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iBasso Audio DX150

Rating:
4.75/5,
Tags:
  • https://www.head-fi.org/threads/iba...-update-the-music-adventure-continues.874224/

    http://ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=6517#page1

    DX150 specifications:

    OS: Android 6.0
    CPU: 64bit 8 Cores A53
    RAM: 2G LPDDR3
    Rom: 32G eMMC
    DAC: Dual AK4490EQ
    Sample Rate: PCM:8kHz-384kHz(8/16/24/32bits) native DSD:DSD64/128/256
    USB DAC Function: XMOS XU208, Thesycon USB driver.
    WiFi/Bluetooth: 802.11(b/g/n/ac)(2.4Ghz/5Ghz),Bluetooth4.1.
    Battery: 3.8V 4400mAh Li-polymer battery provided by MBELL.
    Quick Charge: PD2.0, compatible with QC2.0.
    Size: 128.5mm*69mm*19.5mm
    Weight: 245g

    Play time: approximately 10.5 hours. This depends upon the resolution and current draw of monitors used. With higher resolution more CPU is used so the play time decreases. This is also true with higher demand monitors with more current draw.

    Projected release: March 24, 2018

    Price 499 USD

    AMP6 specifications and measurements with the DX150:

    Specifications: (Measured with AMP6)

    2.5mm Balanced Output:
    Output Voltage: 4.8Vrms(without load) 3.7Vrms(32Ω load), 425mW THD+N<0.001%)
    Frequency Response:10Hz-40KHz +/-0.5dB
    THD+N:0.00028%,-111dB (without load @2.4Vrms)
    0.00032%,-110dB (32Ω load @2.4Vrms)
    Dynamic Range:118dB
    S/N:118dB
    Crosstalk:-119dB
    3.5mm Single Ended Output:
    Output Voltage:2.4Vrms(without load)
    2.4Vrms(32Ω load), 185mW THD+N<0.001%)
    Frequency Response:10Hz-40KHz +/-0.5dB
    THD+N:0.0004%,-108dB (without load @1.2Vrms)
    0.0004%,-108dB (32Ω load @1.2Vrms)
    Dynamic Range:117dB
    S/N:117dB
    Crosstalk:-115dB
    Line out:
    Output Voltage:2.4Vrms
    Frequency Response:10Hz-40KHz +/-0.5dB
    THD+N:0.0004%,-108dB (without load @1.5Vrms)
    Dynamic Range :118dB
    S/N:117dB
    Average Play Time: 10.5 hours with the DX150
    The play time varies with different sample rate/bit rates, and headphone/IEM load.

Recent Reviews

  1. Dobrescu George
    iBasso DX150 - Technical prowess
    Written by Dobrescu George
    Published Aug 27, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - - Very good build quality
    - iBasso Warranty behind it
    - Tunable sound with multiple AMP modules
    - Excellent price/ performance ratio, it feels like a high-end DAP, but it is priced in the midrange market range
    - Resolution, detail, clarity, and versatility are quite excellent
    - Streaming, Wifi, BT, one microSD slot, 8 hour of battery life, pretty much a dream DAP at this point in time for the money
    - Can sideload apps, and even access google play with Lurker's mod
    Cons - - The default AMP module is fairly colored, warm and smooth, may prompt most people to make a little update
    - Subsequent AMP modules cost a bit
    - Lurker's mod is needed for Google Play
    - With certain files, it can get a bit slow in the GUI
    iBasso DX150 - Technical prowess

    iBasso DX150 is the second DAP (Digital Audio Player) we review form iBasso. We reviewed their DX200 before, and it was an incredible DAP, so we're quite curious what iBasso cooked for their fans at a lower price point, and with a different hardware configuration.

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    Introduction

    iBasso is ne of the largest companies from China producing DAPs and IEMs. They are known for having set a tradition in quality, both in build quality, design, as well as in technological advancement with their previous products. They are the company behind well-known products which made history, like the mighty IT03 and DX80, but we'll be focusing on their newer offerings, like DX150, DX200, IT01 and IT03. iBasso is also an excellent performer when it comes to their warranty terms and to finding a solution for their customers, as well as doing so quickly. Usually, it doesn't matter what shop you purchased their products from, iBasso will make the warranty process quick and smooth.

    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 iBasso DX150. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in iBasso DX150 find their next music companion.




    About me

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




    Packaging

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


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    DX150 comes in a large package, which, while not quite as exquisite as the package for DX200, is still quite a bit more epic than most DAPs feature. The outer package is surrounded by a gray cardboard layer which includes all the important information about DX150. You get to know all the fine details most enthusiasts are interested about, along with some details about AMP6, which is the default AMP module DX150 comes with.

    In the package you can also find a USB cable, DX150 having a Type-C connector, along with a Coaxial cable, which is also of very high quality. There is also a burn-in cable included in the package, for you to use with the current AMP modules, as well as future AMP modules. The Burn-In cables are Balanced only, since the Balanced output uses the entire Amplifier Architecture, as opposed to the Single Ended output, which uses only half of it.


    The other interesting thing you receive with DX150 is the leather case, which is not a spoof leather one, but a real high-quality gray leather case, which feels excellent to the touch, and which will offer good protection to it. We generally don't recommend using a case with your device if you live in a hot area, for example in midsummer Romania. The case should be just fine for most of other situations, as long as the temperature outside isn't above 30C.

    You also get all the typical paperwork which you'll require for warranty and such, and at the end of the day, we can say that iBasso made sure you have everything you could need for an awesome package and for a well-presented product.




    What to look in when purchasing a high-end DAP

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



    Technical Specifications

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    Lots of AMP Module options




    Build Quality/Aesthetics/UI/Firmware

    The build quality of DX150 is as good as you'd expect a device at this price point to be, especially if you had iBasso DX200, or if you've seen a high-end DAP before. All parts are carefully assembled together, the display doesn't flex or distort when pushed on, the volume wheel is strapped well in its position, the buttons feel clicky to the touch, providing a nice feedback. Everything just feels at its place in our hands, the device itself is neither too large, nor too small, and all buttons are easy to access, all operation being rather intuitive.


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    To give you an idea of its size, the device is a bit thicker than something like Hiby R6, but it isn't quite as thick as DX200, and it isn't nowhere near as wide and as large as Opus #2.

    The is a power button at the top of the device, there is a volume wheel on the upper right of the device, and below the volume wheel there are Play/Pause, FWD and BCKWD buttons.

    At the bottom of the device you'll find the AMP module, which by default is AMP 6.


    All modules have an USB Type-C plug connector built-in, and all of them feature the same high-end metallic body design, with a wide connector from DX150/DX200 to the AMP module.

    The AMP6 default AMP module is, by far, the largest difference between DX150 and DX200, as AMP 6 has quite the unique sound of its own. Of course, the DAC within DX150 is also different from the DAC employed in DX200, but this doesn't change the sound as much as the AMP modules do, especially if we're talking about macroscopic changes in signature, compared to texture and finer changes like the DAC usually has over the sound.

    Among its features, DX150 has those interchangeable AMP modules, it has a 8-core CPU, and 2 GB of RAM, and DUAL AK4490EQ DAC chips. Those run the sound balanced from the DAC to the AMP module, and if the AMP module is balanced, you have pure Balanced sound. Another cool feature of DX150 is its bright 4.2" display. iBasso devices tend to have a slightly warm color to their display, thing which is very awesome, it provides a friendlier picture, and for those who fancy cover art, the display is large enough to show your cover art in its full beauty. The large display also comes in handy for UI navigation and for managing large playlists. Most important, the display is bright enough to be used in full daylight, thing which we consider an absolute must for any Player, since those are made to be used outside, they need to be bright enough, that at max brightness, they should be easily readable in full sunlight. DX150 is very satisfying in this sense, and we can read everything on its display without an issue even in a sunny summer day in Romania.

    When it comes to its aesthetics, DX150 looks pretty stylish and elegant, it looks simpler than DX200, but lighter. Compared to a device priced closer to itself, like Hiby R6, it looks much more silvery, at least compared to the black version of R6. DX150 can be described as a stylish device, with a slightly retro side given by the inclusion of the volume wheel.


    The UI and Firmware is quite similar compared to DX200, iBasso's take on a DAP firmware being rather good already, navigation being quite intuitive and everything being rather stable. It should be noted that the original firmware has some shortcomings though, like the lack of native Google Play Market integration, but this and all other shortcomings can easily be fixed by installing the Lurker's Firmware for DX150. More details about it can be found within the Head-Fi Thread, as well as here https://github.com/Lurker00/DX150-firmware/releases

    Even so, the original firmware is quite stable, in the sense that we haven't had a single crash using it, and we didn't really ran into any crashes running third party apps either. In our tests, streaming apps worked flawlessly on DX150.


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    The main music app is very nice, the only single drawback we could have found to it being that seeking a song is not "press to the point in song you want to seek to" but more of a "press on slider, and drag it to that point".

    We haven't detected any kind of lag or slowness in the system, and we did test some higher rate tracks, as we recently acquired Metallica's entire discography in 96kHz / 24 Bit, but we couldn't notice any significant lag introduced by those songs. The device is known to have slight lag when switching between songs of different bitrates and formats though. iBasso is known to stand behind their products and provide subsequent updates though, so we feel this won't be a large issue, especially as the audio works very well.

    The USB DAC function works flawlessly in our experience, no delay, and no random disconnects. DX150 does charge while it is plugged in, so it can get a bit warm to hot, if the ambient temp is high.


    All in all, he overall feeling of the device is good, it is well built and well put together, and it doesn't have any inherent flaws. The firmware, although lacking a native Google Play Market integration in its stock shape, can easily be changed and upgraded with one that has it, and after all, all versions of DX150 allow for installation of third party apps, just through a slightly different process. We feel that the build quality and firmware of DX150 are both worthy of a golden rating, everything feels good, the device is well made, well put together, and the firmware is excellent and very stable.



    Sound Quality

    We need to start with saying that DX150 has a distinct signature of itself, easy to recognize, but the signature we are going to describe is with AMP6. Changing AMP6 with another AMP module will change that signature drastically, and we will review the signature for AMP4S as well, the 4.4mm limited-run balanced AMP module.

    AMP6: AMP6 gives DX150 a distinct sound, warm, smooth, with an emphasis on the lower registers and the lower midrange, with less strength in the upper midrange and the treble, having a very characteristic smooth and mellow tone to it. Even with an energetic earphone like Sennheiser IE800, it has a smooth and calm presentation with considerably less treble sparkle than AMP4S or any of the other iBasso AMP modules.

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    The good part is that AMP6 is very versatile technically, it comes with a 3.5mm Headphone Output, a 2.5mm Balanced Headphone Output, and a Line Out, which you can use to connect DX150 to any of your favorite External Amplifiers. It is a pocket knife AMP module, just like AMP1, the AMP module which normally comes with DX200, but AMP6 has that smooth sound which you need to consider before purchasing it.

    The bass is solid, it is quick, it has excellent textures and impact to it, and it is enhanced, leading to a warm presentation. The midrange comes with a clear presentation, a good amount of textures as well, and with a really clear, punchy and dynamic nature, and the treble comes with less force and with a smooth texture and presentation.


