<b>Description</b><br /> <ul> <li>High Voltage Swing ,Balanced Amplifier Card</li> <li>+/-8V voltage swing, equal to 32V voltage swing when compared to single ended. This is significantly improves the dynamics and headroom.</li> <li>Patented...

iBasso AMP3

Rating:
4.75/5,
  • Description
    • High Voltage Swing ,Balanced Amplifier Card
    • +/-8V voltage swing, equal to 32V voltage swing when compared to single ended. This is significantly improves the dynamics and headroom.
    • Patented balanced amplification circuit, that retains all the benefits of a balanced design, such as higher output voltage and better separation. At the same time, our Patented design has even harmonics that keeps the sound full and musical.
    • Topology utilizing voltage feedback and current feedback, utilizing the benefits of both types of feedback.
    • OPAMP + BUF architecture, optimized for both high voltage demand and high output current demand monitors.

Recent Reviews

  1. Dobrescu George
    AMP 3 and AMP 5 for iBasso DX200
    Written by Dobrescu George
    Published Mar 11, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent Sonic Abilities, Convenience, Battery Life is not affected that much, Excellent Driving Power, Excellent fit with the original DAP, Soundstage, Dynamics, Vividness, Details, Very Musical Sound,
    Cons - High End Items Come At A High End Price
    AMP 3 and AMP 5 for iBasso DX200

    AMP 3 and AMP 5 for iBasso DX200 are some of the most interesting add-ons you can give a DAP as they give it a whole new sound with a lot to root for. We'll explore what changes they bring to the sound of DX200 and which we recommend the best.

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    AMP 5 Buy from Penon: https://penonaudio.com/ibasso-amp5.html

    AMP 3 Buy from Penon: https://penonaudio.com/ibasso-amp3.html

    AMP 5 Buy from iBasso Directly: http://www.ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=6024#page4

    AMP 3 Buy from iBasso Directly: http://www.ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=5696#page4



    Introduction

    I reviewed a few iBasso products already, and they are clearly one of my favorites company, with excellent customer support, excellent ethics and a very good overall quality for their products. iBasso is also the company behind the IEM that shocked the world, iBasso IT-01, which I reviewed before: https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.com/2018/02/ibasso-it01-love-for-music.html

    It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with iBasso, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by iBasso or anyone else. I'd like to thank iBasso for providing the sample for the review. The sample was provided along with iBasso's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with AMP 3 and AMP 5 modules. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in DX200 and its ulterior AMP modules find their favorite sonic flavor and to make the most out of DX200 and their music listening experience. There are no affiliate links in this review.



    About me

    https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/p/about.html



    It is essential to read our review on DX200 and to note that those AMP modules are made to work with it and that they are not standalone amplifiers, and that they will not work without a DX200. More on our review here:

    https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/2017/12/ibasso-dx200-reference-flagship-from.html



    Packaging

    First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:

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    Each AMP module comes packaged in a small, rectangular cardboard box, and it is seated in a foam cutout, where the pin array is kept safe from any impediments. The box is hugged by a thin plastic layer which has the name of the AMP module written on it, but there is no more data written on any of the AMP modules.

    Each module comes packaged with a screwdriver, iBasso making sure that you will be able to mount and use the module without any hassle. There is a warranty book included with each module, but that comprises most of the package, iBasso making sure that the space in each package is used efficiently.

    All in all, as those are just Amplifier modules for DX200, we are quite happy with the way they are packaged, and there isn't any large issue we can spot with the packaging.



    What to look in when purchasing a high-end DAP

    https://audiophile-heaven.blogspot.ro/p/what-to-lookl.html



    Technical Specifications

    (Taken from Penon selling site)

    AMP 3:

    2.5mm balanced earphone out:

    Output voltage: 6Vrms
    Frequency response: 10Hz-45KHz-0.5dB
    SN: 124dB
    THD+N: 0.00025%—112dB(32Ω@2.4Vrms)
    DNR: 124dB
    Crosstalk: -123dB
    2.5mm balanced

    Line out:

    Output voltage: 6Vrms
    Frequency response: 10Hz-45KHz-0.5dB
    SN: 124dB
    THD+N: 0.00022%-113dB
    Crosstalk: -114dB



    AMP 5:

    Phone Out:

    Output Voltage: 3.2Vrms
    Frequency Response: 15Hz~45KHz -0.3dB
    S/N: 121dB
    THD+N: 0.00025%, -112dB
    DNR: 120dB
    Crosstalk: -107dB

    Line Out:

    Output Voltage: 3Vrms
    Frequency Response: 15Hz~45KHz -0.3dB
    S/N: 120dB
    THD+N: 0.00023%, -113dB
    DNR: 120dB
    Crosstalk: -107dB



    Build Quality/Aesthetics/UI/Firmware

    Each AMP module is made to work with DX200, and the combination is usually flawless and there isn't any type of issue. The body of the DAP combines perfectly with the body of the AMP, and iBasso seems to have taken great care in taking very small margins of error when it comes to their shape, size and color. Each AMP module did fit perfectly and their construction is as solid as the one of the original AM01 module which comes with DX200.

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    iBasso DX200 needs to be turned off while replacing an amp module. Not shutting it down while doing this can break it, and the AMP module might not be recognized.

    Other than this, each module works and looks as intended, meaning that iBasso did a great job in both fitting the building process and the software process.



    Sound Quality

    It is important to note that we'll mostly be comparing AMP 1 with AMP 3 and AMP 5. At the same time, it is essential to notice that AMP 3 is 2.5mm TRRS Balanced only, while AMP 5 is 3.5mm TRS Single Ended only, so cables and volume matching might induce a bit of error in the process, and not all IEMs and Headphones have the right cables to work with both modules.

