iBasso Audio DX80 High Resolution Audio Player - Reviews
Pros: Powerfull output, Overall good sound, DAC option, 2 microSD slots, sturdy construction
Cons: Non-Changeable battery, very big and not ergonomic, no hold option
IBASSO DX80 (short) Review:

SOUND: 8/10
CONSTRUCTION: 8.5/10
INTERFACE: 7.5/10
VALUE: 8/10


I love Ibasso, really respect there products, especially the DX90 wich I still use everyday after 3 years and have lot of pleasure to listen to, i'm still amaze by the clear, neutral and analytical sound it produce a lot!

The DX80 in another hand is a much bigger DAP without changeable battery possibility, but as seen nowadays, all DAP take this path so I finally get use to it.
It use the same Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC than the Xduoo X3 wich is less expansive, smaller and have 2 SD slots too and a very solid metal body.
Sound of DX80 is similar but more powerfull and energic, as well as warmer than X3. About this, the DX80 have the advantage of muscle, it can drive lot of headphones and high impendance earphones easily, wich is very very usefull don't get me wrong.

CONSTRUCTION & ACCESSORIES:




Unboxing is quite pleasant and there were lot of attention giving to it. The box is really nice and its always appreciate to have a protective case, even if basic. Coaxial cable too is always appreciate.



Construction is very sturdy, built ad look lime a tank. Its all make of metal and its big and heavy, unfortubately the front volume buttons interface can sometime be push by accident because it do not have Hold option side buttons.

Battery life isn't extremely long too, about average, and must of all, battery CAN'T be change like the DX50 and DX90 wich was a releive in the longevity perspective. I really don't like disposable products, I like them when they have a long life potential. This direction that the DX80 follow is perhaps shamefull, but as said, all DAP and even phone do not have changeable battery nowadays.

SOUND:


The DX80 DO sound good, I will not lie about this, it have an easy listening feeling to it, quite bassy and warmish sound with good mids presence but an average separation.

Soundstage isn't very deep too but have great wideness, it's more the lack of air between instruments, details are there but not fowarded, as said, easy listening wich can be more enjoyable with analytical earphones or headphones.
The dynamic is very good and fast, exciting too, I really like to listen to 64ohm at high gain earbuds with this player, and as said, it really is good for vocals but I don't find this player to have lot of texture and details.

COMPARAISON:

DX90 is another beast compared to it, sounding more elegant and mature without selling his musicality off. DX80 will please to a wider crownd perhaps, but if you like classical music and instrumental or crave for details you will prefer the DX90.
The low go deeper than the DX90, and mids are more foward too, less high and overall details, soundstage is less fluid too. DX80 could sound less dry for some type of music, especially pop and electro or beat driven music, in this type of music it can give real pleasure to the ears. As it body, it have a ''muscular'' type of sound presentation.

CONCLUSION:

Ibasoo DX80 isn't bad at all and can keep with competition today, especially for amping power and sound quality, it have great warm musicality with wide sound and good but smooth treble. Being an hardcore inveterate fan of excellent but now discoutinued Ibasso DX90, I rarely as been as subjective about a review than this one, so its to be take with grain of salt. But thinking about it, its the perfect in between DAP of DX50 more bassy and warm sound and DX90 more precise and audiophile targeted DAP. Ibasso is one of the nices and more promising chinese audio company and they aren't finish to surprise us. Can't wait to see what they plan for the futur.
Pros: Great resolution and presentation of details, simple UI, good DAC function
Cons: Not true gapless playback, No locking of buttons?
I recently picked up an iBasso DX80 and decided to do a bit of a test with the available DAPs/DACs that I have at my disposal. I’m not exactly a collector but have ended up with a few, so this was a way for me to test the DX80 and decide about whether to sell some of the others, and I’d thought I’d post my impressions here in case it’s of use to anyone considering picking up one of these DAPs. So we have:
  1. iBasso DX80. Only about 5 hours burn in time (because I’m inpatient like that)
  2. Cowon Plenue D
  3. Cowon J3
  4. Cowon S9
 
All4.jpg
 

DAC test:
  1. DX80 DAC function and Fiio Olympus 2-E10K for comparison

Previous DAPs/DAC I’ve owned:
I’ve previously had a Fiio X3II, which I ran through a Fiio E17K DAC/Amp, and an Audioquest Dragonfly Black, but I wasn’t really sold on the sound. Pity I didn’t keep the Fiio E17K for a bit of a test with these though. I also had a Cowon iAudio E2 – great sound from a little highly portable menu-less piece.

Testing:
All testing was done without EQ, with the Sharp Roll-off setting and low gain on the DX80, and with low gain and bass switch off for the Fiio Olympus 2-E10K. Latest firmware versions for all DAPs.
Headphones used in this comparison:
  1. Sennheiser HD380Pro
  2. Sennheiser Momentum 2 over-ears
  3. Sennheiser Momentum 1 on-ears

The Sennheiser 380Pros were the main headphones used for comparisons, as I think overall these have the flattest presentation of these sets. The Momentum 2’s are my go-to headphone, so later I used these and the Momentum 1’s for comparing the DX80 and Plenue D in more detail and with EQ options.

Level matching was done using an iPhone with a decibel meter and placing the 380s near the mic, then switching the jack between players while playing the same A-B section of one song, to get a solid 85-86 dB from each. Maybe a little crude, but the only technique for level matching I have, and I think is a realistic comparison of how you actually use a player anyway.

For this test I chose a range of styles, but all the kind of music that I’m actually going to play on a regular basis, and all in 44 KHz FLAC format. I’m a huge metal fan and really want a player to be able to respond well to busy, flat out music that needs precision and clarity:
  1. Clavicula Salomonis, Darkend: https://darkend.bandcamp.com/track/clavicula-salomonis. Black metal. Heavy, with some real flat out double bass drumming; precisely the kind of thing that just sounds ‘loud’ and fatiguing with some players
  2. In Yumen - Xibalba, Rotting Christ: https://rottingchrist.bandcamp.com/track/in-yumen-xibalba. If you’ve never heard of Rotting Christ they play kind of esoteric, tribal-ish metal, but with a real rocky vibe. This song has multiple sections, starting slow, going through tremolo picked verse sections and into a half time rocky chorus, plus guitar solo. A good varied test.
  3. Disembodiment – Shade Empire: https://candlelightrecordsuk.bandcamp.com/track/disembodiment. At 13:00 this is a miniature symphony. Orchestral metal with multiple changing sections from light, detailed mellow parts to heavy with a steady solid beat, plus electronica thrown in for good measure.
  4. Corrosion Juncture – Stömb: https://stomb.bandcamp.com/track/corrosion-juncture. A really well recorded album, great black background, guitar tone and drum details. A “djent” band for lack of a better word. So this song has deep crunchy guitars, but also a high pitched guitar line in the “chorus” that could be grating or overwhelming through a player with poor presentation of treble, so this was a “potentially annoying treble” test.
  5. Wardruna – Solringen: https://youtu.be/KuwpQc6Diqs. Nordic folk, very earthy with plenty of organic sounding instruments and both male and female vocals.
  6. Others: Neoclassical, dubstep, orchestral metal: Truth Will Prevail, Chaostar: https://chaostar.bandcamp.com/track/truth-will-prevail; I Am.. The Assassin of the Gods, Chaostar: https://youtu.be/cKCw4rRcNCA; The Vampire from Nazareth, Septic Flesh: https://septicflesh.bandcamp.com/track/the-vampire-from-nazareth.

Gapless playback test: Uneven Structure, Februus album: http://music.basickrecords.com/album/februus. Basically an album-length piece of music divided intro tracks, where one track flows seamlessly into another.

Impressions:

Hard-hitting, busy metal songs/sections:
S9 vs J3:
The J3 is slightly more resolving than the S9. Weirdly, depending on the track the J3 would seem like it had more bass, e.g. Clavicula Salomonis, but at other times the S9 would, e.g. In Yumen – Xibalba. Similarly, the solo in In Yumen – Xibalba felt ‘tinnier’ on the J3 than S9, but in other parts of the song the J3 was notably clearer in presentation than the S9. Overall they’re very similar and there’s not much difference between them apart from a bit of extra separation with the J3.

J3/S9 vs Plenue D:
Surprisingly, there’s not as much separating the J3 from the Plenue D here as I expected. Overall the Plenue D definitely has a greater feeling of space and more separation between instruments than the J3, but the J3 holds up well.
PlenueDandJ3.jpg
 

Cowons vs DX80:
The DX80 has even more separation between instruments than any of the Cowon players (a finding across all the songs, below), and greater clarity of little details like drum rolls.
PlenueDandDX80.jpg
 

Bass presentation:
The DX80 seems more bottom heavy than the Plenue D/J3/S9 but there’s something missing; sometimes it felt like the bass didn’t extend as deep down, at other times it felt like the bass went even deeper than the Plenue D. Perhaps the bass just doesn’t quite hit you as much, or it may depend on song context, e.g. the difference between a busy section and something like Corrosion Junction where the guitars are a touch slower. The Cowons seem to have a slightly more controlled punchy bass, where the DX80 can come across as more bottom heavy in places, but – for me at least – seemed to be lacking the same driving power in the more flat out sections. The bass is “there”, you can hear it, but it doesn’t drive into you the same way you might want it if you want heavy to really hit you as heavy.

Treble:
On Corrosion Juncture – my “potentially annoying treble” test – the DX80 was less trebly than the others in a good way. The Plenue D has less prominent/irritating treble than the S9 or J3 and I think would be less fatiguing over long durations.

Other aspects of presentation:
One thing I noticed with the DX80 in sections where music would “pull back”, i.e. coming off the end of a busy, heavy section into a quieter segment, is that the sound would “feel” like there was a greater drop-off. I had this feeling at multiple points and couldn’t quite pinpoint it – it certainly didn’t seem to be an artifact where the DX80 was set louder, so the drop off was a greater “real” difference in decibels; more that the pull-back felt like a greater drop and therefore had more impact. It made these sections seem more dynamic and musical - and therefore also more dynamic when things picked up again.

Slower sections, orchestral pieces:
There’s definite gradient in the ability of the players to resolve and present the individual details of the instruments, where DX80 tops them, then DX80 > Plenue D > J3 > S9. Particularly where there are multiple instruments or harmonised vocals with the DX80 you can make out the individual singers or details in the instruments with a clarity that isn’t the same on the Cowons, as well as small details. The Plenue D does do well, but across multiple tracks I consistently felt more space with the DX80. There’s also this feeling that the DX80 presents the detail as being right there in your head without so much, I don’t know, “effort” required from the listener. In the long term this seems like the kind of presentation that will be perfect for long listening sessions with little fatigue.

Gapless test:
DX80: Slight break between “Awe” and “Quittance” that breaks the flow for just that vital split second. Detail is fantastic, but without the true gapless there’s a real loss in the music. The second to last song in the album builds towards the last track “Finale”, and there’s a seamless transition in the songwriting, but the DX80 has a little jump of maybe 0.3-0.5 seconds that just manages to spoil the moment. I check again to see if “Gapless” is on – it is. I try with Gapless off to see what happens, and sure the Gapless off has a slightly longer space in between tracks, maybe 0.8 seconds, but there’s no doubt it isn’t a smooth transition even with it on. The difference between Gapless on or off is really minimal here.

J3: The transition to “Finale” is flawless - at least for the first few seconds of the track, then there’s a break which I notice coincides with the artwork refreshing, so I try playing it back again with the screen off. Now it’s perfect.

S9: The S9 manages gapless even with the screen on.

Plenue D: True gapless, even with screen on and artwork showing.

DAC test:
DX80 DAC function vs Fiio Olympus 2-E10K
In all honesty both of these good DACs, I’ve listened to plenty of music and movies via the Fiio. Voices are a bit more balanced and natural with the DX80 – the Fiio has an overall bassier presentation, even with the bass off. The same with music: the Fiio is bassier, but does have a nice smooth sound. Both have excellent black backgrounds. I got the Fiio for only $100 NZD and it’s a great buy. The DX80 does have more resolution and detail, but it’s five times that price. Overall the DX80 sounds and operates just as well as a DAC as it does a DAP from my testing. One thing is you have to turn on the DX80 first and then select USB settings and put it on DAC mode before connecting (shown in picture below), or it will default to opening up the SD card memory as a USB connection. (Maybe there’s a way to change this, but I haven’t found it).

Headphone comparison:
The above comparisons were all done with the 380 Pros. I’ve heard everyone in Hi Fi forums etc talk about needing to find a good match between DAP and Headphones. In all honesty in my experience thus far I’ve generally found that the better the headphone, the better it sounds regardless of the DAP. But here things got a little interesting: the Momentum 2’s have always been my go-to headphone with the Cowon players and also my previous Fiio X3II. But here I felt at times that the 380 Pros seemed a better match with the DX80, at least without EQ. The Momentum 1 on-ear’s I’d had sitting around for a while without using them, so was really surprised at just how much punch the bass had, even compared to the Momentum 2 over-ears. They even brought the bass out punchier and more intense in the DX80. Pity is I’d just sold these headphones and posted them off the next day (that’ll learn me, selling my audio gear just when it could be handy!). But of course, on-ear headphones just don’t have the same space and a more in-your-face presentation of music. Once I got into EQing the music, the Momentum 2 over-ears came alive a bit more with the DX80.
HeadphonesDACtest.jpg
 

Summary:

S9 & J3:
Overall I was really impressed with how well the S9 and J3 held out, especially since were both released some time ago now (the S9 in 2008 and J3 in 2010 I think). Both also have Bluetooth, which the Plenue D and DX80 don’t, and both have the ability to alter playback speed (and pitch correct so it doesn’t sound too low when slowed down, etc). I’m a drummer and this is a very handy feature for figuring out what someone’s playing in fast drum lines. Sure you can do that on a computer, but really handy while you’re sitting at a kit to pick up the S9 or J3 and play something slow so you can figure it out right there and then.

Funnily going into this I had this impression that the S9 had a slightly warmer, more organic sound, than the J3. But now I’m thinking maybe I had this feeling because the J3 has slightly more space and separation between instruments, which could maybe make it feel more "clinical". After playing A-B sections of tracks I’m not hearing the warmer/colder impression I had any more. I think after this I’ll be keeping the J3, as it has an SD card slot (my S9 is only 4 GB) and longer battery life.

Battery life:
The S9, J3 and Plenue D have the famous battery life Cowon is/was famous for – approx. 55 hours or so for the J3 and approx. 100 hours for the Plenue D. The only time I’ve run the battery down on the Plenue D was when I first got it and had ‘Sleep’ mode turned on – it doesn’t fully turn off and slowly drains the battery, so I went back a few weeks later, tried to start it up and nothing. Now with it off I don’t even know how long the battery lasts: I’ve connected it to a PC to transfer newly purchased music without it ever running out. Sadly, the more expensive Plenue’s (M2, 1, etc.) are lacking this and have battery lives approximately the same as most other Hi-Fi DAPs out there.

DX80:
The DX80 definitely has a greater resolution, noticeably a step up from the Plenue D. But the DX80 doesn’t seem to have any way to lock the buttons – with the Plenue D, J3 and S9 you can lock controls, throw it in your pocket and not worry. But the DX80 can suddenly stop if you accidentally hit the play/pause button while walking around. On the other hand as a mark against the Plenue D one thing I realized while testing is that there’s no real way to set the Plenue D to permanently on. After listening to a song on the other DAPs, I’d switch back and have to start the Plenue D up again, wait for it to go through a database update (which you also can’t turn off) and then play. With the DX80 it would just sit there with a black screen, look completely turned off: hit play and it’s straight into action. In real life use probably means that if you’re interrupted for a while, going straight back to where you left off is so much easier.

Considering the perfect gapless with the J3 and S9 (and Plenue D) it’s annoying the DX80 can’t do true gapless – it’s always disappointing when new technology goes backwards. I seem to remember this was also one of the reasons I sold off the Fiio X3II.

What now?
So, after all this I’m a bit torn. I was thinking the DX80 would be an upgrade from the Plenue D. In many ways it is: clarity and resolution, and has a great DAC function which the Plenue D doesn’t. I like the simple interface of the DX80 and “no extra crap you don’t need” approach to the design and UI (which you also have with the Plenue D). But the bass might take a bit of getting used to – don’t get me wrong it’s heavy and goes very deep, but just doesn’t quite hit me the same as the Cowons. That is one benefit of Cowon players – with JetEffect you can push things way beyond the limit. Some people hate EQ, but for me, when the music goes heavy I want it to be *heavy*. Plus, EQ means you’re less at the mercy of the particular headphone/IEM you have and can have greater control over the extent of bass. With Cowon you’re never left wanting for more EQ as it can go above and beyond what you’d ever be comfortable with. I can see how people had described the Plenue D as an upgrade to the J3; it’s got a similar but more resolved sound, and great portability and battery life.
 
But I’m thinking I may hold onto the DX80 and J3; simply because it would be handy to have at least one player with Bluetooth - the J3 - which also has the playback speed alteration I find handy, and if I really want to listen to an album requiring true gapless I’ll have a suitable DAP on hand.

I’m kicking myself a little for selling my previous Fiio E17K headphone amp last year as I’d love to hear how the DX80 sounds with a bit extra, or simply a different, bass filter than the EQ built into the DX80. I’d be keen to hear from anyone who’s paired a DX80 with a Headstage as I only ever hear good things about the sound from those amps. I’d also be keen to hear how a DX80 stacks up to an Astell & Kern player like the AK70 or AK300 if anyone has done directly comparisons.
 
Right, hope this is handy for someone out there, I'm off to listen some more :)
someyoungguy
someyoungguy
Just thought I'd add one strange bug I see every now and then:
When you're playing something, or turn the player back on and start playing, and then go into the "now playing" menu to look at the songs in the album, etc. (e.g. in order to start back from the start of the album) often you find the track listing is all out of order. I don't know how this even happens, as the tracks I've got all have the number embedded in the file format, and have the numbering in the file name. But quite a few times I've found that the currently playing track appears as first in the album, with the next track second, etc. It's a weird little bug.
Pros: Uncolored, airy, full-bodied, audiophile sound. Detailed without being obnoxiously bright.
Cons: Not the world's best choice for driving low-sensitivity, full size cans. Current 1.5.8 firmware is nearly bug-free but could still use a tweak or two.

[size=17.03px]Introduction: Unfamiliar Territory[/size]

 
A couple of years ago, I was telling my father-in-law about my audio and music hobby. He asked me if the equipment I had was made by "Pioneer, Sony" or another well known brand. I explained that those were, generally speaking, mass-market brands, and that the equipment favored by hard-core audiophiles these days was often made by "boutique"  or specialty brands with names like WilsonProAcAudio Note or Primaluna (I didn't even mention Schiit!) - names well known in the audio community but unheard of in the larger, consumer electronics markets.

The more deeply I've ventured into the world of high-end, portable audio, the more I've come to understand how my father-in-law felt while I rattled off the names of obscure brands of audio equipment he'd never heard of.

It's true that the home audio speakers-and-amp enthusiast will encounter some more familiar names when venturing into this corner of the hobby: SennheiserAKG and Grado, among others, make some well respected headphones. Oppo, revered for their universal DVD and audio disc players, makes some portable gear like headphone amps. And lately, even familiar, home hi-fi brands like the venerable, value-oriented NAD and the very high-end, French manufacturer, Focal have gotten into the portable market.

But... hang out long enough on Head-fi.org and you'll enter a market also populated by small brands you (the home audio enthusiast) have never heard of; names like DunuFinal Audio DesignFidueCampfire AudioDita, and (the subject of this review) iBasso.

