Welcome to my review of the iFi xDSD Gryphon which retails for £599.
The Key Features
Full MQA decoding – Native DSD (up to DSD512) and full MQA decoding up to 384kHZ on a powerful 16 – core XMOS processor
Hi-Res Audio – PCM up to 32- bit / 768kHz via USB or 192kHz via optical or coaxial and Advanced 96kHz Bluetooth 5.1 + module with QCC5100 chipset supports various HD formats including aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, LDAC and HWA / LHDC.
Balanced (4.4mm Pentaconn) and S – Balanced (3.5mm) analogue inputs and outputs. Built – in iEmatch and auto – gain technology automatically adjusts output to suit headphones / IEM sensitivity.
Extras including XBass and xSpace settings, balanced circuit design with OptimaLoop multi – path feedback and an ultra-low noise, 1000mW high power amplifier
Military Grade Aluminum with an OLED display finishes
Audio Tracks used for Testing
-Roxy Music – True to Life (Remastered) -Leonard Cohen – In My Secret Life -Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy (2012 Mix Master) -Eric Clapton – Layla (Acoustic Live at MTV Unplugged) -Axel F – From Beverly Hills Cop -Natalie Merchant – Ophelia -CeeLo Green – Bright Lights Bigger City -Stevie Ray Vaughan – Tin Pan Alley -K.D. Lang – Constant Craving -Nigel Kennedy – The New Four Seasons -Hans Zimmer – Mountains
The iFi xDSD Gryphon is by far my favourite amp/DAC with every option I would have ever asked for. Plus it sounds incredible. Gold star award. 9.9/10.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro was probably the most anticipated and hyped phone in a while. This was the first phone from Google that finally used new camera hardware. The previous Pixels phones had been using for the last 4 years the same camera hardware, with the reliance on its computational software.
So let’s start at the beginning. Above photo is the setup process where it is transferring all my data from my iPhone 13 Pro. This is a pretty good solution as its moves most of the core data across including SMS, photos and even WhatsApp chats. So a good start.
Then there’s the fingerprint sensor, which sits behind the front screen about one third up from the bottom. The Pixel also downloaded apps that were cross platform, that is available on iOS and android, so within a few hours I had a fully setup Pixel 6 Pro, complete with a out of the box firmware update as well. So what could possibly go wrong?
Well the first thing to test would have to be the camera.
Above, this is a Pixel 6 Pro night mode shot, edited by myself for a more dramatic shot. And with this one particular shot, it produced a better quality shot than my iPhone 13 Pro using its night mode. Except for two things. One the iPhone shot looked more realistic and more like what my eyes were seeing and secondly the iPhone 13 Pro only needed 23 seconds. For context, both phones were on a tripod to get the best night exposure times. The Pixel 6 Pro need 4 mins and 12 secs.
Above, another Pixel 6 Pro, using its fancy motion mode.
All was going well with the Pixel 6 Pro until I took it out during the daytime for some shots vs the iPhone 13 Pro.
This is when I began to swear at the frustration of unlocking the Pixel 6 Pro with its fingerprint sensor. It was so hit and miss and so slow. Face ID on the iPhone was instant. Switching between the two phones to snap each shot, I also began to appreciate the smaller physical size of the iPhone 13 Pro versus the large slab size of the Pixel 6 Pro. Just one more point on the fingerprint sensor, if you hands are even slightly wet, you’ll struggle even more to unlock it.
Have no fear I thought. The frustration of using the Pixel 6 Pro fingerprint sensor will be worth it as the photos will be so good vs the iPhone 13 Pro. IMO the iPhone did better in 8 out of 10 pics. The Pixel just goes overboard too much with the HDR processing to the point the photos look fake. When it comes to video, the iPhone is better, but that wasn’t unexpected. The other point I noticed was the battery drain. The iPhone barely broke a sweat, whereas the Pixel had lost a 20% more battery.
Just going back to the camera. With the Pixel 6 Pro it has the fancy long exposure modes. I took a shot of a waterfall. It took 4 to 5 seconds to take the shot. The iPhone 13 Pro was a split second using Live Photo mode. With the iPhone once you have snapped the shot, go to the Photo gallery, and toggle the Live Photo into long exposure. The end results. Not only did the iPhone take under a second to take the shot, but the silky water effect was miles better than the Pixel.
Android 12 had a number of positives but also wasn’t without its frustrations and bugs. Ultimately the inconsistency of unlocking the Pixel 6 Pro and my views of the camera not being blown away, have killed my love affair of this new phone from Google.
Now some context. I believe the December 2021 update is meant to improve the responsiveness of the fingerprint sensor. We shall see if this pans out, I have looked at photos from many other people who have shared their Pixel 6 shots. From what I have seen, pets and people work reasonably well, are punchy and sharp and instantly shareable on social media. Other photos even though they are heavy in the HDR processing do look ok on social media, just not my cup of tea at all.