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    Bass

    When it comes to bass, AMP 1 seems to be the most neutral one. All AMP cards have similar extension and all of them go well down to 20 Hz and can make any pair of IEMs of Headphones rumble, but AMP 5 has the most power of the 3, so it provides the best control for large, over-the-ear headphones, giving the most controlled and strongest bass for harder to drive loads, while AMP 3 might be a tad quicker, provided the right cables and that you don't require more power than AMP 3 provides. In terms of bass response, both AMP 3 and AMP 5 seem to provide an ever so slightly warmer response than AMP 1, where AMP 1 seems to be the tightest, with the quest response, AMP 5 seems to be the most natural with the warmest response, and AMP 3 seems to be a good balance and to be in between. Bass resolution is amazing with all of them, but AMP 5 seems to provide the most realistic feeling, especially with large headphones.

    With songs like Kinfe Party - Bonfire, the bass impact is best felt on AMP5, and the overall song feels to have the most dynamic force and with AMP 5, while it is the most vivid with AMP 3. AMP 1 feels most reference, providing probably the most raw detail, but providing a less exciting response than either of its brothers, and given that AM01 was already quite amazing, both AMP 3 and AMP 5 are already quite amazing. The soundstage feels most realistic on AMP 5, with AMP 3 maybe being a hair wider, but less deep.




    Midrange

    The midrange tonality and balance seems to be spot-on for all AMP modules from iBasso. It is quite hard to tell them apart, but AMP 5 tends to have a slightly warmer sound with a bit more sparkle in the treble, while AMP 3 tends to also have a slightly warmer sound with more sparkle in the treble compared to AMP 1, which feels to be the most reference module. The midrange itself tends to be a tad smoother on both AMP 3 AMP 5, being more musical and more captivation emotionally, while AMP 1 is the quickest, but at the same time the least engaging out of the 3. The smoothness of AMP 5 and AMP 3 is given by a smooth and musical general sound rather than a smooth treble, the whole sound is easier to listen to and more enjoyable, AMP 1 being the most reference of the 3, and standing to being the most precise of them, AMP 1 in balance to the other two AMP modules reminding a bit of ER4-XR from Etymotic, which was also plenty detailed and had a lot of resolution.

    With songs line Lindsey Stirling - Anti-Gravity, the most emotional and engaging violin sound comes from AMP 5, which tends to also the be the most engaging overall, while AMP 3 tends to give her music the widest stage, with the most vivid sound, though AMP 5 tends to hold the upper hand in dynamics and general engagement. The general midrange tonality seems to be perfect on all, and violins have a natural sound, along with voices, for all 3 AMP modules.



    Treble

    The treble is usually where most differences are, but in this case, all 3 AMP modules have an excellent extension in the treble, and all 3 can play the highest registers with ease and with excellent detail. Of the 3, both AMP3 and AMP 5 tend to be more sparkly in their treble, while AMP 1 tends to be a bit more even and flatter throughout its response, and although it might come off as brighter with certain IEMs and Headphones, AMP 1 also tends to be a bit less sparkly and less engaging, maybe more reference when compared to its brothers. This doesn't cancel any of the observation I made in my previous review of DX200 with AMP 1, just places AMP 3 and AMP 5 even higher than it, both of those being quite amazing in their response. AMP 3 seems to be the most vibrant in the treble, while AMP 5 tends to be a tad smoother even in the treble than AMP 3. None of the AMP modules doesn't tend to have a grainy treble, and all of them tend to be very pleasing in their treble reproduction.

    On songs like Zomboy - Game Time, all AMP modules render an excellent overall dynamic and detail for this song. AMP 5 tends to have a better bass impact than its brothers, while AMP 3 tends to be wider in its soundstage presentation. The general tonality balance is quite spot-on for all 3, and the general engagement seems to be the best with AMP 5.



    Soundstage

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    The soundstage is quite intriguing, as it was already pretty good and well-rounded on AMP 1. Starting with AMP 3, the soundstage got even wider than it was on AMP 1, without sacrificing the depth AMP 1 had. On the other hand, AMP 5 tends to add even more depth, to the improvement AMP 3 made, making the soundstage both wide and deep at the same time, and in the grander scheme of things, bigger in all directions than AMP 1, although AMP 1 was already quite amazing.



    ADSR/PRaT

    The ADSR / PRaT tends to be a bit different between the 3 modules. Starting with the AMP1, it could be called the most precise of the 3 AMP modules. It is the quickest, has the quickest overall impulse response, and can come as the most detailed. Fine textures and micro details are rendered with amazing precision, and it acts like a magnifying glass, providing excellent introspection in the details of a song.

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    AMP 3 tends to be a bit more relaxed than AMP 1, so the music tends to be a bit smoother, musical notes having a slightly different presentation, with a slightly more musical tendency, and a slightly more enthusiastic approach. This makes AMP 3 also sound a tad more dynamic and more engaging than AMP 1, but both are plenty musical and plenty dynamic, AMP 3 is just a tad better.

    AMP 5 takes things one step ahead, making things even smoother and effortless, providing a good introspection into details and micro-details, as well as fine textures, but eventually feeling a tad musical in comparison.

    It is important to note that the differences are not day and night, but with a lot of listening they can become more evident.



