iBasso DX220 Reference DAP - Reviews
Pros: + Sound quality
+ System is very fluid, hardware very potent, works flawlessly, at least in all of my tests
+ Versatility and can be configured for the user's needs
+ Good display
+ Excellent ergonomics
Cons: - It is pricey
- Battery life could be a touch longer
Ultimate Versatility - iBasso DX220 (AMP7, AMP8, AMP9, AMP1 MKII) DAP Review



Priced at about 900 USD for the basic configuration, and with a large number of subsequent AMP modules on the market, iBasso DX220 makes one of the most interesting DAPs (Digital Audio Players) to look at right now, and has to fare well against harsh competition that includes the Opus #2 DAP, iBasso's own older DX200 DAP, and other DAPs like Hiby R6, and FiiO M11. I also need to compare DX220 to X7mkii, the other important modular DAP, and QLS QA361, one of the few DAPs that comes even close sonically to DX220.




Introduction

iBasso has been one of my favorite DAP producers for a while now, and this is because they are really good at listening. They don't just hear the information, but they listen to it, they implement solutions to their issues, and they do it even a long while after releasing a product, as is the case with the firmware updates released for DX220 and DX200 that allow users to increase the volume on the AMP 9 NuTube Module far higher than it was possible ex-factory. Combined with a state-of-the-art customer service and a long track of taking good care of their customers and providing proper support for their products, iBasso is a nice company to be purchasing from and to be working with, regardless of what kind of product you're looking at.


It should be noted that I have no affiliation with iBasso, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I'd like to thank iBasso for providing the sample for the review. This review reflects my personal experience with iBasso DX220. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in iBasso DX220 find their next music companion.



About me


https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Packaging

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















When it comes to DX220, I am reminded that some companies really like to walk the extra mile when it comes to packaging. Not only does iBasso do this, but their package actually includes everything you could require with this DAP, from cables, all the way to burn-in cables, USB cables, Coaxial cables, glass screen protector replacements, HD Tracks coupons, and a leather case for DX220.

All in all, the package also has one of the nicest designs you can find for a DAP, and is worthy to be an unboxing experience for a proper flagship DAP, making DX220 one of my favorite things to unboxing and play with in 2019.




What to look in when purchasing a high-end DAP

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html



Technical Specifications







Build Quality/Aesthetics/UI/Firmware


Starting with the build quality, you can tell that DX220 is a real tank. It is a solid device that you can't damage even if pressing hard on it, and you could actually step on it, and it would still come out alive and without a scratch. One thing you may notice about it is that it has a replaceable amplifier module on the bottom, which helps a lot with getting a multitude of sonic signatures out of just one device. The back is made of glass, but is also covered by a thick glass screen protector, while the front is mostly occupied by a large IPS display.

When opening DX220, you are greeted by a very colorful and bright display, which is a pleasure to see, as you can totally use DX220 in direct sunlight during a full blown day of summer without straining your eyes. Another cool fact about the DX220 is that it has a Type-C USB pot at top, so you don't have to worry about the older microUSB standard.





You have a ton of features which I'll have to explore slowly, starting with MQA support, both for decoding and unfolding at hardware level, so you're not forgotten if you were looking for Tidal and streaming hi-res files.

The DAC inside DX220 is a full blown desktop ESS 9028 PRO DAC, and an 8-Core CPU, with a seasoning of 4 GB of RAM, the highest of any DAP in the market at the moment of writing this review. DX220 doesn't support Google Play, but instead iBasso sends those with APK Pure installed, so you don't have to worry about limited app support. I've been able to get both Tidal and Roon up and running on DX220 without a hassle.

The volume wheel is much sleeker than the one DX200 had before, with the guard thingy being replaced by a much smaller and more compact wheel, which you won't be afraid of breaking when adjusting DX220.

At the top of DX220, you can find the Type-C USB Port, SPDIF Digital Output, and the power button in a pretty elegant layout. Speaking of elegant layouts, you can also find the volume wheel, and the play / pause, ffwd, and bckwd buttons on the right side of DX220. On the left side you can find the microSD slot, and at the bottom, you will find the AMP card module, which has a wide selection of outputs, depending on which AMP module you're using. I'll run through a few words about each AMP module in the sound quality part of this review, as it will make a bit more sense than to open each of them as a topic both here and in the sound quality part.


In terms of software, DX220 is very fluid, and the CPU / RAM combination is more than enough for Youtube videos, even games, and support for anything your heart could desire. This includes Tidal and Roon seamless integration, and one of the two best ways I've been using DX220 has been with Tidal, as I love myself a bit of streaming, especially as some albums I couldn't find to purchase online, and Tidal has them in store in the best quality.

DX220 works as a USB DAC for Windows and other platforms, with the USB Driver provided on their website. This makes DX220 effectively a heck of a versatile device, you don't have to keep using it as a DAP only while you're out and about, but you can even turn it on when you're at your computer.

Furthermore, DX220 works in multi-app mode, and I did quick app switch often when I was in the mood to go for one song on Tidal, then next queue one from my microSD card.











Now, some observations that are more personal, and some notes that I personally like and dislike about the actual usage of DX220. First, Mango Mode is now really good. I didn't use the pure / Mango mode on the original DX200 that much, but with DX220, I'm a fan of it. Not only it is smooth, now it actually feels right at home if you want a minimalistic approach to your music enjoyment experience. I do think that the music app is quite good and intuitive, as other members of Audiophile-Heaven managed to get the hang of it in seconds. The card replacing experience is also hassle-free and I didn't run into any problems, and switched AMP modules a LOT during testing DX220. You may even consider that, with the amount of testing back and forth I did, this review is more like 4-5 reviews in one. When switching between Tidal and the Music App, you have to pause, click play, click pause, click play again. This is something you have to do every single time when you switch between apps, and I don't think it is a big thing, but it is there. Click to seek in a certain part of a song only works in Mango Pure mode, it doesn't work in Android mode, but I kinda got used to it and I enjoy songs from end to end, so I don't mind, but I remember mentioning this in my original DX200 review a few months ago. The maximum volume between AMP modules is very different, and so is the battery life.

Oh, talking about the battery life, and to give you some idea of how good the battery life is. Using mainly AMP7, the one that I am using the most, I've managed to get a battery life of about 7 hours running it at maximum volume. This amounts of me going on for a walk of 25 kilometers by foot, and DX220 surviving the entire trip, powering HIFIMAN Sundara.


The new parametric EQ is one heck of a feature if you like to tinker with your headphones and IEMs, and with the almost unlimited power, or rather, with one of the largest amounts of power found in a portable, when you combine DX220 with AMP7, you can totally squeeze the last drop of potential from headphones and IEMs that would otherwise need a few retouches. If you're one to tinker with DAPs, there's also the large number of digital filters to play with, all adding up to DX220 being as versatile as it can be.

As an added bonus, the latest firmware update adds support for Amazon HD Music, up to 24/192, which has been described to be a very serious competitor to Tidal lately, and to keep the good stuff coming, AMP 9 now has a level option, and you can bump the volume even higher, making it pretty much the ideal AMP module!



A final part I'd like to talk about when it comes to DX220 is the aesthetic, I am in love with the new aesthetic they did for both the Mango Pure mode, and for the Android Mango app version. The new, more modern approach works really well for those coming from a smartphone running the latest version of Android, and you'll feel right at home if you're used to a newer, snappy device, as DX220 is very quick and snappy itself.



Sound Quality


The fun part begins about here. First, let's talk about the differences between DX200 and DX220 using the same AMP module, then we'll explore each AMP module by itself. Since the sound quality part of the review is quite complicated and needs attention, this review will feel more like multiple reviews in one, especially if you were curious how the AMP modules compare between themselves.



Okay, so starting with DX220 vs DX200, I could say, that when switching between the two, I felt a greater speed and a more potent deliver with DX220. It could be the fact that I never did a complete blind A/B testing between them, but even so, the differences were quite obvious, with DX220 having improved in textures and microdetails as well, being overall an upgrade from DX200, although if you were using the same AMP module and volume matched, you would notice the differences between the hardware and software of the two more, like the more snappy DX220, the larger display, and the better overall feel in the hand.



DX220 seems to have a lower overall noise floor with every AMP module that was made for DX200 as well, for example, you get a larger soundstage and improved instrument separation with DX220 even when running AMP5, so it is an inherent improvement on DX220.

AMP 1 MK II


If you're using IEMs, and even if you're using full sized headphones, you'll notice a lower noise floor with AMP1 MK II, and as a subsequent improvement, the instrument separation and dynamics both benefit from this. The older AMP1 was a touch mid-forward-ish to me, and a touch too smooth, with the MK II being more neutral, and more of a reference listen. The wider soundstage, with more air also helps the MK II of the AMP1 stay more on DX220 than AMP1 stayed on DX200 for me. Back then, I replaced the AMP1 with AMP5 really quickly, because AMP5 had a much better dynamic delivery than AMP1, but now, the MK II of the AMP1 is an entirely different animal.

Given that the original AMP1 with DX200 had a slight emphasis on the lower mids, with some people feeling that it was a bit too soft and too smooth to be called entirely neutral, I can say that the MK II doesn't present any of those issues, and now the tone is what I would call truly neutral. MK II and DX220 have a higher presence of odd-harmonics, leading to a more articulate and cleaner overall presentation, as I've noted in my DX200 review that its original AMP1 was a bit soft in the treble as well.


When it comes to the staging, it is clear that DX200+AMP1 was more vague, where DX220 is more precise and wider. More airy treble, combined with a blacker background makes DX220 + AMP1 MK II more layered and specific when it comes to the way it portrays a musical scene. A lot of people have noticed that DX220 + AMP1 MK II has a better low end and impact deliver as well, which also gives an increase in the soundstage and spatiality of the sound, meaning that the loss in the midrange body is compensated by a hefty increase in bass delivery. All this being said, the depth of the AMP1 and the MK II is similar.

To add this bit as well, and to sum up AMP 1 MK II, compared to the original AMP1, the lower body has gone down a bit, while the clarity, precision, neutrality of the timbre and the accuracy have all gone up, making MK II and DX220 a more versatile DAP, easier to pair with a wide selection of headphones and IEMs.

AMP 7


Now we're talking power, with AMP 7, the high voltage swing, single ended AMP module for DX220. With AMP7, the overall sound is considerably wider, and a touch brighter, or better said, more neutral than AMP 1 MK II. The bass is tighter, goes lower, and has more impact, and the sound has much better dynamics. The power is better, and you need less volume on AMP 7, or rather, with AMP7 you can drive headphones that you can't with AMP 1 MK II.

The bass on AMP 7 is deep but slightly larger and goes lower than AMP1MKII. This being said, it is also a tad tighter, and slams with more impact, leading to a more impressive sound. The bass is less warm than AMP 6 for example, which is the AMP module that comes by default with DX150. This being said, the overall detail is better than both AMP1MKII and AMP6.

The midrange of AMP 7 is slightly cold, and compared to the more linear mid of AMP1MKII, the midrange of AMP 7 is clearly wider, extends more in all directions, but has an increase in the upper midrange presence, which leads to both a more revealing and more energetic sound, but also to a sound that doesn't work very well with older and less reputable recordings. The fact that DX220 decodes Tidal and MQA so well surely comes in as an advantage because like this you have access not only to a very good sound, but also have access to it online, without having to worry about sourcing a good master yourself, instead having access to the latest and best master directly.


The treble of AMP 7 is also a bit brighter and more trigger happy on AMP 7 when compared to AMP1MKII, which is more linear, and more reference. This means that if you're a fan of rock and metal music, you'll instantly love AMP 7, and as I love bands like Memphis May Fire and the like, I felt right at home with AMP 7, compared to AMP1MKII which was a bit polite for me, even with colder headphones like HIFIMAN Sundara. This being said, AMP 7, despite its power, may be a touch too cold and too bright, in one word edgy, if you're a Jazz and Classical fan, and you may want to skip directly to AMP 8, if you're a fan of using balanced connectors, or AMP 9 for the best experience iBasso has to offer. If you're comparing AMP 7 with AMP6, which is the one that comes with DX150, you have a very crisp and accurate top end on AMP7, and a more mellow, soft and less energetic one, that is polite and smooth on AMP6, making AMP6 really well suited for Jazz and for you, if you like a less forward treble.

AMP 8

AMP 8 is pretty much the bigger brother of AMP 7, and you can find it at the mid meeting line between AMP 9 and AMP 7, although AMP 8 does have more power than both, and a more corpulent overall sound. This being said, the low end is thicker, more impactful, yet better controlled, the midrange is even sweeter and more organic than it is on AMP7, and the treble a touch more relaxed, yet not lacking air or extension. The only real downside of AMP 8, compared to either AMP 7 or AMP 9, is that AMP8 is Balanced only, and you won't be able to use AMP 8 with your Single Ended cables, instead having to rely on Balanced cables only, making AMP 8 a very specific tool for a specific job. Compared to AMP 6, AMP8 sounds like the more dynamic and more natural, less relaxed, and more lively version, AMP 6 feeling a touch too relaxed, too smooth and too warm in direct comparison. This being said, AMP 6 has more outputs and is more versatile for a wide scenario usage.

AMP 9

Here comes the winner, as AMP 9 is pretty much the jewel of iBasso at this moment, and at the end of 2019, DX220 + AMP 9 is one of the best DAPs I heard, being clearly in top 3 I heard, keeping in mind I also heard Sony's and AK's flagships at Roomanian Audiophile meet-ups. To describe it in a few words, AMP 9 is clearly the most transparent of all the AMP modules, it has the least color and flavoring of its own, it has the most dynamic, most impactful and most transparent sound of all the AMP modules for DX220. To add more, it has the most organic midrange, most holographic, albeit not necessarily the widest soundstage, and it clearly sounds subjectively the best to my ears, despite not following the colder sound you may have the impression that I like. In terms of downsides, because I find it is fair to mention those, AMP 9 gets the hottest while in usage, as there's a real life Tube inside, it leads to the shortest battery life for the combo, and it has the most simple usage scenario, as it doesn't have a Line Out nor a Balanced Output, having only a single Output that is a 3.5mm Single Ended Headphone Output. It is much simpler to compare AMP 9 directly to the other AMP modules, than to describe AMP 9 because AMP 9 is the most transparent, and it is capable of showing how every other AMP module is not fully transparent, and has a unique signature of its own, where AMP 9 lacks such a signature and feels the most natural.

AMP 9 vs AMP 8 -> You can hear that AMP 8 has a slightly thicker overall sound, with a touch more emphasis on the lows. There's also the feeling that AMP 9 has a more organic midrange than AMP8, although AMP 8 does a very good job at having a very natural and smooth midrange, all while keeping a good detail level.