    The overall sound can be described as musical, smooth, soothing, relaxing and calm, being quite different from iBasso's typical house signature found on DX200 with AMP1, or on virtually any of the other AMP modules, which are all quite linear, vibrant and sparkly in the treble.

    AMP4S: The sound of those AMPs is something that's been on everyone's mind since those AMP modules run in limited runs and are what could be considered iBasso's secret weapon. Let's start with stating the important aspects of using AMP4S, it is pretty complicated to use if you don't have the proper cables and such. It relies on a 4.4mm connector, which is Balanced, so you can't really power a single ended headphone off it, as it would short out, and it also requires the more rare 4.4 mm connector rather than the 2.5mm balanced connector found on most cables at this moment. This being said, iBasso does sell a very affordable adapter from 2.5mm to 4.4mm, which means that the only issue you need to take into account is that 4.4 is a Balanced module only.

    While there has been a lot of talk about whether using a the balanced mode vs the single ended mode makes a difference, we ran a ton of tests, and we couldn't reach a very conclusive answer. The main issue with answering that question is that cables are also different between the tests, along with the power outputs of the setups, volume matching and cable matching becoming too difficult for a Balanced vs Single Ended test to be truly feasible.


    Now, back on AMP4S, it is Balanced only, but with how accessible Balanced cables have become lately, both for IEMs and for Headphones, with a lot of offerings from many well-known companies, you're probably going to want to experiment with the Balanced, even if just for fun. In all of our tests, the Balanced sounded a tad more vivid, and more dynamic, when using the same AMP, so exactly the same architecture, but it is hard to pinpoint why. At any rate, if you just want to try Balanced for the first time, don't worry, it never sounds worse than single ended, that's for sure.

    As for the sound, AMP4S is one of iBasso's key AMP Modules of this moment. It has an incredibly vivid, impactful and dynamic sound, a pretty linear presentation, with a touch of warmth, and an excellent overall extension both in the bass and the treble. It is quite complicated to convey how "right" should sound like, but AMP4S really does sound "right", it has that natural overall tonality, along with a very organic presentation. The treble is sparkly, but it has a very natural texture to it, while the PRaT is just as natural, not dry, but neither slow. If one wants to be impressed by how dynamic and detailed DX150 can sound, AMP4S is great AMP module to pair it with. Other AMP modules sound fairly similar as they do with DX200, the main difference being that DX200 brings a little better overall resolution to the sound, compared to DX150.



    Soundstage

    The soundstage is quite different between AMP6 and AMP4S, with AMP6 conveying a natural soundstage, with enough space for instruments to breathe, but with AMP4S adding quite a bit of width and depth to the sound. If you prefer a natural, room sized stage, AMP6 is a great place to start, while if you like a wider, deeper, more impressive soundstage, AMP4S is able to deliver very well.


    Considering the fact that AMP6 is the default AMP module, it provides plenty instrument separation, especially for a device at this price point, and considering the price of most iBasso AMP modules, but if you're looking for a little more, then AMP4s is even better in terms of instrument separation, and so are most iBasso AMP modules.



    ADSR/PRaT

    The ADSR and PRaT (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, and Pace Rhythm and Timing) characteristics of DX150 rely both on the AMP module and on the DAC inside.

    The DAC inside is very potent, but it has a more natural approach to textures, AK DACs being known to be on the safe side when it comes to their textures, compared to other DACs like those from ESS, which are known for having a more expressive and crunchy with their textures.

    The AMP6 module is very natural in its texture as well, resulting in a natural overall response. All frequencies have the same level of texturization, guitars are juicy, but not overly crunchy, while cymbals tend to be on the smoother side. The bass tends to have a natural decay, not very quick not very slow.

    AMP4S is much crunchy and vivid with its textures, being faster and resolving both textures and micr-textures better than AMP6. Of course, AMP4S costs a bit more, but if you prefer having a really detailed texture presentation, then AMP4S surely doesn't disappoint in speed and resolution of its textures.




    Portable Usage

    The portable usage of DX150 is quite excellent through and through. It has a good battery life of more than 8 hours with AMP4S and AMP6, it has a bright and vibrant display, and it has good ergonomics for outdoors usage.

    DX150 also has streaming abilities, if you prefer to stream your music instead of using your personal libraries, but it also has a single microSD slot which accepts cards of up to 400GB, which is the largest microSD capacity at this moment. We tested it with a 256DB microSD card direct, and it works flawlessly, it doesn't seem to be affected by any lag from having a large music library to manage. Our light streaming tests were also passed with flying colors.

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    The power AMP6 has is more than adequate for almost any portable headphone, and it sure is enough for any IEM you could pair with DX150. This being said, AMP6 alone won't be enough for a headphone harder to drive than Sennheiser HD660S, point after which you require to get AMP4S or a more powerful AMP to get a sound that is loud enough, especially if you add a bit of EQ.

    The ergonomics of the device are great, it is about as large as a typical smartphone, but thicker, it sits well in hand, and it is not too heavy to carry around, even if you're jogging. It is made out of metal, does not give in to pressure applied at any point of the device, and generally it feels well crafted and ready for usage.

    If anything, we wish companies started putting larger batteries in those DAPs, but we know some of our readers prefer thinner devices, and this is why iBasso didn't use a larger battery.


    All in all, we feel this will be a great portable DAP for years to come, and it reaches the golden standard of what a DAP should be.



    Select Pairings

    Please note that for any pairing, the IEM has more impact on the final result than the DAP, the best DAP being one that is as transparent as possible. This time we'll be using a slightly different approach, as some people might be wondering how DX150 combines with IEMs, but also how each of the AMP4S and AMP6 work. We picked IT01 and IT04 from iBasso for this one pairing section because both make great value, are also made by iBasso, and both are well known across the world, making them an accessible point for our readers.

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    DX150 (AMP6) + iBasso IT01 - iBasso IT01 has been a very recommended and loved IEM since its release, with most people praising it for its warmth as well as its sparkle, large soundstage, great resolution, and for its amazing build quality. With AMP6, IT01 gets even thicker, thing which will be loved by those who really love bass, but may be a little too much for someone looking for a more natural sound. AMP6 also lowers the treble sparkle a little, making IT01 smoother than it currently is. The resolution and clarity are top notch, given that IT01 is able to reveal AMP6's technical ability.

    DX150 (AMP4S) + iBasso IT01 - AMP4S is quite different from AMP6, since it is much more linear in its response, making IT01 sound more balanced, cleaner, more detailed, wider, and with more sparkle in the treble. They also gain a little more detail and dynamics from DX150 running AMP4S, so we can easily recommend this pairing more than DX150 + AMP6 if you're running a warm or thick IEM and if you're looking for a balanced experience. This being said, the experience with AMP6 is not shabby at all, just quite thick and warm.

    DX150 (AMP6) + iBasso IT04 - Our review on IT04 is coming soon as well, but the short version is that this is one heck of a IEM. It has iBasso's build quality, and in sound, it can trade blows, and even outdo established IEMs like IE800, especially when it comes to its treble extension. IT04 is not for the faint of heart, with its amazing details, and it is fairly balanced in its presentation, so if you're a basshead, running DX150 with AMP6 is actually a great way of making IT04 thicker and meatier, with more deep impact. AMP6 also takes away some of the treble from IT04, so if you prefer your music with a smoother treble, AMP6 makes a great partner for IT04.

    DX150 (AMP4S) + iBasso IT04 - Once we strap in AMP4S, it is easy to understand why one would want to look for the rush of ordering a limited-run AMP4S balanced module, as the vividness, clarity, dynamics and punchiness of AMP4S are out of this world with IT04. One thing that IT04 is great at, is resolution. It is an IEM able to show the technical might of AMP4S, and why even if you like AMP6, you may still want to do a little upgrade to AMP4S. The bass and midrange aren't made thicker by AMP4S, like with AMP6, but AMP4S has an exceptional control over the bass, providing a really nice and punchy overall sound. The treble is also extended really well, and it feels detailed, without being harsh or sibilant.



    Comparisons

    We used a large selection of Headphones and In-Ears for those comparisons, including Sennheiser IE800, ClearTune VS-4, Dita Truth, Ultrasone Signature DXP, Audeze LCD-MX4, Beyerdynamic Amiron, iBasso IT04, FiiO FH5, and HIFIMAN RE2000.

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    iBasso DX150 (AMP6) vs FiiO X7mkii - Putting DX150 up against a more expensive device, like X7mkii sure is a fun activity, as both make great options at this moment, but they come from different and competing companies. Starting with the package, both devices come with extensive packages, and both come with a case included in the package. The case included with DX150 is better though, and we prefer iBasso's inclusion of Type-C USB connector over X7mkii's older microUSB implementation. This being said, the build quality of both devices is great, and X7mkii might actually be a little more ergonomic due to its more protected volume wheel, but both devices are fairly ergonomic through and through. X7mkii comes with a more open firmware ex-factory, but DX150 isn't far behind and offers access to the same services, and it also has Lurker's work behind to keep it in check. Another thing to consider is the battery life, which is fairly similar between the two. X7mkii has two microSD slots, while DX150 has only one, but both devices have both wifi and bluetooth abilities. DX150 has a warmer colored display compared to X7mkii, and DX150's display is also a tad larger, or at least feels like it, but X7mkii is a bit snapper in the overall device operation. The sound is fairly different, as X7mkii is powered by a top-end ESS DAC chip, while DX150 is powered by an AK chip, thing which is noticeable if you connect both through their line-outs to a different AMP, and if you listen to the textures, which are represented differently, with X7mkii having a more vivid, more vibrant, brighter and more expressive texture, and DX150 being smoother and more relaxed in its texture. The default setup also sounds widely different, with DX150's signature and tuning being more like that of FiiO X5-3, which was also smooth and warm, while X7mkii is fairly neutral and clean, clear and doesn't have much added warmth or other tuning particularities. The resolution in the default AMP configuration is a little better on X7mkii, but adding AMP4S to DX150 results in a slightly better overall resolution for it, although the setup then costs a bit more than X7mkii. All in all, both are really solid devices, and both are simple to use, work well, don't have any inherent issues, and both are devices we consider great. Picking one should be done by your budget, and how much you plan on tweaking the sound of each. X7mkii has two major AMP modules you can get for it, AMP3B, and AMP5, while DX150 has a wider selection of AMP modules with a wider operation area, so if you're planning on tweaking and getting subsequent updates, DX150 has a larger collection of upgrades available for it at the moment. Both companies will offer outstanding warranty and will keep in touch with their customers, and both companies will be there for you, so ultimately, if you want a smoother and warmer default sound, DX150 is a great option, while if you prefer having two microSD slots, a more linear, and a more detailed default setup, X7mkii makes a great purchase.

