretha Franklin – I Say a Little Prayer (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Sertap Erener – Aşk (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • London Grammar – Interlud (Live) (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
  • Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (Spotify)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • No Doubt – Hella Gut (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Twerl – Lishu (Spotify)
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kpbs)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Spotify)
  • Tom Player – Resonace Theory “Album” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)

 

 

 

Sound Analysis:

The xDuoo Link 2 is an ultra-portable DAC/AMP with a neutral sound presentation good amount of detail retrieval for the price. It offers also plenty of output power that can drive demanding headphones like the HiFiMAN DEVA while it shows a pretty silent/clean background with very sensitive IEM’s like the Campfire Audio ARA and Solaris 2020.

Please note that the xDuoo Link 2 review is written after a burn-in period of about 80 hours and is based on my sound experiences paired with IEM’s like the Oriveti OH500, BQEYZ Spring 2, FiiO FA9, Campfire Audio ARA and Headphones like the iBasso SR2.

The subbass region of the Link 2 shows good depth and extension when paired with In-Ear Monitors like the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 as well as with full-sized headphones like the iBasso SR2 thanks to the great output power. Instruments from the contrabass up to synthetic bass notes in electronic music are pretty controlled and do represented with a good amount of rumble.

The midbass region on the other hand has a good level of definition, depth and impact while listen to instruments like bass guitars and snare drums paired with IEM’s like the Oriveti OH500 and FiiO FA9. Other instruments like acoustic guitars are pretty fast, full bodied and detailed without to show any unwanted muddiness or midbass hump.

The xDuoo Link 2 is a successful DAC/AMP in terms of midrange presentation clarity, detail retrieval and airiness especially paired with IEM’s from the BQEYZ Spring2 up to the Campfire Audio ARA.

Male vocals do sound full bodied and have a good level of depth while listen to Barry White and Isaac Hayes and do sound pretty musical, emotional with the BQEYZ Spring2 or SOLARIS 2020. Female vocals like Aretha Franklin and Sertap Erener on the other hand are quite detailed with the iBasso SR2 and do sound also intimate and emotional.

The instrument tonality with IEM’s like the Oriveti OH500 and do have a slightly warmer than neutral, vivid and smooth tonality paired with the OH500 while pianos are mildly bright and pronounced. Other instruments like acoustic guitars are slightly warm, bassy and musical, the violins are fatigue-free and have moderate brightness and violas are pretty emotional.

The upper midrange region of the xDuoo Link 2 is well pronounced shows a good level of intensity and is also successful in terms of control and detail retrieval when instruments do play with high distortion when I do listen to the ARA and FA9.

The upper midrange of the Link 2 shows a good level of extension and is also successful in terms of attack on percussive and rhythm instruments.

The xDuoo Link 2 has a slightly bright, warm and soft treble tonality when paired with the Oriveti OH500 and sounds fairly airy and fatigue-free. It has an above average performance in terms of treble intensity, quantity, extension and sharpness.

Instruments like cymbals in metal music are pronounced, while the hits are fairly countable. Crash cymbals are pretty fast and do show a goof level of control and extension. The Link 2 offers in general a treble presentation that is transparent, airy and spacious, which makes it to an ideal an ideal source with a wide variety of IEM’s and music genres.

The xDuoo Link 2 shows successful performance in terms of placement and separation of instruments and vocals especially for a portable source at this price level. There is a moderate quantity of air between instruments while the soundstage of the Link 2 shows an natural expansion with good level of depth and wideness with all IEM’s and Headphones I have tested with it.

 

 

Comparison:

xDuoo Link 2 versus Audirect Beam:

The xDuoo Link 2 has a slightly larger size compared to the Audirect Beam while both do offer a hardware volume slider. The Link 2 offers also a bass and soundstage adjustment slider that the Beam doesn’t have. The overall build quality of both devices is pretty good.

When it comes to the sound performance the most noticeable difference is the driving power and cleaner/darker background of the xDuoo Link 2. The subbass region of the xDuoo Link 2 shows less intensity, depth and rumble compared to the Audirect Beam, but is superior in terms of control and technicality. The midbass region of the Link 2 shows a more linear response and has the upper hand in terms of detail retrieval and tightness.

The midrange of the xDuoo Link 2 has a more natural and neutral tonality compared to the Audirect Beam which shows slightly more warmth. The Link 2 has the upper hand in terms of midrange clarity, resolution and airiness that is pretty audible while listen to female vocals and Instruments like pianos, violins or flutes.

The treble range of both devices is fairly detailed and is showing an above average extension. The xDuoo Link 2 has the upper hand in terms of airiness and sparkle.

When it comes to soundstage performance, both have an above average soundstage expansion, while the xDuoo Link 2 is superior in terms of wideness while the depth performance is pretty identical.

 

Conclusion:

The xDuoo Link 2 is an ideal solution for those looking for a powerful but also compact portable USB DAC / AMP with a sound performance above its price tag. The Link 2 is beside its ability to drive power hungry headphones also able to offer the cleanest background among the products in its price class, paired with very sensitive IEM’s such as Campfire Audio ARA.

 

 

Pros and Cons:

  • +Good detail retrieval for the price
  • + Very clean background (very low hissing)
  • + Plenty of Output Power
  • + Solid Build Quality
  • + Hardware Volume Slider and Bass Gain
  • + Plug and Play capability for Android and IOS devices

 

  • – Soundstage Slider not very effective
  • – Slightly distortion when Bass Gain is On
  • – No battery means additional battery drain for your Smartphone’s and Tablet’s

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply