iBasso DX90 Portable Digital Audio Player

Average User Rating:
4.13333/5,
  1. Nymphonomaniac
    4.5/5,
    "Humble Sound Perfection at an humble price, this Music Player is a dream come true that follow me everywhere I go."
    Pros - Beautifully Clean, detailed, warm and elegant sound, excellent details in ALL frequencies range, Line out, Changeable battery, good construction...
    Cons - Poor battery life (extra battery needed), Unstable firmware that can cause serious problem to the player, vain equalizer
    It make more than 1 year that I listen daily to my beloved Ibasso Dx90 and I feel it's now time to make a proper review of this wonderful DAP.
     
    To begin, I have in my possession this audio players in the past - ihifi 812V2, Colorfly C3, Hifiman H601 and Fiio X3- and the Ibasso is the only one I kept. It say alot I think, because the only one DAP that I regret selling is the Xuelin ihifi 812V2 and it's because of his wonderful warm Wolfson sound that is extremely different to the Ibasso Dx90 wich is more coldish-warmish and analytical sounding.
     
    CONSTRUCTION :
     

     
     
    The Dx90 is well built, all black brushed metal alloy with 3 big button and that's it. When my girlfriend see it she say : ''How ugly, this player look like to have been built for man only''. Well, i'm a man and find it very beautiful, it is sober, classy and dark, very dark, all black and not sensual or playfull in his look. This player look serious and sound serious. And it have it all : 3 amp gain switch, one coaxial out and one line out, volume button at the right side and on-off button at the left side, changeable battery, a micro SD slot and the most important : a touch screen.
     

     
     
    FONCTIONALITY :
     
    As said, physical fonctionality is quite minimalist, when the screen is close you can't use the touch screen so with the 3 big button you skip tracks or pause it easily from your pocket without having to look or pull out the player. The touch screen interface is fast and easy and firmware is quite stable but there is a LOT of them, wich can be confusing as must of firmwares have different sound signature (will talk about this later). So, you have lot of options in this little device, but this isn't an Ipod and some Ipod user did not like the ''folder'' based interface. As I listen to full album and i'm not a mix guy, this wasn't a problem for me, but I think it's better to use Flac files than Alac (mp4a) because some user have problem with tagging. Anyway, you can create playlist in your folder or inside the Dx90 easily, choose your music by directory, album, artist or genre and choose inside memory folder or micro sd card folder. Touch screen is very responsive and scrolling go well but displaying is very SMALL so it can be frustrating for people with big finger, especially taking the fact that must of time it's the thumb you use to navigate.
     
    FIRMWARES :
     
    10 firmwares. Plus lot of non official ones that worth the try. Firmware aren't suppose to affect the sound ''theoretically'', but even Ibasso confirm that it does make subtle change. I try them all and return to the V2.1.5 everytime (lurk version). I will say the sound signature is always similar but Low and High can change a little as well as instruments separation and ''air'' between sounds. As I feel other can sound too bright and bass shy, I sadly return to my favorite one even if it doesn't support DAC option for MAC. The 2 last versions can handle this tough, but the last firmware DAC option do not work well with my Amarra Symphony software and make clipping-static noise, I don't investigate more about this as I have other DAC and did not really care about the one of Ibasso Dx90 (I like to have different sounding source). What I care about is sound, usability and stability, and from firmware 2.1.5 to 2.4 I do not have real bugs to report with the kind of use I have. Sometime when a track change their can be a little click noise, as well as when you close the device. Something strange too is that you have to take out the battery and put it back because the player will not start for unknown reason, this can be frustrating and frightening but it happen twice in a year for me. If you do not scan you micro sd card before, sometime the album will not play fully and you will have to skip the track yourself to it to play fully again. That's about all the ''bugs'' I can find and it's perhaps due to the fact that I change firmware LOT of time and install unofficial ones too.
     
