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IBASSO DX200 – REFERENCE FLAGSHIP FROM IBASSO

IBASSO DX200 – REFERENCE FLAGSHIP FROM IBASSO

DX200 is iBasso’s Flagship DAP (Digital Audio Player), and it is here to show how much iBasso improved over the ears, and how their latest innovation sounds like. With an extreme hardware backing it, DX200 might be the DAP that will fulfill all your audio needs, as it has all the bells and whistles you can wish for, and more.

 

Introduction

iBasso is one of the largest and most well-known DAP producers from China, being up there with all the other titans, having provided a lot of delightful devices and music companions over the years, from the little DX50, to the older flagship DX100, all the way to their current flagship DX200. I haven’t had the chance to hear the older iBasso products, but I have an extensive DAP collection to compare DX200 to, from entry-level DAPs, all the way to the most recent and high-end DAPs.

iBasso’s public relations department has proven to be quite excellent, providing answers to all questions and solving every issue that may arise. This being said, iBasso is one of the companies I really trust to find the best solution for their customers and to provide an excellent customer satisfaction.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with iBasso, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by iBasso or any other company. I’d like to thank Paul from iBasso for providing the sample for the review. The sample was provided along with iBasso’s request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with iBasso DX200. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in DX200 find their next music companion.

 

First Impression

I received DX200 soon after I went out of my medical issues, so my mental and my physical state were not exactly great by any means.

In fact, this is a funny story full of adventure and sudden turn of events.


DX200 was delivered on a pretty busy day, mere days after my health was starting to get better. One of the days when I was eating outside in Bucharest with my girl, I was waiting for our order to be processed, when the DHL driver called me and asked me if I can come and pick up the package really quickly. After a quick moment of thinking, I thought that I have just placed the order, so I knew it was going to take at least twenty more minutes for it to be ready, so we both left the table and went ahead to pick the package. The driver was really nice, and the delivery took less than three minutes.


We went back to the table in a haste, as cold pizza is not the best kind of pizza.


Although in a public place, and clearly not in the best kind of conditions, curiosity kept pushing me more and more, until the moment I actually went ahead and started opening the package right there. After getting through the first layer of packaging, I realised that it probably wasn’t the best thing to unpack DX200 there, so I spent the next half an hour eating while contemplating what might be hiding within that rather large, yet elegant looking box.


When we reached home, I managed to take a little pause from my schedule and unpack the mighty DX200. At first I was amazed by the level of detail and elegance iBasso built in the box and by how proud they present DX200, as true masterpiece DAP. Getting it out of the box was rather easy, and my curiosity couldn’t really be held within as my feet were tapping from excitement to hear the magic of DX200 first hand.


I plugged in my mSD card with my portable music library and pressed play.


The song of choice was Machinae Supremacy – Cybergenesis. I plugged HIFIMAN RE2000 in, looking forward to the ultimate experience with this pairing between two exquisite Flagship devices. DX200 started playing with an exceptional detail and precision, revealing a lot of detail in the guitars, rendering the voices with exceptional clarity and an ultimately perfect tone, all while the background guitars played more musical than they ever were. Although my schedule was quite busy, I took a moment to breathe, leaned back in my chair, and although it was extremely hot in the room, I closed my eyes for a moment and couldn’t notice the heat of that summer day, but the amazing musical scene presented by DX200 in combination with RE2000. As it was quite the exceptional piece, I went ahead and played a few more songs, and although I had to leave Bucharest in just a few minutes after that, things were okay – I decided to make DX200 an addition to the trip that followed.




Packaging


First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:

The unboxing experience of DX200 is exquisite and extraordinary, with a gorgeous package that is ingeniously designed to impress the buyer from the first moment he has contact with iBasso and their products. The outer box has a beautiful, velvety pattern to the box, which opens as if it were cut by a sword at an angle which slightly reminds of the “Dutch Angle”.

Within the inner box, you can find DX200 seated vertically in a soft foam cutout, presented as a high-end, flagship device. iBasso packaged a lot of extras with DX200, all the cables you will need, along with a genuine leather cover case for DX200. The DAP comes with a screen protector from the factory, and it comes half charged, for the best storage of its batteries while not in usage.

