iBasso is a professional audio company located in China. They specialize in high performance portable audio gear and equipment. iBasso is well-known between audiophiles for their price/performance solutions and their unending FW support.
Today we will be talking about the iBasso’s 10th Anniversary special the DX200. This long-awaited digital player hit the shelves around 2 months ago and since then it’s been causing shockwaves in the DAP market, hurting wallets and placing smiles on the faces of grumpy audiophiles!
DX200 is the successor of DX100, iBasso’s previous android flagship. DX100 launched in 2012 and it caused quite a stir in the industry because of its operating system and sound quality. DX200 is doing exactly the same right now.
DX200 is a special product due to company’s efforts to stay in constant contact with the Head-Fi community regarding the needs and likes of the end user. (consumer)
They observed what people look for in a DAP very closely and the device was designed accordingly. From chassis to DAC chips, Head-Fi members were involved in every step of the production.
Right off the bat I want to say that iBasso nailed this section. Accessories are on-point. The box is very handsome and offers great protection so you don’t have to worry about harsh int. shipping conditions. Inside the box, iBasso included a very flexible USB-C cable and a coaxial cable. Unit also comes with a premium leather case. I liked it personally but to be honest, they could’ve made it slimmer.. It adds unnecessary bulk to the unit.
Back in the early development days, there was a poll about DX200’s design. You were asked to choose 1 from 3 prototype designs. I actually liked a different design from the poll but the current design was ultimately selected by unanimous vote. Funnily enough, I am really satisfied with the result.
DX200 has a somewhat grainy aluminum finish. Device feels premium in hand. I just wish that the black section on the back was aluminum like the rest of the device. It is surprisingly light considering the components inside. After having so much trouble with A&K volume wheel, DX200’s wheel is perfect. There are enough volume steps to fine tune the perfect volume. Screen is a controversial topic, some say that their screen is not as responsive as a smartphone etc. I removed my pre-installed screen protector and I can confirm that screen works as intended. Screen responsiveness is almost on par with my V20. Be warned though, responsiveness is not good with the pre-installed protector. Remove it or replace it with a tempered glass.
iBasso did not skimped while creating the DX200. They used premium-grade components such as the ES9028PRO DAC, ARM Cortex-A53 Processor, Accusilicone femtosecond oscillators, eMMC storage, IPS screen, 6 layered gold plated PCB…
FWs & Customizability
First of all let’s make one thing clear. FWs do change the device’s SQ. Sometimes it is nuances, sometimes it is entire signatures. If you ask me, this elasticity of options is great. However, just because it has many firmwares available, do not make the assumption that DX200 is unstable, because it is not. Think this as the perfect gateway to finding YOUR favourite signature. Some of my friends sold the device after one week… This is a huge mistake. DX200 needs time and effort. You have to try the major FWs like Lurker0, WindowsX, iBasso… Find what you like the most by using trial-error method. Another thing to mention here is that the device needs burn-in.
Of course, your options does not end here. DX200 has an interchangeable amplification system. This feature allows you to physically change the amplifier of the device to your liking. iBasso already released its first AMP module, AMP2. iBasso’s ultimate aim is to please you, they tried to offer something for all audiophile types from analytic lovers to analog junkies.
Let’s talk about Android! Frankly I had doubts about how iBasso would handle the software development/optimization of DX200. First few weeks were quite painful but with user feedback, iBasso’s team quickly released a bunch of firmwares that fix the reported bugs.. iBasso’s dev team tried to trim the android 6.0 from its unnecessary bloat thus improving the device stability. I think they did a good job, my device runs Tidal without any problems and I can watch HD videos on it. Cool!
After some time, Lurker0 and WindowsX started working on it as well, cooking roms, improving FWs and on and on.. I knew Lurker0 from his DX90 works, I admire his work quite a lot. I also own the Advanced Purist ROM from WindowsX, his works are great, too. They both have advantage and disadvantages over one another.
Of course these are all great for the end-user because we get to have many options… Freedom, baby!
Android is a great companion for a DAP, you get to play with the device however you like. You can go ahead and load apks, install Tidal & Spotify, set-up launchers, edit icons.. I love the improvement headroom it offers. After getting the DX200, first thing I did was installing a launcher & stream apps. DX200’s processor and ram is more than capable of running such apps.
Another great thing about DX200 is that iBasso features dual boot. there is actually a closed android system (like A&K’s) in the DX200 and it’s called “Mango”. You can boot it in Mango mode if you like. I unfortunately won’t be talking about Mango mod because I see no use for it. I am more than happy with Android and I don’t know why anyone would use Mango over it.
I already mentioned iBasso’s commitment when it comes to FWs. They’re still releasing firmware updates to DX50&90. This entire example proves that we’re in good hands.
Probably my only complaint. In my experience DX200 lasts about 7 hours. I don’t think this is a great achievement when it comes to a device like this. I expected at least 8.5-9 hours. Fortunately, AMP2 improves the playtime little bit. I managed to squeeze 8-8.5 hours out of it! I am keeping my hopes up for the new amp modules.
