iBasso AMP3MOD


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Perfectly balanced.
Cons: Production limited to 30 units.


Recently Paul from iBasso was kind enough to send me a new amplifier module for my iBasso DX240, the AMP3MOD.

For those of you unaware these are a series of modified AMP3 amplifier modules utilising bespoke capacitors, only 30 of which have been produced worldwide, awarded by iBasso to the first thirty lucky persons willing to post their DX240 review on the internet. Having been extremely impressed with the stock player I was only too happy to participate, and was thrilled to be sent the AMP3MOD completely free of charge - thank you iBasso!

Functionally, the AMP3MOD is extremely similar to the stock AMP1MK3 amp card -the only other DX240 amp I've experienced- in that both contain a 2.5mm balanced jack and a line out, (though AMP3MOD's line out is also 2.5mm) both slot into the base of the player, and from my observation both possess a fairly similar amount of power to drive IEMs.

So they're essentially like-for-like apart from sonically, how do they compare in that regard? Surprisingly with quite a bit of disparity.



An obvious lazy comparison to make, but yes there's a definite tube vs solid state vibe here with the AMP3MOD representing the former and the AMP1MK3 the latter. However there's more to it than that.

The essential character of the DX240 is present regardless of which card is used, as you might expect. This is a player with a wide soundstage by DAP standards, an abundance of detail, somewhat emphasised bass response and plenty of groove.

The easy road is to highlight the differences between the two amps on a frequency basis. On those grounds, the AMP3MOD favours sub-bass more whereas the AMP1MK3 leans more towards mid-bass, the AMP1MK3 has a touch more high-end shine, and is generally brighter. Indeed I would say the AMP1MK3 may be too much of a good thing in that regard, even teetering towards digital glare - perhaps not perceptible on all albums, more so on excessively-hot poorly recorded modern masters. You know the kind I mean.

The AMP1MK3 presents a very in-your-face picture. Everything is shouting for your attention, and though the card's superior imaging does an admirable job of keeping everything separated with the above-average soundstage also helping to keep things from feeling excessively cramped, I do find fatigue is a factor on some albums almost from the get go.

The AMP3MOD is a different animal. Despite being a very vocal long-time proponent of portable amplification and the sonic differences imparted by various amps, I'll admit to being caught slightly off-guard by just how much difference the AMP3MOD has made to my DX240 listening experience.


When you've been in this game a long time you realise how inadequately discussing frequencies describes what you're hearing. There's more to it than that, because as humans our psychology plays a role in everything we perceive. Much of it probably goes back to base human instinct - some sounds make you feel warm & relaxed, others tense and nervous. You can't say why, nor perhaps can the skilled musicians who know the tricks to exploiting these physiological triggers of listening pleasure. It's like your girlfriend and your forefinger, neither of you needs to know why it works the way it does, only that it does.

Enough gushing. The AMP3MOD fixes a problem some DX240 owners may not be aware exists until they've swapped amps. The AMP1MK3 is fine, great at presenting an upfront, excitable panorama without sacrificing the audiophile technicalities we crave. Problem is it can be a little too insistent at times, too sharply rendering the upper midrange in particular. Guitars can come across with searing bite -generally a good thing- but the AMP1MK3 occasionally passes a point where you'd like things backed off a tad... back down to 11.

The AMP1MK3's other problem is it seems to separate frequencies a little too much. Difficult to put one's forefinger on it precisely, but bass, midrange & treble don't seem to blend together quite as smoothly as I've ever heard. You may find yourself being distracted by individual instruments, wishing they integrated into the overall picture more neatly. As a self-confessed detail freak this seems counterintuitive to admit, yet there's times we wish to hear every tiny detail a track has to offer and others we want to groove to the rhythm without being constantly drawn into every nook & cranny of the soundscape - unless we choose to explore them.

The AMP3MOD presents a calmer, less edgy rendition. Everything is there, but nothing feels unnaturally emphasised or out of place. Indeed the AMP3MOD excels at presenting a congealed sonic picture where everything integrates as it should without obscuring resolution. The AMP1MK3 may deliver the perception of slightly more detail, but only in the form of what feel like artificial artifacts.

The AMP3MOD also features better dynamics and a broader soundstage, though the AMP1MK3 definitely images more sharply. I certainly find the AMP3MOD's soundstage more satisfying - not only with regard to size but shape, with a more pleasant oval form that feels more natural & relaxed than the AMP1MK3's more pronounced LEFT|MIDDLE|RIGHT layering. Perhaps it's simply that the AMP1MK3's central image feeling so close to the listener can lead to cramped sensations. Another area the AMP3MOD shines is vocals which feel weightier, richer and less hollow, and it may also have a slightly firmer grip on complex passages of music, though no doubt high-end desktop amps possess a firmer grip still.


Even after typing all that, I feel it doesn't fully convey why the AMP3MOD has impressed me so much. There is an intangibility here that eludes my descriptive abilities. It could be the more pleasing tone of instruments, the slightly relaxed presentation of detail or simply that music seems to flow better with an absence of strain, yet nothing the AMP1MK3 delivers feels greatly missed. Suffice to say I find it immeasurably easier to listen to album-after-album with the AMP3MOD, all the while with a greater sense of control over deciding when to examine a particular instrument rather than by shouting having it decide for me.

If I had to summarise the AMP3MOD in one word that word would be balance. For my taste it is sublimely tuned, facilitating hours of listening with a total absence of the nagging audiophile itch that whispers "hmm this is good but if only....". Nope, AMP3MOD satisfyingly shifts the focus back on the music where it should be.
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Pretty much agree with the above from my time with the amp3MOD. I might add a few things - probably end up similar but just in different words.
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Just got mine and new/cold, I already feel similarly about it. I don't fully agree with he tube vs solid state analogy. To me it's always been great SS vs not as good SS since I find the best SS > best tubes.
It will be interested to compare it with an Amp8 MK2 to maybe evaluate what might be the next Amp...