    iBasso DX150 (AMP6) vs Hiby R6 - Here, the prices are quite close to each other for the default setup. Both devices have a large and bright display, although DX150 has both a brighter and a larger display, making for a better experience in the UI. DX150 has a very good hardware support, along with Lurker's mod excellent UI support, but it doesn't have a Snapdragon 425 CPU, although third party apps work just fine, once you install Lurker's firmware, or download the APK and install the app. Both devices have one microSD slot, and both devices have a good build quality. Both are slightly more rigid than X7mkii actually, but this won't be important unless you drop or apply really heavy amounts of pressure on them, point by which all will probably be similar since all have something that probably shouldn't be subjected to too much pressure, R6 has a glass back, DX150 a volume wheel, and X7mkii feels a tiny bit less rigid in the display. Resolution-wise, they are similar. When it comes to their sonic signatures, R6 and DX150 are pretty different though. DX150 is considerably thicker in its sonic presentation, has more depth to its bass, and more impact, sounds smoother in the top end, and meatier, and has a less analytical overall presentation than R6, although R6 never crossed me as an analytical device either. DX150 has modular AMP modules, just like X7mkii, so it really makes a compelling choice, since you can always slap on an AMP5 or even an AMP4S from iBasso for one of the best sonic experiences possible on a portable Player, but each additional AMP module costs another 200USD, and R6 still has its really good software and third party app support to show for. In all honesty, DX150 feels like a very slightly cut down DX200, while R6 feels more like an Android smartphone with an actually god audiophile sonic output, so they are rather different devices for different publics. DX150 has a low output impedance, while R6 has a high output impedance, especially important for low impedance and multi-driver in-ears, where DX150 will have less hiss and work generally better. If you're looking for a little smartphone with a good sound, R6 delivers quite well, while if you want cutting edge technology in audio, and if you don't mind a slightly slower overall GUI, DX150 makes a really awesome choice.

    iBasso DX150 (AMP6) vs iBasso DX200 (AMP1) - This is an interesting comparison because you might be wondering if you should go for DX150, or instead add a little more and go for DX200, iBasso's current flagship. Starting with the package quality, both come in exquisite packages, with DX200 having the more fluffy and pompous package, while DX150 has a more mini version of the same package. Of course, DX150 is also quite a bit less expensive than DX200, so you should keep your budget in mind as well throughout this comparison. The build quality is similar, but DX200 is slightly larger and has a more rugged body in comparison to DX150. DX200 also feels better made on an overall level, but DX150 is no slouch in its build quality. Both devices have one microSD slot, Bluetooth and Wifi, and both are supported by Lurker and his firmware works. The differences start when it comes to the default AMP module each comes with, as DX200 comes by default with AMP1, a really linear, clear, quick and resolving AMP module, while DX150 comes with AMP6, a thick, warm, smooth and fun sounding AMP module, made for relaxing more than for critical listening. The resolution of the two devices is different when using the same AMP module, but not by a very large margin. The most major difference in resolution you're likely to hear (when using the same AMP module) is that DX150 is smoother in the textures, less crunchy, more playful and with a touch resolution / resolving power, while DX200 resolves details a tad better. Now, with both being excellent all-around devices, it feels like DX150 is what someone budget conscious would get, it is quite a bit less expensive than DX200, but provides most of the same awesome experience that DX200 does, while if you want absolutely the ultimate iBasso experience, DX200 surely is the way to go, a DAP that is and will be really hard to beat for a long while.




    Value and Conclusion

    iBasso DX150 is not a very expensive DAP by itself, compared to most other high-end DAPs, and this is in its own right, its technical ability and resolution place it above most of the midrange DAP market. Priced at about 500 USD at the moment of writing this review, it is less expensive than most of the competitors we compared it with, but still provides a performance that is most of times at least at the same level. One thing you may need to seriously consider though, is that DX150 may end up costing about 200 USD more, since most people are likely to want to experiment at least one more of the iBasso AMP modules, like AMP4S, AMP3, or AMP5. We are working on a review on AMP7 and AMP8 as well, but we still need more time before making a precise review on those.

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    Starting with the build quality, DX150 is a full metal DAP with the build quality of a true champion, it doesn't have any kind of build quality inherent issues, and it can stand up to quite a bit of abuse.

    It has a nice smooth back, with glass, it has a single microSD slot, removable AMP modules (each with their own Line-out / Headphone Out / USB Type-C jacks), and it has a lovely little volume wheel for adjusting your volume without taking DX150 out of your pocket.

    By default, it has enough power to drive pretty much anything you're likely to be using portably, and even some open-back desktop-class Headphones, but if you're looking for true power, iBasso has other AMP modules that provide much more power for better volume and control with harder-to-drive headphones.


    The software is very solid and it is not prone to crashes, although it can be a little sluggish, especially if one is comparing it to uber-fast GUIs like that of Hiby R6, or that of a typical smartphone. This being said, there is no delay in the sonic area, and the music simply works, and iBasso is known to provide updates for their products, so we feel that this won't make a big issue for most people considering DX150.

    The sound, by default, is warm, thick, smooth, musical, lively, and punchy / dynamic. Since AMP6 is not very sparkly, it lacks a bit of sparkle in the treble compared to AMP1, AMP5, AMP4S, or most of the other iBasso AMP modules, but this is also great if you have a pair of headphones or in-ears that are a tad too sparkly, and you want to tone them down a bit. The textures of the bass are clear, and well-rounded, midrange has good resolution and is generally very clear, while the treble is on the smoother side, especially with AMP6. Even with AMP4S, the treble stays fairly smooth in texture, a common feature of AK DAC chips, known for their velvet-sound technology.

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    DX150 is a lovely device, that sits rather comfortably in the upper midrange / high-end area, with a lot of technical prowess, having everything a high-end device has, but at a rather affordable price. The fact that you can change the AMP module also means that breaking the Type-C connector, headphone jack, or getting a different tuning, all require very little effort. The power of DX150 goes from pretty good with AMP6, to ridiculously high for a portable, with something like AMP5 / AMP 7 / AMP 8, being able to easily drive Beyerdynamic Amiron Home or Audeze LCD-MX4 headphones. The sweet, large, warm-colored display is just the icing on the cake, and this is a sweet cake you can take with you and serve on-the-go as well, making DX150 quite the versatile DAP.

    All in all, if you're looking for a really versatile DAP, with a warm default sound, but with lots of tuning options available for it, with an excellent overall build quality, and with iBasso's legendary support, DX150 makes an excellent choice at 500USD, and it is one of the DAPs we recommend the most for this budget, especially if you like this kind of signature.



    Playlist used for this review

    While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.


    Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
    Eskimo Callboy - Frances
    Incubus - Summer Romance
    Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
    Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
    Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir

    Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
    Manafest - Impossible
    Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
    Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
    Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
    Doctor P - Bulletproof
    Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
    Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
    SOAD - Chop Suey
    Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
    Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
    Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
    Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
    Eminem - Rap God
    Stromae - Humain À L'eau
    Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
    Metallica - Fuel
    Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
    Masa Works - Golden Japang
    REOL - Luvoratorrrrry

    Korn - Word Up!
    Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
    Fever The Ghost - Source
    Fall Out Boy - Immortals
    Green Day - Know The Enemy
    Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
    A static Lullaby - Toxic
    Royal Republic - Tommy Gun
    Astronautalis - The River, The Woods




    I hope my review is helpful to you!



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


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    Contact us!

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      archdawg and ValSilva like this.
  2. twister6
    Is this supposed to be mid-fi?
    Written by twister6
    Published Aug 9, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - many similarities with a flagship DX200, modular amp design (shares modules with DX200), price/performance ratio.
    Cons - need to install Lurker's free ROM to get access to Google Play, otherwise apps are side-loaded.


    The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with my readers on head-fi.

    Manufacturer website: iBasso.

    For the reference, my DX200 review on Head-fi.


    Intro.

    It’s not the first time I mentioned that before there used to be a clear line between entry level, mid-fi, and summit-fi DAPs, separated by sound performance, supported features, and the price. Today, these lines are blurred where some entry level models have more features than upper tier ones, the sound performance difference is not that drastic, and the price gap varies. You can't stop the flood of new releases, which makes it harder for consumers to narrow down their choices and doesn’t make it easy on reviewers when people ask for recommendations.

    But one thing hasn't changed, many audio enthusiasts are still looking for the gear with the best price/performance ratio, and iBasso’s latest DX150 certainly hits the target. Plus, this DAP keeps a lot of the original DX200 functionality and design cues, including a modular amp design, at a fraction of the price. Along with DX150 and its new stock AMP6, my review will also cover their newly released AMP7 and AMP8 (and comparison to AMP6, along with AMP3 and AMP5) since every amp module is fully compatible with DX150 and DX200. So, without further ado, let’s proceed!

    ibasso_dx150-15.jpg

    Unboxing and Accessories.

    In comparison to DX200 with a more dramatic diagonal-split box, here you will find a more traditional top-cover packaging box, still with a secure foam-fitting cutout, and exterior silver sleeve with a multi-language spec on the back. It’s understandable that you need to distinguish unboxing experience from a premium flagship model, though you still get quite a similar feeling when unboxing either one.

    ibasso_dx150-01.jpg ibasso_dx150-02.jpg ibasso_dx150-03.jpg

    Accessories include a high-quality premium braided-sleeve USB-C charging/data cable, short Coax cable, and Balanced burn-in cable with a load (for a “quiet” burn-in so you don’t have to use your headphones). Also, included was a suede leather case, similar in design to DX200 case, but a little thicker in comparison.

    ibasso_dx150-04.jpg ibasso_dx150-05.jpg ibasso_dx150-06.jpg

    Stock case.

    ibasso_dx150-07.jpg ibasso_dx150-08.jpg ibasso_dx150-30.jpg ibasso_dx150-31.jpg ibasso_dx150-32.jpg

    As a replacement alternative, MITER offers a leather case for DX200/DX150, and to my pleasant surprise it comes without their signature kickstand, keeping it slim while still offering an enhanced grip, scratch protection, and covered imprinted playback control buttons.

    ibasso_dx150-09.jpg ibasso_dx150-10.jpg ibasso_dx150-11.jpg ibasso_dx150-13.jpg ibasso_dx150-14.jpg ibasso_dx150-12.jpg

    Design and Under the hood.

    From the first look it’s clear that DX150 design was based on their DX200 flagship. It has nearly identical dimensions of 128.5mm x 69mm x 19.5mm, and almost the same weight of 245g (DX200 is 240g). You’ll also find the same layout with a large 4.2” 768x1280 resolution display on the front with a removable amp module underneath on the back. SPDIF digital transport port is still on the top (supporting both coax and optical mini toslink), next to it is USB-C port and a power button in the corner inside of the guard bar that wraps around upper right corner where you have a volume wheel on the side and hw playback Play/Pause/Skip buttons going down. The only difference here is a volume wheel being open while DX200 has a guard bar over it, and the wheel itself having deeper notches for a better grip when turning it with a thumb. Another difference is a display being nearly flush with chassis vs DX200 having a raised display. You will still find a single uSD card on the left side, while ports on the bottom will correspond to a specific AMP module in use.

    ibasso_dx150-27.jpg ibasso_dx150-28.jpg ibasso_dx150-29.jpg

    I know some might not find these “cosmetic” changes to be as significant, especially when DAP is inside the case, but I personally feel that it refines the original DX200 design and gives it a slicker look when out of the case. Also, it gives an easier access to the volume wheel. Of course, all is a matter of a personal preference, and as a matter of fact the limited edition DX200Ti version also implemented a design change where the display is flush with chassis.

