I received my DX100 on Thursday and will unfortunately be returning it to China come Monday. After a few rounds of troubleshooting with iBasso, who, to their credit, were extremely fast at responding to every email (over the weekend no less), and sincerely made an effort to figure out what was going on (Bravo for good customer service), we determined the problems with my unit are probably hardware related and not software. I tried every which way to figure out what was going on with it and every attempt has failed. I thought it worth documenting here since it is just one more experience which is obviously the exception and not the norm since there are far more very happy customers. I can add my hearty endorsement to the sound quality of the unit as being head and shoulders above any iDevice I've heard. I am disappointed that it did not work out for me, but given the cost of shipping it back to China (which was not offered to be compensated for by iBasso ), I am not willing to risk getting this one returned to me with continued problems that would necessitate to be sent back at further expense, as unlikely as that might seem. This would seem to be a risk one takes in buying from overseas - shipping is not cheap. I'm pricing it out at around $100 to use a trackable means of shipping back to China (any suggestions are welcome - the only inexpensive alternatives are not trackable and that's not a risk I'm willing to take UPS, DHL, EMS and FEDEX are all in the $90-100+ range).
So here's the story with mine, and my comments are after only two days of pretty solid listening and troubleshooting during which I had to recharge the unit at least four times:
Straight out of the box it sounded great (using Westone ES-5 customs), just as everyone has reported, but I noticed right away that there were intermittent "hiccups" throughout the first high-rez album I played on it (a file that came straight from HDTracks and plays fine on my main system). By "hiccups", I mean a very brief delay of silence (less than a second) after which the music resumes. You can easily replicate this if you lock and unlock your device while it is playing (an effect which iBasso tells me is entirely normal for the player) - that is the dropout that I was experiencing randomly throughout my tracks. It would occur sometimes once or twice during a given cut. Never in the same place, but often shortly after the beginning of the cut. It happened far less on any 44/16 file, but it did occur sometimes. I was able to listen through a few 44/16 albums without any incident at all, while others generated hiccups (always less frequent - one or two per album perhaps). This was with all the factory settings in default and no wifi setup, and no other software added or engaged (at first). Just the stock software. The firmware is the current 1.06 version. I did try several different HDTracks high-rez files including Jimmy Robinson, Rolling Stones and their HDTracks sampler. The sampling rates were mostly 88/24 and 96/24. All were FLAC. All sounded great, except every one was interrupted randomly with hiccups throughout playback in almost every track.
iBasso suggested to download PowerAmp to see if the same thing occurred with third-party software - this would eliminate a software issue. I did this and this time the hiccups became very odd digital glitches that sounded like momentary digital gibberish in fast-forward. Again, random, a bit longer but still only about a second, this time more infrequent than the hiccups with the stock software, but nevertheless would occur eventually on every high-rez selection. I did not hear them on any 44/16 selections using Poweramp, so it played those selections flawlessly whereas with the factory software I'd sometimes get a few hiccups on a 44/16 album. Poweramp has a far more friendly user interface, and more intuitive to operate. The high rez files sounded distinctly better on the factory software though, while the 44/16 files sounded too similar to tell any difference.
From what iBasso has told me, it would seem like mine may be a hardware related problem. I did also try downloading NoLock to see if that would help. Though it was a useful addition in that it makes for a more pleasant user experience, it did not have any affect on the hiccups.
I had initially loaded the native storage with around 63GB of FLAC files. I also tried dumping about half of those to free up space after a day of troubleshooting and listening. That didn't change the problem. I tried loading a single high-rez file onto a micro-SD card and discovered yet another glitch: When the device mounted the micro-SD card it subsequently lost track seemingly of all the music in native storage. Searching back through the library and files every time I asked it for the native storage (I think it is called "internal storage" on the interface) it would just point back to the music on the card. I tried in every which way to find the native music and it was just ignoring the native storage altogether. When I unmounted the micro-SD card (oh yeah, the files on that card, a file I just today downloaded and tested from HD Tracks, also produced random hiccups in playback), there was a long delay while the device was in limbo trying to figure out what to do (produces a screen that offers the option to "wait" or "force close", over and over). After five minutes I had to force close and shut off the device. Only then could I turn it back on and have it find the native files. I tried the micro-SD card one more time (a Class 6 SanDisk stock formatted to FAT32) and it produced the same series of events.
