xDuoo XQ-50: Inexpensive and Effective
Today we’re checking out the XQ-50, an affordable Bluetooth 5.0, aptX equipped receiver from xDuoo.
xDuoo is a brand full of variety, from dacs to amps to earphones, and Bluetooth receivers like the XQ-50. While in the past xDuoo has mostly disappointed me, the last couple products I’ve checked out have been winners, and the XQ-50 is no exception.
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
What I Hear While it somewhat defeats the point of a wireless receiver, the majority of my testing was completed with headphones simply to make it as easy as possible to hear what the XQ-50 is bringing to the table. During testing, the XQ-50 was paired with my LG Q70 over Bluetooth using the aptX codec to ensure the best possible quality (out of the supported codecs of course). The XQ-50 was then connected to my TEAC HA-501 desktop amp via the Aux out ports. The LG Q70 was also connected to the HA-501 via a standard 3.5mm aux cable. This setup allowed me to switch between wired and wireless outputs within seconds. Lastly, my Asus FX53V acted as a source to test the XQ-50’s USB DAC functionality. The Hifiman Sundara with it’s wonderfully balanced planar sound acted as my primary musical conduit, though other products found their way into the rotation; Campfire Audio Cascade, Brainwavz Alara, Fearless S6 Rui, Moondrop Starfield, and various others. I also spent some time listening with the XQ-50 connected to my old Creative 2.1 system using an AUX to 3.5mm adapter.
Listening over Bluetooth, I was pleased with what the XQ-50 was producing. It didn’t do much to colour the sound, and sounded fairly neutral across the board with a mild lower treble lift. Extension was good, but with the usual rolloff at either end that isn’t anything unexpected. Only when performing frequency sweeps and comparing to wired use was it noticeable. During regular listening it never cropped up as an issue. Flipping back and forth between output through the Q70’s 3.5mm jack and Bluetooth, there were definitely differences. Nothing so vastly significant so as to seem like you’re listening to two different products though. The most immediately noticeable difference was that over Bluetooth, sound was less organic and a bit more sharp. It sounded akin to the visual difference between heavily processed, artificially sharpened smartphone photos versus softer, more realistic DSLR photos. Detail and coherence is there and quite prominent, but dig a little deeper and it’s the facade begins to falter. Fine details sounded slightly muddied over Bluetooth when compared to the same passages wired. Bass wasn’t quite as textured but retained the slam and speed you would expect. Everything was just a little worse, but still sounded great.
When using the XQ-50 in USB DAC mode, I was less impressed. In this mode the signature was less balanced with enhanced mid-bass and more treble presence. While detail and clarity seemed slightly better when compared to Bluetooth mode, treble wasn’t as smooth or well controlled and came across a hint splashy. The sound stage also felt reduced and less spacious. Bass had more impact though, and sub-bass presence was also enhanced letting my Sundara’s move more air. On one hand, the more v-shaped presentation was extra expressive and with the right set of headphones more fun, but on the other it simply didn’t sound as accurate or clean as wireless did. Hard to believe I’m saying this, but I’d only use the USB DAC mode as backup and would stick to Bluetooth as the best way to make use of the XQ-50’s quality sound.
Tech Inside As discovered earlier, in addition to the Bluetooth functionality, the XQ-50 can act as a USB DAC for your PC. Sabre’s well-regarded ES9018K2M chip handles this. Accessing this feature is as simple as you expect. Connect the USB cable, turn on the XQ-50, and select it as the playback device. Yup. Easy peasy.
The Bluetooth connection is nearly as easy to set up with the XQ-50 going into pairing mode the moment it is turned on, as denoted by the flashing LED under the ST label. To connect, just turn on your source device’s Bluetooth feature and locate the XQ-50. You can’t miss it because it is very clearly labelled “xDuoo XQ-50” in the device list. Once selected, the two devices will connect and the ST light will stop flashing and glow solid blue.
