General Information

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AMP12 brings a fully discrete balanced circuitry to the DX300 with its dedicated 4.4mm headphone and 4.4mm line-out ports. It offers an ultra-powerful output with a maximum output voltage of up to 8.3V and low distortion ratings of -113dB. AMP12 has every characteristic of a powerful Class A amplifier offering high-fidelity output with ultra-low distortion and high dynamic range.

Features:

Complete Balanced Circuitry.
Balanced 4.4mm TRRRS headphone power out.
Dedicated 4.4mm TRRRS line-out.
True Pentaconn Socket.
Quiet Sound With Clean background & Wide Soundstage Presentation.
Independent battery power supply.

What's in the Box?

Torx
Case for the DX300 (leather)

Output Specifications (Headphone Output):

Output interface: 4.4mm Balanced
Maximum output level: 8.3Vrms
Frequency response: 10Hz-45kHz(+/-0.9dB)
THD+N: -113dB(No Load), -112dB(300 ohm load), -107dB(32 ohm load)
Dynamic range: 126dB
Signal to noise ratio: 126dB
Crosstalk: -115dB

Line-Out Specifications:

Maximum output level: 4.1Vrms
THD+N: -116dB(No load)
Dynamic range: 128dB
Signal to noise ratio: 128dB
Cross talk: -102dB

Latest reviews

HansBarbarossa

100+ Head-Fier
iBasso AMP12: ideal balance
Pros: Sound, set, the ability to quickly replace with another amplifier module, price.
Cons: No
Hi Friends!

Summer is coming to an end, and we have ripened a harvest of audio freshening for our joy. Today we will get acquainted with another interesting device from the beloved brand from the Middle Kingdom - iBasso Audio.

I think you remember how we rejoiced in the spring of the amazing Hi-Fi DAP iBasso DX300, which impressed with its stuffing (Snapdragon 660 processor, 6 GB LPDDR4 RAM, gorgeous screen, four flagship DAC chips from Cirrus Logic - CS43198 and FPGA-Master matrix) and opportunities. Not so long ago, iBasso released an AMP12 module for its flagship, built on a fully balanced circuit.

IBasso has been engaged in replaceable amplifiers since 2017. Then, with the release of the DX200 DAP model, the company became one of the first in the world to apply such an extraordinary approach to player construction. Soon the line of such amplifier modules grew to impressive sizes: AMP1, AMP2, AMP3, AMP4, AMP5, AMP6, AMP7, AMP8, AMP1 MK2 and AMP9. At the same time, they were compatible with several DAP iBasso at once: DX150, DX200 and DX220.

The release of the new flagship, the aforementioned "three hundred", required a rethinking of the concept and a technical upgrade of the amplifying modules for it, so I was looking forward to expanding the upgraded version of the AMP-series, and now I waited!

For true audiophiles, the value of such an accessory can hardly be overestimated, but let's talk about everything in order.



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Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa)


Specifications
Output Specifications (Headphone Output):
Output interface: 4.4mm Balanced
Maximum output level: 8.3Vrms
Frequency response: 10Hz-45kHz(+/-0.9dB)
THD+N: -113dB(No Load), -112dB(300 ohm load), -107dB(32 ohm load)
Dynamic range: 126dB
Signal to noise ratio: 126dB
Crosstalk: -115dB
Line-Out Specifications:
Maximum output level: 4.1Vrms
THD+N: -116dB(No load)
Dynamic range: 128dB
Signal to noise ratio: 128dB
Cross talk: -102dB




Appearance and kit

So the AMP12 is an amplifier stage in modular form, a board that you can replace allows you to upgrade your DX300 DAP yourself.

The amplifier comes in a stylish gray cardboard box with the iBasso Audio logo on the top. Under the cover of this dust jacket is a black box also with an embossed brand logo. Inside it is a whole scattering of useful accessories: a hard case with a zipper, similar to a small corrugated peli case, for the module, an additional black case for the DX300 DAP made of genuine leather, a screwdriver that will be useful to us soon, spare screws, as well as instructions and a warranty card. Inside the plastic case we find our amplifier AMP12.

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The iBasso AMP12 is made in nude style: the amplifier board is completely open, on one side it has a docking connector, on the other - an external panel with two balanced outputs: for headphones (HO) and line (LO). Before installing the module in the player, you can admire the black textolite and circuitry of the device: small parts, microcircuits and capacitors. In fact, the board is made at the highest level - beauty!


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The AMP12 is a fully discrete balanced circuit operating in class A. Both headphone and line outputs here have 4.4mm Pentacon connectors.