AMP 9 vs AMP 7 -> Here, you get a much better sense of why AMP 7 may have lots of power and a good impact, but when it comes to its midrange and treble, iBasso simply made AMP 9 to be better. Compared directly to AMP 9, 7 feels cold, feels wide, but lacks depth, and feels holographic, but lacks the organic touch that AMP 9 has. The treble is more peppy on AMP 7, and when you compare them side-by-side, you know that AMP 9 is how a more natural treble should sound like, 7 being a bit too bright. Fun Fact: I know this because there actually are more DX220 owners in Romania, all of whom got it after hearing mine, and with whom I did the comparisons side by side.

AMP 9 vs AMP 6 -> How about AMP9 vs 6, the one that originally comes with DX150? Well, this one is also a fun comparison, because you can hear how much 6 was tuned for fun, it feels considerably thicker, has a more meaty and substantial low end, has a smoother top end and treble, that doesn't have the bite that AMP 9 has. This being said, 6 has a really nice midrange and if you like a more fun tuning, you'll surely like it as well.


AMP 9 vs AMP 1 MK II -> This one comparison shows how a linear and reference sound differs from a really transparent and natural one. If any difference jumps to my ears, 9 sounds more dynamic, is clearer, has a better detail level and clarity, and is overall cleaner. This also means more impact in the lows, better sparkle in the treble, and feels as a substantial upgrade if you want to have that organic and natural midrange that AMP 9 boasts.

Overall, the sound of DX220 is really configurable, depending on what AMP module you want to get, and I feel that if you want the safe exit, and an easy choice to go for the best, AMP 9 should be your top choice, because it really sounds the best and will be the best for most people.


Portable Usage

DX220 features a pretty good Wi-Fi support, and with the latest hardware, you can install any app you desire, from any music app you may need, even to games. To do this, you're supposed to be using either APK Pure or Cool APK, the first being the English and the one you're most likely to use, while the second is the Chinese version of the app.



DX220 now offers bit perfect and MQA support, with both decoding and unfolding available in Tidal by default, not only within the Mango OS, as it was before, but also in the Android OS mode. Overall, if you're into Hi-Res streaming, DX220 has support for everything. If you're into DLNA, you can always download an app like Plex or BubbleUpnP.


In terms of Bluetooth, you have Bi-Directional support on DX220, with possibility to use it both as a Bluetooth sending device, as well as a BT DAC, support for APT-X, LDAC, and even Bluetooth 5.0, with strong range, even better than it was on DX200. By strong range, I mean, that in my practical testing, I was able to hold DX220 in a pocket, and do jogging or high energy level activities, with Bluetooth Headphones, even using APT-X and high data rate Bluetooth protocols, without the signal ever dropping, DX220 being equal or even better than the average flagship smartphone in the Bluetooth department.

I noticed that if you're looking for the best battery life, you're better off either using AMP 1 MK II, or using low gain. This being said, I'm able to walk about 7-8 hours trips using AMP 7, and not quite running out of battery. In the main pairing I've used portably the most, DX220 + AMP 7 + HIFIMAN Sundara, which I considered a good portable pair, I ran DX220 at pretty much the highest volume possible, and I kept walking and using them together, enjoying my music. This went on for 7-8 hours, and although I wouldn't say that it is quite enough for absolutely everybody, I think that it is more than excellent for most people. At least for me, it is more than I could listen in a single day, even if I dedicated the entire day solely to music listening.


DX220 rns slightly warm during usage, especially with AMP7, AMP8 and AMP9, but I used it in full blown summer, at temps around 40 C outside, when it was actually complicated for me to take a walk, and the DAP itself barely got warm, even if I was keeping it in a pocket, meaning that temps won't be an issue with it.

The DAP itself doesn't get scratched easily at all, and in fact, I had mine in the same pocket as my keys, and a jeans chain, and it got zero scratches, DX220 being quite the champ in terms of resistance to scratches. This being said, the back screen protector gets scratched a bit easily, but the glass on the back of the DAP does not get scratches.




Another interesting and important aspect of using a DAP is how suited it is for pocket-usage. Well, DX220 is absolutely perfect. It has the right amount of buttons, which means play/stop, forward and backward, and you have a very handy wheel volume. If I'm having a favorite playlist set to play, I don't feel the need to take DX220 out of my pocket at all, I can control it exclusively from my pocket.

The other aspect you may be curious about is if it gets any bugs and issues, in actual usage. Well, to be honest, I actually stressed DX220 more than most other DAPs, because lately I became a huge fan of Tidal and other Streaming platforms, and DX220 is simply excellent. I can, and will switch between Tidal and other music apps, on-the-go, because sometimes there's a song I don't have on the microSD card, and I just need to listen, like when Dance Gavin Dance released the Head Hunter Single and it was available on Tidal, but I had nowhere to acquire it as a physical file, and I kept switching between Tidal and the music player. Overall, I ran into zero issues with DX220, making it stone solid in terms of software. To add to this, just a few days ago, iBasso released a new firmware, meaning that iBasso is one of the most reliable companies, which has the best track of releasing updates for their products to date.



Select Pairings

For the pairings, I have chosen my favorite combo, DX220 + Sundara, this having been one of my most used portable setups, along with Da Vinci X, and Lime Ears Model X, all of those being really interesting combos to study the full ability of DX220 with.




iBasso DX220 (AMP1 MK II) + Lime Ears Model X - Lime Ears Model X, is the universal variant from Lime Ears, a rather less known company from Poland, which, although is getting more recognition these days, isn't getting even near half the recognition they should. There's one little secret about their model X, and that is, it is extremely dependent on the tips to sound good, and if you're not a fan of foams or tip rolling, you'll never get the most out of it, but if you spend the time to roll it in its best shape, you'll have a very natural sounding IEM that's also quite wide, and which although has a pretty warm low end and a pretty peppy treble, still manages to sound natural in the midrange, and to work with both rock and classical music. AMP 1 MK II is what I'd use with Model X because they are already pretty V-Shaped and they respond rather well to a more linear source that tames them, and the really quick and linear bass of AMP 1 MK II counters the warmer low end of Model X fairly well, leading to a very natural overall sound.

iBasso DX220 (AMP9) + Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci X - Da Vinci X is what I'd call a true IEM flagship, and it is one of the most expensive, and best sounding IEMs out there. In fact, my review of them is coming soon, and the pairing with DX220 is simply one of the best combos portably there are in the world. In fact, if I was to call out a top 1 IEM + DAP pairings right now, at the end of 2019, this is probably what I'd go for. Of course, Da Vinci X has a whopping 10 drivers in each ear, so you'd expect them to have a ton of instrument separation, and you'd expect to hear new stuff with them, but here I'm talking about hearing new instruments and new textures in songs that both you and me know, like Linkin Park - Faint. No other IEM and headphone made it obvious that, that sound had so many textures and micro-details as Da Vinci X did with DX220, and especially with AMP 9 strapped on, so if you're looking for an IEM to blow your mind, and if you have the cash to spare, this combo really is worth its asking price, despite that price being a pretty peppy one. There's no hissing and no issue with the sound as far as I can tell, and you can simply enjoy DX229 + Da Vinci X without having to worry, and now with MQA decoding, you don't have to spend hours to organize your music collection either, making this an ultimate combo that's pretty much a no brainer from the start.

iBasso DX220 (AMP7) + HIFIMAN Sundara - Now here's a pairing I've used a lot, even for very long walks, and a pairing I am very familiar with. Starting with the power, I can surely say that DX227 is one of the portables that has the most power around, and one of the very few portables that can really power Sundara. Most of the other options are DAC/AMPs, and very few DAPs manage to have enough driving power to properly control the bass of Sundy. In terms of dynamics, this is simply outstanding, the soundstage tends to get very wide although maybe not that deep, and the details are pretty good. If anything, if you don't need to listen that loud, DX229, which is the DX220 with AMP 9, you can surely go for AMP 9, as it sounds quite a bit better than AMP 7, even when driving Sundara, but here's where I found out that AMP 9 has less driving power than AMP 7, as I wanted to get some of that juicy midrange with Sundy, but wanted to do so with the volume of AMP 7. Even so, if you're looking for the most versatile combo, DX227 + HIFIMAN Sundara is quite excellent and one of the combos I'd recommend the most. This being said, Sundara has a slightly cold sound in general, is not very enthusiastic with the bass, and is a pretty prone to sibilance headphone, so if you're not interested in this kind of sound, it is best to stay away from them as an option, and instead go for HIFIMAN Anada, which has a much more versatile sound, and can be driven in the same way by DX227 and DX229, though Ananda is a bit more expensive than Sundara.



Comparisons

The main competitors for DX220 are FiiO X7mkii, Opus #2, and QLS QA 361, each for a different reason.



iBasso DX220 + AMP 1 MK II vs FiiO X7mkii - This is the first comparison because X7mkii is the other interesting modular DAP in the market today, although you could probably start calling it the modular DAP of yesterday's market, as FiiO is making way for new releases with their M11, M11 PRO and what is now rumoured to be M15. Regardless, right now the price for X7mkii is about half of DX220, if both are in the default configurations, and both FiiO and iBasso have a lot of subsequent AMP modules available for their DAPs, with FiiO having a partnership with the mighty THX, while iBasso designs their AMP modules in-house. One could say that the two devices are comparable because of the design and concept, but in terms of overall system fluidity, DX220 is just the better DAP, with more RAM, a faster CPU, and a more modern OS, running better. I don't think I ever had any issue with X7 MK II, but if anyone ever had, they shouldn't have the same issue with DX220. One thing where X7 MK II is better is the storage, where X7 MK II has two microSD slots, and DX220 has just one. This being said, with better Tidal and MQA implementation, if you're Streaming fan, you're better off with the newer, more versatile DX220. In terms of sound, if we're talking about the DAC, you can rely on both to be the DAC units of a large system, but DX220 is just a touch cleaner, with a touch wider overall soundstage, more detail, and sounds more refined. This being said, the DAC chip inside is different, with DX220 employing a dual ESS 9028 PRO Desktop solution, where X7 MK II employs a single ESS 9028 PRO DAC Chip. When connected to their default AMP module, which is AM03A for X7 MK II, and AMP 1 for DX220, they sound a bit different. FiiO's design is to sound wide, but not very deep, to have a good amount of detail, and for the sound to come through as holographic, while iBasso goes for a more dynamic and more rounded presentation, with a more linear and precise midrange, and less bass and treble emphasis than FiiO's AM03A. Overall, if you're looking for more spice in the treble, FiiO's default should serve you better, but iBasso has a lot of subsequent AMP modules that can sound peppy and have better contrast, their AMP1 being just their reference sound, not necessarily the one that will be the best for most people.

iBasso DX220 + AMP 9 vs Opus #2 - DX229 is the best combination from iBasso, at least it seems to have been the most loved of their AMP modules, being the most revolutionary one, the one with a micro Tube inside. Actually besides the N8 from Cayin, DX229 is the only DAP that's widely available and known to employ the Nano Tubes inside. Opus #2 is actually a slightly old DAP at this point, or rather, it is interesting to see a device that's been released in 2017 still stand its ground now, in 2019, and to see people still buying it and asking for comparisons between it and other DAPs. In terms of design, both DX229 and Opus #2 are magnificent, both are well made and feel nice in the hand, but in terms of ergonomics, DX229 is just considerably more ergonomic, sits better in hand, is smaller and has better device to display ratio, which means smaller bezels and edges, and more display surface that covers the device. Opus #2 had a very good software and hardware support at the moment it was launched, and for most people, it serves even now as their main daily DAP, but even though it had the best 2017 had to offer in terms of hardware, DX229 comes with too much upgraded hardware to not be better, basically being at least a few times quicker and more reliable. I'm saying this as a very happy #2 owner and as someone who really loved it, but DX229 really hits the sweet spot in terms of well it works. Now, when it comes to the sound, I have chosen to go with DX229 because it is the best DX220 has to offer, but not only, DX229 is one of the best sounding DAPs in the market at the moment, regardless of the price range, and there are quite a few devices that are at least a bit more expensive out there. The sound signature and tuning is similar, although #2 is smoother and tends to have a slightly less emphasized top end, and although it doesn't have less air, it tends to have less bite and less energy in the treble, compared to DX229, which has a very lively, very dynamic and clear sound, which I'd say isn't exactly what most expect when they hear that it contains a nanoTube. It is a common misconception that tubes will have a smooth top end, some of them being actually quite expressive, airy and energetic, and most tubes just having a more organic and coherent midrange, with way more natural harmonics compared to their solid state counterparts, although, when it comes to high-end components, most companies manage to get a very good sound out of either implementation. This is a very good demonstration, as both #2 and DX229 trade blows on almost equal grounds when it comes to just how organic and sweet their midrange is, how quick, yet precise their bass is, and how much impact it has, and to how wide, holographic and well placed their soundstage is. Overall, I am impressed, and have to say, if you're looking for sound alone, DX229 will bear an improvement over #2, but the improvement won't be as large as you'd imagine, and you'll be astounded by how good TheBit had the sound department going with #2 almost two years ago. If you need a reliable Android DAP though, DX229 is simply on a whole new level, and although I liked #2 a lot, DX229 is just in a whole new level of good, pretty much like an upper midrange smartphone in speed, RAM and everything else.


iBasso DX220 + AMP 7 vs QLS QA 361 - This comparison will be slightly shorter than the others, because QLS QA 361 really doesn't have many features, but instead, here we're talking about two flagships, each customised for a very different usage scenario. DX220 is the complete Flagship DAP, slightly more expensive than QA 361, but with way stronger Android support and App support, where QA 361 is made for one thing, to just play music from a microSD card. Actually, QLS is so much into a one-purpose DAP, that QA 361 doesn't even start without a microSD card inside. When it comes to ergonomics, both are quite good, and both are good for pocketed usage, but I'd actually lean towards DX220, as having the buttons on the side is simpler to feel and press inside a pocket, rather than the front facing buttons on QA 361. When it comes to their support, there's no competition really, with DX220 having BT, USB DAC, and all the other bells and whistles, where QA 361 can just play music from a microSD card. On the other hand, when it comes to sound, I chosen DX220 with AMP 7, which is a package that costs 1100 USD, which is 300 USD pricier than the 800 USD QA 361, because QA 361 does sound better than the AMP 1 MK II from iBasso, and only when you upgrade the AMP module on DX220 things become equal again. This means that the guys at QLS do actually manage to design not just a boutique DAP, but actually one that's capable of holding its ground against a proper flagship in terms of sound, so those of you who don't want touchscreens and who don't want to fiddle with apps and such can rest soundly, because there are flagships that manage to sound pretty darn amazing. This being said, when you fit DX220 with AMP 7, the two DAPs are more equal, with QA 361 becoming the slightly softer, lighter-sounding DAP, and with DX227 being the one that has more impact, a tighter bass, but also a sparklier and harder top end. Overall, if anything would describe the biggest difference between the two, QA 361 is lighter and softer, and DX227 is more authoritative, and more controlled, but also more forward. I reckon the detail levels are pretty much equal with my music, soundstage is similarly wide and deep, and QA 361 may be a touch more holographic, but DX227 does not lose ground in terms of nuance and microdetails, making the choice between the two more about whether you want a minimalistic device, rather than about which sounds better. For a minimalistic option, something that doesn't need a touchscreen or apps, you can always go with QA 361, but if you want something with an undeniably strong app support, bidirectional bluetooth and 4 GB of RAM, DX220 is the way to go.