The iBasso DX80 Digital Audio Player

You can check out this post to see why I decided to go with a stand-alone DAP rather than an iPhone with an external DAC/amplifier. Having now lived with my iBasso DX80 for about five months, I'm glad I did. I have found the all-in-one, special purpose DAP to be a convenient way to get high-end sound on the go, without having to plug another piece of hardware into my cell phone in order to accomplish the same thing.

I selected the iBasso DX80 after doing my research on the Internet in general and on Head-fi.org in particular. With dual Cirrus 4398 DAC chips (one per channel), a (mostly) metal body, a largish touch screen, three physical navigation buttons (which I love - more on that in a bit), dual MicroSD card slots supporting (theoretically) up to 2 terabytes of storage, the ability to function as an external DAC for your laptop, and more - and all of this at a current street price of just over US $300 - the value proposition on this unit seemed very high.

Unboxing Photos!

At first I wasn't going to bother including my own unboxing photos of the DX80 since they're available all over Head-fi.  Yet I know that you, my beloved readers, love them, so here we go...


Here's the outer box of the DX80.



... and from the top.




The retail box is kind of a clamshell affair. (Note that in this picture I've already installed one of the included screen protectors.)



There is a wedge-shaped box of accessories packed under the main unit. Here we see the warranty card, Quick Start Guide and one of the two supplied screen protectors.



Here's the mini-plug to coaxial cable, for taking a digital (SPDIF) signal out of the DX80 and feeding it to an external DAC.



A reassuringly beefy USB to micro-USB cable, used for charging, transferring music files and employing the DX80 as an external DAC with a laptop or other computer.



Some people believe in the need for audio gear to be "burned in" to in order to reach its full sonic potential. Others do not. Clearly, iBasso does, which is why they supply this nifty burn-in cable. It provides a resistive load to mimic a pair of earphones. Plug it in to the headphone jack, set a playlist or album on "repeat" and it will allow you to silently burn in the DX80 without abusing your favorite ear phones.



iBasso also thoughtfully includes a silicone rubber case for the DX80. Although, like all such cases, it's a bit of a dust magnet, its grippy texture helps prevent drops and its springy consistency provides some nice impact protection. The Korean company Dignis also makes a leather case for the DX80.


Shamelessly stolen from another web site, here's a photo of the DX80, naked except for its retail screen protector.


User Experience: Touch Screen Interface

As is the case with a lot of Chinese brand digital audio players, the DX80 uses a customized version of Android for its operating system and touch screen user interface.

This seems like a good time to report that iBasso has been quite diligent about pushing out regular firmware updates for the DX80. (Here is the download page where you can find firmware update files for various iBasso products.) Updating the DX80 firmware is a fairly trivial procedure – download and expand the file, which will be called "update.IMG." Make sure the file is located in the root directory of the microSD card in Slot #2 and either choose Update Firmware from the Advanced menu or reboot holding down the power and Volume Up buttons to get you into an early start up menu that will give you the option to update the firmware. At this point, as of firmware version 1.5.8, the DX80 firmware is quite solid, with just one, minor bug* remaining, but, for my purposes, no showstoppers.

Let's take a look at the user interface.

There are two ways to interact with your DX80.

The first is by using the touchscreen. You can tap the touchscreen to select tracks. You can also swipe left from the currently playing song to access the My Music screen, or swipe right to access the Settings screen. Here's a visual tour of the touchscreen interface:



This is the Now Playing screen. The navigation widgets and scrubber bar are pretty self explanatory. Notice, too, the little icon on the right above the scrubber bar, indicating that the entire album should repeat. Tapping there will give you several other repeat options. As shown here, a single tap on the album art brings up the Volume and Battery charge display overlaying the top of the album art....



... and a second tap reveals icons that (from left to right) when tapped will display (from left to right) Song Info (size, format, bitrate, etc.), add the current song to a Playlist and remove the song from a Playlist.



Swiping across the Now Playing screen from left to right gets you to the My Music screen, showing all the ways you can organize and access your music collection. I find myself using Album view most often.



The Album view, list mode. Tap the icon in the upper right margin and you can see your albums like this...



Album mode, thumbnail view!​


Here we see Artist view...



... and the Genre view.



Swiping right to left from the Now Playing screen takes you to this Preferences screen.




Here are the Advanced Options, where you can set things like display brightness and time until the DX80 automatically powers off. Rescan Library merits its own screen shot...



Whenever you've added new music files to either of your Micro SD cards, you'll want to rescan that card with this screen. This rebuilds the index of all your files so that the DX80 can access them by their various metadata (album, artist, genre and so on).



Finally, a downward swipe from almost any screen brings you this handy-dandy shortcut to the most frequently used Advanced Settings. Gapless Playback should be enabled for albums (e.g., live concert recordings) meant to be played with no pause between tracks. The Gain setting can be set to either high or low, depending on the sensitivity of your 'phones (with the caveat that High Gain mode will tend to drain the DX80  battery more quickly). Low Gain works fine for most IEM's, but if you're driving a pair of less sensitive, full-size "cans," High Gain may be your better choice. The Digital Filter setting is supposed to shape the way your files sound, but honestly, I haven't found it to make that much of a difference. The next row of buttons toggles that way the DX80 behaves when plugged into a computer's USB port. (Reader mode mounts the DX80's memory as a removable volume on your computer, allowing you to transfer files to the DX80. DAC mode allows the DX80 to function as an external DAC for your computer - very handy!) And in the bottom row, you can set the playback repeat mode.

User Experience: Buttons!



For all of the power and flexibility of the touch screen controls, my favorite UI feature of the DX80 consists of three large, physical buttons just below the screen; from left to right, as expected, we have Skip Backward, Play/Pause and Skip Forward. (Additionally, a long press on these buttons will Skim Backward in the current track, Lock The Screen And Buttons, and Skim Forward in the current track, respectively.) This means that you can control many of the DX80's playback functions without having to look at the touchscreen. You'll deeply appreciate this when listening to music in the dark at bedtime or when you want to control the unit without removing it from your pocket. Add to this the physical volume increase and decrease buttons on the right side of the DX80 and you get a lot of everyday control without having to actually look at the unit. This is brilliant, and deeply appreciated, especially compared to listening to music on today's smartphones that require you to deal with the touchscreen to do almost anything except adjust the volume.

The Sound

I find the sound of the DX80 to be quite lovely: airy, neutral and uncolored, which in my book is a good thing. You get the sound of your music files without a lot of editorializing, although, of course, you can use the built in graphic equalizer screen to tailor the sound to suit your tastes if you like. I tend not to "EQ" my music - probably a silly holdover from my home audiophile snobbery - but others love to equalize their music.

This "neutral-ish" assessment of the sonic character of the DX80 comes with two caveats.

First, the only other portable, digital players I've ever spent significant time with over the years were a first-generation (!!) iPod and a series of iPhones, so my DAP listening experience isn't as broad and varied as some.

Second, like your feelings about any portable music player, your perception of the DX80's sonics will be VERY significantly influenced by the headphones or earphones with which they are paired. With  a pair of Sennheiser IE80's, I found the sound to be overwhelmingly bloated and bass-heavy (for my tastes, of course). With the Dunu DN-2000j and the Musicmaker Shockwave III, the highs were (to my treble-sensitive ears) punishingly bright on pop music with a more compressed, "modern" sound signature, such as Lorde's Pure Herione. But paired with the Final Audio Design Heaven VII, the Hifiman RE-600 "Songbird" or (especially!) the luscious KEF M200 IEM's, the sound is just beautiful and supremely musical. To my surprise, I have found that, paired with the right earphones, the iBasso DX80 can deliver a musical experience that's extremely immersive and emotionally satisfying. It's different than listening to my full-size home stereo rig, but no less enjoyable in its own, unique way. And I can take it with me wherever I go!

I'll have a lot more to say about my IEM travels in my next blog post! But for now, I'd highly recommend the iBasso DX80 to anyone looking for a standalone Digital Audio Player. It's well built, well priced, works almost perfectly and sounds great.
By the way, iBasso has a new, "statement" model in the works, to be called the DX200. Hopefully I'll get my hands on one when it's released so I can share how it stacks up compared to the DX80.

Until next time, be kind to others and enjoy your music!


*"one minor bug" - Under the current 1.5.8 firmware, if you power off (automatically or by hand) the DX80 while listening to an album, when powered back on, the tracks will be in alphabetical order rather than album order. Annoying, but a couple of screen taps gets you back to album sort order. As far as I can tell, this is the sole remaining DX80 firmware bug.

Hey, folks, hope you enjoyed this review. It's also available, in a somewhat prettier form, on my audio blog, here

  • Like
Reactions: puppyfi and hqssui
hqssui
hqssui
Nice review. Thanks
rebbi
rebbi
zombicube
zombicube
Nice. You remind me, though, that while I love love love the physical buttons, I wish that the middle button had any sort of texture to it--grooves, a few braille dots, anything--because I am absolutely terrible about accidentally pressing the wrong button. Having one of the three (middle makes the most sense) give a different tactile feel would mean I never press the wrong one when the player is in my pocket. I would also do this with either the up or down volume button, since I also often find myself ineffectually turning the screen on/off in my pocket when I intend to be boosting/reducing the volume.
Pros: Musical and dynamic sound with plenty of detail and sparkle, Hard buttons improve functionality, Solid battery life, DAC/amp capable
Cons: No wireless capabilities, Audible hiss and thump with sensitive earphones, Makes me want to try the rumored DX200 when it's released
20160313_161411.jpg
http://www.amazon.com/DX80-Resolution-Extreme-Warranty-Included/dp/B017I5NONY?ie=UTF8&keywords=ibasso%20dx80&qid=1462819578&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1
   
  Introduction
I’m very critical of DAPs. I personally feel that the audiophile market is flooded with high priced MP3 players dressed up to look like more than they actually are. We pay a lot for our gear, and live in a day and age where technology is being pushed farther and faster than I ever would have imagined just ten years ago.
  With that being said, I feel a DAP should be one of two things. It should either a high fidelity upgrade to their smartphones in terms of sound quality (with a similar user interface and music streaming capability, minus the phone features), or it should be a high fidelity device that can store and play various types of music files (including FLAC and DSD music) and also improve the sound of the owner’s other devices via its DAC/amplifier functionality (smartphone, tablets, computer etc.).  In a day and age where we can purchase portable DACs and amplifiers to improve the sound output of our smartphones, the budget DAP market needs to offer more than much of what is currently available. If companies aren’t pushing the boundaries in terms of what can be accomplished for the price of an old or leftover smartphone with an attached portable DAC/amplifier, I see no need to spend the money on a new DAP and would most likely opt to spend my hard earned cash on another pair of earphones.
  Companies that manufacture DAPs often times improve their product by upgrading chips. They are selling a slightly better DAC or amplifier chipset, or increasing the battery life and output power as compared to their previous generation player. I don’t want to have to spend hundreds or maybe even thousands of dollars for “upgraded chipsets and batteries” that offer minimal improvements and nothing much beyond that. We are in a day and age where multiple folder options, universal DAC functionality, a fresh and Innovative user interface, high bitrate playback, operating systems, music streaming, multiple inputs and outputs, bluetooth and many more options are important. The more boxes a DAP can check off, the more useful and versatile (and valuable) it can be.
  We want to spend our time enjoying our music collection. There is joy in simplicity, and it’s nice sometimes to get away from the complexities of applications, screen locks, social media and email. It’s nice to have an “all-in-one” solution for our entire music library. If I’m not going to have something with all the online bells and whistles, I want something with up to date chip sets, packing plenty of power and multiple gain settings. I want something that is easy to use and sounds great at the same time. I want DAC functionality, and also multiple inputs and outputs.
  The  Astell & Kern players are awesome, but look at the price. How many of us can spend the kind of cash that the AK380 costs? Is there anyone who can offer a similar product at a reasonable price? I think we are starting to see things trending towards this with releases like the Fiio X7 and Onkyo DP-X1.
  When I was asked if I would be interested in reviewing the DX80 from iBAsso, I was excited and skeptical at the same time. Reviews have been mixed between some people feeling that their iBasso product is either a godsend or a incomplete product with too many bugs for its own good. Regardless of what is said, I don’t think anyone has claimed that iBasso doesn’t offer a product lineup with some great sounding music playback. To this day many still swear by the DX90, with the only knock being the poor battery life (NOTE: the DX90 has replaceable and rechargeable batteries to remedy this).
  With the DX50 and DX90 already brought to market and selling rather successfully, iBasso introduced the DX80. Some feel that it is a very nice DAP with “best of both worlds” aspects taken from the DX50 and DX90, and others feel it is a precursor to the much anticipated DX200. Either way you look at it, the DX80 is a budget DAP with plenty to offer the audiophile community. If it is a model link between the DX90 and DX200, I think we all have hopes that the DX200 will be the next big thing to sell under the thousand dollar mark. For now, let’s go over the DX80 with a comprehensive review.
  Disclaimer
I was given a chance to review the iBasso DX80 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with iBasso. I would like to take this time to personally thank Paul for the chance to experience my first iBasso product.
   Opening the Package
20160311_165319.jpg        20160311_165333.jpg
The DX80 comes in a small black box. The DX80 model name and iBasso logo is discreetly displayed on a paper outer sleeve. The back of the sleeve displays the iBasso specifications in seven different languages, including English.
 
20160311_165417.jpg
Removing the sleeve reveals a flip open watch style of box. Flipping it open displays the DX80. Underneath the DAP, a cardboard flap opens to show the accessories.
 
Specifications and Accessories
Frequency Response: 17Hz~20KHz +/-0.1dB
THD+N: 0.0015% (32ohm load)
Output Level: 1.3Vrms(Low gain), 2.0Vrms(Mid gain), 2.8Vrms(High Gain)
S/N: -118dB +/-1dB(Low gain), -116dB +/-1dB(Mid gain), -115dB +/-1dB(High Gain) (32ohm Load)
Crosstalk: 75dB (1KHz</font>,<font style="font-size: 13pt;" face="Arial Unicode MS">3<font style="font-size: 13pt;">2</font>ohm Load)
Output Impedance: <0.1ohm
   Audio Formats Supported: APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3
  Case dimension: 2.52W x 3.98L x 0.67H (inch)
  4.68W x 1.5L x 0.68H (inch)
  Weight: 178g 6.2oz
   
  20160311_165552.jpg
The DX80 comes with an owner’s manual, two screen protectors, a warranty card, and information on using the dual memory card slots.
  20160311_165643.jpg
Also supplied is a silicone outer sleeve (a very nice touch in my opinion), a Micro USB data and charging cable, a short SPDIF to digital coaxial cable, and a burn in cable.
   NOTE: The burn in cable basically allows you to put some miles on your iBasso DX80 without having to use your earphones. The folks at iBasso recommend you play your DX80 for two hundred hours to fully break in the internal components. Using the burn in cable helps users accomplish this faster (by leaving it play with the burn-in cable plugged in).
 
20160319_111514.jpg
The Silicone jacket and screen protectors are a really nice touch to the accessories package. It allows owners to use and protect their investment right out of the box without having to spend more money. This is often times not something included in a DAP package. Well done iBasso! One negative to note on the silicone sleeve, it is a lint magnet. Expect it to have some kind of dust or lint on the exterior sleeve at all times.
  Functionality and User Interface
First things first, the DX80 is not what I would consider a complex or high tech device. There is no Android Market, and no wifi or music streaming capabilities. It doesn’t have Bluetooth or balanced output. Still, the iBasso DX80 does a good job in terms of being a useful tool in a person’s music collection. Not only is it a fun and easy to use device, it operates as a great hub and “awesomifier” for my music collection. Allow me to explain...
 
20160313_161411.jpg
The DX80 is a perfect size player that is very pocket friendly. It is about the size of two iPhone fours stacked on top of each other. It’s heavy enough to feel solid in the hand, but light enough for the weight to be a non issue.
 
20160311_165705.jpg
The front of the device features a small touch screen that appears to be made of gorilla glass or hard plastic. I am glad that iBasso includes two screen protectors for this unit, as it seems like a material that would be prone to scratching. The front of the device also has three hard buttons that allow users to play/pause, skip forward/back, or fast forward/rewind tracks. I never understood why iBasso would use this button layout if they offer a touch screen. After using it for some time, it makes perfect sense. This is one of the best features of the device, as it allows me to control my music without having to turn the screen on.
 
20160510_170330.jpg
The top of the DX80 has a SPDIF and Toslink line output, a plastic tab which opens up to two SD card slots, and a Micro USB port for charging and data transfer.
 
20160510_170243.jpg
The Bottom panel has a 3.5mm fixed line out, and a 3.5mm headphone output. The jack on both is much tighter than average. Plugging and unplugging the jacks required more force than usual.
 
20160311_165733.jpg
The left side of the unit has a power/screen activation button. Long press this button to turn the DX80 on or off, and tap the button to to turn the screen on and off (when the device is powered on).
 
20160311_165742.jpg
The right panel holds two buttons for volume control. Tap the buttons to make minimal increases/decreases to the volume. Long hold the button to make a more significant volume change (let go once the desired volume is achieved)
  20160311_165716.jpg
The back of the device is blank, and features nothing besides the name of the product.
  After fully charging the DX80, it was time to fire it up and figure out how it works. The DX80 will read two of just about any SD card you throw in it. Loading time depends on the amount of music you have on each card. The DX80 also plays everything from MP3 to DSD. I had no music files on my computer that the DX80 couldn’t play. The product specifications states that the memory card slots store up to 2TB, and the only thing preventing this currently is the availability of the cards. I used both standard SD and SDXC cards (32GB and 64GB) and had no problems with either card. When loading a SD card into the DX80 (when powered on) the DX80 will display a prompt to scan whatever slot you have loaded your card into. There is also an option to scan/rescan your library from the folder options screen.
  The DX80 has three separate screens and a pull down menu
20160509_200943_HDR.jpg
The main/center screen is your playback screen. This screen displays the album artwork (if available), the name of the track loaded/playing, and playback resolution. The top part of the screen displays the volume and battery life. The lower part of the screen has a track log which can shows the number of minutes in a track, as well touch screen playback buttons and a red status bar. With a carefully places touch of the screen, users can skip to whatever part of the song they would like. Long pressing the hardware button also allows users to fast forward. There is a small tab that shows the playback setting. Pressing this changes the playback function between three settings (random, repeat one, repeat all).
 
20160509_201146.jpg
Swiping the screen from right to left takes you to a settings screen. Here you have access to a customizable ten band graphic equalizer with some presets. There are also folders to change the L/R balance, choose between gap/gapless playback, and adjust the player’s output gain. This screen also has tabs to adjust USB settings, Digital filter settings and also has a tab to adjust the play mode. Accessing the “Advanced” tab gives access to display settings, languages, system information, factory reset, and gives users the option to scan/rescan their library.
 
20160509_201120.jpg
Swiping from left to right on the center/playback screen takes you to your music library. I really like the way this is done, as it gives you several sorting options all from one screen. The icons pretty much speak for themselves. A nice feature I would like known is that DX80 owners have the option to create their own playlists by selecting songs from their library and adding them to a designated playlist.
 