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Replacing modules is quick and easy. You need to turn off the player, unscrew the two screws located at the edges of the module, and pull the replaceable board towards you, prying it with something like a guitar pick or inserting the connector of your headphones into the jack, and just as gently pull towards you. After removing it, I recommend carefully folding the unused module into the same plastic box with a zipper, so as not to accidentally damage the board.
Then we carry out all the simple manipulations from the first part of the operation in reverse order. We take our AMP12 and join it, inserting it into the grooves and pushing it forward, in place of its predecessor. Now we tighten the two screws with a screwdriver. Voila, everything is ready, you can turn on the player and connect headphones / IEMs.



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Are you ready to move on to the audio experience? Agree, let's start listening to iBasso DX300 with AMP12.


Sound Impressions

For listening we used iBasso IT07 and FIR VxV IEMs (2.5 mm jack / 4.4 mm adapter).

The sound of iBasso AMP12 I will carry out in the context of comparison with the "classic" duo DX300 + AMP11.
I must say right away that background noise and interference were not noticed. On the other hand, a slightly increased power and increased resolution are immediately noticeable, with more emphasis on micro contrast and better channel separation.


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The sound of the DX300 + AMP12 I would describe as well balanced, clean, with an excellent transfer of the emotional component, clear working out of micro and macro nuances, excellent speed characteristics and meticulous rendering of small details of the composition. The musical canvas is drawn in an unusually wide, lively, relief, rich and contrasting manner.

The AMP11, on the other hand, delivers a smoother, warmer, "analog" tone, with a greater emphasis on macro contrast, better depth reproduction, a slightly more imposing low-register style and charming musicality.
The AMP12 does all the work in a more technical way, with a touch of analyticity, with precise and biting elaboration of bass lines and a longer high-frequency range.

In general, the character of the DX300 sound remains recognizable, since the digital part of the player, of course, does not change, but at the same time the transition from one modular board to another is similar to switching between different stationary amplifiers connected to the same DAC. This is a change from an unusually comfortable, charming, enveloping manner (AMP11), to a more open, technical, detailed and emotional sound (AMP12).


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Low frequencies are processed tightly, quickly, with good articulation, elaboration of textures and excellent control. There is a crisp, precise pop, a tight, biting punch, and textured nimble bass. There is not even a hint of hum and booming, only a harmonious combination of quantity and quality, plus an excellent balance. The area of the sabbass is presented linearly, while the midbass is neatly forced, it vivifyingly complements the middle, filling it with “body” and a clear rhythmic basis. AMP11, on the other hand, digs deeper into the lowest register, emphasizing the subbass area and linearly serving the lower mids.


The mids are neutral, clear and smooth, with excellent texture reproduction and excellent resolution. Not a single detail here escapes the listener.
The emotional component of the composition is conveyed in an extremely naturalistic way. Strings, saxophone, keyboards and especially vocals sound chiseled and clean. This is an unusually realistic, smooth, spacious and very melodic manner, with "savoring" all the smallest details of the composition. The positioning of the instruments in space is flawlessly calibrated and realistic.
The DX300 paired with the AMP12 demonstrates excellent detail and striking visualization of sound images in space, and the AMP11 wins in the mid-range with a richer reproduction of the timbre palette.


High frequencies sound long, sophisticated, intelligible, with good articulation, transmission of overtones and enviable correctness. It is an unfolded, spacious, smooth and comfortable feed at the same time. There is an elegant and light color in this register, adding width and air to the listening compositions, but it is presented extremely competently and accurately. There is no excessive brightness, but there is an excellent working out of this range and a natural, extremely musical sound without harshness and distortion.
If we again compare the manner of the two brothers-amps, the AMP11 conveys the upper register more weighty, smoother, more balanced and a little shy, in a charming manner.


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I would also like to note the genre versatility of the new amplifier. He plays very interestingly both classical music, instrumental, jazz, electronica, rock, and heavy brutal genres. Although the predecessor also perfectly coped with all musical styles, but presented them in a slightly different way and, in my opinion, the AMP12 is still more versatile due to its better technicality.

In fact, in this comparison, it is difficult to choose a clear winner, since the choice in this case concerns more individual sound preferences. In my opinion, both amplifiers do an excellent job with the tasks assigned to them. Personally, since the owners of iBasso DX300 already have AMP11 / AMP11 MK2 in the kit, I highly recommend AMP12 for purchase - rest assured, it will definitely not disappoint you.


Conclusion

The AMP12 module will be a perfect match for the AMP11 / AMP11 MK2, and its chic sounding does not give a chance for nagging and criticism.
If you want to add more variety to the sound of your DX300, add even more power, technicality, precision and analytical sound to your sound, and of course, if you want a fully balanced amplifier with a separate balanced line output - the AMP12 is the right choice for you!

