X-HiFi XDC-1 Desktop Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Tuesday, 01 July 2003

Introduction
As audio enthusiasts, we have made it one of our life’s missions to search out the best in musical reproduction that our ever-growing budgets will allow into our listening rooms. As we voraciously research each strategic move to improve our systems at home, we are more often than not listening to more and more music on our computers at work. The reality is that we spend far more time enjoying music at the office, spinning (and sometimes ripping) CDs and listening to songs from our growing collection of MP3s, as well as other media including Windows Media 9 files, DVD-Video discs, QuickTime files, PC games, and many others. While our high-end AV systems are in standby mode, waiting for us to get home, too many of us spend the majority of our hours listening to music listening on the crappy $20 per pair, injection-molded speakers that come with your Dell or Gateway, when we all have an appreciation for better hardware.

A few years ago, I found an ultra-high-end brand of desktop speakers that, when matched with their trick power amp, a Sunfire subwoofer and high-end cables, priced in at about $6,000 retail. Their manufacturer, Evett and Shaw, went bust for a number of reasons, just like many of its dotcom exec clients. $6,000 is a bit heavy for anyone to spend for an office system, but what if you could drastically improve the sounds you hear all day long for one-tenth of the price? We are now talking about the newly-introduced Xhifi XDC-1 2.1 powered sat-sub speaker system.

Sold directly to consumers, the Xhifi XDC-1 is a slim yet powerful desktop speaker system, modified and marketed by two high-end audio veterans in Mel and Howard Schilling, the founders of Camelot Technology. Xhifi is a completely different venture pointed at a completely different audience, but the goal is still the same: improving your quality of life through better sound. The XDC-1 is a $995 complete speaker system that includes two ultra-slim desktop pods that take up almost no space on your desk. The main speaker’s drivers are uniquely light and rounded to match the similarly rounded speaker pods. The effect is better imaging on your desktop without having the placement of the speakers be all that critical.

The XDC-1’s heart and soul is installed in its subwoofer, which is powered by a 50-watt class B amplifier and can put out a punchy low end that will make the guy in the next cubicle hope that your lunch break will be over soon. Also in the subwoofer is an innovative 50-watt digital amplifier for the main speakers. The combination of the digital amp with the unique speaker drivers makes for a very familiar, warm and comfortable audiophile sound not normally associated with desktop speakers, certainly not at this price point.

The overall look of the XDC-1 needs to be seen to be appreciated. These speakers are a luxury goods product, despite their modest price. The wood finish and curved edges on both speakers and subs suggest that the manufacturing costs are incredibly high. In actuality, the speakers are built by JVC and then greatly modified by Xhifi to include digital amplifiers, cutom crossovers and much more. For an additional fee, you can opt to buy higher quality braided cables, much as you would for your home system. If nothing else, these cables look far more in-line with the elegant façade of the XDC-1.

Setup
Hooking up the XDC-1 system to the office iMac was nothing short of a breeze, taking no more than 10 minutes from the time we cracked open the boxes to the moment we screwed in the last speaker spike. Literally, all of the cables plug into the back of the subwoofer. Depending on which outputs you have on the back of your computer, you will need to make sure you have the right interconnects and/or connectors. In the case of the iMac, we used the one-eighth-inch headphone out jack, which worked flawlessly. If you ask, Xhifi may have the adaptor you need in stock. If not, Radio Shack certainly does. If your PC or game system has RCA outs, then you will have an even easier time plugging your source into your XDC-1.

Listening
The most important performance feature of any desktop speaker system is its ability to resolve detail at very low levels. I have my system on all day, every day, even when I am on the phone, in meetings and beyond. The system has to be set at very, very low levels so as to not annoy coworkers or office neighbors. The XDC-1’s killer imaging for such a small speaker helps greatly in this area. When listening to “Bim Bom” from the Verve Brazilian jazz compilation NovaBossa, you could hear the brief burst of applause lift above the din of the office even at low levels to give you a shot of musical reality, like a tall espresso at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Joao Gilberto’s smooth strummings sound resolute, yet soft. In comparison to another big-name desktop speaker system we have connected to our “Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” the XDC-1 were clearly superior. While the other speakers have no subwoofer, the XDC-1’s woofer was playing down its role, only adding in an ever so slight bump in the mid to low end. The crossover point for the XDC-1 between sub and satellites is a relatively high 230 Hz.