20160509_203710.jpg
There is a pull down screen that works similar to smartphones. Simply drag your finger from the top of the screen in a downward motion and you will have even more access to the main playback features of the DX80. Although some settings are repetitive, they are convenient and easily accessible, making the DX80 a device that is easy to use and navigate.
   My verdict on functionality
Visually, I find the DX80 to be a very sleek and well thought out design. It feels solid and I don’t have any problem using it with one hand. The button layout sets up well for both left and right handers.
  Speaking in terms of functionality, the DX80 offers the simplicity of yesterday’s DAPs, with the added touch(screen) of modern day technology. Although not as responsive as today’s top of the line smartphones, the DX80 touchscreen works very well and is on the more responsive side of functional. Finger swipes won’t always register the way you want them to, but it’s not to the point that I would consider it to be a hindrance or dealbreaker. The way the tabs are laid out on the settings and music folders screen is perfect in my opinion. The tabs were big enough that they could be easily seen and pressed, and there was no screen lag when selecting an option or folder.
  When using the DX80 for music playback, the hard buttons located on the front of the device save me from having to turn the screen on and off to control my music. This is huge, as it saves not only battery, but also time as well. The playback and volume buttons are so effective, that once I learned the layout I could control music playback and volume without ever having to pull the device out of my pocket. My preferred method of using the DX80 was as a digital jukebox. I selected the “All Music” sorting option, then selected the random playback option. I could listen to my music collection for hours without ever getting the same song twice, and didn’t have to access the screen once. If I didn’t like the next track being played, all I had to do was skip tracks until I was pleasantly surprised with something I wanted to hear. On top of the ability to store and play my entire music library, with a small settings adjustment the DX80 operates as a DAC/amplifier for just about all of my other sources with digital output. The DX80 significantly improves the sound quality of most of my other source gear.
 
20160321_104720.jpg
The DX80 offers up to 13 hours of running battery life. I was able to use the product for either two or three days of regular use (a few hours each day) before I need to recharge the device. Through a standard USB wall charger, it took about 2-4 hours to reach a full charge.
 
Firmware Updates
This is done by going to the iBasso DX80 website and downloading the desired zip file from their firmware directory. Once downloaded, the firmware can be unzipped, then loaded onto a spare memory card’s root directory. After loading the card and firing up the device, the advanced settings tab of your DX80 will show a “System Update” option that when selected will reboot your device with the firmware update.
  The DX80 has had four firmware updates since I obtained the device, none of which I felt were necessary, and one of which created more bugs than it did fix things. Fortunately, changing firmware is easy once you get the hang of it. The latest firmware at the time of writing this review is version 1.4.2 and seems to work great. While on one hand you would think that four firmwares in three months would be a sign that the product is functionally defective, I think anyone with that perspective needs to take a step back. It’s great to see iBasso continuing to tweak the product as much as they can, in an effort to maximize the user experience. Often times, we are promised to see firmware upgrades on a product, only to see it never happen, or happen after the product is replaced by a higher end successor.
 
Sound
The iBasso uses dual Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chips, and a 10V Voltage swing headphone amp that is powered by a 3600mAh battery, providing 260mW of max output power. This translates into a very detailed and versatile portable player that can push just about every headphone in excess of 400 Ohms. The Headphone out jack puts out 2.9Volts at 32 Ohms. In layman's terms, it’s powerful enough to push power hungry headphones in high gain, but sensitive enough for in-ear monitors in low gain. The DX80 is a bit for bit (or bit-perfect) player up to 24/192K. Not only does the DX80 have dual DAC chips, it also has Dual Si Time MEMS Oscillators (one for each channel), guaranteeing your music to have perfect timing and  preventing clocking issues.
 
As for the sound, the DX80 is a musical and fun sound signature. Lower frequencies seem to have a little bump without being sloppy. Midbass and lower midrange tend to lean forward in the mix with most of the gear I listened to with it. Although I find the DX80 to be on the warmer side of the sound spectrum, it still offers plenty of upper frequency sparkle and detail.
 
The DX80 isn’t the most transparent thing you’ll ever hear, but it makes up for it by offering listeners a meaty and engaging sound presentation, leaving listeners with an impression of the sound being dynamic and powerful. The DX80 sound is definitely impressive and will work great for those who want to add some oomph and sparkle to their music collection.
 
20160321_112004.jpg
The DX80 isn’t necessarily genre specific, but more gear specific. The DX80 is an awesome pairing with a neutral semi-open pair of full size headphones, or with a more neutral pair of high impedance in-ear monitors. As I type this, in all my time spent reviewing and evaluating audio gear, I don’t know if I’ve heard a pairing of DAP and earphone as good as the DX80 and Mee Audio Pinnacle P1. It’s like the two are made for each other. The fifty ohm Pinnacle is taken to an elite level when paired with the DX80. It is one of, if not my best portable option at the moment.
  With very sensitive in-ear monitors, you will hear a faint audible hiss with the DX80. I could faintly hear the hiss in anything around 16 Ohms or lower. Also, when playing music for the first time or switching music, there is a audible bump just before the music plays. The only thing I could compare it to is the sound an aftermarket car subwoofer would make when the amplifier is engaged. It doesn’t bother me during music playback, but is not a welcomed sound to start a track. This is only an issue with very sensitive earphones.
  The DX80 will sound better with more linear earphones. With phones that are already on the warm or bassy side of things, the DX80 will further emphasize their signature, making it possible for this type of signature sound a bit overboard on lower frequencies, or possibly make a shadow the upper midrange and treble resolution. If so, this can be remedied with an equalizer adjustment. As someone who reviews audio gear, this has become a staple for source matching. Because of its sound signature, it’s the DAP I will reach for when testing to see how something sounds with a warmer source. This combined with the high resolution playback makes it ideal for neutral gear. Simply put, it gives my more neutral and boring sounding earphones a welcomed kick in the pants.
  Is the DX80 an audible improvement in sound quality over the average laptop, tablet or smartphone? Yes, absolutely!
  Not only does it offer a musical signature in formats your smartphone can’t achieve, it does it with more power than most smartphones. If you want your Tidal, Spotify or Google Music to sound better than your smartphone, run an OTG cable to your DX80 and use it as your DAC/amplifier. Not only will it make your streaming music sound better, it will also have more driving power behind it.
  Conclusion
The DX80 is a nice looking, easy to use DAP with dual memory slots, plenty of driving power, DAC capability and a user interface that makes it a great tool for any audiophile and music lover. Factor in the reasonable asking price and we have one of the better DAPs in it’s price range.
  I have several portable options, but since obtaining the unit I have not left the house with anything besides the DX80, LG V10 smartphone and a micro USB cable. Between the two devices all my portable music needs are met.
  The DX80 doesn’t have wifi, online streaming, or bluetooth options, but honestly it doesn’t need it. It’s a little brick of musical awesomeness that I often times use to save my phone battery and use as a portable digital jukebox. It’s a fun and powerful portable that packs enough versatility to make up for any technological shortcomings it has. The DAC functionality works great, and the various outputs makes it a great hub for my music collection. If the DX80 has done anything besides work as very good sounding DAP or DAC/amplifier, it has peaked my interest to make sure and try the soon to be released iBasso DX200. In the meanwhile, I have an awesome DX80 to use.
 
20160313_161350.jpg
Thanks for reading and happy listening!
Niyologist
Niyologist
Great review. Now I know which DAP to get. I will have this soon.
WhatToChoose
WhatToChoose
Lmao, what kinda motto is "Music. To your ears." Really iBasso? As opposed to music to your kidneys?

Excellent review, I really enjoyed your perspective on the market being inundated in similar products. I don't like hiss so this would probably not be for me, but the dx200 is piquing interest.
TheoS53
TheoS53
Out of interest, with the Pinnacle P1, at what volume and gain were you using it?

Thanks in advance
Pros: Well Designed, Optical & Coaxial Out, Build, Price, Improved Line-out, Sounds above its price range
Cons: DOP , More Firmware Updates,
The Ibasso DX80.
A worthy successor of the DX90?

Ibasso has been a pillar in the portable audio world. They have been producing several consumer products that helped shape the hobby and has always been an advocate of well priced equipments.
This is the 4th DX DAP from the Ibasso house.
 
12695565_10206148130408288_1712511743_o.jpg
 
www.ibasso.com
 
 
Specs:
•Si TIme MEMS Oscillator X2•XMOS USB receiver with Thesycon USB Audio driver. Easy to use USB DAC. •Line out has a set voltage. •Dual CS4398 dacs and native DSD.•Dual micro SD slots.•3600mah battery.•Optical and coax digital output. •3.2 inch screen with a resolution of 480*800 IPS screen.•Native DSD64 and 128 from SD card or USB input.•Headphone out: Output Level: 2.9Vrms(32ohm Load).••260mW into a 32 ohm load. •FrequencyResponse: 17Hz~20KHz +/-0.1dB •S/N: -114dB +/-1dB (32ohm Load) •THD+N: 0.002% (32ohm load)•Output Impedance: <0.1ohm•Size: 120mm*63.2mm*16.8mm•Weight: 178g
•Retail price: $359.00
 
12736926_10206148130728296_1437502528_o.jpg
 
12483740_10206148131288310_1210161003_n.jpg
 
 
The Build.
It's made out of aluminum, glass & hard plastic composite. The body is about 60% CNC aluminum and 40% plastic. I wish the edges felt smoother but the rubber sleeve it comes with does the job. I hope Ibasso considers on using a leather case on future models. That would give it a more elegant look and feel. Compared to the DX90, this is more sharp looking.
I would prefer its size than the DX90 as it offers more grip.
The buttons feel solid and well made. The power button is at the left side & volume is at the right side. The 3 buttons below the screen is for play/pause, skip and back. It does not have a removable backplate like the DX90 as the battery is fixed. BTW, this has a bigger and better battery inside.
At the top would be your 3.5mm optical/coaxial out, micro usb jacks and 2 micro SD slots. The line out and phone out is at the bottom.
 
 
Functionality.
The ff. for me are the most significant improvements from the DX90.
* optical out
* line out
* USB dac via pc/laptop (you need to download the software though)
Ibasso made a huge improvement from the old DX90 line out. This thing will automatically activate the line out once you plug your interconnect to the amp. In the DX90, you need to be careful to lower the volume otherwise you're in for a treat. Well done Ibasso!
The optical out is another good addition from the old DX90.
The new interface needs getting used to. You need to swipe it to the right if you want to view your directory & music menu. Swipe from right to left and you'll see the settings.
The only thing that disappoints me is the DOP thru optical/coaxial as I mainly pair the DX80 to Hugo. You cannot play DSD thru coaxial/optical. So all Mojo and Hugo users has to settle with 24/192.
 
12699315_10206148130888300_309933554_o.jpg
 
12736816_10206148130568292_1861581524_o.jpg
 
 
How does it sound?
This is going to be based on FW1.4 as the previous 3 FW's had many issues.
The IEM's I used during this review are:
Lear BD4.2, Jomo 6r, W60 (Lear reshelled), UE TF10, Noble K10 & ZA Doppio(modded).
Dire Straits - Your Latest Trick (DSD 2822.4khz)
W/ the TF10, K10, Jomo 6r & w60
- Treble is slightly rolled off and thin. Layering is good but not exceptional. Bass is controlled but a little loose. Staging, width, depth is where the DX80 shines. Instruments are well placed and has a slightly better soundtage compared to the DX90. Midrange is slightly warmer than the 90.
Josh Groban - All I ask of you (FLAC 24/88)
W/ the Lear bd4.2, Jomo 6r & TF10
- Sounstage is wide and holographic. Instruments sounds grand. It only falls short on the male vocals where I would desire more weight on Josh's voice. Female vocals is well presented. Kelly's voice is emotional, robust and never shrill.
Ed Sheeran - Tenerife Sea (16/44)
W/ the K10, TF10 & Doppio
- Background is noticeably black. Each guitar pluck is felt. Bass has body with a slightly longer decay. Imaging is clear cut. Ed's voice is deep and romantic. It needs more air and top end extension for my taste.
 
 
Final words.
For the commanded price, this is a very good DAP from Ibasso. Paired with a very good portable amp this thing shines more so with a very good dac/amp. If it plays DSD on coaxial, then this would have been unbeatable in its price range. It is clean, musical & articulate. It may not be as delicate compared to higher end DAP's but for someone who's not as demanding this is more than enough.
Does 2 micro sd slots, slightly better UI, improved line out, additional optical out, longer battery life, a slighty wider soundstage and warmer presentation makes it better than the DX90? I'd say yes.
seanwee
seanwee
Great review , well done ,great comparison with the DX90 too.
r3n88
r3n88
Thanks :)
Pros: Screen, Sound, Build Quality, Ergonomics, Power, EQ even with Hi-Res,
Cons: Firmware still being polished.
Okay, so.. The iBasso DX80.. Where to start??


 
First things first..
I bought these two players with my own money. I have no affiliation with either company. I am simply someone who is wanting to upgrade from my iPhone 6. Now.. I know what you all are going to say.. The iBasso DX80 is $360 the Fiio X3ii is only $180, so half the price. How dare you try and compare the two. lol.. All I can say is bare with me.. My reasoning, both have the Cirrus Logic CS4398 as their DAC chips. The thing I wanted to compare was how did the implementation of 2 Cirrus Logic CS4398s (1 for each channel) improve the sound from the Single chip execution, or is it all marketing and there was no discernible difference to be noted? In addition, was either of the above a valid step up to the essence of what a Hi-Res Player SHOULD sound like. 


 
So as you can see, the iBasso is definitely a taller unit, just the same basic thickness. 
From there.. Where to start? 
 
Build quality:
X3ii is very well built, as the DX80 is as well. Both are primarily Aluminum bodies;Therefore, also very light and sturdy. Where the X3ii felt small, the DX80 seemed to fit my hand just right for that secure grip you get with the X3ii's bigger brother X5ii. Buttons are nice and clicky! I love clicky buttons. All ports are tight, stable, and sturdy no wobble what-so-ever. Some people dislike the tighter ports, I love them, it provides the feeling that it will easily provide years of quality connectivity.
 

 
Screen Quality:
The X3ii definitely is nowhere near as nice of a screen. From Pixel density to viewing angles. However, at half the price, sure, it's definitely acceptable. I have no real issue viewing it in the daylight as I'm at work on a work site or driving around. The DX80 is definitely of Cellphone quality, therefore, you get all the benefits of the cellphone experience. So those looking to upgrade their player don't have to feel like they are degrading in screen to get better audio quality. One thing so far, hopefully will be improved with firmware updates, is the accuracy of the touchscreen. Perhaps an option to calibrate it by tapping on a couple of edges. Either way, it's pretty good right now. 
 

 
Okay.. So sound..
Once again.. This is still just an initial impressions, as I just got the DX80 this afternoon.. 
So jumping from an iPhone 6 to the X3ii was quite a pleasant jump. Nothing major, but definitely a noticeable difference. Easiest way to explain the jump is adding a quality amplifier like the Fiio E12A, Oppo HA-2, or the Cayin C5 to one of your favorite Smartphones. Definitely certain passages are clearer and cleaner (less distortion and congestion) on the X3ii than your current smartphones, especially my iPhone 6. That could be due to the larger soundstage to put everything.. But either way, it can be attributed to the abundance of power and Audio chip.
 Now onto how it compares to the DX80.. There is already a noticeable jump in sound quality from the X3ii. With each adjustment of the EQ there is a noticeable increase or decrease in that frequency. Which overall means I have to adjust the sliders less drastically to get the desired sound I prefer from a specific song. I love my Sub-Bass- (30hz) and a very mid-centric sound.. Therefore my overall EQ looks like an upside down U or really a lowercase n. With this, it stays pretty flat with only minor adjustments on the 33 hz and 1k hz being raised 2 positions. 
   

 
     I can now understand why iBasso decided to use 2 CS4398s for the sound processing.. Each channel reproduces the sound effortlessly with ease. Details are easily discernible. Listening to The Beatles is mind altering.. Lol.. Never realized they had so many random noises and conversations going on in the background of the music.. Especially tracks from their Yellow Submarine era.. The Tesseract Polaris album was already amazing on the iPhone 6.. But now you get the instrument separation that one expects from a Hi-Res player. 
One more thing I have to say about the DX80, usually with this much clarity, I usually suffer from "Ear fatigue" within a few minutes of listening, because usually I have to raise the mids up on most players, so with the fact that I don't have to do that on the DX80 and still get the same Clarity I want, I can listen to this at a comfortable volume and still get all the bass, mids, and highs I could ask for. Further more, since I don't have to raise it up as much background noise floor is also dead quiet. So it's definitely blacker of a background than the iPhone 6, and on par if not lower than the X3ii, which is very well known as having a very low noise floor.
 

 
     This DX80 is the jump I was looking for from a smartphone to a standalone Hi-Res DAP. I can't recommend this product enough! It's truly astonishing what iBasso has created with the DX80, as I believe this will be where they are planing on taking us with the DX200. Only it will be on that next plateau. Meant to compete with the top tier DAPs. I understand why they are discontinuing their DX50 & DX90 line up.. The DX80 as their entry level, and DX200 and their Top tier DAP.. And to be honest, the sound is good enough to compete with DAPs of up to about $600 anything more than that, and you start entering the next level of products like the Astell & Kerns, Luxury & Precision L5 Pro, or the Onkyo DP-X1, Sony NE-ZX2, or even the Fiio X7.. 
In any case.. Anyone looking for a TRUE step up from a smartphone and future-proof your mobile setup for at least a couple of years, and looking to spend less than $500.. Give this a shot.. You won't regret it. More to come after this breaks in more.. But as you can tell.. It's already made a fantastic impression on me. Well worth every penny of the $365 I paid for it with shipping. By the way, with the new Firmware 1.3.0 a lot of issues that initially plagued the DX80 are gone. There are still a few, but don't feel like any are major deal breakers.
sledgeharvy
sledgeharvy
@brucew268 After using the Shanling M2, the rest of the players seldomly get used or have been returned of sold to local friends. I know that's horrible..The iBasso DX80 is still mine, I still hold it in VERY high regard. The Fiio X5ii was and is a great player, but I felt like something was and is missing. It's too flat, there's a lack of energy to the music (for me energy is sub-bass and presence in the high). The X3ii surprisingly was better at somethings than the X5ii, but still not where I wanted it to be, so after getting the DX80, I felt like I had found the one. It had everything I wanted out of a player. Power, energy, details, memory expandability, screen, UI, it was the all in one I was seeking.. but of course will all of us here on Head-Fi, that's never enough.. Curiosity takes the better of us, and causes us to question if it's right for us or not. So of course I go on and buy more players, step in the Plenue D. The Plenue D was the first player to make me feel completely satisfied with a player while causing me to still want more out of a player. A it has all the vibrancy and customizability of ANY player I've used. Not to mention the size is phenomenal and battery life is unmatched. Afterwards, I went on a stint with extrernal DACs, amps, and tried buying the Fiio X7, but got shipped the Astell & Kern by mistake, which was a good thing but more on that later. But all of that just confused me more.
     Finally, here comes the Shanling M2. The M2 has a very natural sound to it that gives the sound a true "in room" feel to the sound. It's never too bright or bassy. it tries it's best to always stay fairly neutral. However, it's a vibrant neutral  That doesn't mean a V shaped sound, that just means that everything is boosted, Bass, Mids, Highs, it's all perfectly present and working together in unison to create a wonderful sound that needs to be heard to understand.Furthermore, due to the "In room sound" it gives the sound stage realism that the DX80 or alot of other players don't offer. The only player I've used/own that has offer that type of true to life sound is the Astell & Kern AK Jr. Which is roughly $400 therefore, at $200 the Shanling M2 is a real steal.
     The DX80 is still a fantastic player I really do still love it. I still say it has a very lively engaging sound, the screen is still one of the best on the market especially in the price range, the Channel separation is still one of the best. In direct comparison in terms of just sound, the DX80 is more mid-centric, iBasso gives you more of everything in every possible way. If you want more Bass, it can give you that deep rumble, if you want highs, it will give you shrill highs, which to some is a good thing or a bad thing. I love having the option to get things out of hand or keep everything smooth and creamy. Which the DX80 provides. The M2 holds back on you, it gives you more by giving you less to be more controlled. Which for a lot of people is important....








brucew268
brucew268
You've probably put me over the line towards the Shanling. Yes, I really want the UI capability that I am used to in my smartphone, and for that matter even the tag browsing capability of my old Sony MP3 players. And 2 card slots is a big deal. So the DX80 is very attractive on those counts. But sound wins over all, and your description of the the Shanling sound means I'll most likely end up with it in the next month, despite the browsing limitations.
sledgeharvy
sledgeharvy
It's a very simple UI that you will master within minutes. But that's a good thing. And yes, Sound is King!
One thing that I feel bad about though, by going with the M2, in the back of your mind you will always question, "Was this the right choice?" Since owning both of them, I can say Yes, in terms of overall sound, but it's human nature to always question our decisions in life. So you may subconsciously think to yourself, "But the M2 only has 1 Cirrus CS4398, the DX80 has 2 CS4398's, it must sound better." Or whatever other justification your mind may create.. Perhaps the DualSD card slot may bother you to no end. The positive to the latter, The Shanling has a faster database build than the DX80, so may help off set the difference if you feel the need to hot swap SDCARDS on the go.
1) How big is your library?
2) Which earphones will you primarily be using?
Just out of curiousity.
Pros: Overall Sound, Build, Design
Cons: Non-Removable Battery

iBasso DX80 Review

iBasso is a brand that I am now very familiar with, having reviewed quite a number of their products. They have now established themselves as one of the leading brands for more budget minded portable audio devices and it is clear to see why. The DX80 is iBasso’s latest foray into the portable DAP market, and it is the successor to the now discontinued DX50 and DX90. Both the DX50 and DX90 were huge successes due to their attractive appearance and reasonable pricing.
 
dx80.jpg
 
To be perfectly honest, I was a little disappointed to see that the DX90 and DX50 had been discontinued by iBasso, the two music players are some of the favourites within the Head-Fi community. However, I was curious as to just how iBasso would fill the gap and they have done this with the DX80. The name and pricing suggests that it should be between the 50 and 90 sonically, but let’s see just how well it performs and whether it does a good job at replacing the venerable previous DX series.
 