Well, about the price. At the time of writing, the iBasso AMP12 has a suggested retail price of $ 229. For this fully justified, in my opinion, the amount the buyer will receive not only the most technically capable amplifier module, but also a good set, and an excellent mood that goes along with it. Listen to your favorite music and enjoy it!
voja
voja
My favorite shot is the one where the two screws are spontaneously lying besides the DX300 with the AMP12 slightly extended. Love it.

Edit: Seems as though Head-Fi mods agree with me, as though this photo is the thumbnail on the front-page :wink:
Mcleenx
Mcleenx
Great review! Thanks for sharing!
Infoseeker
Infoseeker
Is your amp11 a mki or mkii?

Ichos

Reviewer at hxosplus
Discrete class A amplification with a dedicated balanced line output
Pros: - Reference technicalities
- Analog and organic timbre
- Very high quality balanced line output
- Easy installation
- Screwdriver included
- Hard carrying case for the module
- Leather case for the player
Cons: - A 2.5mm balanced output should have been included
- Line output is variable only and cannot be fixed
The AMP12 was kindly provided by iBasso free of charge but they never asked for a favorable review.
As always this is my honest and subjective evaluation of it.
It is selling for €229 and you can get from here
All links provided in this article are not affiliated in any way.

Introduction

The iBasso DX300 is a flagship 6.5" player featuring Quad CS43198 DAC chips, a powerful Snapdragon 660 processor, Dual battery power supply and interchangeable AMP cards.

Full specifications are available here and you can read the full review here

What is an amp card?

An amp card is essentially an interchangeable amplifier stage in a module form that is easily swapped by the user without the need of specialized knowledge.
It is not something new and iBasso have already used it in their previous flagship player the DX220 although the two types of cards are different and not compatible the one with the other.
Such amp card designs are not exclusive to iBasso since a few other companies, like FiiO do use them in their players and portable DACs.

The amp card is a very clever design because users can tailor the sound according to their needs and headphones used.
For example you can use a low gain card with minimal noise floor for your sensitive earphones or a high powered one for full sized headphones and it is not only about gain since you can find even vacuum tube amplifier cards.

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The DX300 amp modules

The DX300 comes with the AMP11MKII card pre-installed and this is the second version of it.
First batches of the player, like our one, featured the AMP11 card but due to some electronic components shortage it was updated to the MKII version with a few differences between the two of them, mainly the power transistors if we are not mistaken.

The AMP11MKII card is a discrete circuit and is equiped with dual balanced headphone outputs (4.4mm and a 2.5mm) plus a single ended 3.5mm one that can also be configured as a line out.
The maximum voltage output is 7.1Vrms and the power is quite high for a DAP reaching 1240mW at 32ohm load.

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AMP12 Technical specifications

The AMP12 brings a fully discrete balanced circuitry to the DX300 both in current and voltage stages with a class A bias rather the conventional AB one.
Quiescent current is run very efficiently in order to prevent serious battery drain and furthermore the amp benefits from the dedicated power supply to offer high power output with low noise floor and extra headroom.

Measurements are pretty impressive since we get a whole 8.3Vrms with THD+N: -113dB(No Load), -112dB(300 ohm load), -107dB(32 ohm load , Dynamic range: 126dB, Signal to noise ratio: 126dB and Crosstalk: -115dB.

Furthermore this time is included a true dedicated balanced line output by the means of a 4.4mm pentacon jack with a full scale 4.1Vrms output.
The signal is variable and we need to set gain to high and raise the volume to maximum in order to get the full voltage.
Since the AMP12 has a dedicated line out the drop down menu loses the option to configure the outputs between phone or line something that makes sense only when using the AMP11MKII.

Physical specifications and installation

The AMP12 is exactly the same size as the AMP11MKII so it fits perfectly in place without extending outside the main body of the player.
There are two gold plated 4.4mm pentacon jacks, one for the phone out and the the other one for the line output.
They sit close together and the labeling is not very clear so it is easy to accidentally use the one instead of the other.
A 2.5mm jack should have been included since there are a lot of people out there with such cables and they have now to use an adapter.

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Swapping the cards is an easy task as the only thing we have to do - after powering off the player - is to unscrew the two screws with the supplied Torx screwdriver.
Then we gently pull out the old card, carefully not to touch the electronics and after that we slide inside the new one putting the screws back in place.

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Accessories

Except for the screwdriver the package includes some spare screws, a hard carrying case for the AMP module and a nice leather case for the player itself which is of better quality and fit than the original one.
Of course the AMP module and the included case are available in black and blue to match the color of the DX300.

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Listening impressions

In order to evaluate the AMP12 we have used both earphones and headphones like the FiiO FH5S , the Sennheiser IE900 , the Focal Clear Mg, the Meze Empyrean and various other models.
We have also tested the line output connected to the iFi ZEN CAN, our reference mid price headphone amplifier.

We don't own super sensitive iems but with all the others we have tested the internal noise floor was non audible.