Value and Conclusion


It has been quite fun talking about DX220, comparing it to other DAPs, and pairing it with all kinds of awesome IEMs and Headphones, but how does it stack in terms of value? Well, it is quite good. Although the asking price is quite high, about 900 USD at the moment of writing this review, but the DAP itself is one of the best on the market regardless of the price, and even if you look at more expensive DAPs, like those from Astell & Kern, or Sony, you may have a hard time finding something quite as interesting and well balanced as DX220, which is not only ergonomic, but also stable, has good driving power, and is, ultimately, quite versatile, with all those AMP modules available to tweak the way it sounds. Add the bi-directional Bluetooth, Strong Wifi support, Tidal and MQA support, and many other abilities, and ultimately, this is a music machine, not just another DAP, but a true music machine.



The package isn't quite that special, but you do get a nice carrying case, along with a good USB and a burn-in cable. Plus, unboxing an iBasso product is always such a pleasure that the case and package does match the price with iBasso.


The ergonomics, build quality and internal equipping of DX220 is at the level of a pretty high-end smartphone, and even better. When I think about how a high-end DAP should look and feel like, I imagine a slightly thicker smartphone, and well, DX220 is pretty much just that, but with a volume wheel. This is quite different from the almost cubic, or even toblerone-shaped DAPs that other companies went for, and DX220 is really really ergonomic. Not only, it has the correct shape and thickness for one-handed usage, but it has rounded edges and is generally good for one handed usage, and even better, it is ergonomic even in a pocketed usage scenario.

The hardware inside is able to support all music formats, bidirectional bluetooth, MQA, Tidal, it features a huge battery, a vibrant display, and well, everything a flagship DAP should have, DX220 being probably the most complete DAP to date. You may notice that I waited a few weeks since its release before posting this release, but honestly, I didn't want to go around and say that iBasso designed the ultimate in terms of hardware, for that statement to be undone just days later, but right now I feel like DX220 is the DAP of 2019, unless someone wants to sneak in and release something this December, although even iBasso just released the DX160 which is really interesting and good competition in the midrange to upper midrange market.



The sound of DX220 is versatile, and depending on what AMP module you're using, it goes from a very reference DAP, all the way to a wide and holographic experience, and even to a tube-like experience with AMP9, pretty much everything from A to Z in terms of what a portable should be able to do.



Before reaching the final conclusion of this review, I have to add that DX220 has to exist within Audiophile-Heaven's Hall Of Fame, because it really impressed me, and for 2019, it is the DAP to have, and I personally don't know of anything planned before the summer of 2020 that will outdo DX220, and even then, nothing's clearly confirmed, making DX220 really interesting if you want a proper DAP flagship.



https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/hall-of-fame.html

In conclusion, DX220 is pretty much excellent, has no weaknesses, and shows no retreat when it comes to dominating the DAP market, and within its price, it is unbeaten, sonically and in terms of hardware.



This being said, there are options for all pockets, and I'm always doing my best to bring you the latest news about all the newest releases, but if you want a flagship, a hassle-free experience, and something that will keep working in the years to come as well, from a company that's known to offer updates even to older products, like they're doing for DX200, and from a company that you can trust with your money, then going with iBasso DX220 is a really easy to recommend choice, as even I personally have been using it a lot since I got it, having fallen in love with it.


Full Playlist used for this review

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

Youtube Playlist


https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu



Tidal Playlist


https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b



Song List


Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance

Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Sonata Arctica - My Selene
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Dope - Addiction
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source
Fall Out Boy - Immortals
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Addictive
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans - My Love

illet - What I Believe
an With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Yasuda Rei - Mirror
Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
Falling Up - Falling In Love
Manafest - Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
Zomboy - Lights Out
Muse - Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel - Addicted
Hollywood Undead - Levitate
The Offspring - Special Delivery
Escape The Fate - Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe
Dope - Rebel Yell
Crazy Town - Butterfly
Silverstein - My Heroine
Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet


I hope my review is helpful to you!

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Contact me!











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atahanuz
atahanuz
I certainly disagree to the DX220's software being fluid . As I wrote in my review below, both Android and Mango modes are extremely laggy.
Dobrescu George
Dobrescu George
You are the only person who had that, so I suspect either a faulty unit, or a very old / or badly installed firmware. I have a video review showing exactly what you can expect from DX220, if yours was any slower than this, you should refer to the customer service instead
Cat Music
Cat Music
I would have loved you to try the Dtr1 Prelude, to know the difference between the two, thanks
Pros: NONE
Cons: Very laggy (both Android and Mango), very short battery life, overall such a problematic audio player
TL,DR: Everything about this device is extremely problematic. (UI, Android, Battery, Bluetooth, Charging... ) despite the skyrocket price tag of $979 (before taxes)

I had really high hopes from the iBasso DX220. DX200 was already being appreciated, when the new release of DX220 came out it was supposed to be one of the best flasghip DAPs of the market and "the ultimate portable audio solution". But what a disappointment !

Normally I am a sound quality first guy, I am fine with other aspects of the products as long as they are okay. But things are certainly NOT okay here, DX220 is an unbelievably problematic device. Nothing works properly and many of the claimed spesifications don't match the reality.

UI (User Interface): Extremely laggy and this is the biggest flaw of the DX220. Both Android and Mango modes are insanely laggy and there is nothing the user can do to fix it. Of course I don't need playing PUBG Mobile at ultra settings on a DAP, all I want is flawless music playback from audio files and streaming services. The music experience is severely ruined when it takes a century to load the next track.

The Android mode being laggy is maybe tolerable but the Mango mode -an operating system solely dedicated for music playback- being laggy is unacceptable. Audio playback operations (browsing album, moving to certain part of a track etc.) are so slow.

Playing audio files from internal storage is already laggy and the things get even worse when using TIDAL or other applications. It is always extremely laggy and sometimes lag spikes occur the device completely freezes for 10+ seconds.

The DX220 has 8-core CPU and 4GB RAM but the processor is Cortex-A53 which is from 2012 ! Due to the prehistoric processor the device will be slow regardless of the core count and the RAM. Such a laggy device is certainly unacceptable given the 2019 standarts and the price tag.


Battery: Scam! iBasso claims 8-9 hours of battery life on their website but the reality is completely different. In Mango mode 44.1/16bit FLAC music playing at medium gain @ 50/100 volume -screen off all the time- the battery only lasts for 4 hours and 30 minutes. It will last even less when: in Android mode, higher sampling rate playing, streaming from apps, wifi and bluetooth on and so... When streaming from Amazon Music App from WiFi it only lasts 2.5 - 3 hours depending on the active usage.

I really wonder how did they measure the "8-9 hours of playback". 128kbps MP3 music playing at 1/100 volume?

Bluetooth: Another wrongly advertised product details! They claim two way aptX and LDAC bluetooth.However the device transmits aptx and LDAC but doesn't receive these codecs, it only receives SBC (the basic very poor codec). So high quality audio streaming to DX220 via Bluetooth is not possible because the SBC codec is quite bad.

Charging: The DX220 is supposed to support quickcharging. Quickcharging is important because it takes 3-4 times less time to fully charge a device compared to standart slow charging.
The DX220 can't be quickcharged by the provided USB cable. The provided cable only charges slowly. Third party Samsung and Huawei cables can do it but it is inconsistent, sometimes quickcharges and sometimes slowcharges the unit. Another frustation...



I returned my DX220. It wasn't possible to calmly review the sound quality at all because I understood that I couldn't live with such a problematic device regardless of the sound.
To my ears the sound is neutral and the sound quality is like a typical mid-fi DAP. Nothing spesificly amazing over cthe heaper DAPs . The problems of the device would only be justifiable if the sound was mindblowing but that's certainly not the case.

I certainly don't suggest this DAP. Everything is too problematic, the sound quality is nothing better than mediocre and the price ($979 before taxes) is just too high. There are much better alternatives.
Pros: Build, sound, design, features, aesthetics.
Cons: ...price?
~: I originally published this on THL. Now I wish to share it with my Head-Fi fellows :~

:: Disclaimer ::
iBasso provided the DX220 free of charge for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill.

The DX220 sells for $899, AMP8 for $199, and AMP9 for $250.
www.iBasso.com
iBasso on Amazon

Features:
– Dual SABRE ES9028PRO DAC Chips.
– Bit for Bit Playback With Support up to 32bit/384kHz.
– Support of Native DSD up to 512x.
– 5.0″ IPS Full Screen (1080*1920), With On Cell Capacitive Touch Panel.
– Corning Glass on The Front Screen And Rear Panel.
– Support of QC3.0, PD2.0, & MTK PE Plus Quick Charge.
– XMOS USB Receiver With Thesycon USB Audio Driver, Ma king 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 Femt osecond Oscillators.
– 8-core CPU.
– Mini Optical Output And Mini Coaxial Output.
– 4GB LPDDR3 – 64G of Internal Memory.
– 5G WiFi And Bluetooth 5.0.
– Support SDXC And SDHC Micro SD Cards.
– Three Settings of Gain Control.
– Patented User Exchangeable AMP Cards.
– 150-Step Digital Volume 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 (Playtime Will Vary With AMP Cards Used)

Specs:
2.5mm Headphone Out :
Output Level : 6.2Vrms
Frequency Response : 10Hz~45kHz +/-0.3dB
S/N : 125dB
THD+N : 0.00018% (no Load, 3Vrms),
0.0002% (32Ω Load, 3Vrms)
Crosstalk : -119dB

3.5mm Headphone Out :
Output Level : 3.1Vrms
Frequency Response : 10Hz~45kHz +/-0.3dB
S/N : 123dB
THD+N : 0.00031% (no Load, 1.8Vrms),
0.00035% (32Ω Load, 1.8Vrms)
Crosstalk : -117dB

Line Out :
Output Level : 3.0Vrms
Frequency Response : 10Hz~45kHz +/- 0.3dB
S/N : 122dB
THD+N : 0.00035% (no Load, 1.8Vrms)
Crosstalk : -116dB

Average Play Time: 8 hours. (The play time varies with different resolutions
and headphone/IEM loads.)

I wasn’t expecting a new flagship DAP from iBasso anytime soon. I wasn’t ready. The DX200 was still my principle player, and I was nowhere near bored with it.

Then I remembered: I got my hands on the DX200 late in the game. It was already an established product with matured firmware when Paul sent me a unit. Grudgingly, I had to accept that maybe it was about due an update.

Unboxing pt 2 01.jpg
Unboxing pt 2 02.jpg
Unboxing 01.jpg
Unboxing 02.jpg
Unboxing 03.jpg
Unboxing 04.jpg
Unboxing 05.jpg
Unboxing pt 2 05.jpg
Unboxing pt 2 06.jpg
And “update” is the right word. The fundamental design is much the same, but everything is better, more attractive, of higher quality, and superior tech. The aesthetics are sleeker and less tank-like. The buttons and volume wheel are more elegant. The display is a gorgeous 5” 1080p full screen, and among the nicest I’ve seen in the DAP market. It comes across as flawless. Unlike the screen on the DX200, which looked even lower res than it actually was, with aggressive pixilation and jagged lines. Of course, I never cared a great deal about such things, but I won’t deny, it’s a nice bonus.

DX220 02.jpg
DX220 03.jpg
DX220 features 01.jpg
DX220 features 02.jpg
The leather case is a bit of a disaster. I had to make liberal cuts to the bottom opening to be able to use wide barrel balanced cables of the sort plusSound employs. Otherwise you can’t get them to plug in all the way. Also, getting the case off is more than a little difficult. While it’s good to know the DAP won’t fall out by accident, one doesn’t enjoy the sense of dread every time they wish to slip the player out. All of my usual tricks for doing so don’t seem to work here, and I always resort to brute tactics, which have caused further damage to the leather.

The DX220 is fully loaded, much like its predecessor, with streaming capabilities, Bluetooth, and all that crap I have no interest in. Only it takes this even further. Not only can you connect to a BT headphone, but you can also control the DAP from your smartphone. This is a feature I’ve seen show up in a lot of recent audiophile devices. It may not be for this old dinosaur, but you may consider it a must-have. So rest assured, iBasso has you covered.

I did, however, spend some time with simple Bluetooth. The Bang&Olufsen Beoplay H9 achieved a stable connection to the DX220, and, apart from a hiccup at the beginning, played flawlessly for about an hour. These headphones have really grown on me, of late. I’ve yet to hear a better sounding pair of wireless cans.

DX220 & Beoplay H9.jpg
The DX220 is a warm, full-bodied device. Whether we’re talking AMP1mk2, AMP8 high-current module, or even the vacuum tube AMP9, the DX220 is decidedly warm and organic of tone. That’s not to say the AMPs don’t have an effect on the sound, because they most certainly do. And I shall endeavor to articulate their influence over the experience. But I was pleasantly surprised to note the distinct voice of the DX220 shine through, no matter what module you connected it to. Unlike the DX200, there is no inherently cold tilt to compensate for.

iBasso took their new DAP in the direction of the DX150: Bold, musical, and strong. It issues authoritative sonics, with smooth, naturalistic color. This is an easy, pleasing listen that will not soon fatigue. Joyful depth and seductive richness, accompanied by a grand soundstage, makes even the most boring headphones seem brimming with potential. For those monitors capable of portraying it, the DX220 renders exquisite dimensionality, giving shape and structure to the notes, as if you can almost see the artist or instrument releasing them.

DX220 & LX 02.jpg
As you’d expect from a Pro-grade SABRE chip, the DX220 is one bad mother ******* when it comes to detail retrieval and resolution. The smallest trickle of water at the church window or the subtlest flutter of wings on the 17th ward, and you hear it as if you are there, ears perked. This is top tier quality, make no mistake. And all without that SABRE glare of poorer implementations. iBasso has mastered this stallion, and what you get is a profoundly honest, grounded presentation. The most natural of naturals.

AMP1 mk2 is the perfect starting model. It was enough to impress me right out of the box. It’s nimble and detailed, warm, but artfully reserved. There’s power and authority, with a subtle elegance to beguile the listener. To put it simply, it’s beautiful.

AMP8 is 4.4mm Balanced, and my favorite with the DX200. The high current module added such dynamism and robustness. And indeed, it does this for the DX220, as well. Though it’s not as needed as it was with the last gen player. Still, if you want a bigger soundstage, the strongest punch, and enough power to drive Planar Magnetic headphones to satisfactory levels, then this is indeed the right AMP for you. Everything just seems bigger and more vibrant. But you will lose out on some battery life.