As many will know, instead of the dual ES9018K2M chips in the DX90, the DX80 instead employs dual CS4398 chips from Cirrus Logic, which I’m pretty sure is the company’s flagship chip right now. I’ve seen many people draw comparisons between the two daps based on this information alone, arguing that the Sabre chips are “better” than the Cirrus Logic ones used in the DX80, however, the reality is that how the chips are implemented is far more important than which chips are used. The DX80 is a product that I have been looking forward to for a long time, let’s go on to see how it performed.
 
**Disclaimer** I am not affiliated with iBasso in any way and I will do my best to give my unbiased opinion of the DX80.
 
 

Specifications

Personally, I don’t pay too much attention to the specifications, but here they are for anyone who is interested. IMO it’s much better to analyse how good a product is by listening to it rather than to look at fact sheets.
 
DX801.png
 
DX80.png
 
The main things you need to see here is the fact that it has an impedance of under 0.1 ohms, meaning it will work fine with even the most sensitive IEMs and that the battery lasts “up to 13 hours” according to iBasso. It’s also nice to see that it supports native DSD.
 
 

Unboxing & Accessories

The packaging of the DX80 is very different to the identical packaging of the DX50 and 90 and it certainly looks much better. The overall packaging looks much more elegant and classier, giving the product a sense of quality. Upon opening up the box, there is the DX80 and under it is a compartment with all the accessories. It is also worth mentioning that the box is rather protective so it should have no issues with shipping. If you are buying direct from iBasso, they package the DX80 remarkably well, and communicating with them is a breeze.
 
The DX80 comes with all the accessories that you will need, but nothing more. There is a silicone case, which is very nice, a burn in cable, a USB cable, and a coaxial cable. The case fits very well and isn’t too thick, but it is a little bit of a dust magnet. The burn in cable is also a nice addition, as it means that you will not need to use one of your earphones or headphones to burn the player in.
 
10979523_1628627700731698_979956567_n.jpg
 

Design & UI

The DX80’s physical design is reminiscent of the previous gen DX50 and 90 (which pretty much look identical). The buttons remain the same as do the button placement, but the largest difference is the fact that the screen is significantly larger, making scrolling and searching much easier. I was a little disappointed not to see a physical gain switch, but there is a choice between high and low gain in the settings. On the bottom are the headphone out and the line out ports. The power switch is on the left and the volume buttons on the right while the SD card and USB slots are up the top. The coaxial port is just beside it. The dual micro SD card slots on the DX80 means that the memory can be expendable to 400GB right now with dual 200GB micro SD cards, but this is likely to rise in the future are larger capacity cards come out.
 
When I first received the DX80, there were a ton of flaws in the UI, but it’s nice to see that iBasso ironed them out rather quickly and now the experience is better than I expected (1.1.4). To get the negatives out of the way first, scrolling left and right still has quite a bit of lag, which is a little annoying, Scrolling is also not quite there yet, the animation looks a little weird, but these things can be fixed with future software update, which I have no doubt iBasso will continue rolling out. Everything else is very smooth and it significantly better than what the DX50 or 90 ever was.
 
01be793bd465d211368521cf5d267d1c.jpg
 

Testing Gear

I tried the DX80 on a few IEMs, some of which included the 1plus2, Roxanne, Echobox Finder, DN-2000, Titan 5 and a short go with the SE846. Most of my sonic tests were carried out with the 1plus2, I felt the two paired quite well together. It’s not the best pairing with the 1plus2 I have heard, but it still sounded great. I also ran it with the P5 with the PS quite a bit to test the DAC section of the DX80 as well as running it straight through the D14. I gave it a brief run with the ATH-M50, but other than that, pretty much all my testing was carried out on IEMs and not headphones. One thing I found was that the DX80 tended to pair well with everything I threw at it that wasn’t overly bright. The upper end sparkle from the iBasso worked great with neutral to warm headphones, but this wasn’t the case for bright IEMs.
 
 

Sound Quality

Given the success of the DX50 and DX90 in their respective price ranges, I had high expectation for the DX80 and it certainly delivered. Obviously, the question that many people will ask is whether this is on the same level as the DX90 and this is a hard question to answer. Simply put, which one is “better” will depend on your personal preference. While the DX90 is more detailed, the DX80 is more analogue sounding, it has a more realistic tone to it. The DX90 is more analytical. It exceeded my expectations as a gap filler between the 50 and 90, and instead, it appears like it is a DX90 replacement with a different flavour at a cheaper price.
 
41GazkAlYcL._SX300_.jpg
 

Bass

The DX80 retains the flat bass that the DX90 has and it does this with an almost identical tone. Whilst I felt like the sub bass was perhaps just a little emphasized on the DX90, the DX80’s bass is perhaps even more ruler flat. There is no roll off at the lower registers, but there is no accentuation either. The bass is very neutral and really does stay true to the recording. The sub-bass was still very much prominent, but it did not have as much presence as the DX90, whether that is a pro or con depends on your personal preference, but as a rule, I prefer my sources to be as neutral as possible, so I prefer the DX80 tonality to the DX90. The detail of the bass is excellent, perhaps not better than the DX90, but definitely a huge step up from the DX50. The mid bass is punchy and exciting and stays very fast, it is probably slightly on the faster side of things, but it had a very solid and satisfying impact. The bass on the DX80 is excellent and stays very neutral with minimal colouration.
 
 

Midrange

Something I have realised in all iBasso devices is that they tend to slightly boost the upper midrange/lower treble and I find this to be the case with the DX80 as well, but perhaps less so than other iBasso DAPs I have tried. This is sometimes referred to as the iBasso house sound and is the reasons why their devices are some of my favourite in the price range. The lower midrange is very flat and sounds great, but it becomes awesome when it gets to the upper midrange. Vocals especially sound very realistic with a subtle sweet tinge to them. This worked very well with neutral to warmer IEMs or headphones especially, I felt like it really added another layer of clarity and reality to vocals. Instruments sound very natural and have a more realistic timbre to them compared to the DX90, which sounds a little “digital” in comparison.
 
 

Treble

As mentioned above, the lower treble is a little bit forward, but as no time did I feel like this was an issue. I actually enjoy this as it adds a little bit of a sparkle to the music, which seems to lift everything and make the music more entertaining. I was a little worried that there might be some sibilance and hiss that sound creep in, but that wasn’t an issue with any of the IEMs at normal listening volumes. I did hear a little hiss with the SE846 when I cranked the volume up, but that was at a much high volume than I usually listen to music at. Cymbals are very detailed and again, there is no sibilance there either. The treble extends very well, and remains very clean. Detail is very good on a DAP of this price, but it isn’t quite as good as the DX90, but it makes up for that by being more entertaining and involving.
 
DSC9213.jpg
 

Separation, Detail & Clarity

Instrument separation on this is on par with the DX90, which is very impressive considering the cost of this. The DX80’s dual Cirrus Logic chips are just as good as the Sabre ones in the DX90 and with the 1plus2, they really impressed me. They are a huge step up from the DX50, and when paired with a good IEM, I didn’t feel like it became congested even in busy tracks. Everything remained crystal clear. With vocals, the DX80 is equally as good, and is perhaps a little bit better than even the DX90. The tone of the DX80’s midrange makes vocals really pop and each singer’s voice is easily distinguishable. The Dx80 is excellent in separation for the price range it sits in.
 
I wouldn’t exactly say that the DX80 is weak in this area, but it is slightly behind the very detailed DX90. The clarity is excellent, both with instruments and vocals. Whilst it is just about on par with clarity – everything is very crisp and well defined, it can’t quite match the DX90’s detail retention. This is nothing to be ashamed of, however, consider the DX80 is considerably cheaper than what the DX90 retailed for and it beats it in other regards. The DX80 is still very detailed and still remains one of the best in its price range.
 
 

Soundstage & Imaging

The DX80 is very competent in this area as well, and it does well with its soundstage for the price. It is definitely not the best soundstage that I have heard (that would have to go to the HM-901), but it is excellent in its price range. It is important to keep in mind that this is a mid-range priced DAP and the fact that I’m comparing it to high ends DAPs is a tribute to how good it is. The soundstage is rather wide and well defined. Depth is also very good and realistic, but the height could perhaps be a little taller, but it’s not crammed at all. It is perhaps not quite as good as the DX90, but it does hold its own very well.
 
The imaging is similar to the DX80. I’ve heard many DAPs which are priced under $400 and most of them fall short when it comes to soundstage and imaging especially. The DX50 did well for the price, but the DX80 is significantly better. It is not quite at the level of the DX90, but it does do very well for the price. Everything is well laid out and very clear, I didn’t find it to be blurry at all. It gets very close to the DX90 which I feel does remarkably well in this regard and competes with high ends DAPs. The constant comparisons to the DX90 make the DX80 seem not as impressive as it really is, but the reality is that it is an amazing DAP for the price it is being offered for.
 
003.jpg
 

Accuracy

This is kind of a summary of how the DX80 sounds. Is it perfectly flat? To me, no it’s not, it has iBasso’s distinct house sound and I am personally a big fan of it. The bass is very flat and the midrange has a small boost in the upper midrange/lower treble region. The treble is quite flat, I didn’t detect any peaks and extends very well. It presents music very accurately with a little bit of iBasso’s own flavour. Whether you like it or not if for you to decide.
 
img_1324.jpg
 

Summary

When I first heard iBasso’s decision to drop the DX50 and DX90 from their line up, I was quite surprised, but after getting the Dx80 to use and review, I totally understand why – the DX80 is a more than worthy replacement for both the DX50 and DX90. Even though the numbering and pricing suggests that it lies in between the two in terms of sound quality, I wouldn’t really say that is totally true. The DX80 and DX90 are two completely different beasts and while the DX90 is a detail monster, the DX80 is a more realistic and engaging player.
 
Taking into account the superior UI and larger screen allowing for more features in future updates, the DX80 is a Dap that I expect to stay as my top recommendation for some time. I find it to be a more than worthy replacement for both the DX50 and DX90. I do feel like I prefer the DX80 because it brings me more musical enjoyment than the DX90, but that’s just me. A question that many DX90 owners are probably wondering is whether it is a good idea to sell the DX90 and buy the DX80 or whether they should buy the DX80 to accompany the DX80. I do feel like the DX80 is different enough to the DX90 to justify owning both, but if I could only own one, it would be the DX80. If you have a DX50 and think it’s a step up, the DX80 is a no brainer.
 
As always, thanks for reading this review and I hoped it helped. And just a note, the photos are taken from Google, if you own any of them and want me to take them down send me a message. 
Ivabign
Ivabign
Great review - having owned a DX90, I am interested in the 80. I am a fan of the Cirrus DAC as it is used in some of my favorite ALO products - they have a great musicality to them and avoid the digital quality that can often (not always) accompany the use of the ssssabre :) Now if they had added a 2.5m balanced output - this could have been a giant-killer.
BRCMRGN
BRCMRGN
Nice review.  +1 on the 2.5mm balanced output. Still some work needed on the software (in typical iBasso fashion), but overall a terrific player at a great price.  Makes me wonder what iBasso could do in a $1000 DAP.
Pros: Solid build, responsive touch screen, dual mSD cards, excellent sound quality
Cons: Firmware is almost there, needs a better case, headphone jack is tight

I would like to Thank iBasso for providing me with a review sample of their product in exchange for my honest opinion.
 
Manufacturer product page: http://www.ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=304

 
Apparently I have been living under a rock since this is my first encounter with iBasso DAP.  In the past I have heard of their DX50, DX90, and DX100 audio players and quite often been asked to compare iBasso and FiiO DAPs, but I never had a hands-on experience with any of their products until now.  It’s hard to judge where DX80 fits in their models lineup because it’s indexed below DX90 yet has an updated design.  One thing for sure – DX80 offers a very impressive amount of features at an affordable price which elevates it close to the top of price/performance ratio in mid-fi DAP category, even challenging some summit-fi models.  I don’t want to give away too much ahead of the review, so let’s just proceed to read what I’ve found.
 
Unboxing.
 
After awhile of reviewing multiple products from the same manufacturers, you get used to their packaging style and unboxing experience becomes rather predictable.  Upon discovery of a new product brand, you get a hope for something different, and iBasso doesn't disappoint.  Once you remove the outer sleeve, the main box opens up along the diagonal split on a side, in a setting reminiscent of a designer watch display.  I know some people don’t care as much about unboxing, but I always appreciate it because of the time and the effort spent by manufacturer to make their product enjoyable from the moment you get that box into your hands.  In my personal opinion, iBasso created a very elegant box setting with a practical storage and display functionality.
 
Once you remove the top portion where DX80 resides in a secure foam cutout, you get an accessories box in a shape of a wedge and the rest of the goodies inside of it.
 
ibasso_dx80-01_zps1zrb3feg.jpg ibasso_dx80-02_zpsfslwbg0j.jpg
ibasso_dx80-03_zpsyzuf53wn.jpg ibasso_dx80-33_zpsbabqyc91.jpg
ibasso_dx80-04_zpsmvq6evmo.jpg
 
Accessories.
 
The included accessories cover the basic essentials and then some surprises.  Since we are dealing with a large 3.2” touch screen surface, screen protector is a must-have to keep scratches away, especially when in your pocket, and 2x film protectors are included.  With such large display I wouldn’t mind a tempered glass for extra protection, so hopefully some aftermarket company will offer it one day.  Also included is a high quality usb to micro-usb charging/data cable, and I really mean – high quality!  The same with included coaxial short interconnect cable, a high quality thick shielding cable with a durable build.  Optical cable would have been nice, but I know that not too many people have an external DAC to support it, thus probably a reason why it wasn’t included.
 
You will also find a soft silicone skin case which enhances the grip, adds scratch protection, and offers a minimum bump/drop protection by cushioning the DAP.  Plus, all the physical buttons (playback control and power/volume) are covered to prevent dust accumulation, the same with Coax/Optical port.  Overall, the case is OK, but due to static it becomes a lint magnet which is very noticeable on a black silicone finish.  Personally, I’m waiting for Dignis leather case since I'm aware they are working on one to be available soon.  I wouldn’t say DX80 is slippery in your hand, but the grip enhancement never hurts as long as it complements the style of the product.  And speaking of style, I also liked how warranty card and manual was printed “in style” on a quality black paper with silver letters – almost like a fancy event invitation.
 
Now, here comes a surprise.  Prior to receiving DX80, I read through a list of accessories and stumbled across “burn in cable”.  I have reviewed a lot of audio gear, but never heard of such thing.  Due to the nature of analog electrical components, DAPs need to have a burn in before evaluating a sound.  Turning it on and hitting play button only exercises the screen/display, not the internal circuit driving headphones.  Thus, you typically need a headphone connected to HO for a full burn in – a load for a current to start “circulating” through internal circuit.  You also would want to drive it at different gains and higher volume, all of which going to be limited by your headphone driver and convenience of where you can burn in without disturbing others with sound leakage.  Here, iBasso came up with a brilliant solution of a short cable with a passive load in a small box to simulate a speaker driver.  There is no sound, but it loads the output of HO to get the juices going.   And just like that you can have it running anywhere for days, going through a quiet burn in of internal circuit.
 
ibasso_dx80-05_zpstlbu3by8.jpg ibasso_dx80-06_zpsokqzpaeg.jpg
ibasso_dx80-07_zpsk5sk7ks8.jpg ibasso_dx80-08_zpszyqes2y2.jpg
 
Silicone case.
 
ibasso_dx80-09_zpsziqci41q.jpg ibasso_dx80-11_zpspqrzzr3o.jpg
ibasso_dx80-12_zpsbnyoglv7.jpg ibasso_dx80-13_zpsgwbm2rnz.jpg
 
Design.
 
Though I’m not a fan of using my smartphone as a dedicated DAP, touch screen interface is the most intuitive way to navigate through music files and to control the playback.  I don’t have hands-on experience with DX50/DX90 models, but have seen a resemblance to the original AK100/AK120 DAPs with a similar compact footprint and a small touch screen, except iBasso took it to a whole different level with their 3 playback buttons.  DX80 evolved into something brand new and original with a large touch screen, solid all metal body and elongated “smartphone” bar shape, while still keeping their unique front panel hardware playback buttons.
 
When you look at the top panel of the DX80, approximately 3/4 of the space is occupied by a smooth 3.2" screen.  Below it you have 3 identical size/shape large hardware buttons with Play/Pause in the middle and Prev/Next on the left/right sides of it.  Personally, I would have loved to see their functionality symbols etched into the buttons.  The combination of a large touch screen and physical playback buttons is not uncommon, but iBasso front panel placement is unique.  The dimensions of the player are 4.7" x 2.5" x 0.66" with 178g of weight, making it very comfortable to hold in one hand.  As long as it's not too wide, in my opinion the extra length is not as critical.  The narrow width, tapered corners, and 3.2" screen is a perfect combination for a slide navigation with a thumb, even if your hand is not that big.  Power button is easily accessible on the left side and volume +/- buttons are on the right side.  But once the screen is off or in your pocket, you have a convenient access to three large control buttons with a nice tactile response.  I have a number of touch screen DAPs with hardware playback controls, and those buttons are always on the side, small, and often not as easy to locate.  Here you have the best of both worlds, like in the past when we used to have touch screen phones with a slide-out physical keyboard :)
 
The bottom of the DAP has 3.5mm metal reinforced Headphone Output (HO) and 3.5mm reinforced Line Out (LO) ports.  I know they’re within a close proximity, but having HO closer to the corner makes it easy to ID so you don’t stick your headphone in LO.  Both of these ports have a rather tight fit, and I actually I had to apply some force removing headphone plugs, in one case (w/UE600) I had to apply an excessive force since the plug almost got stuck.  I assume the connector will loosen up after some use.  I already mentioned the volume +/- buttons are on the right size, made from plastic with a clear marking on top, and nicely spaced for easy access.  The left side has a power button which also turns the screen on/off with a short press.
 
