(Note: This review was written by Nymphonomaniac, an enthusiast writer from No BS Audiophile.
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Xduoo is a well established audio company now, and lately they begin launching quite a good amount of Bluetooth DAC-AMP. I have personally only tested the higher end XP-2 wich I found fabulous for the price, as well as very powerful as a DAC-AMP or standalone AMP.
Today, we will have a look at the more budget oriented XQ-25 Bluetooth DAC-AMP. Priced at very competitive 50$ price, this product go in direct competition with ultra portable Bluetooth receiver like the FIIO BTR3 and Earstudio ES100…but in fact, it’s way cheaper than both so we can conclude XQ-25 have no real competition.
Scoring an excellent Sabre ESS9118 dac, the XQ-25 use as well last Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, have a long 7hours battery life and independent buttons for complete music control.
Let’s try to understand in this review why this excellent Bluetooth DAC-AMP pass under the radar of budget audiophile searching affordable solution to upgrade the sound of their phone.
|SBC, AAC, aptX
|around 10 meters
|about 3 hours
I was surprise to have a carefully presented product in a beautiful fancy box for such a low cost product. Sure we don’t have any extra accessories apart from USB to micro usb cable, but still, whole package is well presented and a sign of respect for their consumers.
The Xduoo XQ-25 impress too with the choice of high quality material for the construction of its device.
Nope, this isn’t all plastic cheap looking audio product, Xduoo give lot of care in craftsmanship and the feel in hands is a rewarding one.
Body is made of both Aluminum shielded case and high hardness glass for front and back plate. Buttons too are made of aluminum and are not too sensitive to pressure. 3.5mm jack is gold plated, again of nice quality which I appreciate because I don’t like to see plastic output.
So here perhaps the simplicity is pushed too far.
In fact I love everything about design including side control buttons and very small portable size, sleek device sensation in hands….but it lack a clip.
The goal of a Bluetooth receiver is to not have to struggle with cable and don’t need to take off your pocket another device than your phone to answer calls.
Ideal place to put this device is clipped to your shirt, not too far from your mouth so you can answer call smoothly.
Having to take out the XQ-25 and answer call as if we we have to use a portable mic isn’t very user friendly.
PAIRING & CONNECTIVITY:
I like it simple lazy way when I pair a Bluetooth device, and for that XQ-25 deliver.
To the point it can even be paired NFC way.
You just knock it to the back of your phone and it connect instantly.
Without NFC it’s as easy as it get recognize by anything I try the XQ-25 with, which include LG G6, Samsung A50, Xduoo X20 and Tempotec V1A.
Connectivity have been flawless with me, no clipping noise or unwanted disconnection.
Here, if you encounter bad connectivity it will must likely be due to your phone or DAP. Signal distance is about the same as every Bluetooth 5.0 earphones or dac-amp I use, which is around 10 meter distance and more if you are in open space.
What was really lacking with more expensive XP-2 was sure not power, but proper control buttons, we can’t neither change tracks or play-pause, which was a real bummer.
With the XQ-25 this problem is solve.
Power button is for play-pause, volume control is one press, changing tracks is holding the button.
All work flawlessly so you never have to take off your phone to control your music.
The XQ-25 is very power efficient, which is perhaps explain by its limited power output.
Still, you can have more than 7 hours battery life with it. I listen at high volume and surely pass the 7hours bar because it just feel the battery was infinite in there.
One interesting feature with the XQ-25, is that you can have battery indicator of its battery life on your phone. With my Samsung A5 it show it, but not with my LG G6.
At 32mW for 32ohm load, the XQ-25 is more thinked to drive earphones than full size headphones.
After all, it’s about portability here so why will you use it with 300ohm planar anyway?
For most iem (but planar) the XQ-25 will do good. As well, it will drive properly low impedance Headphones like the Meze Neo 99 I use it with.
Having already heard the ES9118 dac in the Audirect Beam, I was expecting the XQ-25 to be an inferior sounding version of the Beam due to it’s bluetooth decoding.
Well, the truth is that I find it to sound even better and I don’t know how its possible.The secret is about DAC implementation and Xduoo sure did a better job.
The sound is very dynamic, lively, revealing with good punch and slightly warm and forwards mid range. I really like how vocal sound with the XQ-25, as well as effortless layering it give. Energize neutrality is how I would call it’s sound.
SOUNDSTAGE do not open in wideness but gain deepness with most iem and easy to drive headphones I test. It’s not airy, and add sens of proximity with music.
TONALITY is warm, slightly dry, with smooth texture and good transparency. It’s neitheir organic or bright, never sounding overly liquid or grainy. Natural and slightly laid back.