DX220 NuTube 02.jpg
AMP9, which is 3.5mm single-ended, has become my favorite for the DX220. While it’s supposedly high current, it lacks the driving force of AMP8, so it’s not well-suited for seriously demanding headphones, like Sundara, or the LCD-3. But it does manage the 300Ω Atticus splendidly, a setup with which I’ve enjoyed countless hours. AMP9’s claim to fame is the Korg Nutube vacuum tubes. They achieve exactly what you’d wish of them: The Tube Sound. Extra warmth, glorious harmonic overtones, and new plateaus of richness. Even the soundstage seems bigger. I’m tempted to say it exceeds that of AMP8, though without two DX220s to quickly switch between, it’s hard to be sure. While I’d like to have the driving power of a high-current module, AMP9 creates something so utterly magical I cannot bring myself to use anything else.

Making the comparison to the DX200 ($899, Review HERE), you see the older model has a thinner, airier sound. It comes off cleaner, due to brighter tuning. One of the major criticisms of the DX200 with the original AMP1, was how cold and lifeless it could seem. Luckily, subsequent amp modules resolved much of this. The DX200>AMP8 has been my reference player for a long time now, and it never fails to impress. Still, the new DX220 is unquestionably warmer, with greater note weight and a rounder, fuller presentation. There’s a maturity and refinement which is most welcome. Without having two identical AMP modules, I can’t rightly say which has the wider soundstage. They are both quite large, and will not disappoint in that regard.

Cayin’s recently released N6ii ($1,199) is a strong competitor. Not only is the amp circuitry replaceable, but so is the whole DAC portion. But this comparison is with the stock AK4497EQ module. And let me tell you, it’s more than enough! There is a tremendous amount of power here, and I drive the HIFIMAN Sundara with ease. It’s clean power, too. The sound is more vibrant and dynamic than the DX220, with cleaner, blacker background, greater bass presence, and sharper resolution. All this, and the soundstage is a touch wider, too. Now, this comparison is with the AMP9 Nutubes installed. Against the AMP8 high-current module, the gap is less impressive, with the DX220 gaining a bit of vibrancy and sharpness. But I’d still give Cayin the win here, if only by a little. I like both DAPs set with Slow Roll-Off digital filters, for the most natural sonics. Yet to my ears, the N6ii takes the lead in transparency. But of course, it’s more expensive.

With various AMP modules comes various strengths and uses. Because of the succulent warmth of AMP9, brighter monitors will sound their best. AMP8’s savage output power drives full-size headphones to damn-near their potential. I won’t talk much about AMP1mk2 because it’s the vanilla option, and easily summarized by saying, “It’s adequate for most scenarios.” As good as it sounds, and it does sound very good, most folk will be drawn to the superior audio of AMP7, 8, or 9. AMP7 being the single-ended version of the high-current AMP8, which is balanced.


DX220 & IT04.jpg
Let’s start off with an iBasso IEM, the InTune IT04 ($499, Review HERE). This thing is relatively affordable, in the world of audiophilia, tuned for clarity and detail, air and soundstage. It leans a little to the thin and bright. So it ought to come as no surprise that AMP9 is the best pairing. Even though there is a little background hiss, the Korg tubes fill her out, introducing a hint of lushness and low-end dynamics. The IT04’s bass driver is capable of so much when properly encouraged. AMP9 even warms up the treble, which is usually a tad cold on the IT04. This pairing is the perfect example of the beauty in marrying two complementary voices. They are stronger together, and you are the one who profits from it.

iBasso also has an excellent set of semi-open cans, the SR1 ($499, Review HERE). Thanks to their super efficient design, they do not need AMP8’s power, so you can bask in the vacuum tubes of AMP9. The SR1 is one of the best-balanced monitors I’ve ever heard. It does everything with just the right measure. There’s clarity, and profound detail. Yet it never strays into brightness or stridency. The bass is full and delicious, warming up the mids to create a very natural, full tone. Due to the masterful balance it walks, the SR1 plays well with every source. Bright, warm, or neutral. Connecting it to AMP9, you are treated to the very essence of lush musicality. And without any sense of veil or claustrophobia.

SR1 & DX220.jpg
DX220 & LX 01.jpg
I spent most of my listening time with the Empire Ears Legend X ($2,299, Review HERE). LX has enough treble clarity, enough low-end weight, enough mid-range vibrancy… it has enough of everything. More than enough. There’s not a source that makes these sound bad, so choose whichever AMP module you like. LX will shine like the sun. The virtues of this monitor are of such a high degree, their technical prowess so great, I consider them the ultimate IEM to unlock the full potential of any DAP. And indeed, they showcase the DX220 like nothing else can.

DX220 & 99C.jpg
For those on a modest budget looking for portable, closed-back over-ear cans, I always recommend the Meze 99 Classic ($309, Review HERE). You just can’t beat them in this price-range. They have a sound very few people won’t find enticing. Tons of detail and air, crystalline clarity, and a glorious bass presence that bleeds into the mids just enough to give them warmth and character. They are ever so slightly on the thin side, with treble that can be a little bright. So AMP9 really warms these up nicely, elevating Meze to new heights of greatness.

If you have no budget whatsoever and don’t mind an incredibly bulky set of closed-backs, my personal favorite are the ZMF Headphones Atticus ($1,199, Review HERE). These are the cans I take to work with me every day. While Atticus is 300Ω, most DAPs seem to drive them well. I especially like these with AMP9, as the Nutubes really bring out Atticus’ musicality, making them sound like an acoustically warm concert hall. There’s just enough head-room on the volume that you should be safe with even the most quiet albums. But of course there’s always AMP8, which eliminates any such concerns. And god knows I have no complaints with that pairing.

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Now, the Audeze LCD-3F ($1,999) absolutely requires AMP8. Being of Planar Magnetic design, they are hungry *******! I tried them with AMP9, but I was maxing out the volume on a medium-loud album. You will run into trouble there. But AMP8 did great. The smooth, laidback sonics of the LCD-3, with their inherent warmth, mingled in such a lovely way the DX220’s own rich timbre. It’s a heavenly experience, and I love taking this setup to the back porch when I smoke a cigar.

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iBasso forged a wonderful upgrade to the legendary DX200. The new DX220 is indeed a worthy predecessor, exhibiting improvements in every aspect of its design and auditory signature. iBasso shows us a mature, more refined philosophy. The sound is richer and more musical. The UI is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous generation, standing alongside industry leaders. And the chassis is sleek, elegant, and beautiful. The DX220 is more than an upgrade, it’s a statement, and a promise for the future. And I’m excited for it.

-~::Pinky_Powers::~-

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Attachments

Pros: Build quality
Sound quality
Full Android 8.1 platform
Dual OS boot: Android & Mango OS
5" Touch screen
Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi
Exchangeable Amp modules feature
Cons: Large device
Limited battery time to 8 hours
Not the fastest Android based device (though still better than non full Android players)
REVIEW – iBasso DX220

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Website – iBasso Audio
Specifications

2.5mm Headphone Out
:

  • Output Level: 6.2Vrms
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz~45kHz +/-0.3dB
  • S/N: 125dB
  • THD+N: 0.00018% (no Load, 3Vrms), 0.0002% (32Ω Load, 3Vrms)
  • Crosstalk: -119dB

3.5mm Headphone Out:
  • Output Level: 3.1Vrms
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz~45kHz +/-0.3dB
  • S/N: 123dB
  • THD+N: 0.00031% (no Load, 1.8Vrms), 0.00035% (32Ω Load, 1.8Vrms)
  • Crosstalk: -117dB

Line Out:
  • Output Level: 3.0Vrms
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz~45kHz +/-0.3dB
  • S/N: 122dB
  • THD+N: 0.00035% (no Load, 1.8Vrms)
  • Crosstalk: -116dB

Main Features
  • Dual SABRE ES9028PRO DAC Chips.
  • Bit for Bit Playback with Support up to 32 bit/384kHz.
  • Support of Native DSD up to 512x.
  • 5.0" IPS Full Screen (1080*1920), With On Cell Capacitive
  • Touch Panel. Corning Glass on the Front Screen and Rear Panel.
  • Support of QC3.0, PD2.0, & MTK PE Plus Quick Charge.
  • XMOS USB Receiver with Thesycon USB Audio Driver.
  • 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
  • 64G of Internal Memory.
  • 5G WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0.
  • Support SDXC and SDHC Micro SD Cards.
  • Three Settings of Gain Control.
  • Patented User Exchangeable AMP Cards.
  • 150-Step Digital Volume 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 (Playtime Will Vary With AMP Cards Used)

Price: U$D 899.

Available from iBasso website and official distributors. Final price may vary on different countries and shipping costs can be extra.

Official iBasso DX220 product page


The DX220 unit here was kindly sent arranged by iBasso company for the full review.

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The new DX220 arrives in a large cardboard box with a very fancy presentation. The previous reviewed iBasso products also arrived in an elegant packaging but more compact and discreet unlike the more impressive DX220 box. It is nothing really necessary though gives that ‘flagship’ premium unboxing experience. The device is safely held right in the middle of the inner box well protected with thick foam material. The accessories and paperwork are well arranged in separated boxes underneath.

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The included cables are a USB to Type-C cable for charging and DAC connectivity, a SPDIF coaxial cable and the iBasso famous burn-in cable in 2.5mm plug version. The USB and burn-in cables are nylon-sheathed, and both burn-in and coaxial cables have metal silver colored covers on the plugs. There are also a few screen protectors to be applied on the device, three for the large front panel and two smaller ones for the back panels divided into the main device back panel and the AMP module panel.

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Lastly, there is a leather case ready to be installed on the player, and this time arrives in yellow mustard color; not sure if it is real leather or not, but looks of good quality as to be included as part of the bundle. The case color may not match the all silver and gunmetal color theme but at least attaches tightly to the player and gives a better grip and protection. The left side is completely covered, and while the right side covers the 3 buttons it leaves the volume wheel open for easy operation. The bottom side is open only for the three audio ports, and the upper side is left uncovered for the power button and USB and SPDIF ports.

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Design

As a flagship model the DX220 clearly holds all the standards a top model should carry in terms of build quality, and, subjectively, in design as well. The device is made of quality CNC machined aluminum for the main case chassis clearly seen through the whole contour and Corning 2.5D glass for both front and rear panels, including the new AMP1 MKII module. Physical buttons and the volume wheel as well are all-metal. Cool enough?

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For its dimensions, holding almost identical numbers as the DX200 and DX150, the DX220 is a large portable player when compared to other alternatives on the $1000 and below prices. With about 125x70mm, weighting 240g and a 5” touch screen it may not sound that large compared to the modern smartphones nowadays, though it’s the ~19mm thickness that can make it oversized as an all-day portable player, and then the included leather-like case will just add a few millimeters to the whole deal. Still very decent compared to other top-tier (and more expensive) players which don’t even offer an Android platform or a same quality screen.

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The layout is well divided to each of the player’s sides. The left side is the simplest, with just one micro SD card slot. The specifications do not mention the highest card capacity supported by the DX220, though there were no issues with a Samsung EVO Plus of 128GB. On Android OS it is immediately recognized and prompts how to handle it; under Mango OS it is simply listed as the ‘external storage’ under ‘Directory’ menu on ‘My Music’ screen.

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The right side holds the three playback buttons, back, play/pause and next, and the volume wheel above them. As default, the upper button is for next and the lower button for back, but they can be set to work oppositely from the settings menu on either Mango or Android OS. The wheel is fairly discreet, very easy to handle with a good grip, smooth rotation and precise volume adjustment. Also, each of these controls can be set to operate or not when screen is off.

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The upper side holds the power (and screen) on/off button to its further right corner, the USB Type-C port in the middle and the 3.5mm SPIDF port to the left. As usual, the USB port works not just for charging the device (Quick charge available) but also to be connected as an external DAC when selected from the settings menu and as digital source for any extra DAC. The SPDIF connection is shared for coaxial output as default and as optical output if set from the audio settings. As mentioned, only a coaxial cable is included in the package.

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With the same modular design as the previous models, the bottom side will vary with each amp module. The included one on the DX220 is the new AMP1 MKII which brings all the needed audio outputs, line-out, single ended 3.5mm and balanced 2.5mm. The amp module can be changed to any of the others iBasso AMP options by simply removing the screws on both sides. (This would be covered on the following AMP9 review).

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The screen itself is of very good quality. A 5” size screen is a whole new take for the portable audio players market (only recently matched by FiiO’s last M11 model with just a tad larger screen of 5.15”). It features a 2.5D Corning glass with a 1080p Sharp LCD full touch screen display. Good resolution of 1080x1920 and 445ppi. Again this are just numbers but quality is indeed very good with sharp and vivid rich colors, depth, nice viewing angle and reaching a good brightness level. Many decent smartphones will beat this quality, but definitely nice for not just dedicated music usage but as smart device for video playback and web-browsing. There is also the option to screen rotation as any phone or tablet, effective for video playback or web-surfing.

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More about the inner hardware, the DX220 keeps the ESS Sabre Pro DAC component, a dual ES9028PRO chip, each carrying 8 DACs, and offering a nice array of digital audio filters (for those who need to handle the last bit of precision in sound). For the processor part it is also an 8-core CPU but with improved 4G of RAM. Inner memory is 64GB, quite decent versus 32GB or less other companies offer (if any). These are fine computing components, maybe not the fastest compared to modern phones or even some less expensive Android based DAPs. Snapdragon or Samsung processors can prove to be better even with less memory. A deal breaker? Definitely not, because the DX220 still runs fast enough next to non-Android or touch screen based audio players. It is still important to mention that the device shows some heat after a short time of use; nothing unusual around portable players; for instance, the Shanling M5s performs similarly, especially during hot summer days.

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User Interface & Software

The DX220 offers dual OS boot, Android and Mango. The Android OS runs on the last 8.1 Oreo version and works as any Android based smart device. Being an open-source Linux based platform there small additions included on the DX220 as an audio player, with more dedicated audio settings and extra features you may find. Using 8.1 Oreo version is still actual for 2019 and like the others models it could be updated to newer versions if the iBasso team decides so. For a music player there is no need to ask more as long as the system runs smooth and stable. The firmware does not include Google Play, but alternatively arrives with pre-installed APKPure and CoolAPK apps – APKPure is in English and very easy to use; cannot comment on CoolAPK as it is all Chinese.

The main screen is a very common Android one with very few basic apps, and the iBasso icon at the bottom left to direct access the Mango App, or alternatively by switching to the second screen to the left. The touch screen responsiveness is good, and the whole navigation is as easy as it gets with any Android based platform.

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The other operating system is the own iBasso Mango OS. It also runs under Linux base (like the DX120), and supposed to be an updated version over the previous one, still keeping the same simple interface. To switch to the Mango OS from the Android OS just press and hold the power button and choose the “To Mango”. To go back from Mango to Android OS, go to the Advanced option under the Settings menu and select “To Android” and done.