The top of the unit has multi-function micro-usb port for charging, data transfer, and usb/usb-otg dac operation.  You can set the port as Charge only when connected to your laptop, or normal charging with data transfer.  You can also use DX80 as USB DAC connected to your computer.  No drivers required for MAC/Linux, and Windows driver available for download.  For some reason the provided driver didn’t work with my Win7 laptop.  Since I read others had a success, I need to figure out what’s going on with my machine.  But USB OTG works without a problem.  I was able to use DX80 with my usb-otg thumb drive, and also connected it as USB DAC to my Note 4 – works flawless!
 
Next to micro-usb port there is a dual microSD card slot, which can accommodate 2x 128GB cards and most likely the latest 200GB cards for a combined storage space of up to 400GB.  I like how the card slots are stacked in parallel which saves room, and there is also a protective dust cover which tightly seals the opening.  Last, but not least, is SPDIF Coax port which also has an Optical out – enabling output of up to 24b/192k signal.
 
In my personal opinion, exterior design and ergonomics of controls in DX80 is top notch!  Ideally you want to be able to use your DAP with one hand, thus a reason why so many manufacturers shrink their design so you can reach all the controls.  But shrinking the design means less room for inside circuits (analog components, especially power/filter caps) and compromise of features.  Plus, small size results in hard to see screen, and the lack of touch controls.  Making screen bigger pushes hardware controls off the top panel to the side/top, making them smaller and hard to reach.  With DX80, iBasso struck a good balance between touch screen size, large easy to use hardware control buttons, and a lot of ports, except for the balanced wired one (perhaps they are saving this one for their next flagship model).
 
ibasso_dx80-34_zpsxl619vel.jpg ibasso_dx80-14_zpslfmozxsn.jpg
ibasso_dx80-15_zpsxonvnpll.jpg ibasso_dx80-16_zps7deam1af.jpg
ibasso_dx80-17_zpswfcmlv3p.jpg ibasso_dx80-18_zpsgzh8ilga.jpg
ibasso_dx80-19_zpswsul2ms3.jpg ibasso_dx80-20_zps6bpvadsl.jpg
ibasso_dx80-21_zps7vhnkgu1.jpg ibasso_dx80-37_zpskxtfbpwv.jpg
 
Under the hood.
 
In the heart of DX80 you will find a dual Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC, just like in AK120ii.  I know, some might question why bother using this DAC since it's no longer a flavor of the month or the last 6 months.  Based on a dozen of DAPs which I have recently reviewed, I can tell you with certainty that it’s not just about the building blocks of the design but also how you implement them.  At the end of the day, any DAP is like a black box which should be judged primarily by its sound, and from my sound analysis later in the review you will get an idea of how it compares to other DAPs with different chipsets.
 
The amplifier section is powerful enough to provide 260mW, though iBasso didn’t specify at what impedance.  The headphone amp used in the design runs off 10V rail-to-rail supply, yielding an impressive 2.9Vrms (32ohm load).  Also, it’s great to see output impedance of less than 0.1 ohm which should make a lot of multi-driver IEM/CIEM users happy.  Even in low gain it performed very well driving all of my sensitive and some other demanding headphones with authority.
 
I already mentioned about 3.2” IPS screen with an excellent viewing angle and resolution of 480x800.  Not the highest resolution, but albums/songs cover art was crisp and detailed.  Although it supports 2 external micro-SD cards, the Android based OS is stored on internal eMMC memory - an embedded flash memory/controller for a faster access and more efficient operation. 
 
Also, it worth mentioning about 3600 mAh non-replaceable 3.8V LiPo battery, tested to provide about 12+ hrs of playtime with display off.  The benefit of playback hardware buttons is that you don’t need to constantly keep your display on to navigate through the songs.  That helps a lot with a battery life.
 
Overall, it looks like DX80 component selection has a perfect balance between performance and power saving to give you a decent battery life even with a large touch screen.  And the hardware is powerful enough to support playback of up to 24bit/192kHz and native DSD decoding up to 128x, including every lossy and lossless audio format from APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, and DXD.  I was also able to read and play CUE files, skipping within from track to track without a problem.  It takes a lot of processing power to support native decoding and touch scrolling without stuttering or glitch.   Plus, I was also impressed with gapless playback which typically requires buffering for a smooth uninterrupted transition – it was executed flawless in DX80.
 
GUI/Interface.
 
When you are dealing with a touch screen, GUI becomes a very important aspect of DAP operation and everyday use.  Even so with a screen off you have full control of the playback with physical buttons, I don't think too many people would turn down an experience of a smooth gliding glass with a responsive touch control similar to a smartphone.
 
Once you power up DX80 you are greeted with a main Playback screen where more than half of it at the top is occupied with a song/album art or a default image.  Above that you have a notification bar where in the upper left corner you will see EQ preset name (if enabled), in the middle - volume level, and in the right corner - battery % and corresponding icon.  Below artwork window, you can read Song and Artist name, Album name, and see the Play Mode. 
 
Next is a playback bar with a current song position, total time, and bit/sample rate in the middle.  Playback bar is touch swipeable to fast forward through the song, and while you're doing that a little popup window in the middle of the song art window will show you the position of a time marker as you swipe it left/right - great idea so you know exactly where you are within a song.  At the bottom of the screen you have Play/Pause button and Skip next/previous next to it.  Tapping on the artwork brings up a choice of adding a song to an existing playlist or a new playlist, and also you get a Song Info icon with details about the track.
 
When you swipe a screen down from notification bar, you are greeted with a quick access to all the essential settings such as Gapless on/off, USB Mode (reader/DAC, charge only), Digital Filter (sharp/slow roll off), Gain (high/low), and Play mode (order, loop, shuffle, and repeat).  For those familiar with A&K DAPs, you will quickly realize similarity, and yet again - iBasso made it clearer and easier to read and to tap switches.  All these settings could be also accessed from a dedicated Settings pages, but having access from within Notification bar is a lot more convenient.
 
Swiping the screen to the Right brings up My Music menu screen with a selection of Now Playing (the list of the songs in the current directory/sub-directory/root), All Music (with every single song), Directory (where you can access micro SD1 and SD2 and view all the directories in the root to navigate from there), and then display by Artist, Genre, and Album.  I have to be honest that I don't have a large and properly tagged library of music, so these sorting results are not always consistent with my files.  Typically I use Directory view.  Last on this screen is Playlist generated from songs tagged during playback where you can find links to your different playlists.
 
Swiping the screen to the Left brings up Settings Menu.  In there you have access to 10-band graphic Equalizer with 5 editable presets and one Custom preset, L/R Balance (which is reversed, unless if you interpret sliding left/right with "-" value as reduction instead of direction of sound balance), Gapless (on/off), Gain (high/low), Music Info, USB Setting (reader, DAC, charger only), Play Mode (order, loop, shuffle, repeat), Digital Filter (slow and sharp roll-off), and Advanced setting.  In Advance setting you have selection of Language, Display brightness and selection of wallpapers (3 choices), Power Management (backlight off, auto power off, and sleep timer), Rescan library (choice of individual card or both micro sd cards), System Info, and Factory reset.
 
Though swiping Left/Right brings up these two menu pages, when you click within it to get to other pages, you have to touch an arrow in the upper left corner of notification bar to go back.  My proposal in here is that it would be nice to have a shortcut to get back to Playback screen, for example holding Play/Pause physical button for a few seconds like a home key would work quite well in this case.
 
ibasso_dx80-22_zpso1myvnwb.jpg ibasso_dx80-23_zpsfrvkmjx7.jpg
ibasso_dx80-24_zpssqrbzn86.jpg ibasso_dx80-25_zpsirzw8xro.jpg
ibasso_dx80-26_zpsoomjvlud.jpg ibasso_dx80-27_zpstwxdg1za.jpg
ibasso_dx80-28_zpsoal9v4zq.jpg ibasso_dx80-29_zpsbg9y6e4f.jpg
ibasso_dx80-30_zpsbxouvwu5.jpg ibasso_dx80-36_zpsjo9xv1if.jpg
 
Sound Analysis.
 
In the past it was really easy to tell apart DAPs in mid-fi and summit-fi category.  Now, the gap of separation between mid and high level sources is not always clear while the price difference is significant, suggesting diminishing returns.  DX80 positioned itself with a solid audio performance closer to that separation threshold, while being priced well below it.
 
I found this new iBasso DAP to have a spacious, neutral-smooth, musical sound signature.  The sound is dynamic with a nice layering and separation, average transparency and retrieval of details.  Basically, sound is very clear and well defined without going into analytical details, not too much airiness between layers, and a little hint of warmth.  Low end is tight, articulate, well controlled, even though I hear a slight boost in mid-bass region.  Lower mids have a nice body, not too thick, adding slight warmth which is not contributed from mid-bass, and upper mids/vocals are clear, smooth, a little neutral-brightish but not pushing it too far.  Treble is extended and smooth and has some hints of brightness.  Soundstage is big with a nice holographic effect, definitely having an above the average width and a nice spacious depth and height.
 
ibasso_dx80-31_zpshsb4tyt0.jpg ibasso_dx80-32_zpsu93q416d.jpg
 
In comparison to my other DAPs (FiiO X5ii & X7, Cayin N5 & N6, Hidizs AP100, Lotoo PAW 5000, AK120ii, L&P L5 Pro), here is what I found:
 
DX80 vs X5ii: X soundstage is narrower while depth/height are similar, X sound is a little warmer, thicker, and a bit less transparent in comparison, low end is not as tight and a little slower, lower mids and upper mids are similar, and treble is similar as well. X background is darker during playback.
 
DX80 vs N5: very similar soundstage expansion except N5 is a touch narrower, but they have a similar level of transparency and similar layering and separation of a sound, DX might be a touch smoother, but other than that - a lot of similarities.  N low end is a little tighter, a bit faster, and has slightly more sub-bass, while lower/upper mids are nearly identical, and the same with a treble.  Same background noise level when paused, and slight hissing when playing (relative to my sensitive iems/ciems).
 
DX80 vs PAW5k: PW soundstage is scaled down in width/depth/height, sound is flatter, definitely doesn't have the same level of dynamics and layering/separation as DX, and also PW sounds a bit more congested and warmer in comparison to DX.  PW has a little more sub-bass and low end is a bit less articulate and slower, PW lower mids are thicker and upper mids are not as detailed, treble not as bright and has less airiness.
 
DX80 vs AP100: AP has more hissing (due to higher power, and relative to sensitive iems/ciems), similar soundstage (though DX is a little wider), DX sound is a little tighter, more controlled.  Sound sig is similar, bass is similar, lower mids in DX have a little more body, upper mids in DX are smoother and not as splashy.  Treble extension is similar.  DX sound is a little more dynamic.
 
DX80 vs N6: N has a little more transparency and slightly better layering/separation, similar height but N soundstage width is narrower while depth is deeper. N low end is tighter and faster, with sub-bass going a little deeper, and  overall being a little more articulate; lower mids in N are a bit leaner and upper mids have a little better retrieval of details.  Also, N treble is brighter and has more airiness.  In comparison DX is smoother and more organic.
 
DX80 vs X7: X7 soundstage is wider, sound is more transparent with a better layering/separation, overall X7 sounds more neutral, tighter and more detailed.  Considering both utilize a full touch screen, I prefer DX current interface better and find touch screen to be more responsive.  But in terms of sound quality, X7 definitely stands above it.
 
DX80 vs L5Pro: very similar soundstage and neutral-smooth with a touch of warmth tonality.  L5Pro sound has more transparency and better layering/separation, with a little better retrieval of details.
 
DX80 vs AK120ii: AK has nearly the same soundstage (maybe a touch wider), same neutral-smooth with a touch of warmth tonality.  AK has a little more transparency and a slightly better layering/separation, and a little more airiness in treble, but DX has a higher quantity and more articulate low end, definitely prefer DX for the bass.
 
 
As mentioned before, I couldn't get it to work as USB DAC with my Win7 laptop, but it worked perfectly as USB-OTG DAC with my Galaxy Note 4 - where I found sound to be  a little warmer/darker, not as transparent, with more lower mids body and slightly less details in upper mids/lower treble.  It wasn't a good pair up.
 
External Amp pair-up (from DX80 LO).
 
w/E12A - a touch brighter in lower treble, and slightly narrower soundstage
 
w/C5 - adds more transparency and a little more depth to a sound
 
w/RunAbout - adds more transparency and slightly better retrieval of details
 
w/HA-2 - not as smooth, and slightly narrower staging
 
ibasso_dx80-35_zpswcpafd6g.jpg
 
Pair up with different headphones.
 
On low-gain with Sharp roll-off (volume setting noted below):
 
ES60 (63/150) - detailed smooth sound, great soundstage expansion, tight articulate low end, detailed balanced mids, well defined treble with a moderate level of airiness - excellent bass texture.
 
W60 (85/150) - very smooth balanced sound, surprisingly I hear better control of low end in comparison to other DAPs, lower mids are not as thick (makes sound less congested), very detailed organic upper mids, treble is smooth but lacking airiness.  Nice expanded sound.
 
Savant (84/150) - very transparent detailed sound with an excellent layering/separation, tight articulate low end with a nice sub-bass texture (not elevated but brings up a nice flavor), lower mids are a little on a leaner side but still contribute with a nice body to the sound, upper mids are very detailed, bright, but not sibilant or harsh, treble is airy, with a great definition and excellent extension - perfect combination if you want analytical quality sound which is still smooth.
 
ZEN (111/150) - very spacious sound with an excellent transparency, great retrieval of details, bass is tight but lost a bit of rumble - switching to high gain gets some of it back, mids are more on a leaner side and very detailed, airy well defined treble.  Overall sound is a little leaner (surprisingly).
 
UE600 (74/150) - absolutely NO hissing, totally black background, clear transparent detailed sound, a little more on a leaner side, tight low end, detailed mids, extended treble - never crossed threshold of sibilance or harshness.
 
DN2kJ (81/150) - excellent soundstage depth, lean detailed sound, never crosses threshold of sibilance or harshness like I found it with other DAPs, low end is tight, nice punchy mid-bass while sub-bass is a little rolled off, mids are lean and very detailed on analytical level, but not grainy or harsh, treble is airy, well defined, extended, but not sibilant. Sound does misses some body.
 
EL-8C (111/150) - not the best pair up, upper mids/treble have a bit of metallic sheen, sound is thinner than I expected; in high gain you get more body and even some sub-bass texture, but this metallic sheen is still noticeable.
 
PM-3 (104/150) - excellent pair with an expanded soundstage, tight articulate low end, textured sub-bass, fast mid-bass punch, perfectly balanced lower mids (not too lean or too thick), detailed organic upper mids, and crisp well defined treble.
 
R70x (123/150) - amazing pair up - super expanded sound, high level of transparency, layering/separation, smooth retrieval of details, tight textured bass, detailed organic mids, airy extended treble.  Very impressive!
 
Conclusion.
 
Even so I didn’t have any previous experience with iBasso DAPs, I have read some of the comments referring to their initial introduction and was a bit anxious how the firmware/interface will turn out in this new model.  To my pleasant surprise, it was a lot better than I’ve expected.  And within first couple weeks of its introduction, a few updates were already released, demonstrating active development and support of the product.  I absolutely love slick design of DX80 and combination of large hw buttons and touch screen interface with a smooth response I’m used to from my Galaxy smartphones.  The sound tuning is excellent, pushing it closer to a bracket of summit-fi category, and as a matter of fact I was getting a bit frustrated thinking to myself “oh, wish there would be a little more transparency, a little more airiness, a slightly better layering”, until I realized that I’m holding a $359 DAP, not $1k-$2k flagship design.  It almost feels like iBasso intentionally held it a little back to be able to introduce soon a true flagship TOTL DAP which I have no doubt is a work in progress.  But looking at what they offer now and based on its sound performance, audio quality, build quality, and a very impressive list of features – DX80 punches above a lot of the mid-fi DAPs and challenges some summit-fi players.  I can definitely recommend it as one of the top price/performance ratio contenders.
and132
and132
which one is the best to pair with? dn2kj or pinnacle p1? for any kind of music genre.
and132
and132
which one is the best to pair with? dn2kj or pinnacle p1? for any kind of music genre.
and132
and132
which one is the best to pair with? dn2kj or pinnacle p1? for any kind of music genre.
Pros: Solid amp section / CS4398 DAC / detailed display / good weight-size ratio / black stealth design with front buttons / good bang for buck!
Cons: sometimes small lags (1 sec - might be fixed by future firmware updates)
Capture.jpg


Audio

(24bit/192kHz with Native DSD64 & DSD128 Dual CIRRUS CS4398 DACs)
 
So the DX80 basically features the same DAC like the Astell & Kern AK240 (priced at 2990 $) which makes it very interesting to have a further look at the DX80 in the first place.
 
The amp will easily drive IEM and full size headphones of almost any impedance (up to 250 Ohm+). I tested it with the Shure SE846 (cable upgrade and filter mod) and Audio Technica ATH-MSR7.
Even with the Lo Gain setting it only took around 60 % of the volume dial to achieve a powerfull drive on my headphones. The soundstage was very detailed and the bass punchy.
I decided to use the supplied burn-in cable and burn them in for approx. 100 hours.
The improvements after the burn-in took place more in the midsection of the frequency range and added a little better separation and drive to the sound. The highs were good from the start and the bass didn't really change a lot after the burn in (i think bass changes are more audible on a headphone burn in than on a source burn in).

Since sound is a very personal thing you might have your own favorite device/headphone combination and as soon as soundstage, instrument seperation and clear frequency range resolution starts mattering in your life you will never just have one device, or one pair of headphones... But for now this is my "current" favorite combo (Shure SE846 with Brimar Quantum SXC Cable - blue filter mod and the DX80).
 
Formats

(APE,FLAC,WAV,MP3,WMA,AAC,ALAC,AIFF,OGG,DFF,DSF,DXD,M3U)
 
I tried everything from my favorite FLACs to old cheesy MP3's from back in the days when MP3's have been a new technology (early napster times).
The FLACs really sound amazing and its a pure bliss to invest in any bandcamp album that offers higher quality formats.
I gave a spin to my favorite records like Com Truise or Miami Nights 1984 in FLAC and could literally not stop listening 

The old MP3's didn't sound bad neither, but of course the soundstage was flat like it was played in a styrofoam room - but still better than i remembered.
But basically you can throw almost any sound format at the DX80 and it will play it in a nice and satisfying way.
 
User interface / screen

(3.2" 480*800 IPS Screen)
 
The UI is very user friendly, easy to access through swiping your thinger in left - right or down direction along the nice touchscreen (which is an definite upgrade to the DX90 screen).
You can select different play modes and the most used features very fast and the implemented EQ might be interesting for some users too.
Upgrading the firmware through SD card slot 2 is also very easy by just putting the update.img in the root folder and selecting the Firmware update option in the Advanced settings menu.
Sometimes the touch is not 100% accurate which might be because of the screen protector - but also no real big issue for me.
 