CLARITY is good, slightly warm, with good transparency and above average black background. Sharpness of definition isn’t very high.
BASS is more about mid bass punch here, with smooth sub bass extension that isn’t lifted and have nice dryish texture. Separation between sub and kick is nice, with average definition.
MID RANGE is slightly lifted, which give extra vocal presence without over shadowing other instrument. Vocal have appealing fullness to them which add extra thickness without affecting transparency of sound layers.
TREBLE is rather smooth, with good crispness but not alot of extra sparkle and decay. The XQ25 Sabre DAC isn’t as analytical and revealing than higher level ESS9018 I’m use too, it have a more lush and warm presentation.
PAIRING with MEZE 99 NEO:
This pairing really surprise me, as if they were mean to be together.
The NEO can sound boomy sometime due to lower bass bleed but strangely it isn’t with the XQ25 and have a tighter bass punch as if the lower bass was tamed a little.
Vocal too benefit from this tighter bass, making it clearer and rounder. In terms of highs, NEO would benefit extra energy in there which the XQ25 do not deliver, so its very smooth and laid back. The Meze became more transparent and gain in both clarity and bass control with the XQ25.
PAIRING with AUDIOSENSE T800:
The T800 are great sounding 8BA’S earphones but they are as well capricious about output impedance of audio source.
They benefit from very clear source with black background as well.
With the XQ-25 they do not encounter issue about impedance match so no distortion or unbalance in sound.
Soundstage do not expand and feel even a little more intimate than with a DAP like the Xduoo X20.
Overall sound became warmer, thicker.
BASS gain in punch but lack in clarity and tightness.
Vocal are even more present but affect overall imaging clarity.
Treble, which is know to be quite sharp, became smoother and more balanced.
All in all, without being a bad pairing, the T800 sound warmer and less vivid and detailed with the XQ-25.
VS RADSONE EARSTUDIO ES100 (100$):
The ES100 is twice the price of XQ25, and it have about twice the features in the sens it have seriously more power output, especially from its 2.5mm balanced output.
ES100 is smaller than XQ25 and it have a clip, making it more practical.
The Earstudio software permit to customize in every way possible, while the XQ25 sound cannot.
CONSTRUCTION of XQ25 is more beautiful and use metal where the ES100 is all plastic including headphones jacks. BATTERY life is quite poor with ES100, about half of XQ25.
SOUNDSTAGE is similar, but Imaging is better with ES100, offering a more resolved and accurate instrument separation.
TONALITY is slightly brighter with ES100, it have as well a more dynamic sound.
BASS is a little less punchy but have more texture to it and thicker lower end.
MID RANGE is clearer but vocal are a little more recessed even if it have more upper mids presence, which give dryer thinner vocal presentation than XQ25.
TREBLE feel more forwards and detailed with ES100.
All in all, ES100 is more vivid and forwards sounding, while the XQ25 have a more punchy and natural sound.
VS TUNAI SQUARE (55$):
The SQUARE have an interesting design that permit you to roll your iem cable around its body, as well, again, he have a clip.
In term of construction material, it feel a little cheaper than XQ-25.
SQUARE use Bluetooth 5.0 like the XQ25, power output is similar but less clean. Battery life is very similar at 7h. Features wise, it’s as well similar to XQ25.
SOUNDSTAGE sound more in your head, less airy and wide and deep than XQ25.
Imaging is darker and less clearly layered.
TONALITY is dryer, warmer and more V shape than more neutral XQ25.
BASS is elevated in both sub and mid bass region, as well, its warmer and less textured than flatter XQ25.
SQUARE lack roundness in bass and can tend to make bassy iem sound more boomy.
MID RANGE is more unbalanced than XQ25, instrument separation is rather not accurate too.
TREBLE is less crisp and liquid than XQ25 and sound a little artificial. Level of harmonic distortion is notably higher with the Square, as well the background is less silent and clean.
All in all, apart from the clip, XQ25 have nothing to envy from Tunai Square.
In today Bluetooth DAC-AMP market there plenty of offering in 100$ price range, but not a lot of choice in 50$ price range for audiophile searching a capable ultra portable Bluetooth sound solution at very budget price.
And this is why the XQ-25 stand apart: it’s cheap, well built and deliver high sound quality comparable to what you would get at higher price range.
Not only that, but the connectivity is excellent, user interface is intuitive and stable, and it can be used as a USB dac for laptop as well to take full advantage of its nice ESS9118 sabre DAC.
If you have a limited budget and search for the best sounding sub-50$ Bluetooth receiver, I really think the Xduoo XQ-25 might be the one to choose.