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Like on the Mango OS, for the Android system the main audio application is the Mango Player App. They are very similar but not identical, as the Mango app works more like another audio player application. The main screen is the same, with a colorful screen for album artwork if available and all the playback controls and the lower part. The icon to the left will show the track info, while the one to the right toggles between the various play modes. At the upper part, the right icon takes to the Settings menu, while the left icon to the Music menu. Scrolling through the music lists and folders is fast, but not most accurate. It is actually better, smoother, under Android OS, if a bit too fast, while much sharper with Mango OS. For reference, the HiBy Music player on the R6 Pro is smoother and more accurate than the Mango Android app, while navigation under Mango OS is still better than the Shanling M5s. It is not a huge issue or a deal breaker at all, but even so not the most optimal you’d expect from an Android device at this price. Apart from that, the Android system is overall faster than the Mango OS which in comparison shows a little bit of lag. Another advantage of the Mango app is that scrolling through the playing track can be done by a single touch of the playing bar, while on the Mango OS there is need to hold and drag it. Also, it is easier to access to the current playing list on the Mango app by scrolling down the hidden upper menu, while on Mango OS it can be only accessed by going back to the My Music screen and choosing the ‘Now Playing’ option. Regardless the operating system, it is very easy to skip tracks by a single swipe right or left to go to previous or next track, respectively. Also, on Mango OS, wherever under the My Music or Settings screens and sub-menus a single swipe while get back to the music playing screen.
Equalization options are the usual ones with extra user defined Custom option. Also, while currently limited to only the Android OS, there is a brand new Parametric EQ option.

A detailed explanation of this equalizer as well as further details of the DX220 usage can be found on the DX220 manual from the iBasso website (link is at the end of the product page linked above).

Below are some multiple screenshots of the Android platform (taken with a downloaded application):

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More screens...

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Wireless features – Bluetooth & WiFi

The DX220 supports both wireless options of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. For Bluetooth it has upgraded to 5.0 version, claiming to be the first DAP to have this version, which seems true at least from the already released players. This means that it technically should have the best signal range with better audio quality, transmission and most solid connectivity. The only BT 5.0 sets I had so far are True-wireless which are not the best implemented ones. Nevertheless, the BT quality is as good as with any decent 4.2v device if a slightly better. Supported codecs include AptX and LDAC (no HD though). Moreover, the DX220 supports Two-Way Bluetooth (and thus the first to support in BT 5.0), meaning it can work both as BT transmitter and receiver to work as wireless Amp/DAC and take advantage of all the audio hardware quality. The antenna is supposed to be placed outside the aluminum main case and in an isolated cavity – an important point to reduce the interference and hold a better data transfer.

For Wi-Fi it supports the dual band 2.4/5GHz. It is already a necessary standard for portable devices, and seems to work well with home internet servers for both navigation and streaming.


DAC functionality

The USB Type-C allows the DX220 to work as an external DAC for computer or other portable devices. It may be needed to install an extra driver depending on the system. The switch to DAC mode is found under Advanced menu from the Settings screen menu on Mango player (App and OS). Tested with the portable xDuoo XD-10 and new Aune X1s Pro desktop Amp/DAC devices the connectivity is solid and shows a clean signal.


Battery

Battery time is rated to work up to 8 hours of continuous use. In practice it seems accurate, playing a mix of Flac and 320kps Mp3 files, low gain, and wireless connections off, reaching around 7hrs or more. Random screen use and balanced output can consume a bit more. Even with the suggested 7~8 time, it is still below the standard for portable audio players, and probably the main disadvantage of the DX220. The supported Quick-charge 3.0 USB makes up a bit for this, allowing a faster full charging.


Sound Quality

Some of the main gears used:
3.5mm output:
qdc Anole VX & Fusion; final e5000 & B1; Sendy Audio Aiva; Meze Audio 99 Classics.
2.5mm balanced output:
Dita Audio Twins; iBasso IT04; Dunu DK-3001 Pro; VE Zen 2.0.
DAPs: HiBy R6 Pro. Also HiBy R5, Shanling M5s and iBasso DX120.


With an upgraded ESS Sabre component of the Pro DAC series and the renewed AMP1 MK II module, the DX220 is certainly a very capable sounding portable audio player. The wide volume range (100~150, depending on the selected OS) and the three gains are a huge advantage making it a most versatile source for very efficient to more demanding sets of moderately higher impedance, lower sensitivity rates. Even with low impedance hybrid in-ear models of below 16ohm, the DX220 works flawlessly. Changes from one volume step to another are small and very smooth, something critical for the most sensitive earphones. On Mango OS about 30 steps are good enough for something like the iBasso IT04 (balanced output), and about 60 when playing through the Mango App at Android system, which is logical having the higher 150 steps. More importantly, the noise floor is low and also the background very dark, even from the 2.5mm balanced output. Hiss is not perceived, though I cannot comment much on that regard as I haven’t tried with more hiss sensitive IEMs so far. So despite being a powerful portable device it plays perfectly without need of impedance adapters.

The dual Sabre Pro DAC features a variety of digital filters, though differences are very tiny to none; usually slight changes in tonality with more and less bass and treble presence. Greater changes are immediately achieved with the use of the Equalizer options. The DX220, with the Mango player features five EQ presets and one Custom for own user’s tuning. The presets options can be also adjusted; the frequency band is rather wide having 10 frequencies that may be changed, from 33Hz to 16kHz, in range of -12 to 12dB. If used on Android, the upper frequency graph curve will change accordingly. Also, when enabling the EQ there is a few decibels volume drop in order to avoid channel distortion. More importantly, the Mango player now features parametric equalization (PMEQ), a much more complex system than the standard EQ. It will require some time and dedication to fully understand how every work, but then it is also a much more precise tuning feature. However, at the current last firmware the PMEQ is only limited to Mango app under Android OS. The manual (found online at iBasso site) briefly explains how to correctly use the PMEQ.

Nevertheless, the sound impressions were done without any EQ option and only with Mango player, both OS and App. It is important to mention that there are some sonic differences that may noticed when using the Mango App that runs under the Android OS and the Mango OS single player. Reason of this has been confirmed by iBasso as well, and it is logical too. The Mango OS that runs under Linux system alone is free from all the extra running programs and stuff that the Android system needs to take care of. And even as mentioned above the Mango app being faster and smoother in response, the real sound quality can better when played on the own Mango OS. These are not two tunings to be compared and differences are very small though still noticed with a good pair of headphones - simply put, when under Mango OS the sound is fuller, better weighted, more extended and cleaner overall.

The DX220 with the included AMP1 MKII is quite neutral in sound. It is also very transparent and shows practically no enhancement on a particular part of the music. However, it is a less ‘reference’ kind of sound presentation which that usually is described as more flat and with a slight gain at the treble in order to create an image of having greater detail retrieval. The DX220 instead has a greater focus on musicality keeping a very high level of resolution and impressive dynamics. It is also very, very strong in all technical aspects. The neutrality is well shown when paired with different kind of earphones and headphones, from warmer or bass focused, to mid-centered and up to bright, treble oriented sets. The DX220 won’t exaggerate anything, if there is any gain on the mid-bass it will immediately appear, if vocals are forward they will be as well, and same if there is any treble tilt.

However, what the DX220 gives is a more fullness to the whole sound, adding greater yet precise weight to each instrument and especially more natural texture, sounding more realistic. If anything, there is a little of warmth added present through the midrange, though it is more due the nicer sense of musicality the DX220 has. As such it won’t classify directly as totally “transparent”, but it is a very little trade for a more engaging and enjoyable sound. The midrange is particularly well textured, maybe a touch little forward with a richer tone and fuller weight. The separation is really good giving a better imaging and more natural timbre. There are two areas where the DX220 truly stands out. One is extension on both ends, the sub-bass reach is impressive and more effortless, and so it is on the treble side. The second is the soundstage which is particularly larger, even when using IEMs or closed-back headphones and more appreciated with more open designs. The micro detail level is just as good, though it is not presented in a very forward way, rather well arranged on the whole music mix. Of course, everything is more capable from the balanced output, but even with the standard 3.5mm option is already well worth.

That said, switching to the balanced output, 2.5mm from the AMP1 MKII, everything sounds clearly better. Good thing is that the overall tonality is kept, with the usual gain in volume level, around 10 steps at most. There is a noticeable gain in power as expected from the higher output level (twice the single 3.5mm). Moreover, there is a gain on both the bass and treble ends sounding everything more even. The extension is greater as well, further and more effortless reach on the sub-bass and upper treble region. There is specially an even higher improvement on the soundstage feeling just wider with better depth and height creating a more precise and natural imaging with more surrounding effect. The presentation is also more spacious and airy, easier to pick details and separation on instruments. Floor and background noise is still kept as from the single ended output and also the volume and gains work just as good. Simply put, unless it is to keep the longer battery time, if applicable, using the balanced output is the way to go with the DX220.


Pairings

Single ended 3.5mm output:

qdc Anole VX

A masterpiece of an earphone as a top-tier model with 10 BA units per-side and 3 tunings switches. I’d yet need to try the full potential of the DX220 with the Anole VX with a 2.5mm cable as the qdc plugs are more proprietary than standard 2-pins. Nonetheless, setting all switches off the qdc flagship performs amazing just from the 3.5mm single ended DX220 output. Large and very immersive stage, excellent imaging and high speed. The micro detail is superb and the VX gain extra fullness and more solid weight still being very neutral in frequency response.

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final E5000

A single dynamic IEM of just ~6.4mm of diameter but yet a rather demanding set with its low sensitivity rate. The E5000 benefits highly from extra power and for the DX220 it requires at least a volume of 50 (on Mango OS or 100 on Android, still on low gain). The synergy is very good, with wide stage, layering and greater dynamics. The presentation is fuller on the bass, very powerful impact and rumble, with thicker more forward midrange, and while extended treble it gets a more laid-back nature. In comparison, with the HiBy R6 Pro the E5000 sounds more even in lows and highs with a cooler and crispier midrange and bit less expansive stage.

Balanced 2.5mm output:

Dita Audio Twins

Driving both the Fealty and Fidelity is no issue with the DX220. Needless to say the balanced output gives the best results. The Fidelity sound is very neutral, a bit flat but very full and well balanced. It has that treble energy but very well controlled and well rounded. The Fealty is presented a bit more lively, a very wide v-shaped sound with a bit of gain on the bass and treble yet keeps the wide and open stage with a richer and thicker midrange. Fealty is more engaging whereas the Fidelity more accurate and detailed with a cooler tonality overall.

iBasso IT04

It wouldn’t be a complete iBasso product review without mentioning the company own IT04 in-ear model, which still holds the ‘flagship’ tag and also makes a very good reference as a good sounding pair of earphones. The IT04 already arrives with the 2.5mm cable as main cable to use is directly from the DX220 balanced mode. Bass is full and strong with very good sub-bass rumble, and with a graphene driver for lows it sounds very even with the sub-bass. The midrange is clean, a bit forward and fuller texture, particularly thicker on the vocals and lower midrange. Treble is a tad bright but well controlled and holds good dynamics. The presentation is more open and detailed, and the soundstage as usual with the IT04 is even higher with the DX220.

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Comparisons

HiBy R6 Pro

The HiBy R6 Pro is probably the most direct competitor for the iBasso DX220, also at a similar price ($800 vs $900). Both players share some similarities but also differ not only in their technical and inner hardware components but also in their overall sound presentation.

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Starting from the outer design, the R6 Pro is made of all stainless steel chassis, noticeable heavier than the DX220 made of aluminum, 240g vs 285g. On the other hand, the DX220 is larger in all dimensions with a less conventional shape than the simpler rectangular form factor of the R6 Pro, which also has more rounded and smoother edges. So, as for a daily portable device each of them has its own pros and cons. Moreover, the DX220 sports a larger 5” screen of higher and sharper resolution. The touch screen responsiveness is a bit faster on the HiBy though, both running on Android.

They differ more on the buttons and ports layout, so ultimately it will depend on user preference. The R6 Pro having operations buttons for power and playback on one side and volume on the other, while the DX220 holds the playback buttons along with the volume wheel on a single side. Output and input slots are opposite as well.

Both players run on a full Android 8.1 version, with their own modifications to suit the performance of an audio player. Putting the Mango OS boot aside, in terms of Android OS performance, the HiBy R6 Pro runs still faster and smoother as an Android device; not very surprising as they implemented a quality Snapdragon processor. Also, the battery is relatively lower on the DX220 below the 10hrs, when the R6 Pro holds close to 11hrs and has a better standby time too. And as mentioned the DX220 tends to get hot, while the R6 Pro remains cooler.

Getting more into the audio section. Both have 3.5mm, line-out, coaxial, S/Pdif and USB digital outputs. For balanced, the R6 Pro has the newer 4.4mm Pentaconn, and while the DX220 has the standard 2.5mm option, it also features optical output (shared with the S/Pdif). Of course, the iBasso has the advantage of switching amp modules, going to balanced 4.4mm with AMP8 and even tube power with the new AMP9. In terms of volume and gain, the advantage goes to DX220 having more volume steps and 3 gain options, and more importantly, a smoother volume change that suits better the more sensitive gears, like IEMs.

There are actually no real advantages on the 4.4mm over the 2.5mm. The DX220 implements the 2.5mm output just as good. Going balanced is highly recommended on both players to achieve the optimal sonic results. The do differ in tonality and overall presentation. The HiBy R6 Pro sound is more forward, especially on the treble, with a more aggressive character. The details are put as a higher priority and can sound less forgiving. The DX220 with AMP1 MKII is smoother with a rich and fuller texture on bass and mids. The soundstage is impressive on both, though it is still wider on the DX220 with better end to end extension.

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As an extra, the R6 Pro features the HiBy MageSound 8-Ball equalizer, or MSEB, which is very easy to use. While the DX220 now introduces a much more complex but also more accurate Parametric EQ option for those who can use its advanced and precise tuning.

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Pros: new large 5” display, new Mango v2 app, more RAM, improved sound performance, PEQ, BT 5.0, fast charging, new leather case.
Cons: more RAM with the same CPU/GPU (as in DX200) doesn’t improve Android performance.


The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog at the end of May, and I was planning to mirror it on Head-fi shortly afterwards, but got flooded with many other reviews. Now, I can finally share it with my readers on head-fi.

Manufacturer website: iBasso.

It's a long read with lots of detailed info and pics, so grab yourself a :popcorn:


Intro.

Regardless if it’s an entry or a flagship level DAP, every manufacturer has a different approach when it comes to new releases. Some will do a major cosmetic overhaul, change internal hardware, or start fresh with a new product series. Others will introduce a model with a different chassis material or headphone jack, though those are variations on top of the existing design, not intended to be a replacement. A price bump could be part of the changes as well. But with today’s flagship DAPs the price could vary by a few thousand dollars, thus it’s no longer a deciding factor when choosing the top performer.