    SOUND :
     
    For review I use :
    Headphones : Grado Sr325i, Koss Portapro, Sennheiser HD480
    Earphones : Westone custom Es20, Yamaha EPH-100, Xiaomi Pistons 2, Brainwavz R3
    Amplifier : Fiio E7, Sansui AU-D5
    Firmware : V2.1.5L
    Music Format : 16-24bit Flac 44-96Khz, Mp3 320kb, Wav
    Music genre : Classical (chamber quartets), Jazz (Ecm, post-bop, fusion), IDM, Indie (female signers), Folk (Female signers), Ambient (with lot of sounds layers)
     
    LOW :
    As I said, I find that firmware does change the sound, not drastically, but it can push a little foward the bass with some. I said that because the Ibasso Dx90 have not a big bass impact or let's say tweaked low end, it is a neutral player that treat all frequency range equally. The extension and clearness is excellent and go deep, very deep. Decay in bass is superb, toms kick blossom in space, sub bass go well beyond hearing possible perception. The imaging of low are fabulous too and do not blur other frequencies ever, it is extremely precise and you can heard every bass line perfectly even trough big orchestra. To complement well this player, headphones with a good amount of bass impact can really make a difference. For example, I find the Yamaha EPH-100 (a bright earphones with average soundstage) to sound dry and boring with bass heavy music and that even if with some track it can exceed to render the finest details of a bass line. With the Xiaomi Pistons2 it complement superbly and make this 15$ earphones sound like a 100$ with a round, bassy and detailed sound. The Grado Sr325 complement well too, but not with electro music. Koss Portapro are a superb combination that have a very exciting sound with fast punchy bass, every Ibasso Dx90 owner should have a pair of these, the extreme clarity of Ibasso sound make an absolute duo with the somewhat dark sound of Portapro. In other words, Ibasso Dx90 have a studio like bass presentation of very detailed clarity, it is not a sensasionalist presentation, more a perfectionist one.
     
     
    MIDS :
    If I describe the Ibasso sound as a U shape one it isn't exactly what I heard but it's near, as a very neutral and clean player the mids do not need to be overemphasized to be enjoy. There a feeling of liquid easyness with the whole sounds layers that permit to concentrate on your favorite part of audio spectrum and pick every bit of details you want. The vocal with Ibasso are bright and superbly articulated, never the voice feel unatural or sibilant, it will be the fault of your earphones-headphones if it does. With the Yamaha EPH100 it can make sibilance and the mids are tweaked in a very bright way, with the xiaomi it help the V shaped sound to feel more articulated and hear more easily the mids without any sibilance. With the Grado Sr325i vocal are push a little foward as well and result in a harmonious and detailed whole. I find the mids even better with an amp trough the line out, especially a big one as it give a little warm to the somewhat serious sound of Dx90. What is exciting with a player that have a line out is the freedom of changing slightly the sound the way you prefer, with a line out you have a reason to make a amp collection. If I compare the Sabre ES9018 dac to the Wolfson WM8740 of the Fiio E7, I will say it's digital world versus analogue world, sacd versus vinyl, OP amp versus tube amp, purity versus musicality, hope you get what I mean. Medium frequency are more rounded and foward with Wolfson than Sabre, more easy listening type, and I admit that straight out of the DAP the Xuelin ihifi V812v2 can give more goosebumps with vocals in general, but if you use an amp with Ibasso Dx90 the story change as well as the details retrieval are way out of the Xuelin league. So, another time it's up to your personal taste, but I feel Dx90 sound is more an all arounder than Xuelin V812v2, Hifiman Hm-601 and Fiio X3.
     
     
    HIGHS and TREBLE:
    This is where the extreme clearness of sound display the most his strong and gracile presentation. The treble of Ibasso Dx90 is sparkly and never harsh, details retrieval is hallucinatory and can just be measure by the capacity of your earing range. Everything is there, layers and layers of easy flowing textures can build in a harmonious ensemble without effort, it flow naturally and musicaly, without ever trying to impress the highs excell and go up to top without brightness or artificial sounding. As the amount of details blossom in an airy and vast musical space, highs can feel not enough tweaked for some, the fact is you can hear more if you want, but the neutral signature of Ibasso Dx90 did not extract some specific frequency range to color or energize his sound. Even if it doesn't feel boring at all, the flatness of sound can be too polite for some, more than ever the music player ask for attention to the listener to be granted by his humble complexity. With my Grado that are already details revealing and considered too bright by some the Ibasso should sound dry and perhaps harsh but it isn't the case, and I think this is where the extremely low ''total harmonic distortion'' show the potential of the sound spectrum of extreme cleaness, even more with an amp connect to line out. With High resolution music it is even more perfect. Of all the music player I try, Ibasso Dx90 have the most beautiful and natural sounding high and for once I feel the 17hz-20khz frequency response specs can be really perceive by my hearing (and the hearing of my cats too).
     