    Portable Usage

    The portable usage scenario of the AMP modules is similar to that of iBasso DX200, but the total battery life of DX200 might vary a bit depending on which AMP module is installed. There some battery life reduction with AMP 5, but it is a bit hard to tell exactly what the runtime is with each, as the testing with mixed usage scenarios indicates that AMP 5 takes away one to two hours of battery life, but it is hard to tell if with a specific usage scenario it will bear different results. Since AMP5 is a bit louder than AMP 1, and since it has a bit more power, it might also be kept at a lower total volume, so it might result in less battery life lost with specific usage scenarios.

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    For AMP 3, it should be noted that it only has 2.5mm Balanced outputs, so unless using and having spare Balanced cables, AMP 3 can be considered slightly less portable than AMP 5 and AMP 1. It should also be noted that 2.5mm plugs are generally less reliable than 3.5mm plugs, leading to more issues with plugs breaking in 2.5mm balanced ports. This is actually solved by iBasso with the release of their AMP 4 module, which sports a 4.4mm Balanced cable, which will be better than AMP 3 in reliability. A broken 2.5mm plug won't damage the AMP module, but it would be best for AMP 3 to not be placed in a pocket with other objects that might place strain on the plug, while AMP 5 doesn't have such issues, relying on a 3.5mm connector.

    AMP 4 is also supposed to spot a very good sound, and we're looking forward to writing about it in the near future.



    Comparisons

    The biggest rivals here are AM03A and AM05 from FiiO, to be compared against AMP5 from iBasso DX200, and how will this change the overall impression of DX200 vs FiiO X7mkii.

    Starting with DX200 + AMP5 vs X7mkii + AM05, Here, the score is very close and both have a very very similar tuning. Both offer excellent amounts of power, being able to power Audeze LCD-MX4, and Beyerdynamic Amiron, and both are quite able in reproducing an effortless, smooth and musical sound, with a lot of dynamics and an excellent overall engagement. AMP 5 from iBasso might be a hair more revealing than AM05 from FiiO, but the difference is quite minimal and should be taken with a grain of salt, both being excellent options for powering demanding headphones. Both work very well with IEMs, and it is hard to notice any hiss with either, so both have a golden rating. Adding AMP5 to DX200 and facing it against X7mkii, if X7mkii is still sporting its AM03A makes DX200 more engaging and more vivid, and gives it a larger lead in detail and revealing abilities, but after X7mkii is paired with its AM05, the things are more even, making X7mkii hold its ground. While extremely complicated to determine a clear winner, AMP 5 with DX200 might be a hair better, but again, the differences are not big here.

    When it comes to iBasso DX200 w AMP 3 vs X7mkii with AM03A, the two are very similar in presentation, signature, tonal balance, dynamics and power, but DX200 with AMP 3 has a bit more detail, although the difference isn't night and day.

    Compared to Opus #2, DX200 + AMP 5 is similarly organic in nature, but it is more revealing and has more driving power, along with a more vivid and effortless sound, especially with harder to drive headphones.



    Value and Conclusion

    Both AMP modules for DX200 will cost you around two hundred dollars, and in all honesty, while they aren't exactly cheap, especially compared to FiiO's AMP modules, for example, depending if you have more balanced cables or Single Ended cables, both modules are quite lovely. It is hard to even imagine picking just one, but it really comes down to one's needs and sonic preferences. The value surely is there and while neither doesn't recreate DX200 and doesn't transform it into an entirely other DAP, both can make it more enjoyable, and both can improve your experience for a part of its cost. If you already found happiness with DX200 and if you already have a pair of higher end headphones or IEMs you really love, then picking either of those AMP modules can squeeze even more performance from an already amazing and lovely product.

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    Of course, you could also add an external AMP do DX200, but then you'd have a larger stack to carry, and most AMPs that would perform as either AMP5 or AMP3 do, would be much more expensive, so iBasso did manage to create not only an excellent one-device solution with DX200, but also managed to keep the costs lower than every other standalone Amplifier option with similar performance.

    At the end of the day, both AMP modules are quite amazing and both provide an excellent addition to an already excellent flagship, neither isn't quite that expensive, and both have a great deal going on for them. If you're looking for a way to make the amazing DX200 even better, you should really have all its AMP modules in sight as they can make the situation much more interesting.



    Stay safe and remember to always have fun while listening to music!


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  2. HiFiChris
    AMP1's somewhat smoother sounding Brother
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Oct 10, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - •all of AMP1's greatness (now output impedance, really high transparency, very good SNR, precise soundstage, loads of power) but with a somewhat smoother, more impactful delivery
    •one of the rare devices with a fully balanced Line Out for those who want/need it
    Cons - •not on the cheap side
    Preamble:

    Originally posted on my German audio review site, the "Kopfhörer-Lounge", here comes my review of the iBasso AMP3 module, a fully balanced amplifier module for the DX200 with even a balanced Line Out.


    Introduction:

    iBasso Audio’s DX200 flagship audio player was introduced with the feature of having replaceable amplifier modules.

    Some months after the player was released, the first amplifier module, “AMP2”, was introduced. It featured a fully single-ended internal structure with a technical “active balanced ground”/”virtual ground” implementation and a slightly smoother presentation compared to the bundled “AMP1” module when doing volume-matched, comparative listening.

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    Now after some more time has passed, there is another new amplifier module available. It is logically called “AMP3” and features only balanced outputs.

    What makes it special (at least I haven’t seen this on any other portable audio player) is that its Line Out is also a balanced 2.5 mm TRRS output wherefore the DX200 has become even more interesting as a pre-amplifier for people with compatible speaker gear who want to take advantage of this feature.


    How and if the AMP3 differs sonically from the AMP1 module’s balanced output is one thing among others that I find out and summarise in this very review.


