iBasso DX220 MAX

General Information

iBasso DX220 MAX DAP, a transportable answer to high quality sound reproduction

Specifications
DAC chip: Dual ES9028PRO
Body Material: Stainless Steel
OS: Android 8.1 & Mango OS
Output Ports: 4.4mm Line Out, 4.4mm Balanced, 3.5mm Phone, 3.5mm S/PDIF
Screen: IPS 5.0 inch 1080P Sharp full screen with On Cell capacitive touch panel
Corning glass on the tront screen and rear panel
Bit for Bit playback with support up to 32bit/384kHz
Support of Native DSD up to 512x
Support of QC3.0, PD2.0, & MTK PE Plus quick charge for digital section
XMOS USB receiver with Thesycon USB audio driver, making this an easy to use USB DAC
A Total of 5pcs of Femtosecond league oscillators, with 2 of them being Accusilicon ultra low phase noise Femtosecond oscillators
8-core CPU
Mini optical output and mini coaxial output
4GB LPDDR3
128G internal memory
5G WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0
Support SDXC and SDHC Micro SD cards
Three settings of gain control
Audio Formats Supported: MQA, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF and DXD
Support for M3U playlists
4400mAh 3.8V Li-Polymer battery for the digital section, and 4pcs 900mAh Li-polymer battery form the +/-8.4V battery pack for the analog section


Price: 1888 USD

Latest reviews

The Mighty MAX!
Pros: independent battery and charging system for analog and digital sections, desktop quality performance with high voltage output, solid build, large 5” display, 4GB RAM/128GB Storage, Parametric EQ with Mango v2 app, BT 5.0, fast charging, leather case.
Cons: higher price than original DX220, no hardware playback control buttons, 2 separate chargers.


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

Manufacturer website: iBasso.


Intro.

iBasso releases are always consistent but sometimes not as predictable. Three years ago, when DX200 was introduced, its new modular design was a step forward relative to their previous DAPs. Last year, DX220 release was focused more on sound refinement rather than drastic design changes. Fast forward to this year, and we have DX220 MAX. The first time I heard about this DX220 model with MAX suffix, a flashback of limited edition DX200 Ti crossed my mind since I thought iBasso was not due for a new flagship yet. But I was in for a BIG surprise, no pun intended.

Is this a limited edition? No, but it is a limited run of only 999 units. Is there an overlap with original DX220? Maybe some, considering the same CPU/GPU, DAC, and display. And that is where similarities end and you start to wonder why they didn’t just name it DX MAX? iBasso always puts sound performance ahead of other features. And they did take it to the MAX with an all new advanced design based on DX220 platform without a modular part. As a matter of fact, the changes were so drastic that “DX220” reference might even confuse some people.

So, let’s take a closer look at this new premium flagship DAP from iBasso, and find out what MAX brings to the DX-series family table! Keep in mind, it is a long read, but as usual, I partitioned everything into multiple sections to make navigation easier in case if you want to “fast forward”.

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Unboxing and Accessories.

Bigger DAP needs a bigger packaging, and indeed, MAX arrived in a bigger all black carboard box with another giftbox inside of it, stamped with iBasso logo on top. Under the cover with a foam to protect the screen, MAX was sitting securely in a foam cutout of the top tray with a velour lining.

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With that top tray out of the way, you will find a number of very useful accessories organized inside of velour drawstring bags. There was a short coax cable for digital SPDIF output, 2.5mm balanced burn-in cable along with iBasso own CA02 2.5mm to 4.4mm balanced adapter, 4.4mm balanced to 3.5mm SE one-way short LO cable, AC adapter (18V), quality usb-c cable, extra screen protectors, warranty card, and a quick start guide.

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iBasso recommends at least 200hrs of burn in time, and using a burn-in load cable is a lot more convenient and quieter since you don’t need to use the actual headphones. Due to 4.4mm balanced Line Out only, the included custom cable “converts” LO from BAL to SE by using GND pin and only L+/R+ side of the connector pins. The 4.4mm side of the cable even has a directional arrow to make sure you plug it in the right away.

A custom leather case was included as well. A decent quality leather case to enhance the grip of MAX, with a fully open top where the DAP slides in, a slot on the side for micro SD card, and an open bottom to provide the access to all the available ports.

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Design.

Starting with exterior dimensions, DX220 MAX has been supersized to 145mm x 83mm x 26mm with a weight of about 700g, the reason why iBasso now calls MAX transportable instead of portable. But why increase in size considering it is no longer even a modular design? I will go into more details in the next “under the hood” section of the review, but you have to keep in mind extra room required for 5 battery cells (for separate analog and digital circuits), all dedicated ports, big/tall audio-grade capacitors, custom volume pot, stainless-steel heat-dissipation chassis, and a big 5” 1080p display with 1080x1920 resolution.

The right side of the DAP features no controls, while the left side only has a spring-loaded micro SD card slot. While sides are bland and the top/bottom are covered in glass, the visual eye-candy of the MAX design comes through when you examine the front and the back of the chassis. With every individual port having a golden surrounding faceplate, the contrast with stainless-steel chassis makes it look premium. On the front, left to right, you have 4.4mm dedicate Line Out, 4.4mm balanced headphone output, 3.5mm single ended headphone output, and a large golden knob of a custom 4-wiper potentiometer to adjust the headphone output volume.

On the back, you have DC-in for 18V wall charger to juice up analog section batteries. Then, you have a power button with a typical short click screen on/off and long press power on/off functionality. Next to it is USB-C port for charging digital section battery and other digital in/out functionality, and btw, this port also had a cutout with a gold faceplate. And last, but not least, 3.5mm digital SPDIF output which doubles as optical out. For me personally, considering I have been using MAX as my desktop DAP, the location of ports is perfect with power supply cables on the back, and headphone ports and volume control on the front.

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I’m sure many will notice something is missing in the design, a traditional hardware transport buttons for play/pause/skip. I honestly don’t know why the decision was made not to include those buttons. Maybe because this is transportable rather than portable device? I don’t want to speculate about the reason, but I do miss this functionality, though you can use many Android media control Bluetooth remotes as a workaround.

Under the hood.

As part of its “DX220” name, MAX still uses a dual SABRE ES9028Pro DAC, the same 8-core CPU and GPU, and 4GB LPDDR3 RAM with a benchmark performance (according to AnTuTu test) being close to the original modular DX220. As already mentioned, you will also find 5” IPS touch screen, Bluetooth 5.0, 5G Wifi, XMOS USB receiver with Thesycon usb audio drivers, and support of QC3.0, PD2.0, & MTK PE Plus quick charge for digital section. The internal storage now is 128GB, and you can expand it with high capacity micro SD card. You still have a support for bit-for-bit playback up to 32bit/384kHz, and native DSD up to 512x, as well as all popular audio formats: APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF and DXD. MQA decoding is supported as well, and so does M3U playlists.

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The big change here is in power management where MAX digital and analog sections are partitioned, completely isolated, and powered separately to make sure the noise doesn’t couple from one side to the other. They literally use a separate 4400mAh 3.8V LiPo battery for a digital section of the MAX, and separate 4pcs 900mAh +/-8.4V LiPo battery for analog section of the DAP. That is a reason why you have 2 separate chargers, standard usb-c charger for digital 3.8V battery, and 18V wall charger for analog 8.4V battery. This way you don’t need to use voltage boosters or converters, further isolating digital and analog circuits inside the MAX.