Two years ago, when iBasso DX200 flagship was introduced, it had a big cosmetic overhaul using modular design and all new internal hardware. iBasso uses DX name across their DAP releases where the model number indicates its standing relative to other DAPs. For example, DX150 with a design similar to DX200 had a lower model number along with a scaled down performance. We also saw two variations of DX200, a very small batch of Gold Copper which I don’t believe was even for sale, and a limited production run of Titanium version. And who can forget all new amp modules, compatible with both DX150 and DX200 models.

No doubt, iBasso was due for a new flagship release, so nobody was shocked when DX220 was announced, but it did catch some by surprise when company revealed the spec. Personally, I had a suspicion it will not have a drastic design change because the model went from 200 to 220. But seeing all the effort they put into the enhancement of sound performance while experimenting with various components in their amps and Titanium DAP version, I had a feeling it would be the main focus of improvements in DX220 as well. Now, let’s find out what this latest flagship from iBasso brings to the table!

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Unboxing and Accessories.

Before you get to the actual product, analyzing the packaging could give you some clues about it. Coincidentally, the design of the packaging box didn’t change from DX200, just got refined with new bolder colors. From a silver exterior half-sleeve to a burgundy soft-touch storage box with a cool diagonal split opening, it still has a premium feeling. The DAP itself is in an open tray on display when you take it out, surrounded by foam cushions inside the box. The exterior sleeve had a spec on the back, but it referred to a new amp module.

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Inside you will find a number of accessories, including film screen protector with a few spares for the front and one set for the back panel and amp module. Good idea, considering the glass back of DX220 and its stock amp module. Tempered glass screen protector was included as well, but as iBasso pointed out after the release, it reduces the screen sensitivity thus not recommended.

A premium quality USB-C charging/data cable with a nicely braided nylon sheathing was another included accessory. You will also find their burn-in 2.5mm cable which serves as a load to let you burn-in the DAP quietly without a need for attached headphones. A short SPDIF cable was included too (3.5mm to RCA) which comes in handy when using the DAP as a transport. Both burn-in and SPDIF cables had updated look with a silver-color theme.

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A detailed DX220 quick start guide, S/N card, HDTracks 20% coupon, and even a card with acknowledgement of DAP supporting the hardware MQA decoding was included as well, but my focus went straight to a new leather case. The case is an upgrade from DX200/200Ti design. You no longer have a snap-on button in the corner, and instead it has a clean slip-on design with an open top providing full access to SPDIF port, USB-C port, and power button. Left side fully covers the chassis, including micro-SD card. Bottom has a large opening for stock amp LO, 3.5mm, and 2.5mm ports, except I had an issue with some of my larger diameter 2.5mm headphone plugs and ended up shaving off a few mm to widen the case opening.

Right side now has hardware transport buttons fully covered with an imprinted shape that is very easy to feel by sliding your thumb. Volume wheel is open with an easy access to control it with your thumb on the front or the back. The back has a nice padding and imprinted iBasso logo. The color of the case is yellowish-mustard, perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me personally it stands out in a drawer with other dark leather case DAPs. I have no doubt MITER will have a case for DX220 sooner or later if you prefer a different color. Also, not sure if mine came from a first pre-production batch, but it was a bit loose which I fixed by putting a few pieces of paper on the back, to prevent it from sliding out.

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Design.

Starting with exterior dimensions, DX220 is 126mm x 70.5mm x 18.7mm, very close to DX200 128.5mm x 69mm x 19.5mm, plus both weight the same 240g. Up close you can’t miss the new big 5” 1080p Sharp full screen display with 1080x1920 resolution, while the original DX200 has 4.2” display with 768x1280 resolution. The new display is not just bigger and sharper, but the colors are richer and deeper. Its 2.5D Corning glass panel covers the whole front of the DAP, all you see is a thin bezel of beveled chassis edges.

Since DX220 has a modular design like DX200 and amp cards are backward/forward compatible, the module is still at the bottom behind the glass with edges seamlessly integrated with main chassis. A screw on each side secures the amp module. The rest of the ports and controls around the DAP are similar to DX200. On the left you will find a spring loaded micro-SD card opening, on the top there is SPDIF port shared between COAX and Optical outputs. Next to SPDIF port, you will find USB-C charge/data port, and Power button (for screen on/off with a short press and power on/off with a long press) is in the upper right corner, flush with chassis.

On the right side you no longer will see a guard bar over the volume wheel. Design is cleaner now with a solid one piece chassis and nothing else attached in the upper right corner. Volume wheel doesn’t stick out too far, has a diamond cut along the side for easy one-finger rolling, and has a precise tactile response with a soft click feedback. Below it, you have playback control buttons, all metal, the same size, flush with a chassis, with Play/Pause in the middle and Skip on the sides. It looks and feels nice in your hand, but I still prefer and recommend keeping DX220 in a leather case to enhance the grip.

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Under the hood.

In this section I usually cover inner guts of the new design, but in case of DX220 not too much has changed, at least not when it comes to the main components. According to iBasso, they looked at all the available DACs, and still decided to use dual ES9028Pro configuration, the same as in DX200. Based on my discussions with iBasso, they put audio quality as their #1 priority, above any "next gen" marketing buzz. The selection of those desktop grade DACs for DX200 was a way for iBasso to futureproof their design, and they did it, even carrying it over into the next gen DX220 flagship.

To my surprise hardware was updated with 4GB of DDR3 RAM, but the CPU remained the same, Octa-Core ARM Cortex-A53 as the one used in DX200. So, what does this mean? I can only judge by running new Mango v2 app and other apps I loaded on DX220, and I do feel apps running smoother, but overall Android experience is the same, and I even confirmed that by running a few benchmark tests. Do I need a faster Android OS on DX220? I already have a smartphone and half of the time use DX220 in Mango OS anyway, so it’s definitely not a show stopper for me. But, I would have loved to see it with either Qualcomm Snapdragon or Samsung Exynos processors because with its gorgeous 5” display and 4GB of RAM I would have probably used DX220 for more entertainment tasks than just music.

Internal storage remained the same as DX200, only 64GB which I would have loved to see doubled, but it’s not a show stopper either with microSD cards going up in capacity, plus DX220 being able to stream. Battery remained the same, 4400mAh, but now you have a Fast Charging capability supporting all popular protocols, such as QC3.0, PD2.0, and MTK PE Plus. That is a big plus and a welcome change. In my DX220 battery testing, I was able to get a solid 8hr of playback time in low gain from 2.5mm balanced output playing mix of mp3/FLAC files.

If you want to, DX220 can also be used as high end USB DAC, a.k.a. external "soundcard", supporting PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and native DSD up to 512, the same as in a standalone DAP operation. Also, some miscellaneous components were updated, using Panasonic polymer capacitors and custom inductors, as well as high accuracy femtosecond precision oscillators.

Bluetooth has been upgraded to 5.0 and supports LDAC and aptX. BT operates in 2-way mode where you can either pair up with external Bluetooth devices or use DX220 paired up with your smartphone as Bluetooth wireless DAC/amp. And speaking of Bluetooth, the antenna now is outside the chassis in isolation cavity to cut down on interference with internal circuit. Dual band (2.4GHz/5GHz) WiFi is supported as well.

As already mentioned, this is still a modular design, and amp modules are forward and backward compatible. This means you can share the same amp modules between DX150, DX200/Ti, and DX220, and have access to all the previously released and upcoming modules, like a promised AMP9 with Korg NuTube. DX220 comes with a new stock AMP1ii (2nd gen AMP1) amp with an impressive spec of 2.5mm: 6.2Vrms, SNR 125dB, 3.5mm: 3.1Vrms, SNR 123dB, and LO: 3Vrms.

Last, but not least, though I'm not an expert on MQA subject and don't have any MQA encoded songs in my collection, according to iBasso, DX220 will support hardware decoding of MQA. Furthermore, I have seen a few people to comment about it on Head-fi with a positive feedback.

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GUI.

DX220 continues its DX200 tradition 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. Just keep in mind that updates won't be installed automatically, and you can't bypass apps that require Google play authorization. The solution to this problem is very simple since you can always download and install Lurker's free ROM (https://github.com/Lurker00) which brings Google Play to DX220, along with a few other goodies.

Mango OS is a strip down version of operating system built around Mango app interface where the focus is strictly on audio interface without a waste of OS resources on other tasks. Switching between these two OS is very simple, when you boot up into Android and press'n'hold Power button you have a choice of Power off, Restart, or switch to Mango. When you switch to Mango, DAP is rebooted and will continue to boot into Mango OS every time until you go to Settings->Advanced and select Android System. Once Android System is selected, it will only boot into Android OS until you switch back to Mango OS.

If you look into Mango app (or Mango OS), you will quickly realize this is a new v2 version, and it doesn't just have the updated look and functionality, but also a lot smoother and faster to navigate. There are a few differences between Mango app and Mango OS interface, they are not identical, and I will cover it a little later. But first, let me go over the updated interface layout and its changes relative to the original Mango v1 in DX200.

With a bigger display, now you also have a better view of the embedded song/album artwork, if one is available. If not, a default image is displayed. The biggest change here is that you no longer have to swipe left/right to get to the file/song management and settings. The main playback screen has a more logical interface where you swipe the artwork display left/right to skip between the songs, and access song search and file management from a shortcut in the upper left corner and settings from a shortcut in the upper right corner.

Below the artwork, you have track info and a scroll bar to advance through the song where you can tap anywhere to skip. To me it’s a BIG deal since previously you had to tap and drag the current song position to a new one. Now, you can fast forward/back by simply tapping on a timeline like you would on your smartphone. Below it, you have a shortcut on the left to provide a more detailed info about the song, and another shortcut on the right to switch between playback modes (play in order, repeat list, shuffle, repeat current song). Play/Pause and Skip next/prev buttons are big enough and located at the bottom. Also, all the way at the top in the middle you can swipe down to access the list of your current songs playback or songs located in your current playback directory. From that list, you can swipe each song to the left which gives you an option to delete it.

In Music search and track management, you can search through your songs (where it’s indexed) or by browsing the internal storage directory. Under indexed list, you can view All Music, or sort by Album, Artist, Genre, Now Playing, and Playlist. Any song you long press will give you an option to Play, Add to playlist, or Delete. You also have a setting (3 vertical bars all the way on the right) to specify exactly what you want to see in navigation bar or how you want music to be sorted and viewed. The level of customization details here is quite impressive. Plus, all the way at the bottom you have a small area to see the currently playing song and to control its playback with play/pause button. Tapping on it takes you back to the main Playback screen.

In Settings Menu, you have access to Gapless (on/off), Gain (low, medium, high - 3 gain settings now!!!), Play mode (order, loop, shuffle, repeat, folder play), EQ (on/off, brings you to Graphic/Parametric EQ screen), L/R Balance, 7 Digital filters, and Advanced Setting. In Advanced you can select USB DAC, Sleep Timer, Scanning (songs on a card or internal), and System info.

While I enjoyed the unique look of the original iBasso Mango interface and its navigation by-swiping to get to corresponding tiled pages, the new Mango v2 is a lot more "traditional" and consistent with other DAPs. So, when switching between different DAPs, I no longer have to think if swiping the artwork will skip to the next track or will bring up a file sorting menu.

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Mango app vs Mango OS.

I'm sure many will be curious how does Mango app (in Android mode) compares to stripped down Mango OS. Here is a summary of some of the differences I found while testing under fw 1.09.092. There could be more, but these stood out for me.
  • Mango OS start up is faster, while Mango app/Android takes a little longer (a few extra seconds).
  • Mango app (in Android) navigation is faster, while Mango OS has a slight lag.
  • Mango app (in Android) has EQ and PEQ, while Mango OS has only EQ.
  • In Mango app you can randomly tap on timeline to advance to any part of the song, in Mango OS you have to drag the pointer to a new position like in original DX200.
  • In Mango app "Now playing" directory/list is accessible when you pull down the main screen, while in Mango OS you have to tap upper left corner to get to music sorting where you view "Now playing" list.
There are also differences in sound between Mango app and Mango OS, and I will cover it in sound analysis section of the review.

EQ.

DX220 offers a traditional Graphic EQ (EQ) where frequency bands are fixed, and you only adjust the gain with a slider. In Mango app (Android mode) you also get Parametric EQ (PEQ) where you have a lot more control over which frequency is being adjusted, bandwidth of the frequency being adjusted, the type of the filter used to adjust the frequency, and of course the gain of the adjustment. Here are my observations while testing DX220 EQ and PEQ.

Graphic EQ (EQ)
  • When enabled, drops the volume to create extra headroom for band adjustment (to avoid clipping).
  • Relatively clean 10-band EQ adjustment (33, 63, 100, 330, 630, 1k, 3.3k, 6.3k, 10k, 16k frequency bands).
  • Whenever you adjust a band, you can see it being shown graphically above the EQ sliders; great visual feedback.
  • 5 genre specific presets are included where each one could be adjusted further and reset to its original state.
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Parametric EQ (PEQ)
  • Includes 6 custom preset settings.
  • When enabled, volume doesn't drop.
  • While adjusting, I didn't hear any distortion.
  • Each preset setting has 6 assignable filters/frequencies to shape the sound where each one is represented by a different color on the screen.
  • Filter types: low pass filter, high pass filter, band pass filter, notch filter, all pass filter, peaking filter, low shelf filter, high shelf filter - peaking filter will be probably the most useful.
  • Each filter has: Fc (center frequency, from 33 to 16k), Gain (-20 to 20 dB), Q factor (0.3 to 20) where smaller Q makes the bandwidth wider and bigger Q makes the bandwidth narrower.
  • Fc and Gain could also be adjusted on the touch screen by dragging the pointer left/right and up/down.
  • The sound is adjusted/updated in real time as you move the filter peak and frequency.
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Sound Analysis.

I analyzed DX220 sound with 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”, Ariana Grande "Break up with your gf", Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. As recommended by manufacturer, I let DX220 burn in for 150hrs using the provided balanced burn-in cable.

In other DAPs the sound is easier to describe because you are dealing with a specific DAC and fixed internal head-amp. When it comes to modular design such as in DX220, the head-amp characteristics becomes a variable since you have access to different amplifier modules that will color the sound. But regardless of that, DX220 still stands out with a solid technical performance where I hear a relatively black background, excellent layering and separation of the sounds, and a good vertical dynamics expansion.

Thanks to a black background, especially when it comes to BAL out (amp1ii module), I hear a faster transient response of the sound with details popping out from the dark background. But black background doesn't mean that performance will be 100% hiss free with very sensitive IEMs like Solaris and Andromeda where you can hear a mild "waterfall" hissing when volume is dropped down to zero or when idling. At a normal listening playback volume, you can hardly even hear it. Still, relative to DX200 and even DX200Ti, DX220 feels quieter, with a blacker background and tighter sound control.

Another noticeable characteristic which makes DX220 stand out is a wide soundstage expansion. Again, relative to a new stock amp1ii which I used in my testing, it's especially noticeable when comparing 2.5mm vs 3.5mm outputs where BAL out has a much wider soundstage expansion, blacker background, and improved layering of the sound. Personally, I enjoyed the new stock amp1ii more than the original amp1 since the new one (ii) has a more natural fuller body tonality, stepping further away from the reference tonality of amp1.