    Full disclosure:
    I was provided with a free sample of the AMP3 module for the iBasso DX200 that I reviewed some time ago. I also measured and reviewed the AMP2 module as a follow-up.

    The AMP3 module was sent to me for giving my honest opinion on it as well as writing an (as usually) unbiased, honest and unpaid review. Before I go on, I would like to take a moment to personally thank iBasso and especially their Paul for the continued generosity and trust.


    Technical Specifications:


    http://ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=5696
    MSRP: $199

    2.5 mm Balanced Headphone Output:

    Max. Output: 6 V (RMS)
    Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 45 kHz (-0.5 dB)
    SNR: 124 dB
    THD+N: 0.00025%, -112 dB (32 Ohms @ 2.4 V (RMS))
    DNR: 124 dB
    Crosstalk: -132 dB

    2.5 mm Balanced Line Out:
    Max. Output: 6 V (RMS)
    Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 45 kHz (-0.5 dB)
    SNR: 124 dB
    THD+N: 0.00022%, -113 dB
    Crosstalk: -114 dB

    Unboxing & Delivery Content:

    The amplifier module arrives in a black cardboard box with a white sleeve around it, reading “iBasso Audio AMP3”. On the back, one can find the amplifier module’s serial number.

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    Inside, of course except for the module itself, one can find a warranty card as well as instructions on how to change the amplifier modules. A small screwdriver to change the modules comes included, too.
    Therefore one will find everything that is needed to change the modules in this black cardboard box that can also be handy for storing the amplifier module that is currently not in use.

    One additional accessory in the box would come in handy though: a small dust plug to protect the output that is currently not in use and to avoid using the wrong output by mistake.

    Visual Appearance & Build Quality:

    The AMP3 module looks basically just like the AMP1 and AMP2 module, except for having two 2.5 mm TRRS outputs and the lack of the large “Reference DAP” inscription the AMP1 has. Other than that, the text on the back is the same.
    Since it is also made of black as well as silver metal, it feels very solid and is built well.

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    On the lower right hand side, one can find an inscription saying “AMP3”.


    Changing the modules:

    … is a super simple process.

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    The two screws on the side of the amplifier module that is attached to the DX200 have to be loosened using a screwdriver, for example the one that comes with the module itself. Removing the screws entirely is not required but two or three rotations are already enough to loosen them.
    Then, the module can be slid down and lifted off.

    After that has been done, the other module can be put on, slid in place and then the screws can be tightened (be careful not to overtighten them though).


    Using the Balanced Line Output:

    Feature- and spec-wise, the DX200 is undeniably a formidable and premium portable high-end digital audio player. Therefore it does absolutely make sense to also use it in a proper speaker setup.

    Given the AMP3 has now got a fully balanced Line Output as well, this also means that the DX200 can now be used as a fully balanced pre-amplifier with mono-block power amplifiers. For stereo amplifiers however, please make sure that they have separated grounds on the inside, else you would short the circuit, which you don’t want to do!

    Anyway, while a balanced signal transmission only mainly makes sense if the cable is very long, it can also bring a slightly better measured performance that, while probably not audible in a blind test, does give a better feeling nonetheless.

    - - -

    Over the past 10 years, I have pretty much reduced (/downgraded) and abandoned most of my stereo speaker audio gear for my main Swans M1 (that I would likely replace with a larger set of active Neumann/Klein & Hummel monitors if speaker audio were still as important to me) and DIY Cyburgs Needle computer speakers.

    Long gone are the large, once expensive Pioneer and Sony amplifiers, in favour of small and rather inexpensive digital Pro-Ject mono power amps and a DIY pre-amplifier with a digitally controlled analogue volume control circuit.
    So really nothing fancy or high-end and mostly laying in abandonment, but if I wanted to, I could re-activate my setup anytime.

    So after soldering a matching cable for my Pro-Ject mono-block power amps (that logically have separated grounds wherefore they can be used with the AMP3’s balanced Line Out), I was ready to use the DX200 as a pre-amplifier for my Pro-Ject mono-block power-amp- + Swans M1-setup.

    As the Line Out is variable, the DX200 can be perfectly used as a pre-amplifier for this setup. And not much surprisingly, it does work perfectly for this application. Be careful though, since it can maximally output 6 V RMS through the Line Out, too, according to its specifications.

    Is there a noticeable improvement over using a single-ended Line Output? Not with this setup at least, but my Swans speakers are not particularly high-end either and, while their separation is very good in their price class, they are beat by numerous smaller active studio monitors when it comes to control and resolution even though they cost the same as my Swans or even less. But I wouldn’t really expect a larger difference even with a high-end stereo speaker rig as long as the previous line output was not too shabby.

    What is also possible though is using the AMP3’s balanced Line Out with a portable headphone amplifier that has got a balanced Line In, however there are just a handful of them and I don’t have any of those on hand.

    So let’s move on to the next section.

    Sound:

    Before heading over to a the more detailed description, it is very important to note that it is required to have at least firmware version FW2.5141 installed on the DX200 in order to have full compatibility with the fully balanced AMP3 module.

    Specs compared to AMP1:

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    Frequency Response, Output Impedance:

    One of the most basic and fundamental things an audio player should have is a flat unloaded frequency response in the important range of 20 to 20000 Hz. While it is anything but sorcery to achieve this in modern days, some (however mainly inexpensive and rather no-name) audio players still fail to do that.

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    But even when having a flat frequency response without any load at all or with a simple load (such as a headphone that has got the same impedance over its entire frequency response), things are getting much more difficult with most multi-driver in-ears that have got more than just one driver and a crossover circuit that causes the in-ears’ resistance to vary along with their frequency response.