This is especially important for analog Amplifier section of the design, powered by +/- 8.4V battery without loosing efficiency or introducing distortion due to voltage boosters, keeping the power pure. The amplifier section itself is based on AMP8 module with its optimized class A discrete circuit architecture. The headphone output from the amp is very powerful, single ended 3.5mm @4.4Vrms (measured 4.35Vrms with 300ohm load) and balanced 4.4mm @8.8Vrms (measured 8.7Vrms with 300ohm load). With the balanced output alone, this translates into roughly 2.4W of output into 32ohm load and 258mW into 300ohm load. With such high desktop level output power, it comes in handy for MAX to have 3 gain settings. And in addition to independent volume pot controlling analog amp output, you can also use digital volume control to adjust DAC output level like in a pre-amp.

I’m sure many will be curious about battery life considering advanced power architecture and high output power. I ran the battery test on MAX with DAC volume at 135 and Analog volume pot at around 9 o'clock (normal listening), using average impedance and sensitivity IEMs connected to 4.4mm balanced out, med gain, filter 1 setting, BT/WiFi off, screen mostly off, only the occasional glimpse to check the battery status while playing a mix of mp3/flac files in a loop. Under these conditions MAX lasted about 11hrs 45min with digital battery down to 0 and analog battery remaining around 20%. Switching to higher gain, playing higher resolution files, streaming and having BT/WiFi on, and using demanding headphones will add more variables to drain batteries faster.

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GUI.

DX220 MAX is similar to DX200/220 with a dual boot design where you have access to either full Android OS with its Mango audio app or stripped-down Mango OS with a main interface being that audio app. Each one has its own advantages depending on user requirements. With access to full Android you have support of wifi and Bluetooth, can load other apps, stream audio, etc, though you have to be aware that stock DX220 doesn't have Google Play. Instead, it comes pre-loaded with APKPure and CoolApk apps where you can search and download most of the apps to install on your DAP. And, with MAX running 8.1.0 now you can download and install Google Play straight from APKPure without any issues. Plus, you can always download and install Lurker's free ROM which usually brings Google Play and other optimizations, along with a few other goodies, to iBasso Android DAPs.

Since GUI section of the review is identical to DX220, please refer to a detailed description of it in my original DX220 review on Head-fi.

Sound Analysis.

I analyzed MAX sound with Odin and U18t IEMs while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. As recommended by manufacturer, I let MAX burn in for 200hrs using the provided balanced burn-in cable.

I prefer to describe the DAP sound based on the comparison to other DAPs and pair ups with different IEMs/headphones since the DAP by itself doesn’t have a “sound”. What we hear is how it sounds through IEMs/headphones connected to it or the difference from other sources using the same pair of IEMs/headphones for monitoring the sound. As a result, this section of the review usually summarizes what I find in the follow up Comparison and Pair-up sections.

Tunings of many flagship DAPs is usually focused on neutral less colored tonality, with MAX being no exception, but in many pair ups and comparisons this DAP stood out as being more natural and detailed without coloring the sound with additional warmth. Perhaps due to my preference of using BAL output with its higher voltage, I found bass response in many pair ups to be stronger, more articulate, and with better control. Mids/vocals always sounded natural and micro-detailed at the same time, of course, depending on technical performance and limitations of IEMs/headphones under test. But the mids always sounded layered and very dynamic. Treble was extended, detailed, and natural in majority of pair ups.

Overall sound is very layered and dynamic, the background is black, with details popping out from the darkness creating a fast transient response of note on/off. With some very sensitive IEMs you can hear a faint background waterfall hissing, though lowering DAC volume and changing the gain helped to lower this effect. But the star of the sound performance here was the soundstage expansion – being nearly 3D holographic. That was the first thing I noticed in every listening session of MAX, with the sound surrounding you in 3D space, putting right in the middle of it. And again, if your pair of IEMs has a narrow soundstage turning to begin with, don’t expect miracles, but otherwise, MAX pushes the soundstage width, depth, and height to the limit.

4.4mm vs 3.5mm

In the comparison of Balanced vs Single Ended headphone outputs, volume matched and using the same pair of IEMs/headphones and playing the same track, I hear a noticeable difference of soundstage being wider/more holographic from 4.4mm and background being blacker with an even faster transient response of notes on/off. Of course, there will be a difference in output power, but for the sake of this testing I volume matched the output to compare the sound performance.

Sound difference Mango app vs Mango OS

I went many times back and forth between Mango app under Android OS vs Mango OS, playing the same track at the same volume level and the same digital filter setting. And I hear a consistent difference where in Android OS playing Mango app the sound has a more holographic soundstage expansion and more transparent layered mids. In Mango OS under the same conditions, soundstage has a more intimate feeling, still wide but not on the same holographic level, and mids/vocals having more body and being smoother in tonality.

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Pair up.

The sound of a DAP is based on pair up synergy with different headphones. Afterall, you are hearing the sound of headphones connected to the Source. In this section of my review I will go over how various earphones and headphones pair up with DX220 MAX with DAC digital volume set at 150. Seems like DAC digital volume is very helpful with sensitive IEMs to adjust "pre-amp" volume to give wider dynamic range of volume adjustment, but with many demanding headphones the quality of sound was scaled down when DAC volume was below 135, so I preferred to keep it at 150. Also, I noted below if I was testing 4.4mm (BAL) or 3.5mm (SE) ports.

iBasso SR2 (SE) - This pair up works great in either high gain or med gain, the sound is very balanced, natural, detailed. Soundstage is wide, but I hear more depth/height than width and it could be partially due to me using SE instead of BAL outputs since SR2, unfortunately, only comes with SE cable. The bass is very textured, smooth, mids are natural, detailed, with a little bit of warmth, treble is crisp and natural.

Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd (BAL) - With these Beyer headphones pair up could be hit or miss when it comes to bass texture and retrieval of details. The overall sound is very balanced, also natural and detailed, but the bass is what shines here, going deeper with more textured rumble and having more control and articulation. Mids have a natural retrieval of details, not smooth or warm, also being layered, nicely separated, and focused. Treble is another indication of T5p2 being driven to its full potential since it doesn't sound too bright or harsh, instead, having a natural non-fatigue sparkle. Soundstage is very wide and expanded, but the depth/height of the soundstage has more intimacy, bringing you closer to the stage.

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x (SE) - These demanding 470 ohm open back headphones are usually hard to "satisfy" since they are very source picky. You have to push them hard, while here I didn't even have to turn analog volume dial more than half way. The sound is very open and spacious, natural, detailed, but with a noticeable improvement in bass response, going deeper, punching faster, being more articulate. Mids/vocals are natural and very detailed, again, being nicely layered with an excellent separation of instruments which I don't get in many pair ups with these cans. Treble is crisp, but in a natural way, not splashy or dull.

Meze Audio Empyrean (BAL) - With Empyrean the best pair up synergy is when MAX is in high gain and digital volume is at 150. There is plenty of power to drive these planar magnetic cans, and either way the sound is balanced and very detailed, you get a textured analog bass, natural detailed mids, and natural sparkly treble. But at higher gain with max DAC/digital volume the mids open up more, becoming less colored, even more detailed, being driven to their full potential.

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Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 (BAL) - First of all, the hissing is down to a minimum. Yes, there is some background waterfall level of noise when idling or at a very low volume, but nothing is audible when playing at a regular listening level. The soundstage is wide/deep, a very spacious sound. The signature is W-shaped, with a balanced emphasis on lows, mids, and treble, maybe with just a little more emphasis on mids, bringing them forward with extra focus. Bass is deep with a strong punch, mids are natural, detailed, revealing, treble has a little extra sparkle, especially lower treble which is a little brighter, but I didn't find it splashy or harsh. Due to high sensitivity of these IEMs, I had to lower DAC volume to 135 so I have a wider range of volume tuning.

Vision Ears Elysium (BAL) - To start off, this pair up has very wide soundstage expansion, plenty of depth/height as well, but more width. The tonality is natural, revealing with a deeper sub-bass rumble and faster mid-bass, natural organic layered mids with a more textured analog tonality, and crisp natural treble. Different pair ups can push Ely's treble to be a little harsher, but here it was very natural and still crisp and detailed. Great pair up. No hissing.

