Al­pha De­sign Labs (ADL) X1 24/192 USB DAC Head­phone Am­pli­fier


bile oper­a­tion. It sup­ports a di­rect dig­i­tal con­nec­tion for all-but­the-old­est iOS de­vices via an Ap­ple MFI cer­ti­fied USB ca­ble con­nec­tion for play­back of up to 16-bit/48 kHz mu­sic. High-res­o­lu­tion file play­back is also sup­ported, up to 24-bit/192kHz, by USB ca­ble con­nec­tion to a PC or Mac com­puter. I should men­tion that the ADL X1 does not have the abil­ity to dig­i­tally con­nect to An­droid de­vices. How­ever, ADL has this cov­ered with the ADL A1 model ($649) which also of­fers DSD 2x de­cod­ing (2.8M and 5.6M) when con­nected to a PC or Mac.

The ADL X1 is about the size of an iPhone with about twice the thick­ness. It mea­sures just 6.8 cm (W) x 11.8 cm (L) x 1.65 cm (D) and weighs a mere 147g. The sides and back of the X1 are made of an ABS plas­tic, how­ever, it is in a taste­ful matte-black with a suede-like an­ti­s­lip feel. The face is brushed alu­minum and hosts six minia­ture white LED lights which in­di­cate the in­com­ing mu­sic sig­nal sam­ple rate – a great fea­ture in my book. The face­plate is of­fered in four an­odized metal­lic fin­ishes, in­clud­ing: blue, black, sil­ver and red. The re­view sam­ple came in the red, which I re­ally liked – though I con­fess that I’m a bit of an at­ten­tion seeker when it comes to my mo­bile gear. Over­all fit and fin­ish is very good and if I had to pick at any­thing, it would be the vol­ume con­trol, which is made of a seem­ingly in­ex­pen­sive plas­tic with a po­si­tion notch that I found dif­fi­cult to see. To its credit, the vol­ume knob did have a pos­i­tive on/off click and felt snug across its sweep.

The ADL X1 sports nu­mer­ous con­nec- tions, in­clud­ing an ana­log 3.5mm head­phone jack and 3.5 mm line-in jack, and a slider-switch marked as 1/2 GND TRRS that al­lows for match­ing to dif­fer­ent 4-pin head­phone types (Sony or Ap­ple). There is also a USB miniB socket for com­puter/ charger con­nec­tion, a USB A Ap­ple MFI Cer­ti­fied socket for Ap­ple de­vices and a 3.5 mm head­phone out jack that dou­bles as a mini-op­ti­cal S/PDIF 24/192 dig­i­tal out­put. A slider-switch can be found on the back-side to tog­gle be­tween Ap­ple/ com­puter con­nec­tion.

In­ter­nally the X1 uses some fine parts, in­clud­ing: a high-per­for­mance ESSES9023 24-bit/192kHz DAC chip, a 3.7V 2600mAh lithium-ion recharge­able bat­tery (7.5 play­back hours) and a 4-layer gold-plated printed cir­cuit board. The X1 can be recharged via a com­puter USB con­nec­tion or a ded­i­cated power sup­ply (sold separately). Max­i­mum power out­put of the X1 is 34mW (12 ohm), 60mW (16 ohm), 82mW (32 ohm), 86mW (56 ohm), 36mW (300 ohm) and 19mW (600 ohm) – all at 1% THD/1kHz. Please see the “quick info” box at the end of this ar­ti­cle for to­tal har­monic dis­tor­tion and sig­nal-to-noise ra­tio rat­ings.

The ADL X1 came pack­aged well in a slip cover box with a foam insert. Along with the X1 it­self, the box con­tained a generic USB ca­ble (Type A to mini-B), a 3.5mm to 3.5mm ca­ble, USB-A to 30pin MFI iDe­vice ca­ble and dust plugs for the USB and op­ti­cal S/PDIF jacks. And, I can’t for­get the handy ADL-em­blazed sil­i­con elas­tic band for cou­pling the X1 to a mu­sic-player/smart-phone.

To eval­u­ate the X1, I used it with my 3rd gen­er­a­tion iPad us­ing the in­cluded USB-A to 30pin MFI ca­ble as well as an up­graded ADL iD-30p cord ($66). To test high-res­o­lu­tion file play­back, I con­nected the X1 to my PC us­ing the in­cluded USB A-miniB cord, as well as, an up­graded 1.8 me­ter ADL For­mula 2 USB A-miniB cord ($66). To make this work, I had to in­stall a soft­ware driver for the X1 from the ADL web­site. Though I do own an

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