    If the audio player’s headphone output doesn’t have a low output impedance, the in-ears’ frequency response and therefore heard tonality will be skewed and they will (depending on the player’s output impedance and the in-ears’ specific impedance response) sound more or less different than when driven by an audio player that has got a low output impedance.

    To maintain an unaltered sound even with low impedance multi-driver in-ears, it is therefore best to have an audio player that has got an output impedance of less than 1 Ohm.

    - - -

    Using my regular RMAA methods to capture the unloaded and unloaded frequency response won’t work with the AMP3 module since neither of my soundcards/audio interfaces have got any balanced inputs.

    So no loaded and unloaded RMAA frequency response measurements this time.

    However, given their past amplifier modules, amplifiers and digital audio players, it is highly unlikely that iBasso would implement anything other than an absolutely flat frequency response in the AMP3 module.

    Upon request, iBasso Audio informed me that the AMP3 has also got a nicely low output impedance over its balanced headphone output (around 0.36 Ohms), which would be a pretty ideal value for about any output-impedance-critical, low impedance multi-BA in-ear, and based on iBasso’s honest disclosure of specifications in the past, there is little to no reason to not trust them.

    - - -

    And while I am not able to do electric RMAA measurements of the AMP3 module, I was able to perform acoustic measurements using my Vibro Labs Veritas setup and the Fidue SIRIUS as connected in-ear, tightly sealed in the Veritas coupler using that blue modelling clay stuff that came with it. However, instead of using my usual Veritas setup soundcard, the LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100, I used the DX200 in USB DAC mode.

    What I did was to measure the output from AMP3’s headphone output and compare it to what AMP1 outputs over its balanced headphone output.

    Subtracting one signal from the other, this is the result I got:

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    A flat line that indicates that both modules output the exact same frequency response.

    I then also measured AMP1’s 3.5 mm headphone output and compared its signal to what its balanced 2.5 mm output puts out, and the result was the same. Given that I already RMAA-measured AMP1’s single-ended headphone output’s frequency response with and without load, this logically leads to the conclusion that both AMP1’s and AMP3’s balanced outputs are just as linear and neutral when it comes to frequency response.


    Hiss:

    I consider myself as someone who is rather sensitive to hearing hiss and have also got some very sensitive in-ears (none of them is terminated with a balanced connector though since I am an “everything stock” person and do personally/privately not really need a balanced connection).
    So with the right in-ear, I can hear hiss to a varying degree with almost any digital audio player.

    Using the AMP3’s headphone output with the Fidue SIRIUS, iBasso IT03 (iBasso CB13 cable) and DUNU DK-3001, there is only a very slight amount of hiss noticeable with empty audio files or during silent passages. It’s lower compared to my Chord Mojo’s headphone output, however not as quiet as from AMP1’s or AMP2’s single-ended headphone output. Given the higher voltage though, this is no surprise, and considering that driving power, the amount of audible hiss is comparatively very little.

    What’s interesting is a comparison between AMP1’s and AMP3’s balanced headphone outputs. Directly comparing the two outputs, AMP3 has only got ever so slightly more hiss than AMP1 in quiet passages (the difference is extremely small and only noticeable when comparing both head-to-head in within less than 10 seconds).

    So yeah, the amount of hiss is still nicely low (although the output is not entirely quiet with sensitive in-ears, which would however also not be realistic with that voltage output) and hasn’t really changed compared to the AMP1 module.

    Subjective Perception of Transparency, Precision & Soundstage:

    Now to the rather subjective part of my review. My opinion and experience regarding the perceived “character” and “transparency” of source devices and amplifiers is this one: there can be an existing audible difference between various devices, but it should definitely not be overrated – simply because the basic character of a headphone won’t be completely changed (if the circuit follows a clean design philosophy and the output is load-stable), but sometimes rather slightly “shaped” and is usually very subtle in many cases, and is (in most cases) just slightly present (if even) and not “huge” or like “totally different classes” or “night and day”.

    I am not a fan of exaggerations and hyperboles here because as long as the objectifyable parameters of an audio player are neutral and not too shabby (loaded frequency response, distortion, crosstalk, dynamic range, noise, …), the audible difference, if there is any, will be quite small at best if two devices are compared with proper volume matching that cannot be done by ear but only with instruments, since even small differences in loudness can be perceived as a technical advantage by our ear and brain.

    A more detailed, German article written by me concerning the “audible difference between comparable audio devices, if there is any” can be found here: http://kopfhoerer-lounge.blogspot.de/2016/04/Eigenklang.html

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    So let’s go on with my subjective impressions and observations of the AMP3 module’s balanced headphone output (for this critical listening, I mainly used the Fidue SIRIUS, iBasso IT03 with the CB13 cable and my Audeze LCD-X):

    The description on their website states that iBasso is using a patented balanced design for the AMP3 module that lowers the odd harmonic distortion while it keeps the even harmonic distortion, which results in a comparatively “full and musical” sound.

    In this paragraph, I could actually copy and paste most of the things I wrote about AMP1’s balanced output in my original DX200 review and only change a few lines (the bass appears ever so slightly more impactful due to a slightly softer response, vocals appear slightly more “organic” and there is a slight change in cymbal attack – however as both amplifiers output a flat frequency response and the differences lay in the harmonic distortions, the audible differences are clearly more like nuances, which was to be expected. This also reminds me of the Elekit TU-HP02 headphone amplifier that has got a “trioderized” circuit that adds harmonic distortions to the sound, and listening to that amplifier for my review, I was also rather surprised that the added smoothness and organic-ness were quite small compared to a an amplifier that doesn’t have that added distortion and circuit).