The unboxing is as high-end and spectacular as it gets, with ultra high-end materials all around, and with an excellent package content for DX200, as it comes with:


A Leather Case

A Quick Start Guid

The Warranty Card

Type-C Cable

Balanced Burn-in Cable

Coaxial Cable

 

Technical Specifications

DAC – Dual ESS9028PRO Desktop Class DAC Chips
Perfect Bit Playback – Yes
Max Decoding – 32bit / 384kHz
Max Native DSD Decoding – 512x
USB DAC – Yes, XMOS Receiver + dedicated Tesycon Driver
Display – 4.2″ IPS (1280 x 768)
Optical Output – Yes
RAM – 2 GB LPDDR3
CPU – 8 Core
Internal Memory – 64GB
Wifi – Both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz
Bluetooth – 4.0
Interchangeable Cards – Yes
Digital Volume Control – 150 Steps
Battery – 4400 mAh, 3.8V Li-Polymer
Frequency Response –
Balanced Output – Yes, 2.5mm with AMP1, 4.4mm with AMP4
SE Output – Yes, 3.5mm


Build Quality/Aesthetics/UI/Firmware

DX200 is one of the most solid devices I had the honor to hold in my hand, every single part of it coming together perfectly in what can only be named an “art”. The front of the devices presents a large and high quality, high-luminosity and colorful screen, the edges present the buttons of DX200, along with the volume wheel, and the back has a black matte surface, with a texture for a better grip in the top region. The display has enough brightness for outdoors usage (one of the best I’ve seen), and it doesn’t have the blue tint most displays have when it comes to portable devices.

DX200 features interchangeable AMP cards, but it should be noted that those are attached in a very solid manner, with a secure locking mechanism, the user having to adjust only two screws. There is no wiggle or space to play, the AMP modules coming together perfectly with the DAP body. The AMP module connector pins are gold-plated and look very solid. 

 

There is a SPDIF output, a USB Type-C, and a power button on the top of the DAP. There is a volume wheel, and a forward, play/pause, and a backward button on the right side. The mSD slot can be found on the left side. Each AMP module will change the outputs found on the bottom, but the AMP module that comes with DX200 has a Headphone Output, a Line Out, and a 2.5mm Balanced Line Out.

DX200 features soft angles, and the DAP sits comfortably both in hand and in pocket. It is a bit thick compared to the average smartphone, but I had no issues pocketing it, and it is as thick as most audiophile grade DAPs. The weight is not too light nor too heavy for a DAP, and the mSD card slot clicks right in place.

The UI is extremely Fluid, DX200 sports both a Pure mode and an Android mode. There is a Lurker’s mode available, which provides even more support for the DAP, but I have been using it with the factory firmware, and I have been extremely happy. The DAP runs smooth, it does everything it should to, as it should be doing it, without pauses, interruptions of anything else. The music player app looks elegant, and works flawlessly.


It should be noted that DX200 offers filters options, enabled by its ESS DAC, and DX200 also presents the user with a few graphical explanations for what each digital filter does.


The DAP starts in about 20 seconds, being a bit faster than most smartphones, and DX200 does not require to scan its mSD card again, after a restart. One can swipe left on the main music screen to go to a graphical selection type screen. Swiping right from the main music screen brings up a settings menu. The EQ function of DX200 is quite excellent, it does not add any kind of noise, and it was extremely useful for me. You can fine tune the EQ precisely, and it has 10 bands. DX200 has a working Gapless playback option, and it can be used as a USB DAC, working quite well when used as such. There is no delay and it simply works with windows 10. DX200 can play videos flawlessly, and you can view your favorite photos and images on it. All typical Android usage scenarios are available on DX200, and it does all works flawlessly for its hardware. OTG functions work very nice as well.


The Mango Mode (Audio Pure Mode) saves a bit of energy by turning off certain Android services. This mode also presents the user with a slightly different GUI (Graphical User Interface), and it is slightly different from the Music app from the Android mode, but it is also lighter.


iBasso has been standing behind their products for a long while now, and they plan to support DX200 for a long time to come, with both future firmware updates, upcoming AMP modules, and excellent warranty services.

 

Sound Quality

Describing the Sonic Signature of a DAP (Digital Audio Player) can be fairly complicated as the ideal source should sound transparent and should leave the coloring for the IEMs and Headphones. This being said, every single DAP out there will change the sound in some way with every headphone and IEM, some people naming this “Headphone – DAP Synergy”.



DX200 has a natural and revealing signature, with an extremely musical tonality that balances the analytical signature ESS DACs are known for. DX200 is quite organic, but it presents the sound with the best of both worlds, an organic musicality, yet a neutral signature that reveals the technical side of things with an analytical performance, along with a welcome smoothness.