     
    SOUND SUMMARY :
     
    The Ibasso Dx90 have a spacious soundstage with lot of air between instruments, it is above average but less rounded than Xuelin ihifi that use a Wolfson Dac brillantly. It can drive properly your portable headphones and all earphones are easily powered but full headphones of more than 150 Ohm or hard to drive orthodynamic isn't always used at their full potential straight off the player. You should at least use a portable amp and one with a bass boost can really be usefull too. As said, the sound feel serious, the audiophile terminology is for once appropriate to an hifi player, if you don't consider subtle enhancement in the naturalness of sound presentation as the holy grail of your audio quest I don't think this player is necessary for you. Sacd do really show what this player is capable off and you should not listen to MP3 under 320kz as you will think the player hiss while it's due to the poor quality of your music. The sound is heard as the artist in his studio wish it would, everything is discernable and can be picked up by your attention, this player give you bionical ears, seriously! It will suit most type of headphones and earphones, only over detailed or already too bright one will not complement it well.
     
     
    It make more than one year that I use daily this fascinating player, I use it to plug to my system, my portable amp and to transport it everywhere I go. If you bring with you a batterypack (can use Dx90 while charging) or second battery it will have an infinite autonomy. The only flaw of this player is about the firmware but i'm not really difficult about this and never been an ipod fan, or playlist or whatever custom friendly device and of all the players I own I feel the Dx90 firmware is the most sophisticated with it's very responsive touchscreen. You should note too that the equalizer worth nothing and should ALWAYS be turn OFF. If you want more options with the firmware I advice you to install ROCKBOX to it, will try this soon but never feel the need to be lost in an abondance of options.
    All in all, I adore this music player and can say my life will be less musical without it, this is sad but since I have it i'm unable to return to my Ipod touch without finding it annoying and dirty sounding. This player have the magical capacity of making souding all your headphones at their best if they are bellow 100 ohm, even cheap headphones became surprinsingly good sounding sometime with this player, it is a fascinating device that open lot of doors and I strongly advice to every new audiophile to begin with this. As said, when I compare the Ibasso Dx90 to something mass marketed like Ipod touch it is so horrifious how the Ipod is tweaked in the lows an mids that I can't even enjoy music with it anymore, the ipod bass veil everything and lack of cleaness can make distort even good headphones if they are bassy. This is one of the miracle of this player, it bring the best of all your gear.
    Anyway, as perfection could not really exist in all perspective, the Dx90 still have firmware bugs that can cause frustrations and insecurity about his longevity, mine crash sometime in some mysterious way that can cause great anguish. For that, this player will not earn a perfect 5 but a still prestigious 4.5 stars.
     
     
    IBASSO RULES!!!!!!
     
     
     
     
     
    hqssui and atoniolin like this.
  2. matinsoroudi
    5.0/5,
    "Best DAP i ever Heard"
    Pros - neutral sound, soundstage, details, Price
    Cons - screen resolution, battery life

    Inside the box:

    Accessories:

     
    First of all, beautiful dap! :) nice design, one of the most good looking daps around.

        
     
    Silicon Case looks good:

     
    UI is not the best part but its fair enough, and easy to use. only some touchscreen issues which has been solved after a FW update(2.3.0) 
     
    Battery life is average. 6 to 8 hours max. but easily replaceable!

    about SQ:
    YES! SOUNDSTAGE! they were right. soundstage of this dap is amazing! separation and imaging is just unbelievable. this is the best part of this dap overall IMO.

    Bass is Punchy and accurate. Powerful and detailed.

    Mid is Flat and shinny.