DUNU Luna (BAL) - This was a surprise because MAX really made Luna shine in this pair up. As expected, the soundstage is wide/deep on a holographic 3D level here. But the usual smoother warmer tonality in this pair up took a different turn, being more revealing, more micro-detailed, and overall sound being faster and more layered. Bass is fast and articulate, I do hear sub-bass rumble but it is a bit distant, instead mid-bass is the low-end star here. Mids are more revealing, layered, and micro-detailed, and treble is crisp and extended, but not harsh.

Empire Ears Odin (BAL) - The soundstage here is holographic, literally 3D. The sound is very spacious, transparent, balanced signature with a more reference brighter tonality. Very powerful deep bass impact with a textured rumble, mids are more revealing, layered, super micro-detailed, treble is crisp and natural, definitely no harsh peaks. Also, no hissing.

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iBasso IT04 (BAL) - I was actually surprised how holographic IT04 soundstage sounds in this pair up, it is usually wide, but here is was more 3D holographic. The signature is still quite balanced, but the tonality went from the usual neutral to more energetic with deeper sub-bass rumble, more forward detailed mids/vocals, and crisp airy and still non-harsh treble. No hissing at all.

Empire Ears Legend X (BAL) - Another example of holographic soundstage expansion, nearly on 3D level. The signature in this pair up is L-shaped with a very deep and textured elevated sub-bass and fast lifted mid-bass punch. The bass is still well controlled, but its quantity does push mids/vocals into the background. Those are still clear and detailed, and treble is crisp and airy. But the analog bass slam of LX DD cannons is clearly a spotlight here due to their overwhelming quantity.

64 Audio U18t (BAL) - A holographic 3D soundstage is the first thing you notice in this pair up, expanding wide and deep without sounding artificial. The sound signature here is more balanced since the bass quantity comes up, with a deeper sub-bass textured rumble and punchy fast mid-bass. Mids are forward, layered, very detailed, not analytical, but approaching micro-detailed level. Treble is crisp and airy, maybe even a bit too crisp, non-fatigue but a little brighter than usual. No hissing.

Venture Electronics Sun DICE (BAL) - These 180ohm earbuds are always a good indicator if I'm dealing with a powerful enough source to drive them to their full potential. VE Sun in this pair up sounds very natural and open, with a wide soundstage, though I find more depth/height than width in this pair up. Bass has a soft analog texture, more laidback and less aggressive, but still with a noticeable presence. Mids/vocals are natural, detailed, very organic and with plenty of clarity. Treble also has plenty of clarity and still very natural.

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Comparison.

In this test, I was using Meze Audio Empyrean, EE Odin, and Campfire Solaris ’20. Each of these DAPs, besides a difference in tonality and pair up synergy, has their own Pros/Cons when it comes to features, all of which should be taken into consideration depending on your priorities if you need streaming or not, which balanced termination you prefer, how much output power do you need, your battery requirements, etc.

MAX vs Hiby R8 - In order to match the performance for comparison, I switched R8 to turbo mode boosting its amplifier voltage. In this comparison the first thing that stands out is how holographic MAX soundstage is. R8 has a wide/deep soundstage as well, but MAX is still the widest. Bass response is very similar, again, once the turbo mode of R8 is enabled. Mids tonality is very similar as well, though MAX has just a touch fuller body while R8 is a little more transparent and slightly more revealing. Treble is similar. Another difference here, besides soundstage, is in vertical sound dynamics where MAX is a little more expanded in comparison to R8. Also, with sensitive IEMs, like Solaris, R8 has a higher level of hissing, while MAX is quieter, though switching to lower gain improves it. Another thing, R8 has a dedicated playback control buttons, faster processor, and overall faster OS. So, while these two are very close in sound tonality, MAX has advantage in technical sound performance, while R8 has the advantage in OS performance.

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MAX vs A&K SP2000 SS - Soundstage is always the first thing I take a notice of, and here SP2k comes closer in width, but MAX is still a touch wider and has more out of your head expansion, creating a more 3D holographic space. Tonality is close as well, though I still hear it a bit smoother MAX mids in comparison to a little brighter SP2k mids/vocals. Treble response similar as well. And, they both have very good vertical sound dynamics. Even the level of background hissing is down to minimum with sensitive IEMs. But the difference shows up when you start comparing these using more demanding headphones. For example, with Empyrean MAX had an advantage of a better pair up with better sound control and more natural tonality. Overall, both have a similar interface speed, though you have to keep in mind that MAX is open Android while SP2k will require sideloading of apps.

MAX vs Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT - Again, soundstage of MAX is more holographic and it is more noticeable in this comparison, though I have no complaints about LPGT soundstage, MAX pushes it a little wider and deeper. Tonality is not too far off either, though in some pair ups MAX mids/vocals were a little bit smoother in comparison to more reference quality LPGT mids. Both handle IEMs in a very similar way, but with more demanding headphones MAX sound was a little more open and expanded in comparison to LPGT. It will vary from pair up to pair up, but I think Class A higher voltage output of MAX has a little better synergy with harder to drive headphones. In general, LPGT is not android, thus don't expect running streaming apps like in MAX, but that also makes LPGT a faster and more responsive DAP. Both have a relatively quiet background with minimum hissing with sensitive IEMs.

MAX vs Sony WM1Z - This comparison will have more differences. Starting with a soundstage, MAX is more holographic due to a wider L/R spread. Both have a similar depth/height, but MAX spreads a little wider. Tonality of WM1Z is warmer, smoother in a relative comparison to a more revealing and transparent MAX. But that is just a relative comparison. Also, WM1Z bass is more elevated, and slams harder. Treble sounded the same to my ears, maybe with WM1Z having a bit more sparkle. Also, have to keep in mind WM1Z is audio playback only device, no support of apps or streaming.

MAX vs iBasso DX220 w/amp8 - As expected, MAX holographic soundstage expands wider/deeper/taller in comparison to DX220. The tonality of DX220 w/amp8 and MAX has a lot of similarities, though I would say that MAX treble response is a little bit smoother and more natural in comparison to DX220, especially with more demanding headphones and IEMs w/EST drivers. Also, I hear MAX to have a better layering and separation and a more dynamic sound in comparison to DX220 with stock amp8. You can also hear a blacker and quieter background in MAX when compared to DX220 w/amp8. Other than that, these have nearly identical interface, though DX220 has hw buttons to control playback and modular design to interchange amp modules.

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Other Wired/Wireless connections.

In this section of the review I will go over various wired and wireless connections I tested and verified with DX220 MAX.

Optical out
  • By default, it’s turned off, thus needs to be enabled in MAX.
  • In my testing I had optical out going to Micro iDSD BL, volume on DX220 MAX seems to be fixed.
  • The sound is very clean and transparent, though the soundstage from Micro iDSD is not as wide as from MAX directly, plus the sound loses some of its analog texture.
Coax out
  • By default, it gets activated automatically.
  • Also used it connected to micro iDSD BL and found volume to be fixed on DX220.
  • The sound is a little smoother, less resolving in comparison to Optical output, still not as wide as being directly from MAX. In this pair up, the sound gains more of its analog texture, but loses resolution and some of the detail retrieval.
Digital usb-c out
  • By default, it works automatically.
  • Need to use OTG USB-C adapter.
  • In comparison to SPDIF (both optical and coax), in this pair up using MAX as a transport to drive Micro iDSD the sound was more revealing, more layered, more detailed, and even wider in soundstage. I still prefer the output directly from MAX, but this demonstrates versatility of MAX as a transport, and I personally preferred Digital out connection.
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Line Out
  • I was using Romi Audio BX2 portable amplifier in this testing.
  • BX2 is a very linear transparent amplifier and while having headphones connected directly to MAX vs through LO + BX2, I hear that MAX internal amplifier adds a little bit of warmth to the mids, giving them a little more analog texture versus the direct DAC output from LO.
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USB DAC
  • Need to have iBasso USB DAC drivers installed.
  • Turn the USB DAC on from Mango App (Settings->Advanced->USB DAC).
  • Recognized by my Win10 laptop without a problem.
  • Playing the same file from my laptop to MAX as DAC vs directly from MAX sounded nearly identical.
Bluetooth Wireless
  • To test Bluetooth, I paired DX220 MAX with iBasso CF01 TWS wireless adapter. The sound was on the same level as connected wireless to DX160, working within 25ft from the DAP. With my Galaxy S9 phone I can go for 45ft, but the sound quality was similar.
  • Bluetooth mode supports both Tx and Rx, so you can use MAX just like DX160/220 as wireless DAC/amp paired up with your smartphone.
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Conclusion.