    Under the hood you will also find many similarities, and a few significant changes. You still have Android 6.0, and the stock sw still requires side-loading apps, though Lurker’s free ROM takes care of that by enabling Google Play and adding some other extra features and optimizations (more details in GUI section of the review). You’re still running on 64bit 8 cores A53 CPU, with 2G LPDDR3 RAM, single uSD, and USB DAC using XMOS XU208 chipset. Still have 802.11 (b/g/n/ac) WiFi, but according to iBasso now supporting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. And still have Bluetooth 4.1, though without aptX support (at least for now). And as it was mentioned already, the same 4.2” Retina display with 768x1280 resolution.

    ibasso_dx150-24.jpg ibasso_dx150-25.jpg

    Even 3.8V 4400mAh battery is the same, though battery life was improved due to a different DAC and other optimizations. For example, I can get solid 11hrs of mp3 playback using IT04, connected to BAL HO of AMP6 in Low Gain with volume set to 65/150. When I switch to AMP7, using another IEM with a lower sensitivity (Tin T2, 102dB) in Low Gain with a volume set to 92/150, I can get 10hrs of playback. I’m sure going to AMP8 with its balanced output and higher power will reduce it probably by another hour (per my experience with DX200).

    So, what are the other changes? Internal storage is down to 32GB from 64GB in DX200, and there is a new system clock architecture, fully synchronized with TXCO and PLL which supposed to make switching between different clock rates more seamless. Also, a big plus, introduction of PD2.0 quick charger which is compatible with QC2.0 standard, meaning faster charging time when you are using QC2.0 compatible chargers. But the biggest change is stepping down from dual ES9028Pro DAC (DX200) to a dual AK4490EQ DAC (DX150). This change is the key behind a difference in sound signature and performance between these DAPs. AK4490EQ is still a very capable DAC, able to support PCM with sampling rate of 8kHz-384kHz (with 8-32bit depth) native, and DSD64/128/256. But it’s not on a flagship level like 9028Pro which can handle up to DSD512, among other differences.

    There is no doubt that DX200 is iBasso’s flagship DAP, and DX150 is a scaled down version which can’t sound the same or better. But if you add up all the changes and analyze all the pros/cons, plus consider that it’s still based on a modular design with interchangeable amps, iBasso DX150 is not too far off, meaning they didn’t cut too many corners while actually did cut the price.

    ibasso_dx150-15.jpg ibasso_dx150-16.jpg ibasso_dx150-17.jpg ibasso_dx150-18.jpg ibasso_dx150-19.jpg ibasso_dx150-20.jpg ibasso_dx150-21.jpg ibasso_dx150-22.jpg ibasso_dx150-23.jpg

    GUI.

    I usually go into extra details describing the user interface and all the features/settings under the main audio playback app. In case of DX150 which runs on Android 6.0 and uses Mango audio app as its default audio player, it makes no sense to go over everything again since it’s identical to DX200. Thus, please refer to GUI section of my DX200 review. The only additional option in DX150 is Sound Styles in Android Settings menu which I’m going to talk about in Sound Analysis section. But the main difference here is that DX200 comes with Android (Mango app) and Mango native modes, while DX150 has only Android (Mango app) mode. And even that’s not a showstopper since the latest Lurker’s ROM for DX150 adds it.

    ibasso_dx150-46.jpg ibasso_dx150-47.jpg ibasso_dx150-48.jpg ibasso_dx150-49.jpg ibasso_dx150-50.jpg

    I already mentioned Lurker’s ROM for iBasso DAPs many times, and there is a good reason why I think it’s a must have upgrade for DX150 and DX200. By default, these Android DAPs don’t come with a Google Play store, meaning to install the apps you need to find corresponding apk files and side-load it manually. Lurker’s ROM, which is FREE, gives you access to Google Play, along with additional optimizations and other goodies.

    ibasso_dx150-51.jpg ibasso_dx150-52.jpg

    To find out more about it, visit his page at: https://github.com/Lurker00 with a direct links to the latest DX150 fw here and DX200 fw here. He is usually very good with updates, and his firmware becomes available the same or the next day after iBasso releases their own official update.

    But before you start with Lurker’s custom ROM, please visit the official link from iBasso to download their Factory Tool (http://www.ibasso.com/uploadfiles/download/FactoryTool_v1.39_DX200.zip) which includes in a zip file a very detailed instructions how to install drivers and use batch tool to update the fw manually (instructions for DX200 are the same for DX150). You don’t need this tool to install regular iBasso fw updates, those are usually downloaded, copied, and installed from within DX150/200 DAPs. But to install Lurker’s ROM, you will need this batch tool for a manual ROM flashing. It’s a very simple procedure, and included instructions are easy to follow. Plus, once you install the driver, after that you just run the tool, load image file, and quickly flash the DAP. Once it’s done (get confirmation within a tool), disconnect the DAP, reboot it, and the update starts automatically. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your songs on internal and external storage, they will not be erased. And even if you do need to run Factory reset (recommended after FW updates), you can select option not to erase internal storage media files.

    ibasso_dx150-53.jpg

    Sound Analysis.

    This is usually the shortest section of my DAP reviews since Pair Up and Comparison sections are where you will find more details to get a better feel for the sound of a DAP in a relative comparison. The sound analysis of a DAP is based on the description of how you hear it through various headphones, so you are describing the sound of the synergy between headphones and the source.

    I went through many IEMs and full-size headphones to find a common sound-performance denominator. In a summary, I hear DX150 w/stock AMP6 to have a neutral sound signature with a warmish natural analog tonality. That natural tonality with good retrieval of details especially shines through in mids when listening to vocals. Another thing that stood out was an excellent low-end punch. The soundstage expands wide and it scales up going from 3.5mm SE to 2.5mm BAL outputs (AMP6). Furthermore, I find DX150 to have a very good expansion of dynamics as well as layering and separation of the sounds which also scales up going to AMP7 and AMP8.

    Based on the stock AMP6, when going from 3.5mm to 2.5mm ports, balanced output has noticeably more power (better efficiency with 12 less volume clicks), a little wider soundstage, and a slight improvement in dynamic range, while the tonality is nearly the same.

    Also, DX150 offers a Sound Style mode available in Settings menu under Sound & Notification, where you have a choice between Standard and Full Sound modes. After going back'n'forth, I found Full mode to have a slightly wider soundstage and a little tighter sound. The effect is subtle and does vary between different headphones, depending on their sound signature and technical performance.

    ibasso_dx150-44.jpg ibasso_dx150-45.jpg

    Furthermore, based on Digital filters of AKM DACs, while analyzing the sound with Sharp Roll-off I hear a faster attack and more sparkle, with Slow Roll-off I hear the attack to be a little slower while sparkle is the same, and when switching to Super Slow Roll off I hear the slower attack and less air/sparkle in comparison to other filters. The other two filters were Short Delay with either Slow or Sharp roll-off which I hear the same as corresponding filters with and without short delay.

    ibasso_dx150-33.jpg



    DX150 with AMP6, AMP7, and AMP8 amp modules.

    Intro.

    Having a modular design is both a blessing and a curse. Amplifier section of the DAP is one of the critical parts of the path to a headphone output which can either make it or break it the final sound. It can also change the tonality and the sound characteristics, as well as give you access to a balanced output, boost the power, or lower the noise floor while improving SNR. In a traditional DAP you are stuck with a built-in amp section and specific output ports, and if you want to change it, you must use LO to patch in external amp or digital out to connect to external dac/amp. Modular design is an elegant solution to replace the amp section while keeping the same DAP footprint, without a need for an external stack.

    So, you can consider that as a blessing, especially since in case of DX150/200 you can upgrade the sound and performance for $200 per module. A curse is when you have more than a few choices and end up splitting hairs, trying to figure out which one to get. I already covered AMP3/4/5 in my separate review here. Now with introduction of AMP7 and AMP8, you have more choices in addition to stock AMP1 (DX200) and stock AMP6 (DX150). With AMP2, AMP4, and AMP4s no longer available, you are down to AMP3, AMP5, AMP7, and AMP8 as your optional amps to consider for upgrade. It’s still a lot of choices, but you need to consider your headphone termination, 3.5mm SE, 2.5mm BAL, or 4.4mm BAL, and if you do or don’t require LO, because some of these amps have big internal caps and not enough room for LO port.

    AMP design/spec.

    Just as a preface, AMP7 and AMP8 are the latest offerings from iBasso and they implement a new discrete circuit design with both high voltage and high current output. Both amps offer +/-8V high voltage swing which should improve the dynamics of output, and high output current of up to 2700mA to benefit low impedance multi BA/hybrid IEMs. This is an impressive spec, and to achieve this high voltage and current while still maintaining low output impedance, iBasso had to use discrete components, typical of desktop amp design.

    As a quick summary of each available amp card:

    AMP7 discrete single ended amplifier card
    - 3.5mm SE: 3.2Vrms, S/N 122dB, output impedance 0.3ohm
    - 3.5mm SE HO and LO

    AMP8 discrete balanced amplifier card with Pentaconn 4.4mm port
    - 4.4mm BAL: 6.2Vrms, S/N 125dB, output impedance 0.38ohm
    - 4.4mm BAL HO only

    AMP3 high voltage swing balanced amp card
    - 2.5mm BAL: 6Vrms, S/N 124dB
    - 2.5mm BAL HO and LO

    AMP5 high voltage swing single ended amp card
    - 3.5mm SE: 3.2Vrms, S/N 121dB
    - 3.5mm SE HO and LO

    AMP6 (stock DX150 amp)
    - 2.5mm BAL: 4.8Vrms, S/N 118dB
    - 3.5mm SE: 2.4Vrms, S/N 117dB
    - 3.5mm SE HO and LO, 2.5mm BAL HO

    AMP1 (stock DX200 amp)
    - 2.5mm BAL: 6Vrms, S/N 125dB
    - 3.5mm SE: 3Vrms, S/N 122dB
    - 3.5mm SE HO and LO, 2.5mm BAL HO

    AMP comparison.

    Since this is DX150 review, the following comparison will focus on sound changes I hear going from a stock AMP6 to other amp modules. I also included a comparison between AMP7 and AMP8, since I received a lot of questions about it. All my sound impressions were collected using iBasso IT04, 64 Audio U18t, and Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd gen headphones. Due to a difference in output power, I tried to volume match as close as possible in every comparison. Also, please keeping in mind this is how I hear the difference, so it's my subjective opinion.

    AMP6 -> AMP7: the same volume level between SE outputs, wider soundstage (SE of 7 is even a touch wider than BAL of 6), blacker background, a little more transparency and slightly better layering in 7, and 7 is a touch brighter and a little more revealing in comp to 6.

    AMP6 -> AMP8: the same volume level between BAL outputs, wider soundstage, more transparency, tighter bass with a bigger impact, a little more treble sparkle, improvement in layering and dynamics, blacker background, the sound has a little more body and more revealing in comparison.

    AMP7 -> AMP8: 8 has more power, needs less volume (SE vs BAL outputs), 8 has a little wider soundstage, bass has a little more impact, tonality is very similar but overall sound of 8 is tighter, has blacker background and improved dynamics.

    AMP6 -> AMP3: very similar performance and tonality, perhaps 3 having slightly better dynamic range expansion. Actually, with 3 having a lot better S/N spec, I expected a bigger difference but 6 performed very close.

