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The XQ50Pro is the newest in a series of Bluetooth receivers in the xDuoo family. I reviewed the original XQ50 sometime back, so when Xtenik offered to send the upgraded model, I was all for it.
The XQ50 series is designed for upgrading older gear by adding wireless capability. The earlier model has a hidden talent as well in that it can be used as a USB DAC and uses a socketed op-amp for those who wish to tweak a bit. While I like the original XQ50, it had a few shortcomings, so I was interested to see if this new model had addressed them.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The XQ50 comes in a side opening cardboard box with a line drawing of the unit in near-real size along with the model name and xDuoo logo on the top and the details printed in English and Chinese on the bottom.
Inside the box, the unit itself is well padded with the USB-C cable and antenna in a separate compartment. A warranty card and instruction manual complete the kit. At the price, it would be nice if an RCA and power cable and adapter were included, but many others offer packages without these accessories as well so it isn’t a deal-breaker.
(Xtenik comment: Suggest xDuoo to write the product parameter in English on their package too, even though you can find all English information in the manual)
The XQ50Pro is the same size as its predecessor.
It consists of a small aluminum box with a single button and the display screen on front and the required ports on the rear.
（ Xtenik comments: Good to see that xDuoo add the OLED screen on their upgraded version XQ-50 pro）
Face plates are held on by Torx screws and a single PCB slides into rails in the aluminum chassis.
At the rear, left to right, we have a pair of RCA outputs, a coaxial output, an optical output, a USB-C input, and the antenna connector which uses a standard SMA connector type. This facilitates using a larger antenna or moving the antenna to another location with an extender if the unit is to be placed inside a closet or cabinet.
The unit is very light weight at only 6 oz on my scale. The unit is heavy enough that cable weight didn’t slide it around, but it is light enough if the cable is yanked it will pull the whole unit off the desk rather than unplugging the USB from the rear of the unit so caution is advised when placing the device to avoid traffic areas.
Removing the 4 screws at the corners of the face-plates on the front and rear allows for removal of the board if you are interested in the internals.
All chips are on the top of the board with only the traces being visible from the underside.
When using Bluetooth input, the first chip in the path is the Qualcomm CSR8675.
This is their current sub-flagship and supports the full suite of SBC, AAC, AptX, AptX-LL, AptX-HD, and LDAC.
Comparatively, the original XQ50 used an entry level chip-set and didn’t support, AptX-HD, AAC, or LDAC.
Outputs of the 8675 are I2S, s/pdif, and USB.
For digital output, the I2s output feeds a Cirrus Logic 8406 that handles conversion from I2S to optical or Coaxial output. This hasn’t changed from its predecessor and really didn’t need to as the Bluetooth to optical or s/pdif conversion of the original worked quite well.
For analog output to the RCAs, the I2s signal is passed to a ESS9018K2M DAC chip that handles the conversion.
The 9018 itself supports up to 32/384 and DSD256 but is limited by what Bluetooth and USB inputs allow. (this also hasn’t changed)
Finally the last stop on the output chain before reaching the RCA jacks is a 5532-dual op-amp that handles amplification to line level.
The op-amp is socketed to the board so allows for changing out as the user sees fit, and has ample space in the case for use of a Staccato, Spark-OS, or Burson discrete as well as any of the standard IC op-amps.
I feel a bit like a broken record as a lot of this seems like exactly the same thing I wrote about the original because it is.
Ultimately, the PRO is a Bluetooth chip upgrade to the original unit. I’ve attempted to take better photos and think I have all the major components covered as the chips are all clearly visible with the 8675 hiding under the metal cover in the last photo.
Ok, so if the pro is basically an improved Bluetooth chip and little else, this is where we expect to see the biggest differences and in order to justify a higher spend, the Pro needs to deliver the goods.
And it does.
The XQ50Pro retains the ease of use of the original with plug and play setup, simply connect the cables, plug it in to a power source and press the power button and you are greeted with XQ50Pro – Unpair on the display on the front.
Pairing is smooth with no headaches there and the display changes to connected when pairing completes.
The Display screen tells the user what protocol is being used to communicate in the upper right with AptX-HD, AAC, SBC, and LDAC all showing up depending on what mode I forced on the source device.