With this latest DAP release, iBasso continues to demonstrate that sound performance is still their #1 priority. And while some could argue it is a gamble to have yet another flagship with the same DAC/CPU/GPU as previous models, we continue to see a steady sound performance improvement from DX200 to 220 and now MAX. Here, iBasso took their design to the next level, even removing modular amp feature to accommodate new power architecture with a more advanced partitioning of analog and digital sections of the circuit, separate batteries with independent charging, and pure high voltage output to scale up audio performance to a desktop level.

Despite a common model reference name, DX220 and DX220 MAX are quite different and will appeal to different groups of audiophiles, depending on how they are planning to use this DAP and what they are willing to compromise. If you want to go portable and modular, you can get the original DX220 and its collection of AMP modules. But if you don’t mind transportable form factor to step up in audio performance, especially with more demanding headphones, MAX is one serious consideration on the level of other popular flagship DAPs that cost a lot more. And as usual, my imagination already running wild, thinking about what DX3xy could bring to the table.
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Dx220Max! The possibly best of Dx220 portable player
Pros: Price to performances excellent, Build quality, 5 batteries, discrete amplification with hand matched transistors super class A, dual desktop ES9028Pro
Cons: Chunky, heavy, 2 chargers
Dx220Max



With the name, we can all easily figured out by now that the player is based upon Dx220 platform and Maxed out in design. Giving it time for burning in about 200 hours or so together with the experiences in Dx220, and modifying the player itself, I could almost tell exactly how the player behaves and what great the community that support it can be. Please bare with me on my journey and impressions along the way
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Sound impression: the Max coming out of the box is oozing out oceans of details, extensions, Fidelity, separations, soundstage like nothing else out of the box when new. This moment, it makes me realize that the player is worth more than the asking price, since it sounds much better than both of the most expensive players I have recently purchased and gone by, the Sony WM1Z and A&K SP2000 Black Onyx.

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Analyzing: to further understand the player without tempering with it, I quickly compared it to my very well used DX220EX (it is modified with EX applications) and Amp8EX (the well known official limited module). I found that the separations, imagines, articulations of bass, details and extensions of highs are all there but better presenting. Most specially is mainly the soundstage and imagines. This is surprising! Since the EX applications on the main 220 player already brought in so much soundstage , details and layering. Then the Amp8EX helps bringing out the timbres balances that is so good out of the Dx220 player. The only thing that may be slightly behind is the timbres balances on the MAX. At this point, I realized so much that the MAX was tuned to have the Ibasso house sound. The typical references, neutral and aimed toward stereos imagines, sound-stages with the sound signature that is almost A&K style but with a touch more timbres density. It quickly reminded me the Dx220 and it very own stock Amp1 MKII, but with improvements!!! These improvements are the dynamic, the slams, the density and power delivery from the Amp8 stocks !! But with better bass coherence and balanced similar to Amp1 MKII!! Analyzing no further, I am pretty sure that whoever has been in loved with the Dx220 and Amp8EX or Amp8, they would be over the moon excited when listening to MAX.

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Next up was some quick comparison to WM1Z, and the verdict was that the wm1Z has a more organic ambient as it may be a little warmer and with denser tonal body, but it is lacking behind in almost everything else, including soundstage width/depth/vertical. The imagines and separations are all much better presenting on the MAX. Then a comparison on the notes and memories, the SP2K has possibly similar or close soundstage presentations to the Max, but the timbres balances and it density is more into being thinner and more hollow than Max with the focused upon the textures fidelity instead of inner fidelity. Then when talking about texture fidelity, the MAX is about as good as the SP2K if not smoother and more vivid.

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Practicality and functionality: It sound performances is great and right out of the box it already prove to be Twice of it asking price when quickly compared to the WM1Z and AK SP2000 Black Onyx, and both of these players are from the very revered companies on the portable and headphones audiophile list. Then, how about the functionality ? Just like the 220, Max comes with dual Operating systems, and that has Ibasso Dedicated OS, the MangoOS, with the main OS being the open AndroidOS 8.1.0. The AndroidOS is completely open and come with APKPure, File Managements, the 2 main apps that would be enough for anyone to browse around local files and have an APK store to shop for free apps. Most noticeable is the legit google-playstore that can be found and installed from this APK Pure. Just like any other players, if you have the experiences using Ibasso, then it should be very similar, or else, you may need sometimes to adjust.



So, how about the functionality ? Max comes with only 1 button, the power button, and no other buttons. This is to turn it on, wake the screen up, and or putting the screen to sleep. All other buttons have to be touch screen controlled. It also comes with a golden volume knob, and this is because the MAX have the ability to control the output volumes with 2 accessible ways, the Knob, and or the OS volume that is called “DAC Volume”



It also comes with 2 batteries bars......right! It is jaw dropping, and so at this moment, I recommend you to download this User Manual from Ibasso and read it through a little bit. But long story short, that is because Max is like a 2 units in 1 chassis and 1 Operation Systems. Now, we are back to the volume! Then that means the Volume knob is simply analog Amplifier volume, and the DAC volume is the Digital attenuations of the converter chips, the desktop class ES9028Pro dual. It also comes with 2 means to charge the player, the DAC section and the Amp section. You have to charge both of it, because if the DAC batteries runs out, the player shutdown, and if amp batteries runs out, the player will play no music.

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You may then ask, if so what is the best volume to be used with the MAX from the DAC side ? Well, luckily for us, Ibasso is just as enthusiastic as we are, and clearly stated in the manual that they recommend 130-150 setting. I found that the performances of this one is also firmware related. So, it is best to stick with what sounded the best to your ears



The next question that may pop up is the gain feature, what is the best gain functionality ? Well, it is there so that we can pair and match up with the gears we want, and so it should be unique users related scenarios. I would advise anyone to ask up in the forum if they have doubt about their gears and the gain performances as someone else may have a better hint sign for similar combination, or you can put it simpler, if you do not hear the differences, then it wouldn’t matter ! Anyways, for my own usage and HD800S, I found that Max is best performing with Low gain. The differences is observable enough to tell right away that soundstage in all axis and tonal balances are better with low gain, where the mid and high gain respectively narrowing the soundstage in all axis together with vocal stepping more forward. I may as well say it out loud for what it is “your preferences matters”. So, then again, please go with what you love the most



The final question would be how good is the Max for daily usages and carrying around ? Well, the answer is a little of a mix bag with the favor toward the pocket carrying. How ? That is because Max can easily be slipped into your pockets, but it would appear very chunky and funny. It would also weight the weight of a brick of around 700Gr, so it may swing into your sensitive places if you attempt to run or jogging with it in the pocket. But it has no problem staying inside a jean pocket and casually waking around the blocks. The only bad thing is that you will have to pull it out to control the FF, RW, Play/Pause as it is screen operation only. The ideal way is to have it hang around your shoulder with a shoulder strap and a good looking case ? The next solution also requires pulling it out to navigate, and that is to put it inside a sling bag or backpack. Anyhow, it is very possible to be your daily portable player that can be with you wherever you go with whatever you do.