Battery consumption is barely the same as with the AMP11 and we didn't noticed any significant difference in battery duration.
We didn't perform though any dedicated test to figure out the exact numbers.

Let's start by reminding that the DX300 with the original AMP11 module is one of the best TOTL digital players on the market.
Musical and organic sounding with great analogue timbre, full bodied and holographic, clear, detailed without being artificially analytical, balanced with a flat frequency response, dynamically contrasted and deprived of digital artifacts there is no way not to love it.
Power output is satisfying and enough for efficient full sized headphones except some inefficient planars like the Sundara which still gets loud but lacks in control.

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Listening with the AMP12, honestly don't except to experience a jaw dropping difference since the two amps share quite a lot similar sound characteristics.
Let's not forget that the digital section is still the same so the overall sound signature remains unaffected.

Swapping back and forth between the two, we start to realize that the AMP12 is better thanks for some small but clearly distinguishable inherent advantages that establish a firm impression that doesn't fade away with time.
It is like using the same DAC with two different amplifiers, the best and the better one.

The first thing to notice is how easily the music flows through the headphones, an unrestrained movement of sound waves that travel without encountering any further resistance, no added friction.
It is got nothing to do with power because the effect is present even with the most sensitive iems.
Something like having the water flowing under pressure through a certain tube and then suddenly switching to a wider gauge.

Speaking of power, that extra 1.2Vrms do add greater authority and driver control especially with high Z loads like the Sennheiser HD650 which never sounded so good from a portable player.
We constantly needed to lower the volume a few steps in order to reach the same loudness levels as with the AMP11 and we never run out of headroom.
The three gain settings help to accommodate with various loads and always have a good range of volume adjustment.

Sound is definitely more dynamically contrasted offering far better convincing orchestral swings with greater rise and fall times.
The bass is not necessarily fuller but it hits harder, sounds better defined and controlled with extra separation and clarity compared to the AMP11 which in contrast is more bloomy, loose and foggy but warmer in the overall sense.

Both modules exhibit the same linearity without accentuating any part of the frequency band.
There is a difference in transient speed and undoubtedly the AMP12 is faster but thankfully without rushed decay, although some people might prefer the more lazy and laid back decaying of the AMP11.
While the AMP12 is by no means bright or treble forward the AMP11 can be perceived as smoother and more relaxed due to the overall slower speed and the slightly warmer sound signature.

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Noise floor is lower on the AMP12 which has a blacker background so it feels more clear and transparent with better detail retrieval but it never becomes overly analytical.

As a whole texture is of higher quality and the notes are presented with finer articulation while the AMP12 retains all the great musical and analogue timbre of the player.

The enhanced clarity helps a lot with positioning so instrumentalists and performers occupy better defined, three dimensional places.
Soundstage is larger and widely extended with added depth but not artificially stretched.
A great holographic soundscape that breathes fresh air and sounds very lively with a natural reverb and realism to it.

Balanced line output

Hugely transparent and full sounding, the balanced line output passes with immense clarity and precision all the excellent sound characteristics of the player to an external amplifier.
The standard 3.5mm line output is good but with the new AMP12 dedicated line, the DX300 DAC portion easily competes with stand alone units and can be successfully used with quality headphone and integrated speaker amplifiers or even powered speakers.
And in our opinion, this is the main feature and innovation of the AMP12 card as it takes the line output performance to a whole new level and adds some extra value to the already perfect DX300.
A portable player that can now act as a high quality stand alone DAC, we do see most users completely satisfied with the performance and not feeling the urge to upgrade to something else.

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At the end

The DX300 from iBasso is as good as it gets with the included AMP11 (or MKII) and it is not necessary to buy the AMP12 in order to enjoy it.

But if you want to squeeze every last drop of performance and experience high quality class A headphone amplification and/or you need the best dedicated balanced line output then you should definitely try the AMP12.

It will transform your player into a reference sounding machine with ultimate technicalities without sacrificing a bit of the excellent analogue and organic timbre.

For a more forgiving and somewhat laid back sound you should probably stick with the stock module but in all other cases you just can't beat the AMP12 which easily earns our highest recommendation.

Test playlist

Copyright - Laskis Petros 2021
Last edited:
Ichos
Ichos
@14christ
Unfortunately I haven't experienced a higher end DAP but honestly I don't find this one with amp 12 lacking in anything to make me search for something better.
I don't doubt that better might exist but for my money this one is as good as it gets.
Nostoi
Nostoi
Good review but small point why is this review written in the first person plural (we, our) when it's written by a single author? Unless there's two or more of you writing, it makes little sense.
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Ichos
Ichos
I was used by the writing style in the printed edition where I am an author where third person is more usual.
Recently I have changed my writing style here in Headfi and I am writing in first person.
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