    Treble: crispy and clean! detailed.

    overall sounds warm and neutral like vinyls. soundstage is just fantastic. a steal at this price tag!!.
  3. gcestaro
    5.0/5,
    "Great sounding FLAC player"
    Pros - Nice, smooth sound
    Cons - O/S is a little quirky
    I purchased the DX90 a week ago. I had found that I was no longer dragging out CDs to listen to music, but at the same time my MP4s on my iPhone were sounding harsh and un-listenable. As a result I was not listening to much music anymore and really missed it. I occasionally listen on headphones but mostly plug into my stereo (Acurus DIA100 and Paradigm Atom Montior v5). The sound from my iPhone was so harsh and clearly missing much of the detail of the music due to compression. My plan is to rip all my CDs to FLAC files and use the DX90 for portable listening as well as in-home listening through my sound system. I read about the DX90 and then purchased it on eBay from someone who had used it very little--he said about five hours.
     
    I can't stress enough the importance of burn-in on this device. When I first heard it I thought I had made a big mistake. It sounded similar to my iPhone. I'm up to 120 hours of burn-in time right now (the manual recommends 400 hours!)--I leave it on all the time, using the provided burn-in cable. The sound has changed incredibly. It sounds very smooth, open, and detailed. My amp tends to be a bit bright, and I find that the DX90 compliments it well by being more mellow. I've read other reviews that say the DX90 is also bright or harsh, but I don't find that to be the case after proper burn-in.
     
    The OS does some quirky things, like repeating a song when I press the skip forward button, but overall seems to be fine. I mostly randomize my playlist, so I just set it to random and go, so the OS is not much of an issue for me.
     
    I have not taken the DX90 out of the house much, so I don't have a good sense of battery life. I plan to purchase a backup battery and always have one fully charged to grab and go as needed.
     
    I have a 128GB micro SD card that I use, which holds all of my music, and I use Windows Media Player's syncing functionality so when I plug the SD into my computer it automatically syncs any new music. I'm using Exact Audio Copy to rip my CDs and find it fairly quick in processing and converting to FLAC.
     
    Now that I hear the complete music again I just can't believe how long I went listening crappy lossy files! So nice to be enjoying music again.
    stmule and atoniolin like this.
  4. petiot
    3.5/5,
    "Good but ..."
    Pros - Sound, size/ratios, build quality, accessories
    Cons - UI/software, battery, vol control
    I bought the Dx90 to replace a HifiMan HM601 player. Main reason was that I needed more storage (HM601 only takes 32gb cards). And I though this is a good opportunity to get a better player overall. Well, it is sort of what I got.

    (see update in paragraph below)
    Quote of my previous appreciation of sound quality:
    Sound wise, I honestly struggle to ear any significant difference with the HM-601. Tried switching between both using 16bit FLAC files and both UE triple fi 10 and Sennheiser Momentum over hear and honestly the sound quality and sound signatures are very close. i.e. rich, warm and very dynamic. After some burn in (30 hours) the DX90 seems a little brighter and more open, but only very slightly. I don't have any 24 bit FLAC to test though (the HM601 only takes 16 bits). But overall, given than the HM601 uses a single old DAC (Wolfson) and costs half the DX90, I really dont see all the hype around the dual Sabre chips.

    ####### UPDATE!!! After writing this review I though I would carry the test again (of listening o the same track/earphones on both the HM601 and the DX90. The DX 90 has now 30 hours of listening and I went through two battery charges using the burn in cable provided. And ....

    WOW .... I am absolutely blown away by how different the two player sound now! The DX90 now sounds open, airy with a huge amount of texture and details across all the frequency range ... just unbelievable. I have never been a believer of the burn in effect but I have no other choice but to admit this phenomenon is indeed real at least on this device. The HM601 sound dark, heavily veiled in comparison .... I am just amazed so much that I go back to more listening right away! ######

    Build quality is clearly better that the HM601 and very good in the absolute: good size/ratios too so a very pleasing device to handle. However the switches lack crispness especially the one for the gain that often get in between positions.Other than that, not much to say on build quality.

    Now it is all nice to have a touch screen (which is quite nice and responsive by the way) but what is the point of having a touch screen with such a simple minimalistic software and UI???? The HM601 had twice as many options and functions as the DX90 and I can tell you that it was not much. But the DX90 is pathetic in this respect: no file operation (I crave for a file delete), no track tagging (the HM610 had a ranking function), etc. And the font used by the default firmware is just plain ugly (thanks to Lurker for the modified firmware), and there is a lot of wasted screen space from the ugly icons at the beginning of each files.