    AMP6 -> AMP5: again, despite a difference in S/N spec, the performance is not too far off, especially when comparing 5 to 6 SE, though 5 has a fuller body with a little warmer tonality. The difference is more obvious when comparing 5 to 6 BAL which is a little brighter in comparison to 5 SE.

    Bonus comparison.

    DX200: AMP4 vs AMP8 - soundstage is nearly identical. Also, mids and treble are very similar, the noticeable difference is in low-end where amp8 bass has a little stronger punch with a deeper extension, giving the sound a little more body, while in overall comparison amp4 has a little better layering of the sounds.

    ibasso_dx150-26.jpg



    Comparison.

    In this comparison section I was using IT04, U18t, and T5p2 during listening and comparison between different sources, all volume matched for a consistency.

    DX200 w/amp8 vs DX150 w/amp8: 200 has a blacker background, more transparency (less coloring), better layering and separation of the sound. In comparison, 150 sounds a little smoother and a bit warmer (not as transparent) and with some reduction in dynamics. Soundstage is very close. In terms of design, these have a lot of similarities, from the same display, presence of volume wheel, the same ports (between stock amps), similar storage (internal 32GB vs 64GB) with both supporting a single uSD, same RAM and battery capacity, interchangeable amp modules, Android OS, etc. While DX150 doesn't have native Mango, when you install the latest Lurker's ROM you get that enabled as well. The main difference is in DACs which explains the edge in DX200 sound performance. But then, DX150 has quick charge and costs almost $400 less. If you want to squeeze every ounce of performance and get the best, DX200 over DX150 is a logical choice. But if you are on a budget and want the taste of DX200, DX150 definitely worth your consideration.

    DX150 vs Hiby R6 - very similar soundstage expansion when comparing balanced HO; in terms of tonality R6 is brighter and a little leaner while DX has a fuller body and a little warmer and smoother (more analog) tonality with a little harder hitting bass. Both have a very similar technical sound performance. In terms of the spec, both have 32GB internal storage with uSD expansion, 3.5mm/2.5mm outputs, touchscreen and android interface. DX has volume wheel vs R6 with +/- buttons, and I know some might have preference for a physical wheel. R6 comes pre-installed with Google Play, out of the box DX150 needs to be side-loaded with apps, unless you install free Lurker's ROM which adds Google Play (which I recommend). In terms of Android/app performance, R6 with a faster processor and 3GB of RAM has an edge, as expected. With audio performance, R6 has high output impedance and in many cases with IEMs requires iEMatch. Also need to keep in mind DX advantage of interchangeable amp modules. I have been asked about this comparison a lot, and I suggest to figure out your DAP feature priorities and make a list of pros/cons since these have a similar technical performance with a difference in tonality which going to affect pair-up of headphones with different signatures. Plus, keep in mind if you either want a fast smartphone-like Android performance (R6) or the flexibility of replaceable amp modules to enhance audio performance (DX150).

    DX150 vs Cayin N5ii - both have a similar soundstage expansion; they also have a similar neutral-warmish fuller body tonality, but N5ii has crisper treble while DX treble extension is a little smoother in comparison, as I would expect due to ESS vs AKM DACs. I also enjoyed how both pair up well with many headphones and result in nice hard hitting low end response. In comparison, both have a volume wheel, hw playback buttons, 3.5mm/2.5mm HO, touch screen interface (though DX150 is more responsive), both have internal 32GB of storage, while N5ii has dual uSD vs DX with a single one. While N5ii has Google Play already pre-loaded, its Android experience is rather limited in comparison to DX with its open Android 6.0, but remember that DX needs Lurker's firmware for Google Play or to side-load each app. Due to 2GB of RAM (DX) vs 1GB (N5ii), Android experience with interface and apps is faster on DX. And of course, DX interchangeable amps set it apart.

    DX150 vs FiiO X5iii/X7ii - lots of differences here with X5iii. DX soundstage is wider, tonality is a little more neutral, background is a lot quieter in comparison to a strong hiss level of X5iii with its warmer tonality. Also, DX sound is more dynamic, with a better separation and layering. Both have volume wheel and external hardware playback controls, touch screen interface, 32GB internal storage, single uSD for DX and dual for X5iii, and of course big advantage of interchangeable amp module for DX. While X5iii comes pre-loaded with Google play and DX by default needs to be side-loaded, installing Lurker's fw evens out the field and Android performance and screen response is faster in DX with 2GB of RAM vs 1GB in X5iii. I know some will ask about X7ii comparison since it's a modular flagship version of FiiO DAPs, and in terms of a performance X7ii has more similarities with DX150 except for tonality where X7ii is more neutral while DX150 has a more natural warmer tonality with a punchier bass impact. In terms of the design, once you install Lurker's ROM, they are on par with a similar Android experience and full access to Google Play, though X7ii has 64GB of internal storage and dual uSD. Despite X7ii modular design with replaceable amp modules, I still find iBasso amps design to offer higher level of performance.

    DX150 vs Cowon Plenue R - DX soundstage is a little bit wider, while both have a very similar signature and tonality, and overall a very similar technical performance. In terms of design, both have 3.5mm/2.5mm, touch screen interface, volume wheel in DX vs volume buttons in PR, both have single uSD, while internal storage is 32GB in DX and 128GB in PR. Both have a very responsive touch interface, but PR doesn't have Android OS and no access to apps, while DX can run any app and has interchangeable amp modules. The main advantage of PR is JetEffect dsp effects and more compact size, that's about it.

    DX150 vs theBit Opus#3 - DX soundstage is a little wider; the tonality of #3 is a little brighter and leaner in comparison to a fuller body and a little warmer, smoother, and more analog tonality of DX. Both have 3.5mm/2.5mm, touch screen interface, volume wheel, single uSD expansion, with 32GB internal storage in DX and 64GB internal storage in #3. The big difference here is of course replaceable amp modules of DX150 as well as open Android OS, while Opus#3 can only be side-loaded with apps though painful steps due to a closed Android OS.

    ibasso_dx150-35.jpg

    Pair up.

    In this pair up testing I was using DX150 with a stock AMP6, and short delay sharp roll off filter setting. I also included comments about my personal pair up preference, referring to various amp modules. Furthermore, I noted High gain (HG) or Low gain (LG), Volume (v) level, and either SE or BAL outputs, depending on the cable termination. As my usual disclaimer, this is how I hear it, so take it as a subjective opinion.

    iBasso IT01 (DD), LG, v76, SE - wide soundstage, v-shaped fun signature, bass hits hard (both sub-bass rumble and mids-bass punch), lower mids are lean while upper mids are detailed and natural; treble is very crisp and airy. Stock AMP6 was my favorite pair up since AMP7 pushed mids a little back and AMP8 made bass stronger. Obviously, a matter of a personal sound preference.

    iBasso IT04 (3BA+DD hybrid), LG, v68, BAL - wide soundstage expansion, very balanced transparent sound, deep sub-bass rumble (with more rumble in comparison to some other pair ups), fast mid-bass punch, lean lower mids, natural revealing upper mids, very detailed vocals, and crisp airy treble with a good control. AMP7 wasn't too different but AMP8 did scale it up to a next level without boosting the bass too much, just adding a little more body to the sound, giving it a little more analog flavor, improving layering, resolution, retrieval of details, and making the sound a little more holographic. While I enjoyed AMP6 pair up, AMP8 pair up with IT04 is really good. If you think about it, for $1.2k (DX150+AMP8+IT04) you can have all-in-one hi-res solution for the price which is less then some flagship IEMs.

    Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd gen (full size Tesla), HG, v80, BAL - very balanced natural smooth tonality, wide soundstage, nice rumble and good mid-bass impact, smooth natural mids, nice treble sparkle. The sound has more body and not as lean and bright like in some other pair ups. I tried these in both low and high gain, and found high gain to improve mids tonality, making it a little more natural. Also, I prefer AMP7 in this pair up, giving sound a little more transparency.

    Audeze EL8C (Planar magnetic), HG, v108, SE - neutral revealing tonality, wide soundstage, bass goes deep but quantity is neutral, mids are neutral and revealing as well, a little intimate, treble is crisp and detailed and without metallic sheen. The sound is lacking some body. Here, since I only have stock SE cable, I can't try it with AMP8, but AMP5 is a little better match, giving more body to the sound.

    VE ZEN 2 Omega (320ohm earbuds), HG, v90, BAL - wide soundstage expansion, very smooth natural organic tonality, deep analog rounded bass with a nice sub-bass rumble, fuller body natural detailed mids, well defined controlled treble. While pair up with a stock AMP6 is pretty good, I liked AMP8 pair up a little better since it made sound more transparent, faster, tighter. The beauty of Omega version of Zen is replaceable cables where now I can switch to balanced and try different sources with different cables.

    64 Audio U18t (18BA, 9ohm impedance), HG (v56), LG (v70), BAL - was going back'n'forth between high and low gain setting, the sound is very balanced, expanded, detailed, very nicely layered under both gains, but dynamic expansion is better in high gain, though due to low impedance in HG there is a touch more hissing in comparison to low gain. In LG the sound is a little smoother. The pair up of U18t is great with stock AMP6, as well as AMP7 and AMP8.

    UM Mason V3 (16BA, lower sensitivity), LG, v77, BAL - wide soundstage expansion, very neutral revealing tonality, good low-end extension with a moderate impact, lean transparent mids, great retrieval of details, crisp airy treble. If you want more body, AMP8 does scale up the performance here, probably my favorite pair up, especially since it adds more punch in low end.

    UE UERR (3BA), LG, v78, BAL - surprisingly a very wide soundstage, a nicely balanced neutral natural tonality, great sub-bass rumble, punchy mid-bass, neutral natural detailed mids, crisp airy well controlled treble. While it can scale up with some other amps, I liked this pair up the most because sound remained very balanced across entire FR, and the tonality was very natural and still detailed. AMP7 was my 2nd favorite pair up after stock AMP6 with UERR.

    Westone W80 (8BA, 5ohm impedance), HG, v61, SE - tried between low and high gain, and there is no comparison, high gain brings more details to the mids, with a sound being faster and punchier, while low gain makes mids a little veiled. In high gain, the sound has a very balanced signature with a natural organic tonality. Great sub-bass rumble and a strong mid-bass punch, fuller body natural detailed mids, well controlled detailed treble. AMP7 expanded the staging making it more holographic and made sound a little bit smoother.

    Campfire Audio Andromeda (5BA, higher sensitivity, lower impedance), LG, v52, BAL - high gain is no-go here due to hissing, low gain has hissing as well, but attenuated. Soundstage is nicely expanded, very wide. Bass goes deep and has a strong impact, mids have fuller body, sounds more natural, slightly pushed back, treble is very crisp and airy. I tried AMP8, but hissing was too strong, as well as bass hitting a bit too hard. AMP7 pair was excellent, lifting some veil off.

    ibasso_dx150-34.jpg

    External wired/wireless connections.