    So no, there is no huge difference between the two outputs – in fact, the difference is only rather expressed in nuances.

    There is some more organic-ness going on compared to AMP1’s balanced output, however the “character” is not as smooth and analogue-ish as AMP2’s headphone output or the Chord Mojo. Comparing AMP3’s character/timbre to AMP2, it even sounds a bit analytical.

    So instead of describing everything twice, I decided to move that description and the comparison over to the next paragraph.

    - - - - - - - - -

    Compared with the AMP1 module (balanced output):

    In my original review of the DX200 that of course featured the bundled AMP1 module, I found that its balanced headphone output had more of an “aggressive”, slightly brighter timbre and appeared even more spacious during volume-matched comparisons with its single-ended headphone output.

    - - -

    So as I mentioned, the difference I was hearing between the two amplifier modules was certainly smaller than I initially thought, just as back in 2015 when I reviewed the portable Elekit TU-HP02 headphone amplifier with a “trioderized” circuit.

    Interesting to notice is also that the difference between the two modules, at least for me, is easier to spot when switching from AMP3 to AMP1, while it is certainly more difficult (I would even say almost impossible under objective circumstances) when doing it the other way around (switching from AMP1 to AMP3).

    Anyway, what I am hearing is a slightly more “organic” appearing “character” coming from AMP3 compared to AMP1. Also, attack of higher frequencies appears a tad less “aggressive”. The presentation of the midrange and highs is therefore what I would call slightly “defused” while not losing any detail or information, which wouldn’t be really possible anyway since the difference is in fact relatively small. For instance, the difference in terms of sound “character” between the DX200 and Cowon Plenue 2 or Chord Electronics Mojo is a good bit larger and more noticeable in comparison.

    Comparing the two, switching from AMP3 to AMP1, AMP1 appears to have the slightly “sharper” cymbal attack. The two amplifiers don’t really differ in terms of perceived brightness or smoothness, it’s just that the presentation is a little more organic using AMP3.

    The comparatively biggest difference apart from that slight bit of extra organic-ness, if it can even be called “big” since it’s just rather a nuance and since both amplifiers have got a flat frequency response, is happening in the lows that appear a little more “impactful” with AMP3, which I would say is because they tend to be a little softer compared to AMP1. Not any less detailed or any less controlled, just slightly softer.

    When it comes to transparency, there isn’t really a difference – both modules are on an identically high level.

    Moving over to the spatial presentation, AMP3 seems to have barely more width and barely less depth compared to AMP1 – but those are even smaller differences than the ones in the other areas, so I would call the soundstage basically identically spacious, large and three-dimensional.

    [​IMG]

    So what’s the gist?

    AMP3 adds a little more organic-ness to its character compared to AMP1’s balanced headphone output, while the presentation is still clear and clean, just with a slightly “defused” midrange and treble attack – basically what some people would call a slightly more “analogue” sound. So AMP1 is slightly crisper while AMP3 has got the slightly more organic presentation through its balanced headphone output using sensitive in-ears.

    Keep in mind that those aren’t large differences but rather small nuances when regarded from a more objective point of view.


    Conclusion:

    iBasso Audio’s AMP3 is the right choice of module for everybody who feels to be in need of a balanced 2.5 mm TRRS headphone output but wants a little more “organic-ness” and perceived impact compared to AMP1’s balanced headphone output, while achieving that by using amplifier modules instead of carrying a separate amplifier or using the EQ the player provides.

    It is also the module dedicated to those who want to have a fully balanced Line Output.
  3. H20Fidelity
    iBasso Amp3 Module Review
    Written by H20Fidelity
    Published Sep 22, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Excellent control and performance, bang for buck is present, great for those who demand high power output from a portable device.
    Cons - No 3.5mm jack option, brings out a lot of bass with the only IEM I could try.
    Its been almost a year since iBasso DX200 released, with that comes additional support, features, firmwares, and add-ons. Today we're looking at the latest amp module for the player 'Amp3'. Its quite an unusual amp for those who aren't up to date with the latest and greatest ways of enjoying portable audio, the amp only supports 2.5mm balanced outputs without the well-known 3.5mm jack everyone is familiar with. DX200 has miles of potential, its been the player that created a true upgrade for me from my previous set-up, if you haven't had the chance to hear one I'd highly suggest taking time to do so, the sound is really excellent.

    Amp3 was provided to me as a review sample, I'd like to thank iBasso and especially Paul for reaching out to test one.


    Price: $199 USD

    Availability: http://ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=5696#page1

    Specs:

    Amp3 site pic 3.png

    Amp3 site pic 1.png

    Amp3 site pic 2.png



    Unboxing:


    Greeted by a similar box the earlier iBasso DX50/90 players came in Amp3 is enclosed inside a padded out insert, its simple without anything over the top. Also inside is some paperwork and a flat head screwdriver for installing the amp. Nothing overly luxurious, it gets the job done.

    box 2.jpg

    box 1.jpg


    Installation

    Connecting Amp3 is reasonably simple, there are two flat head screws located on either side of iBassos amp modules, by unscrewing them half way they back out from 2 tabs located on the players frame allowing it to slide away completely. There's no need to unscrew these completely or remove them as they only need to be backed away from two tabs slightly. On the player itself and amp modules, there are also some guidance segments which make installation fairly foolproof, the amp will only connect one way and always insert straight due to the way its been designed.