The bottom end of DX200 is fairly quick as DX200 features a fast yet non-aggressive bass, with a nice punch and impact, and a very good transient response. The bass can go as low as it is needed, and it can change quickly, leading to a good texture representation in the lower registers. Bass guitars have a satisfying feeling, and bass notes from electronic music is deep, quick and well-rounded.

Thousand Foot Krutch – Absolute – The song starts with a well-paced and intimate intro. Cymbals are clear, detailed, and the drums are impactful and snappy. The bass feels visceral, presented with excellent depth and impact, while the voices feel tangible and have a natural tone. The lead guitars are presented with excellent textures and emotion, and background guitars are always audible and presented with a good amount of musicality and detail. The story about the man who searches the absolute and how he asks for the absolute from the Skies, is presented with excellent emotional impact, and it is easy to start tapping your feet while listening to this song, or even to start singing along.

The Midrange is presented with very good detail and instrument layering, in an organic and rich fashion, and it sounds very musical, regardless of the music that is being played. The very impressive instrument separation coupled with an excellent soundstage and a quick transient response leads to a sound that is natural, yet very detailed, with good technical abilities. Violins and other stringed instruments bear excellent emotion to them, and voices always sound natural and their tone is spot-on.

Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine? – The song starts with a slow and impactful intro followed by a playful combination of smooth cymbals, strong and impactful bass, and a clear and natural voice. The guitars have a well-textured presentation, while the drums are played with good timing and dynamics. The song is presented with good soundstage and excellent instrument separation. The story about the man who wonders about the love of his life is presented naturally, and with a good emotional impact.

The top end of DX200 is extended very well, being presented with enough sparkle and airness to make all music feel energetic and vibrant. The cymbal crashes last for the right amount of time, and trumpets have enough energy to sound impressive. The treble is not over-enhanced or anything of the like, being presented naturally, as DX200 w/ AMP1 is very neutral.

Ken Ashcrop – Absolute Territory – The song starts with a thick bass line accompanied by a snappy drum set, and a smooth cymbal playing in the background. Voices sound sweet and melodic, while the guitar lines are presented forward and have a very musical and dynamic sound. The song feels heavy and is presented with excellent emotional impact during its bridges, and everything is presented with incredible detail. Electronic instruments have a very good width and separation from the other instruments. The message about the man dreaming and living with the love of his life is presented in a romantic and playful way, the way it was intended.

The way DX200 presents the soundstage can vary a bit with each AMP module, starting with a very natural soundstage presentation and enhancement with AMP1, growing in size and depth with AMP2 and AMP3 and AMP5. We’ll review each of those independently, so let’s talk a bit about AMP1. AMP1 provides a precise and natural soundstage, having a pinpoint precision, placing every single instrument in its intended place, and placing the listener right in the middle, with everything else happening around them. If there is one word to describe the soundstage of AMP1, that is Reference – exactly as it should be.

DX200 provides excellent instrument definition, and helps every headphone present every facet of a complex composition with utmost detail and definition. Having those excellent detail and instrument enhancing abilities, DX200 with AMP1 makes a great companions for those seeking a clear, precise and honest sound.




ADSR/PRaT


The ADSR and PRaT (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, and Pace Rhythm and Timing) of DX200 are very good, as it is more precise than a swiss watch, being able to enhance the revealing abilities of all headphones and IEMs that are connected to it, in presenting an extremely well defined and well-textured sound. The ADSR sounds natural, and very resolving, every texture and micro-texture being presented very well by DX200.



Portable Usage


DX200 is one of the most portable devices, having a great form factor, weight, stable firmware and good battery life. Its battery life lasts for about eight hours on average, and up to ten hours if your usage scenario is lighter. The device does not get overly warm, and can be comfortably used in both Summer and Winter. Having the headphone port on bottom is an excellent option as I pull it out of the pocket vertically, being able to operate it directly. The button placement on top is quite good actually, and works well for its size and thickness, without any unintended button presses, while being easy enough to press. The side buttons are also seated in such a way that they’ll never press randomly while DX200 is in your pocket, but they are easy to feel and press if you want to.

DX200 can do a lot of jobs, being able to act as a standalone DAP, a DAC, or even as a transport, being one of the most versatile devices out there. DX200 has Bluetooth and Wifi abilities, being able to stream music from online services, and being able to power Bluetooth Headphones. All in all, it checks all portable usage scenarios one can think of, and it does all of them pretty well.

(Comparisons, Pairings, Value & Conclusion On The Final Page)



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Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu

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3 Comments

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