Later in the evening, after most people have left work from my floor, I got a chance to crank up the XDC-1s to louder levels. On “Soul Man” from the Blues Brothers’ Briefcase Full of Blues (Atlantic), the XDC-1 were able to create a believable soundstage for this familiar live track. When Matt “Guitar” Murphy takes his solo, you can hear the individual strings resonate as he slides from note to note and string to string in his solo. At lower levels, the XDC-1 holds together with a warm but cohesive sound with the horns on the outro of the song.

As the sun went down and the listening sessions got louder and louder, I found myself calling Pink Dot (a delivery service for lazy Los Angelenos) for a few Bic lighters because of “No One Like You” from The Scorpions’ Worldwide Live (Mercury). You could actually hear the lightest essence of schnitzel on Klaus Meine’s voice as he belts out the awkwardly heartfelt stadium metal anthem. This tune ultimately didn’t have the resolution of some of the other tracks, but what it lacked in audio resolution, it made up for with hairspray, German pride and leather pants.

The best the XDC-1 sounded was on “Spookshow Baby (Black Leather Cat Suit Mix)” from Rob Zombie’s American Music To Strip By CD (Geffen). The jacked-up bass on the track absolutely lit up the XDC-1’s woofer, making it hammer out the low end in politically incorrect ways. The techno effects on this remix sound extra cool on the XDC-1 in the desktop environment.

At a recent consumer AV show in San Francisco, I was able to play with the XDC-1 while connected to a number of other sources, including a Microsoft Xbox. I am no expert gamer, but while playing “Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War,” a shoot ‘em up WWII-themed game from Activision, I nearly laughed myself to the point of tears with the XDC-1 blasting and the Xbox controllers vibrating in my hands. While overtly and insensitively violent, the game was pure escapism from a hectic tradeshow environment.

Also at the show, I watched a number of performances from the G3 (Joe Satriani, Steve Via and Eric Johnson) guitar gurus on DVD-Video on an iMac. Not all older computers have DVD players in them, but almost all new ones do. For dorm room or kid’s bedroom applications, the XDC-1 is a killer solution for punchy sound from a small system at a low price. The resolution on the iMac that xHiFi had at the show was notable and the sound kept up with the performances, which are mind-blowing for anyone who appreciates flamboyant guitar solos.

The Downside
Height was an issue for me with the XDC-1. Being 6’3”, I found the speakers to be best when close to my ear level. This has a lot to do with height of chair, desktop and so on, and is only really relevant for critical listening sessions. I did notice, during the San Francisco sessions, that the XDC-1s sounded even better because they were positioned on very tall desks designed for standing rather than sitting.

One of my recording professors at USC was fond of saying “You can’t polish a turd,” and the Xhifi XDC-1 cannot make a crappy-sounding MP3 sound like 24-bit DVD-Audio. Highly buffered Internet radio also doesn’t gleam like XM satellite radio. It is no fault of the speakers themselves, but it is important to set your expectations at the right level for the XDC-1. If you listen to good-sounding CDs all day – even ripped ones – they will sound excellent even at low levels. Poor quality sources will remain poor-sounding.

Conclusion
At their price, the XDC-1s from Xhifi are a true find. They allow you to bring your enthusiasm for high-performance AV to your work environment, home office, kid’s room and beyond for $995. Most notable is the fact that the XDC-1s actually sound good. I can say all but one desktop system I have ever heard has left me unimpressed. Beyond the smooth yet punchy sound are the striking looks and slim footprints that allow you to stick the XDC-1s in places that other small speakers cannot go.

If you have a taste for better sound than what comes wrapped up in your PC or Mac, you should take a look at the XDC-1 from Xhifi. It has the ability to make beautiful music for you while you work and play.
Manufacturer X-HiFi
Model XDC-1 Desktop Speaker System
Reviewer





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