    IMG_4104.JPG


    IMG_4106.JPG

    If I was going to nitpick it would be the use of flat head screws, they're quite small, hard to see, especially for older people in low light, what I've found is it can be a hassle to keep the screwdriver in position, it can slip away from the screw when turning and end up scratching the paintwork over time. I would have preferred seeing Allen key type grub screws, they slot straight in, have less chance of coming away and would suit the player more overall with the type of fixtures it uses.

    Amp Outputs:

    Using Amp3 there aren't any options to use standard 3.5mm headphone/IEM cables, what you use must be configured for 2.5mm balanced output, that includes the optional 2.5mm line out. Those wanting to use their regular headphone cables must take a look at the Amp2 module from earlier in the year. I'm not sure how I feel about this, I understand the amp has been designed with some special architecture and its going to appeal for many die hard portable audiophiles, I just wonder if the absence of 3.5mm outputs entirely on amps is ready for the market, could the amp have sold more if the modules iBasso release all had a 3.5mm option? I guess that's up to them and not me to decide.

    Battery Life:

    From my testing I was averaging very similar run times as Amp1, around 8-10 hours, I cannot speak for how Amp3 will fair when running 24bit files constantly and full-size depending headphones but I really couldn't detect much difference between the stock Amp1 module with the IEMs I was using. I do know Amp3 throws out a lot of power when called upon so it might just be my IEMs were very easy to drive.

    Sound impressions:

    IEM used: Tralucent 1Plus2.2

    All files: FLAC 16/44

    I find the tonality of Amp3 on the slightly smooth/warm side, it has excellent refinement and control right across the board especially throughout the low end, speed and note separation makes many older single ended output players sound underwhelming when I try switching back, its very impressive in this regard coming from a portable system and more reminiscent of a desktop amp. The levels of detail around the mid-range while smooth are superb along with instrument separation and treble extension, you really feel the additional power Amp3 is outputting to good use in technical areas. Other aspects such as vocal sibilance with spitty IEMs was almost reduced to nothing due to the amount of control the amp has.

    The amp is also rather organic/natural sounding, it loses some of the typical Sabre instinct many would be familiar with sounding more laid back for easier listening. I won't say the detail or resolution suffers at all, its just a smoother sound trying to lose that processed timbre and tonality many Sabre DACs are tuned for. Areas like soundstage are wide with great layering, when the separation, control, and layering work together you certainly perceive strong images of each instrument playing individually. There have been times I've heard small micro details I hadn't before with songs I've known for years, they just come through more obviously.

    At the other end of the string I also find Amp3 brings out a lot of bass with the IEM I'm using, it can sound intrusive at higher volumes and overpowered, mid-bass in particular comes forward while the mid-range drops behind, what I end up hearing is bass taking the leading role and this affected my overall experience with the amp and enjoyment, I wouldn't say my IEMs are extremely bass heavy by default and with stock Amp1 balanced output I don't have this same issue. Because I've not been able to try any other headphones or IEMs I'm stuck wondering if Amp3 has too much power for some low impedance IEMs or its just a synergy issue between my IEMs. Regardless I'm still able to hear the amps strong features and think with the correct headphones I could take full advantage of Amp3.


    Comparison to Amp1:

    Amp1 in comparison is more vibrant and revealing with that crisp bright(ish) edge the iBasso players are known for, maybe slightly digital sounding and less organic than Amp3 but for those who enjoy an energetic in your face load of detail I still prefer Amp1 personally, its closer to what the iBasso players have always been to me and my preference for the Tralucent 1Plus2.2, even though I hear Amp3 is stronger technically, especially in control the tonality of Amp1 wins for me, If the bass wasn't so forward with the only IEM I had to try here I might be more divided between the two but that's the outcome I experienced and need to be honest. I would, however, like to try Amp3 with some full-size headphones, maybe a nice bright Grado would make me feel differently.

    Conclusion:

    I think Amp3 has miles of potential with the right headphone, after 5-years on the audio scene its simple to hear that, not only has the amp taken things up a level on what portable players can achieve technically wise and performance its shown it doesn't need to be extremely expensive all the time either. I'm always boasting how iBasso are about bang for buck, they're one of the good guys trying to keep audio affordable and that's becoming rare around these parts each day. As I mentioned though I'm stuck between feeling maybe Amp3 has too much output power for some low impedance earphones or the synergy with my Tralucent IEM just wasn't suited and I won't know that answer until I get the chance to try Amp3 with something else. I'm also undecided about amps being released without 3.5mm jack options and whether the market is ready for that, its that very reason I couldn't test more IEMs. The amp was pleasing to use and expresses great potential as all iBasso products have, the bang for buck is present so I'm granting 4.5 stars for this review. I'd like to once again thank iBasso for sending out Amp3 and look forward to eventually trying it with other headphones with balanced cables.

    images

    1. amp3 paperwork.jpg
    2. IMG_4107.JPG
  4. audio123
    iBasso AMP3 - Brilliant Upgrade to DX200
    Written by audio123
    Published Sep 5, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Soundstage & Extension
    Cons - No Pouch
    Introduction
    iBasso is a Chinese brand that is known for their digital audio players (DAPS). They have released the iBasso DX200 not too long ago to mark their 10th anniversary. The iBasso DX200 allows the change of amp modules for different sound signatures. Recently, iBasso has released the AMP3 module that features balanced phone out and line out. I would like to thank iBasso for providing this AMP3 module as a review unit. You can purchase the AMP3 module from their official website, http://www.ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=5696#page4 or https://penonaudio.com/iBasso-AMP3 .
    upload_2017-9-6_9-52-25.png

    Description (From Official Website)

    +/-8V voltage swing, equal to 32V voltage swing when compared to single ended. This is significantly improves the dynamics and headroom

    Patented balanced amplification circuit, that retains all the benefits of a balanced design, such as higher output voltage and better separation. At the same time, our patented design has even harmonics that keeps the sound full and musical. [With the traditional balanced amplification circuit design, there is a positive signal and a negative signal. They together reduce the harmonics, including both of the odd harmonics and even harmonics. On this amplification design, even though sound is more powerful, the sound is often flat and less musical, as even harmonics are reduced. On the iBasso balanced amplification design, we successfully reduce the odd harmonic, while retaining the even harmonics, thus keeping the sound full and as musical as single ended but with added benefits of a balanced signal]

    Topology utilizing voltage feedback and current feedback, utilizing the benefits of both types of feedback

    OPAMP + BUF architecture, optimized for both high voltage demand and high output current demand monitors

    Average play time:7.5 hours.