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Last and not least, has the Max battery been improved given it chunky build and more batteries inside VS Dx220 ? Definitely! It can now go upto 8-10 hours continuously depends on the track quality, and if you run out of juices, both units can be quick charged and Fast charged....etc....whatever quick charge adapter you have right there would be able to juice it up very quickly.

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Modder point of view: From my own experiences of tuning and playing with dx220. It is fair to say that I am pretty familiar with the way the platform behave. The Max impressed me so much that I quickly concluded that it is easily the best player right out of the box when compared to other players at Twice the pricing. But this wasn’t enough, because Max has 5 batteries and 2 different volumes, and so that call for a battle VS my DMP-Z1. Now, don’t laugh yet, and or don’t drop your jaws yet!! The DMP-Z1 is Of course 4.5X the price of MAX. Or you can buy Max for yourself, your siblings and possibly friends instead of DMP-Z1. But how does it measure up ?


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Well, to keep a long story short again, the DMP-Z1 is superior in many departments, but is it so much as day and night apart that you would toss Max to the trash bin and happily grab the DMP and call it a day if you have both units at your expenses ? The answer is “not exactly!” The Max is more of a pocketable and portable unit, in comparison to a desktop and backpack domain unit DMP-Z1. Together with the performances that easily Rival the other high end players, it is fool proof that Max is the player that can easily satisfy your desire to bring performances/quality music that is not so far behind the DMP-Z1 to drive your headphones (in my case, the 800s) and be enjoying music with it. A compliment ? For sure.


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So, what exactly is a little behind the DMP Z1 ? The repeatedly soundstage, separations, layering, imagines....what else ? Well....it is sad to break it out to the light , but in my opinions and experiences, pitch accuracy and timbres balances/accuracy are the aspects that summit ends and top of the whatever mountains or expenses should be able to squeeze out. It should no longer be contained in 3 spectrums of low, mid, high or detail retrieval or just the repeatable mentioned above. So, after carefully analyzing the 2 units, it is safe to say that Max is a little boring as the timbres appears to be more hollow than DMP Z1, and that tips the scales of realism in pitch accuracy and timbre balances from it own performances. But could it be improved ? From my own experiences through all of the amp modules, the dx200/200Ti/220, the answer is yes! But what exactly going on inside to decide which is the best way to go ?

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Hardware analyzing: well, the Max isn’t an easy to deal with design, and so to open it up is pretty tough job. But it couldn’t stop anyone who is curious enough and believe that they can further upgrade the unit. After all, if it isn’t possible, then slab it back and leave it as is :wink:.



The overall build: Max is exactly as the name implied, Dx220 main unit, and Maxed out at the Amplification design, power distributions and power management with maxed out features. That is why it come with true line out balanced or single ended both from 4.4mm line out socket, the balanced phone out 4.4mm and the single ended out 3.5mm.



The closer look to Main board Dx220. This is the stock unit of the main board that can be found in your Dx220 without any upgrades or modifications (this opens up the window to apply EX modification packages toward it). Is it safe to say that your Dx220 is still pretty safe and sound in the threat of Max ? For sure !! So what exactly is the improvements that quickly show case itself to be outperforming the current top of the line players out of the boxes ? The Amp unit and the power distributions



The AmpMax: The amp unit is based on the discrete Amp8 super class A with many upgrades, the Panasonic HD, Nichicon Fine Gold, and Toshin Kogyo electrolytic capacitors that can be found in Amp8, the AVX tantalum capacitors are now upgraded around the analog signal paths, and the capacitors around the buffers for the main phones out are also upgraded into PML film capacitors with Nichicon fine gold. This AmpMax also come with additional circuitry to accommodate the line out as well. Attached to it is the daughter boards that charges and distributes power toward itself from the 4 dedicated batteries packs that takes care of positive rail and negative rail dedicatedly and separately



That explained all the improved performances from the max as a device.



So, is it possible to bring Max toward and gravitate it toward a better performances that could easily be sitting on the top of the hill ? To bring the realism, the excitement and musicality out of it ? The Short answer is definitely! Just so long as you love tinkering around, and a DIY enthusiast. You can also check out my DIY article and figure out what you would love to have done to your MAX and cater it toward your own experiences and preferences. I call this modification as an MaxEX, and with this modification, the MAXEX can now truly be a perfect compliment toward the DMP-Z1 in both the practicality and sound performances (mind you, the gap is still there, but only a little narrower between them both. However, the max can now be said to be sitting on one of those top of the hill where pitch accuracy and timbres balances are more realistic and vivid). In the end, with MaxEX, I was able to improve the timbre balances, and giving it a little more musicality (tube like timbres).


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What good is hardware modifications without firmware modifications too ? You can also find that Lurker firmware are an easy, and free modified solution for it as well, and if you want to pay in for another firmware modification, you can always check out Fidelizer



My conclusion on the MAX ? It is a fool proof for anyone who love full-size headphones. Given the MSRP, it can be 2X the values and some more. Then further more, it has the possibilities with modified firmware and hardware to further enhance your own journey along the way. Max is a good buy and good investment. Then back to my own question, would I toss Max aside and keep only DMP Z1 ? Nope, with all of this, I would kindly want to have both, please!



Disclaimer: My own experiences, and preferences are different than your. Please take my impressions as a fun and entertaining point of view that may be helpful to you at some points. The best way to judge a device is by listening to it yourself. Whatever you decide, please remember to enjoy your music. Also, the Max is 999 units limited worldwide.




PS: Max also have an improved and upgraded WiFi antennas, and it locations as well. The receptions are improved over the regular Dx220
Last edited:
SLMStyles
SLMStyles
Great review! Thanks
Maxxive Attack
Pros: Beautifully tuned sound, solid And gorgeous build,
Cons: No physical buttons
IBasso DX220 Max Unveiling & Impressions

iBasso DX220 Max - excellent with headphones or IEMs.


iBasso DX220 Max:
Some pretty photos to kick things off.
I have gone old school approach on this ‘review’ by doing an on going stream of consciousness piece as time went by.

Impressions by Head-fier modder extraordinaire Whitigir added /6/14
https://www.headpie.net/2020/06/ibasso-dx220-max-whitigir-head-fier-and.html?m=1

Wifi tests added:
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/iba...nd-reproduction.911378/page-126#post-15706269

So far so brilliant. I had a wonderful listening experience earlier on and can’t wait to a/b it with the DX220 to make sure my ears were not tricking me.

I will spare you the audio word salad...for now. (Added).




Earlier news and information here:
https://www.headpie.net/2020/04/today-fujiya-avic-japan-held-online.html?m=1

iBasso DX220 Max manual:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nCDscIYfnpuZ7tZc6nBJsUjkp8CNOKE0/view
- it is very detailed and comprehensive.



‘ The DX220 Max is a transportable solution to your audio needs. It offers extremely high performance to enhance what you enjoy so much, music! It is powerful, very transparent and engineered to work with most any listening device.

A great partner with the DX220 .

1. The frame is stainless.
2. Dual ES9028pro chips are used with extremely high quality components surrounding them.
3. A battery for the DAC and CPU, the rest (4pcs) of the batteries form a high voltage battery pack for analog stage.
4. Analog volume control.

-iBasso’


Three little baggies. What secrets do they hold?





A beautiful case



A bevy of cables for - USB-C to USB-A cable for charging/data transfer/Max as external storage/connect to an OTG storage device/USB dac with a computer, line out, burn in cable, 2.5mm to 4.4mm adapter and a coaxial cable (the same port can be used with a mini optical cable).