Welcome to my review of the iFi Audio GO Blu and Shanling UP5. Both are reviewed and compared with all eleven differences highlighted.
The iFi Audio GO Blue retails for £199 and the Shanling UP5 for £179.
The video review is over 20 minutes long, but don’t worry, there are chapters and an index in the YouTube video description box that enable you to skip back and forth between the different sections. However, I do recommend watching the whole video and there is a ton of detail covered.
Both devices have a lot of differences, but for me the winner is the iFi Audio GO Blu. Very highly recommended 9.1/10.
So Apple has just launched its new iPhone 13 range, the iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max.
Below I am sharing my views on these new iPhones with a particular slant towards the photography and videography aspects.
Firstly, I will just mention the standard iPhone 13 and 13 Mini. If you have the 12 or 12 Mini, there is no reason IMO to look at upgrading to these. Yes these have brighter screens, better claimed battery life, better camera hardware including improved processing, ISP, processor and camera features. In fact the main rear wide sensor on these models looks like it was the sensor used on the iPhone 12 Pro Max with its advanced sensor shift stabilisation. With the new A15 processor and smart HDR4, this rear sensor will take excellent photos. The ultra wide camera has also been marginally improved. So what you will have is an easy to use competent camera which will create lovely video or photos for social media. But as I have said, I don’t believe these changes are enough to warrant an upgrade from last year’s versions.
However, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are a different proposition. Firstly, unlike last year, both the Pro and Pro Max have the identical camera modules. All 3 rear cameras are improved even further than the standard iPhone 13 models. The ultra wide now has auto focus enabling macro photography. Astrophotography is now possible too. All 3 rear lenses allow night mode. The zoom lens is now 3 x optical zoom. ProRAW on photos is still present. But coming soon ProRes video will be on board. For videography this is an incredible feat. One thing to bear in mind, the 128gb iPhone 13 Pro won’t allow 4K Pro Res, just 1080p. You can still shoot 4K in the other modes though. Apple is only allowing ProRes at 4K on the 256gb, 512gb and 1TB storage options. In case you think this is Apple forcing you to buy a higher storage version, its not as a 10 min 4K ProRes video will take up approximately 100gb.
The Pro and Pro Max also have an extra “core” in the A15 processor to enable more capabilities and I would imagine during a teardown the RAM is higher than the standard iPhone 13 as well. So whilst you will be able to film such high quality video, what makes it even more incredible, is that you will be able to edit this on the iPhone as well.
I just want to go back to the camera upgrades. Specifically the light gathering improvements. The wide camera can now gather 2.2x more light. The ultra wide 92% more light. With the lidar sensor and all the A15 and ISP improvements the iPhone 13 Pro is looking like a beast for photography and videography.
If you weren’t sold on the iPhone 13 Pro range, then there is the 120hz variable refresh rate screen, better battery life, brighter screens and smaller notch.
I can’t wait to test out the new cameras in real world situations, as well as see how they far with sunrises and sunsets on Dartmoor. See the results on my social media accounts – gavinsgadgets for twitter and instagram.
Welcome to my review of the iFi ZEN Blue V2 which retails for £159.
The Key Features
The ZEN Blue V2 features easy Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity using the latest Qualcomm 5100 series Bluetooth. Codecs supported are SBC, AAC, LDAC, HWA, LHDC, apt X and apt X HD. That’s CD quality up to 24bits/192kHz from AAC and apt X HD.
Analogue outputs are either RCA or 4.4mm, digital is either coaxial or optical. Or even SPDIF.
So what’s new with V2. Upgraded jitter clock with over 20db performance, improved aerial with 80% more reach and lots more.
To learn more, watch the video covering all aspects of the ZEN Blue V2.
The ZEN Blue V2 is a simple to operate, yet highly effective high quality device. Highly recommended. 9.3/10
Welcome to my review of the iFi ZEN Stream that retails for £399. The ZEN Stream is a network audio transport, focused around maintaining audio quality.
In terms of connections this is done via WiFi or Ethernet. It has quite a number of options which are covered off in my video review.
The Key Features
The ZEN Stream allows you to add network streaming to your existing system. Outputs via USB 3.0 or SPDIF/Optical. Supports up to 384kHz PCM, DSD256 and MQA. Firmware upgradeable keeps it future proof. Likely extra functionality will be added. Supports a ton of services from Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz, YouTube Music, AirPlay, DLNA, Roon and many more.
There’s lots to talk about, so watch my video, which covers everything from what’s in the box, closer inspection of all the hardware and functionality, how to setup and ultimately the quality and verdict.
The iFi ZEN Stream is a fantastic product, worthy of its highly recommended award. 9.2/10.
Welcome to my review of the Bosch Freshup which retails for £249.99.
It is not very often that a product comes along that simply blows my mind. This is one of them. At first, I was somewhat skeptical that this magic handheld device could do exactly what it said on the tin.