I spent some time using developer mode on android and could easily force the same device to connect as AptX, AptX-HD, LDAC, or SBC.
An I-phone and I-pad had no trouble connecting as AAC either although I seem to have forgotten to photo that.
Once connected, connections were rock solid and I could walk around the house with a source in my pocket and not lose connection unless multiple interior walls came between me and the Pro.
I also found that hiding the unit behind the TV did nothing to harm the signal so the unit can be tucked out of sight for those that wish to.
As a Desktop DAC:
For those that do most of their listening from a tablet or phone but occasionally want to pair a PC, the fact that the XQ50s can both be used as a USB DAC will come in handy.
Here though the changes between the two models don’t impact the function. The signal path when used as a USB DAC is still exactly the same as the previous generation and is still limited to 16/48 due to its use of the Bluetooth chip for USB input rather than having a distinct USB controller.
I am sure this saves costs, but seems a shame to take a DAC capable of 32/384 PCM and 256 DSD and limit it to PCM only at 16/48 tops. (Maybe the XQ60 will add this – they are moving in the right direction with the Pro so we can hope, right?)
While most want to buy a pure desktop dac with a 16/48 limit, it makes some argument as being a swiss army knife kind of device where you can use it for USB in a pinch, or Bluetooth, or Bluetooth to optical / s/pdif etc. The socketed op-amp is still there as well so those that want an inexpensive platform to experiment on have that option as well.
I didn’t expect to find any significant differences between the original and the pro as they use the same DAC chip, the same Op-amp, and even the same power supply as best I can tell.
I found both to have a slightly bright, slightly thin signature which I attribute to the ESS9018 as it is not uncommon for that DAC to lean that way.
The use of USB input power may also contribute as it has limited capacity (pun intended) to deliver current above about 500mA and a 5V max.
I photo’d the step-up convertors in the internals section but remember Voltage/Current conversions are never lossless so while it may raise one or the other, it is always at the expense of the other element.
I mentioned in my previous review that the sound is probably more realistically defined as slightly bass light rather than bright and I think that still holds true.
I found a potent amp with a slightly warm, and thick tone is the best pairing with the XQ50Pro. It did an admirable job paired to the Auris Euterpe as a headphone system and equally well tied to a Dynaco ST-70 powering Heresy floor standing speakers.
I also tested it out with a cobbled together system of parts from the local thrift store consisting of a $20 Kenwood amp from the mid-70s and a pair of Technics 3-way speakers that cost roughly the same.
This will likely end up being my “by the pool” stereo this summer and it worked well enough that the biggest concern will be dropping a source device into the pool as I suspect that will cause connectivity issues.
In open space I was able to 25 meters from the XQ50pro before losing connectivity but if someone walked between me and the source that number drops to just shy of 20 meters which is still quite respectable.
This is a market segment that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last year and new models are coming out quickly enough that it is hard to keep up.
Lots of companies are doing exactly what Xduoo just did and updating the connectivity to support the newer protocols that allow for better connections, higher bit-rates, and improved battery life.
If you are shopping for such a device, looks for at least Bluetooth 4.2 as the changes in 5 are more about low-power settings that aren’t really in play in this use case.
Look for AAC, LDAC, AptX-HD and even LHDC (the new Huawei protocol that rivals LDAC but is not widely available yet). Check your devices as well and see what they support.
Apple IOS devices are locked to AAC while MacOS does support AptX (not HD).
Most android devices now ship with AptX-HD and SBC and some have LDAC, LHDC, and AAC support as well.
PCs are entirely dependent on the chipset used and no single standard exists for audio support with Windows 10 having native support for AptX and AAC, but not HD or LL versions and no support for LDAC or LHDC other than beta drivers from Sony and Huawei respectively.
Remember, even if windows 10 has support for it, the hardware has to support it too so not all windows 10 devices will be able to use all protocols.
When reviewing the original XQ50, I tried to find models with roughly the same feature set, so hear again, we are going to look for models with similar capability meaning it needs to support at least one of the newer protocols AptX-HD, LDAC, LHDC, or AAC at minimum. Average price for the XQ50Pro seems to be $80 USD retail.
The least expensive model I tested against the Pro was the Innomaker Skylark-ii.