The USB C is for the digital section and the other 4 batteries are for the amplifier. They both have to be charged. They are totally different sections, isolated for improved sound. Paul - iBasso’

Analog section charger.



Plugs are region based - so do buy from
an official distributor to be sure and also for after sales service.



<<<plus are region based. (Terrible semi photo shop job) :)

More detailed photos of the Charger near the end of the article >>>. Scroll down.









DX220Max. 144 x 84 x 27 mm
or 5.7 x 3.3 x 1 inch.

Weight 700g or 1.5 pounds.

(Basically two diet coke cans in weight).














Size comparison with the DX220 vs DX220 Max












User interface

A familiar user interface to those who have an iBasso dap. But still interesting to note the similarities and also to show for those new to iBasso daps.

















Scanning is speedy.











Gorgeous screen



APKPure and CoolApk for downloading all your application needs.



UI video

Settings etc



DAC volume slider. Thats something new.
Recommend setting is between 132-150 for best results.















Wifi is set to off below.
With my experience of the Max (and other iBasso daps) it is better to use 5GHz wifi rather than 2.5GHz - it is faster on this system.



Wifi 5GHz


Wifi 2Ghz




Drop down menu







Additional insertion
Bluetooth Codec settings under Developer mode:



APKPure and CoolApk for all your application downloading needs.





Gorgeous screen of sweet delights.









The DX220 Max does not come with front screen protector installed.
Be careful as there is one already applied on the back.
There are two supplied though - as below.




Some dap boudoir shots









Sound

This will be updated - so please scroll down for more recent impressions.


Initial impressions - Thursday June 4th.

Very early, so please wait for more in depth analysis after more listening sessions.


Quick (early) sound impressions.

iBasso DX220 Max

(no a/b comparison to DX220 yet).

DX220 Max low gain/ brick wall filter. Android side.
Campfire Audio Anrdromeda (V3- 2019).
Stock cable, final audio tips. 3.5mm Single ended.

Beck - ‘Sea Changes’
Nice tonality. Excellent imaging. Spacious sound stage (ie it does not choke the Andromeda potential and allows for it).
Medium gain adds a little more something something into the mids.
I am not a ‘hiss meister’ but so far so good - Perhaps a tad on the Andros.

Playing from a Micro SD Card, now thinking i should have loaded up to the internal memory - just to be safe...

Billie Eilish - ‘Dont smile at me ep’.
Campfire Audio Ara.

It is quite a reference player. Not dry as DX200 with amp1, nor as full bodied edging on dark at times as Amp 8, maybe, perhaps a mix of Amp1mk2 and Amp8ex.

Hiss seems to dissipate after a few songs. Maybe the amp set needs a warm up. Certainly i have not ‘broken in’ the dap within only 24 hours. The DX220 Max has less than 5 hours on it. For some reason i neglected to leave it playing over night.
I found the DX220 to benefit from getting a good number of hours on it.

Back to the CA Ara. Quite a good match for this dap. A reference earphone, with a wide soundstage, lots of air and separation,exquisite details.

Swapping cables from
3.5mm to 4.4mm balanced stock cable.

Noticeably louder (of course). A bit more smooth and coherent. Vocals more sweeter and treble more extended.

Playing with the DAC volume. I will have to check the manual.

It seems to more IEM friendly with the DAC volume turned down. But i can not say for sure at this point.

CA Solaris 2020
Not such a sensitive set of IEMs. Dap is quieter.

shuffle time:

OK. focussing back on the dap as i have a nice reference point with the IEMs.

The music - does it sound as it should? Yes, to my ears.

Looking for any shortcomings sound wise.
- I can note a few points in bass control, treble reach and coherency that will smooth out after 24-50 hours. Probably the DX220Max would require 100 hours to reach a marked satisfying delivery and 200-250 to reach peak performance.

Don’t get me wrong is it very good out of the box. And i am being hyper analytical here. But within time it will be great and then excellent. The same journey as the DX220.

But putting time frames aside. Out of the box it is pretty damn good.
Smooth but not dull, detailed yet not dry, Sabre without the glare (which most developers cleared up two - three years back anyway), warm but not muddy, air without losing body, treble extended without sibilance...and so on...

Ok.
A quick DX220 Max versus a well used DX200 with stock amp1mk2.
(Amp 8 and amp8ex to follow in due course).

Very similar beasts in tonality and resolution.
I can detect a bit more control on the DX220 Max.

ok i am going to get some more hours on this and get back to you all over t he weekend with something more solid- once i clock up more hours.

*please excuse my messy first impressions response.



I will leave you with an earlier quote:


“Paul from iBasso on Head-fi forums:

“I want to clear up any misconceptions. The DX220 Max is not a replacement for the DX220. The DX220 is a transportable DAC/AMP with a very fine screen. It is larger and heavier than the DX220 so serves a different purpose but like all our products it is being produced to enhance your enjoyment of music.”


Updated:


Saturday June 6th. (Morning)

Around 50 hours (early days).

I noticed that treble had started opening opening up more.

In consequence the lows seemed a bit diminished in comparison. No warmth, linear to high focussed.

I did recall that the iBasso DX220 needed a decent amount of hours on it.

(Evening).

The DX220 Max seems to have settled in a bit more after a good days burn in.

Sunday June 7th. (Morning).

Approximately 70-75 hours or so.

The treble has either settled, or more likely that the treble now has more control, the mids have matured a bit more as well as some of the low end.

A similar sound to out of the box but with better tonality and body (getting there).
Extremely resolving and excellent imaging.

Still a little ways to go to optimum performance. I will listen some more over a morning coffee then back to burn in with the supplied cable.

Looking forward to the 100 - 150 hours mark.


More impressions to come!


Tuesday (Morning) June 9th, 2020.

Well color me surprised (well not really based on my past experience of other iBasso daps).

Out of the box, sufficient and impressive - but i knew more was to come, later opened up a wee bit, then the treble, then evened out a bit more...

Now at 100 - 120 hours roughly of listening and using the supplied burn in cable via the 4.4mm port it has reached a more mature and refined stage. Enough to huck it into a shoulder bag and commute to work.

The slight floor noise at the beginning with highly sensitive IEMs has lessened to next to nothing

There is more an encompassing sound, the IEMs i am demoing with today Campfire Audio Ara, Solaris 2020, Andromeda V3 (2019) and Andromeda MW10 are performing well with no apparent restrictions which might happen with a lesser dap due to power, low quality inner electronics or lack of coherent delivery.

By the way with the Ara and the MW10 i am using the balanced port 4.4mm which might be a bit powerful for many IEMs but yesterday i commuted with the DX220/Amp8EX...so..(too lazy to change the cables)...but its a good hiss check.

Listening to Becks ‘Sea Change’ album which is well recorded and has a pleasant tonality and enough variation.

The single ended port itself is quite magnificent which is the case for a few totl daps. But this is not an either or as in some daps. Both the single ended and 4.4mm are excellent.

The 4.4mm has an output of 8.8VRMS which is pretty hefty for IEMs, especially sensitive ones.
The single ended port at 4.4VRMS Might be a better choice for some easier to drive multi BA earphones - but one will no doubt experiment to find the right match and synergy.

Why no headphones tested today? I have tried it a good 50 hours back with the Campfire Audio Cascade, iBasso SR1, ATH-ESW11 (yep still got them) and ATH-A900 but today the temperature is reaching 30 and summer has not even hit properly yet - and i am trying to build up some heat endurance...so no air conditioning.

Plus i wanted to get more hours on the DX220 Max before hand. Maybe one evening this week when its cool will be headphone redux v2.

With IEMs the volume pot/wheel on low gain (dac volume at 141) goes up more than enough to wreck your ears - plenty of room to move. I have it at 11:00 on low gain with the Solaris 2020.

Clear, precise, a beautiful low end has come into play, the mids are maturing, treble seems to have found it place in the scheme of things and settled down.