Build quality / design

(178 grams / 120x63x17 mm)
 
The DX80 feels like a solid brick, but in a good way. With the black matte silicone case it even looks like a tank (and is built like one). I love the big buttons on the front as it makes it very easy to stop/play or change tracks while just reaching inside your pocket. The supplied screen protector and case are a nice protection upgrade that i recommend putting on before use.
The design / weight / size combination makes it sit comfortably inside both your hand and your pocket.
 
Battery

(3,8V - 3600 mAh LiPo Battery)
 
I cannot say much about the battery life, usually i recharge over night and take it with me, use it the whole day and plug it in again at night (and it barely reaches 60 %). I am used to plug in my devices every day so the battery life is more than enough for me (being smartphone tortured).
iBasso states around 13 hours of playtime on their homepage.

Connections / slots

(XMOS USB Receiver, plus Thesycon driver for PC computers / USB DAC supports 24bit/192kHz and Native DSD128)
 
All the sockets have a very tight and solid fit. Connecting the DX80 via USB makes it very easy to transfer files in Card Reader Mode. The Phone out has only a little bit of hiss (very subtle) whenever there are silent parts in a track. You have two SD Card slots. Keep in mind that SD Card slot 2 (on the backside) is used for firmware upgrades.
The microSD card slots can be equipped with a theoretical maximum of 2 TB (once available).
You have 2x 3.5mm sockets (phone out / line out) a mini optical / mini coaxial output (supports 24bit/192khz).
 
 
Conclusion
 
I think its very hard to beat if you consider the low price of the device. If you don't want to spend 600+ $ on a DAP then don't look no further and order your DX80.

For me it is the first DAP that i bought myself, all though i listened to a lot over the years. I never thought that i want to invest 1000 $ in a portable device as i only used my Shure SE846 in my home studio.
But after some time i got more brave to also take my beloved Shure SE846 outside of its safe natural home studio habitat and then decided i need a good (but inexpensive) DAP that can drive my IEM with ease.
That's when i went to the shop of my trust and wanted to listen to a DX90, sadly they said that they were discontinued... but wait there are good news - they would let me listen to the DX80 (its successor) and they still have 20 preorder slots free. After a short listening session i filled out the preorder form and that's where it all started.
 
I am very happy with the device since day 1 and i have to say it is always a bliss coming home and turning it on after a hard day at work.
As soon as the USB drivers are available i will also try to use it as USB DAC for my audio production and general computer audio.
  • Like
Reactions: riodgarp
leaky74
leaky74
Hi, nice review thanks. Have you had opportunity to try the DAC functionality yet? If so, what do you make of it?
Pros: Energetic/dynamic presentation, detail producing, excellent instrument separation and layering, more intimate presentation with decent soundstage
Cons: Potentially fatiguing, some firmware improvements yet to come, proprietary replacement battery
After a fair amount of use, here are my impressions after burning in a DX80.  The unit was provided by iBasso with a request to scour it for any current and future firmware issues.  Having the DX80 in the house allows me a great opportunity to compare it to my beloved DX100 and DX90. 
 
I won’t go into the full feature set as that is well documented elsewhere.  However, for how I use a DAP, the following features are a big deal to me:
 
  1. A simple and reliable GUI
  2. A high quality digital transport to feed my desktop DAC and Amp for no compromise sound
  3. A great sounding headphone out that drives my headphones with authority and doesn’t make me miss my home setup when I’m on the go.
 
That’s pretty much it, I’m a simple guy.  Since that describes my primary goals for a DAP, I’ve carried some pretty large “portable” systems over the years that were several components strapped together with Velcro.  I never minded because my requirements were very simple…sound first and convenience later.
 
When iBasso jumped into the DAP market with the DX100 I was skeptical.  How can you fit all that goodness into one box and not compromise sound quality?  Long story short, after I heard one my paradigm shifted and my stable of venerable iRiver H140’s soon found themselves on ebay.  
 
While the DX100 sound quality and output features were fantastic, I soon learned the Achilles heel of iBasso DAPS…firmware.  I had never had any issues with other iBasso products (amps), but I found the DX100 buggy and inconsistent in behavior and experienced a lot of pain in those early days.  To iBasso’s credit they continued to kick out firmware until the unit was reliable and usable.
 
When the DX90 was released I purchased one for my son and was soon impressed.  It sounded nearly as good as the DX100 and since I was in the market for a spare DAP, I purchased one for myself.  While I enjoy the DX90 as it plays very nice with my JH-13’s, it also has had its own firmware woes which (again) over time improved with firmware releases.
 
Enter the DX80.  Obviously designed as the next generation to the DX90 size format, does it deliver compared to its predecessors?  The following is comparing the DX100 (firmware 1.4.2), DX90 (firmware 2.2.0 L0) and DX80 (firmware 1.1.2 and 1.1.4).  The DX100 and DX90 firmware selected was based on my opinion of them representing the best sound those units have to offer.
 

 
 
Build/Design
 
When iBasso went to the DX90, I appreciated the front physical buttons which made it much easier to use the unit while on the go, without having to turn the screen on as seen with the DX100.  The DX80 continues that approach but gets a svelte design upgrade.  If you haven’t handled a DX80 yet, I don’t think the average consumer will be disappointed by the build quality.  It is very solid and appears well put together on the outside.  It is easy to hold and engage the functions.  All ports are well labeled.  I was surprised to see the physical gain switch removed and unfortunately, the return to an internal proprietary battery power source. 
 
GUI
 
The DX80 onscreen GUI is IMO a significant upgrade over the DX90.  It is really very simple as a DAP should be.  All of the same primary functions of the DX90 are there.  Wiping across the unit reveals three main screens providing access to available functions (music selection, now playing, and settings).  The bigger album art is nice (I know, “you don’t listen to album art” but I still like to look at it once in awhile).  Even out of the box I found the interface snappy and responsive… until I tried to scan my songs and use the unit.  All I can say is that if you get a unit with firmware 1.1.0, don’t bother until you install 1.1.2 or 1.1.4.  Thanks to iBasso for the fast firmware improvements, but I am befuddled how the relatively polished DX80 was released with that original firmware.   
 
Firmwares 1.1.2/1.1.4 still have their quirks.  While scanning my 6,500 files, I found that the unit would often scan only some of the files.  The total track counter accessed by long pressing the album art was very helpful here.  This lets me know whether all files have been recognized by the unit.  The good news is that after three attempts which included some factory resets, all songs on my 64 mb card were recognized.  This minor issue continues with 1.1.4 but has not been a real problem.  (Note:  If you haven’t picked this up yet, for anyone having any issues with the DX80, try a factory reset first and go from there.)  
 
I have noted some minor issues most of which have already been documented by others and represented on the bug thread (such as track change thumps) but to be honest while not yet perfect, the DX80 has already (IMO) achieved a degree of reliability. 
 
Sound
 
Test gear (volume matched):
JH-13 (not FP)
Audio-Technica ESW9
 Audio-Technica ESW9LTD
Audio-Technica W1000X
Grado RS-1 (semi-vintage)
Tracks LAME VBR MP3 (which will be suitable for the purposes of a direct DX80/90/100 relative performance comparison)
 
These impressions were largely developed with the 1.1.2 and then revisited when the 1.1.4 was released.  Unlike iBasso’s other historical offerings, I am not detecting a sound difference between the two firmwares.
 
Most easily noticed is that the DX80 provides an “energetic” presentation, more so then both the DX100 and DX90.  The DX80 breathes some excitement and dynamic punch into the music.  I am wary when I experience this with a source, as it is often the result of artificially boosted lows and highs.  However, as I spent more time with the DX80, I decided that however iBasso had tuned this device, the end result was something more natural sounding than artificial.
 
Rotating through my usual test tracks, some comments on the ones below:  
 
“Furnace Room Lullaby” – Neko Case
 
This track contains some good micro detail, a sense of space and vocal highs that can bring chills with the right setup.  Through the song there is a lot of micro detail in the playing in the acoustic guitar.  For instance, at approximately 18 seconds into the track there is some micro detail in the acoustic guitar work which appears on both channels, secondary sounds of the guitar pick at work.  I’ve heard plenty of combinations that will not render these sounds, but the DX80 presented that detail clearly and properly to the best detail producing cans I own (JH-13’s and to a lesser extent my RS-1’s).  The highs also sounded fantastic, completely on par with my expectations in coming from the DX100.  During this track it was first noticed that the DX80 was doing a fine job at separation and layering, as Neko’s voice was pleasantly distinct and coming from a separate space then the bass line and guitar, which each had their own space. 
 
“Dream” – Priscilla Ahn
 
This track is my favorite for checking midrange and blackness of the background.  In my opinion this track is very well recorded, and the female vocals can almost sound like a binaural recording with the right setup.  The DX80 rendered this track beautifully, with the vocals sounding like I was there and not wearing headphones.  Similar to the DX100 and DX90, I hear no hiss or unwanted background noise in the blank spaces of this track even with my JH-13’s.  I don’t have golden ears but if I hear any hiss I am highly intolerant of it.  (I do have some hiss related commentary in towards the end, but I believe a hiss free background is what one can expect from the DX80, even with IEM’s.)   
 
“Blue Orchid” – White Stripes
 
This track has a crazy overwhelming wall of bass.  If a headphone or source can properly represent the bass in this song without being bloated or woolly, it should do well on many other bass demanding tracks.  The DX80 did great here, letting me hear the texture and fullness of the bass, not just a solid wall of it.  This track also did a nice job at re-affirming that the DX80 can maintain some separation and layering even when things get busy. 
 
I’ve seen others say that the DX80 has more bass than the DX90.  If it does, it is slight as I found the DX80, 90 and 100 all to have a similar amount of bass, but there were some differences in how it was presented/textured.  The DX80 and 100 sounded closer to me, with the DX90 bass sounding slightly less flushed out. 
     
To my surprise, as I cycled through tracks I began to spend more time directly comparing the DX80 to the DX100 vs. the DX90.  In reality, the sound of all three models is very close, they are all excellent.  But of course there are minor differences on the margins that can be noted.
 
One difference which may be a sweet spot for my use is the DX80’s tendency to provide some dynamic energy without sacrificing warmth or an organic musical presentation.  I commonly use the DX90 on the go with either my JH-13’s or Audiotechnica ESW9 (or ESW9LTD if I’m brave enough to take them out of the house).  All three of those headphones have an admirable characteristic, in that I can listen to them for hours with no fatigue.  I find them, especially the AT’s, polite, laid back and easy on the ears while still sounding great.  However, I sometimes wish the AT’s in particular had just a little more punch.  The DX80 breathes this life into these headphones and sounds great.  However, with the ESW9LTD it may be a bit much..but the ESW9 or JH-13 with the DX80 has rapidly become my favorite portable option.     
 
In comparing all three, if someone wishes to be exceptionally picky, the DX90 could be 3rd chair.  The DX80 and DX100 both make the DX90 sound very slightly flat, more clinical and less engaging.  For overall presentation, my ears tell me the DX100 and DX80 are closer in presentation than the DX90.  I did not spend much time with the DX80’s lineout as I rarely use that feature, however it sounded just fine compared to the others.  As expected, the DX80 digital out sounded exactly the same as the signal provided by the DX100 and DX90. 
 
Conclusion
 
DX80
 
Pros:  Energetic/dynamic presentation, detail producing, excellent instrument separation and layering, more intimate presentation with decent soundstage, perhaps a great companion for headphones with a more polite or laid back presentation
Cons: Potentially fatiguing, some firmware improvements yet to come, proprietary replacement battery, makes me wonder why I spent nearly $800 on my DX100.
 
Note on hiss:
 
If anyone is experiencing a hiss that is changed by manipulating the headphone cable, I believe this is not typical of a properly working DX80.  My unit experienced a moderate hiss mostly in the right channel with only one of my headphones.  This headphone worked fine in every other source and I could make the hiss increase/decrease upon moving the cable around or twisting the jack.  The hiss was always there, play or pause, and at the same intensity regardless of volume level or gain.  I was especially perplexed as my JH-13's did not reveal this hiss.  I began to suspect there was an issue with my DX80 that was being revealed by the specific impedance of the headphone showing the problem (an ESW9LTD and to a much lesser extent the ESW9).
 
iBasso sent a replacement DX80 which does not show this issue at all, and I find the unit to have a blissfully black background.  I'm not sure if this is a shielding issue or something else, but I recommend you connect with the iBasso folks to sort it out if you are experiencing this.
Torq
Torq
Interesting ...
 
Very curious as to how fast/reliable scanning/indexing my music would be.  My portable library is about 10,000 tracks on 2x 200 GB microSD cards.
 
Any thoughts?
wolfen68
wolfen68
I have 6600 tracks and they scan in 15 minutes on a 64gb Sandisk Extreme Card.
dardello
dardello
Based on your review I see NO reason to purchase the DX80 if they are concerned about sound quality. It appears that they sound the same but the DX80 has a none replaceable battery. I am not going to sit staring at the screen and do not have 64gb of music.
Pros: smooth sound, crisp screen, good sound, two card slots, build quality, design, output impedance, features, value, soundstage, detail retrieval
Cons: some hiss at low listening levels, low-frequency "thump/pressure" that can't be solved with a firmware update, no sorting by "Album Artist"
Preamble:

When iBasso’s Paul contacted me on Head-Fi some time ago and asked if I was interested in reviewing their upcoming DAP called DX80 (along with testing its future firmware versions) which was already unveiled but not released yet, I felt honoured and of course agreed. And not many time thereafter, just at the same time when iBasso suddenly out of nowhere announced that the DX80 was in the stores right now, the DX80 arrived at my doorstep.

I guess the Chinese audio company iBasso (http://www.ibasso.com/) which was founded in 2006 doesn’t need any further introduction, but I’ll give you a very brief info about their history. At the beginning, they only produced portable headphone amplifiers, which were followed by portable headphone-DACs and finally three digital audio players which helped the company to finally become internationally established.
Their very first DAP was the DX100 which was a monster, not only regarding size. It didn’t only have a firmware that was based on Android OS, but also featured the ES9018 Sabre as DAC chip, a 3.5 as well as a 6.35 mm headphone output, an optical and a coaxial digital output, had built-in Wi-Fi and was capable of providing enormous 5 Volts of output current.
Thereafter followed the small DX50 which had such a high demand, that every stock batch directly at iBasso was sold out in just a couple of days. I ordered a DX50 as well, but wasn’t convinced by it at all, wherefore I sold it through the German online classifieds not many hours after it had arrived. Regarding form factor and build quality, it was really good and the fine-grained volume control was excellent, but it had just a gigantic load of hiss wherefore it was unusable with sensitive in-ears for me, which was the main field of application I bought it for. I could have added a good headphone amplifier/external DAC or used it solely with insensitive in-ears or full-sized headphones, but that was not what I was aiming for, as I had other DAPs that I used with a portable amplifier for stacking.
Short time after the DX50’s release, the DX90 was unveiled. It featured the same form factor as the DX50 and also looked almost exactly like it (except for some minor differences), but followed a completely different internal implementation, as every audio channel featured a dedicated, separate DAC and Amp chip, and after positive feedback from people whose opinion I really value, I also ordered a unit and was miles away from being disappointed when it arrived. The dual-DAC (one ES9018K2M chip per audio channel) and dual-Amp (one OPA1611 chip per audio channel) design along with the good and clean implementation of the components made the DX90 sound subjectively very precise and analytical with a wide soundstage. Measured values were sublime as well and the DAP had a very low output impedance (like all iBasso audio players) and quasi no hiss at all (even with extremely sensitive in-ears, hiss was only audible with “empty” audio files in a very quiet room with hard concentration and was still just a hardly noticeable shade above my blood stream’s noise).

The current model, DX80, features some renewals compared to its direct predecessors, the DX50 and DX90.
In my review below, I am going to evaluate how iBasso’s newest DAP creation performs in terms of design, build, user interface and sound.


Technical Specifications:

MSRP: $359
0_specs.jpg
 
(image source: iBasso.com)


Delivery Content:

Already the design of the package differs from the one the last generation’s DAPs arrived in. Instead of a small, flat brown cardboard box with a small black paper sleeve like the previous generations, the new DX80 arrives in a bigger and especially deeper black box which is also held together by a black paper sleeve, but this time it is much bigger and shows the DAP’s model name on the front as well as a new triangular logo above, that kind of refers to the redesigned menu layout and can also be seen upon turning the player on and off. The technical specifications are printed on its back in multiple languages.
Removing the sleeve, the actual packaging’s front can be seen. The new triangular logo can be found on its front side too, as well as an “iBasso Audio” lettering on the bottom. A cellulose sticker with the triangular logo is located on the top side, but it should not be removed, as it acts as part of the hinge.
Flipping the lid open, the nicely presented DAP with the “DX80” lettering underneath gets unveiled.
One layer below are the accessories which include two screen protectors, an illustrated quick start guide, a warranty card, a USB cable for charging/file transfer/using the DX 80 as a USB DAC, a burn-in cable and last but not least a protective black silicone case.

IMG_0482.jpg IMG_0483.jpg
IMG_0485.jpg IMG_0486.jpg
IMG_0489.jpg IMG_0490.jpg
IMG_0493.jpg



Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

Compared to its both predecessors, the form factor of iBasso’s new DAP has changed quite a bit, although the layout remains mostly identical.
The DX80 is almost exactly as thick as the DX50/90, but a bit narrower and taller by 2 centimetres.
The large capacitive IPS touchscreen dominates on the matte black aluminium front (DX90: brushed black aluminium). It allows for an easy as well as precise navigation and has got a good resolution of 480 x 800 pixels (DX90: 320 x 240 pixels). When the display is turned on, the higher resolution is very obvious, as the screen’s content is very sharp and has got good colour fidelity. Especially when both DAPs are lying side to side, the better resolution is a visible benefit and pixels are almost invisible, unlike on the DX90 which appears quite pixelated. Below the screen are the three physical buttons for playback control that are already known from the DX50/90. The dimensions together with the touchscreen and the buttons for playback control still allow for an easy and smooth one-handed operation.
The matte black aluminium back plate (DX90: brushed black aluminium and plastic) is permanently connected to the housing and does not offer an easily user-replaceable battery like the DX50/90, which may be a problem for some people, but it gives the benefit of a larger battery with higher capacity due to the lack of connector parts.
Just as already known from the DX50/90, the on/off button (which is also used for locking/unlocking the screen) is located on the left side’s upper part, and larger as well as easier to press than the DX50’s/90’s. iBasso gave up the hold switch (that locks the buttons) from the DX50/90 on the DX80, but I personally don’t see it as a problem, as unintentional button operations never happened to me with the DX90 and I literally never use it.
The right side contains the buttons for volume control which are just like the on/off button larger than the DX50’s/90’s and have got a lower pressure resistance, wherefore they are easier and smoother to press. Except for the planking on the sides, all body parts of the DX80 are made of aluminium.
The bottom side contains the headphone output jack on the left and the Line Out jack beneath it; both are made of massive silver metal, just like the DX90’s. The well-known three-position gain switch was unfortunately forgone. Instead, the two-position pre-gain is now controlled in the system settings, which I find a bit sad, as I found the easy accessible gain switch useful, especially when I quickly changed or compared headphones or seldom used the equalizer.
A digital output socket is located on the DAP’s upper side’s left. In contrast to the DX90, it not only features a digital electrical coaxial output, but also an optical digital output which is automatically enabled/selected. The digital out jack is made of black plastic unlike the DX90’s silver metal jack. On the right upper side is the USB jack; the card slots are in the centre – as opposed to the DX50/90, the DX80 has got two of them, which allow for double the amount of external memory. They are covered and protected by a rubber flap which seems like it could break someday from swapping cards. In my opinion, a sliding cover or no protection at all (e.g. just a built-in protection in the silicone case) would have been better.
The labelling of the buttons and connectors is now bright and therefore better visible.