    Nice touches are the provided silicon sleeve and the screen protectors which makes sens for a portable player and already saved my screen. The battery is another average point of the DX90 because it only last about a day of on and off listening, overall not as much as the HM601. The DX90 could drive the sennheiser momentum really well although they are not particularly high impedance. So overall, a nice player and a good deal if you get a good price. However I cannot say i am blown away.

    NOTE:

    See update above --- After some more burn in the sound seems gets much much better more and more refined, better clarity, better texture better soundstage, better everything.
    I dearly miss the analogic volume control of the HM601. Digital volume controls just suck in general
  5. Arturoo123
    5.0/5,
    "An awesome DAP"
    Pros - Very detailed, great instrument separation, very exiting sound, excellent size, interchangeable battery, constant FW improvement and support
    Cons - Battery life.

    Hi guys, this is my first post and my first review.
     

    I own a useless Fiio X3, its battery died and I have removed it because it was inflated for unknown reasons (I used to charge it with a Samsumg 5.0V 2.0A original charger). Although I was not impressed with the sound, I liked the solid construction and the features it has.
     
    Then, I got the Fiio X5, again the solid construction, features etc. had impressed me but in this case the sound impressed me too, at least I felt that I was using a real Hi-fi DAP, I was happy with the X5 (but I decided to sell it).
     

     
    Finally I got the DX90 too, I was interested in the iBasso DX90 because I had been reading a lot of good things about iBasso and its products. I have heard about its nice detail and impressive separation and in second place I was looking for a DAP that tempered a little bit the forward sound of my headphones (RS1e).
     
    The things I like about the DX90 over the Fiio X5 (Firmware 2.20) are; its touchscreen, size, weight, replaceable battery (compatible with the Samsung Galaxy III), far better SDXC compatibility, and its OS based on Android (right now I have the Lurker0´s 2.2.0 L0 Firmaware, but also exist the Rockbox option).
    The UI although not perfect so far is very good, intuitive and usable and I love the physical buttons in the front too. Like with the X5 I never had problems with the file scan or external DAC (Windows 8.1 64 bits).
     

     
    The DX90 is very detailed, smooth, very exiting sound and great instrument separation, right now is my favorite DAP and I highly recommend this product.
     
    Note: the new 2.2.0 FW has introduced a great SQ improvement and features, Ibasso as always is working on it, great post-release support!
     


    (Updated with some pics)
     
    Saludos!

    matinsoroudi, nzvlam and arj7297 like this.
  6. jk47
    5.0/5,
    "great sound and value in a great form factor"
    Pros - value, sound, ease of use, handy size and weight, availability of removeable batteries
    Cons - overly sensitive touch screen [may vary with firmware]
    i've had my dx90 for some time, having bought it when the price was still about $420.  i thought it was a great value then. it's an even greater value now.
     
    i'm using the 2.0.5 firmware because i'm happy with the sound and am not willing to roll the dice on any changes.   i find the interface exceedingly easy to navigate, but must note that i use a folder structure instead of tags, and so can't comment on tags and playlists.  similarly, i should note that i am listening mostly to classical and a bit to jazz and, rarely, to pop.
     
    i've got a 128gb microsd full of classical music in flac format riding in the player most of the time.  i also carry separately a 64gb card with jazz and pop.  switching from one to the other is a matter of seconds.
     
    i listen on either akg k812's or etymotic er4pt's, depending on my need for sound isolation, and those pairings work well.  the sound is wonderful: rich, detailed and immersive, with good separation and tight, clear control across the whole frequency spectrum.  whether listening to a bach violin partita or a brahms symphony, the imaging and reproduction are great.  the dx90 set on high gain was also quite capable of driving the hd700's i no longer have, but produced a smaller soundstage on those 'phones than when they were driven by a more powerful amp.
     
    the size and weight are very handy - those specs are widely available and it's easy to compare them with, e.g., the fiio x5, and see how the dx90 is smaller and lighter, easier to tote around. i can't compare sound signatures as i haven't heard the x5.  the dx90's ability to switch batteries means that you never need to run out of power.  it uses widely available galaxy s3 compatible batteries. battery life might be about 5 hours playing from flac level 5, but i've got several spares i carry fully charged, and the whole package is still quite manageable.  [i ranked the battery life high,  because although the play time of a single charged battery is quite limited, the ability to switch in a new battery means no practical limit.]  alternately, some owners use larger batteries, foregoing the metal back-plate and just relying on the supplied silicon case to hold the battery in place.
     