Connection stability over wireless is exceptional. I’m used to portable gear which nearly always hiccups every once in a while. Early onset connection degradation is pretty common once you start introducing obstacles. While the XQ-50 is rated to the standard 33ft/10m range, this is flat out wrong. I can place it in my office and it will retain a stable connection no matter where in the apartment I go. The includes out the front door which is around 50 feet from my work desk and involves going down a hallway, around a corner, through the living room, down another hallway, around another corner, and down yet another hallway. That leaves numerous walls, furniture, rooms, doors, and whatever else in the way, yet the connection never once falters.
Construction Quality The XQ-50’s case is shielded aluminum which when combined with the external, high-gain antenna helps ensure a connection free from disruption. Fit and finish of the case is good, but it’s far from sleek and nothing to write home about. The front and rear plates are about a millimetre larger all around than they need to be, with prominent hex screws holding them in place. All writing seems to be laser etched which is excellent for longevity. You won’t have to worry about any labels rubbing off as your XQ-50 ages.
On the front is the multi-function button that serves to turn the device on and off, as well as pause and play music when connected via Bluetooth. The button feels nice to press with an audible click announcing every depression. To the right are two small holes containing LEDs. The one labelled ST handles notifications for pairing and power, while the HD light advises when you are connected via aptX. Out back are a number of ports and plugs including red and white aux-out ports, coaxial and optical out ports, and a Type-C plug used for both power and the USB DAC functionality. Each port is neatly lined up with the cutouts in the rear aluminum plate. Everything feels rock solid with zero play or looseness.
Overall the XQ-50, while looking very plain, is quite well constructed. The only thing missing is some rubber feet to keep it firmly in place. Maybe some additional weight too. The XQ-50 is quite light and even after installing third party rubber feet, has a tendency to slide out of place due to the weight of the attached wires.
In The Box The XQ-50’s packaging is simple and straightforward. The outer sleeve is bright white with an image of the device on the front, along with rainbow coloured xDuoo branding along the top. On the back of the sleeve is a specification list along with what I assume is a blurb about the device. None of it is in English so I’m not sure what it says. There is also some contact info for xDuoo in the bottom left corner. Sliding off the sleeve reveals a plain cardboard box with the xDuoo logo on top.
Opening the front flap and flipping back the lid, inside you find a warranty card, manual (which includes a decent English translation for mono-lingual fools like myself), the device, it’s removable antenna, and a Type-C USB cable tucked securely inside a foam insert. And that’s it. About as basic an unboxing as it gets. It would have been nice if a power brick was included. Not a huge loss though since most cell phone power bricks meet the 5V/1A requirement, and most people will have at least one kicking around. Plus, it works fine powered by the USB ports on a laptop or desktop computer.
Final Thoughts If you didn’t gather it from all of the above, I quite like the XQ-50. Sure it looks plain and unassuming, and the lack of rubber feet and weight to keep it stable amidst the rest of your stereo equipment is annoying, but the audio performance is great in Bluetooth mode (less so in USB DAC mode), it’s easy to set up, it’s inexpensive, and the wireless range is both insanely good and very stable. I don’t really know what else to say. It does what it is supposed to do, and it does it well. That’s another win for xDuoo in my books.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer Thanks to Steve with Xtenik for arranging a sample of the XQ-50 for the purposes of review. The thoughts here are my subjective opinions based on use of the XQ-50 over nearly two months. They do not represent Xtenik or xDuoo. At the time of writing the XQ-50 could be picked up for 58.00 USD; https://www.xtenik.com/product/xDuoo-xq-50/
Bluetooth Version: 5.0 (Qualcomm QCC3008 Bluetooth chip)
Transmission Distance: about 10m
THD+N (COAXIAL): 0.00087%
Output Level (Optical): 0.5VP-P
Output level (AUX OUT): 2.5V
Support Format: SBC, AAC, aptX
THD+N (AUX OUT): 0.07%
Output Level (COAXIAL): 0.5VP-P
Power Input: DC5V/1A
DAC: ESS Sabre ES9018K2M DAC