Although the DX80 is heavier than its predecessors, it lies comfortably in my hand, is consistently well built and is well-balanced in terms of weight.

The black silicone case is less reinforced in the area of the buttons on the inside and lacks an iBasso logo on the back compared to the one of the DX90, but conveniently has got an integrated protective dust plug for the combined digital outputs. On the downside, it may produce an artificial smell in the first days.

Unlike the DX50/90, the DX80 does not have integrated memory for music, which I personally find a tiny bit sad (as I like to use it for license-free MP3s sometimes in-between on my DX90), but the second micro SD slot of course offers much more benefits and more than just compensates for the lack of internal memory.
Just as the DX90, a dual DAC layout is used in the DX80, though two Cissrus Logic CS4398 chips which also allow native DSD playback are used instead of the two ES Sabre chips. In addition, the DX80 has got a fixed Line Out level which is not variable, which may be a benefit for people who often switch between Line Out and headphone out.
 

IMG_0494.jpg IMG_0496.jpg
IMG_0499.jpg IMG_0501.jpg
IMG_0503.jpg IMG_0507.jpg
IMG_0533.jpg

 ​
 
Operation, User Interface:

The initial firmware version 1.0.0 will be skipped as it was quite buggy in some areas.
1.1.2 fixed the flaws and brought a stable and well-developed firmware (although both are visually identical).


Due to the larger screen, the DX80 is predestined for a new user interface, and so it is not too surprising that instead of using a list view in the menus like the DX50/90, iBasso has introduced a graphical design with their most recent digital audio player, which also backs on a new operation method that reminds me of a mixture of iOS, Android plus BlackBerry OS10. Therefore, the whole layout appears more modern and fresher.

During the short boot-up process, the new iBasso logo that is already known from the packaging and differs from the DX50’s/90’s can be seen. Subsequently, the playing screen shows up, just like on the previous generation, but has been redesigned as well.
On the upper section, there is the well-known status bar that shows the volume (which is adjusted in 0.5 dB-steps like on the predecessors) as well as the battery status which is now displayed in percent, what I see as a big advantage over the DX90. Just as with the DX50/90, the volume control is very fine-grained, but the numbers follow a different scaling (at low volume, a few steps are required for the numbers to change, though every step changes the volume of course, but it can’t be seen as opposed to higher volumes where every step can be seen as a change of the numbers). The DX80’s lowest possible volume above mute is not as quiet as the DX90’s and there is still a little audible music at “1”, but even with extremely sensitive IEMs, the DX80 scales so low at low volume numbers that no one will listen at that low levels (and even I as someone who usually listens at low levels says that) – the range at low volume is still excellent. In contrast to the DX90, the DX80 already changes the volume with one single click and doesn’t need to be activated with the first click.
 

IMG_0508.jpg IMG_0531.jpg


Due to the elongated screen, the album cover art is quite large, crisp and measures 480 x 480 pixels, wherefore it is much higher resolving than the DX90’s small and pixelated cover art on the left side. Some very welcome innovations are features that get revealed by shortly clicking on the cover art: not only a track counter (finally!) gets visible then, but also the ability of showing the track information or adding the file to a playlist.
Below the album cover, the track information and playback mode are shown, along with a timeline(/seek bar) as well as information about the sample rate and large virtual playback control buttons (playback control is for sure possible with the physical buttons as well). Tapping on the timeline/seek bar, a semi-transparent window that shows the actual minutes and seconds where you want to go pops up on the cover art, so one can easily jump to the exact position one wants to go.
 

IMG_0524.jpg

Pulling down from the top to the middle of the screen (in every menu) will open the quick settings that will let you adjust Gapless Playback, USB Mode, Digital Filters, Gain as well as the Playback Mode – very convenient.

The virtual on-screen buttons for “My Music” and the “Settings” have been removed, instead those menus are opened by swipe gestures.
 

IMG_0519.jpg IMG_0517.jpg
IMG_0521.jpg

Swiping from the right to the left, you will get to the settings screen that is now not displayed as a list anymore (DX50/90), but as a grid instead – I always found the DX90’s operation and comfort good and fast, but the DX80 takes it to a whole new level and allows for even faster and more intuitive scrolling and navigation (the larger screen also helps for that).
All settings from the DX90 have been adopted, but the DX80 has got an additional menu point for the Gain (with selectable Low and High Gain), as the new DAP got rid of the physical gain switch.
 

IMG_0523.jpg IMG_0529.jpg
IMG_0537.jpg IMG_0535.jpg 
IMG_0539.jpg IMG_0540.jpg

Swiping on the playing screen from the left to the right, the My Music menu which is also displayed as a large and well-arranged grid opens up. The therein included options (Now Playing, All Music, Directory, Artist, Genre, Album and Playlist) are identical to the DX90, but the “Album” display page does not only allow for a list-, but also for a grid view (and a long press on a track or album will give you the ability to delete, play or add it to a playlist (single tracks also allow for showing the track information)).
Unfortunately, the internal database still sorts artist by the “Track Artist” instead of the “Album Artist” tag, wherefore albums with guest artists (e.g. Yello’s album Touch Yello) are displayed in fragments in the artist view. As that’s unfortunately a thing many DAPs suffer from, I went to a good folder structure some time ago – and folder browsing is excellent both with the DX90 as well as the new DX80.

128 GB cards are supported without any problems, but refreshing the database takes relatively long compared to other DAPs like for example the Shanling M2; a firmware update can be installed by copying the img-file to the second (FAT32-formatted) Micro SD-card (the lower one/the one that is the most away from the screen), whereupon a dedicated option shows up in the advanced settings (after the update, a system reset should be performed).

Right from the start, the DX80 supports flawless gapless playback with FLAC files (it took multiple FWs until it finally worked on the DX90), but not with MP3s.

Firmware 1.1.4:

With FW version 1.1.4, I have got the feeling that the card scan speed has increased, just as the overall operation and UI speed.
The possibility to hide the status bar during playback by tapping on the album cover has also been added.

Firmware 1.2.0:

I better skip this one, as it caused freezes and even iBasso took it down from their website.

Firmware 1.2.1:

FW 1.2.1 gave these changes (changelog):
1. Line output bug fixed when the DX80 is used as a USB-DAC.
2. Enable sorting function on Now Playing.
3. Change from file name to title name on All Music view.
4. A more accurate battery indicator on low battery.
5. Improved M3U playlist import function, allows an apostrophe on file name.
6. Improved WAV ID3 support.
7. Allow custom wallpaper to be read from either SD card slot.
8. Allow the player to display Hebrew.
9. Scroll bar added to all of My Music views.
10. Improved OTG storage support.
11. Updated WAV decode engine. 
In addition, the playback speed issues I had in USB DAC mode with my Windows 7 computer have been resolved, so now the DAP plays music back in correct speed when used as DAC with my PC.
What's really helpful as well is the slider/scroll bar in folder browse mode.

Firmware 1.3.0:

A really cool and useful new feature that was added is a button lock feature - pressing and holding the physical play/pause button for a few seconds locks the buttons. An Android-/iOS-style lock-screen gives you the ability to unlock all buttons again.

IMG_20160128_162138_edit.jpg
 
Firmware 1.3.3:
 
The changes that came with 1.3.3 were a re-designed drop down menu and fixed the popping sound bug that happens at the end of some songs.
 
IMG_20160207_111045.jpg
 
Firmware 1.4.0:

I guess best is just to post the changelog, as many useful things came with FW version 1.4.0:
 
 Improvements with this firmware:

1. Greatly increased media scan speed.
2. Media scan changed to a background process, which allows the DX80 to be used while scanning.
3. Updated FLAC decode engine.
4. Added delete function to the main screen, which allows deletion of the currently playing music.
5. Allows a long press operation on Directory view.
6. Enlarged font size on music info.
7. Shortened system startup time with a large music collection in the Library.
8. Increased album artwork pixels on large album artwork view under Album view.
9. Enlarged touch area for Return button and progress bar.
 
Brilliant! I'm especially digging the first, second, seventh and eighth change. By the way, operation is now smooth and responsive again. The DX80 is definitely getting better and better on the software side and the drastically improved media scan speed is a huge improvement. Kudos!
 
Firmware 1.4.2:

Some users (me fortunately not) were facing some bugs and issues with 1.4.0, hence 1.4.2 was quickly rolled out and fixed those errors.
 
 Improvements with this firmware:

1. Inability to press next song under All Music when with large media library corrected.
2. Unfold .cue file under Directory view.
3. Rectified the bug that some FLAC artwork could not be displayed.
4. Rectified the bug that one song repeat does not function when playing cue file.
5. Custom EQ setting now saved.
6. Improved M3U support.

Firmware 1.5.2:
 
Improvements with this firmware:

1. Support for ISO files.
2. Improved CUE support.
3. Updated DSD decode engine.
4. Rectified the bug that some music would not be shown after a media scan.
5. Rectified the bug that some artist information was not found, which resulted in "null" under Artist. 

Additionally, the time for the "now playing" screen to show that the file is being played upon hitting the play button after powering on has been drastically shortened and upon manually pressing the "next" button, the screen now reacts immediately.

Firmware 1.5.8:
 
 Improvements with this firmware:

1. Increased memory size for user data partition. This allows more artwork to be stored.
2. Increased embedded ID3 artwork size to be 900*900 pixels maximum. This helps to avoid a media scan crash problem and improves the media scan speed.
3. Rectified the sorting order bug.
 
As my album covers are all of lower size, I haven't had any problems with them not being displayed or media scan crashes, however for some people this update might remove the issues they had.
 
 
Battery Life:

iBasso states a battery life of about 13 hours. With my test environment (Superlux HD681, Low Gain, 75 out of 150 volume steps, FLAC 16 Bit/44.1 kHz, activating the screen and navigating in the menus from time to time), I was able to reach 12 hours and 45 minutes (with in-ears and a more gentle volume level, more than 13 hours would certainly have been possible).


Sound:

The DX80 was evaluated with a wide variety of my in-ears and full-sized headphones (a complete list can be found on my profile page). Music files were stored in FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, MP3, WAV as well as DSD format.
My used memory cards were a 128 GB SanDisk as well as a 64 GB SanDisk Micro SD card.
Some competitors during tests were the iBasso DX90, Shanling M2, FiiO X3, LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100, HiFiMe 9018d as well as my (gain-reduced) Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII.

Frequency Response, Output Impedance:

Just as expected from iBasso and already known from the DX50 and DX90 that I have measured as well, the DX80 shows a perfectly flat frequency response from 20 Hz to 20 kHz:

DX80nl.jpg

 
 
The next discipline, the output impedance, is done perfectly by the DX80 as well, but the past has already shown that iBasso’s specifications regarding this specific number are generally true.
The output impedance is not much important for headphones that have got a flat impedance response all over the whole frequency spectrum, but becomes very important when in-ears and headphones with varying impedance (like all multi-driver in-ears) are connected. If those are plugged into a source with a high output impedance, their frequency response gets altered, as the output frequency response of the source device is then not linear anymore (the amount of the deviation depends on the IEM’s specific individual impedance response and the source’s output impedance).
For measuring the output impedance/frequency deviation with a complex load, I used the Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 as they are quite critically behaving with an impedance mismatch and are my measurement reference for the output impedance:
 

DX80tf10.jpg

 
As you can see, the deviation is minimal, so the output impedance is clearly below 1 Ohm, which confirms iBasso’s stated value.

Hiss:

I am someone who is quite sensitive to hiss. As usual for testing hiss, I used two of my most hiss-prone IEMs, which are the Shure SE846 as well as the Ostry KC06A.
The DX90 is practically hiss-free and the DX50 I had was a hiss monster for me at moderate listening levels, so that I sold it a few hours later after it had arrived – so the logical question is where the DX80 fits in.

The DX80 has a bit more hiss at low listening levels than I'd like to and hisses about as much as the BlackBerry Q10, however not as much as the HiFime 9018d or Shanling M2
The FiiO X3 (first generation) or iPhone 4 have got less hiss than the DX80 which has also a bit more hiss than the LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100. By the way, the gain has no effect on the hiss intensity.
From memory, the DX80 does luckily have clearly much less hiss than the DX50, but is also a bit away from being hiss-free or having a very very low amount of hiss with very sensitive Balanced Armature in-ear monitors (i.e. SE846) and very sensitive dynamic IEMs (i.e. Ostry KC06A) at low listening levels. At low or moderate listening levels, the hiss is a bit distracting (for me) with those IEMs, but I also know people that are less hiss-sensitive and don’t even hear any or only very little hiss with the above mentioned devices like the DX50, so it is very likely that they will also hear no or only very little hiss with the DX80.
With less sensitive but IEMs like the Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10, hiss is not as obtrusive and clearly lower, though still audible when music is being played at low levels (and I know that my usual listening levels are lower than most peoples', so those will likely h).

If you are someone who doesn't listen at low to very low levels with hiss-prone in-ears, hiss will be most likely inaudible for you.


Just as expected, there is no hiss with full-sized headphones or less sensitive dynamic in-ears like the Sennheiser IE 800.

Resolution, Precision, Soundstage:

Now to the more subjective part of my review. My opinion and experience regarding the sound signature of source devices and amplifiers goes like this: there is an existing audible difference between various devices, but it shouldn’t be overrated – as the basic character of a headphone won’t be completely changed (if the circuit follows a clean design philosophy), but sometimes rather “shaped” a bit and in many cases is extremely subtle.
Now let’s continue with my subjective impressions:

The DX80 has got a quite different sound than the DX90, especially in the treble: while the DX90 has got a digital, analytical character to me, the DX80 sounds much more analogue, organic, energetic. The new iBasso’s treble is smoother, non-fatiguing and I go so far to say that it slightly heads into the direction of a tube-like sound. Do the highs therefore sound less detailed? No, not at the slightest.
Treble details are just as good as on the DX90, but with another, smoother presentation that sounds less edgy and less intrusive – this can be a huge benefit for in-ears that have got harsh and peaky highs, but also a bit too much with headphones that are already smooth and dark in the treble department.
In consequence of the smooth, analogue highs, the mids sound subjectively a bit warmer, and also the general sound is smoother, more organic and more “analogue” than let’s say with the FiiO X3.
In the lows, the DX80 sounds freer and more spacious.
Generally, the DX80 sounds very open and uncoupled to me, and very unobtrusive – I just forget that it is there after a short time.

To my ears, the iBasso DX90’s soundstage is very wide and definitely wider than average (likely as a result of the dual-DAC design). The DX80 sounds just as wide, but has got the more distinct and airier spatial depth, which leads to a very spacious presentation.
All in all, I find the DX80 just as detailed and high resolving as the DX90, but with a different, more relaxed character.

Compared to the FiiO X3, the DX80 sounds a bit darker in the treble and mids, but also more organic and analogue. The lows are audible more detailed on the DX80’s side and also more arid, but hiss is unfortunately higher as well.
Compared to the analytical and sometimes harsh DX90, the DX80 sounds smoother, but no less detailed – the whole sound is just presented differently and neither better nor worse, and therefore very good on the whole, only with a somewhat different sonic character.
Regarding depth, the DX80 has got the better layering, wherefore its spatial presentation is comparable with the LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100, but combined with the good width of the DX90.

Something that’s not so nice is a thing that I noticed about the (virtual and physical) play/pause as well as skip buttons: when they are being pressed, a very low-frequency “blobb” sound that could be best described as “pressure” is audible. That sound does not always occur and not always in both channels; and I have recorded, amplified and analysed it:
 

Blobb.jpg
 ​
BlobbSpektrum.jpg

 ​
I think this sound/”pressure” occurs due to the DAC and/or amplifier section being turned on and off. According to iBasso, it is a negative thing about the Cirrus Logic DAC chip and can’t be fixed by a software update, which is kind of sad.
That "thumping" noise only appears occasionally though and not always with the same intensity, but when it does, it is a bit distracting for me (it appears more often and is stronger when the buttons are pressed within a short time window - though, it is still clearly less loud than many amplifiers' turn on/off noise).

Line Out, Digital Out, USB-DAC:

The Line Out level of the DX80 has now a set voltage and is not adjustable anymore, which can be a huge benefit over the previous generations that shared the same volume control for the headphone output as well as line out.
Just as I have expected, there is not a slight hint of hiss through the line out, but the sound character remains smooth, analogue and organic, however not as much as through the headphone output.

Conveniently, the DX80 has got an optical as well as coaxial electrical digital output that are shared through the same jack on the top – and the best thing about it is that the DAP automatically recognises what type of digital cable is being connected and accordingly activates the correct digital output mode (you don’t have to adjust anything in the settings).
Not very surprisingly, the analogue-smooth-organic character disappears through the combined digital output (as the DX80’s internal DAC and Amp sections are not active and have no influence on the digital signal on the SPDIF jack) – the connected DAC is responsible for the sound.
 

IMG_0544.jpg

 
 
With Apple computers, the DX80 works without the need of any additional drivers, whereas they have to be downloaded and installed if one is planning to use the DAP with a Windows computer.
Once the drivers have been downloaded from the iBasso website and installed, the DAP can be used as external USB DAC, which works flawlessly since FW 1.2.1 (before, I had playback speed issues). Before one connects the DX80 to a PC, the USB settings have to be changed to "DAC" either in the setting or the drop-down menu. The player's really nice and fine-grained volume control remains active which is very nice.
What's also cool is that the DX80 works as USB-DAC with most Android phones that support USB Audio OTG Output and also with iDevices. I tested the DX80 with my iPhone 4 and it worked perfectly as DAC with the help of Apple's CCK (UPDATE: I got a replacement unit and it didn't work as DAC with my iPhone anymore, but I have yet to figure out whether it is due to the firmware ore something else). 


Conclusion:

iBasso’s latest DAP, the DX80, is a really good digital audio player. Besides a smooth, organic yet detailed sound, it offers sublime hardware: just as the DX90, one dedicated DAC and Amp chip per channel are used, and now there are even two micro SD card slots – it is a really welcome new feature that more than just compensates for the lack of internal music storage.
The new, larger screen is crisp, high resolving and displays menu and music content very sharply and realistically. The new user interface that is controlled by intuitive swipe gestures and the re-designed menu layout also contribute to the great experience.
Although the DX80 has got a perfectly low output impedance like the DX90, there are two little drawbacks, especially with very sensitive in-ears: the first thing is that there is some audible hissing with very sensitive in-ears when music is being played (it depends on the used in-ears and one’s personal sensitivity to hiss how prominent it is). Although it is clearly below the DX50’s amount of hiss, it is still higher than many modern DAP’s by a good amount (it’s inaudible with full-sized headphones and less sensitive in-ears though). The other one is the low-frequency “pressure”/”blobb”/”thump” that sometimes appears when the play/pause/skip buttons are being pressed (unfortunately, it cannot be fixed by a software update as it is a flaw of the Cirrus Logic DAC chip).
Small things like the sorting by “Track Artist” instead of “Album Artist” in library view also have got some influence on overall rating, though the DX80 (in its current status) gets still good 3.75 out of 5 possible stars (-0.5 for the hissing, -0.5 for the “pressure” and -0.25 for smaller things like the sorting by “Track Artist”).

All in all, the DX80 is a very solid DAP with good hardware, sound, build quality and an intuitive and well-thought menu design as well as operation and has got a good overall value.
 

