Pros: Price, build quality, DAC, connections, storage options, the sound, oh the sound!
Cons: UI, that's it
Alright, here goes. I have been on a slow, meandering journey through hi-fi that has seen me slowly start to climb that ladder that costs you your wallet.
Up to now I've been used a Sandisk Clip Zip (Rockboxed) and an ipod classic (rockboxed) running through a LOD cable into a Fiio E7. I was very satisfied with the sound from both of these units, running both with FLAC's ripped from CD's.
Cue the neverending need to upgrade and a strong desire to dip my toes into the world of hi-res audio. I quickly homed in on the Fiio X3 and the iBasso DX50. Subscribing to both unit's threads on head-fi allowed me to get a fix on the quirks and qualities of both units.
I took a punt on a seventh batch DX50 having been won over the by the looks and some user's claiming superior sound quality over the Fiio X3.
I will be honest, I was a little anxious as there have been a lot of forum members complaining about units crashing, dodgy firmware and other nightmare stories.
So, the unit arrives and I eagerly unwrap it. Initial thoughts, the box is nothing special, I really could care less, it will be in the attic never to be seen again.
The packaged extras are okay, a velvety pouch that is a bit blah, a screen protector, USB cable/charger and a nice mini-jack to co-ax cable.
So, the unit itself is a thing of beauty indeed, a sleek burnished black which looks very stealth and understated. The shape is roughly the same as mobile phone, albeit with slightly more angular edges. Really nice build here, no play or issues with it at all.
The touch screen is clear, responsive (maybe a little too sensitive) and the operating menus are clearly laid out and easy to navigate (handy, as there isn't a manual!).
I bunged in a micro SD card full of FLAC files and fired this baby up, sound's were courtesy of my KEF M500's.
I had some hi-res files but thought it only fair to listen to the same FLACs I used on my previous players to see if there was a detectable difference.
In short, the difference is night and day.
I found that the soundstage was waaaay more expansive with the DX50, really nice separation. What further blew my little mind was I could actually feel the height of the instruments, something I had previously dismissed as mere wishful thinking but no, it is definitely there. Linkin Park blasting away and the drum rolls seem to have height to them, weird but there.
Listening to the War of the Worlds is pretty much a reference for me as I grew up with this album, Richard Burtons opening speech now has little sharp intakes of breath at the end of each line, never heard that before.
I will be blunt here, I have had no issues with the UI, I am running firmware 1.2.2 and the sound is mesmerising, very clear, excellent detail retrieval but with enough PRAT to make the experience emotionally involving, not clinical at all.
I expected some buggy little unit that would misbehave but this has not been the case. Maybe I got lucky, I don't know.
Anyway, to break it down here is my impressions on individual sounds
A deep, slamming and impactful bass that never grows muddy or poorly defined. The bass is also very well controlled with no bleed into the mids. The KEF's are a neutral phone which I think suits the DX50 really well, I own a pair of Sennheiser Momentums that sound a little congested compared to the KEF's. The bass is of such clarity that you can feel the pounding throughout your head and, with the KEF's anyway, it almost has that impact you get from speakers, forceful and bright.
Utterly lush, musically engaging, emotional, stirring. Crystal clear and so revealing of detail that the layers of sound on a busy track almost become overwhelming. Quite simply stunning
Well rendered with a nice brightness that never strays into sibilance or becomes fatiguing. Excellent
Very open with excellent separation, the aforementioned height is also there, I just love the stage here. I am hearing separation in track which was never revealed to me with previous players. What more can you ask for?
At this price, simply stunning. You can pick up an ipod for about the same and this thing launches it out of the water. The options with the co-ax cable and line out are not be underestimated, I use this player through the aux-in on my Marantz stereo and it sounds lovely, the line out is really clean and pure.
I won't say the forums have been overstating the UI quirkiness, if your player is screwy then so be it, but mine works fine and I am really, really pleased with it.