    the touch screen is quite sensitive, even with a screen protector, and it took a while for me to develop a light enough touch to move around easily.  this is not a big deal, but was irritating at first.
     
    on the whole, i don't hesitate to recommend this player.
    Criss123, matinsoroudi and arj7297 like this.
  7. marhol
    5.0/5,
    "Excellent DAP"
    Pros - overall sound quality, dynamic, spacious sound, tonal balance, value
    Cons - probably only battery life
    This is my first DAP. I bought it in August with  pre-installed 2.1 firmware and I have to say I am positively surprised how great this player sounds.
    I honestly can not compare it with other DAPs like Fiio X5 or HM -801,  because I haven´t simply had a chance to listen other DAPs.[​IMG]
    Nevertheless, I can wholeheartedly recommend this DAP to anyone who seeks neutral, spacious sounding DAP, with excellent tonal balance and dynamics.
    From my point of view, it makes perfect sense to buy a player which does not colour sound and is as much neutral as possible,  because it gives you an extra flexibility to choose headphones with sound signature according to your preferences. For instance, I decided to buy Yamaha EPH-100 and this combo sounds superb. Warmer sound of EPH-100 provides extra musicality to amazing transparency and clarity and thus creates for me pleasantly coloured tonal harmony. I have to say my other phones, Beyerdynamic DT 990, also sound very good with iBasso DX90, especially  when running on high gain. Balance and versatility are  strong points of iBasso DX90. In other words, frequencies do not "compete" with each other, they "cooperate" with each other. Overall tonality is therefore quite neutral without being boring ! Sabre ES 9018K2M  DAC with amp section is simply doing excellent job. My Beyers DT 990 Pro are 250 Ohm version and are generally not so easy to drive with unamped portable devices such as iphones, laptops or tablets. iBasso DX90 is handling DT 990 very well on high gain. Its still fine on medium gain, but on high gain its just better. Everything is improved - bass quality, dynamics, soundstage etc. On high gain I can get comfortable listening at around 210-220 volume level.
    Bass on high gain with DT 990 has very good impact and control, midrange (which can sometimes sound recessed on DT 990 when  the headphone is underpowered) is smooth and solidly presented,   treble is very well extended and still, typically Beyer-like, elevated without being harsh.
    iBasso DX90 + DT 990 or EPH 100 sounds fantastic with high quality lossless files. Another good news is that the sound keeps on improving with time.  I am not a great judge on so called "burn in", but I feel the sound is getting slightly better and better. (It is not a night and day difference but I think its a bit smoother than in the beginning).
    Other things worth to mention is the device has a really good build quality and an user friendly interface.
     
    Bottom line: I think iBasso DX 90 represents tremendous value for the price. The only drawback I can see is the battery life, which is only average (at best). However, for me it is not a serious problem, because I rarely listen for more than 3 hours per day. Highly recommended !
    Criss123 likes this.
  8. RickFrank
    0.5/5,
    "Cannot get the device to read SD Card"
    Pros - None
    Cons - No tech support, website seems non functional, cannot read SD card, cannot seem to play an individual track
    I just received this device, along with a FiIO X5 to replace my now discontinued iPod classic.
     
    At first I liked this device - smaller, lighter than the FiIO, although only 1 slot.
     
    Shipped without any user guide, however.
     
    I formatted my 128 G SD card and inserted it, connected it to my mac.
     
    I used doubleTwist software (which I had successfully used with the FiIO, and let it sync overnight.
     
    I came back and and the device seems to think I had no music. I plugged the USB cable back in, and the files where definitely on the card.
     
    Tried factory reset, tried formatting as exFAT.
     
    I went to their website - www. ibasso.com - and it is a mess. Every link leads you to their download area. 
     
    I have the latest firmware v2.1
     
    I emailed their support but haven't heard back.
     
    So, the device can only find files on the built in storage.
     
    So, as a "high end" player, this device is useless.
     
    Until the hardware companies start making software at least a little better, acceptance of these products will be low.
     