Sound stage is largely up to the IEMs - but i sense no diminishing of their utmost ability.

Imaging is precise, tonality will mature with a few more hours, nearly there.

More to come soon...!


Wednesday June 10th, 2020.

I took the DX220 Max on a tour of Tokyo. I took the Andromeda MW10 and also Campfire Audio Ara with me.

This was less and exercise in sound changes but more as a Transportable versus portable experiment.
I mainly carrier it in my front jeans pocket, heavier of course than the DX220, but manageable. Although a shoulder bag, or backpack would be more fitting. Nevertheless i managed without much discomfort to negotiate my way across Tokyo and back home again.

I suspect the coming Japan summer will render such daring experiments void and the preferable place at that stage would be within a bag. The DX220 Max is about two diet coke cans in weight.

Sound - dunno.



Friday June 18th, 2020. mid afternoon.

From Tuesday to now the hours have increased from 100 - 120 to around 165- -185 hours of listening and burn in.

I am quite curious to get started and see where we are at.

Here we go...

Circling back around to the initial test set up


DX220 Max low gain/ brick wall filter. Android side.
Campfire Audio Andromeda (V3- 2019).
Stock cable, final audio tips ( i prefer Spiral dot ++ for my wider CA nozzle but i am using the Final Audio tips so others can replicate my findings, or not...), 3.5mm Single ended.

Beck - ‘Sea Changes’.

The DX220
max seems to have settled down nicely.
It seems like from memory (i am trying to avoid my notes) that the DX220 Max started off quite nicely and competently... but just was not ‘there’ yet.

From a reasonably enjoyable flat with resolving nature at the start, to an increase in the treble, which was slightly alarming at first to the mids coming into play and finally the bass coming more fully into play - i think the bass will open up even more.

Its is a reference player in the meaning that it plays back your files as one expects the music to sound, there is a whisper of added dynamics- but nothing too colored as such.

Vocals are centered within the skull and expand out slightly.
Tonality is excellent - earphone dependent. Better the earphone l, better the recording, better the result with the DX220 Max - not so forgiving with bad gear.
Sound stage is once again the area of the earphones - but the DX220 Max allows them to perform at their maximum ability, couple that with high performing imaging and it is an aural delight for the ears.

It certainly is an incredible sounding machine.

Next up with be some a/b-ing against DX220/amp 8 and amp ex and then revisiting it again at around 250 hours which i suspect will be the sweet spot - and everything past that will be a bonus for the ears.



Saturday morning, June 13th.

Jamato08 on Head-fi wrote:
“More time on the Max. Well over 200 hours. Yesterday, I didn't care for it a lot. Dry sounding and a little grainy on the upper mids, just not liquid, smooth or fluid. Of course still burning in. Today, so much different. Violin is back to sounding wonderful, openness and musical expression is all there and dynamics to startle. The noise floor is so low as what noise I do hear is in the recording and not from the Max. One thing that continues is the extreme unbridled openness of the sound, just a joy.

The Max really does take some time to settle in. Got to just keep letting it run or listen and know it will take some time but it is really worth it and power all IEMs and headphones from one device, is also very enjoyable. I am also surprised by the battery life. And on we go. . .”



i read this and was... um... yeah..

.. it was the word ‘liquid’. Trigggggerrredd!!! :)

...then I listened this morning with an extra 13 hours or so - and yep. You are right on the money (As usual).


I had a listen last night - the Max was getting there at 165-195 hours or so roughly - but wasn’t enough at that point to put a flag in ground and say ‘aim here!’. Some things did not sound right, rough around the edges.


This morning after another 13 hours of burn in - it is sounding nearly there at around 200 hours - the word ‘liquid’ or liquidity sums it up well - as Jamato08 stated.

I suspect 200 hours is a mile stone and 250 will about reasonably finish it off.

But the DX220 Max will probably keep improving.

Max definitely has more ‘liquidity’ today compared to even last night.
I was enjoying it - but it was not ‘there‘.

It didnt have that premium sound feel.

This morning i think it has reached a point where the sound is just going to keep improving as a coherent whole, whereas up to now the changes and improvements have been here and there. It seems to be stitching itself together like Dr.Manhattan in the Watchmen comics.

Without getting into any more specifics except to again repeat/paraphrase Jamato08 ‘From dry to liquidity’ Is certainly true and a pleasure.

I feel as though i am moving past the point of listening for burn in changes to listening tot he music.

Its certainly a dreamy device, i have rotated the four earphones i was using last night Campfire Audio Solaris 2020, Andromeda 2020, Ara and Andromeda MW10.
My experience from then to now is quite the chasm of difference of experience.

Aim for 200 hours using the burn cable...at the very least!

Additional:

Its not amp 8 for sure at 200 hours
Its not amp1mrkii either
A kind of a mix of them as i thought at the start
Approaching amp8ex perhaps?

But only an a/b with DX220 plus amps and Max will reveal that.

Maybe tonight or tomorrow i will try all three amps versus the DX220 Max as i feel it has enough hours on it.


Now i am just trying to understand and find the words to articulate the present sound.


More to come!



Sunday morning June 14th, 2020.

Using the same four Campfire Audio IEMs to have a bit of continuity.

Ara - reference/studio, articulate.
MW10 - linear/flat with dynamism.
Andromeda 2020. Slight w, warm.
Veering more towards to linear than past v shaped OG. andros.
Solaris 2020 - holographic, bass - hybrid, coherent.

At around 220 hours at a rough guess
there have been a few micro improvements. At this point overall the dap has settled down rather well and i am not expecting any major changes at this point - but i could be wrong.

Fluidity and liquidity have improved since yesterday a bit more.
It could do with more ‘timbres density’ as Head fier Whitigir basically stated.

Upping the volume does not give an illusion of greater density as with cheaper daps (Usually more of a mush, than a dense clarity). Just a louder version of what is delivered at low volume. Its consistent.

The sound is a nice mix of Amp1mk2 and amp7/8 with some tweaks - but it is still revealing itself. I am just documenting the journey and hope to write a summary eventually when all is settled down.

Low gain at present gives a spaciousness and wide sound stage with sweet air and treble approaching reference with a hint of color.

Mid gain is only a slight rise in volume (High is a bigger jump) and the mids come up more to the vocals giving an illusion of more density.

Using Campfire Audio Cascade with SXC-8 conclusions were largely the same as with the IEMs (4.4mm and 3.5mm - with adapter - ports).

Sunday afternoon

Swapping over to Final Audio A8000 for something different. Now it seems to be a bit more settled.
Also playing around with different tracks and various artists.

A bit more lower end coming up, a bit of density and coherent complexity?

I hope so.

(i switched back to the familiar Andro 2020 at this point to check it was not the A8000 fooling me).

I do believe the mids are coming into play.

I may have jumped the gun on nearing the burn in and maturation process...

More to come !

Wednesday evening June 17th.

About 300 hours now on the iBasso DX220 Max.
I seem to have to jumped past the 250
time mark due to work etc.

Just listening to music now. It seems to have settled in.
A nice mix of Amp1mk2/ Amp 8 and Amp8EX with a bit of tuning.

It really is a premium player.

It has wifi and Bluetooth but i would think the best uses would be to use the onboard memory or a micro sd card and listen to it wired through headphones or earphones.
Or use its dac via line out to a home system.

There will be probably still be incremental improvements and nuances noticed over time.
But at this stage i am just listening to the sweet music that is coming from this device.

Its appears complete now. But i am not adverse to any new sonic surprises. But for now it sounds like a well tuned coherent whole.

It is well balanced between reference and dynamic. It sets itself at a nice balance between the various tuning extremes and somehow manages to unite the opposites seamlessly.