    Both DX150 and DX200 now feature Bluetooth DAC/amp option which allows iBasso DAPs to be paired with your smartphone or a tablet to transmit audio wireless. Due to bandwidth limitation, I’m sure not all hi-res lossless files will be supported, but I still need to test everything. In theory, people play their high res DSDs from internal storage anyway, and this feature is more convenient when you are away from WiFi and can use your phone as a hotspot for audio streaming to your DAP used as an external DAC/amp. Or if you just want a wireless DAC/amp setup. And of course, if you want to improve the sound of your smartphone and save its battery during audio playback, this is also a great option. Pair up was easy, just need to enable the toggle under BT setting of DX150 and let your smartphone search to pair up with a DAP. Don’t pair up with your phone from DX150, only pair up with DX150 from your phone in order for this to work.

    ibasso_dx150-41.jpg ibasso_dx150-42.jpg ibasso_dx150-43.jpg

    You can also use Bluetooth connection from within DAP to pair up with wireless headphones. I tested it with Sennheiser Momentum 2 Wireless, and M2W pair up was fast, yielded clean detailed sound, not exactly on par with my Galaxy S9 aptX connection, but close enough considering DX150 doesn’t support aptX. The only concern here, the same pair of M2W and DX200 was operating 55-60ft across the open space, while M2W and DX150 range was down to 30-35ft.

    ibasso_dx150-39.jpg ibasso_dx150-40.jpg

    USB DAC function is supported, and just like with DX200, I wanted to verify it and aware from others that it's working without a problem. But unfortunately, my aging Windows laptops at home have issues with Thesycon USB drivers due to security signature setting. So, I didn’t get a chance to test it.

    You can use DX150 as a digital transport to drive external DAC/amp from SPDIF output, using either coax or optical (mini toslink) connection. I verified it with iFi Micro iDSD BL, using provided short 3.5mm/coax cable as well as my short mini-toslink optical cable. In this pair up, I hear a more neutral detailed sound, typical of Micro iDSD signature. You can use both DX150 volume control and micro iDSD volume control. Switching to optical, also works great but the first time the fit was tight and I had to apply a bit of force to get the plug in. Using optical connection, I hear the sound to be a little cleaner and more transparent in comparison to coax cable.

    ibasso_dx150-37.jpg

    Not sure if this is officially supported, but I was also able to use DX150 USB Digital Out as a transport to drive HA-2 portable dac/amp. I did get it to work with DX150 and Oppo HA-2 using Shanling L2 usb-c to micro-usb cable, but the sound was on a brighter side, and I wasn't too crazy about this pair up. Not sure if this is going to be a matter of trial'n'error with other external DAC/amps since I couldn't get it to work with Micro iDSD.

    ibasso_dx150-38.jpg

    Depending on amp module, if it does or doesn’t have LO, you can connect external amplifier to DX150 Line Out, bypassing its internal amp section. For this test I used a neutral E12A to compare DX150 HO vs DX150 LO + E12A. From this testing, I can hear E12A and AMP6 to have nearly the same neutral tonality and a nice dynamics expansion. This means that DAC output is a bigger contributor to a neutral-warm tonality which is typical of AK4490 - the signature of DX150 DAP with its stock AMP6.

    ibasso_dx150-36.jpg

    Conclusion.

    It's very easy to get confused when looking at and comparing DX150 and DX200 DAPs, considering there is a lot of overlap. Especially when you look at the exterior design, modular amp support, flush mounted screen, and updated volume wheel area, some might even think by mistake that DX150 is an upgraded version. But you have to be realistic. No company in their right mind will release a cheaper model and make it superior in performance to kill the sales of their flagship. So the fact still remains, DX200 is iBasso's current flagship, utilizing a higher end premium DACs with improved sound performance in comparison to DX150.

    But at the same time, DX150 is not too far off and with some of the amp modules the gap is even closer. That's what gives this latest iBasso release a very impressive price/performance ratio. Its neutral sound tuning with a warmish tilt will pair up great with many headphones, giving them a more natural tonality, its selection of different amps (shared with DX200) will allow you to upgrade the sound while still keeping the same DAP chassis without a bulky exterior stack up, and its WiFi and Android OS will let you run any app on DX150, either side-loaded or with full access to Google Play if you install Lurker's fw. iBasso has been pushing the envelope of price/performance ratio with many of its latest releases, and now after DX200 and DX150, it will be interesting to see what the upcoming DX120 brings to the table.
      archdawg, buonassi and Light - Man like this.
    1. fokta
      Hello, Nice review on the DX150. Just a question, how is DX150 with AMP8 to Solaris ? in term noise blackground ?
      fokta, Jan 14, 2019
    2. buonassi
      still trying to hear any difference between 'standard' and 'full sound' styles under the sound settings menu. Tried with various IEMs (andromeda, U10, Rai Penta, IER M7), and sometimes I think I hear a slight difference with the midrange - like the upper midrange is 1 db scooped out and not as forward - but it's more subtle than filter changes (and those are subtle).
      buonassi, Jul 14, 2019
  3. ExpatinJapan
    iBasso DX150 - Enter the mid tier Behemoth
    Written by ExpatinJapan
    Published Jul 6, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Great build, physical buttons, easy UI, decent battery life, excellent sound, swappable amps
    Cons - No google play store, have to side load or search out apps.
    IBasso DX150 Review
    - Expatinjapan


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    iBasso DX150 with Double Helix Cables - Clone Fusion IEM cable and AAW W300U.

    http://www.ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=6517#page1

    Head pie earlier reviewed the iBasso DX200:
    http://www.headpie.net/2017/03/ibasso-dx200-review-expatinjapan.html

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    The DX150 is the latest offering from iBasso. A mid tier dap that fits nicely under the DX200.
    Whilst the DX150 includes many of the features of the DX200 it does not rise to the level of the DX200, which is to be expected. But the gap closes a bit when when one swaps out the warmish stock Amp 6 for the more spacious, sweet and transparent Amp 5.

    Much of what I might say about the DX150 in terms of usage can also be found in the Head pie DX200 review. ...additional information on menus, UI, updating firmware etc (I have included some in this review).

    DX150 manual - Full of useful bits and bobs about the DX150.
    http://www.ibasso.com/uploadfiles/20180427/201804272105592243.pdf

    DX150 unboxing


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    DX150 Specs.
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    Type C usb cable, Coaxial/spdif cable, 2.5mm burn in cable.

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    Excellent volume wheel and physical multi use buttons.

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    One micro SD slot.

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    Coaxial/Optical/spdif port, USB C for charging/DAC use with a computer and transferring data

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    Gorgeous

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    Amp 6 in the iBasso swappable Amp range (9 amps in total). It complements the AK DAC in the DX150 and brings out its certain signature nicely. Warm and smooth.

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    Music, music, music...Halleluyah!


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    A nice case, a bit different from the DX200 material.

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    Specs and features

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    DX150 Manual
    http://www.ibasso.com/uploadfiles/20180427/201804272105592243.pdf
    Price

    The iBasso DX150 retails at US$ 499 and is available from the iBasso site, or from licensed vendors listed on the iBasso website.

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    iBasso DX150 UI
    Android player

    (Taken from my DX200 review as the layout is the same)

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    I have included various photos of some of the main menu features, as you will notice there are more that I did not cover due to space. But enough is seen of what the iBasso DX150 has to offer.


    DX150 UI video
    (First firmware - after the recent update it is more faster).



    The UI swipe system

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    The in player UI is divided into four halves, accessed by swiping left or right.
    (the far right screen is sleep timer/rescan library and system information)

    Connection via USB-C to a computer and how to transfer files.


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    From the iBasso DX150 manual
    http://www.ibasso.com/uploadfiles/20180427/201804272105592243.pdf
    For Apple/Mac one may have to use the Android File transfer application
    https://www.android.com/filetransfer/

    Updating the firmware

    This is in the manual.
    First you have to unzip the file, inside is a Read me and also another zipped file.
    That is the file you use for the updating.

    Settings/about DX150/Local update/default

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    Size
    The size and weight of the DX150 is pretty much the same as the DX200.

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    Sound

    The DX150 is enigmatic, mysterious.

    It is a dap that comes under the wings of the much celebrated and enjoyed DX200, a dap that might easily rest in its shadows. A few old timers have compared the stock sound to that of the much famed DX100 one of the earliest hi-res playing daps from back in the day.

    I did struggle at first with how to present the DX150. I was tethered quite heavily to the DX200 as a daily player and was not sure what to expect, lower price of course and what did that mean in terms of sound? Was I to experience a step down? If so how large?

    What can one write about a dap these days? They differ in sound (warm/neutral/bright) in some instances, but these days not overly so. Usually sound quality and reproduction is high and accurate.

    Differences in functions and size being the main points.

    Of course as one gets higher up the chain layering, resolution etc all increase in quality.

    One must not leave the ear/head phones out of the equation either for obvious reasons. An entry level pair of earphones might get a chance to scale up with a decent dap, but with more entry level dap there is always going to be that chokepoint where performance can only reach so far.

    Which brings us back to the iBasso DX150, priced at US$499. A price usually reserved for mid tier daps, whilst the DX200 comes in at around US$1000 it has been seen to play easily with the other big boys of the totl dap range.

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    The iBasso DX150 was a welcome review unit, and not so welcome. I do so love the DX200 and to spend time with its younger sibling was to my mind a possible step down and time away from one of beloved daps in regular rotation.

    As usual I gave it the recommended burn in/playing time to please the burn it folks, and as the non burn in crowd do not care everyone (once again) is happy.

    What does one write about when reviewing a dap? It is easy to mix in earphone review terminology and confuse the issue for purists but it can make sense to the new comer.
    With the DX150 the issue is clouded because of the ability to swap out amp units.
    There being (shared with the DX200)
    Amp 1 (DX200 stock)
    Amp 2
    Amp 3
    Amp 4
    Amp 5
    Amp 4S
    Amp 6 (DX150 stock amp)
    And the soon to released as I write Amps 7 & 8.
    Information on Amps 1 - 5 here: http://www.headpie.net/2017/11/ibasso-dx200-amp-series-information.html

    The iBasso DX150 comes with Amp 6. Thats the first thing an owner is going to hear and make or break them on the DX150....perhaps.
    For me, I was not a fan of Amp 6, but I tried and tried to like it. It was a tad too smooth and warm for me, in the same way I do not like Amp 3 (which is even more so and dynamic). Everyone has their own tastes and thankfully due to the different amps one can tailor the dap more to ones sonic preference.

    I like the stock neutral, nay reference Amp 1 of the DX200 and use it for shows, but find myself using the Amp 4 for on the go.

    For the DX150 I didnt exhaustively swap out all the amps as I am prone to do when reviewing but settled quickly on Amp 5 as it gave a hint of sweetness, veered the DX150 towards more neutral spaciousness and provided enough transparency to please my ears.

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    The sound can not be pinned down due to the variation present with the ability to change amps.

    This points us towards a neutral base which is what one should be looking for anyway imho, so that earphones are presented in the manner of which they are designed, coupled with a low output impedance makes it perfect for even sensitive IEMs.

    So generally neutral, most probably with the ability to brighten or warm it up with amps.

    Resolution is excellent.
    Separation is realistic.
    Layering is wonderful.
    Sound stage is wide with great depth and height.

    All also dependent on the earphones one pairs the DX150 of course.