This box retails at $60 and originally advertised support for both AptX-HD and LDAC, after receipt and testing, it does NOT support LDAC.
So, at roughly the same price point, the Skylark gives up the display screen. the optical and coaxial outputs, and LDAC Support. I found connectivity to be roughly equal with the Xduoo having a slight advantage in distance between receiver and source.
Knowing that one can get the added features of the Pro for very little extra spend, I think the XQ50Pro is an easy recommendation.
The Aventree Oasis Plus retails for roughly the same price as the Pro but build quality is nowhere close as the Aventree is all plastic vs the aluminum shell of the Pro.
Setup on the Pro is pretty much plug and play while the Oasis+ requires a bit more fiddling with it to get it configured. The Advantage of the Oasis+ is that it can operate as a transmitter as well as a receiver for those who need it. The Pro consistently outperformed the Oasis+ in both connectivity and distance and latency was lower on the Pro as well.
Here again, the the Pro outclasses the Oasis+ and is an easy recommendation unless you have to have transmit capability.
As a receiver, the XQ50Pro is the easy choice.
From there we jump up the price scale to some bigger name brands at higher prices. Does spending more get you more though?
Here I looked at the Auris BluMe HD and the BluDento BLT-HD and iFi Zen Blue all of which retail at roughly $125 and the AudioEngine B1 at $190.
Here all the units are well built with quality materials so no plastic junk to differentiate one from another, most support multiple protocols with all having at least AAC and Apt-X HD and the Zen Blue adds LDAC as well.
I will disqualify the BluDento from the competition at this point as I found when connecting it that it has a grounding problem and touching the unit produced a very audible hum if the unit was in use.
This is a design flaw in my estimation and should be corrected before this unit gets further consideration.
The BluMe HD is a solid unit with most of the features of the Pro but lacks the coaxial output for those who need it, the display screen, and does not have support for LDAC.
Here the Pro wins on cost as it simply offers more of a feature set, equal build and a substantial cost savings.
The AudioEngine B1 suffers the same fate. Like the BluMe, the B1 lacks the coaxial output, LDAC support, and the display screen of the Pro while increasing the price point substantially. Its simply not a great value proposition compared to the XQ50Pro at nearly 1/3 the cost.
Lastly, the iFi Zen Blue, here we have a closer fight as the Zen introduces some features the Pro doesn’t offer so while it costs a bit more it isn’t feature parity that will win this fight for the Pro.
Both have aluminum shells and protocol indicators but the Pro scores points for its better display while the Zen uses a simple LED color to indicate which protocol is in use.
Both have coaxial, Optical, and RCA outputs, but the Blue adds balanced 4.4mm output that the Pro lacks. The Pro however doesn’t require that a switch on the reverse of the unit be changed when switching between digital and Analog output ala the Blue.
The Blue also is a Bluetooth only unit, and while most will not find that an issue, the fact that the Pro can be used as a USB DAC in addition does make it a more flexible device.
I found the connectivity to be roughly the same between the two units with neither tending to drop out without multiple barriers and neither suffering from cutouts due to people walking between source and device.
While I will admit to liking the design elements of the Blue and thinking highly of it, the simple fact is unless you need balanced output, the Pro does all the same things at least as well and for roughly 2/3rds of the cost. That makes the recommendation fairly clear for the Pro.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The original Xduoo XQ50 was a well-built unit with good connection options, easy setup, and good sound quality.
Its down-sides were lack of the most recent Bluetooth protocols like AptX-HD and LDAC, and the lack of a display to tell the user what protocol was in use and give information about the source track.
I recommended the XQ50 as it was at least as good as most of its competition at a better price point.
With the XQ50 Pro, Xduoo has fixed all the things that were missing in the original and still kept the price tag less than most of its competitors.
The display screen instantly tells you what connection protocol is in use and relays information on the source file at a glance while the chipset has been improved to support AptX-HD, AptX-LL, AAC, and LDAC.
Few are better at any price point and none can come close at the retail of the XQ50 Pro.
To me, this is a must buy for anyone wanting to add Bluetooth to an existing stereo system. It has all the bells and whistles and gives up nothing to competitors at twice the price. Save yourself some cash and grab an XQ50Pro.