I will divide this section into FWs after talking about general sound performance.
First of all, regardless of it’s price, DX200 is a high-end DAP. It offers great tonal balance, resolution and detail. I can put it against Hugo, Paw Gold, HM901S without any second thoughts.
AMP1 & iBasso Stock
Neutral/Reference sound signature, shallower bass response compared to other FWs, mids are clear and defined, upper mids are crispy, high frequencies are brilliantly controlled.
AMP1 & WindowsX Purist Advanced
Neutral transparent sound signature, airy presentation, snappy and punchy bass response, mids are clear and upper mids are crispy. Highs are brighter, resolution and detail revealment is improved over stock.
AMP1 & Lurker0 (Pers. Fav)
Warmish-Neutral sound, airy presentation, more bodied and impactful bass response, articulate mids and tamed upper mids. Highs are controlled and never goes “hot”. Detail revealment and resolution is increased over stock.
AMP2 is the first of many modules iBasso is currently planning to release..
It comes in a sturdy little box and it is quite easy to install. You just have to turn off your device, unscrew the screws, pull it back and up, install the new one and screw em’ back! Voila! You successfully changed the sound signature of your DX200 from neutral to warm!
Yup, AMP2 sounds warmer than AMP1. Treble section is recessed, upper mids are even more gentle than usual. Both coherency and musicality is improved and woman vocals are more emotional than ever. Kudos to iBasso!
AMP2 & iBasso Stock
Warm, warmer, warmest. Florida, Australia, Bali.. Sahara? Feeling hot yet? Both sub and mid bass sections are broad and bodied. Mids are meaty. Upper mids are gentle, treble is laid back. Overall it is very lush and mellow compared to AMP1.
AMP2 & WindowsX Purist Advanced
First of all, sense of air is back, bass region is impactful and fast. Mids articulate with hints of warmth. Upper mids are controlled and tad laid-back. Treble is airy and more prominent compared to stock FW. Overall this FW sounds more detailed due to upper mid & treble changes. This applies to resolution as well. Go for this one if you want somewhat balanced signature.
AMP2 & Lurker0
Coherent, thick and rich.. Bass region is airy, impactful. Mids are emotional and meaty. Upper mids are recessed whereas the treble region has the perfect balance, not too bright, not too dull. Resolution and detail departments are both improved over stock.
Soundstage, Dynamism, PRaT & Instrument Separation
Different fw-amp configurations offer wide array of options but I’ll try to keep it simple.
DX200’s soundstage is wide. Imaging is impressive. Instruments have enough space between them resulting in brilliant separation. The soundstage is not as wide vertically as it is horizontally but the margin is small so you won’t notice it without a critical listening session.. Dynamism and PRaT is quite amazing with the AMP1, making my metal tracks sound effortless. Congestion is very well handled by the DX200. AMP2 on the other hand is not as fast as AMP1 because of the bass and treble presentation. Margins are small so you have nothing to be afraid of.
This is where the magic happens. Soundstage expands both vertically and horizontally, airiness and feel of realism improves by a great margin.. It’s also tad more detailed compared to SE.
Vs. Fiio X5iii
Resolution-wise DX200 is few steps ahead. DX200 is faster, cleaner and dynamically superior. X5iii is warmer and drier. X5III lacks the ability of making me move my feet when the drums kick in.
AK300 has a more “liquid” sound, details are left behind the counter. iBasso’s soundstage is wider and its presentation is airier. AK300 feels soulless after DX200. Bass presentation is shallow as well..
Vs. Plenue P1
P1 is warmer, smoother and has a smaller soundstage. Bass-wise it is not as tight as DX200 and treble is not as controlled. iBasso is ahead in the detail&resolution department as well.
Vs. Hifiman 901S -Minibox Gold
901S offers a smoother experience. Soundstage is similar, DX200 have better speed, precision and PRaT. 901S is more emotional. Mid section is a tie but I prefer DX200’s snappy treble and bass.
Vs. Lotoo Paw Gold
DX200’s soundstage is wider, both are equally airy. LPG is half a step better than DX200 in resolution subject, which is very impressive for DX200 because LPG is often called “the resolution king”. Speed-wise LPG is tad better. Of course we are comparing a brick to state of art android DAP so you might wanna take that into consideration as well.
Vs. Chord Hugo
Soundstage, imaging, instrument separation, detail, resolution.. Hugo is one clear step ahead.
DX200 packs a serious punch though. Almost half the size, 1/3 of the price, android capabilities, upgradeability… Honestly I can guarantee you that you won’t itch for a while.
I am seriously satisfied with DX200’s price/performance ratio. This is kind of device that I’d want as my daily driver. Affordable, upgradeable, customizable, small enough to carry without too much hassle.. DX200 is like a chameleon, you can fine tune it to your liking or you can explore uncharted territories with new modules. I consider DX200 as a bargain at this price point and I am rewarding it with Editor’s Choice Award. Good job iBasso!