    The DX150 has Dual AK4490EQ. I have had a few AKM dacs in several daps etc and it can tend towards the warm, rich and smooth side with some dap implementations. The stock Amp 6 reveals this to a point. The Amp 5 brings it up to a more neutral point. This is not an excessive thing though, although Dacs still have a certain tilt to them, although the Dac wars are largely over as tuning as a whole has developed and improved from the days of Wolfson vs Cirrus, Sabre bright etc etc.

    iBasso has managed to tame the AKM DAC to a decent neutral point so that it can play nicely with the array of Amps they have on offer.

    The DX150 has enough power to please and this can be adjusted depending on which amp is chosen.
    Ui is snappy enough for me, and one can see my earlier video of the first firmware before they sped it up even more.
    I like the large boxes of the touchscreen which makes navigation easy, and the physical buttons are a treat as I ride the commuter train.

    The Amps iBasso have to offer all fall below 1 ohm output impedance so they are a great fit for even the most sensitive of IEMs.

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    Overall

    The iBasso DX150 fits well into its price bracket, and like its older sibling punches a bit higher than asking price which seems to be common for this generation of iBasso products.

    A solid almost industrial build makes this hefty looking dap ooze coolness. `But the sound` you say. Well that too, but aesthetics also play their part and something visually appealing should not be nosed at.

    Looks and sound. A perfect storm.

    The stock amp 6 is on the slightly warm, soft and smooth side - but the DX150 like the DX200 can be sonically tailored due to the wide array of iBasso Amps available to swap out with.
    The DX150 is a pleasure to listen to:
    Resolution is excellent.
    Separation is realistic.
    Layering is wonderful.
    Sound stage is wide with great depth and height.
    It is generally a neutral dap, as they should be.

    Wifi, Bluetooth, internet connection, SPDIF, Amp 6 is Line out, SE and 2.5mm Balanced, Use as a stand alone player or as DAC with your computer.

    I do not stream so I am happy just banging a micro SD card into Daps and enjoying the FLAC attack.

    Apps (such as streaming apps) can be loaded via wifi etc, searching for the app and apk. The DX150 does not have the Google Play store so most with have to side loaded onto the unit. Or you can use the custom firmware of Lurker that is so popular and comes with the Google Play store etc.

    Noise levels are low, nary a hiss to be found. The DX150 plays nicely with both 2.5GHz and 5GHz.

    The DX150 has the Android Mango player, whereas the DX200 has two, Android and pure Mango players.

    Much of what can be said about the DX150 can be read on the iBasso site or within the manual.

    Its a decent dap. imho.

    Once I began to play around with the amps on offer I cam to love the DX150 as much as I do the DX200. The DX200 has that extra little something that can be picked up with attentive ears and accompanying earphones. But for general listening, and even dedicated analytical sessions the DX150 holds it own.

    The DX150 - Standing on the shoulders of the mid Dap crowd.

    "The Second Coming
    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity..." - WB Yeats



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    Thank you to iBasso for sending Head pie the DX150 for review
      Light - Man likes this.
  4. HiFiChris
    iBasso DX150 Review
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published May 30, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - • styling
    • lower price compared to DX200, yet basically same performance and even some (hardware) improvements (fast charging, better 2.4 GHz WiFi shielding)
    • precise volume control
    • good measurements and sonic performance
    • low output impedance
    • (very) good hiss performance
    • fluent and very responsive operation and navigation
    Cons - • no aptX Bluetooth
    • no Google Play services
    • AMP6 balanced output not "different", unlike AMP1
    • stock player app lacks search feature
    (• only one OS (Android) whereas DX200 has two (Android OS + iBasso Mango OS))
    Disclosure/fwiw: The iBasso DX150, AMP4S, CA2 and CB12S that this review is about were supplied complementary as free review samples.

    - - -

    Intro:

    Instead of writing 10, 15 or 18 pages of plain text as it can easily happen for me when I write a review about a digital audio player or amplifier, I am trying to keep this review short and leave out things that aren’t as important anyway – simply because they can be found on the manufacturer website (http://ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=6517) that you have likely visited anyway if you are interested in the DX150, and also because I know that certain aspects are skipped anyway (and yet the review turned out longer than I planned it to be anyway – but there are basic parts/explanations I don’t want to leave out, so I guess it was sort of clear that it would turn out rather long in the first place. If you want a short summary, here’s the brief summary: quality materials, snappy operation and navigation, good streaming, really good noise performance, low output impedance, precise volume control that allows very quiet listening as well, clean sound). Additionally, the DX150 shares many aspects with the DX200 (reviewed here: https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ibasso-audio-dx200-reference-dap.22169/reviews#review-18336), although at a lower price point ($499), so it wouldn’t make much sense to repeat everything. So this review will mainly focus on the things that I am personally most interested about in terms of sound, wherefore it is only them whom are captioned (bold and underlined).
    So if you want to read more about the screen, user interface and hardware performance, I advise you to check out my DX200 review.

    DSC05160-small.JPG

    - - -

    Both players look somewhat (let’s better say “quite”) similar (although one could say that the newer but lesser priced DX150 appears more up-to-date in terms of styling, and the slimmer side plank definitely contributes to this impression, along with the flatter and more elegant implementation of the screen that is similarly resolving and of similarly high quality), are identically well made and feel very solid and also quite premium, have got replaceable amplifier modules that are compatible with both players and feature a very similar although not identical hardware design, such as the Dual-Mono implementation of the audio signal path, however while the DX200 uses ESS chips, AKM chips have found their way into the DX150.
    Personally, I have to say that I prefer the DX150’s updated styling over the DX200’s. And the DX150’s grippy pleather case appears more premium and more beautiful.

    One large difference on the software-side is that the DX150 lacks the pure “Mango” mode of the DX200 and is only equipped with Android OS with the Mango player app, however it is not much of a miss since the pure “Mango” OS, unlike the snappy Android interface, was quite slow and sluggish when it came to navigation and speed and only offered the advantage of slightly quicker boot time and more volume steps (256 with a linear scaling of 0.5 dB per increment, however even the Android OS volume control implementation allows for very quiet listening levels even with extremely sensitive in-ears, so I think that this loss is bearable (I have only used the Android OS mode anyway)).

    Unfortunately both players lack the implementation of Google’s Play Services and Play Store, so Android apps such as Tidal, SoundCloud, Spotify etc. have to be side-loaded (one can also do this directly on the DX150/200 using the web browser and searching for “[app name].apk download”). But then they work without any issue. Some apps that strictly require Google’s Play Services, such as YouTube, will however not run on either device (the Google Chrome web browser works without any issues though).
    The standard iBasso player app, called “Mango”, still lacks a search feature as well.

    Another addition, software-wise, is that with the DX150, hidden in the “sound and notification” settings, there now is a “Sound style” setting (that will remain DX150-exclusive and won’t find its way into the DX200) where one can switch from “standard” to “full sound”.
    What does it do? More on that later.

    In recent days, many digital audio players let the users select the digital filters by themselves. While they don’t really play a greater role and are designed to operate mostly outside the audible range and – if even – only make a minor difference upon super critical listening, many manufacturers like to include most of the filters that the used DAC chip has to offer. In case of the DX150, there are five digital filter options in total.
    More regarding digital filters can be found for example in my DX200 review.

    Then there are some other small software changes, such as a renewed boot screen.

    As already mentioned and tested in my DX200 review, hardware and software performance of the player is good and perfectly fluent without any sluggishness or hiccups. The same also goes for the DX150, which is not that much surprising since they share most hardware components.
    Aside from the different DAC chips, one difference on the hardware side is that the DX150 allows for USB-C quick charging whereas the DX200 does not. Other than that, I don’t think that there are much other hardware changes, and so the DX150, while it also supports 2.4 and 5 GHz WiFi, only supports SBC Bluetooth and has no aptX implementation either.

    What’s definitely different though is the used amplifier module the player comes bundled with, and the DX150’s “AMP6” module was designed for slightly increased battery life but seems to be rather similar otherwise although being somewhat less powerful.


    WiFi Streaming:

    Well, what seems to be different though is the WiFi/EMI/RFI shielding – my WiFi router only supports 2.4 GHz and the DX200 picks up quite some noise through that frequency while it doesn’t when connected to a 5 GHz network. For some reason, this is something where several streaming DAP manufacturers fail to some degree while the iPhone that many self-proclaimed audiophiles see as the root of all audiophile evil and claim that it is inferior to some really cheap digital audio players that have been proven to perform worse, somehow magically manages to avoid all that streaming noise when sensitive headphones and in-ears are connected to it.

    DSC05163-small.JPG

    The DX150 however doesn’t pick up any of that almost permanent noise even when it is connected to a 2.4 GHz network and only very occasionally outputs a short “blipse” (that isn’t present when it’s connected to a 5 GHz router) in my environment with many wireless sources nearby (even with 2.4 GHz connection, there are none of those rare “blipses” in a less “polluted” environment), so it seems like its shielding was noticeably improved.


    Sound:

    Needless to say, the stock AMP6 module was used for the following tests (3.5 mm headphone output, filter “3 Short Delay Sharp Roll-Off”, low gain, standard sound style).

    Volume Control:

    For the second time for an iBasso audio player, following the DX200, the DX150 got a rotary volume potentiometer instead of the traditional buttons. While I think it is quite clear, I better mention it anyway: the potentiometer does not control the volume in analogue form but digitally, so you get the benefit of perfect channel matching even at very low volume settings with the DX150 compared to the very few audio players on the market that are using a purely analogue volume control that is suffering from some channel balance issues at low listening levels.
    Since it is stepped and also a little on the stiffer side but still easy to turn with one finger, chances to accidentally change the volume are rather minimal one can also feel each adjustment step.

    There are 150 total (system-wide) attenuation steps, with a scaling of 0.5 dB per step in the medium and higher ranges and somewhat larger but still small enough steps in the very low range (getting the personally desired listening level even with super sensitive in-ears is still possible though and the DX150 can also be used for very quiet listening, which is a requirement for me for an ideal digital audio player).

    Precise volume control that allows for really quiet listening? Definitely check (although the DX90 and DX80 allow even more precision and finer steps at really low settings – but even the DX200’s and DX150’s comparatively less fine steps at really low settings are finer than what most other manufacturers implement into their DAPs).

    RMAA Frequency Response & Output Impedance:

    No Load 3.5 mm:

    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 achieve this basic thing.

    Let’s see how the DX150 performs in this regard:

    3,5 mm, no load, Filter 3, Standard Sound Style.jpg

    As it could be expected, the raw and unloaded frequency response is basically flat and therefore just the way it should be.

    Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 @ 3.5 mm:

    Even when having a flat frequency response without load 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 (the closer to 0 Ohms the better).

    This is what the DX150 puts out when connecting a critical, low impedance, multi-driver in-ear to its single-ended output:

    TripleFi 10.jpg

    iBasso doesn’t list AMP6’s output impedance in the specs. But using the measured deviation, it can be calculated and is just very small, around the value of 0.3 Ohms, which is a really good value and proves that the player can drive any multi-driver in-ear without altering its sound unlike players that have a rather high/higher output impedance.

    Very low and IEM-diva-friendly output impedance? Checkidy check-check (at least over the single-ended output, but it is also safe to assume that the balanced output’s output impedance is very low as well given the experience with the other amplifier modules).

