Just thought I would post this comparison in here for all you iBasso D12 fans!
In this corner, the champeen, the heavyweight, the Matrix M Stage, weighing in at approx. $250. This the version without the DAC and without the cute little airholes. Op Amp is the LM4562, input caps were removed.
And in the other corner, the Contender, The One, The Only, The iBasso D12, weighing it at about $275. Op Amps are stock.
DAC used was the built in DAC in the iBasso D12.
The M Stage was driven via the Line Out jack on the iBasso.
And the 'phones? My trusty black Q701.
This one is tough to call, both amps are very transparent for the price.
On one hand, the iBasso does seem to have the edge as it seems a bit more articulate, more detailed, a bit more "audiophile" but I think this is just a side effect of the lightness of the iBasso's sound.
On the other hand, the Matrix just sounds fuller, for example, brushes on drums sound fuller, you can hear the brushes on the drum skin, vocals sound more full bodied, acoustic guitars have a bit more wood to them.
The iBasso just sounds a touch brighter, or probably more accurately has a touch less fullness, less mass, less weight, not to the extent where I would say that it is harsh, just a bit lightweight. With the iBasso, detail almost seems to be slightly over emphasized. The iBasso makes an acoustic piano sounds a little smaller, like a 6 foot grand, the Matrix makes an acoustic piano sound a bit more like an 8 foot grand. This isn't to say the iBasso is strident or a bad amp, it just lacks that extra touch of bass fullness. A bit less natural, a bit more artificial. The iBasso renders a bit more of a delicate sound.
Bottom line is: the iBasso is a damn fine DAC amp for $275.00
But the headphone amp in the iBasso D12 looses a bit of that naturalness the M Stage tends to convey.
Comparing headphone amp to headphone amp, I was surprised at how close the race really is.
Edited by Chris J - 6/5/13 at 9:19am