Ever since I received DX220, amp module comparison with different DX2xx combinations has been the most common question asked by my readers. So, I put together a selective comparison of various combos. Please, pay close attention to which DAP/DAPs were used in the comparison, and the reference to amp suffixes (Ti - from DX200Ti, ii - new amp1ii, amp8 - their popular 4.4mm amp module).

DX220, amp1Ti vs amp1ii - very similar performance, the same soundstage expansion width and vertical dynamics expansion, the same black background. Just a slight difference in tonality where Ti is a little brighter in mids while ii has a little more body with a more organic tonality.

DX200Ti (amp1Ti) vs DX220 (amp1ii) - nearly identical sound performance with both having a blacker background, wide soundstage, and excellent dynamics expansion. The difference I do hear is DX220 having a little fuller body, giving the sound a slightly more natural tonality, and DX220 having a wider soundstage than DX200Ti, though I do hear DX200Ti bass hitting harder, especially in mid-bass. Keep in mind, when comparing these amp modules on DX220 above, soundstage expansion was nearly identical.

DX200 (amp1) vs DX220 (amp1ii) - DX220 has a blacker background with a faster/tighter sound, a wider soundstage, and a slightly better dynamics expansion. Also, the sound has more body, sounds fuller, more organic, more natural.

DX200 (amp8) vs DX220 (amp8) - DX220 has a blacker background, a little more body and a little wider soundstage.

DX220 amp8 vs amp1ii - This was probably the most asked question due to popularity of 4.4mm amp8. In this comparison of amp modules on DX220, soundstage is a touch wider with amp8. When it comes to tonality, amp8 has a touch more sparkle in lower treble, while amp1ii is a little smoother. Also, in low end, amp8 has more impact with bass being a little elevated in comparison to amp1ii. For me personally, I actually preferred amp1ii pair up with DX220 because I didn't want extra bass boost. Another interesting observation was the same volume due to the same power output spec.

Digital Filters.

Digital filters always generate a mixed opinion since not everybody can hear their effect. We all have different hearing level, use different headphones, play different music. From my own personal experience, changes in sound when switching between filters are more subtle, but I still do hear some which I would like to describe below. Keep in mind I started with filter 1 as my baseline tuning. All the testing was done using U18t balanced with a DAP output in mid-gain.

1 (fast roll-off, linear) - faster, tighter sound, deep low end extension and airier treble extension.
2 (slow roll-off, linear) - deeper bass, more body in lower mids, overall a little thicker low end.
3 (fast roll-off, minimum) - deeper bass with tighter control and faster speed.
4 (slow roll-off, minimum) - deeper bass with tighter control but the speed is slower.
5 (apodizing, linear) - similar to fast roll-off in tonality, but the attack of the sound is slower.
6 (fast roll-off, hybrid) - similar to fast roll-off in tonality, but decay of the sound is longer.
7 (brick wall, linear) - more sub-bass rumble which makes bass sound more powerful.

Last, but not least, many asked me if I hear a Sound Difference between Mango app (Android mode) vs Mango OS. Based on fw 1.09.092, medium gain, and filter 1, while listening with U18t I found Mango app (Android) to sound a little smoother, warmer, more organic, and with a touch less sparkle in treble, while Mango OS sound is crisper, more resolving, a little brighter and with more sparkle in treble.

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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 headphones pair up with DX220, using amp1ii, high gain (with full size cans). I noted volume "v" in every pair up, as well as either balanced "bal" or single ended "SE".

SendyAudio Aiva (v82, bal) - wider/deeper soundstage, J-shaped signature with more emphasis on natural soulful mids and crisp airy treble, while bass quantity is closer to neutral. Bass does extend nicely down to a sub-bass rumble and mid-bass has a decent punch, no issues with quality here, just the quantity being more neutral. AMP8 pair up is better in this case, giving more body to the sound.

iBasso SR1 w/PT1 pads (v71, bal) - with PT1 pads the soundstage is more holographic, sound signature is more balanced with bass that extends down to a nice textured rumble and average speed mid-bass punch, very linear across sub-bas/mid-bass and going into more neutral lower mids. Clear detailed upper mids/vocals, very natural tonality, and clear well controlled treble with a moderate extension. Either amp1ii or amp8 pair up was good, actually liked amp1ii a little better here, giving vocals a better definition.

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Audio Technica ATH-R70x (v113, SE) - needs to push volume a little harder here to drive these 470 ohms open back cans, but the sound is wide and open, very natural with a laid back tonality, with a little more emphasis on vocals which is a little rare with these headphones. Bass goes deep, and has a nice mid-bass punch, not elevated, but still north of neutral. Lower mids are neutral, with a good body, upper mids/vocals are clear detailed natural, and a little brighter than in other typical pair ups which improves retrieval of details and makes the sound less laidback when used with amp1ii. With amp8 you get a little more body, and more natural tonality. Treble is natural and extended.

Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd (v71, bal) - the soundstage is wide, not super expanded but has a nice out of your head depth. Signature is balanced with an extended analog quality low end that has a deep rumble and rounded laid back mid-bass. Lower mids are neutral, giving more room for natural detailed revealing upper mids and crisp well defined treble. I actually preferred amp1ii pair up better which gives vocals more power and clarity, while amp8 making them a little smoother.

Meze Empyrean (v84, bal) - wide open soundstage, not super expanded, with more depth than width, balanced signature with a natural tonality. Bass goes deep, has a great analog quality, but closer to neutral quantity. Lower mids have a fuller body, upper mids are a little more forward, very clear and detailed, more natural in tonality. Treble is well defined, has a nice controlled sparkle, and moderate airiness. Amp8 helps to lift the bass, gives it a better definition, and overall a little more body to the sound. But if you want more focus on mids/vocals, amp1ii is better.

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In the following IEMs testing, I was only focusing on amp1ii module and switched to medium gain.

64 Audio U18t (v69, bal) - wide expanded soundstage, balanced signature, natural resolving tonality. Bass goes deep with a smoother textured sub-bass rumble, mid-bass has a fast punch, mids are more natural, detailed, layered, treble is well defined, crisp yet closer to natural. Very dynamic sound with a black background. U18t used with Leo II Octa cable.

64 Audio Fourte (v69, bal) - holographic expanded soundstage, more v-shaped sound sig with a harder hitting bass where I heard a deep elevated sub-bass rumble and stronger punch mid-bass, lean lower mids, brighter revealing upper mids/vocals, crisp airy treble which is still non-fatigue. It is more on a brighter more revealing less natural side, which is a sound of Fourte, but with some other pair ups lower treble here can get harsh and fatigue, while it wasn't the case with DX220/amp1ii. Fourte was used with HSA Redcore cable.

Campfire Audio Solaris (v49, bal) - very expanded soundstage, balanced sound sig, natural resolving tonality. Deep bass extension with a little elevated sub-bass rumble (very tasteful lift), and strong mid-bass punch, very articulate controlled bass. Lower mids are neutral, with nice body, upper mids are very resolving, detailed, layered, natural; treble is crisp, airy, well defined, and well controlled. One of the best pair ups with Solaris I heard due to a perfect balance of upper mids/lower treble. Mild background hissing when DAP is idling or playing with volume down to zero.

Campfire Audio Andromeda (v50 med gain; v33 high gain, bal) - In this pair up I had to switch from Med to High gain since it improved a little bit the resolution of mids. The soundstage has above average width, it's wide but not very expanded, while the depth out of your head is more noticeable. Bass is strong, goes deep, hits hard, not super articulate or fast, very analog quality. Mids are more organic, smoother, a bit pulled back, making the signature mildly v-shaped. Treble is well controlled, smoother, very good definition without being crisp. Mild background hissing when DAP is idling or playing with volume down to zero.

Empire Ears Legend X (v78, bal) - holographic soundstage expansion, definitely L-shaped sig with a more natural resolving tonality, despite elevated low end. Bass here hits hard with a full power and a deep elevated rumble along with a strong punchy mid-bass. But the bass is very well controlled, never spills into a more neutral lower mids, and well separated from natural detailed upper mids making it very easy to shift your hearing focus from low end to vocals. Treble is also well defined, not too crisp or airy, but just enough to give the sound a clean and detailed definition.

HiFiMAN RE2k Gold (v101, SE) - wide soundstage with more out of your head spacing, signature is slightly v-shaped due to a stronger hitting bass and crisp elevated treble. Bass extends deep with a nice rumble and elevated mid-bass, but I hear a little more rumble in this pair up. Lower mids are on a leaner side, sound of neutral, upper mids/vocals are more revealing, a little brighter and colder, more analytical. Lower treble is a bit hot here, being crisp and brighter. I do hear a little bit of accentuation on "s" but it's not sibilant. Treble could get a bit fatigue after the extended listening.

VE ZEN/ZOE (v104, bal) - very wide soundstage, something I'm not used to with these 320 ohm earbuds. The sound is very laidback, warm, organic. Bass is rounded, warm, analog; lower mids are on a thicker fuller body side, upper mids/vocals are smoother and relaxed; treble is a little rolled off, more natural.

iBasso IT01s (v63, bal) - holographic soundstage expansion, slightly more v-shaped sound sig with a more revealing tonality. Bass here is a little elevated, with a nice deep rumble and a punchy mid-bass, an articulate well controlled bass. Lower mids are more neutral, maybe even slightly south of it, upper mids/vocals are positioned slightly out of your head which gives bass and treble a little more emphasis. Upper mids are revealing, more micro-detailed in this pair up. Treble is crisp and airy, not harsh or fatigue.

iBasso IT04 (v69, bal) - holographic soundstage expansion, balanced sound sig with a more neutral-resolving tonality. Bass not exactly neutral flat, it's above neutral, but shines more with quality rather than quantity. I do hear a deep velvety sub-bass rumble, and a fast punchy mid-bass, both are linear and balanced and not too aggressive. Lower mids are more neutral, while upper mids are resolving, detailed, layered, a little brighter yet still natural. Treble is crisp and airy, well extended.

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Comparison.

In this test, I was using U18t, set at medium gain, using filter 1 on DX220. This comparison is based on tonality only, not the features. Each of these DAPs 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. And of course, there is a noticeable price gap when comparing DX220 to other flagships.

DX220 vs Cowon Plenue L - very similar soundstage expansion, dynamics, and layering. The only noticeable difference is in tonality with DX220/amp8 being a little warmer, smoother, and having a fuller body in mids, while PL is a little brighter and crisper. With DX220/amp1ii the tonality gap narrows down, where PL is just a touch brighter in lower mids and a bit brighter/airier in treble while DX220 sounds a little more organic.

DX220 vs Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT - similar soundstage expansion, dynamics. and layering. Again, tonality is the main difference in sound here with LPGT being a little brighter, more reference, while DX220 is smoother and more natural. Also, DX220 adds a little more weight in the sub-bass. DX220 w/amp8 will add more body to the sound.

DX220 vs Sony WM1Z - another comparison with a very similar performance in soundstage expansion, dynamics, layering, and even tonality. 1Z is just a touch brighter in upper mids with a crisper treble when compared to DX220 w/amp8, but with a stock amp1ii they sound closer, though 1Z still has a deeper low end impact.

DX220 vs A&K SP1000 SS - the performance in this comparison is similar when it comes to dynamics and layering of the sounds, but I do hear DX220 soundstage to be a little bit wider. With a tonality, amp1ii sounds very similar to SS, maybe just a touch smoother in treble, and I hear a little more impact in DX bass. With amp8, DX tonality is a little warmer/smoother and bass punches stronger when compared to SS.

DX220 vs Hiby R6 Pro - I hear more difference here with DX220 having a wider soundstage, slightly more expanded vertical dynamics, and improved layering between the sounds, not by a big margin, but noticeable enough. Tonality is similar when compared to amp8, but amp1ii makes it a little brighter and more revealing. Also, R6Pro bass hits a little harder.

ibasso_dx220-36.jpg

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. All the listening was done using U18t IEMs.

Optical out
  • By default, it’s turned off, thus needs to be enabled in DX220.
  • In my testing I had optical out going to Micro iDSD BL, volume on DX220 seems to be fixed.
  • I found the sound to be very transparent, with a black background and even a touch wider soundstage. Really enjoyed this pair up.
Coax out
  • By default, it gets activated automatically.
  • Also used it connected to micro iDSD BL and found volume to be fixed on DX220.
  • Similarly, the sound is very transparent, with a black background and even a touch wider soundstage.
ibasso_dx220-21.jpg ibasso_dx220-22.jpg

Surprisingly, from either SPDIF optical or coax, I hear the sound to be nearly identical when DX220 is being used as transport.

Line Out
  • I was using FiiO E12A portable amp in this testing.
  • w/E12A vs amp1ii directly: connected directly you get a blacker background and a slightly smoother sound. In comparison with E12A connected, the sound is a bit raw and the background is not as black. Don’t think it’s a “function” of the DAC since I have tested it with different amp modules, perhaps not the best pair up with E12A in this case.
ibasso_dx220-34.jpg

BT w/headphones
  • To test Bluetooth, I paired DX220 up with Hiby W5 (LDAC) wireless receiver connected to other wired headphones. I don’t have any other headphones supporting LDAC protocol and was curious only about the highest wireless audio quality. It paired up as HD LDAC without a problem. The sound was clear and transparent, nearly like wired.
ibasso_dx220-37.jpg ibasso_dx220-38.jpg

BT DAC/amp (receiver)
  • In this test I wanted to use DX220 as a wireless Bluetooth DAC/amp. You have to make sure to pair up with your phone first, then when you enable DAC/amp option, you can use DX220 as a wireless DAC/amp. Paired up with my Galaxy S9, which supports LDAC, I was comparing a track played from DX220 directly and the same track playing on my phone connected to DX220, and it was nearly identical in sound to my ears.
ibasso_dx220-39.jpg ibasso_dx220-40.jpg

Conclusion.

I mentioned in the intro of my review that perhaps due to model naming, going from DX200 to DX220, this upgrade not going to be as drastic. That's how I approached this review, under assumption that we are dealing with a similar modular design and the same DAC and CPU. But as I continued my testing and taking notes, I started to realize that some of the changes here are more drastic.

I'm a fan of DX200Ti with its Ti amp module and design tweaks to scale up the audio performance. But it was a limited run at double the price due to material and manufacturing expenses associated with Ti chassis. DX220 picks up Ti sound improvements with blacker background and wider soundstage, refines them, and re-packages into a slicker design with a new amp1ii, bigger screen, fast charging, latest Bluetooth, etc. As a cherry on top, you get new Mango v2 app with a more streamlined interface. And the best part, its price is only $30 more than original DX200 model.