IMG_0526.jpg


My very subjective, personal conclusion varies slightly: as I am a very hiss-sensitive person, the amount of ground-hiss is a little higher than I'd personally like to at very low listening levels with extremely sensitive IEMs (as it is almost similar to the HiFiMe 9018d's and Shanling M2's hiss intensity, you could also read in my dedicated reviews for them that the hiss-level is somewhat higher than I prefer, but not too distracting at all with the iBasso as DX80's hiss level is still below the other two). What is a little annoying though is the low-frequency "thump/blobb" sound when using the headphone out. But then again, I have come across many people (majority of DX80's owners) who didn't even recognise it.
As a universal stand-alone DAP, the DX80 is not my favourite match and does not outclass the DX90 (which is my preferred, universally usable stand-alone solution). Though, I find it excellent as a transport device for a portable DAC, as there are two card slots, the UI and operation are really nice and the screen offers a crisp image. And even when using it as a stand-alone device, I got to like it more over time and really appreciate the organic, analogue yet detailed sound, and the DX80 does a really good job, offering a good value for its price.

What I'd personally really love to see is a DX90-successor with an analytical, rather digital sound, two card slots, an ultra-low output impedance, no hiss and no thumping sound when pressing the (virtual/physical) buttons.
Tiberiu
Tiberiu
Can this be used with and external DAP/Amp such as Chord Hugo?
HiFiChris
HiFiChris
@Tiberiu
 
Sure, the DX80 has got digital outputs (Coaxial and Toslink).
walkman666
walkman666
Yet another magazine article level professional review!  Thanks very much.  These reviews make it very easy to learn about the product and make a decision (I am a long time DX90 user, and am getting this one, too).  Beautifully formatted article, too!
Pros: Excellent sound, features, build, design, price to performance ratio
Cons: Firmware is still being improved / stabilized (at time of writing this review)
 
 
        dx80coverphoto.jpg
 
 
 
 
Often you will find Paul - iBasso participating on Head-fi forums, whether it be answering questions giving advice or reading threads the iBasso representative shows a solid attendance among the community. While this role certainly isn't for the faint-hearted Paul still manages to crack a joke now and then. Rewinding the clock back to 2013 we were greeted by iBasso's DX50 then not long after DX90, both players were well received despite some hiccups on earliest firmware. In July - 2015 iBasso announced DX50 and DX90 were being discontinued, although anyone who's been around a while knew these two successful audio players would need to be replaced.
 
With Head-fi being the heart of all things portable audio it wasn't long before some fresh pictures emerged of a new iBasso player. The unit supported a brand new design, larger 3.2” 480*800 IPS touch screen, dual micro SD card slots, dual Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chips. Going off only a few photos expectation and interest was immediately gathered among audio enthusiasts.
 
Its a fierce time for releasing audiophile players in portable audio, with the likes of Sony, Astell & Kern, FiiO, XDuoo, Cowon, Onkyo, Cayin, Caylx, Shanling, (plus many more) manufacturer's saturating the market currently, everyone wants their piece of the pie. With iBasso being in the game fairly early on I'm confident they have a solid fan-base which draw customers and fans alike back to their products.
 
 
iBasso website: http://www.ibasso.com/
 
Pricing: $359 USD (Purchasable on amazon, directly from iBasso website and selected dealers)
 
Specs: (Click to enlarge)
 
DX80specs.png
 
 
Features: (Click to enlarge)
 
dx80features.png
 
 
 
Packaging / Presentation:
 
DX80's packaging has been completely redesigned from their previous line up. The box is a little bigger 16cmL x 10cmW x 9cmH, iBasso's logo has taken on transformation which now resembles a triangle split into three portions (as shown below). There is an outer cardboard sleeve which has a nice texture and grain to the finish along with the word DX80 in sharp embedded text. On the side a sticker with your serial number is displayed, also specifications in many languages on the rear.
 
Once you remove the outer sleeve the box opens in a split fashion similar to revealing a treasure chest, care has been placed into the packaging with the lid having foam protection as padding, once again the DX80 logo embedded into an insert you release the player from. Overall, the packaging reminds me a little of origami, the folds, creases and cardboard texture has a certain feeling or character to it. The colors also blend subtly without being overly glaring or obvious.
 
dx80boxphoto.jpg
 
 
dx80boxlogophoto.jpg
 
 
dx80boxtextlogo.jpg
 
 
dx80boxopening.jpg
 
 
 
Design / Build:
 
Moving away from the original design of DX50 / DX90 the new iBasso takes on a more rectangle appearance, much of this is because of the larger (longer) 3.2” screen. With casing dimensions of 12cmL X 6cmW X 1.5cmH the unit is easier to hold one handed, the extra screen real-estate simpler to navigate. The front / back casing along with the front buttons are aluminum, the small side pieces thermal plastic, on top / bottom DX80's face-plates are again aluminum. You can feel the unit is 'cold' to the touch in most areas weighing in at 178grams.
 
Each corner of the casing has been rounded off to compliment the design, the unit somewhat resembles a capsule, pill or curved coffin. Along the right hand side areas like the volume buttons have been redesigned, they're larger easier to press now sitting flush with the casing. The power button in that same style along the left hand side.
 
dx80volumebuttons.jpg
 
 
dx80powerbutton.jpg
 
 
Three physical buttons on the front remain in resemblance of an iBasso trademark. At the top are your dual micro SD card slots protected by a press in grommet cover, the cover is attached by a piece of rubber which prevents it becoming lost or entirely away from the player. Next to the card slots is your coax out / optical out, the single 3.5mm entry supports both features in one. Finally, your micro USB port for charging, data transfer, OTG, and using DX80 as a DAC.
 
 
dx80frontbuttons.jpg
 
 
dx80topphoto.jpg
 
 
dx80cardslotopen.jpg
 
 
On the bottom we see a familiar layout, both 3.5mm headphone out (left) and line out jack (right). These new variety jacks were used on iBasso's DX90 series they're far more durable than the earlier jacks used on DX50 known to wear out over time. The new jacks provide a firm 'click' remaining tight after several months use. I can confirm this having used them on my DX90 for a long time.
 
 
dx80bottomphoto.jpg
 
 
 
Accessories:
 
Included in the packaging is:
 
  1. iBasso Quick Start Guide
  2. Warranty Card with individual serial number and date stamp (including warranty terms)
  3. x2 Screen Protectors. (one has been applied before the review)
  4. x1 Silicon Case
  5. X1 Micro USB Cable (for charging / data transfer / DAC use) (80cm)
  6. x1 Burn in Cable adapter (12cm)
  7. x1 Male Coax (RCA) to 3.5mm Mono short cable (17cm)
 
 
 
dx80acessoriees1.jpg
 
 
dx80accessories3.jpg
 
 
dx80acessories2.jpg
 
 
A few things come to mind with the included accessories, one being the burn in adapter. iBasso recommend a burn in / break in period of 50-100 hours for their DX80 player. This is simply accomplished by connecting the burn in adapter to the headphone out of DX80, setting the player on repeat with a moderate volume level. Whether you believe or not its an accessory provided for those who wish to use it. The adapter was previously included with both DX50 and DX90.
 
 
dx80aceesirores4.jpg
 
 
I must also add when the package arrives you're supplied two (2) screen protectors, but I do wish if iBasso had time they could apply one at the factory. With the likes of FiiO sending their players with screen protectors pre-installed it would be pleasant to see the gesture repeated here as well.
 
 
Firmware Stability:
 
Its been known the earlier iBasso players were a little buggy on official release, many people had problems which caused some upset, it was extremely important iBasso upped their game on their next audio players release and being mentioned on forums. What I will do is share my personal experience when I received DX80 on its first beta firmware: v1.0.0.
 
My Initial Experience:
 
The player arrived to me running firmware v1.0.0, I inserted my 32GB card (FAT 32 format), it scanned without an issue, within 5 minutes I was happily listening to music. The only thing I found personally was the player defaulted to high gain each start up which meant I needed to change it manually to low gain as I use a variety of low impedance IEMs. I was also aware receiving a pre-release firmware one card slot was only to be used at that time.
 
The Outlook on Firmware v.1.0.0:
 
As more people started receiving their DX80 units other bugs where discovered on firmware v1.0.0, some being their larger 128gb cards failing to scan, others finding some issues like the wrong song name displaying in shuffle mode. Overall, while the issues were present we were completely aware there was a new firmware coming within the week.
 
The Outlook 'at present' on Firmware 1.1.2:
 
Taking on-board what we mentioned iBasso were quick to react with that new firmware, the newer v1.1.2 which (at present of writing this) DX80 units are shipping with solved the issues with cards scanning and implementation of both card slots. v1.1.2 built-up DX80 to a degree the units are stabilized without any glaring or 'crippling' problems. While there's some teething problems still (at present) DX80 is more than usable right now in my experience. From here the firmware will only improve further as smaller concerns become ironed out and new features added.
 
(I'm going to return after each firmware to complete a small 'update' which will keep the review fresh. At least for the next 1 - 2 firmware versions as reference)
 
User Interface (UI):
 
DX80 interface consists of three (3) main screens.
 
Your “My Music” selection screen:
 
  1. Now Playing
  2. All Music
  3. Directory
  4. Artist
  5. Album
  6. Playlist
  7. Genre
 
 
 
dx80mymusicscreen.jpg
 
 
 
 
 
Your “Now Playing” Screen:
 
dx80nowplayingscreen.jpg
 
 
dx80batterypercentage.jpg
 
 
Shown is your album art, volume selection (0-150) an accurate battery read out in percentage, track duration, total track time, track name, album name, file format being played, which play order you have selected and an on-screen pause / forward / back button if you wish to use them.
 
 
Your “Settings” Screen:
 
dx80settingsscreen.jpg
 
 
  1. Equalizer (presets and custom 10 band adjustable sliders)
  2. L/R Balance (10 steps each direction)
  3. Gapless (on / off)
  4. Gain (low / high)
  5. Music Info (information including track name, sample rate, bit rate, genre etc)
  6. USB Settings (reader, DAC, charge only)
  7. Play Mode (order, loop, shuffle, repeat)
  8. Digital Filter (slow roll-off / fast roll-off)
  9. Advanced (languages, display, power management, re-scan library, system info, factory reset)
 
 
Music Information screen example:
 
dx80musicinfoscreen.jpg
 
 
 
Equalizer screen example:
 
dx80eqscreen.jpg
 
 
Navigation:
 
Navigating the capacitive touch screen has been simplified, you gently swipe the three main screens left / right to make your screen selection, the transition between screens is smooth for most parts doing what's requested. Areas like the back button are still present and must be 'tapped' when backing out of your track list and albums from the directory menus (owners of earlier DX50 and DX90 units will be familiar). The back button still remains located in the upper left corner however has been increased in size.
 
There are obvious improvements like larger album art in higher resolution which can be 'tapped' to show the track number and track total. Tapping the album art also allows you to select tracks for creating playlists then adding them to your selected playlist folder.
 
From my few weeks with the player getting around is easier than previous models, the fresh interface is smooth and fluent. I think with some fine tuning it will be even smoother however, the interface as a complete essence is rather functional right now even for those who wish to move at moderate hast.
 
There's also some nifty features allowing you to slide down a task bar from the top of the now playing screen. This menu allows quick selection of settings like gapless, micro USB selection, DAC filter, gain settings and play order. I'm sure over time this feature will only become more advanced as it allows a world of possibilities to be added in new firmware updates as the player matures.
 
dx80dropdownmenu.jpg
 
 
 
Battery Life:
 
 
dx80chargingicon.jpg
 
 
Supporting 3600mAh battery and using a 10V voltage swing headphone amp DX80 is able to output up to 260mW. The suggested run times are coming in around 12 hours per charge. For those who own(ed) DX90 they understand DX90 is quite power hungry, you will get a lot longer run times from the newer DX80. While a little more would be welcome I understand the limitations in battery technology and personally feel 12 hours is acceptable. The accurate battery percentage read out on-screen is an excellent addition. However one downside is DX80 seems to take a little longer to charge than iBasso's previous units. Using 2A wall charger taking me around 2 hours.
 
 
Sound Quality:
 
Gear Used:
 
  1. Tralucent 1Plus2
  2. Aurisonics ASG-2
  3. Etymotic ER4S
  4. Fidue A83
  5. Grado 325e
 
File format:
 
  1. 16/44 FLAC
 
 
Headphone Out:
 
For those familiar with the iBasso house sound we find similar aspects in DX80. The unit can sound 'fractionally' bright with high levels of resolution, also very 'clean' and vibrant at the same time. The clarity combined with this resolution gives high levels of detail retrieval in a sense of effortlessness or being unhindered. The unit can sound borderline musical to get your foot tapping yet still remain in that 'critical' listening zone. At higher volumes DX80 really knows how to lay on a show and throw out solid dynamics.
 
If I had to knit pick the presentation at times I find the sound a little overly vibrant depending on the IEM or headphone used. Fidue A83 with its already forward / vibrant mid-range can sound a little fatiguing after many hours because we've basically combined two forces of the same nature (vibrant). You pick up a solid sense of this resolution when listening to vocal tracks, you can hear the detail, refinement and clarity in a lead singers voice stand out. Very welcome, with the correct earphone.
 
Area's like the bass sound more extended and tighter than iBasso's previous models, while the impact also seems slightly increased. Instrument separation is more than competent with great coherency for this price range. Soundstage shows neat width and depth however I have heard slightly wider from some players in the past. Layering around the stage DX80 shows a strong presence, instruments don't sound jumbled and their imaging is well positioned around the stage.
 
Its no surprise DX80's sound quality was always going to impress, its price to performance ratio stands true to iBasso's performance as their previous players have shown already. For those who want an enthusiastic sound and lots of it combined with high detail levels you really need look no further than iBasso DX80.
 
Hiss Levels:
 
Using my low impedance IEMs ranging from 11ohm to 32ohm I don't detect any audible hiss from DX80's headphone out. I've listened for this and (personally) cannot hear any. Others have reported a small amount on the forums though nothing overly damaging or of major concern.
 
Power:
 
I've been able to drive all my IEMs in low-gain from DX80's headphone out. Hovering around 100 / 150 on the volume level I hardly need venture any further unless wanting a 'thrill'. The only IEM in my collection which needed high-gain was 100ohm Etymotic ER4S, while they sounded completely fine I could have used a little more power if I wanted them at levels I've heard from dedicated portable amps in the past (namely JDS Labs C421). Unfortunately, I don't have anything in my collection which can truly test DX80's internal amp section. For example, DT880 – 250ohm or HD600 – 300ohm.
 
DAC:
 
dx80dacmode.jpg
 
 
I went into the DAC section of this review without reading any comments. I've approached this just as a fresh user would on receiving their DX80. I turned DX80 on, went into settings, changed the USB mode to 'DAC' then plugged DX80 into my Windows 7 - 64bit laptop. On connection Windows started searching for a driver then promptly 'failed'. It was at this moment I seek guidance from Head-fi members...
 
After posting in the DX80 thread I was informed at present we're still waiting on an official driver to use DX80 in DAC mode with Windows but I think its important I shared my real life experience as a fresh user. I have no doubt iBasso will get this working although for now as this review was written that's where things stand. I've also read others have already had success using an alternative driver however myself will wait for the official version.
 
 
Optical Out
 
dx80opticalout.jpg
 
 
Getting the optical out working was simply a 'plug n play' experience. I connected my 3.5mm to 3.5 optical cable (picked up for a few dollars on eBay) from DX80 to my Tralucent DacAmp One. It immediately started playing music, no fuss, no hassle. The bonus of having optical out is a big deal for many situations giving the ability to feed portable dac/amps and even desktop DACs. Considering this feature wasn't present on either DX50 or DX90 its an excellent addition from iBasso.
 
 
Line Out:
 
 
dx80lineoutmode.jpg
 
 
The line out on DX80 is now a 'fixed' line out. What this means is you can no longer adjust the line out level using the volume buttons like previously on DX50 and DX90.. I'm not sure what their intention for changing it was though the only downside I see is not being able to use the DX80 line out as a pre-amp any longer and correcting a portable amp which may have channel imbalance at lower volume pot levels. Also, on firmware v1.1.2 while the line out is functional people have reported a glitch (or bug) where the music may drop out briefly at random for a spilt second. I have experienced this myself, maybe 1-2 times over a few songs. iBasso are aware of the bug and working on correcting the issue as I'm typing this.
 
Coax Out:
 
dx80coaxout.jpg
 
 
Using the provided cable I connected DX80 coax out to my Audio GD deskstop dac/amp. Again this was simply a plug n play affair, working no problems on the first try. You don't need to change any settings on the DX80 interface. I did pick up some slight interference when changing tracks occasionally like a brief buzzing noise however the coax out seems quite functional.
 
 
Quick comparison to iBasso DX90:
 
One question surfacing constantly is how DX80 compares to the older DX90. One would have you believe the numbering system iBasso went for leaves this to the imagination. To sum up in a few words I won't say either is better than the other but 'different' is an appropriate term to use.
 
DX90 still holds extremely high levels of detail but in doing so can sound a little digital or processed. On the other hand , DX80 loses this digital presence and takes on what I hear as more effortless or less processed nature. At the same time its actual levels of resolution come across as higher in the presentation and easier to hear or less forceful.
 
I feel what iBasso aimed for is a pretty steady shoot down the line, where you can't really call one 'better' but each show enough variation to make them unique within their own implementation. For me, owning both DX80 and DX90 they show enough difference that if the 'iBasso house sound' sits well you will simply need to own both players. There are a few things that stand out like DX80 bass being tighter and slightly more impact-full though I can't say one simply out performs the other.
 
 
Conclusion on Sound Outputs and Features:
 
What we have here as of 22/11/15 on firmware v1.1.2 is a unit which is obviously still progressing in firmware, while most features are functional and non crippling to users we see there are a few bugs and glitches need ironing out. I'm overly confident iBasso will have most of this sorted in the next firmware or two and will be updating the review accordingly.
 
However, don't let any of the above-mentioned sour your taste, words on screen make things appear more dramatic than what they actually are. DX80 right now on v1.1.2 is more than functional and enjoyable, reported by many owners other than myself, especially as a stand alone music player.
 
 
Overall Conclusion:
 
What iBasso have is a highly capable unit on the market, one which excels at sound quality and packs out the features. If there's one thing I'm confident in its that iBasso hang around and release firmware updates frequently, they're persistent to get the job done and make their products stable. You may have seen me mention in the review a few times “I'm confident iBasso will correct this” and that's because I've been there, been there on the DX50 release and owned DX90. Considering the sound quality DX80 puts out compared to some alternatives on the market currently I'm happy to show a little patience because several other brands offer house sounds where I don't want to be.
 
When you consider the build, design, packaging, touch screen, updated user interface and DX80's price point everything is heading in the correct direction to be a killer music player, and I'm extremely happy to be on that journey experiencing things as it happens. If you're happy to deal with a few early teething problems and want sound quality which truly excels at its price point I can highly recommend DX80 right now. If you're the type who wishes to wait a while I totally understand.
 
I'd like to thank iBasso and Paul for sending the sample and look forward to watching DX80 mature into the stunning unit its soon to be!
Dave965
Dave965
I currently have a DX90, and while I love the sound, I 'Loathe' the user interface. Would this be a good replacement/upgrade?
H20Fidelity
H20Fidelity
@Dave965 I consider DX80's new swiping interface an upgrade over previous iBassi players. Why don't you pop into the DX80 thread and ask some other members. Form yourself a greater picture or take a look on utube at some DX80 reviews to see it in action.. :)
NymPHONOmaniac
NymPHONOmaniac
Hi H20Fidelity, i'm thinking to find a way to buy this player (perhaps selling some of my gear) and was wondering if the sound signature is more warm and midcentric than the Dx90 that I own and love? Did it have more amping power too even if the DX90 is quite good at this? Thanks to help me on this, iDX80 is such a beautiful looking player!
Top