    The FiIO X5 was difficult enough to set up - took a while to locate the doubleTwist software. Copying files from the Mac to the DOS formats using the Finder
    creates little .trackname files so that every album looks like it has two copies of each song.
     
    I will try to assemble the packaging for a return.
     
    Rick
  9. wonglokchai
    5.0/5,
    "This is the best DAP I have owned so far...I am loving it =)"
    This is the best DAP I have owned so far...I am loving it =)   Very good DAC chip and decent built-in amplifier, this is a steal at this price tag
    Criss123 likes this.
  10. mikebirm49
    4.5/5,
    "Superb sound and ease of use make the DX90 an excellent choice for your high-res DAP"
    Pros - Luscious sound, UI that's easy to use, sensible price
    Cons - Tiny internal storage, UI features primitive graphics, troublesome headphone jack
    I've been listening to my iBasso DX90 for several weeks and I'm extremely impressed by its sound, its ease of use and its firmware updates that are more than just cosmetic improvements. While I was deciding whether or not to purchase the iBasso DX90, I spent quite some time comparing it to the FiiO X5 and the wallet-busting Astrell & Kern AK240. In another life, when I return as a billionaire playboy, I will purchase the AK240 or its upgrade so the choice was effectively between the DX90 and the X5. My comparison eventually centered on the iBasso DX90's use of dual Sabre ES9018K2M DACs. I was also swayed by the DX90's apparently superior handling of micro SD cards in comparison to the FiiO DAP, which some reviews of the X5 have criticized as being problematic when using cards larger than 32GB.

    The DX90's sound can only be described as luscious and rich. The dual Sabre DACs produce a fullness and an elegance to music that makes lengthy listening sessions a pleasure if not an addiction. Owners of Sennheiser's audiophile grade HD650 headphones will recognize this comparison: the sound of the DX90 is the DAP equivalent of listening to music through a pair of 650s. There is a similar rich sound quality.

    Using the UI is simple and intuitive with just enough menu choices to make finding music easy and fast, though the display graphics are antiquated and primitive. One UI attribute I've found particularly helpful is the "directory" menu selection. which calls up all of the nested music choices in an easy to manipulate manner, breaking them down logically rather than in the hodge-podge mess you usually get. If you transfer a lot of music files from a box set, you will appreciate this feature's logical and intelligent presentation. The latest firmware update added several menu choices, The addition of a charge-only USB selection, added to the previous Storage and DAC choices, keeps all of the DX90's operations nicely compartmentalized. Gapless playback really is gapless, Play Modes are simple to manipulate. Music information is easy to call-up and fairly exhaustive.

    High resolution playback of up to 24/192 has been error-free except for one album which proved troublesome, causing the DAP to hang after a selection was played. I have reason to believe that the error lays in the album's hi-res encoding and not the player. I haven't been able to reproduce the problem with any other hi-res files. The DX90 plays FLAC, APE, MP3 and WAV files with equal facility. I've found no difference in performance. I haven't tried DSD or DSF files yet, though the twin Sabre DACs appear capable of playing them. However, DSD files are not listed as playable so failure won't be unexpected.

    One slightly annoying hardware problem that's cropped up is the headphone jack's selectivity when choosing which 3.5mm audio plug to accept and which to reject as being ever-so-slightly too wide. It becomes necessary to force the plug into the jack when this happens, something that makes me very uncomfortable. A couple of my portable headphones produce only a watered-down mono sound as a result of their rejection by the DX90. Since I own several pairs of portable headphones this is not a serious problem at the moment.

    Charging the DX90 takes about three hours when using an AC converter, six hours in a powered USB slot. The DX90 is a bit of a battery hog, with around 7-8 hours of usage at standard resolution and volume, 6-7 hours while playing high-resolution files at higher volume. There is a rudimentary EQ included which lowers the volume when in use so compensation will be required. I tend to avoid using EQ unless absolutely necessary. There are several other features, all of which I found simple and intuitive to use. I've been using 128GB microSD cards, which are necessary since the DX90 only has about 5GB of internal storage. This was an obvious trade-off to keep the price down.

    The DX90 is a superb sounding DAC, a great value at its sensible price point and quite easy to use. If you're searching for a reasonably priced DAP capable of playing high resolution music I think the DX90 is an excellent choice.