Xduoo Link2 Bal Review
Xduoo is no stranger to the audiophile community in the dac/amp scene. They offer various dac/amps ranging from budget range all the way to high end’s range. The Link2Bal that I have with me today is the successor to Link2. I have not heard of Link2 before so I can't really comment on that. Based on the specifications, it seems Link2Bal is considered as a major upgrade over the OG LInk2.
Output power: 3.5mm: 125mW@32ohm / 4.4mm: 270mW@32ohm
Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
Sample rate: Up to PCM 32bit/384kHz and DSD256
IEM/Headphone used for testing
Unique Melody 2HT (4.4)
Effect Audio Axiom (4.4)
Grado SR125X (3.5)
FAudio Major (3.5)
Build quality of Link2Bal is good. In fact it doesn’t look cheap, it is not supposed to for its asking price, both front and back are glass, a fingerprint magnet and prone to scratches.
Type C port on the dongle itself, so you can swap cables around, iOS’s cable, or type C, Physical volume control button + and -, and also the red button which plays/pause your song. Link2Bal came with the type c to lightning cable, so it doesn't matter if you are on iOS or Android or even Windows or Mac, you’re covered, plug it in and you’re good to go.
It has got both 3.5 SE and 4.4 Bal output, so put those adapters aside and just plug it in. It also has two power modes, namely normal and turbo, which I presumed to be normal/high gain, USB mode’s switch is also included as well, very useful if you want to connect Link2Bal to an older device, you can easily switch it to UAC1.0.
Sound Impression (Normal Gain Mode connected to Windows 11 Laptop)
The first thing that came to my mind when listening via Link2Bal is how musical it is. The tonality of it it's just different from the Tempotec E44 which I also reviewed recently. Tempote E44 shares the same dual dac chip as Link2Bal as well, with weaker amplification.
Link2Bal’s tonality is tilting towards the warmer side of the spectrum, not overly warm, but warm enough for me to define it as musical, coupled with thick note weight, it really sings when it’s paired with the right IEM/Headphone.
Bass is slightly slower on the Link2Bal, but that doesn’t mean they can’t keep up with fast tracks. The slightly slower bass contributed to Link2Bal’s overall musical tonality which I personally enjoyed very much
Bass is slightly boosted to my ears, not so much that it ruined the overall experience
Mids are smooth and plenty of details in this range
String instruments sounded very natural to my ears,
Both male and female vocal has got good texture to it, they definitely don’t sound dry
Treble rendition on Link2Bal is slightly energetic, however, it depends on your pairing with the IEM/Headphones, listening to it with Effect Audio’s Axiom exhibited smooth and non peaky highs
Detail retrieval on micro details seems to be average to me, as the upper treble is slightly rolled off to my ears, hence contributing to the warm tonality that i mentioned earlier
Grado SR125X : Listening to Sinne Eeg’s We’ve just Begun via this combo, it is very musical and euphony. It is as if I am present with the artist. Grado SR125x being an open back headphone, and also quite energetic one, when paired with Link2Bal, the experience is very different, the bass on the 125x is slightly boosted, the treble is slightly tamed(I never had issue with Grado’s high, in fact i love em), yet retaining the details. However the micro detail does lose out a bit due to the added warmth.
Unique Melody’s 2HT : Listening to the same track with 2HT, the difference is entirely different, 2HT by itself is very airy and the spatial presentation is big, coupled with Link2Bal, it kind of boosted the soundstage of 2HT even more. Holographic kind of experience. This pairing personally synergizes the most to me(Subjective, your mileage might vary based on your preference.)
Faudio Major : Major paired with Link2Bal synergized quite well, Major has got some peaky treble and it can be tiring to listen to for some tracks. Paired with Link2Bal, the high does tame down slightly and adds body to the treble. Mids are slightly forward but not intrusive and the upper mids have got a little bit more body to it. Soundstage is wide and tall
Effect Audio Axiom : Axiom on its own is already very musical and detailed. Pairing it with Link2Bal is not that suitable, at least for me. It added a little more thump on the Axiom, which on its own is already warm and thumpy. Axiom has got a very good soundstage and imaging when paired with the right source, however, Link2Bal is not it as it made Axiom’s soundstage slightly more forward, sounding a little lacking in terms of width, imaging is still good. Personally I don't prefer this pairing as it thickens the overall note weight which I personally find is already sufficient with other pairing
Power Consumption on Mobile (iPhone 12 Mini)
Please take note that i do not have any professional measurements tool to measure the power consumption rate on the device, it is solely based on my observation and my estimation
Going from 100%, i played several songs via Apple Music and most of the tracks are 24-96 or 16-44, on either 4.4 or 3.5, normal gain
Each track running around 4 minutes +-, draining almost one percent for each track, It does drain quite a bit of power compared to Apple’s Lightning Dongle
Do take note that even though iPhone 12 Mini’s battery capacity itself is not big, but Link2Bal itself does consume quite a bit of power
Powering Link2Bal via laptop’s USB 3.0 port, it received even more power compared to my mobile’s lightning port, it is as if running normal mode on high gain without turning the switch to high gain, if you get what i mean
More dynamic and musical sounding
Xduoo’s Link2Bal is a power dongle solution for audiophiles who are always on the move seeking quality sound output as well as sufficient power to drive their headphone/IEM. Link2Bal is a musical sounding dongle dac/amp yet retaining above average detail retrieval capability, not to mention that it is also very easy to pair with any IEM/Headphone for the musical experience, of course this is based on what i have tried and tested, your experience might vary based on your own gears.
It is very easy for me to recommend this dongle to anyone who is looking for a musical sounding dongle dac/amp. However, this dongle is not for you if you are looking for a clean and energetic sound as Link2Bal is not that.
*big thanks to ShezhenAudio as always for sending this over for the purpose of reviewing it. Despite the sample not costing me anything, I am in no way influenced by them to produce this review. All thoughts are of my own.
Head over to their site if you’re interested in grabbing a pair