This is definitely a no-brainer when choosing between new DX200 and DX220, but the current DX200 owners will probably be faced with a more difficult decision if they should keep or upgrade to DX220. It's a tough call because I know of many DX200 owners with amp8 who are very happy with its performance. But once you try DX220 and realize the level of overall sound and design refinement, it will be hard to ignore the upgraditis bug.

ibasso_dx220-12.jpg
gazzington
gazzington
Great review. I think the dx220 is a flawed dap. Amazing screen and it sounds great. It needs a better CPU, it's very slow and gets very hot quickly. It's battery life is pretty awful too. I think it's well beaten by the n6ii in the mid tier dap battle. It's a shame as it sounds great
PureViewer4t1
PureViewer4t1
Thanks for the review. Just out of curiosity, how do you compare ifi micro bl with dx220 overally for iems? Especially in terms of details and separation?
fokta
fokta
Great and comprehensive review.... Keep up the good work... Thank you
Pros: TOTL performance at a mid-tier price, flexibility of the AMP unit ecosystem, THE SOUND, and did I mention THE SOUND?
Cons: UI not as flawless as I would like, battery life good but not outstanding.
A Layman’s review of the DX220 Digital Audio Player (DAP) by iBasso.



Introduction:


I would like to begin by thanking Paul and the team at iBasso for their hard work and for providing me with a DX220 in return for an unbiased review.

DX220 details from the iBasso website:

http://www.ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=8401


Official Head-Fi thread for all details and discussion regarding the DX220:

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/dx2...-user-guide-1st-page-amp9-almost-here.898388/



The DX220 is the current flagship DAP by iBasso.

All the specifications and details can be found on the product page and the Head-Fi thread listed, as well as various comparisons, troubleshooting and even modding discussions.


Pricing at the time of writing was $899 which I would say places it – financially speaking only - somewhere around the upper part of the mid-range of DAP prices.



Photos:

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20190521_123558.jpg


Appearance and build:


The previous flagship DX200 had a more polarising industrial aesthetic which proved mildly divisive among fans of the DAP.

I wasn’t a big fan personally (with respect accorded to those who disagree with me!) but I much prefer the styling of the new DX220.

It’s got a black ceramic classy glassy-looking back panel with the logo in silver. It’s worth noting that the AMP 1 Mk II has a back faceplate which matches this finish.

I believe other key AMP modules will have both the metal finish on the reverse and optional backplates with the new updated glass finish; check the official Head-Fi thread for details or to post questions.


The volume wheel feels excellent in use; highly responsive and with tactile clicks as you go up or down (matched an with expanding/shrinking circular on-screen graphic in Pure Mango mode). I did find that when putting the DX220 (with no case) into a tight jeans front pocket, the volume would creep up as I walked around. However, putting it in a looser pocket (e.g. the one in my jacket inside pocket) solved this issue completely.


The DX220 also comes with a very attractive mustard yellow leather sleeve.

It’s perfectly fitted; indeed, some people on the DX220 thread here have said that it makes the volume wheel difficult to turn. However, given that the case is for on the go use (and bearing in mind the issues I found when putting it the DX220 directly into a tight jeans pocket) I feel this is actually a good and well-considered part of the design :)


The play/pause and navigation buttons along the side are easy to distinguish from one another by touch and the ‘Power’ switch is located on the top of the DAP.


I sometimes found that I thought I was pressing the power on button, but nothing happened. In each instance, I realised I was pressing it only by a shallow amount.

So remember to ensure you push the button in fully when powering on and you should be fine. The DX220 is not a rewarder of shallowness :)


At this point, I need to give 'mad props' (I'm down with the kids, don't you know) to the accessories and the package as a whole.

The attention to these small details, which are actually quite important in daily use, are a testament to their attention to detail.


The inclusion of a burn-in cable which allows you to do burn-in with no audible noise was extremely useful, and indeed all the cables were surprisingly well finished, rugged and of high quality appearance.


The touchscreen covers almost the entire front face of the DAP with only a thin bezel around the edge. It is bright, detailed, an outstanding feature of this DAP, and I found it to be fast and responsive in daily use.


One thing I found though is that when trying to select tracks of folders in Pure Mango Mode, I would click on the ‘bar’ to select that track. Sometimes, if I clicked on the blank space next to the track name, nothing happened; however if I click on the writing directly, it would work seamlessly.

Such things don’t overly concern me, as iBasso have consistently proven to be extremely responsive when such issues are raised on their threads and frequently release updates, even going so far as to provide updates for DAPs that are 2 or 3 generations old or more.

So you can buy this one in confidence that you’re not going to be left in limbo when the next new shinier upgrade comes along :)


Battery life is decent without being outstanding; I get from 6-8 hours I think, but it’s hard to say as I never get the chance to listen that long. Check on the Head-Fi threads for more accurate info.



Usability and UI:


Now, I am something of a Luddite when it comes to DAPs.

I simply want to put files onto a micro-SD card and play them.

No streaming, no Bluetooth, no apps, no EQ.

I would advise people craving such things to follow the link I posted at the beginning to the main discussion thread for this DAP on Head-Fi.

My understanding is that there may be occasional glitches but, on the whole, it can do all these things well, and is getting better and better as new firmware updates are released.


I’m no expert on these things, so this is more a guess, but from the impressions I’ve read around Head-Fi and elsewhere, I would guess that Sony and A&K DAPs may provide a more seamless and bug-free UI (User Interface) experience.

However, I don’t believe their updates are anywhere near as frequent or comprehensive as iBasso’s, so perhaps it all comes down to patience :)


Certainly, if the DX220 can compete with them in sound quality and offer at least a decent standard of usability, then it’s doing so at a fraction of the cost of other DAP flagships.

In such cases, people may be happy to overlook any possible UI bugs or app issues.


In my case, since I am just looking for the best sound quality possible, allied with an attractive appearance and quality build, I have no complaints.

I use Pure Mango Mode only and I have no issue with occasionally having to press twice (or more carefully the first time) to get the desired result.

I’m generally too busy enjoying the music :)







The Sound:


For the purposes of this review, I used the iBasso DX220 with a variety of different IEMs, along with comparisons to a couple more DAPs. I also used a selection of AMP units; the AMP1 Mk II (that comes as standard with the DX220), the AMP9 (featuring a Korg Nu-Tube), and my AMP8W, which is an AMP8, modified to the specifications suggested by illustrious Head-Fi member Whitigir. It basically takes everything that’s good about the AMP8 and, well, amplifies it :p


I started listening with AMP1 Mark II (first few weeks) and have now been using AMP9 for the last few weeks. All components have had over 300 hours of burn-in by now, for those to whom such things are A Big Deal.


I have been reviewing the Stealthsonics U9 IEM (a TOTL performer costing $1100) recently as well, so I’m including it in my notes here, since it represents a rather different sound than I’m used to, with a more analytical and neutral signature, and less warmth, note thickness and weight as a result. The other IEM’s I’ve been using are the iBasso IT01 and the IT04.


For various reasons, my IT04 is on a 4.4mm balanced cable, so I have only used that with my modified AMP8W. But in the process of this review, I shall stick that into my DX220 and do some comparisons between this AMP with DX220 and DX200.


I’ll also be comparing the DX220 & AMP 1 Mk II with DX200 & AMP1 Mk I.


Ok, so is that all clear?

Then please feel free to put your feet up, relax and let the good times roll :)



DX220 with AMP1 Mk II vs DX200 with AMP1 and others (and IT01 IEMs):


Well, I should start with the predecessor to the DX220, by saying that I was a fan of the earlier DX200.
The interface wasn’t as quick as I might have liked, and I wasn’t a great fan of its styling, but I welcomed the excellent sound quality, even more so when I could use a big variety of AMP units and the price was a steal in comparison to other high level DAPs.

I felt that, especially with AMP8, it was able to compete with other TOTL DAPs.

Opinions varied as to whether it could really compete, or whether it was actually superior, or was just a DAP that got close enough to the TOTL ones (at a fraction of the cost) to make it a worthwhile consideration.

Prior to AMP8, I would have put it into the latter category. With AMP8, and even more so my AMP8W, I feel it could genuinely compete in sound quality with most other DAPs.


Meanwhile (back at the ranch), I got the chance yesterday to meet up, share equipment and do some listening with a Head-Fi buddy.

So, hopping in our metaphysical DeLorean and going back to the future, let’s see how iBasso’s latest and greatest DAP, the DX220 fares.


Prior to this meetup, I’d listened to the DX220 extensively with its default AMP1 Mk II and then with AMP9.

As I said, I had a lot of respect for the original DX200, but the step up in quality with the DX220 with AMP1 Mk II vs the DX200 with its default original AMP 1 is profound.


What really astonished me was plugging in my relatively ‘budget’ $89 IT01 IEMs into the DX220 and hearing them sound like they cost 5 times the price.

The bass gained in refinement without sacrificing power, the whole soundstage opened up with much-improved separation and imaging, and the ability to present fine detail really shone.

Again, this is a set of IEMs I’ve been listening to on a daily basis for ages, mainly on my DX120 and occasionally on my DX200.

But suddenly, it was a whole new ball-game.


AMP1 Mk II:


The AMP1 Mk II that comes as standard with the DX220 is terrific.

It does everything well. The mids are especially noteworthy.

It’s just such a balanced and delightful sound signature with no weaknesses and, I believe, a massive step up from the original AMP 1 unit.


DX220 vs Sony WM1Z:


So, back at the meeting to which I earlier referred, I brought along DX220 with AMP 1 Mk II, AMP9 and the modded AMP8W.

Also the $1100 Stealthsonics U9 IEM that I reviewed recently and the iBasso IT04 IEMs.


My friend had the Sony WM1Z (and ZX300). Other things too of course, but not especially relevant to this review.


Now, due to my review schedule and limitations around cables, connectors, AMP units and so forth, I've been listening exclusively to DX220 with AMP9, paired with (mostly) the Stealthsonics U9 (3.5mm) and otherwise with the IT01 (original single-ended copper cable).


My IT04 for various reasons is now on a 4.4mm balanced iBasso cable.


I tried the single ended output on the AMP9 and the two Sony DAPs, combined with my IT01 and I think I preferred the AMP9 with that combo.

I then tried the same DAP and socket combos, but with the Stealthsonics U9 this time.

Here's where things started to diverge. I mentioned their rather ‘high-centric’ driver configuration; with the WM1Z something in the upper end of the sound signature of the U9 become quite brittle and sharp-sounding.

This is no disparagement to the WM1Z; it just seems that the synergy was not so good in this pairing, or at least not suitable to my personal tastes (I'm rather treble-sensitive).


On the other hand, they sound very good with the DX220+AMP9. The AMP9 adds a welcome bit of weight and tinge of warmth to the U9, whilst still letting those magical highs shine, and complementing its subtle musicality.


Finally, I tried the IT04 with the 4.4mm balanced socket on the WM1Z, along with DX220 with AMP8W.

I didn't have the time for a super extensive session, but I got a pretty good impression of each.

The IT04 sounded fantastic with the WM1Z. Big soundstage, terrific micro-detail and timbre, weight and body, and an insanely addictive organic musicality.


Next, I put my AMP8W on the DX220 for the first time ever.

Well, it was pretty mind-blowing to me.

I mean, I like the AMP9 a *lot*, but with the AMP8W, it's like all the dials have been turned up to 11 :D

Everything is good. As in, EVERYTHING. The bass had more impact and slam and depth, but with greater tightness and speed.

The mids were crisp and the timbre was outstanding. The highs were clear and extended. The soundstage and separation were very large. Micro detailing was astonishing. It was dynamic and engaging.


I wouldn’t like to say which I preferred out of the DX220 with AMP8W and the Sony WM1Z.

Both were absolutely top of the line, world-class performances. Both were addictively musical and engaging. Both had power and precision. I think the WM1Z was slightly more organic and musical. Possibly it had the edge in dynamics, but I really can’t be sure on that last point. Would need to listen much more (and hope to do so!).

The DX220 I think had an even better bass attack, soundstage and separation.

Mids, treble and micro-detail were equally superb on both.


The WM1Z will undoubtedly win in terms of build quality. The DX220 wins for portability.

If one was just using the original, unmodified AMP8, I suspect that this could give the edge to the WM1Z and even if so, only by a very slim margin.


Ultimately, as is usually the case in the high-end of this hobby, it will come down to personal preference regarding the sound signatures, along with synergies between those DAPs and whatever IEMs and things you normally use.


Critically though, I cannot fail to mention two significant factors; firstly, that of cost.

I’m comparing two DAPs on equal terms.

One of them retails at $899 (add an extra $280 for an AMP8 plus the ‘W’ mod); the other at $3200 (just checked on Amazon.com).

That we can even be having this discussion is a testament to the quality and value that iBasso are bringing to the table.


Secondly, that of flexibility. With TOTL DAPs such as the WM1Z, the AK SP1000 and others, you get an undoubtedly excellent product, albeit at eye-watering prices.

However, synergies with other products are rather fixed. Conversely, with the DX200, you can use a variety of different AMP units which run the gamut from neutral-reference to warm, organic and musical; from laid back to high-voltage, high-current powerhouses that could drive a bus, never mind a fussy pair of headphones.

There’s something for every IEM or headphone (or DAC, AMP, etc) there. For some, I think that degree of flexibility and future-proofing is going to prove a very attractive factor.


Conclusion:


For those wholly new to iBasso (or who have only heard their lower-tier offerings), I think this is going to be a surprise. For those who own the DX200, I think this may be an even bigger surprise :)


In this audiophile game, there is always another International Bright Young Thing around the next corner, making eyes at your wallet and tormenting your dreams.

So I have no wish to jump on that hype bandwagon and stoke such treacherous fires.

We all have this love-hate relationship with the never-ending hamster wheel:
New and Improved.gif


Having said that, occasionally a game-changing product comes along.

I think iBasso were close with the DX200, but I believe they have achieved it with the DX220. They now have a DAP that I believe can compete in sound quality with any others out there, and yet costs less than a third of most of the other TOTL ones.

Furthermore, it’s UI is now on a level with most and it offers the flexibility of the AMP system which, for me at least, is incredibly useful.

Certain companies have gleefully pushed the price points of TOTL gear up and up; here’s hoping that iBasso can help to achieve the opposite :)


Summary:


A TOTL performer at mid-range price. Christmas is long gone, but this is nothing short of miraculous. You get unmatched flexibility at a TOTL level with the wide choice of AMP units, a gorgeous screen and great versatility and performance. I cannot recommend this enough.
icefalkon
icefalkon
Great review!
iBo0m
iBo0m
The UI is the same version as DX200 and performs about the same as DX200 or is there an improvement in the "responsiveness" over DX200? Very nice review and comparisons to other DAPs!
Layman1
Layman1
I would ask the first part of this question on the DX220 thread, as I never updated my DX200 after a certain point. I know there are separate firmware downloads for DX200 and DX220, but not sure if/how they're different.

What I *can* say is that I have found DX220 to be quite a big improvement over the DX200 in UI speed and responsiveness. However, as I mentioned above, I haven't updated the FW for my DX200 in ages, so I can't be sure if that's the reason.
Hope this helps :)
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