Other glitches - there were two times when waking it up from idle where it went into a very lengthy period of limbo where I just had to walk away from it for five minutes and come back to find it operational. During that limbo it would not respond to either screen touch nor power button nor volume.
So sadly, it seems I received a defective unit. Before packing it up I reset it to factory settings (this is the ONLY option if you want to remove a user account for privacy), which puts the whole interface into Chinese characters I pulled most of my music off and left a few of the high-rez files on there for iBasso to test the unit with. I did double check and listened again with only those few files loaded on the device and sure enough the hiccups were still there.
Other comments to help iBasso and others:
1. Include a manual or provide online access to instructions - I am not familiar with the Android interface at all so just getting the device out of a locked screen was a puzzle that I only was able to solve by looking up a video online (thanks to whoever posted that).
2. The primary function of this device is music, and I would like to see a much better worked out user interface with the native music player program. It is very clunky as is, and difficult to navigate through and use smoothly. Any iDevice, especially the classic scroll-wheel devices make this UI seem like an east German made Trabi. From reading all of this thread I think that most of the actual problems have already been covered. My own pet peeves about the user experience are the lack of functionality around album art and playlists. I could find where all the album art had been stored and properly labeled, but only one or two out of fifty or sixty would show up. I could not figure out what it was about the one or two. These were mostly either HDTracks, or CD's ripped to FLAC using XLD. The other thing I could not find was random play - perhaps I missed it as I was too busy trying to figure out other problems. Searches in various modes would be appreciated (artist, album, genre, etc.). There are runarounds I suppose, like manually breaking out your music into genre folders.
3. Slow, slow, slow. Same-day responses. There are lots of delays and the actual touch-screen experience is just not up to what I'm used to from iDevices. The lag I experienced several times while it registered all the music stored on the device was very long...make a cup of tea long. I don't know if its an Android thing, or just this UI or perhaps exclusive to my unit which obviously has some issues. I think not likely the latter since I've read other reports of the same, but take it FWIW
4. Battery life in my short experience, is far worse than reported. I only listened to FLAC files in either high-rez or 44/16. When I was not directly listening I would always leave the player playing on repeat. I did a lot of high-rez listening, but probably more 44/16 though because that was much more pleasant to enjoy without enduring multiple hiccups during every cut. Average battery life was mostly around 4 hours which is very poor in my estimation. There is an indicator showing battery usage. By far and away in order of multitudes of ten, the biggest user of battery seemed to be DAP idle (which is odd because it was playing most of the time). Regardless, that was my experience of battery life. Charging seemed to take 2-3 hours to get it to 100% depending on where you started from.
So, needless to say, my experience has been very disappointing after a month long wait from when I placed my order. Certainly the sound was not in any way remotely disappointing, but the issues my unit has make that very difficult to enjoy. Those hiccups were always a reminder that I might need to send this back (though I was always hoping iBasso could solve the problems).
iBasso would of course fix it and return it too - but the experience has soured me to the idea of taking the risk of having them fix this unit, only to have it come back with similar or different issues given how buggy it operates now. At $100 return shipping this is an expensive lesson. If not for that significant expense of return shipping I'd probably give it a second try as the quality of the sound is excellent for a portable device. It does mate very well with the ES5's as well, so I can highly recommend that pairing, though I have nothing to compare it to beyond my own preferences. It offers tremendous clarity without any nasty edges, or peakiness. I'd call it a very natural and clear presentation. The soundstaging abilities do stand out (as much as they can with headphones), especially when contrasted with the same output from an iPod or an iPhone. Overall, very very nice indeed as far as the sound is concerned. Whether you think that degree of improvement is worth the price of three or four iPod Classics is entirely subjective. I would not say that it made the iPod sound really bad in direct comparison - they actually do a pretty good job. But the improvements are truly unmistakable regardless of the sampling rates (based upon the files I was listening to comparing to an iPod Classic and an iPhone with FLACPlayer). The UI is a real weak point though, and there is a huge amount of room for improvement there. In that case the reverse comparison of an iDevice does make the DX100 UI look primitive. Fortunately that is something that can be retroactively upgraded, and iBasso seems to be working on it with new firmware due in no small part to what users are providing as feedback. So I would not let that particular detail stop you unless it is an aspect of use that might really get to you, or worse, leave it at home collecting dust. This thing should be enjoyed. I trust my case is the exception and there are not other instances of these kinds of issues.
Edited by jax - 3/31/12 at 6:25pm