    The play time varies with different sample rate/bit rates and headphone/IEM loads.

    Specifications

    2.5mm Phone Out

    • Output voltage: 6Vrms
    • Frequency response: 10Hz-45KHz-0.5dB
    • SN: 124dB
    • THD+N: 0.00025%—112dB(32Ω@2.4Vrms)
    • DNR: 124dB
    • Crosstalk: -123dB

    2.5mm Line Out:
    • Output voltage: 6Vrms
    • Frequency response: 10Hz-45KHz-0.5dB
    • SN: 124dB
    • THD+N: 0.00022%-113dB
    • Crosstalk: -114dB

    Unboxing & Accessories
    The AMP3 module comes in a simple black package with a translucent wrapper. On the wrapper are the names of the brand and model in black colour. At the back of the box, there is a sticker at the bottom right corner sporting the model name and serial number. I took out the wrapper and lifted the lid. Inside the package, you will get a screwdriver, instruction manual, warranty card and the amp module itself. The screwdriver is used for removing the amp module to change to another one. The overall package is quite nice for just an amp module.
    upload_2017-9-6_9-54-39.png
    upload_2017-9-6_9-54-45.png
    upload_2017-9-6_9-54-50.png
    upload_2017-9-6_9-54-55.png
    upload_2017-9-6_9-55-0.png


    Module Design & Build
    The AMP3 module is similar to the AMP1 module with the exception of the output. The AMP3 has 2.5mm balanced phone out and line out. The build and design is exactly the same.
    upload_2017-9-6_9-55-13.png
    upload_2017-9-6_9-55-18.png
    upload_2017-9-6_9-55-22.png
    upload_2017-9-6_9-55-26.png


    Sound Analysis
    I use the iBasso IT03 with iBasso CB12 cable to test the AMP3 module.
    upload_2017-9-6_9-55-39.png

    Lows
    The AMP3 module extends the sub-bass and it goes more deep with a tighter rumble. The mid-bass picks up pace and it is more authoritative. This allows it to have a moderate slam that gives more punch to the music. The decay is much quicker and each bass note is being articulated with precision. Accuracy of the bass helps to enhance the overall imaging. The bass performance rises to a new level. Overall, I feel the bass is more clean and tight.

    Mids
    The AMP3 module lightens the lower mids and I find it has an appropriate amount of body to it. The upper mids is more controlled. The midrange has an organic feel to it and the details retrieval improves. The resolution is at a higher level. I feel it is crystal clear with exceptional layering. In addition, the upper mids has less aggression. The midrange performance is musical and detailed which is good for vocals presentation.

    Highs
    The AMP3 module helps to control the treble and maintain the extension. There is no sibilance and harshness. The extra air from the AMP3 helps to lighten and present the sound with less aggression. There is great dynamics and it sounds natural. The sparkle is similar to the AMP1 module. The nature is faster and packed with more details. The treble is clear and clinical. I find the treble to be quite complete. It has the body and clarity.

    Soundstage
    There is an increase in the width of stage but the depth is maintained.

    AMP3 2.5mm Balanced Phone Out vs AMP1 2.5mm Balanced Phone Out
    I use the Campfire Audio Andromeda, Fidue A91 Sirius and Noble Kaiser Encore to test the amp modules.

    The AMP3 is able to extend the sub-bass more than the AMP1 with similar quantity. The bass on the AMP3 is tighter and more refined. The quality is better. The mid-bass on the AMP3 takes a step back and does not have as much slam as the AMP1. The bass note on the AMP3 is more clinical and each note is presented with ease. The decay is faster and the improvement in bass performance is substantial. The bass articulation is sublime. The lower mids is very similar and presented well although it is on the leaner side. In this area, male vocals does not sound thick, instead, I would say it is rather neutral. The upper mids is more forward and clean. It feels more focused and controlled. Female vocals are more sweet. This allows the midrange to be more organic sounding. The treble articulation is approximately the same and there is more sparkle. Amount of air is around the same. In terms of soundstage, the width increases while the depth is being maintained. Layering and separation are slightly better. The increase in width helps to enhance the imaging and improve the positioning of vocals and instruments. The definition is slightly better. Overall, there is a good balance of musicality and technicality.

    upload_2017-9-6_9-56-5.png
    upload_2017-9-6_9-56-8.png

    Conclusion
    The AMP3 module is an excellent upgrade to your iBasso DX200 if you want more extension on both ends and extra clarity in the midrange. The versatility of DX200 allows one to experience different amp modules for different sound signatures. I am impressed with the AMP3 module as it helps to elevate the overall sonic performance.
    upload_2017-9-6_9-56-24.png

    For more reviews, visit https://audio123blog.wordpress.com/ .
      Mshenay, ryanjsoo, JaeYoon and 11 others like this.

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