The soundstage of earphones is super wide with the right earphones, the vocals extra centered and then expanding out also - quite a feat. Treble is candy sweet and extends to aural infinity - but ever so smooth with it to.
Tonality is pure bliss.
Imaging is clear and precise. Timbre a late comer to the game is exquisite.
The bass is full and oh so satisfying.
The separation is emphasized due the large soundstage possible and is akin to being in a large hall.
Male and female vocals are equally served well - pure beauty manifested.

It really is a divine experience.

Overly waxing lyrical here - but as one who grew up on music magazines and newspapers with band interviews and gig reviews, struggled with cassettes and lovingly wiped each vinyl lp before playing and crafted mix tapes off the radio - i do review the gear bu the music listening experience is always fore front in my mind.

The moment when the gear is so good that one stops listening to the gear - and just disappears falling into the music.

That is the moment, when the gear is no longer there as such, it being purely a vehicle for the enjoyment of the music.

When the music only remains one knows the gear is near perfection.

That is the DX220 Max.

More to come?...?...

Thursday 18th evening

Back on the sober mind trail after last night allowing myself to gush and enjoy with superlatives etc.

And why not. Even an enthusiast pseudo reviewer needs to step in rather than step back now and again.

Today i took it on a train commute with the Dita Dream XLS, Final Audio A8000 in the morning and Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 in the afternoon.

Still very enjoyable. I carried it in my front jeans pocket. Slightly warm, nothing major - playing FLAC files from a micro SD Card.

The isolation of the earphones was fairly good. I have lots of tips to choose from for a good fit.
Nevertheless the vibration etc of a train intervenes somewhat and some of the timbre detail was lost, and subtle nuances of songs.

Listening now later in the evening (at home) i am back to where i was last night - but with a more quieter mouse like writing style.

Everything is still wonderful.

The Max shines of course in a quiet setting where all its technical ability can proceed unimpeded by surrounding noise that may seep into the listeners ear canals no matter how well they fit their earphones.

I am finding pleasure in these before sleep listening sessions of late.

Pure.

And i think i have reached the end of the impressions....


Next: DX220 Amp1mk2, amp8 and Amp8EX comparisons....


Sunday June 20th, morning...

I feel like i am chasing jamato08
on head-fi who got his unit earlier...

Is that density i am hearing?

(Nearing 400 hours).

Chasing the aural rainbow continues...?...

Continued...



The Return of the Zing
July 4th, Saturday morning coffee...

I have purposely left the iBasso DX220 Max alone for a good few days and have been listening to other devices, for fun and future reviews - to get a bit of distance and return with fresh ears.

Sitting here on my couch whilst my family is asleep, a great coffee and rain falling outside i rediscovering more clearly what the Max is after a period of not being bathed in a daily diet of it.

A very pure sound, exquisite tuning, extremely coherent and hard to find fault with the sound itself. It approaches a reference sound but without the accompanying dryness which can be a natural addition to that sort of tuning.
It has enough subtle body to please, controlled and revealing, detailed and yet smooth.

It is not going to magically make badly mastered or recorded tracks sound better, but will reveal their shortcomings. Great recordings will shine and bring enjoyment.

Some physical buttons for skipping songs etc would be nice. But i guess its not that kind of dap. Twister6 worked out a few work arounds using a bluetooth remote - i would like to be able to do it via my cellphone.

I am also finding my listening levels are lower with the DX220 Max (using a spl meter).

its a quiet rainy morning at home and the surrounding everyday noise is about the same as my listening level atm.

i will do a comparison with DX220 also and see if there is any difference.

Its another plus of decent earphones and daps, the listening levels go down in volume compared to finding satisfaction with entry level gear.

which is an often overlooked important benefit.

With the Max the listener is left with the music, and the quality is dependent on the recording and the earphones being used.
The Max has its competitors (and siblings) out there and comparisons will surface in time - although on a few forums owners of other totl daps have written favorably (i would like to read more).

In short: the enjoyment continues unabated.

The iBasso DX220 Max continues to impress.
This continued write up being testament to my positive experience.



Sunday

I connected the Max to my home system via the 4.4mm line out with great success.

My home system has a AKM dac and is velvety and forgiving.

The Max produced a more reference, clean and high end sound. The line out option allowing me to use the Max’s dac.

I listened happily for a few hours until the lids tv time forced me to turn off music for a while...

On headphones and IEM useage:

Well i suppose the question of IEMs is a legimate question for many people.

how is the Max with IEMs?
It is a larger device - is it designed/meant for Head phones only?

The Max main board is built around or near identical to DX220 as @Whitigir (Head-fier) has found by opening it (the Max)...and then also modding it.
- The amp part is based largely on Amp 8 architecture - with different tuning.


Amp 8 - probably the most recommended stock amp module (DX200/220) has 4.4mm at 6.2Vrms Output voltage.

*Amps 1,2,5,7 have around 3.0-3.5Vrms

Amps 3,4,8 have 6.0 - 6.2Vrms

The Max has:
SE 4.4Vrms
4.4mm HP out 8.8Vrms

So SE headphone out on the Max is even less powerful.(than amp modules 3,4,8).

And the SE is very capable.

myself - i have have largely been using IEMs around the same price range Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020, Solaris OG/2020, Ara, Gold...
- others such as Dita Dream XLS, CA MW10 and Final Audio A8000 which are closer or the same $ as the Max.
(SE and Balanced).
- plus a few low to mid range for general testing purposes.

Headphones mainly CA Cascade and iBasso SR1 (4.4mm) and also SE, SE mainly ATH-ESW11 and ATH-A900.


The Max is very capable and plays well with IEMs of a similar level. Both in 4.4mm or 3.5mm. I think the 3.5mm sounds great myself and one does not need to default to 4.4mm.

Three gain settings, DAC volume being able to be changed and also the analog volume wheel make this dap very versatile.





Head-fier and DIY modder extraordinaire Whitigir (of iBasso Amp8EX fame) gave me a summary of his current impressions and opinions of the iBasso DX220 Max.

Sunday June 14th.

Here:
https://www.headpie.net/2020/06/ibasso-dx220-max-whitigir-head-fier-and.html?m=1




Thank you Whitigir for your contribution and thoughts. - Head pie

Paul of iBasso wrote on Head fi:
“ I want to clear up any confusion on the screen. When it is off, there is no current flowing and it is totally off, not just pixels. We also did measurements with it on or off and there is no change. Also please note from the measurements, how low the noise floor of the DX220Max is.

Please, Enjoy the music and stay safe out there.”






This is the way the case goes,
But you could also flip it so as to lock in the micro sd card. I guess.







Inner pamphlet details.









Ooh.
Not a nice pretty photo. But practical. Shows the two charges in tandem charging up the end game beast.

USB-C charge light/icon is on the right, like the DX220

Analog section charge icon is on the left. Take care.



More detailed photos of the charger:







Reviewer Audio123 plug>>>



Screen size DX220 and DX220 Max







CPU comparisons - forgive me if i am
wrong. Noob desu. Using CPU info app.





Pocketable?

Yes and no. The DX220 Max is a transportable dap. More a carry in a bag with you dap.
However for the sake of science and the wondering few i did take it out for a commute to and from work without hassle in a front jeans pocket.
The DX220 is more portable and lighter of course.





Remote control



I recommend this remote for fast forward etc via bluetooth at home or on the go



Other have had success with the Hibyplayer app.
I did over my home wifi but not over BT - although i have been told it works.





iBasso DX220Max manual
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nCDscIYfnpuZ7tZc6nBJsUjkp8CNOKE0/view



I recommend purchasing from official recognized authorized dealers. A list is available on the iBasso website. http://www.ibasso.com/




Thank you to iBasso for sending Head pie the iBasso DX220 Max for review
Last edited:
HansBarbarossa
HansBarbarossa
Great review! Great DAP, Thanks! :v:

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