    Sound Style:

    Nothing is mentioned in the settings when it comes to “Sound Style”. And the frequency response and distortion measurements don’t seem to be affected by it either. Additionally the other RMAA measurements I have done don’t show a difference either. So does it actually do anything or is it just a switch that does nothing and was designed to trigger our imagination? A good question, since what I thought the “Sound Style” settings would do didn’t show up in the measurements where I thought they would, even though upon first listening I thought that I would indeed hear a slight difference, so it was either psychoacoustics and me imagining the slight difference, or something else, perhaps resampling, is going on.
    When I asked iBasso about it, they unfortunately didn’t want to spill the secret, but they confirmed that it wouldn’t show up in those measurements, however they assured me that the signal “is handled slightly different[ly] by the [DAC]”.

    Hiss Performance using extremely sensitive IEMs:

    Gear that was used: Shure SE846 (white treble filters), Pai Audio MR3, Ostry KC06A.

    I consider myself as someone who is rather sensitive to hearing hiss and have also got some very sensitive in-ears (for example the Shure SE846 and Ostry KC06A that are among the most hiss-revealing models on the market). So with the right in-ear, I hear hiss to a varying degree with about any digital audio player (in fact out of the players and devices I have and have heard, only the iBasso DX90, Luxury & Precision L3, Luxury & Precision L3 Pro, RME ADI-2 DAC, Leckerton UHA-6S as well as UHA-6S.MKII and Cowon Plenue 2 are basically entirely hiss-free, however the two L & P players do not have the most ideal output impedance for multi-driver in-ears and those with a varying impedance response).

    Using the DX150’s single-ended headphone output with my Shure SE846, Pai Audio MR3 and the Ostry KC06A, I am happy to say that the amount of hiss that I am hearing with an empty audio file and in quiet passages of the music is very little and quite close to being not present/inaudible wherefore it is mostly little enough to be actually irrelevant.
    Regarding hiss, the DX150 is therefore among the better and almost best players and puts out less hiss than for example the popular Chord Electronics Mojo. When music is playing, even at really low volume, the hiss is covered and inaudible even with these sensitive in-ears. So yeah, the DX150 does get a “thumbs up” from me in this regard.

    Good hiss performance using super sensitive in-ears? Check (although the DX90 and Plenue 2 are even a bit more perfect in this regard).

    Subjective Listening Impressions:

    Gear that was used: Audeze LCD-X, Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10, NocturnaL Audio Atlantis, UERR, Etymotic ER•4S, Fidue A91 SIRIUS.


    Now briefly to the 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, if even, them) just slightly present (nuances!) and not huge, like totally different classes or night and day. DAPs, DACs and AMPs are also no music instruments and don’t “extend further” in the lows, don’t have “more bass and warmth” and don’t have “less mids” when compared unless their measured sound output says otherwise – and fortunately there are only very few devices that don’t have a flat output nowadays.

    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, since even small differences in loudness can be perceived as a technical advantage by our ear and brain.

    DSC05161-small.JPG

    So briefly, what am I hearing, especially compared to the DX200 (AMP1) (full review: https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ibasso-audio-dx200-reference-dap.22169/reviews#review-18336)? Both players sound subjectively neutral, as it was to be expected. The difference really is just present in nuances where the DX150 appears to be ever so slightly, a tad “softer” sounding, which might lead to the impression of it being a little less “transparent” sounding with sensitive in-ears, making it subjectively a touch lesser than the “reference” performance the DX200 (/AMP1 module) is supposed to convey, which it, to my ears, does. It’s realistically speaking really rather just a nuance though and otherwise both devices sound equally open/spacious when it comes to three-dimensional cues.
    There is however one thing where the two modules differ: (volume-matched,) while I hear AMP1 to sound somewhat more spatially open when using the Fidue SIRIUS from its 2.5 mm output, along with a “crisper” high frequency attack/”character”/”glare”, AMP6 (2.5 mm as well) doesn’t really change its spatiality or “high frequency character”. So if you are into those small details and mainly using the balanced 2.5 mm connection, it might be that the DX200 (or AMP1 module, if you can find a spare one, or getting any of the other available amplifier modules for the DX150) would be the better choice for you individually. For all the others, getting the DX150 instead is worth more than just one thought.

    Exchanging AMP1 and AMP6 leads to basically the same impressions, however on the other player.

    Gapless Playback:

    … works just as it should with FLAC files.

    - - -

    Wait, there’s more:

    AMP4S:

    I could write an introduction about that this new module is based on the surprisingly popular AMP4 module and also features the quite new 4.4 mm balanced connection, but instead of telling you things that are already freely available on the product page (http://www.ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=6588), let’s focus on the product itself:

    As always, the amplifier module comes with all the accessories you need to change it. For those (like me) who don’t have any 4.4 mm terminated cables, iBasso also offers an adapter that is called CA02 (http://ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=6218#page1), comes with a carbon fibre inlay and looks really premium (its only disadvantage is that it sticks out quite considerably).

    While I cannot perform an RMAA measurement using my methods, iBasso, on request, stated an output impedance of 0.3 Ohms for the AMP4S module, which seems plausible given their other modules’ specs and past trustworthiness.

    The official output impedance spec is rated at 0.3 Ohms and therefore pretty much ideal and unproblematic even for the most diva-esque in-ears when it comes to impedance response and the possible frequency response deviation because of too high output impedance.
    Diva-IEM-friendly output impedance? Definitely check.

    Quite obviously given the specs, the balanced connection offers the higher output voltage when compared to the single-ended output of either amplifier module, and the 4.4 mm connection, even though I personally don’t really like it for whatever reason, is more reliable and sturdier than the common 2.5 mm balanced connection, wherefore it is not surprising that several companies are starting to use it (the “new invention” of the 4.4 mm connection and hype surely contribute to this as well – nonetheless I definitely see the 4.4 mm balanced connection as superior as it is sturdier, and think that it (or the more compact 4-pin Kobiconn connector) should have become widely accepted and available long ago as 2.5 mm is quite obviously more prone to defects).

    So, what’s the gist? Rather obviously, you get more output power compared to the other modules’ single-ended outputs, so if the achieved volume with your insensitive headphones isn’t enough, a module with a balanced headphone output (or a really powerful external amplifier) would be the way to go.
    But more power also means more hiss – so if you aren’t using full-size headphones but in-ears of the sensitive kind and are generally sensitive to hearing hiss, all of the balanced outputs will introduce more hissing.

    Further above I wrote that while there was some difference between the balanced and single-ended output on the AMP1 module (the 2.5 mm output being more spacious and a little “crisper” sounding in the overtones), the single-ended and balanced output on the AMP6 sound basically similar to me. So not worth using if you are into nuancedly flavouring your listening experience and only good for the output power plus, from my point of view.
    AMP4S is different. While not an exaggerated, orgasmic, curtain-removing experience (that nobody should expect anyway between two rather well constructed modern devices with a flat frequency response output and low output impedance), it “brings back” what the AMP6’s balanced output is “missing” compared to the one found on the AMP1 module: the spatiality. The presented sphere, using in-ears, therefore appears somewhat more open than the one found in AMP6. To my ears, it’s also a hair more “open/spacious” sounding than the 2.5 mm AMP1 output. However, while AMP1’s 2.5 mm output appears to have some added, subjective “glare”/”bite”/”aggressiveness” compared to its 3.5 mm output, AMP4S’s overtones and highs appear more “organic” (despite me knowing that the output signal is linear with both). Nonetheless, at less subjectively to my ears using in-ears, its lows appear a hair less tight than AMP1’s.
    It’s not a matter of “better” or “worse”, but what suits better to the needs of the user who likes to tweak the last nuances. So AMP1 (balanced) gives you a more “aggressive” presentation with in-ears whereas AMP4S appears “smoother”/”more organic” with the same level of perceived transparency and a slightly even subjectively more spherical staging, however with just a tad less tightness. Compared to AMP6 (2.5 mm), I do however think that AMP4S is “better”.

    So in the end, what surprises me, I am quite inclined to recommend AMP4S if you are looking into getting into sturdy 4.4 mm balanced connections or are someone who likes to tweak his gear’s fine nuances purely on the hardware level and doesn’t mind the somewhat more audible hiss with in-ears of the sensitive kind.

    - - -

    CB12S Cable:

    If someone remembers my CB13 review, I sort of remarked that it didn’t come with any adapter or storage case/pouch despite the high (but compared to the competition still competitive, dare I say “affordable”) price tag.

    And boom, here comes the CB12S that has fixed exactly those two issues, since the cable now comes with the same “iBasso Audio”-branded metal tin case the IT01 arrives with, as well as a 2.5 (TRRS) to 3.5 mm (TRS) adapter that matches the cable’s visual appearance very well.

    The SB12S (not to be confused with the CB12 mouth wash) is a braided 8-conductor cable, just like the CB13, but has a somewhat more compact braid in comparison. Nonetheless it is very supple, doesn’t lack a chin-slider and has got well-machined MMCX as well as 2.5 as well as 3.5 mm plugs and looks premium.
    Therefore, especially considering what some other in-ear manufacturers charge for their regular replacement cables that are inferior when it comes to suppleness and build quality, or what some “upgrade” cable makers want you to pay for similarly spec’d cables, the price of $99 for the CB12S package seems fair and in the middle.

    As stated in my CB13 review, I am the wrong person to talk about a cable’s “sonic qualities” that exceed the obvious things (resistance, but also channel separation (which won’t be an issue due to separated ground cables)), so I’ll leave it at that.


    Conclusion:

    DSC05162-small.JPG

    Even though the DX150 is designed to be a lesser model than the DX200, it actually is better in some areas, such as the updated exterior design, superior pleather case, better EMI/RFI/WiFi shielding, somewhat improved battery life and an added quick-charge feature. Other than that, it features all of the DX200 greatness but at a lower price point.
    When it comes to sound (volume control, output impedance, hiss performance, subjectively perceived transparency etc.), the DX150 checks all the boxes and isn’t really inferior to the DX200, only ever so slightly “different” here and there, so it is definitely recommendable and deserves all the praise the DX200 already got.

    What’s still left to be desired? Google’s Play Services for easier app installation and management, as well as aptX Bluetooth.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. HiFiChris
      [...]

      Other than that, instead of subjective yada yada about the perceived sound of the DAP, what I would mainly focus on when buying a new DAP are the features you want for your specific needs and headphones (multi-BA IEMs with great impedance swing, full-sized headphones with poor sensitivity, ...).
      For me personally, these things make the ideal DAP and are mandatory for me:
      • excellent hiss performance with extremely sensitive in-ears
      [...]
      HiFiChris, May 30, 2018
    3. HiFiChris
      [...]
      • very low output impedance (plus flat measuring w/o load and high load stability)
      • fine volume steps and the ability to listen at very low levels

      That's why my beloved DX90 is still my personal favourite when it comes to those aspects, with the DX200 and DX150 following close behind. Cowon's devices would be as well if they allowed for quieter listening.
      HiFiChris, May 30, 2018
    4. mgunin
      Nice text as always, Chris. Speaking of comparisons, do you consider DX150 as an upgrade to DX80 (purely in SQ)? Or are they quite close? I'm still using dynamic IEMs (Lear, Periodic Be), so not sure if the investment is worth it (streaming and other modern stuff is not a big factor).
      mgunin, Jul 31, 2018

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